Category Archives: Creating My Writing Voice

Ideas, Ideas – The Temple of the Dreamers

When Orah and Nathaniel enter the Temple of the Dreamers, high up on the mountain, I didn’t want them to immediately barge into the chamber holding the cocoons, a sterile room dominated by technology. Beyond needing to build anticipation, I felt the haughty dreamers would have embellished the place where they strove for immortality by creating spectacular anterooms as the approach to where their science worked

First drafts – Ugh!

writers-blockAs I plod away at the mystical process of gathering impressions, images and ideas , tossing them into a cauldron and stirring them until they transform into a new novel, I'm reminded what an act of faith first drafts can be. I console myself with a quote I read  recently:

"I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand

Why I describe my novels as speculative literary fiction

Someone recently asked me why I use the term "speculative literary fiction" to describe the genre of my novels. While both terms are used frequently on their own, they are not often paired together. Speculative fiction is a term coined by Margaret Atwood in an effort to avoid the hard-core sci-fi label (she said she needed a category that meant sci-fi without Martians). It has been used to describe a number of

A Story from Long Ago

This week, a story came out a in my alma mater's alumni site. It started by highlighting the wisdom of my first writing mentor: "'Drama,' Brandeis Professor John Matthews was fond of telling the students in his playwriting class, 'is conflict with something at stake – the higher the stakes, the higher the drama.' David Litwack ’68 was listening closely." The article brought back memories of a time of aspiration and possibilities. I winced a bit at the "nearly

My Writing Style

Matthew Arnold wrote: “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can.” Hemingway said it a bit differently: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the simplest possible way.”
I believe good writing is clear thinking, saying what you mean in the simplest possible way. The problem for fiction writers is that we don’t always know

Why I write speculative fiction

I’ve always been suspicious about reality. Is what we believe merely a reflection of how we’ve been raised and what we’ve been taught. Anyone who has traveled knows other cultures see the world differently. And anyone who has spent extended time in a hospital or war zone has learned the hard way that one’s sense of reality can be easily fragmented. We conveniently construct a world view that suits us—at least until something challenges it.

The Greatest Thing I learned in School

In the seventh grade, I began a six year college preparatory school, the elite school in the city and accessible only via an entrance exam. Ninety-nine percent of its graduates went on to college, many to Ivy League schools.  But only one in three graduated. I felt pretty confident. I had a good education to date and all the skills to succeed. But I had never read for pleasure. The kids

Why genres exist?

Did you ever stand in an art gallery, look at a painting and think,” it’s a girl squatting beside a bird’s nest.” Then the guy next to you says, “It’s a man walking a dog.” The two of you step closer to see who’s right, and the illusion dissolves into brushstrokes. Books are like that. Why should a bunch of letters crawling across a page evoke so much emotion? “I loved that

The plot thickens – how to start a story

Many writers have an image in their mind of how to begin a plot. First, you come up with one or more compelling characters who want something badly. Then you make it hard for them to get it. Over time, I’ve heard others talk about how they like to envision the situation that starts their story. One said he sends his characters up a tree and throws rocks at them until they

Details, details…A storm inside the room

We're told today's twittering reader has a short attention span, is easily bored. Stories need to be fast paced and not bog down in details. No Jane Austen ruminations or Melville's descriptions of the whaling industry. I recently read a book called Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose. The book was unusual as books for writers go because it's basic premise is that rules are made to be broken.
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