Are you a teen writer between the ages of 13-18? Then submit to the first ever issue of Canvas Literary Journal. We are seeking teen writers to submit up to two pieces in the following categories: fiction, poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. Each submission much be accompanied by a short author bio including age, grade, and contact information as well as an optional photo. Interested parties can submit pieces in two categories per publication. Submission guidelines are as follows:
- Fiction - Please limit submissions to 2,500 words
- Poetry - You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed five pages worth of poetry.
- Creative NonFiction - Please limit submissions to 2,500 words
- Flash Fiction - You may submit more than one flash fiction story, but please do not exceed five pages worth of flash fiction (with a maximum of 500 words per story)
The deadline for submissions for the premiere edition is Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 - so hurry! For more information, or to submit your pieces, please email Kristen Zory King at email@example.com. Happy Writing!
(submitted by writers-and-books)
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver presents How a Book Is Made: The Spindlers. Go behind the scenes and follow the book publishing process from start to finish in a seven-video series for book lovers, students, and aspiring writers.
This is a really beautiful website. She doesn’t just talk about writing, but also the publishing of her books. I really love seeing how a book is put together like this.
How to Write With Style by Kurt Vonnegut
Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.
These revelations tell us as readers what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless or playful —- ? And on and on.
Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead —- or, worse, they will stop reading you.
The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show you or make you think about? Did you ever admire an emptyheaded writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.
So your own winning style must begin with ideas in your head.
1. Find a subject you care about
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.
I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way —- although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.
2. Do not ramble, though
I won’t ramble on about that.
3. Keep it simple
As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.
Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
4. Have guts to cut
It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.
In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.
All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.
I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.
6. Say what you mean
I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable —- and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.
Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.
7. Pity the readers
They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school —- twelve long years.
So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify —- whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.
That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.
For really detailed advice
For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I recommend to your attention The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.
You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.
1. Find a subject you care about
2. Do not ramble, though
3. Keep it simple
4. Have guts to cut
5. Sound like yourself
6. Say what you mean
7. Pity the readers
from: How to Use the Power of the Printed Word, Doubleday
Image Source: Pamela Bliss’s mural on Massachusetts Avenue
Sarah Williams walks quickly to her five year old Nissan as she’s already ten minutes late. The car ride gets away from her as she watches the scenery change. Today, I’ll do it all differently. She tells herself. Today, it will be better. Today, I’ll change some kid’s life. The house on her right and left are nice, decent in most cases. They aren’t anything plantation size. They’re completely average with their front lawns, fences, and drive ways. Her car swerves around corners until finding its way further into the city. Suddenly the average houses die out. In their stead, the houses become older, broken, and unloved. Their paint is faded. Their roofs are mostly blue tarp. Their porches are filled with more than one rocking chair and more than one person siting on them.
“There’s no such thing as ‘men’ or ‘women’. There’s only the individual character you’re writing. One guy emailed me asking me how to write women, and I couldn’t answer, because I had no idea which woman he meant: me? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Lady Gaga? If you’re thinking of ‘men’ or ‘women’ as a monolithic group defined primarily by their sex, then you’re not thinking of them as individuals; so your character isn’t going to come out as an individual, but as a collection of stereotypes. Sure, there are differences between men and women on average – but you’re writing an individual, not an average. If your individual character is chatty on the phone or refuses to ask for directions, that needs to be because of who he or she is, not because of what he or she is. Write the person, not the genitalia.”
I slam the car door as hard as possible, while mom shuts her door quietly. We’ve finally left the house to get this car part. I much rather anyone else go with me, but a promise is a promise. I grip the wheel tightly and look straight ahead as we pass small houses and well cut lawns.
I dare not look to the right, where mom sits. We haven’t spoken or looked in each other’s direction since getting in the car. I don’t need to look at her face. I know her expressions. Her brown eyebrows are furrowed together, making the wrinkles on her forehead look deeper. There’s a bit of black under her eye indicating the remnants of runny mascara and a quick swipe. Her eyes look out the window too afraid to meet my glance as well. Mom is afraid of me? What a novel idea. She’s always been the one I was afraid of.
I remember being little and being told to clean my room. I remember playing with my Nintendo instead. Mom would get so angry when I hadn’t cleaned any of it, so I would fake an injury in order to escape her wrath. She’d walk in my room with the same furrowed brow and explain her disappointment in me. Her instructions to the small boy were simply to grow up. That instruction has followed me to here driving us to get the part for my car.
“So, how’s Karen?” she says quietly.
“She’s good.” The less Mom knows about Karen’s actual state the better.
My eyes have not left the road, but I’m still unfocused upon it. It’s like when you stare at something too much and it just becomes a blurry haze. It’s probably not safe to do, so I blink hard until the street is visible again. Mom has to go and mention Karen. Like Karen has done anything to her. Mom has only met Karen once and I’m sure she’s already judging her.
Mom had demanded Karen come and visit. We sat in awkward silence for hours across the tiny wood table with our dinner plates before us. I remember trying to grab Karen’s hand under the table and feeling her pull away. Karen never fussed at me louder or longer than the night that followed. She was angry to be invited. She was angry to come and I was angry to go too. Mom and I hadn’t spoken since.
The road shifts outside the suburbs and into the emptiness of the countryside. I don’t know why we had to go to this part shop. It’s so out of the way. “I make a left up here, right?”
“You make a left, correct.” I roll my eyes, which I’m sure she’s seen.
“Are we going to talk about this”, she finally turns to face me. I don’t turn back to meet her gaze, but I can feel it on the side of my face. Her sharp stare is laser like and burns through my skin.
“What are you talking about, Mom?”
“About what’s happening with you and your life.”
“I think you’re confused. We already did that part of the conversation.”
“Matthew, why are you so angry at me all the time?”
I look at her. “Angry. What in the world made you think that? The way I’ve been cursing up a storm at you or the fact that I’ve said ‘Hey, Mom. I’m mad at you.’ Oh, wait…”
“Look, Matt. I don’t need that. You don’t have to be that way about things.”
I turned back around and faced the road. Just in time too, because there is some huge tree knocked down after the rain from the other day. I swerve just in time to get around it. I peel around it, probably too fast.
“Are we going to talk about why you decided to move out?”
“I told you. I need to grow up on my own.”
“You kind of ruined that for yourself, son.”
I slam the breaks harshly. I can feel the blood rushing into my face. I grip the steering wheel tightly and face mom. “Do you really want to go back to there again?”
“I don’t know when or where you go off thinking that it’s an option,” she says crying, of course.
“I don’t want to talk about it all. I want it all to just go away.” I push the accelerator down to awaken the car again.
“It’s not going away, son. That’s the worst thing about the past. It’s always there when you wake up the next morning.”
“Well, let me pretend that everything that’s happening is just a dream. That Karen’s a dream. That moving out is a dream. That this conversation is all a dream.”
“You know you can’t do that. You’ve got to grow up.”
“I’m trying to do just that. I’m trying to grow up like you’ve been telling me my whole life. I’ve moved out the house. I’m living with my girlfriend. I’m a manager at my job. I pay my own bills. What more do you want from me?!” I was shouting. I was spitting. I was red in the face and I never saw it coming. I was in the wrong lane shouting at my crying mother in our little Honda. We didn’t stand a chance against the brand new Ford pick up that plowed right into us.
The first thing you hear in a wreck is the crash of the car. The second is your own bones. I heard a bone in my forearm crack as I tried to protect myself from the air bags. I heard something in my back crack as I flung back into my seat. The third thing you hear is your screams and the others in the vehicle. Mom is screaming “Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.” I can’t hear my scream. I only hear a high shrill and feel my mouth stretch out wide. Finally, when it all stops you hear the other driver. I can see through the cracked windshield a big, bald man stick his head out of the truck I plowed into. I vaguely pick up his angry spits of “ass hat”, “brand new truck”, and “dammed teenagers not givin’ two shits”.
My body tingles with adrenal. I feel it run from my feet up to my fingers, which are still gripping tightly on the wheel. My whole body moves with my pulse. I breathe in quick, heavy breaths to calm down. Mom is in the same state, her mouth open and her body shaking. Her face is covered with blood and tears. Her nose must of hit the dashboard. She immediately turns to me.
“Oh, God. Matthew.” She’ll probably curse me out. She’ll probably furrow her brow and tell me to grow up yet again. “Are you okay? Do you have anything broken?” She can barely get it out in her now raspy voice.
“I think I hurt my arm.” I try to pick it up, but the sharp pain that runs up my arm tells me not to.
“I think I did too.” She says not focused on me. She’s trying to pull her arm out of something.
I look down and see her attempt to pull out her left arm. It’s most definitely broken because of where it ended up. It’s in between the airbag and my chest. She had done what every mother does and has done for years. While driving with something fragile, she would reach over and attempt to protect it, as if her arm could hold back its ultimate demise.
For the last couple days #badwritingtips, a collection of hilarious writing tips to take your novel from typical to terrible, have been trending on twitter. The Guardian rounded up a few of their favorites. Perhaps this advice will help out the unlucky souls retweeted by @WrknOnMyNovel.
Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning
We watched this today in my short story writing class and I though you all would enjoy it as well.
I find that, when writing bios, it’s really helpful to look at a list or a chart like the one above. Picking two or three traits from each chart and building a character based around them will give you a really interesting bio, because they will serve as a reminder that characters need depth and dimension.
Independent and clever.
Independent, clever, pretentious, and stubborn.
The first combination doesn’t come with any flaws, whereas the second will provide a more dynamic character.
This advice reminds me of playing The Sims (yup I’m that much of a nerd). I once was advised that when choosing personality traits for your sims always make sure at least 1 out of 5 of the traits is something negative or undesirable. It’ll make your sim a lot more interesting and realistic.
The same is true for the characters in your story. There’s a reason why the term mary-sue is used with so much disdain.
The longest word that can be typed using only the top row of letters of the keyboard: Typewriter.
Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck
- Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
- Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
- Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
- If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
- Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
- If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.