Hello and welcome to the first part of a new, ongoing series! It is my earnest attempt to document my own process of composing a new novel in the hopes that it may inspire others to do the same. While I think this series will be interesting to all readers, be aware that it is going to get pretty in depth in the writing process. (I also hope to gain further insight into my process and how I come up with this stuff.)
The idea. First of all, you need to have the idea for the book. This can literally be anything. Look around your life. What do you see? Injustice? Hilarity? Torment? Wonder? Characters? Setting? These can all be a starting point. Obviously I can’t tell you how to come up with your own ideas, but I can offer a few guidelines that have worked for me.
The most important point: don’t stress about it, the ideas will come. I wish I could offer a simple timeline of when my ideas hit me, but the truth is I never knew when I would have enough to create a book. True, the first two novels (as I’ve stated elsewhere) I carried with me for years before I committed them to paper. And that’s not a bad way to start - if you have something you think should turn into a proper book, then you are ready for the next step. But for those of you who aren’t there yet, don’t fret; it will come.
The next point: what do you bring to the table? How do you see the world differently from others? What kind of “hot take” (to use an awful current expression in the journo world) do you have on an important issue that you could translate into a fictional universe?
I can only illustrate this with my own work, so here goes. My fourth novel is going to be a dystopian tale set around the year 2050, and features a major struggle concerning humanity and its existence in the age of climate disruption and geoengineering. Obviously I didn’t come up with all of that at the same time (but that would have been awesome). I was very much influenced in a few essays I read over the past four years - this one in The Point about genetic manipulation, this one in the NYRB about geoengineering, and this one (big time) in the LARB about the writer Amitav Ghosh and his request for stories about the largest issue of our time. But of course the list of influences is never ending - the 2013 Spike Jonze film Her radically altered my perspective of where Artificial Intelligence was heading, and the 2015 film Ex Machina made me terrified of a similar notion. Books such as Gibson’s Neuromancer showed me how to craft a compelling, futuristic narrative. That’s the great thing about prompts like these - each writer can take away their own message.
The major lesson to draw from all of this is to overload your circuits with what you follow the most, and eventually, if there is a story there, you’ll find it. I had to percolate this novel idea for years, in random locations, pondering over what it was going to be. Then I created a Google Doc where I kept all my notes and considerations, links to those pieces so I could re-read them, and even some beginning drafts. You can do the same in a simple notebook. The important part is getting it down.
The outline. Once you have the idea, and its solid, you can move on to the outline. Here is where my advice is going to be a little more tailored, and it may not fit your book at all.
Essentially an outline is the plot, characters, and themes all put together in some kind of coherent fashion that you understand enough to refer back to when you need it. Again, all I can do here is explain my own process in the hope that it is helpful. For Our Senior Year, I literally broke the entire story down into its seasonal parts, in different ways. I’m attaching a picture of my notebook from that time to give an idea -
Last Man on Campus was a pretty similar operation, in which I had the basic idea of the story broken down into the two semesters, and then had to work backward as I was writing to fill in some of the mythology of the society running the show (*spoiler*). Both of the outlines were basic - start with a major plot point, how it shows your characters, and their reactions. Et cetera.
I won’t even delve into the insane process I followed for my current manuscript (Observe and Detach) as the story has evolved quite a bit in two years and I’m not too keen on showing where some of it comes from just yet.
And unfortunately novel #4 is not following these outline steps at all, which I must stress is perfectly all right. In lieu of creating much of an outline as of yet, I sat down and cranked out what I think are going to be the major themes of the book -
After almost four years of thinking about this, I have just enough story and character to begin the first drafts, and to be honest I have no idea where they are going to take me. There will be a lot more grist on this topic (Drafts) in the next post, so all I will say here is to not worry about how dense (or not) your outline of the novel is - if it contains the major characters/plot/themes that you want to get on the page, you’re getting there. Thankfully the wonderful technology of the notebook allows for you to always add more stuff - mine is crammed with papers and clippings but I still go back to it when I’m preparing a book.
These are the techniques that have worked for me in getting a book through its initial stages. Short stories or essays (or really anything that’s not a novel) are different beasts, and if/when I ever get better at those forms I’ll try my hand at explaining how to come up with them.
Next up will be the initial (as Anne Lamott would say “shitty first”) draft. I hope to get a post about that process up by the end of this month, again following my own process and how I’ve done it in the past. I also plan on sending my current manuscript of Observe to my editor by then, and may write a little something about that as well.
Feel free to send any and all questions and comments my way, through email or in the comments. I want to hear about your own projects, if my advice is helpful, and how you come up with your own ideas and outlines I will also have an essay on the first book of the 2018 Reading List (The Handmaid’s Tale) up by the end of the month. Thanks for reading!
My first novel was published by North Star Press nearly three years ago. 2014 seems like a long time ago: Obama was still POTUS, and nobody even considered the upcoming election much yet. I was preoccupied with a lot that year, including getting the book, Our Senior Year, finished and the cover ready to go for my events. For those of you who haven’t read it, the book is essentially a fictionalized account of my time at a small high school in Iowa. I named the town Clarmont, a pastiche combining another nearby town, and patched together a few of my best friends at the time as characters. I also split my personality in half and had them be best friends, a decision I’m not quite sure worked very well but was useful in telling the story from two different (albeit similar) perspectives.
I’d recently read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one of the first “horror” novels (depending on your time frame) of the modern era, and one told entirely through epistolary forms of the time: monographs recorded for others to listen, letters, and diary entries. This got me considering a journal entry to tell one character’s side of the story. This journal is located by the other main character at the beginning of the tale, and he uses it to tell the story in what ends up being the actual book. There are some plot twists based on my experience at that town over four years, including an amalgamation of some car wrecks, and a suicide.
The friends were based on people I got to know quite well during my senior year there, as I had run with a different group of people aimlessly (and neurotically, though I wasn’t aware at the time) up to that point. I realized the people in my own grade were having an awesome time, and that it was time to start seeing what they were into. I have since come to understand our activities as pretty stupid, but no too much outside the norm for kids of any era. But all of this did not bode well with my parents, who raised me on a farm outside the town based on pretty strict religious structure. This is reflected in the character’s attending a youth group night at a local church.
This entire novel was really a reaction against my upbringing. Circa 2013, when I was finishing the last drafts, I was coming off an important conversation with my parents a year earlier regarding my breaking away from their Christian faith. I would end up telling them parts of what the story would entail, and tried to make sure they were aware that the parent characters are not really them. One is an alcoholic, and my father doesn’t touch the stuff, and my mother was not overbearing and mean like in the novel. Still, I had conceived the novel in my high school days as being against this type of strict upbringing.
Yet I couldn’t view this work through any other lens than a strictly religious conflict up until now. I’ve recently had some powerful emotional breakthroughs regarding all of it (the ignorance coupled with the extreme fundamentalism) and have come to some much better ground surrounding it. I’m not so angry any longer, and it feels better. I thought it would be as good a time as any to revisit what was driving this first novel.
A lot of it was driven by anger, and fear. Since our initial discussion I had since come to see how I was raised through a mostly negative light, and struggled to distance myself from it through this novel. There is a discussion in the book dealing with a documentary I watched in real life produced by PBS describing a lot of the fallacies in where the Bible comes from. After, the father and son discuss why they don’t believe in this stuff anymore, but must for the sake of their mother. This was one of my first clumsy attempts at inserting commentary I’d arrived at much later into a fictional time zone where part of me existed. I was also at the time afraid my parents would know more about what I thought. I thought this passage in the novel would be enough to cover some of this. It never was.
But that’s another great revelation to hit as a writer: I’m not who I thought I was. That’s right, I can evolve, both through life and in my work. My marriage has taught me a lot about the life part, now it’s time to tackle the writing bit.
The person who finally finished that book in 2013-14 is not the person sitting here writing this today. I have a new, and different outlook on religion and all of its various manifestations through society. And instead of forgetting about it, like it’s not a part of me, I have come to the conclusion that I can only incorporate it into my writing. I have seen so much of it used in the wrong way, in ways that will affect me for the rest of my life. But instead of the anger, I have to approach it with the opposite. Compassion, understanding, but also ruthless interrogation. What causes humans to believe such things? Where does it come from, and where is it going?
I have no idea, and things are only getting more confused with the technological revolution of recent years. AI appears to be the closest thing we might get to a “god” on this planet, so what does that mean for religion? These are all things I didn’t realize I wanted to write about until they wouldn’t go away and kept turning into a huge idea. Therefore, I am going to begin drafting a new book, involving ideas about the future, climate change, technology, and seeing where it leads. I’m also going to continue re-writing Observe and Detach so it’s ready for an agent, but I can’t suppress this any longer. It’s time to start harnessing the tide of creative growth that comes from a healthy examination of one’s path.
That’s my main point for you aspiring writers out there. Look at where you come from, gaze at what you wrote, but don’t let it define you. You are never who you thought you were. I wish there was some other better way to figure this out besides time travel or something. But as I near the midpoint of my thirties, I’ve come to understand that if you can learn from your mistakes, and where you come from, you’ll go a long way toward finding out where you’re going.
(Also when I first started thinking about this essay, I couldn’t help get this infamous YouTube video out of my head. Denny Green was a perennial character in my parent's’ living room as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings a million years ago…)
It is time once again for what will be the final update in my Year of Living (Actually Reading) Fiction. Those of you keeping score at home will recall I initially promised to read another two books this year. While I will be getting to those next year, I’ll also have more on the major lessons learned from this experiment in a post re-launching this experiment in January.
After taking on Faulkner’s legendary Sound and the Fury I took a decidedly different pivot in my next selection: Exodus by Leon Uris. Published in 1958, it is an epic novel about the creation of the state of Israel after World War II. Uris traveled thousands of miles throughout the Middle East interviewing people and researching places for the book, and this imbues it with a historical sense that engaged me through nearly 600 pages. There are many characters and the book spans half a century, but I will admit the writing is actually quite dry and does just enough to keep the narrative flowing. Here are two lessons I drew as a writer from this monumental work:
While I’m glad Uris was able to keep my interest in the tale, I would be hard-pressed to recommend this book to a contemporary audience. As I’ve already stated, the writing just isn’t that great, and Uris presents the story of the Jewish people in an extremely one-sided way. As just one glaring example, the Arab people making up the states surrounding Palestine are almost uniformly presented in a harsh light, being described as backward and even “dirty” people who only reached salvation through the Jewish farming methods being used in the deserts. While things like this absolutely did happen, anyone who studies history as I have ought to know that things are never as simple as people would like them to be. Especially given the context of recent events transpiring between the US and Israel, it is important to note that this is just one (fictional) version of events, and while the historical narrative is quite engaging, anyone who wishes to truly understand the history of this part of the world would do better starting with some non-fiction sources.
So that’s it for my first experimental year of fiction! I’ll be back next year with a post running down everything I have gained from this experience. But for now I’ll say this year was incredibly revelatory for me. I gained some new favorite books and learned a ton from the masters of the written word that have gone before me. I hope I was able to distill some of this into useable knowledge for other writers out there. I would also highly recommend this type of experiment for anyone who wishes to hone their craft.
Thanks to everyone who read my posts in this experiment throughout the year, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2017.
I want to write today about an important facet of the writer’s life: being alone with your thoughts enough to compose something on the page. While some of you out there may be lucky enough to write by yourself or in a separate room, odds are most people have to deal with this situation simply by dint of having a relationship with another human being.
My wife and I lived in a very cramped apartment for the first five years of our marriage. This led to numerous issues regarding space, and while a lot of it got rectified when we moved a bigger place last year, we still could not avoid the fact that we are occupying much of the same area together, almost all of the time. How can we as writers learn to deal with such a situation? How can we with partners in our lives learn to be alone, together?
First I’d like to address the simple matter of how to write even when there is somebody in the same area doing something completely different like watching television. Headphones can be invaluable to cut off the noise, and to place you in the right mindset for writing. For me that’s a heavy dose of classical and/or ambient music. But more to the point, we as writers need to find the proper mindset for working on our craft even in a fairly cramped environment. My wife has her own concept of “alone time,” which she needs just as much as me. Even in a one-bedroom apartment we find our ways of separating, whether that’s moving to the bedroom to read or putting on my headphones and jamming out on a story. While we do have to occupy the same space, we manage to live in our own worlds at certain times. I think this is an important concept for anyone who lives in close quarters with another human being: make sure they too have the space they need from you, when they need it. This can be tough to understand and acknowledge, but believe me, if you can find an arrangement that works out for the both of you, it will do wonders for the entire relationship.
But I want to go deeper than that. What does it truly mean to be alone, together? We as writers are basically unable to do our jobs unless we can be solitary and cultivate our thoughts. How is this possible in our world full of distraction and people? Those who work with me have probably come to know me by turns inherently taciturn and, as I’ve been described by too many people to count, “quiet.” This was especially apparent in my previous job, in which personal connections broke down and I became utterly consumed with keeping to myself. While this led to some humorous anecdotes in my current manuscript concerning neurotic behaviour in the white-collar workplace, it did not lead to me connecting very well with my co-workers. I find myself currently employed in a bookstore, surrounded by some of my favorite works but also by people who do a lot more thinking before they speak (not a huge concern of the office-dweller, in general terms). And yet even here I find myself not speaking much more, often because I have a lot of ponderous thoughts about my books going on in my brain. While part of me keeps trying to make myself interact more with my fellow booksellers, many of whom are very deep people with interesting stories to tell, I must remind myself that the work is residing up there in my cranium, and to make sure I allow myself the time needed to grapple with it. Those of us who deign to use the written word to tell a story need not be so afraid of living a withdrawn life. I cannot stress enough how important it is to retain the singular lifestyle required of the writer in various circumstances. I am lucky enough to have a job in which that isn’t too difficult, but I would highly recommend this to any aspiring writer: find ways to keep within yourself and your thoughts as much as you can.
That’s not to say you should be inwardly focused all the time, but you will never reach your full potential as a writer unless you can be alone with your thoughts. Whether that’s being home alone, together with your significant other or alone among others in your workplace, it’s imperative to cultivate that mindset as often as you can stand it. On this I can only offer my considerations as I ponder the direction of my writing career. While the first draft of my third novel resides on my hard drive, I have for the past few years been chewing over the direction of my fourth one, and how it can reflect reality. This began as the seed of an idea as I was waiting for the bus some afternoons after the office job, and continued into a bigger notion the more I was able to contemplate it, either when others were present or own my own. The important thing to note here is that I would not have been able to get this far without being able to honestly and deeply appraise my own thoughts. Make sure you are giving yourself the same amount of space.
This ties in with what I hope will be my final essay on the writing process this year, which is a doozy: What exactly is a writer for? That is, what are we as purveyors of the written word attempting to do with our careers? I’ll be the first to admit I have expressed utter cluelessness on this score for a long time, but as this year has progressed I have come as close to an answer to that question as I’ve gotten yet. I hope to get that essay out of my brain before this horrendous year has passed.
And of course, stay tuned to this space for the final few updates in my year-long experiment in reading fiction, the incredible results of which have guaranteed its continuation into the next year (more on that next month).
Thanks for reading, and as always feel free to add your own reactions to these ideas in the comments. Happy holidays, everyone!
It’s time once again for another update in my Year of Living (Actually Reading) Fictionally. To kick off the second-half of this experiment I began with Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer-winning 1991 novel A Thousand Acres, a rich narrative of life on the Iowa plains that takes place around the time I was born. This book hit me personally in a few ways that I will discuss later, but first I wanted to draw out the two major writing lessons I gained from this amazing novel.
I would highly recommend this novel for anyone who is looking for examples of how to write intricate descriptions and tell an amazing tale at the same time. But what really hit home for me with this book was the story. Essentially a modernization of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Smiley tells the story of a father with three daughters who decides to leave his farm to two of them, and the consequences of that weighty decision over the course of a farming season. Needless to say this does not go down easily, and causes the daughters to each remember and respond to their awful histories in various ways. This reminds me of what I also face in the future: the passing down of a stake in my own family’s farm in Iowa. Many were the months I spent working hard in the hog fields or in tractors during the harvest, and yet I must admit feeling ambivalent about the prospect of taking on that land when my parents’ generation passes.
Another character named Jess returns to his family after spending years away in Canada to avoid fighting in Vietnam. When he gets back, he irritates the farmers that have been there for generation by speaking about organic farming and how much the chemicals used to kill weeds probably affected his friends’ abilities to have children. This character really resonated with me as I have struggled with these same issues. Things I took for granted as part of the family business (using Monsanto’s GMO seeds, spraying copious amounts of chemicals, etc) I now see as a principle reason for many of the food-related problems in the world. Coming to terms with this was no easier for Jess, who (*spoiler*) also does not stay to run his family’s farm.
All of this being said, this book was a great start to the second-half of my fiction year. Next up I will be reading Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. And stay tuned to this space for more updates on my third novel and for some discussions on short stories and other topics. Thanks for reading!
It’s time once again for another update in my year-long experiment of living (actually reading) fictionally. Except in this case after five fiction books in a row, I decided to tackle one book on the art of writing. More specifically, Francine Prose’s excellent Reading Like a Writer. Prose (whose name almost automatically makes her qualified to pen such a book) is the author of numerous novels herself, and this nonfiction work is an attempt by her to distill some of the knowledge about understanding fiction she has gained over the years. I found it to be a very helpful book, and one that will stick with me for some time. I would recommend this one for any of you out there who are trying to become a better writer because it certainly gave me a ton of new insights. I came away from this book with a new appreciation for many writers, including the Russian playwright and author Anton Chekhov, whom Prose uses in a final chapter to illustrate how a writer can attempt to become a completely dispassionate observer. While I’m not entirely convinced I can set aside my emotions in such an extreme manner, I definitely want to read more of this guy’s work.
As usual, I want to dive into a few major lessons on writing that I was able to take away from this book, but obviously this will be a bit different from the others.
There is a lot more to be said about this book that I am not going to cover here, but I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves reading and would like to become a writer themselves. I know it is going to assist me immensely as I tackle the second-half of my reading list for this experiment. (Prose also includes a hefty list of reading recommendations at the end of the book, many of which I hope to get to someday.)
And speaking of my reading list for the second-half of the year...thanks to all of you for the excellent book suggestions! Unfortunately I was not able to include all of them for this year, but don’t fret; I am strongly considering pushing this experiment into next year, so much has it helped me as a writer thus far. I also hope to be able to pursue a few other experiments regarding short stories and some other stuff this year. But without further ado, here are the titles I will be tackling through December:
A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Exodus - Leon Uris
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
Again, thank you very much for all the recommendations. I hope to be able to fit many more fiction books in my life over the next few years, and it helps to be connected to so many readers! I will return to this space shortly for my next essay, as well as branching out into the territory of the short story, continuing the path to publication, and offering more info on my next novel.
Stay tuned, and as always, thanks for reading!
It’s been almost a year since I lost my previous office job, spent a month in the wilderness of unemployment, and found a much better position working at a used book store. In that time I have come to know some important lessons about life and writing that I’d like to share. I did something similar at the end of last year, but this list is a more thorough compilation. In the interest of keeping the list manageable, I’ve attempted to keep it as pithy as possible. And if any of you out there have your own lessons to add, feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading!
It is time once again for another entry in my year-long experiment in living (actually reading) fiction. In the interest of keeping these intros short, I’ll recap that my literary travails this year have encompassed everything from mystery to science fiction, and I have pulled major lessons about writing from each work. The last novel of this first round was no exception: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of the best-known examples of dystopian science fiction, which is becoming one of my favorite genres. I know I said similar things about Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, but once again I was completely blown away by this work and consider it possibly the finest piece of fiction I’ve read in my short life. Bradbury’s use of language to describe this futuristic, ignorant world is fraught with incredible prescience. Each sentence is crafted tautly and conveys miles beyond just what the words say. Overall I would say this encompasses the two major lessons I learned from the reading of this masterpiece:
There are plenty of other lessons to draw upon from this novel, but I’m guessing many of you have read this one and seen your own parallels to our world. If not, I can’t recommend this book highly enough as it has affected me tremendously, and in ways I’m still figuring out. Plus it is a great example of how to pack the sentences of a fairly short book with meaning - each one entails much more than the sum of its words, making this a book worth paying deep attention to each time you read it.
Well, that’s it for the first round of fiction in this experiment. Up next is a book on writing itself: Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. I’ll write an essay on that and also present the list of books that will encompass the second half of my year. Stay tuned for more updates on my year of living (actually reading) fictionally!
It’s time for the third update in my year-long experiment in living (actually reading) fictionally. For those of you keeping score at home, the first book I tackled was Oscar Wilde’s fascinating 19th century novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Next was Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea. Now I have switched gears, turning to a book my wife suggested, Lillian Jackson Braun’s 1988 novel The Cat Who Played Post Office.
I will be the first to admit I never thought I would read a mystery series, let alone one whose main mystery-solvers are a pair of Siamese cats and their owner, Jim Qwilleran. But part of my learning experience over the past year has been opening myself up to new concepts, one of which was trying to understand various niches and where my own writing might fit in among them. As usual, I won’t get too much into the plot or give away the ending, but I will say that this was a very engaging novel and Braun creates a world, albeit a few books into the series (which originally started in the Sixties) that I enjoyed jumping into each time I sat with the work. This leads to the first point about writing I wanted to observe.
These are the three main writing lessons I’ve come away with after reading The Cat Who Played Post Office. And yes, I would recommend this book (or series) to anyone looking to get some enjoyment out of their reading. While it probably won’t cause you to make a deep reappraisal of your world and society, it still should give you some good ideas for how to become a more popular author.
Up next in this experiment I turn to an author who I have sorely neglected for some time, and hope to begin rectifying this by reading what is considered his best work: Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment in my year of living (actually reading) fictionally.
It’s time for another update on my year-long experiment in living (actually reading) fictionally. For those of you following along at home, the first book I tackled was Oscar Wilde’s fascinating 19th century novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Next up is Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea.
Having not read much of any Hemingway outside of For Whom The Bell Tolls, which was based off his experience in the Spanish Civil War, I was past due to catch up with his better-known material. My wife encouraged me to read this as it’s one of her favorite books, and I can definitely see why. Hemingway was known for his tight sentence structure and there is no better example of such writing than this novel. Once again I don’t want to spend much time on the plot or influence of this book but let it suffice that this is a book about struggle. Struggle against that major goal in your life, struggle against your own personal demons, or struggle against some external force. The pure brilliance of the novel is that by keeping the story simple, Hemingway allows each reader to take away whatever he or she can regarding their own life. This helps lead into the first major writing lesson I found in this work.
First: Keep it simple. This adage is quite familiar to those who have read Hemingway’s work for years, but it especially rings true in this book. It can be said that not a whole lot happens in this novel, but what matters is how it is told. Through the simple language the reader feels they are right next to the fisherman in his boat, witnessing his travails in hooking the marlin and his strife in fighting off the sharks that attack it once it has been killed. Similarly, the author brings you right inside the internal and external monologues of the main character Santiago as we witness the conflicts roiling his soul in his attempt to land the biggest fish of his life. This is a writing technique that I hadn’t really considered and is one I hope to possibly use in the future. Hemingway had me hooked from the first pages of this novel, and I read with rapt attention all the way through the ending, which does not disappoint but offers a bold shot of illumination as I considered this book through the prism of life itself. This brings me to the next huge lesson as a writer I pulled from this book.
Second: Using a novel to tell a deeper truth about life. Hemingway’s final published work has been analyzed to death and read by countless children and adults who have found their own meaning in the fisherman’s battle to hook the marlin. All I can really speak to here is what I took away from the story, which is that each one of us has our own “marlin” in our lives that we are constantly pursuing. How many of us have sought a goal such as this and caught up to it, only to find “sharks” arrive to tear and drag away the carcass? Due to a lack of preparation, Santiago finds he has very limited tools to help him both keep the line going and fight off the sharks as they try to steal his prize. How many of us have felt the same disappointment in ourselves that he did, vowing to do better next time? The sheer force of the elementary language causes us to view this story as a metaphor for our own lives, and is written in such a manner that anyone can take away a parable that fits their own struggles. That is a major accomplishment for any writer, and proved without a doubt this man deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature the year after he published the work that would draw him international renown.
As with Wilde’s novel, this is another one I would highly recommend for any writer who wants to see a near-perfect example of the use of language to tell a deeply complex story. Once again we can learn volumes through the text itself, and while Hemingway was no stranger to offering advice to other writers, it is through his own work that we can learn the most.
Up next on the agenda for my year of living fictionally: Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Played Post Office. Or as my wife would put it, an example of “reading for pleasure” and a forcible ingestion of a type of genre book I would normally never take a second look at. Of course, this was before my time working at a bookstore and learning about the value of various niches. Stay tuned for another essay on that book as we carry on - and as always feel free to toss me your own recommendations for later in the year.
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.