Most writers procrastinate. But why?

My best friend and fellow writer, Cy, sent me a link to an article in the current Atlantic about why writers are infamous procrastinators. Read it here and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to include the reasons you procrastinate in your comment. Personally, it took a relative taking me aside and disabusing me of the notion that talent is the source of success (or even deserves any praise). But my current biggest barrier to writing is poor time management. I tend to pick distractions or less important writing tasks over the more serious ones.

Conducting interviews to bring realism to your fiction

cuban missile crisis

Radio and television connected Americans with the facts of the ongoing crisis, and also increased their anxiety about its dangers.

You’ll find my story “Duck and Cover” in this week’s Binyan. While I lived through the tail-end of the Cold War, I’m not old enough to have survived the Cuban Missile Crisis, the setting for my story. In order to get details about how teens reacted to the situation, I conducted brief email interviews of a number of subjects who were old enough to remember the events. I asked about their feelings, how they coped with them, how they heard about the crisis, how the adults around them (both parents and teachers) reacted, and so on.

How did I use the interviews?

The responses I received were fascinating, and often contradictory, Continue reading

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question.

I just viewed this interesting slideshow on Flavorwire containing outlines by famous writers. I use “outlines” in a broad sense–several were more like graphic organizers than true outlines. I had a weird reaction to the piece.

Usually, I start stories with clusters or notes, not with actual outlines, unless we’re talking something big–a serial (even a mini-serial) or a novel. Sometimes, I cross out and draw arrows to rearrange the elements so often, I end up rewriting the whole thing a few times because I no longer can read my own diagrams.

In most cases, these scribbles remain private. However, I happen to be working on a project right now where the publisher requested an outline first, but that’s never really happened before.

Several of my friends tell me they just start writing. They skip the outlines, diagrams, and charts and words just start to flow.

This slideshow bizarrely made some part of my brain do a superiority dance. “I am in good company with other prewriters,” it seems to say. “Just look at me with the likes of Henry Miller, William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath and Joseph Heller!”

This is utter nonsense. Plenty of writers do just fine without scribbling diagrams, outlines, or the like first, particularly if they are writing short form.

Are you an outliner? Why or why not?

Pesach Limericks for Maggid (because I need a break from my kitchen right now)

pyramid of giza, exodus

On the way outta there!

Many of us have memories of childhood seders. Even when the memories are fond ones (like these shared recently by Jessica Soffer on the Prosen People blog), we were often confused by the Maggid section of the Haggadah. I’ve pried myself from the kitchen to share some wacky Passover poetry to read a the seder during Maggid, hoping it’ll help.

Chag kasher v’sameach, chaverim! (“Have a kosher and joyous holiday, friends!”) Continue reading

Patience is a virtue–Submit when it’s perfect, and then prepare to wait

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been picking up the pace of my submissions, and also broadening the variety of publishers I’ve been submitting to. What I didn’t realize when I committed to this strategy is how much this would test my patience.

waiting - image courtesy of microsoft

You might as well take a seat…this is going to take a while.

Let me explain. Usually, I write for Jewish magazines. If I submit a book, it’s usually a picture book involving Jewish subject matter. The world of Jewish publishers is very small, and the editors receive fewer submissions than those who handle secular material. The response time in the Jewish publishing world is much faster than in the secular publishing world. Moreover, some of the editors have gotten to know me over the years because they’ve employed me, read me online, or just like my style. I suspect that my subs don’t always go in the slush pile, at least in certain offices, B”H & bli ayin hara. Yes, I have to wait for a response from editors, but the wait is relatively short.

Re-entering the realm of secular publishing is a wake-up call to the realities of that world. Continue reading