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An Inadequate Attempt at Categorizing the Skills of Writing

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While I was reading "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle and "The Art of Fiction" by Ayn Rand I started to think about the different specific skills of writing that could be chunked down so that they could be studied, practiced, and then reassembled back into the total act of creating fiction. I came up with a list of 25 before I realized that they might not all be useful. But, I think that if I do a little work I may be able to come up with a reasonable list that could be very useful in helping to develop the skill of writing.


I'm not sure how to categorize or organize these ideas and skills yet. I've tried a few different ways, but I'm not particularly satisfied. Let's see if we can come up with just the essentials.
Conflict is probably the most important aspect of a story. The conflict of values between people or within people. You could detail a story where a person doesn't have internal conflict and doesn't conflict with another person, I …

Why I'm Reading Four Novels At the Same Time (plus one non-fiction book)

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How many books can you read at the same time? One? Two? Three? At what point do you get confused? Was John is this book . . . or was it that book? Have you even tried it? I was afraid to read multiple novels at the same time, until I fell in love with it.


In my past life, before I started writing, I would read multiple non-fiction books and a single fiction book at the same time. This would fluctuate between five and ten books, ten was pushing my limit for working memory, but five was easy. And, it was awesome. I made so many unusual and unique connections. If you're reading a book about how humans imitate each other in almost every way, including their desires (called mimetic desire from the philosopher Rene Girard), and a book about business strategy, and a memoir, your mind will connect them.
The human mind is incredibly flexible and can connect any two ideas. This is called relational frame theory. Try it, how are a pig and a chair like each other? Give yourself a little bit a…

The Prostitution of Artistic Talent, or My Adventures as a Writer for Hire

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I've been experimenting with different ways to make money by writing. It's been a bit of an interesting adventure on its own. I teach English online to kids in China, and some of the parents like the fact that I write, and there is a good business opportunity there, but that's not exactly writing. There's also a good business opportunity in making websites for authors, but that's also indirectly related. There are four opportunities that are directly related to making money with my writing and one has been a bit different than I expected.


Amazon is an obvious way to make money by publishing works. I haven't done that yet. I did get a public domain book turned into an ebook and put it on Amazon. The formatting didn't really come off right, and I found one major typo around a year after I put it up. I think I've made several dollars in the last few years off of that endeavor. I will include the link to the book. It's a good book, but I recommend the h…

What Do You Remember When You Read (or Watch) Fiction?

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What sticks with you after you read a story? Or hear one? Or watch one? Do you remember the plot, or the setting, or the character, or the conflict, or the emotion, or reversals, or revelations? I don't think any of these concepts in themselves work, they don't quite explain it, they don't satisfy me.


Scenes and stories; these seem to be the only two words that describe something that is truly memorable. They are both wholes, while every other concept I mentioned is only a partial. The general idea of the story and the specific idea of the scene work hand in hand. I haven't read or watched "Fight Club" in a few years, but I still remember the story and some scenes. Let's see what I remember.

A man hates his boring life, hates his horrible job, and has really bad insomnia. He develops a split personality, that he doesn't know about, Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden is everything he wishes that he was. The two personalities start fight clubs and the clubs sta…

Writing with Substance

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In the aftermath of the XPRIZE writing contest I have been wondering about the substance of fiction writing, about how stories resonate through a life, about their importance.


The four part format that I came up with to evaluate writing seems to be useful for writing as well: subject, structure, style, substance. It's that last one that has a few questions bouncing around inside my head.

When you read great writers like J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, or C. S. Lewis you encounter ideas, concepts, and situations that can lead you to new questions and realizations. Their writing has a resonance to it that can reverberate throughout your life, or, to put it another way, it has substance. Writing without that substance seems kind of boring to me. I've read some of those books, but usually only if they were light, I needed a break from the heavy stuff, and they involved something I like (for instance, the Percy Jackson books). The question becomes, how do I write with that kind…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 5 of 5

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I think I'm going to fail. I think I am going to fail, but I am going to trudge on. There is a great scene about trudging in the movie "A Knight's Tale," which is an excellent movie. Chaucer says, "To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." Out of the despair, out of the darkness, from desolation and ruin, I shall trudge on; forever yearning to stop, to stop from pain, and fear, and exhaustion, and a feeling of utter meaninglessness in the face of a lost cause, yet I shall trudge on. Trudge we shall unto the heights, through the depths, across the great expanse of life, the universe, and everything in it, we shall trudge!



In the last post I made an interesting revelation about the lack of substance and some fanciful manipulations of human nature being the reason for my hang-up in writing this story. Nevertheless I am going to give it a go. First, let's look at…