Friday Links for Writers: 03.21.14

NY façade to Scribner & Sons... now turned retail. c Elissa Field

NY façade to Scribner & Sons… now turned retail. c Elissa Field

This week, among a group of writing friends, we were trading pep talks as each of us faced subtle challenges in our work. When you start out in writing, advice is all “big picture”: getting around a blank page, building a story, how publishing works. I was struck, in reading the support shared among friends in my writing group, how much more nuanced advice gets, the more you write.

This week’s Friday Links for Writers varies in that same spirit. Among the “10 Rules for Writing Fiction” from established writers, advice ranges from the big-picture-obvious to the kind of affirmation a mid-career writer will relate to. In the tips from writers and editors at the New Yorker, advice has the edge of those writing in the trenches, as long-form freelancers. Those experienced with submitting short fiction to literary magazines will appreciate the “So What” factor.

As always, share your own links or insights in the comments, whether to say which links resound most for you or what you’d like to see more of. Best, with your writing this week!

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Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Lots of you may have read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing Fiction (which are useful), but, in reprinting his 10, the Guardian has also solicited top writing advice from several other writers.  I like Anne Enright’s acknowledgement that “description is hard,” to which she adds, “Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.”

19 Writing Tips From Writers & Editors of the New Yorker

At a certain point, writing advice — particularly from established novelists — can feel a little predictable. Not this list on Buzz Feed, which shares advice from writers and editors in the trenches on streetwise topics like being successful as a longform freelance writer.

Writing Beyond Good: the “So What” Factor

Do you submit short fiction or nonfiction to literary magazines? Check out this series of articles from the Missouri Review’s blog, which offer insight into what it takes to “write beyond good.”  The link above takes you to the 3rd post in the series, which identifies the need for a story to have meaning. Links within the first paragraph take you to the first post in the series or this 2nd post on Creating Emotional Resonance. (If reading these leaves you wanting to address “stakes” in your work, try the process in October Fiction Challenge: Raising the Stakes on Character Motivation.)

Luck of the Irish

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, seven Irish novelists — including 3 of my favorite writers — share the luckiest thing that’s ever happened to them: Emma Donohue, Colm Toibin, Sebastian Barry, Alice McDermott, Colum McCann, Frank Delaney and Tana French.

The Turning Point: Perfecting the Look of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Especially when I’m writing short fiction, I feel kindred spirit with Wes Anderson films. I also find inspiring connection to read about the creative process in film and other arts. In this Fast Co. piece, Joe Berkowitz speaks with the production designer of The Grand Budapest Hotel about the turning point decisions that led to the film’s visual impact. I love Berkowitz’s observation of Anderson films, that “every part of the house in The Royal Tenenbaums is awash in revealing residue from the characters who inhabit them.”

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How About You?

Do you have a writing goal you are working to reach this week? Are you working on revising a draft, or strategizing to stake out more time for your writing? Or are you busy with submissions?

As posts earlier in the week shared, I am in the throes (imagine: swimming in heavy seas) of another round of novel revision this week. As mentioned above, several of my friends are in varying ranges of novel writing, revision and submission. Congrats go out to 3 from my writing group whose drafts advanced to round 2 of Amazon’s novel competition.  And several of us are busy with applications for summer workshops or grad programs.

Join the conversation: share your goals, obstacles and successes in the comments. You are welcome to include links to posts on your site.

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copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

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Novel Revision Strategies: Retyping the Novel Draft

At work on novel revisions. c. Elissa Field

At work on novel revisions. c. Elissa Field

 

This week, along with spending time with my boys for their spring break, I am working full days on novel revisions. The first 2 days, I was writing new material and then integrating all new “add ons” into the existing draft, then printing it out. Deep breath. Then, yesterday, I decided to try out a whole new strategy for novel revision.

First off, as with other posts in my Novel Revision series, this is a revision strategy intended for a mid-level revision. That is, at least one complete draft has been accomplished (more about that below). If you want other ideas about novel revision, click this link for a full listing of posts in the series or look for links at the end.

If this novel revision strategy doesn’t work, you’ll hear me cursing. But, so far, I can see merit, so let’s try it out.

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Stage in Revisions

The novel draft I am working on has held together as a novel for at least a year and has gone through several revisions to develop the internal and external conflicts, so that I have my permanent story line in place. The characters are fully developed. It is at the revision stage of working together scenes from multiple revisions, purging out weak portions from early drafts, and working toward smoothing out what will be a final version (prayers skyward).

Where did this approach come from?

Within recent weeks, two writers I follow each shared this piece of advice, here in a tweet by Alexander Chee:

By coincidence, I had just heard the same strategy in this New School interview with Anthony Marra, whose Constellation of Vital Phenomena I’ve been reading:

At about 7:30 into the interview, Anthony answers a question about how he came upon the narrative style of the award-winning novel, in which there are no minor characters.

Explain the Revision Strategy

In sharing how the style came about, Anthony explains his writing process this way:

I retype everything.  That is sort of my revision method: just retyping and retyping. I’ll print out a draft as soon as I’m finished and put it down in front of the keyboard and go back and retype the whole thing…  This process of retyping, I feel like it’s the way some painters paint the same landscape again and again because… you start seeing it more through your memory than through your eyes…”

Wait, What?

Tell me you didn’t say, “retype the whole thing.”

I know. Isn’t “retype the whole thing” the great nightmare we all have of what would happen if the computer crashed, losing all but that one print copy?

Do the math: Type 30 words a minute? Maybe you’re lucky and type 60 or even 100? Yeah, divide your novel’s word count by that. Starting from scratch on all those finished pages – you’re staring down the long road of WEEKS worth of typing.

As the groan ebbs, the more patient writer inside — the one who genuinely wants excellence — toys with the idea, thinking, “What might I fix more authentically if I were typing this manuscript in from scratch?”

My Manuscript Tests it Out

My novel draft is in a good place for this kind of revision.

  • I want to read the whole thing through.
  • I want to make major revisions to resolve differences in voice that come from working on a novel over a few years’ time.
  • I’m willing to drop any scene or sentence or word that isn’t working.

This is a great point to be recreating the story on a blank page, rather than just tweaking an existing draft.

And I type nearly as fast as I think. It may be faster for me to retype what I like than to mark up a draft and have to go back and implement those changes, knowing they still won’t perfectly fit with neighboring text.

So How’s It Working?

Two days into this approach I’ve typed in 6,993 words (or 19 pages) which is essentially the first chapter (or first chapter and half).

Pros

Retyping has been a great approach for this section of revisions, as 1) I needed this part of the novel perfected to submit as writing sample with a couple applications, and 2) the existing draft was made up of a handful of draft options.

Retyping went very smoothly. I typed in the first 4 pages exactly as they were, as I’ve revised them several times, although I discovered some obvious sentence errors in a couple places. I then cherry-picked 4 old scenes to rescue just key details and wording. Then I typed in, nearly verbatim, a couple recent drafts, which are closest to my intent with the narrative voice.  There was one small chunk that I cheated and used copy-paste to transfer. Sue me.

There were several pages of text I willingly dropped. In particular, it was good to see those “explain,” psychology-heavy sections from early drafts falling behind on the cutting room floor. This is why I wanted to use this process. I kept only the best wording — only wording that felt strong enough to be worth typing again.

Cons

It does take a bit of time. I did the math but refuse to accept it would really take me 219 days to retype this thing. I’d like to claim faulty division and tell myself I can do it by May.

Have issues with your eyesight? I don’t normally but would empathize with anyone who does, as I injured my eye last month, which has made my vision more sensitive, and it is a little demanding on vision to go back and forth between the print draft and on-screen draft.

Worry about losing one of those darlings you slaughtered? I have a longstanding practice of saving a “cuts” document for anything I delete from a draft, because I can just cut it and paste it there. Technically, I still have that record, as I have the old draft saved, but I have not been clearly marking the printed text to keep track of words or sections I chose to exclude while typing. Keeping colored highlighters on hand would help with this: highlight one color for deleting and another if you are thinking to move something to another part of the manuscript.

Ah, typos. For anyone who’s already gone through a draft correcting dropped letters, misspellings, capitalizations or dropped words, this is the little nightmare: retyping exposes you to a whole fresh round of typos. I’m sure that writers using the retyping method just address those on the final version, or aim to do their best correct them with each round. < Note the irony of typos in that line? Point made.

Overall

Definitely, I see a value in this revision process, so will keep it in my toolbox, although I don’t know that it will become my one and only process.  I’ll post an update over the coming weeks to see if I stick with this process through the whole draft.

My biggest concern, overall, is that it is very tempting to make drastic revisions when retyping. This could be good — it lets you release those outgrown darlings readily — but that also means that the current revision can only be as good as I am on the day I’m retyping any revisions. Although, just as easily, one could tune out and simply type what’s there without real revision. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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How About You?

Are you at work on revision? Have you tried this strategy? Or, what strategies do you recommend? Feel free to share links to your own posts if you’ve written about your own favorite approach.

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Blake and the Irish cow. c. Elissa Field, request permission for use

Blake and the Irish cow. c. Elissa Field, request permission for use

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Writing Life: Celebrating My “Irish” by Writing

copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

copyright Elissa Field; repro w written permission only

I was woken this St. Patrick’s Day morning by the most Irish of my sons studying me in my jammies and challenging, “Are you wearing green?”

Slice of Life Challenge - TwoWritingTeachers.com

Slice of Life Challenge – TwoWritingTeachers.com

My family is not fully Irish — one grandfather is Finnish, a grandmother French, another grandfather English. It’s one grandmother alone who feeds my Irish roots. Her family was Irish as they come. I can’t say that without image coming to mind of any of her wiry-haired brothers with his head tipped back to laugh.

Yet I never felt so Irish until my sons were born. I inadvertently tipped their focus toward their Irish roots when I name my oldest son Liam — less in Irish obsession than in the fact I liked the name (it is actually nod to my Finnish grandfather, William).

His younger brother, Blake, however, is the true throwback.  I’ve never met a more Irish person than my youngest son, whose looks and mannerisms perfectly replicate Irish ancestors so long dead he could not be mimicking, and it was Blake (who slept in green shorts) who challenged my commitment to St. Patrick’s Day this morning.

My sons get the double-dose, as my mother-in-law was full Irish, complete with her dark humor. I cracked up over the tweet from Weinstein Books publicity director, Kathleen Schmidt, below, because it so much represents the “catching up” conversations we have with my mother-in-law each visit home:

Not only does my mother-in-law catch you up on family news by cataloguing the latest illnesses and disasters (in the most dramatic stage whisper, as if she were nearly — nearly — too shocked to tell you), but she is an avid lover of murder fiction.

She was never so pleased with a trip to visit us in Florida than the night we ended up trapped on South Beach, in Miami, because the FBI had the island cordoned off while they chased Gianni Versace’s killer. We had given her the perfect mystery-lover’s outing as we walked past the still-stained sidewalk in front of Versace’s house and inadvertently walked through the live taping of America’s Most Wanted, on our way to take her to a salsa-dancing club, where the blue-lit helicopter footage of the chase was being broadcast over the bar.

Blake and the Irish cow. c. Elissa Field, request permission for use

Blake and the Irish cow. c. Elissa Field, request permission for use

Still, my boys’ and my own Irish identity reached its peak after a family trip to the ole sod in 2006.

The trip planted a seed that later grew into a novella and then a novel draft, which is the novel I have been working on the past 2 years and often write about here (click for all posts on Wake or on novel revision).

The picture of my son on the lawn of an Irish country house, at the top, epitomizes a certain essence of the internal motivation in the novel. While early drafts focused on the love story between Carinne and the paramilitary man she met in Ireland, development of her character and the story have made it clear that it is the need of her son to find his father that becomes the inciting incident for her to unravel all the mysteries in the book. Where she has been paralyzed to act on her own motivation, she is made brave enough to do for her son.

What’s interesting to me, as my boys and I celebrate being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, is the backwards connections we have to Ireland now. For the deeply passionate connection we feel, my own inspiration is often in reverse to our factual roots.

In tracing family roots, we traveled to the south, although the Cooleys are from north of Dublin. My son poses in front of a country house, although our family left behind roots as humble as a mud-floored cottage. In Kerry, where the Irish Troubles didn’t reach, I first felt the dark spark of my paramilitary character, Michael Roonan, on the shadowy, cool bed of a room in the garden wing of a English peerage hunting lodge. As much as the violence of the north was absent, the dark shadows of the surrounding forest seemed to speak of something in hiding, and Roonan was vivid in my mind from one sleepless night as if he leaned against the wall impatiently waiting for me to write.

But writing is like that. And our Irish love of story is like that: craving surprise, darkness, even shock.

I celebrate this St. Patrick’s day by making the most of the week I have off for spring break by writing. My characters have been speaking loudly to me since the first hour I left work on Friday. I’ve written each of the last few days. I’ve copied new material from the last months into the existing draft (I’m well up to a 6th or 8th draft by now).  I’m due for another print-and-read-through, expecting much from early drafts will be deleted now, and there will be big challenges in weaving together the reveal moments of various threads of the internal and external conflicts.  Lots to do.

But I think I’ll start with the promise to my son: I’ll go don green.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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How About You?

What are you working on today?  Are you celebrating your Irish roots?  Or, how does your own ancestry inspire what you write about?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, the Bloglovin’ button or via email.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

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Writer’s Day Job: Is Teaching a Good Job for Writers?

Working with my WIP's first draft, summer 2012. c. Elissa Field

Working with my WIP’s first draft, summer 2012. c. Elissa Field

One of the most popular posts on my site is Writer’s Day Jobs: Balancing the Time-Money-Credit Trifecta – which weighs the challenges writers face in balancing time to write against the need to keep a roof over their head.

Aspiring writers might work on a novel at night after a day in an office job, but published authors might also be fighting for time to work on a new book while attending to promotional tours.  “Day job” is not a pejorative: whether that job is trying cases as an attorney or working in a book store or waiting tables or working as a surgeon, we simply use the nickname “day job” for how writers pay the bills.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that, over the last 20 years, I’ve balanced a daily writing practice while working a range of jobs. I worked full time as a writer, as a freelancer and an in-house writer. I worked an 8-5 desk job as a paralegal, office manager and as an assistant to a judge. I’ve taken time off to write, and I’ve worked piecemeal to buy flexibility. Most recently, for the last 5 years I’ve been a teacher.

I promised to share reviews of which day jobs allowed the greatest success — financially, for writing, for the job and for overall career success. Today’s post is the first as I review what has been an amazing job: teaching.

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Day Job Review No. 1: Is Teaching a Good Job for Writers?

In Writer’s Day Jobs: Balancing the Time-Money-Credit Trifecta, I set out the belief that a good day job for writers needs to offer a balance of 3 things:

  • time to write: hours, brain cells and creative energy available for writing
  • money: to keep the worries of life at bay
  • street credit: any form of credibility the job lends to your life as a writer, whether through credentials, experience, knowledge, etc.

Time to WriteRevision checklist-

In my first job teaching, I only taught afternoon writing classes. Each day, I’d wake early, drive my sons to school, and then write for 2-3 hours in that quiet time alone. Around noon, I’d dress and head off to teach, run an after school workshop, and be home with the boys by 4 or 5. Sweet gig. Not only did I have structured time to write, but the orderly schedule of getting ready for afternoon classes actually helped keep my writing hours more focused than in years when I was working as a full-time writer. I have other writing friends who have had a similarly light teaching schedule as an adjunct professor or teaching specialty classes, like English to adults or SAT courses.

As a full-time teacher the past 2 years, I struggle more to find writing time, although, strictly speaking, my work hours are still shorter than an office job. Even with after-school responsibilities, most teachers leave work by 5, and most teaching jobs are limited to during the standard working week.

More noteworthy are those long holidays and summers off. How do I have time for this post? Nine days off for spring break. Nearly 3 weeks off at Christmas-New Years. Long weekends, Thanksgiving, Easter… and then there’s the 2-3 summer months off.  This is a great benefit to writing parents, as it offers writing hours as well as flexibility for time with your family. Equally, this is time for attending workshops, conferences, research or travel, without having to take time off from work.

Whoa, not so fast. The downside is that teaching is not limited to your assigned classroom hours. When I taught 10 hours as a part-time writing teacher, I often spent an additional 10-30 hours/week in planning and grading.  (Really 30? Essays and papers take, on average, 20-30 minutes to review and give feedback on; multiply that by the number of students. It’s daunting.)  While I had those mornings to write as a part-time teacher, I rarely work on novel-length fiction during the school year now that I am full time.  Most nights, my “free” time goes to grading, planning, writing teaching materials or corresponding with parents. Or sleeping. I really love the creative vibe of teaching, but it does demand full attention.

There are exceptions.  If I were to teach this same grade and subjects again, the planning spent this year might free up time next year. Some subjects take less planning or have faster grading.  And some writers rally easily to go back to their own writing. In fact, depending on what you are working on, it is possible that your work teaching may feed your creative energy for writing (see more on this under Street Cred).

I find time for short work: I’m experienced at disciplining myself to write, so manage time for nonfiction, blogs, teaching materials and short, draft-form pieces of fiction (say, a single novel scene or a short story).  What I don’t count on is being able to claim extended and mentally consistent time for working on novel revisions during the teaching season.

That doesn’t mean teaching does not allow time to write. In fact, lots of teachers do write and publish, myself included. I’ve written most of my current WIP, kept 2 blogs, and written and published short stories while teaching, not to mention all I’ve written for the job itself.

The key is to be disciplined about setting aside time to write. Especially important is to be ruthless about using those extended holidays to write, revise and submit. Participating in a writing group may help keep you motivated to claim that time, when it feels tempting to work on other things.

Money

While other day jobs may demand less attention or time, full time teaching jobs can make up for this in the relief of a continuous income. When I was a freelance writer, I loved the flexibility of being able to write full time, but the need to constantly market or look for the next project was often a distraction from making the most of time for fiction (or for my family). Knowing you have a consistent income for the coming year removes a major distraction, which lends creative freedom.

A lot is made of teachers being underpaid, but a full time teacher generally makes a healthy middle income.  Depending on your state, subject area and certification, starting teachers earn roughly $25k/year at the low end, $35-40k/year in mid-range, and up to $65k/year in the highest paying states (there are only a few of these). Full time teachers also earn benefits including health insurance, sick days or personal leave, and retirement contributions or a pension.

If you loved the idea of that part-time teaching schedule I had, expect much less financial reward. My first year teaching part-time, I made $19k by also subbing and then filling a second part-time role for the last months of the year (so I actually was full time the last few months). The next two years, for the same part-time job and same hours, they changed my contract so I made only $7k one year and $11k the next. All of those roles were hourly, no benefits, and there were several staff meetings and trainings I had to attend, unpaid.

On the other hand, you may find ways to create additional income.

  • See Street Cred, below: teaching credentials and experience may open doors for you to get paid writing assignments or speaking engagements.
  • Current internet opportunities allow unprecedented ways to monetize your expertise. For example, teachers can become vendors to sell their best lesson plans on sites like Teachers Pay Teachers or by self-publishing.
  • More traditionally, outside tutoring pays $25-100/hour.

Teachers also benefit from a slew of random financial perks, including participation in credit unions or preferred financing. A surprising number of retail stores offer teachers 10-20% discounts, including clothing stores (J.Crew, Ann Taylor and Limited Express),  craft stores (Michaels), book stores (Barnes & Noble) and some restaurants.

Street Cred

There are lots of jobs that give you time off to write or a solid income, but lend no street cred. Credibility is something every writer will measure differently. Some want a title in the writing profession to feel they can claim legitimacy. For others, it could be experience in the field they are writing about. I count street cred as anything a writer takes to be legitimizing or helps them on the path to publication.

CastilloSanMarcosTeaching has cred, for nearly all teachers and writers. As a writer, the amount of street cred that transfers may have to do with the subject or grade level you teach. The connection between my teaching and writing was obvious when I was strictly a writing teacher, or even as a history or English teacher. As a writer of adult fiction, the connection is less obvious now that I’m teaching 5th grade, and might be less so if I were a lower elementary teacher or math teacher.  If I continue with strictly adult fiction, the connection between my writing and teaching might be stronger if I were a high school or college English or writing teacher.

On the other hand, what if you are writing for children, middle grades or young adults? Teaching gives you a huge advantage in this, as I can’t tell you how much more clearly one understands tween and teen concerns and interests when watching them all day long.

Plus, you understand the priorities of teachers who recommend and assign reading — for example, you understand that books are more likely to be purchased in classroom sets if they connect to the historical periods being taught, or character education or cultural diversity being addressed. Story elements that enable your book to not just reach kids, but make it onto summer reading or awards lists, ahem, significantly increases your ability to sell books.

As a profession, teaching credentials and experience also give you the credibility to write or speak as an expert in the field. Teachers have transitioned classroom experiences into books and paid speaking about teaching (may require advanced degrees or research). Other teachers write essays or how to books about specific skills (such as Kate Messner’s Real Revision). Beyond strict classroom teaching, educators may be able to transition to hosting workshops, camps or other educational programs. Similarly, many teachers become entrepreneurs creating businesses independent of the school environment.

One last point about street cred: teaching is by no means just a day job. You will care about teaching as deeply as you do about writing, so will care whether your writing gives “cred” to your teaching just as much as the other way around. Compared to many other day jobs, teachers are very careful about their professional and public presence outside the classroom, which may feel like a creative limitation to some writers.

Making it Work: Manage Your Time & Be Ready to Write

So, is this a good day job for a writer? Not if it leaves you too creatively drained to write.  I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I know countless teachers who always dreamed of writing but never attempt it until they’ve retired, simply because their creative energy went into teaching until then.

But there are also lots of very successful writers who got their first works written while teaching. Rick Riordan, Rick Wormeli, Kate Messner and more.  Yes, you can write while teaching.

Writing on vacation - while in the treetops with my boys.

Writing on vacation – while in the treetops with my boys.

But you have to do it — you have to have material ready to run with when the summer months hit (example of this: Novel Revision: Work is Messy, Book May Bite), and you have to have short tasks to accomplish at other times.

Not only does it take discipline to actually write, but you have to be ready to overcome surprise hurdles. Last summer, as I got underway revising the first draft of this WIP, my laptop crashed. Knowing summer was my only time to tackle that revision, I had to be disciplined to shift to handwritten revision on a printed draft and adapt to working on a different computer. Similarly, since I need to make use of our holidays off, I’ve had to adapt strategies to write on the run in order to not miss out on time off with my kids.

As with any job, you also have to prepare for the mental transition from the day-world to that of your writing. When writing for the courts, I had to shift from pragmatic legal writing to fiction; in my current work, it’s from teacher-voice with goofy kids to the journalistic-literary voice of my paramilitary WIP. This is one of the greater challenges, but is true with most day jobs — and many writers find it a relief for the day job to require a different voice as the day work doesn’t deplete the creative reserve needed for writing.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

Teaching is not a “fall back” job. It is often referred to as a “calling.” Teachers love it for the creativity, challenge, and fun working with discovering learners… but it is a demanding job. Some positions may be easy to get, but it can also be very competitive to be hired or to keep a position. I’ve worked desk jobs before where I had my own laptop out and snuck in writing between phone calls; this will not be that job.

Requirements include a college degree plus certification. Elementary Ed majors generally do student teaching as part of their coursework, then take state testing for certification. Have a different degree? States generally have an alternative certification path, requiring certain education courses and then state licensing exams. Courses and exams for my certification cost between $3-6,000 (it was comparable to getting licensed as a real estate agent).

Some states require a masters degree (or you can earn more with a masters). Masters programs I’ve seen range between $9-20k.  I’ve mostly addressed teaching K-12 in this piece, but lots of writers teach at a college level, particularly during or after earning an MFA in writing. To teach other subjects may require a doctorate degree, and tenured college-level positions have been very competitive through the recent economy.

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How About You?

Do you have a success or challenge story to share about writing while teaching? Any recommendations for other readers?

Or, what other professions have you held as a day job while writing?

As always, it’s great to hear readers’ thoughts in the comments.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, the Bloglovin’ button or via email.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

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Friday Links for Writers 03.14.14: Quirky Research Sources for Writers

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

Dublin from World Bar. c Elissa Field.

Each week in Friday Links for Writers, I share links to resources I’ve found useful in the previous week, related to writing, editing and publishing.  This week’s Friday Links may become a special thread within the ongoing column, as I’ve stumbled across a handful of quirky sources in recent weeks. 

Readers researching a thriller may find a few of these links helpful, while others may like a couple historical resources. Considering the Irish setting of my WIP, the first 2 sources give a cheery nod to St. Patrick’s weekend. Less cheery but also linked to my own research, is the Committee for Protection of Journalists: sober tracking of dangers for journalists around the globe.

As always with Friday Links, let me know which links you find most interesting or ones you’d like to see more of.  Have you stumbled across a quirky info source of your own?  Feel free to add your own links in the comments.  Have a great writing week!

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What Do Ireland’s County Names Mean?

Writer and historian Elizabeth Saunders shared this article with an awesome list and map providing the names and history of Ireland’s counties. Elizabeth always impresses me with her diligent research into genealogy and history about Quakers and Irish descent — check out her blog for more.

Irish Insults Translated into English

Let’s have a contest: how many times do you have to play this vid before you can actually hear clearly the words spoken by the native Irish? It’s an entertaining demonstration of Irish wit and sharp tongues, with the brief English translation onscreen, courtesy of the Irish Journal’s Daily Edge.

A Tour of the British Isles in Accents

Irish, forgive me for shifting from the ole sod to GB, but another great link:  Writing about the British Isles?  No?  You still have to check out this short audio clip from the BBC that takes you on a tour of various regions by accent.  Useful for training your writerly ear, and entertaining to boot.

How Sherlock Changed the World

Write mystery or crime thrillers? As one with a familiarity with forensics and respect for the longstanding traditions in mystery writing, I thought this PBS special was a great perspective on the extent to which Sherlock Holmes both inspired and accurately reflects the true practices of forensic science.

Top 10 Handguns

Admit it. Your character plans to off somebody.  This list is not the end-all (in fact, you’re better off with one of those illustrated encyclopedias of guns frequently on offer in the Barnes & Noble “bargain books” section), but this list is a quick illustrated summary of common handguns in the world. (This link has been disabled.)

How Far Could You Get From New York Back in the Day?

Anyone setting a story in the northeast in a prior era might find this graphic and article by David Yanofsky interesting, as it maps the distance a traveler could cover in a single day in bands from 1800 to 1934.

ChronoZoom

Another intriguing tool for anyone writing in a prior era is this tool created for educators to explore historical events in perspective. Caveat: I haven’t tried this one, but a review of the resource on Edutopia (a respected site for educators) said the program is meant to be an expandable timeline of all of history. If you try it out, let us know how it works for you.

Committee to Protect Journalists

This has been my central resource for tracking journalists killed or missing while covering stories overseas, and is a resource for international dangers to journalists around the globe.

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What About You?

The links here reveal some of the writing priorities (or at least curiosities) that have come up in my recent writing.  What kinds of research sources do you find yourself using?  Or, what kind of information do you wish were available?  Do you wonder about accurate clothing for a lost era or the sounds of television commercials that would have played in 1978?  Or do you have a great research source to share?

Whatever your writing goals this week, best wishes to you!

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, the Bloglovin’ button or via email.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

Watching for snow - perfect time for a great read. c. Elissa Field

Watching for snow – perfect time for a great read. c. Elissa Field

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Friday Links for Writers 02.21.14

BlackrockIn months when carving out writing time is challenging, I remind myself that Toni Morrison wrote The Bluest Eye while working full time and raising 2 boys as a single mother, by writing before they woke and after they went to sleep.  Doesn’t make it easier, but busy months take constant self-coaching to get it all done.

This week, I was thrilled with a provocative question from a friend that led to a new way of looking at a key scene. The upside of fighting for time to write is it is that much more satisfying when the work that comes out really rings true.

The week’s work has also led to discovery of some great links online, which is your benefit as I share this week’s Friday Links for Writers.  As always, let me know in the comments which links resound with you, what you’d like to read more of, or share your own links.  Best wishes for a great writing week!

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Sally Clements: How to Write a Synopsis

Among my writing friends, several are somewhere in the process of submitting novels as part of their winter goals.  This article by Sally Clements, on the Irish Writing Center’s website, does a good job of addressing how to write a synopsis as part of the submission process.

Secrets to Querying Literary Agents: 10 More Questions Answered

Along the same lines, this round-up of querying advice from Chuck Sambuchino (at Wendy Tokunaga’s site) answers some more interesting questions about query strategy.  Bonus: click the link in the first paragraph for another 10 answers.

Style Sheet: A Conversation with my Copyeditor

Here’s a good resource on copyediting basics, whether you are trading manuscripts with a beta reader or your novel is in the hands of your publisher’s editor, or you are providing copyediting services to other writers.  This article at The Millions includes a chart of standard copyediting notations and an interview with writer Edan Lepucki’s copyeditor.

Clashing Tones: a peril when we spend a long time writing a book

It’s time to share another great post from Roz Morris. I like this post on shifting tones within a manuscript, because it addresses a revision issue we not have heard others name, point-blank: the need to read for consistent voice or tone in a novel that has been written and revised over long stretches of time.

Interview with NBCC John Leonard Prize Winner Anthony Marra

I’ve said before that I am very excited to see the success of Anthony Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, as I first ran into Marra in an online forum around the time he would have been writing it.  He has received nods for several national and international awards, and has just been awarded the National Book Critics Circle’s first ever John Leonard Prize.  Here is an interview with him from the School of Writing at the New School.  So many of us could relate to Marra’s inspiration: “I wrote this book as much as a reader, as a writer.  It was the kind of book I wanted to read and it wasn’t there yet.”  I love the revision process he shares: “I retype everything.” As soon as he finishes a draft, he prints it out and retypes it, revising with new eyes as he goes.

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What About You?

What writing goals are you working on this week, or what other priorities interfere with your writing time?  My best wishes go out to several of my regular readers who have been sharing their February goals and helping to keep each other motivated.  Feel free to share yours in the comments, below.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, the Bloglovin’ button or via email.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

c. Elissa Field

c. Elissa Field

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Friday Links for Writers 02.14.14

c. Elissa Field

c. Elissa Field

Ah, Valentine’s week.  This isn’t quite a valentine, but is sent with heartfelt wishes to all my writing friends who have been sharing and supporting one another’s goals over the past weeks. 

As so many friends are slowed down with winter storms or (in my case) distracted with pre-spring priorities that take time away from writing, at the same time, at least a dozen of my writing friends have been trading goals to keep each other accountable and supported.

Part of my month’s goals have led to some great reading online and, as always, this week’s Friday Links for Writers shares the best.  Let me know in the comments if any links were particularly helpful, and feel free to share your own links as well.  Best wishes for all your work, this week!

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On Beginnings: Ann Hood

If you’ve been a repeat visitor here, you may know I am partial to advice from certain authors, and this article by Ann Hood at Tin House epitomizes this. Ann quoted much of her advice on writing beginnings (including kinds of beginnings that work vs. those that rarely do) at a workshop I attended with her 2 years ago, saying she had amassed her lists while writing this article for Tin House.

How to Reveal Your Character’s Backstory Wound

Something about this piece by Martha Alderson on character backstory flipped a switch in my understanding of the newer backstory I’d written for my main character. Alderson writes both about the deep pain, and also the likely hidden nature of backstory wounds. She says, “Because a backstory is usually filled with fear, loathing, and pain, it is often buried. Thus, the backstory reveal toward the end of the middle of the story is often painful and difficult for the character to discern and integrate. Often, before a sense of freedom and a tranquil heart prevails, first comes forgiveness.”  (Thanks to Roz Morris for having shared this link on Twitter.)

5 Apps for Copyediting

This roundup from GalleyCat opens, “Whether you are a self-published author, an editor that works in traditional publishing or a journalist on the go, everyone can benefit from a little copy editing.” The first is my new resource: an iOS app for viewing and editing Word docs.

Shape-Shifting Poems and Other Monsters

Too often I share links on fiction and neglect all my poetry-writing friends, so this one is for you, poets.  I thought this piece by Alan Michael Parker, in vol 49 of Puerto del Sol, was an interesting take on how poetry collections are put together.

F.T. Bradley, author of Double Vision

F.T. Bradley, author of Double Vision

7 Things I Learned So Far: F.T. Bradley

I’m glad to share this installment in the “7 Things I Learned” column at Writers Digest, as shared by F.T. Bradley.  True to her word in the interview, I “met” Fleur in an online writing community before her debut middle grade novel, Double Vision, was released.  The advice shared in her “7 Things” is great — and my students have all given fabulous reviews to her series.  In seconding her advice: I have to say I appreciate and admire that Fleur is quick to respond to tweets and contacts from readers.  If you have a book rolling out, don’t overlook the power of that connection.

How to be Popular

This essay by Melissa Flashman (excerpted from the book MFA v. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, featured at n + 1) is an interesting take on how her interest in popularity led her on an unplanned path to becoming a literary agent.

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If you like this blog, be sure to subscribe using WordPress’s +follow option, the Bloglovin’ button or via email.  I love to connect with like-minded readers and writers!

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Watching for snow - perfect time for a great read. c. Elissa Field

Watching for snow – perfect time for a great read. c. Elissa Field

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