Dear Students, My Job is to Kill Your Dreams

When the novelist Kelly Braffet was in high school, she had the worst English teacher of all time: One day, Mrs. Smith told us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote about wanting to be a writer. I wrote about how I'd loved books as long as I could remember and was never happier than when I was deeply immersed in a story. I probably added something about wanting to win the Pulitzer by 25 and the Nobel by 30, because that was the kind of obnoxious kid I was. I didn't really know anything ... read more

Review: 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

I just finished reading Kiss of the Spider Woman, the 1976 Manuel Puig novel that became a terrific 1985 film. William Hurt won an Oscar playing Molina, a gay window dresser sharing a prison cell with Valentin, a straight Marxist revolutionary played by Raul Julia. To pass the time, Molina retells his favorite movies to Valentin. The book held my interest but was difficult to read because of the experimental fiction techniques used by Puig. Most of the book is told through dialogue between the two men but the ... read more

Attending the Florida Heritage Book Festival

At the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine this past weekend I saw speeches by novelists Jeff Lindsay (Darkly Dreaming Dexter), Steve Berry (The Templar Legacy) and Diana Abu-Jaber (Arabian Jazz). I have an unpublished thriller in its second draft that's around 60,000 words long, so I go to these festivals looking for tips on how to become a more gooder writer and also to establish a daily writing routine to finish it. I've proven conclusively in the past year the novel won't finish itself. Lindsay ... read more

How to Join Kurt Vonnegut's Family

Last June, I began writing my first novel, a thriller about nuclear terrorism. I finished the first draft a month ago and sent two copies to people I know who are avid students of fiction writing. I just got back one copy covered in handwritten notes. The other is still out, Wade Duchene. When I mailed the manuscript, these were the first two people who had seen the novel aside from my wife Mary. I encouraged the reviewers to be critical, stressing to them that I'm already a published author and understatedly ... read more

Teach Myself Novel Writing in 125 Days

After one month, I've written 27,000 words of my novel. I have another nine chapters to write, though the story keeps growing longer than the outline I mapped out. My current pace of 794 words a day would reach 100,000 in 125 days. If I were to end the book abruptly -- "and then the meteor struck and they all lived happily ever after in the tragically few hours left to them." -- I would have completed a novella, which by convention ranges in length from 17,500 to 40,000 words. So at a minimum, I can now call ... read more

Teach Myself Novel Writing in 73 Days

I recently finished the first draft of Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours, the 22nd book on computer programming and web publishing that I've written in the past 13 years. The book comes out in September -- buy early and often. I decided while working on the book that my next writing project would be a novel. I've never written a novel before, so I sit down to work each morning with absolutely no idea what the hell I'm doing. I recommend the experience highly -- when I was in my 20s, attempting things I didn't ... read more

Comic Book Editor Has Trouble with Rejection

I tried selling comic book stories in the early '90s, requesting the submission guidelines for several dozen publishers. My pitches received form letter rejections from Marvel, Malibu Comics, Innovation and Now Comics. I've kept all of this stuff, which I ought to put online. Most of the companies are long gone. An unnamed submission editor at Marvel Comics told me that my "line work is stiff or heavy; loosen it up." This was difficult advice to follow because I'm not an artist and had sent them a written ... read more