Content Tagged ‘Dinty W. Moore’

Time to kill your manuscript?

September 3, 2013 | 15 Comments

There’s a paradox in book-writing. While it’s a true feat just to finish the draft of a book, few rookies and no civilians have a clue how hard it is to make that draft publishable. Yet even when the manuscript is ready, some of the would-be author’s advisors, usually fellow writers—not to mention those he’s pitching, the editors, agents, publishers—will still hate it. Or just be uninterested because it doesn’t do what they need or what they would’ve done. Once technique is under control, which of course is another matter of opinion, loving or hating a book comes down to taste or to preference or to market. Sometimes to character, on both sides of the equation: the writer’s and the reader’s.

And once in a while, because there are so very many ways to go wrong, the writer himself decides to put his manuscript out of its misery, to file it in the darkness under his bed. I’ve heard it said you’re not a true writer until you do that. Give up. Admit defeat. Start something else.

That’s what Dinty W. Moore did with a book he worked on for five years, according to his fascinating essay in a new book, Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, edited by Joy Castro (University of Nebraska Press, 224 pp.). I’ve heard Moore refer to this lost project, or read his references to it, and have always planned to ask him some day what happened. What was the problem he couldn’t solve? He wasn’t a rookie, having published a book of short stories and two nonfiction books, including his very successful The Accidental Buddhist.

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My blog turns 5, gets makeover

July 12, 2013 | 15 Comments

As my blog enters its sixth year—July 17th is its anniversary—regular readers will notice a new look. I’ve left my WordPress host and am on my own, self hosted, as they say. Feels kind of scary. My motive is flexibility in page layout because my book, Shepherd: A Memoir, will be published on May 1, 2014. Hosting one’s own blog and author site isn’t necessary, but experts advise it because it gives a margin of control. You do give up some great hosted connectivity in the blogging world, and possibly some nifty services. I’ll see.

Having decided on a makeover I sought a freelance designer. There are website design companies that specialize in author websites, of course, but some of their sites looked too slick to me. And I wanted a one-on-one relationship with an individual. Plus—and this was the deal-breaker for me—the companies I looked at really want to host their clients’ sites. I understand their desire and its benefits, but I’ve been steering this little ship for five years and want to continue to guide it. No middlemen. For one thing, I feared it would be harder to move my site if I wanted to. For better or worse, this is mine.

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A new flash nonfiction manual

October 21, 2012 | 14 Comments

The Rose Metal Press Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers edited by Dinty W. Moore. Rose Metal Press, 179 pp. They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale But when Pierre found work the little money coming worked out well C’est la vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell —Chuck Berry, “You Never …

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About writers’ conferences

June 24, 2012 | 18 Comments

When I was farming, at first it surprised me how much farmers love conferences—just like everybody else. Isolated most of the time, farmers liked to get together, have a learning vacation, stay in a motel with a pool for the kids. I already knew they’d adopted the digital world, its message boards and email lists. Just like writers, whose own conferences bear a striking similarity—though lacking booths devoted to kelp meal and artificial insemination. The mother of all writing conferences, …

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Q&A: Dinty W. Moore on Buddhism, creativity, kindness & taming the ego

May 20, 2012 | 9 Comments

Listen to where the writing wants to take you. Understand that the writing itself will often provide far richer material than your logical, predictable mind. Even more “intellect-driven” writing—for instance, a dissertation—can benefit from the cognitive leaps that occur when you stand back from the manuscript a moment and listen to your intuition.—Dinty W. Moore  The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore. Wisdom Publications, 152 pp.  A popular image of the writer is of someone with heavy baggage and a …

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Undercurrents in narrative essays

February 5, 2012 | 4 Comments

I admit, I told a class last semester, that we read stories for various reasons, including intrinsic interest. “If you score an interview with Barack Obama,” I said, “you can lean pretty heavily on that. But otherwise, stories that grip us involve some tension—a conflict or question.” How to get this across to students—and to myself—keeps me occupied. And it devils me when I receive a student’s personal narrative that lacks any urgency or even movement. Or when I churn out one myself.

Such flat writing flunks the “So What?” test. Bruce Ballenger writes in Crafting Truth: Short Studies in Creative Nonfiction:

The simple question, What is going to happen next? is triggered by the tension between what readers know and what they want to know. This is the most familiar dramatic tension in storytelling.

Of course, Ballenger adds, withholding information can seem manipulative, since readers know that the writer knows the outcome. Narrative alone isn’t enough:

Ultimately the work has to answer a simple question: So what? Or as Philip Gerard suggested, What is at stake here? Why might this story matter to the reader? What is at stake for the writer or the characters? Is there a larger truth that will somehow matter?

Questions or mysteries drive effective writing more than a mere narrative of events. E.M. Forster puts it this way in Aspects of the Novel: “ ‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” And a plot with a mystery in it is “a form capable of high development,” Forster adds: “The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.”

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Searching for Dinty Moore

September 24, 2011 | 3 Comments

Recently someone was directed to my blog by googling my favorite lines from one of my favorite essays, by Eudora Welty, “The Little Store,” which I’ve discussed twice on this blog:  setting out on the world, a child feels so indelible. he only comes to find out later that it’s all the others along the way who are making themselves indelible to him  The punctuation is the searcher’s of course, but s/he got the lines right. A WordPress feature allows …

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