On Writing

So today my Fiction Writing teacher was giving us all these weird little tips and tricks. “If you need an adverb, you’re probably using the wrong verb.” He said, “You only need three dialogue tags: said, whispered, asked.” Now, I’ve read rather stricter versions of these rules before. People will talk about cutting out extraneous abverbs on the second draft, or only using “said” instead of other tags, which admittedly I can be fond of, especially “howled” and “screamed.” It made me curious why he’d allow “whispered.” I suspect it was because a short story he’d handed out to the class by one of his favorite authors used “whispered” extensively.

Regardless of any real or imagined silliness, I’ve got to come up with 10-20 pages of decent short story to be workshopped in the next couple of weeks. I’m pretty concerned, because it feels like I’ve been writer’s blocked forever. I mean, sure, I hammered out that “Momma” thing, but that’s not exactly fine art. I have a few characters that I might like to work with, but no story ideas. I haven’t had any story ideas for a long, long time.

Wish me luck, you bastards.

I read this piece in Atlantic Monthly that Barb gave to me called “A Reader’s Manifesto,” by B. R. Myers, about the nature of contemporary fiction. It was pretty derisive, criticising Cormac McCarthy and Proulx, Auster and DeLillo. I actually agreed with most of it. I thought she was a little off base with Auster- she was quoting his earlier works, which weren’t that good, and his later works, which haven’t been that good. She was taking these long and rambling excerpts totally out of context and dismissing them. For the most part, I agree with her. There aren’t very many good contemporary literary authors. A few from the McSweeney’s set, like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem. I like Paul Auster’s middle works, Mr. Vertigo and Moon Palace specifically. I love Stephen Dobyns. But these guys are few and far between, and most of the people who ride the spotlight aren’t very good. Is there a spot for me? Not yet.

Well. I’ve got to get to bed. I’ve rambled on for long enough.

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