Monthly Archives: November 2012

Your Cover Letter: A Basic Template

I’ve seen a lot of cover letters in my time. Some ramble, some describe the story, others list thirty small publications, some are misaddressed or rife with typos.

So here’s a cover letter. It’s really all you need to say. Fill in the blanks yourself. Italics indicate commentary and should not be included.
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Recipe: Spinach and Fake Bacon Salad

One of the things I’ve been doing this month is cooking more in an attempt to wean Chez Rambo away from a too heavy reliance on eating out. The other day I made us eggnog French toast for breakfast (take … Continue reading

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The Writer’s Toolbox: What Goes In It?

A metaphor that I was exposed to at Clarion West (now nearly a decade ago) still works beautifully for me, and it’s one I use when teaching: the idea of the writer’s toolbox.

In my mind’s eye, it’s a big red metal tool chest, small enough to be carried around, large enough that you wouldn’t want to HAVE to carry it around all the time. Inside, drawers lift out to reveal neatly packed devices and tools, each in their own padded slot.

There’s a blade capable of lopping off awkward paragraphs, and sharper, tinier words designed for work at the sentence level, trimming beginnings till they catch a reader like a fish hook and pull them into the story. There’s a box of punctuation marks, with a special slot for the semicolons. There’s the intricate device of an unreliable narrator, calculated to wobble like a gyroscope yet still remain true to the story’s course. There’s a set of filters, each one a specific point of view, each letting you cast a section in a different light. And a layer of ornamental gadgetry: epigraphs and scraps of poetry. And a valuable gimlet, capable of drilling down to a character’s motivation: the question, “What does s/he WANT?”
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Why I Love My Writing Group

So, as some may know, I’ve been working on a particular book for a loooong time. Looooong time. It’s the first in a fantasy trilogy and this manuscript has undergone so many convulsions and rewrites that I was getting to the point where I was worried I’d kill it if I went much further. Based on some solid feedback from an interested agent, I started wrestling with it again and performed some major surgery: excised a number of points of view (which will end up in Book 2), removed some extraneous (but charming!) bits misguidedly intended as textual amuse-bouches between chapters, and switched one point of view from 3rd person past to 1st person present.

I was encouraged, but worried that the patient might not have survived the surgery. So I dumped it on my writing group, whose members rose whole-heartedly to the challenge, and we critted it last Saturday.
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