CategoryWriting

My First Novel Was a Disaster

M

I’m on page 38 of 327 pages of a novel I’m reading and I want to put it down. I’m uncomfortable reading. Anxiety is building in me. Anguish weighs me down. Even shame. And yet — I also experience a sense of wonder. The novel is called THE PETTING ZOO, and it’s the first novel I wrote, 30 years ago. I came across the manuscript — wasn’t sure I still had it...

I Must Kill My Darlings

I

William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” What does this mean? It’s a common piece of advice for writers who must cut sentences, scenes, characters, even entire plots because they no longer work within the story world. They might be beautifully written. You might love them. Still, they must be axed. I’m doing some darling murder these days as I...

4/20 is a Special Day

4

April 20 (4/20) is weed day. The day got its name in the 1970s in California when a group of high school students met after school around 4:20 to get high and 4/20 became a code phrase they could use in front of their parents. Its reputation spread from there. 420 Magazine, founded in 1993, has a mission around creating cannabis awareness. I hadn’t heard of the magazine until its editor...

The Backstory On First Chapters

T

Here’s the backstory on the first chapters of novels posted on this site: My literary agent sold STASH to Random House in a two-book contract, the second book turning out to be CLEAN BREAK.  After years of writing and rejection, I had made it as a novelist with a major publishing house. Everyone was excited about STASH. The publisher at the novel’s imprint, Broadway Books, said it was...

“You Only Live Twice”

&

I corkscrewed down the research rabbit hole today. I got interested in stories of people who faked their own death — the whys and hows of it — and I came across an interview with an expert in faking death, Elizabeth Greenwood, who wrote a book titled “Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud.” This book is now on my to-read list. Turns out that lots of...

Writing in the Time of Covid-19

W

Writers shouldn’t rush to put out a Covid-19 book, according to Sloane Crosby in her recent New York Times essay. Even though every writer in the world is seeing the world through a virus lens at this moment. Even though we’re all sentenced to our desks. Even though we can’t concentrate on writing anything else. At least Crosby understood the irony of her own writing about what...

Quest for Fire

Q

About the only thing I remember from Tom Wolfe’s novel, “A Man in Full” (the much less successful followup to “Bonfire of the Vanities”), was a character who said that when he wanted to make a fire he started with a tree. I liked that. In many ways, I’m like that. Sure, I have a nice fireplace where all I need to do is arrange newspaper, kindling, and firewood...

THE CULLING: A Snippet From the Novel

T

The first time I read Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery” I had known nothing of its reputation. As I read, the dread built in me slowly, the reveal astounded me, and the memory was blazed in me. I will never forget the power and audacity of that story. Here’s the original story, published in 1948 in the New Yorker. “The Lottery” helped inspire...

Appropriation and AMERICAN DIRT

A

The fervor over AMERICAN DIRT continues to flame on. I wrote an early review of the novel, which I enjoyed, but found problematic, and then I came across this takedown by the writer Myriam Gurba, who scorched both the book and its author, Jeanine Cummins. Here’s a quote from Gurba’s review: Cummins plops overly-ripe Mexican stereotypes, among them the Latin lover, the suffering...

Six-Word Memoirs

S

There is a legend about Ernest Hemingway responding to a challenge to write a six-word story with this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” That’s about as devastating and definitive as a story can be–whatever its length. And it has inspired many writers to construct six-word stories and memoirs. Here’s another one, unlikely written as a six-word memoir, but...

What to Write Next?

W

I’ve handed my novel THE SUITOR over to a trusted reader. I spent most of the past year writing little else. I wrote some posts on this blog. I scribbled a note or two on stray ideas. But the vast majority of my writing time was devoted to THE SUITOR. Now I’m waiting. With waiting comes new and unstructured writing time. My first thought is always what novel I’m going to write...

This is Called Doubt

T

I started thinking about the novel and got anxious that the characters are stupid and unappealing, or stock, or boring. They are duds and the story is a dud and the language is ugly and the writing forced.  The voice is wrought or annoying or soundless. The plot is vapid. The pace dull. This is called doubt. Crushing, debilitating, self-loathing doubt. I take full responsibility. I am disparaged...

Pitching a Novel in 250 Words

P

I’m getting near the end of my novel, THE SUITOR. Now comes one of the hardest parts: writing a pitch for it that will attract agents, editors, and readers. You write a book that runs around 100,000 words and then you have to explain its essence and build excitement in about 250 words. It’s kind of a sucky task, but writing a good pitch helps: Crystalize for me what the novel is...

Today in a Cemetery

T

I visited Lee, Massachusetts today and found myself in the Fairmount Cemetery. It’s an old graveyard, with sections of leaning, faded granite slabs, many greened with lichen. Names and dates you’d need a rubbing to read. Other, newer sections were populated with obelisks and polished slabs. I walked among the gravestones and the air was cold and occasionally the sun peeked out and I...

New Novel, First Chapter

N

Here’s the first chapter of the novel I’m almost finished writing. THE SUITOR ART Art didn’t like the idea of Anna spending the summer in Porter Lake, but he was careful not to dissuade her. “I need to do something totally different this year,” she said. She’d arrived home last night after finishing her last semester of college. “We don’t want anything related to school or career,”...

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

Novels

Get in touch