CategoryWriting

Is That Story True?

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A question I’ve gotten a lot about my novels is a variation on “What parts are true?” This question irked me. I would retort with snappy answers: “None of it’s true, that’s why it’s called fiction.” Or: “It’s all true! I’m incapable of imagination.” Or: “Whatever part you believe is true.” I was bothered because asking about what’s true in a novel takes attention away from the work and places it...

7 Thoughts on Listicles

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1. A listicle is a short form of writing hugely popular on the web that uses a numbered list as its structure but contains enough copy to also be an article. I can’t tell you how many listicles I’ve written for clients over the years. Some have been substantial, but a lot of them I could have written with one hand. 2. Listicle is a portmanteau—a word made from combining two other words, in this...

Safe Travel in the Time of COVID?

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I just finished watching the Netflix six-episode series “Behind Her Eyes,” a supernatural psychological thriller based on a novel by Sarah Pinborough. The series was entertaining enough, but it tried to pull off a genre-switch halfway through that strained credulity. You may or may not appreciate the big twist at the end. What did capture my attention in the series was the astral projection...

Writing Advice: 5 Cents

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I had a strange email recently from a woman I did not know. I usually delete emails from strangers without even opening them. But this person was clever in getting my attention by appealing to my vanity. She wrote a compelling subject line. “I liked your novel Clean Break.” Of course I opened the email. I could use a little stroking. Who couldn’t? But that wasn’t the purpose of her...

There’s a Lot Going On Behind a Simple Email

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That’s an email I got from my literary agent, about a year ago. How I appreciate the beauty and precision of a clear and concise email. I’ve given workshops called “Mastering Business Email.” I hammer on the need to be clear and concise in your purpose, meaning, and word choice.  My agent, although she didn’t attend my workshop, checked all the boxes on that email. There’s also the...

The Black Chemistry

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One of those goddamn depth-of-winter days when the snow is sooty, the sky relentless gray, the trees dismal brown. You force yourself out for a run and make it as far as the cemetery but sure enough your foot aches, you step in a deep cold puddle, and you’re going to die someday. This chaotic black chemistry that is you. Then the freezing rain starts like someone mocking me. I lower my gaze...

Updated Vaccine Priority List

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Illustration by Peter Hamlin You can only get the shot if you are designated 1A. You can get the shot if you are a health care worker. You can get the shot if you fly an airplane. You can get the shot if you live/work in a nursing home. You can get the shot if you work in a restaurant. If you are clever and devious enough to cut the line. You can get the shot if you are tech-savvy and can...

“I Was Allowed to Believe . . .”

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Sadly, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was not a student in one of my writing classes. If she had been, she never would have come up with this statement constructed in the passive voice: “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”MTG A general rule in writing is to choose the active voice over the passive voice. Here’s the difference between them: If MTG had been using the...

Skating on a Winter Night

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To feel young again on a chilled winter night skating on a frozen pond across the choppy ice To feel young chasing a puck and slapping your stick calling for a pass or attempting one More than scoring a goal your goal is to remain uprightand not smack your brittle bones on ice as hard as concrete To feel the freeze in your fingertips and the run in your nose To hear your skate blades carving...

Ask Dave: Vol. 7, Number 34

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Sometimes I’ll reproduce here an interesting letter that I get at my other site, an advice column I write. Here’s one that came in recently. Dear Dave: I’ve been trying to stay clean because when I don’t, things tend to happen. For example, last night when I felt the desire to use I went out for a walk. I’ve been told this is a self-care strategy that can tamp down the urge. It was a...

“Getting the Words Right”

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I get asked about my writing process. My answer is: Yes. In other words, writing is definitely a process, often a long one, with starts and stops and dead ends and open roads. But people cringe when they hear that. They just want to write something once and be done with it. That’s rarely a good idea. Fear of Writing When I was teaching writing classes at SUNY Schenectady, I discovered that...

So You Want to Be a Ghost Writer

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I was talking with a friend the other day about being a ghost writer. It’s such a great term: ghost writer. Haunting and secretive, because a ghost writer is the invisible spirit and voice behind a piece of writing that carries another person’s name as the author. But the task of ghostwriting is anything but secretive. It’s deeply intimate. I’ve served as a ghost writer for university...

“I Did the Best I Could With What I Had.”

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Toward the end of his writing career, Philip Roth said in an interview, “I did the best I could with what I had.” I’ve glommed onto that saying, hoping to make it my own. Roth has won almost every major literary award. He’s written thirty books including some of my favorite novels, each one rich with the conundrum of human experience and packed with personal revelations for me: American Pastoral...

From an Old Story That Still Resonates with Me

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Anyone reading this blog will notice I’ve taken an interest in flash fiction, which goes by a variety of names and definitions, but I consider it fiction under 1000 words. I’ve been reading flash, and trying my hand. Push Yourself Up! was a first attempt. I’ve also gone looking through some of my old writing to fish for ideas, snippets, anything that sparks my attention and...

Time Ceases to Exist

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The plane nosed down once more and Robert caught a glimpse of the markers leading up to the runway. They were going to be short. They were a second or two from impact. And here came the amazing thing about the moment of death: time doesn’t slow down—it ceases to exist. You can experience the regret of not kissing your wife goodbye that morning. You can remember a family trip to St. John you...

David Klein

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

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