Saturday, June 30, 2007

How traveling this summer can make you a better fiction writer

If you're lucky enough to be traveling this summer (I'm not!), you can use your travels as an easy fix for writer's block.

If you're having trouble coming up with original scenery for your fiction, use the summer traveling season to your advantage. Bring a notebook with you and describe the things you see down to the minute details. You'll be surprised about how much detail you notice about an unfamiliar place.

Maybe you can also write something that makes me feel like I actually went somewhere this summer!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cormac McCarthy's The Road

Just a quick note before I get started. Yes, this book was featured on Oprah's Book Club. No, I didn't hear about it from Oprah. No, I don't watch Oprah.....

OK. Maybe sometimes.

I actually heard about Cormac McCarthy's The Road from my Creative Writing professor. Whenever he discussed rich detail in creative writing, he always brought up this book. I jotted down the name and waited for it to come out on paperback because I really don't like reading books on hardcover for some reason.

It' a super quick read. In fact, I sat down and read it within a few hours. It's a quick paced story about a father and his son traveling down an ominous road in an apocalyptic world, surrounded by dark shades of death, thieves, and cannibals. Yikes. There are so many themes that you can pull out of that one description, which gives you some idea of the depth of the story.

There's some pretty gruesome stuff in here.

McCarthy has such a fantastic and original writing style. His creative and inspiring prose will keep you turning the pages and I can almost guarantee that you'll finish this book in a sitting or two. He writes in short, succinct sentences. However, these sentences are packed with rich detail. It's as father and son's survival depends on you reading more, which is a pretty nifty literary tool from a writing perspective. McCarthy has been compared to Hemingway by many critics. You should most definitely see that comparison in the end (hint hint).

Anyway, don't just take my (and Oprah's) word for it. Check it out already! It's fairly cheap on and is a pretty decent beach read. Click the picture below to pick it up:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Party Hard or Party Hardly

So you finally finished High School. You took the SAT, worked your butt off for 4 years (or maybe 3 1/2), toured colleges, and listened to your parents talk some nonsense about college loans. You filled out countless applications and checked the mail everyday for an acceptance letter. You finally got that acceptance letter and you're going to the college of your dreams (or the college that's giving you the most scholarship money). You brag to your friends. Your parents brag to their coworkers. Your grandmother brags to her bridge partners. You're going to college!

That's it, right? Well, not exactly.

What's next?

For starters, college is not High School Part II. You're no longer a Senior and standing high and mighty on top of the totem pole. As a matter of fact, there isn't much of a hierarchy in college, at least in my experience. The best advice that I can give you as a new college student is to think of your education in a different light. Don't think of it as a purely social event. Sure, you'll have plenty of fun, but mom and dad won't be too happy when they see your report card and neither will any future employers when they're reading through your resume. College is a different experience that involves a good deal of responsibility and diligence if you want to do well. Your parents aren't there to wake you up in the morning and no one is breathing down your neck to do your homework. If you don't do either of those, you'll simply fail.

There are two different ways that some people view college. There are those who "Party Hard" and those who "Party Hardly". Those who choose to Party Hard put their social lives before their school work and those who Hardly Party sit in their rooms playing World of Warcraft until their eyeballs bleed.

Pick the happy medium. Have your fun, but put your studies first. If you have a paper due, get that paper done before you go out with your friends. Don't drink excessively. I know, you're in college and I sound like your parents, but it really does more harm than good. Too many new college students mess up their first semester because they go out drinking every night. Trust me, it's hard to make up ground on a bad GPA.

Speaking of friends--make them. College is a great opportunity to meet new people, especially in the beginning. Join clubs, play sports, talk to people in class. You won't regret it. You're all in a new place and everyone is looking for new friends. Don't be shy!

Since we're all writers (hopefully that's the reason why you've discovered this blog), I'll be offering some summer writing and reading tips for those of you who want to brush up on your skills before the Fall semester in the coming weeks. See you next time!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What the heck is this blog about?

Good question. Let's get to that, shall we?

I recently graduated college with a degree in English. I'm currently en route towards getting my master's in English with a concentration in writing. This guy must be a real snore right? Well, maybe. Give me a chance.

In between reading and writing for my own classes and for pleasure, I'm going to be teaching incoming freshman the art of writing. I've tutored students in writing for the past few years and I've noticed that a good majority of them don't know how to write on a college level. Even the ones that do know how to don't necessarily enjoy it. That's where I come in. I want to change that.

In this blog, I'm going to help you hone your writing skills and help you enjoy yourself in college. I'm going to help you write creatively. I'm going to help you avoid common mistakes that students make. I'm going to help you find books, poetry, and short stories that aren't going to put you to sleep. I'm still young and I know what you like. I want you to share the same passion for the pen and paper that I have.

But wait! There's more! I'm also going to discuss the writer's life outside of writing. Occasionally I'll give you a hand with college life in general because no one helped me out when I was in your shoes. A good diversion from writing keeps us all a little sane.

Keep your eyes peeled for my first series that deals with freshman beginning their collegiate journey. I'll be discussing what to expect, how to prepare, and maybe make a few reading suggestions to stop your brain from rotting away over the next 2 months. Enjoy!