Novelists Are Public Writers, Too, Plus exercise and place to submit May 2023
Raymond Peter Clark has a new writing book out, Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing, and Katherine Gammon has a piece about it in Poyntor.
There are a couple excerpts in there that I’ve fallen a bit in love with and I wanted to share it with you.
This book is for what they are calling public-facing writers, which seems to be a distinction that doesn’t include novelists, which I find pretty interesting.
Novelists are also public facing writers. All writing except diaries or personal journaling is. That’s because the act of writing is the act of communicating.
You are always communicating to someone else. That someone else is not your pinky toe. That someone else is the reader.
Anyway, she writes of Clark’s advice:
Repeat your key points, but in different forms
“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them,” is an old adage in writing. Clark spruces it up with advice to vary the forms of repetition: The same information in a quote, a graph and an anecdote, for example, can reduce the feeling of redundancy.
Interpret what you see into themes and make connections
Part of the job of a public writer is not just to report but to interpret: What are the emerging contained in the news event or situation? How can we help readers make sense of the world? To do so, Clark says writers should continue to learn from multiple schools of thought — science, anthropology, political science, economics, literature and more — in order to find meaning in the news, and also to explore the deeper reasons why something is happening.
It’s fun to think of these bits of advice. Often novelists are told NOT to repeat information by their agents and editors, so we too have to mask the ways that we are actually repeating something to the reader. We show them that our character is insecure, let’s say, in how they react to situations. Then we show how they grow.
But as novelists, we also have to not just lay out the facts of the story, we have to interpret those bits and images and dialogues and moments of cause and effect to make an entire world that our reader makes sense of. There’s a real push and pull that happens in this communication.
A piece of writing — any kind of piece of writing — is a contract between us and the reader. There is a moment when you hit PUBLISH on an article or a moment where your book is picked up by a reader and all your control? It’s gone.
That’s kind of beautiful (though occasionally scary) because it’s a leap of faith and trust in ourselves as writers and our readers to get it, to have explained it well, to have created it well on the page and then for the reader to create it in their own brains and hearts.
That’s pretty damn beautiful.
That’s not an AI thing. That’s a human thing. That connection. And it’s important.
This comes from Joy Harjo’s MasterClass, which is a really lovely, energizing class.
PLACE TO SUBMIT
Ploughshares — Emerging Writer’s Contest
May 15, 2023
Three prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Ploughshares are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. Each winner also receives a consultation with the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management. Writers who have not published a book or a chapbook with a print run of over 300 copies are eligible. Using only the online submission system, submit three to five pages of poetry or up to 6,000 words of fiction or nonfiction with a $24 entry fee, which includes a subscription to Ploughshares (there is no entry fee for current subscribers), between March 1 and May 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.
Ploughshares, Emerging Writer’s Contest, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 824–3757. Ellen Duffer, Managing Editor.
LINKS TO CHECK OUT
Thanks for hanging out here for a moment with me. And good luck with your story!