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October 1, 2017

Selgin, Peter. 179 Ways to Save a Novel: Matters of Vital Concern to Fiction Writers. Writer’s Digest, 2010.

Peter simplifies writing by pointing out that everything in a novel—dialogue, action, reaction, conflict—stems from character. By thoroughly developing characters before we sit down to write the first draft, we make the rest of the writing and revision process much easier. One of the hardest lessons writers must learn is to get out of their characters’ way. For writing to be authentic—that is, easy to be lost in, convincing, and engaging—it must emerge organically from the characters and the world they inhabit, rather than from a writer looking in from the outside.

Most writing issues can be solved by character development. If a writer...

August 27, 2017

Kohler, Sheila. Cracks. Zoland Books, 1999.

At 165 pages, Cracks is a short novel, though it carries an oppressive weight. The story takes place at a girls’ boarding school set in 1960s South Africa. It follows the swimming team as it navigate its possessive devotion to its coach, a charismatic Miss G, and its uncertainty and scorn around Italian transfer student and star swimmer, Fiamma Coronna. Time is nonlinear as the scenes go back and forth between the present time, in which the swimming team meets at its fortieth reunion, and the past, as the team remembers back to its schoolgirl days, and to the events leading up to Fiamma’s disappearance. The story feels like a daydream, sensual and hazy with the heat of the Transvaal, and surreal wit...

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