Hello, blog readers, and welcome to another installment of our Pick-a-Poem feature. I hope you’re all having a lovely week. For new readers, Wednesday is the day we choose a poem to feature here on the blog. This is a chance for you to potentially find work from a new poet, whose work you have never read before. All featured poems come courtesy of Poetry Daily, which is an awesome and helpful site if you’re searching for new and interesting poetry. This week’s featured poem is You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior, by Caroline Ebeid.

According to her page on Poetry Daily, Caroline Ebeid has had her work published in journals such as the Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, and Poetry. She has received prizes and fellowships from the McNair Scholars Program and the Academy of American Poets. She is currently a fellow at the Stadler Center for Poetry, where she helps edit West Branch. She is also a poetry editor for the online journal Better: Culture & Lit.

You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior, by Caroline Ebeid

Read the rest of this entry »

Roadblocks happen to every writer. You may be writing solidly for several weeks and then suddenly find yourself stalled, not knowing which scene to cover next, or no longer knowing what’s going on in your own characters’ heads. Or you may come across a particularly difficult scene that gives you so much trouble you just want to stop writing. These roadblocks are pretty common, and I’ve found that it helps to know some ways to get around them and get back to writing.

Back before I took my hiatus from writing, I found myself faced with one of these roadblocks. My characters no longer felt fresh or exciting, and I simply didn’t know what to write next. Then I discovered a possible solution while listening to an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. In an episode called Pre-writing, the podcast hosts discussed writing a first-person narrative from the point of view of one of your characters. You could tell their backstory, write a scene from only their point of view, or write a filler scene that readers may never get to see. The goal is to get you out of a writing funk and maybe give you some insight into your characters.

I recently came across a quote from author Marie Lu in a National Novel Writing Month pep talk that mentioned the same kind of exercise. In discussing pushing through tough periods of writing, Marie said, “Write an entire monologue with your main character if you have to. Spend a chapter just exploring the life story of an antagonist. They don’t have to be scenes in chronological order. They don’t even have to end up in your book. But they will help you to keep going.”

This is exactly what I did when I hit my own writing roadblock. I’m currently writing about a group of supernatural humans, so I took the leader of that group and wrote his backstory. Not only did it offer me new insight into his character and the group as a whole, it was also incredibly fun to dive into his past. It was also freeing to write something that didn’t really “matter.” That is, there was no pressure to create something perfect for a final story.

These kinds of writing exercises can be helpful precisely because they may not end up in your finished product. You’re writing a first draft, and these exercises can be treated as “missing scenes” or as just side-projects that you’re working on to clear out your writer’s block. They never have to see the light of day if you don’t want them to. They can be for your eyes only, and just to help you with your writing process.

I hope this helps, and I hope that you try out some pre-writing!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Image courtesy of Mike Egan

Image courtesy of Mike Egan

Have you read any graphic novels this summer? How about this year? Have you ever read a graphic novel? I think that people tend to think that graphic novels are only for certain people. People might think that graphic novels are only for “nerds,” whatever that means. But I disagree!

I am here today to encourage you to check out a graphic novel. Just try one! I used to read a lot of graphic novels when I was younger, and then I stopped reading them for some reason. Recently, however, I’ve discovered a lot of interesting graphic novels and have been reading a lot of great stories as a result.

BoingBoing had a Summer Reading List of Graphic Novels just a little while ago, and I think they had some great recommendations. Their list includes Saga, which I definitely agree with. I’ve only read the first volume of Saga so far (there are 3 out right now), but it’s a story of cross-species romance and intergalactic conflict. It. Is. Amazing. Also on their list is Hyperbole and a Half, the graphic novel memoir of Allie Brosh, who runs a blog of the same name. I read it earlier this year and enjoyed it immensely! It had a good mix of comedy and tragedy, coupled with Allie Brosh’s signature art style.

To this list, I would like to add some recommendations of my own. My first recommendation is Sex Criminals. Sure, it sounds a bit scandalous–and maybe it is–but it’s a superb idea and has an awesome art style. Basically, two people find that they both have a unique ability–they stop time when they climax, but they remain aware and able to move around. What will they do in that quiet space? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Another great series that I’ve been reading is Manhattan Projects, which is an alternate universe re-imagining of what happened with the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. There are aliens, robots, and a whole lot of crazy corruption. If you’re ready for a story that’s really out there, I’d recommend this one.

Finally, I want to put in a good word for two oldies-but-goodies. Firstly, Fables, which has been going on for quite some time. It’s all about fairytale characters in modern day Manhattan. Secondly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, there are Buffy graphic novels. They start with a “season 8″ run of stories, which continues the seven-season television show. They are so much fun to read if you’re a Buffy fan.

I hope that these recommendations have inspired you to check out some graphic novels this summer, or any time this year!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Pacing has always been a hard aspect of writing for me to master. Pacing is the rate at which actions move in your story. Some books have a slow pace, which means that the actions take place more gradually over many chapters or sections. Other books have quick, brisk pacing, which means that they speed along with action taking place quickly throughout the entire piece.

Honestly, neither type of pacing is right or wrong. You may want to create a slow pace in your writing project, and that’s fine. But if you want to write a book or story that people might describe as a “page turner,” then you’ll have to learn how to set a quicker pace to your writing.

On his blog, Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig has written about 25 Ways to Write a Real Page-Turner of a Book. The very first item that he covers in this list is pacing. I think that speaks to just how important it can be for your book or story. Chuck says, “[A thriller] doesn’t dally. It careens forth with a sense of barely-controlled energy, like a car barreling down a ruined mountain road with its brake line cut. It doesn’t matter if the book isn’t a thriller — you can still lend some of that energy to the fiction just the same. A sense of breathlessness, of anticipation, of sheer gotta-know-more.”

I’m pretty sure we’ve all read a book like this. Personally, I remember reading Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and feeling so annoyed whenever I had to put the book down. I wanted to know more, I wanted to know what would happen next, and I wanted to know where the book was going. That was, I believe, a by-product of the way that Atkinson paced her novel. Reading a book like that, one that makes you want to keep turning pages and keep returning to the book, is a fun and breathtaking experience. I think that writing a book like that can also be an enjoyable experience for writers.

So, what are some ways to create fast pacing in your story? It all begins with how you plan your story. Whether you create an in-depth outline or not, it’s important to at least know where you’re going and what you want to do on the way there. What are some mile-markers you want to hit during your story? If you know those, you can build up to them.

Keeping the dialogue quick and the description to a minimum. As we discussed last week, description (exposition) can drag down a story and make it seem more slowly paced because you’re stopping to explain something to the readers. If you do less describing or explaining in your story, then it will seem like it’s moving more quickly.

Do you have some tips for pacing your story? Share them in the comments!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Editor’s Notes #146

Posted: August 3, 2014 in Editor's Notes

Good evening, blog readers! I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful summer so far. Although the blog has been a bit quiet lately, we do have some posts to round up in this week’s Editor’s Notes post. Firstly, though, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you all of the latest issue of the Jet Fuel Review, which you can check out right now. If you’re looking for some new poetry, fiction, and non-fiction to read, be sure to check out this latest issue. In this issue we are very excited to publish the work of such writers as Yvonne Higgins Leach and Michael Anania as well as other authors and artists from around the world. This issue is even available as an eBook, which you can download HERE.

And now for this week’s round-up. We’ve had a lot of Writing Advice posts on the blog recently, and I hope you’ve been enjoying them all. First up, we had a post about maintaining an optimistic attitude about everything in your writing life. Basically, you should attempt to view everything positively, and try to learn from every experience. The next advice post took on the topic of exposition, or description. Exposition can be one of the hardest things to tackle in a story, but it does play an important role. Check out the post for more information. We also posted some writing advice on the three things a good character needs: motivation, action, and consequence.

Finally, we had a Writing Advice post that is near and dear to my heart. This post discussed writing hiatuses — either planned or spontaneous — and how to deal with them. It is important to remember that life things are going to happen and will most likely get in the way of your writing. Sometimes you just have to let that happen, with the knowledge that you will return to writing when your life has gotten a bit quieter. I know I can’t wait to get back to writing, because I’ve had to take a hiatus for most of the month of July.

Here at the blog we also featured a discussion post on yet another Awesome Literary Thing. This time it was libraries! If you love your local library, or have a library-related story to tell, be sure to check out this post. We also recently featured two poems on the blog. These poems were The Girls are Sleeping by Antonina Palisano, and Shark’s Tooth by Joshua Mehigan.

Thanks for sticking with the Jet Fuel Review blog, and I hope you enjoy the posts we have to come!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

One of my new year’s resolutions when 2014 began was to follow the “Don’t Break the Chain” productivity method to get more writing done. I’ve had this calendar pinned up next to my desk all year. There have been some missed days, naturally. Here and there I have evenings where I am uninspired, or simply too tired to get any writing done. But this past month has been an all-time high in terms of missed days. So far, I’ve failed to write a single word on 11 days out of July. Every week this month there has been at least one day missed. That’s a bit disappointing, if I’m being honest. But this post is not going to ramp you up to write every single day. Instead, this post is going to talk about forgiving yourself when you fail to write.

I enjoy the “Don’t Break the Chain” method and I’ve read many quotes from authors who encourage us to “write every day.” But sometimes that’s simply not possible. Sure, in the past, I’ve said that if you don’t have time to write then you’re just not making time. But for the past few weeks I’ve been working on moving, and let me tell you that it can easily eat up every second you have in your day.

You don’t even have to be moving or doing something else huge in your life. You might just have a long, exhausting day at work. When those days come around, I think we owe it to ourselves to sit down and watch some television when we get home.

And, of course, there are others days when the words simply won’t come. There may be nights when you end up sitting in front of your computer thinking about how much you aren’t getting done. That’s okay! Sometimes you can’t force the words to come. Sometimes you shouldn’t even try to force them because the writing that results from it will be so bad.

So, today’s advice is to forgive yourself when you find the need to take a little break. We all need to give our brains a rest, and sometimes you need to fill the creative tank when it has been depleted. Writing every day is all well and good, but if it’s not possible for you at times, don’t beat yourself up about it.

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

One of the things that I struggle with when writing is exposition. Exposition is the description of a scene, character, or situation that is sometimes necessary to explain what’s going on to your readers. It can be hard, though, to strike a balance between helpful exposition and what some people refer to as an info dump. An info dump happens when you supply your readers with a very large amount of information all at once. A good example of this might be when a detective takes several pages of a book to explain to someone (and the readers) how she discovered he was the murderer. The general consensus is that info dumps should be avoided. But then how should we handle exposition in our writing?

As I mentioned, exposition can be necessary to a story. I’ve read a few stories that I think could use some more exposition. Sometimes writers appear to be trying as hard as they can to avoid using exposition. These writers will hint at aspects of the world they’re creating and only suggest what might be going on behind the scenes with their characters. I think a healthy balance can be found between the info dump and the cagey, hinting descriptions.

In a recent post about 25 Ways to Write a Real Page-Turner of a Book, the mighty and powerful Chuck Wendig touched on the topic of exposition. Here’s what Chuck has to say about handling exposition. “Treat it like a dirty, grim necessity,” he says. “It’s like an old, gummy Band-Aid: you have to rip it off fast. This is combat landing time: get in, deliver exposition, and get the hell out again in as short a time as you can muster.”

This is a great mindset to have when writing exposition. It’s something that you have to do, yes, but you shouldn’t get bogged down by it and you shouldn’t let it rule your story. If you know that you have an issue with exposition, that you often spend too much time writing exposition, set a timer for yourself as you head into a scene that requires some description. Make it a quick timer — maybe 2 minutes — and when that timer goes off, you know you have to stop writing description. Then, go back over what you’ve written and prune where needed.

I hope that helps you! Happy writing!

– Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan