Saturday, February 23, 2008

Regarding A Literary History of the American West

In my previous post I provided a link to a wonderful book online titled A Literary History of the American West. I have been reading it a bit at a time and have completed the first section. While it is, of course, about books and literature, there are plenty of bits of history and folklore and Native American lore embedded in the essays that make up the chapters. You will enjoy it, whether your interest lies in books or history. In addition, there are a great many books of all kinds referred to, which will give you reading material to look for. I would suggest searching online first, since much of the older material could very well be found there. I haven't done that yet, although I already had some of these authors bookmarked.

The material covered in this book isn't just fiction and poetry--it's exploration, history, nature, settlement, and many other things. I recommend at least sampling it a bit to see if you find material that appeals to you. If you like it a lot, you can go here and download a pdf copy. All 1423 pages of it!

I've been enjoying it a great deal and think you will, too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Found a Link to an Interesting Book Online

The book is titled A Literary History of the American West and it has chapters on all types of writing, including oral traditions (native and folklore), westerns, and nature writing. You might enjoy reading it. I've only skimmed the contents and a couple of chapters, but it looks like an interesting read!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Some Sites for Nature Reading and Writing

Being interesting in writing about nature--and reading about nature--I sometimes look around the web to see what I can find. I have linked to some of these before, but I think they are good resources for nature writing.

Nature Books Online (These are, of course, old books, but interesting nonetheless. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for related topics.)

Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing

Orion Magazine - nature/culture/place

Nature Writing Resources

Naturewriting Resources and Inspiration

Henry David Thoreau

Enjoy exploring!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Online Literary Magazines

There is a website called LitLine: A Website for the Independent Literary Community. It is based in Illinois, but has many links that you might enjoy exploring.

A link that caught my eye was the one to a listing of links to online literary journals. These journals are all over the place as far as the type of writing they publish/promote. You may or may not find something that appeals to you, either as reading material or as a place to submit your writing, but it's a great way to see what others are writing and to make some decisions as to what you like and don't like.

Friday, February 1, 2008

How on Earth Do You Tell a Good Story?

I stumble about in my writing and find myself writing trite stories without enough plot to sustain them (and I refer to novels or short stories, either one). Or I find myself telling a story that's been told too often before without anything really original about it.

I do think that reading widely helps. Not just in your favorite type of story or book, but in others, too. You might be able to use ideas from mysteries to create more suspense and conflict in your science fiction story, or even in your non-fiction writing. You also become acquainted with what makes a story interesting or dull. It helps to go back and study the story you've just read and look for what made it good or bad.

Reading about writing helps you know what to look for when you're analyzing a story, such as how the author handled setting, characters, plot, and so forth. As you read about writing, you will occasionally come across a piece by an editor who tells what sorts of stories have been done to death--like having the whole thing turn out to have been a dream. It isn't necessarily that you can't use that device. It's just that if you do so, you'll need to make it very interesting and give it some original twists and turns.

Another thing that helps a lot to is practice writing. You'll start to notice things like making your characters too perfect (or too evil if they're the bad guys). You'll notice if your plot is too thin to sustain the story or if you have a tendency to explain everything as you go along, thus killing any suspense.

I have been pondering the problems of writing stories about faith and religion. How can you make them interesting and intriguing? How can you write about faith without preaching or resolving problems too easily? I still haven't come to terms with this one, but I think the potential is there for some really interesting stories that many people could relate to.

I think about how to handle evil, too. I personally do not want to read a story that's full of sex and violence, for example, or that is depressing in the extreme. I don't think it is necessary to put in that sort of content to portray conflict, but I would still want the conflict to be serious enough to warrant a story about it.

Then there are the endings. I want a satisfying ending, and I think most readers do, as well. To reach the end of an interesting story only to find that nothing is resolved is very disappointing. A writer can leave some things unresolved or partially resolved, but the main thing the story was about should have a satisfying finish.

I'm still floundering around a bit on how to write a good story, but the more I read and the more I write, the more I see things that I can improve and the closer I move (albeit slowly) toward telling a good story.