3 Writing Tips from Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of four novels: PrepThe Man of My Dreams,  American Wife and Sisterland. In an article in The Guardian last week, published in the wake of the controversy caused by Hanif Kureishi’s assertion that creative writing courses are ‘a waste of time’, Sittenfeld (herself an experienced creative writing teacher) shared the following very practical advice for writers.

1. Establish a writing schedule ahead of time for the coming week or month.

This is more important the less time you have. If you work full-time, you might plan to write for an hour at 6am on Tuesday and Thursday, or at 4pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Write this commitment down in your diary or calendar, don’t schedule anything that conflicts with it, and sit alone somewhere you can focus when the time comes. It’s OK if you don’t produce sentences during that time, but don’t do anything else – don’t check email, don’t text, don’t go online (and for heaven’s sake, if you’re using a computer, shut all files and windows except for the one you’re working on). If some nagging errand you need to do occurs to you, write it down, but don’t start doing it.

2. Create an outline. 

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Are you looking for your next great read? This infographic/flow chart from USC Rossier might be able to help. It covers some of the best fiction, non-fiction and children’s titles released so far this century and was put together using bestseller lists from Amazon and Goodreads.

The graphic’s origins have perhaps resulted in some biases (we would have loved to see more Australian titles included for example). What books do you think are missing? Share some of your favourites from the past fourteen years using the comments field below.

Best Books of the 21st Century Infographic

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Writing Advice from Trey Parker and Matt Stone

In 2014 iconic animated series South Park turns 17 years old. Since debuting in August 1997, over 240 episodes have gone to air and the show has won five Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America included South Park in its 101 Best-Written Shows Ever.

With its highly controversial story lines, South Park may have as many enemies as it does fans, but its creators and writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone clearly know how to create a storyline that grabs an audience’s attention.

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“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools)
to write. Simple as that.”

― Stephen King

In the afterword to his acclaimed guide On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King shares the following reading list of 96 books, covering a diverse range of fiction and non-fiction titles.

Accompanying the list is this explanation:

These are the best books I’ve read over the last three or four years, the period during which I wrote The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, On Writing, and the as-yet-unpublished From a Buick Eight. In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote.

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Opportunities for Writers March and April 2014

March and April is a busy time for writers with lots of deadlines for competitions, publication opportunities, fellowships and more. Please check the relevant websites for full terms and conditions, and don’t forget that entry fees are applicable in some cases.

Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award
will award one grand prize winner a publishing contract with a US$50,000 advance, and four first prize winners will each receive a publishing contract with an advance of $15,000. There are five categories: general fiction, romance, mystery/thriller, science fiction/fantasy/horror and young adult fiction. The competition is open to writers around the world (except Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) and there is no entry free. Entries close on 2 March.

Dundee’s International Book Prize
is for an unpublished novel on any theme and in any genre. The winner will receive a £10,000 cash prize, together with a contract with Cargo Publishing. Entries close 3 March.

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Why is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so compelling? How about The Matrix or Harry Potter? What makes these disparate worlds come alive are clear, consistent rules for how people, societies – and even the laws of physics – function in these fictional universes?

In this animated video from TED-Ed’s Writer’s Workshop, author Kate Messner shares the methods and questions she uses to build the worlds in which her books take place.

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Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting 2014

Applications for the prestigious and lucrative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting are now open for 2014.

This international screenwriting competition awards up to five fellowships of US$35,000 each year. Since 1986, 133 fellowships totalling $3,600,000 have been awarded.

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