The Sunday Salon: Write Away, The Shipping News and Blogging Web 2.0


A busy reading week. Finished Write Away by Elizabeth George, a well-rounded book on writing novels.

I was particularly impressed by the overview — yet not too overly academic — of plots. Usually with writing books you get some version of the Freytag Pyramid  — which she notes — and that’s about it. George talks about the seven-point plot, the three-act plot, the hero journey  and variations on all of them. 

Plot structure is a map, of course, and there is no set way to plot a story, as George notes, but it’s nice to have a map so you don’t get lost in the narrative.

Another thing George suggests that may keep writers from getting mired in the narrative swamp is the character analysis, a detailed rundown of a character that is part autobiography, part psychological analysis.

Overall, a reader/writer friendly book with useful bits for any writer, especially beginners setting about on the daunting task of writing a novel. 

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This week also began Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, as part of my 100-novels reading project. It details the story of hapless third-rate newspaperman Quoyle as he, his two daughters Bunny and Sunshine, and his aunt Agnis Hamm discover the importance of family, love, and a little bit about knots in the strange landscape of Newfoundland.

I read a portion of this novel a few years ago, but was distracted by Proulx’s style,which is very lyrical. Also couldn’t picture Quoyle as anyone other than Kevin Spacey, who takes on the role in the film.

But then I read That Old Ace in the Hole, as well as several of Proulx’s short stories in The New Yorker, and began to get used to her style, which is particularly suited to love stories such as “Brokeback Mountain,” a gorgeous moving short story as well as film. 

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Also been reading Todd Stauffer’s How To Do Everything with Your Web 2.0 Blog, a useful book on blog improvement that details everything from using XHTML and CSS to tweak your templates to adding RSS feeds and monetizing your blog. I’ve been thinking of how I might improve my blog, and especially use it as a tool to promote my writing.

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2 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Write Away, The Shipping News and Blogging Web 2.0

  1. Based on your recommendation I am reading Write Away and think it’s very, very good.

    I read The Shipping News years ago and loved it. I think I saw the movie later but it left no impression. This makes me want to read the novel again…

    • I really like Write Away. Many useful approaches to fiction that could also be applied to nonfiction as well.

      The Shipping News, as I’ve read deeper into it, is a great read, and much better than the movie.

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