Tag Archives: Writing


Life, Death and Motivation

Or what can Michael Jordan teach writers?
It’s not how to dribble.
It’s not how to drive and score.
It’s not about free throws…

For the New Year, Jon and Juliet discuss motivation, tricks, writing and not writing and of course, life and death.


The Synonyms for Laugh Suck

This is no laughing matter.
Your characters like to laugh, right?
So they laugh. They laugh again. And again. And again.
But we have to mix this up.
So maybe they should chuckle. And snort once or twice. Maybe even guffaw.
But then what?
Are they supposed to do… cachinnate?

Jon and Juliet first talk about Roget’s Thesaurus, more modern, electronic versions… and then they discuss the sad collection of synonyms for laugh.

Jon then breaks down two novels and the laugh synonyms in each.

Finally, they debate word counting, comparisons, and the uses and possible disadvantages of doing so.

Books mentioned in this show:

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

When she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother’s best friend–Deanna Lambert’s teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions and the stifling role of “school slut,” she longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, Story of a Girlreminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

 Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds the mysterious notes scrawled on a tiny slips of paper.

image credit: wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOnly_the_serious_know_how_to_truly_laugh.jpg


It’s Time We Stopped Killing Our Darlings

Who first said Kill Your Darlings?
Was it William Faulkner? Allen Ginsberg? Eudora Welty?
No! And who cares?
The idea stinks.

Jon and Juliet break down the meanings and modern interpretations of Kill Your Darlings. Then they draw out some possible reasons not just when to go easy on your darlings, but when to show them the Love McGuffin.



That Wonderful Writing Resource: eBay

You’re working on a scene…
you need a detail to fill out…
your character’s car, shirt, mug…
Surf on over to the staple of writer’s everywhere… eBay.

Jon describes how eBay can be a great detail resource not just for details by research.

For a divorce scene, Jon researched a late model Subaru and found this auction:








And for that same vehicle, farther down in the listing was this interior shot:








While searching for a minor fashion designer, Jon searched for 70’s Dress and found this lovely number:

Huk-A-Poo Dress









And a detail shot of the tag:










eBay can be found at eBay.com.


Character… Don’t Do That!

Despite all the shrieks and cries, your character has gone and done something stupid!
Jon and Juliet discuss Harlan Coben’s Six Years and what it can mean when characters treat very old or very new romances with enormous (and maybe crazy) passion to power a story.
Six Years (Amazon Link and Copy)

A masterpiece of modern suspense from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Harlan Coben.

Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd. So when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for….

But she is not Natalie.

Soon Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart puts his very life at risk, as he uncovers the secrets and lies that love can hide….

Photo Credit: epsos


Failure Points

There are a bunch of common failure points in a submission–where I stop reading. – Literary Agent Hanna Bowman

Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates broke down where the usual novel Failure Points (see all her Tweets on Storify).
Juliet and Jon read all nine tweets in the series and discuss what they mean, how the points are different, and how to avoid them all.

In this show, Jon talks about the book he’s currently reading, The Stranger by Harlan Coben.
From Amazon: #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense Harlan Coben delivers his most shocking thriller yet, proving that a well-placed lie can help build a wonderful life– and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.


The Emotional Downs and Ups of Writing

When Juliet heard that Jon had just sent two novels to his agent and was anxiously waiting a response, she suggested we discuss the emotions of writing.

So, we consider the ups and downs of writing and rewriting, of getting lost and being found along the way. We also talk about getting books published and watching them go off into the big wide world and the hurricane of feelings that evokes.

Juliet brings the show to a close with a glimmer of editorial hope.


Games Writers Play

Killing Orphans…
Recycling Letters…
Counting Words…
Cutting Fingernails…
Jon shares a few of the games that he plays while writing.

And then we discuss writer Dale Bailey and a 2012 post on his blog about how a version of a writer’s game turned dark.

Although not mentioned in the show, Jon has been reading and learning much from author Sarah Dessen. He recommends her YA novels Just Listen and This Lullaby.

Photo Credit: http://www.rgbstock.com/user/mzacha


A Collection of Collective Nouns

Hunting, hawks, and habits—how can a 15th century nun help you improve your writing? In this episode, editor Juliet Ulman and author Jon Armstrong explore collective nouns, taxonomies, and the power of a well-chosen word.

The two Wikipedia pages mentioned in the show are:

List of animal names

List of English animal nouns

Caution! Clicking and perusing these pages could help you find the perfect word for your writing, or more likely, it could be the last productive thing you do today.

The image is a page from the Book of Saint Albans.

Are You a Writer or an Editor?

In this bonus episode, Jon and Juliet talk about some of the differences  between a writer and an editor.

Is it that one builds and the other shapes? Is it that one puts together and the other takes apart? Or is it about committing felonies and being God?