Deadline Time (It’s fun, really)

First, you all know your assignment for Wednesday. Here are the details:

  1. No longer than 5,500 words (and preferably closer to 4,000). Your peers need to be able to read it and get it back to you, and I want to be able to provide feedback on all 14 as soon as possible, to give you the most time to write.
  2. Email it to me by 8 AM at my gmail address. Please put your name in the file name. Ben, this is directed at you.
  3. Bring in three printed copies.
  4. Before you send it: Read it aloud, proofread it and spellcheck it.


For those who missed class today, we discussed deadline writing strategies and Endings. Some of the major points:


I. ENDINGS (aka “kickers”)

A) Goals:

  1. Resolve unanswered questions/tie up narrative


  1. Sum up the significance of the story/suggest its ramifications (a bit like a conclusion, but only in content, not in deployment)


  1. Inspire further reflection and contemplation, perhaps through symbolism


  1. Make the reader feel something


B) Strategies


  1. Telling Anecdote/Scene – Can be out of order, chronologically. Something that gets at the theme/meat of the story. Orlean, Saslow, Junger, etc.


  1. Analogy/Observation/Moment – You as the writer are summing it up, then leaving us with something. Laskas, Skydive


  1. Looking ahead – Moving the story forward, so that reader feels propelled. Schulz, Mooney


  1. Perfect piece of dialogue (try to avoid a quote but occasionally it works). Mooney goes for this. Sullivan does it, essentially, but paraphrases


  1. Great final line – if you can sum it up with something surprising, or a twist of sorts. Again, Sullivan.


  1. A call-back – like in comedy. Mention something early, often in the beginning, and come back to it, only now we see it through a new prism.


D) Finding Your Ending

– If stuck, you can often look through your story. Your ending may already be in there. Perhaps you just need to lift it out of the chronology and try it at the end

Make a list of your best stuff/scenes/observations/quotes. Use the best to start and the second-best to end.





A) Self-Editing/Writing block

  • An exercise: Force yourself to rewrite the first 500 words from memory. See what comes back. Make it flow. If you’re stuck, this can help. Sometimes it also provides a better tone.


B) Read it aloud


C) Compare it to your structure. Make sure you’re on track


D) Mimic a story you like. You can’t use someone’s words, but mimic the structure/tone/device


 E) Call back one more time – As you go, do you find you need one more piece of information? Are you missing a detail? Do you not understand something?

Call back. This applies to anything in life. If you’ve gone 80% of the way, go 100%. That extra effort will pay off.

Don’t think it’s too late to do major reporting: If you can’t figure a way to write yourself out of a hole, it’s often because you don’t have all your reporting. Rather than fight it, go do more reporting.


The Writing itself


  1. Music? Try one song on repeat. Instrumental helps many. “Mighty Rio Grande” by This Will Destroy You is a favorite of some narrative writers.


  1. Change locations – if you’re stuck, move. Your brain will respond to the new setting. Even into the next room helps.


  1. Move your body. Walk for five minutes. Exercise. Bring a notepad and ride the stationary bike. You’ll be amazed what will come to you. Lots of authors swear by running


  1. Write by longhand – if you usually use computer


If you have other strategies, I’d love to hear them. Finally, best of luck to all. I can’t wait to read the results.

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