Power vocabulary – choosing the right word

At times, choosing the right word can look like a daunting task. Especially if we consider the sheer amount of words that even a measly dictionary can provide us with. Yet there’s a way we can improve our ability to write in a more effective and engaging manner. And it’s not based on rules or long lists. Rather, it’s based on the natural curiosity for the basic principles of writing that any self-respecting writer generally possesses. Choosing the right word is a matter of economy First of all, we should look at novels like extended and coherent chunks of the…

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How the electric chair metaphor can help you tighten your creative writing

I’m a fervent advocate of scientific research. So much so indeed that I think we can’t have such a thing like too much science or too much knowledge. However, unfortunately, we can have something like too much technology. In fact, while science simply uncovers and explains the principles that make our universe tick, and is therefore neutral, technology isn’t necessarily always a good thing. This holds true even if, in principle, the dichotomy between basic and applied science is bogus. For example, while science explains what electricity is and how and why it works in such a way and not…

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Where do you get your ideas from? It’s quite a common question… but what about the answer?

Where do you get your ideas from? is probably one of those questions that writers are asked most often. Unfortunately it’s also a loaded question. In fact, it uncritically assumes that ideas are sort of objects completely formed and ready to be used—maybe like objects sitting neatly on a shelf somewhere in a magic shop, all happily waiting for a writer to come by and choose one. In reality ideas are made of the fuzziest substance in the universe: jumbles of often erratic human thoughts. So much so that even if you ever managed to find a magic shop with a…

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A writer’s inspiration – Italian postcards

We have all a mountain to climb. Sometimes we get to choose which mountain to challenge. Some other times we aren’t offered such a choice. But of one thing we can be sure. We have all to work our way up, no matter how high or how far the mountain top seems. This is true when we start writing a new novel. This is true when we start a new story with someone we’ve just met. It’s true of happy periods and sad ones. We can only proceed one word after the other. One tentative step at a time. Really,…

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Sculpt your novel into existence the way you like it, but make sure you put a piece of your heart inside it

Some heart touching stories are so well written that, as readers, we can’t but to feel grateful for having the opportunity to read them. Indeed, there has been times when I’ve finished reading a book and remained there, staring into the distance at nothing in particular, just savoring that particular mix of joy, sadness, and wonder that for me is the natural hallmark of a great read. One day, when I was in my teens, I let a friend of mine read a story I had written, and by the end of it she was crying. For me that episode…

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Linguistics – how we relate to language

It has always fascinated me how we relate to language. We use it every day, constantly and quite skillfully. Yet we know little about how it works. Think of it. We yell at the dog to get him off the sofa. We pause a moment to make sure we have actually scared the damn thing away, then we resume our chatting on the phone with our friend. Later on, when our spouse gets home we say hello to him, or her, and ask about their day. Finally, we promptly adopt motherese to speak to our three year old daughter, who…

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The creative writing process – why it matters more then any grammar or stylistic rule

Rules can be helpful. But there are really too many of them. So much indeed that, once we have mastered the basic ones, to improve our style we’re better off concentrating on a more concrete creative writing process. Phantom limbs can be extremely painful. Even if, given that they are not there, they shouldn’t pose any problem to their… owners. I know this sounds paradoxical. But bear with me, please. In the 90s the treatment of such type of pain was extremely difficult, and led to no or negligible improvements. But then V. S. Ramachandran came up with a brilliant…

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Reasons for writing – the story behind the story

I write fiction for many different reasons. About some of them, I’m pretty sure. About some others, less so. But that’s fine. Because writers aren’t books. Writers are made of flesh and blood, and can be fickle creatures. Indeed, they’re more like a perennial work in progress, a messy first draft, than a flawless published book. And rightly so, I would say. Otherwise writers would be doomed to write the same book over and over again.

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Why details are important – not only in literature

This is an idiotic post, going around like a drunkard. Probably I didn’t pay enough attention to details when I wrote it. And now it’s too late. Some days ago a friend of mine told me about a new card he had subscribed to. It was one of those cards that reward your shopping around giving you back a usually very small percentage of the amount you spent. My friend was adamant this card was the best thing since sliced bread. And to make his point perfectly clear he told me that you even got a one percent discount on…

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