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James Buchanan's Blog

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Jan.06.2009
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Today I read a blog post by an agent where she listed a couple of cliche phrases that will invariably cause her to groan and reject the query or proposal. I placed a comment in the post saying that I would include the enirety of "Eat, Pray, Love" as a groan inducing cliche. Then I looked...
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Jan.05.2009
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I tend to break one of those writerly rules that seems so rigidly accepted that I don't think many people really question or debate it. I edit as I write. This seems to contravene the advice of many writers that you should simply sit down and write and not worry too much about how it turns out. The...
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Jan.04.2009
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The headline to this post should probably be my koan and my mantra for the upcoming year. It causes me to consider one of the biggest risks that I think we as writers could fall into, which is a sense of complacency in our writing. I come to this thought after reading a post in another blog where...
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Dec.31.2008
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Almost a day after I received an email from the editor of a forthcoming fiction anthology to submit a piece and an email from a prospective agent asking for more information on my writing, I received a rejection that I really had been hoping would have been an acceptance. Despite the two pieces of...
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Dec.30.2008
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Periodically I briefly experience the desire to get an MFA. I don't go through it because I think it will make me a better writer--though I'm sure it would--but because I want to teach. There is this bizarre contradition that exists within the writing world that really bothers me because I think it...
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Dec.22.2008
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"Go off and get a job and see the world and travel if you can; anything that widens your experience. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But I did lots of other jobs to pay my way, to pay the rent. I don't wish it had been any other way," wrote British author Maggie O'Farrell. Long...
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Dec.18.2008
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In 2007, Stephen King described in the New York Times what he thought a short story should do, "Talent can't help itself; it roars along in fair weather or foul, not sparing the fireworks. It gets emotional. It struts its stuff. If [good short stories] have anything in common, it's that sense...
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Dec.16.2008
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I once had the travel section editor of a fairly famous newspaper treat me rather poorly over a story she had agreed to purchase and publish, which led me to recognize the irrefutable fact that there simply was no bridge to burn. By this I mean to say that when I talked to other freelance writer...
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Dec.14.2008
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What does it mean to achieve success as a writer? This is a question that I often ask myself because it seems to be the one question that can help me put my work and career into some sort of perspective. As a writer it is very easy to find things to be discouraged about or to see the world as some...
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Dec.11.2008
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I will state at the outset that if you are an editor of a literary journal you may put my name on a blacklist of writers to perpetually ignore, but please consider the following: BE INTERESTING. Good writing isn't worth a damn if it isn't compelling, if it doesn't drive the reader to turn the page...
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Dec.10.2008
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Does jealousy make me a better writer? I ask that because this morning as I was reading through the blogs I came to a posting that brought that ugly little bear out from its den. I am not prone to jealousy. The times when I have been jealous of a girlfriend or partner have been blessedly rare and...
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Dec.09.2008
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In the early 1930s Lou and a few of his friends from Boys High in Brooklyn founded what they called the "Social Issues Club." For them it was intened to be a means to help the many people living around them that were fast becoming victims of the Great Depression--people who were suffering...
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Dec.08.2008
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One of the biggest problems I have with a number of memoirs is the lack of honesty held within the pages. This is not to say that they are dishonest, unless it comes as an act of ommission rather than commission. Instead, so many memoir writers tend to shy away from writing with great honesty not...
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Dec.05.2008
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When I was a newspaper reporter in Derry, NH, I used to have the devil of a time writing the introductory paragraph to my news stories (these are commonly called ledes). These ledes have to sum up the story in two sentences as well as do it in a way that impels and compels the reader to read the...
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Dec.04.2008
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Yesterday I read a post on a website for people who have recently been diagnosed, are going through treatment and/or who are considered cancer survivors (to me anyone who remains alive and is bravely dealing with this disease counts as a survivor). In the post a woman who has stage 4 colorectal...
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