Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up five stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
There are lessons to be learned from reading all kinds of writing. This week there were a few stories that focused on this idea, including how reading can turn a person into a writer at any stage of life and what we can learn from a 90-year-old novel.
Also, the proper use of "blog," well-crafted TV characters, and suicide notes as literature.
Changing careers to write:
This piece from The Huffington Post
is from a 54-year-old former accountant who recently decided to become a writer. It's a nice chronicle of how reading can inspire people to become writers, but it might also be an illustration of the few times in life where we have the right mix of inspiration and possible lack of regard for financial security that are necessary to becoming a writer.
The best writing lesson from “The Great Gatsby”:
Between the recent movie version out and it being one of the top-selling books in America again
, now is a good time to review what writers can learn from F. Scott Fitzgerald's popular story. Roy Peter Clark at Poynter.org concludes that, for any kind of writer, story construction and sticking to a strategy helped Fitzgerald complete his Great American Novel. The lesson he extracts can be adapted, whether you're writing novels or blog posts.
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Ben Yagoda writes about why it makes no sense to call a blog post a “blog.” It's something people do now, but that doesn't mean it has to stay. Yagoda mentions a few other phrases that either are used incorrectly or need revision. The term “post” might even need an update because, as Yagoda writes, blogs have morphed to become more like online magazines, and there's no longer a stark difference between the two.
Tweaking TV characters:
I found this story because the headline references “Breaking Bad” and its creator Vince Gilligan. But the lesson from it is buried deeper. On a recent panel of TV show runners, several, including Gilligan, talked about changing the way major characters are viewed and how it determined success for the show. The same ideas about television could be applied to nonfiction writing. Your audience sees a subject through the words, phrasing, and story construction you choose. It's worth tweaking the central idea to make sure they see it the way you want them to. Good examples in this piece from “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “The New Girl.”
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A class on suicide notes:
A pop-up school in New York decided to examine a different kind of writing workshop in which students considered why suicide notes are written, and they even practiced writing their final farewells. The teacher called the notes "moving, strange, harrowing, and peculiar literature.” It seems an odd way to practice writing, but as you'll see, there are many forms writing can take and, above all, authors have to find their voice.
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Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.