CNN Copy Editor and Novelist Urges Writers to Interview Their Characters

By Linda Donaldson

Our Writing Center’s most recent Zoom webinar on Feb. 17 was “How to Write a Novel” by John DeDakis. This two-hour session examined ways to structure, pace and revitalize your manuscript.

To gain more insights into your fictional characters, the author suggested “interviewing” them. A 15-minute writing exercise, using this technique, led to some interesting new takeaways by the webinar’s participants.

For example, DeDakis demonstrated how to identify key scenes and then create an arc that leads from plot pivot points to a climax.

For authors with nearly completed works, DeDakis shared editing advice. He also revealed how to polish your book before seeking an agent by incorporating comments from “beta” readers.

For those already published, DeDakis listed resources for promoting novels, including social media marketing.

Writing coach, and award-winning author, John DeDakis is a former CNN Senior Copy Editor for the Emmy and Peabody-Award winning news program “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.He is the author of four mystery/suspense novels — Fast Track, Bluff, Troubled Water, and Bullet in the Chamber. The books provide a behind-the-scenes look at real-world journalism. In addition to book signings and readings, DeDakis travels nationally to speak on the topic “From Journalist to Novelist: (Or How I Learned to Start Making it Up).” DeDakis can serve as a one-on-one writing coach, leader of a day-long workshop for aspiring writers, or as editor of book-length manuscripts. Contact him through www.johndedakis.com.

Craft Webinar Recap

By Linda Donaldson

The Writing Center was privileged to host Kathryn Craft in her Zoom webinar, “Honing Your Hook” on February 4, 2021. Over 20 participants were treated to the author’s tips on grabbing the attention of their prospective readers.

Just as every craftsperson needs properly sharpened tools, the aptly named Craft outlined the ways that writers can “hook” their readers with opening paragraphs that raise compelling questions, represent unique perspectives or show escalating intrigue. Continue reading “Craft Webinar Recap”

Rummage

by Robert Moulthrop

“The church is having a rummage sale.” That would be my grandmother, who would follow up with “Here, have a rummage through this box of stuff and see what we can take over.” So, rummage was both a thing to do, and the thing itself. Dig through the box and find something unwanted that was something that would turn out to be something someone else wanted. And invariably would come the moment when she said, “No, not that. I want to keep that. Reminds me of the time when…” The time when she went to the beach with her sister, or when my grandfather took her on a date, or when my mother was born. Rummage as treasure.

Such a great word: Rummage rummage rummage rummage. Do you have any rummage today? I bet you do. I found some of my own, and it’s been an exciting internal journey.

What better time than our current pandemic quarantine to have a bit of a rummage through one’s writerly past? A sweet and thoughtful look through the scraps of old ideas, pieces begun and abandoned, thought fragments, prompts. Early on, when I tried to write something every day, I wanted always to have something to write, no excuses. So I made an “Idea” file. But then there was my journal; and the scraps of paper napkins; and the diligently started notebooks (abandoned for a torn off corner of a paper tablecloth). Not to mention (dating myself) old newspaper clippings. I’ve never before had a problem with what to write, but now, without the social interactions, with friends reduced to pixels, and with mere existence taking up lots of head space, I need a prompt or two, need something that’s not “news” or “information” or “sensation.” At a time like this, I need my past.

And now there’s time. And the file on my computer (journal; ideas) and the paper file on my desk (ideas, and actual titles of things), and I’m able to look at pieces of my past, shards from some unique piece of work that only barely got started. And I can be my own beady editorial eye and see that, YES, I see what I was trying to do and YES, it looks like it would be both fun and worthwhile to get out my writer’s scalpel and see whether these four paragraphs contain enough of the germ of an idea for a story. Or not. I happened on a few words written yonks ago, three paragraphs based on neighbors when I was a child. Hmmmm. And I cut and pasted, began a dive, worked it over a couple of days, and came up with 1,800 words that seemed to be a story. And it’s now out for a few editors at a few journals, whose judgment I await.

There’s a clear joy in looking at one’s past writing self and thinking, “not bad,” or at least “not cringe-worthy.” Because there will be enough of that, too. There’s also the wonder of “I remember, but I don’t remember writing this. But it’s there, so I guess I did.” And there’s that writer’s joy when you can “Save As,” with the story title, and the word “Final.” With full knowledge that it is. For the moment.


Robert Moulthrop, a playwright and fiction writer, has presented writing workshops at our Pearl S. Buck Writing Center.  His short fiction has been published in Tahoma Literary Review, Reed, Berkeley Fiction Review, Confrontation, and many other journals and magazines. His plays have won awards for writing and performance at the New York International Fringe Festival; received festival production by Short + Sweet Sydney, The Gallery Players, and NYU; and received developmental readings with theaters throughout the United States. He lives and works in New York City.

PSB Writing Center Deadlines Approach

Just a reminder to send in your submissions to our Winter 2020-21 issue of the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal by February 15, 2021. Click here for our submission guidelines.

Our Writers Guild meetings in 2021 will be virtual Zoom meetings. Beginning on March 21, 2021 at 1:30-3:30pm, our eight monthly meetings (held on the third Sundays of each month from March through October) will cost $80 for all eight meetings: March 21st, April 18th, May 16th, June 20th, July 18th, August 15th, September 19th, & October 17th.

The Guild welcomes all genres of literature, from novels and short fiction to memoirs, essays and poetry by all levels of writers. Registered Guild members must send writings for editing consideration and distribution to lindadonaldson@verizon.net  two weeks prior to our meetings so attendees can read and be prepared to discuss. To register, please follow the Registration instructions below.

The Writing Center’s “HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL” webinar is February 17th from 11am – 1pm and offers a practical process from the mere germ of an idea all the way through the creative process, with an eye on getting a finished book into the hands of potential fans. Novelist and writing coach John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and is the author of five mystery-suspense novels. More about him at: www.johndedakis.com. $50. Registration required.

Our 3-step Registration Process for All of our Zoom Classes:

  1. Please send Cindy Louden your complete street address/zip, preferred Email address and your cell phone number to clouden@pearlsbuck.org.
  2. Cindy with then forward your info to our PSB Volunteer Association President, Nancy McElwee.
  3. Nancy will call you to ask for your credit card info to complete the transaction and send you a receipt. Payment by check or money order can also be arranged with Nancy.