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  • Nancy Dinan

horsemanship: new thoughts on craft

When I was in my MFA program, my adviser Lee Martin kept (and still keeps) a blog devoted to craft. His posts always surprise me, because he thinks about creative writing in a way that feels completely different than much of the other craft advice I seem to see. For instance, instead of saying something like “Write specific, sensory detail,” Martin gives a detailed exercise that asks you to try two different approaches to your climactic moment: one that gives the reader the character’s thoughts, and one that presents sensory details that convey the tone of the character’s thoughts (“Details or Thoughts: A Writing Activity for Fiction Writers,” from July 25, 2016). Another entry helps a writer determine if a certain piece is suitable for the flash form (“How to Know When to Be Quick: Writing Flash CNF” from August 22, 2016): hint – the secret is in a “crystalline moment” that may haunt you, no matter how small the detail. Yet another entry (“Finding the Main Track of Your Novel” from February 15, 2016) asks the writer to think of a novel’s structure in question form, in order to streamline the main through-line and the secondary storylines.

Now, I hear that Martin’s blog entries are being collected into a craft book – Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life – to be published by the University of Nebraska Press. Either way, blog or book, Lee Martin’s craft advice is thoughtful and hard-won, and an excellent place to turn when you’re looking for new perspectives on your prose.

Lee Martin is the Pulitzer Prize Finalist author of The Bright Forever and four other novels: Quakertown, River of Heaven, Break the Skin, and Late One Night. Other books include memoir and a collection of short fiction. He is the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council. He teaches in the MFA Program at the Ohio State University, where he was winner of the 2006 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

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