Into the Book

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This Writing Life cover

This Writing Life

This Writing Life is a weekly column by Andrew Joyce, about writing, self-discipline, and growing as an author. It also touches on reading, what makes a good book, and living a life in the context of God’s biggest story. Subscribe to this column via RSS


  1. Here we go: so it begins! November 1 is upon us and the official starting gun for NaNoWriMo fired 7 hours and 47 minutes ago. I’m already behind!! Here’s how I’m planning to stay focused and cross the 50,000 word finish line:

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  2. Ever since I realized (last week) that All Right has been somewhere in my head for over two years, I’ve been a little bit ashamed by how long it’s taken to produce a draft of the story. After all, 10,000 usable words in two years is not exactly a blistering pace.

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  3. I couldn’t believe it when I realized that All Right was nearly two years old. But thanks to the record here on Writing Life, I realized that All Right came into being during May of 2016 — over two years ago at this point. I wrote plenty of columns about it, too: here, here, here, and here. If you read any of these, you’ll recall some hilarious goals: finish a draft by December (of 2016!), for example. Which brings us to today. . .October 2018.

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  4. It’s really hard to pick up a story that’s been dead for months and try to breathe life into it. I read over the twenty or so pages that are on paper so far, and that helped me a little bit to remember where I’m going with “All Right.” I also had my trusty outline, which has continued to be really helpful (All Right is the first story I’ve ever made a master outline for). But as I sat down this week to write, looking at the blank page was overwhelming. The story still felt dead. (more…)

  5. I have an unsurprising admission of failure for you: I haven’t been writing. Not for a few months at least. It’s why Writing Life was so sporadic over the summer — there just hasn’t been any writing to have a life about. It’s ok, months (years?) like that crop up; but as a writer, how can we combat them? Read on for more: (more…)

  6. What’s a writing life with no writing?

    What do you do when your writing life doesn’t include much writing? It’s a guarantee that at some point you’ll hit a wall with your story, or you’ll get busy at work, or you’ll lose the initial spark that inspired you, or you’ll pick up a new hobby and writing will get pushed to the side. What’s a writer to do in a time when their own writing is dormant?

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  7. Last week we talked about keeping a deep and varied reading list as a great way to get inspiration for a story. Today, we’re going to drill into a specific type of inspiration: the ancient classics. Suzanne Collins is great, but have you read your Aristophanes lately? (more…)

  8. Reading good books is like throwing grain into the field of your brain. You’re filling your brain with stories, thinking over ideas and concepts that other writers have poured out onto the page. In the past few weeks, I’ve read or read parts of a classic sci-fi novel (Dune by Frank Herbert), a Gothic novel (Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zaf√≥n), Augustine’s Confessions, a children’s book (Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet), and most of the book of Job. Keeping a large and varied reading list helps me to feel deeply, to learn from other writers, and to come up with new story ideas. (more…)

  9. Names are always the hardest part of a story for me. A name is a label for a being, and the wrong name can doom a character. I always feel apprehensive when my pen is hovering over a character, waiting to be granted a name. I’ve spent so much energy on a character name for my latest story. Here’s a little more on my thought process for coming up with a good name. (more…)

  10. I’m convinced that every story is always partially true. There’s always enough mixed in to make it fiction, but reality is always lurking just behind. Even in fiction, we can see an author’s own life in the cracks of a story — why, for example, we can sense Hemingway’s own wrestlings behind his characters’ troubles. In many places, the line between character and author blurs (more…)