Metaplasmus means misspelling something or writing it differently because doing so will have a different effect on the reader. Hip hop thrives on metaplasmus. (If I were writing about metaplasmus vis-á-vis hip hop, perhaps I’d call myself Metaplazmu$—although that’s a terrible rapper name.) The classic comic strip Krazy Kat provides another example. The effect of metaplasmus in both of these [...]

Outlining in Reverse


This recent article on outlining and not-outlining works of fiction is quite good. I’ve had similar problems with the outlining process exhausting all my interest in a particular story. The solution? Outline in reverse, as the title says. Here are a few bon mots (“good sayings”) from the writer, Aaron Hamburger (The View From Stalin’s [...]

Creator versus Shaper


Some thoughts on the role of an artist working on a new project, from video game auteur developers Ice Pick Lodge: …True creative work is not about self-expression and making stuff up, it’s about finding a right shape for a story that exists objectively, outside the artist’s head. This story and the underlying problem constitute [...]

Writing Partners


Writing partners – One way to help engage students with the assigned texts is to set up writing partnerships wherein each partner is responsible for a single email per week, to her partner (CCing you), about that week’s readings. In my experience, these partnerships lead to closer readings of the texts, better discussions during class, [...]



When writing essays, avoid filler. Many college students are still in the habit of introducing essays with a lot of this: “We all know that topic X is [very general definition], and X is really interesting, isn’t it? It’s interesting in a bunch of ways. None of which relate to my thesis.” Instead of this [...]



Always carry a notebook on you. Every time you have an idea, jot it down—no matter what. You will never regret having a small notebook with you. Moleskine makes beautiful small black notebooks, and Rhodia fine small orange ones. But I much prefer the rye-brown Muji variety. I only buy spiral-bound notebooks without lined pages, [...]

H. P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Young Writers


Seminal cosmic horror writer H. P. Lovecraft published this article on writing (“Literary Composition”) in the January, 1920 issue of The United Amateur. There are some useful and some hilariously archaic-sounding thoughts in this, and one section in particular stands out among the former. Here, HPL puts names and concise definitions to three abstract dimensions of fiction writing that [...]



Simulation – You have to use signs to say anything at all in language. Truth, lies, and simulacra all require signs. In truth, a sign refers to a thing. “Apple” means a shiny red fruit. An example of a lie or dissimulation would be telling a Japanese tourist that the sign “apple” (whether the written [...]



Myth – A myth is simply a story told over and over and over again by a group of people. Generally, we use “myth” to connote an ancient, sacred narrative (the rape of Prosperine to generate seasonality, the striking of the heavenly spear into the Pacific to create Japan), not just any story. This is [...]


Punctuation – Punctuation is the orthographic representation of any number of meaningful pauses in prose. It is not only meant to duplicate the naturally meaningful, unconscious pauses we make in when we speak; rather, punctuation also represents those mental pauses that both precede spoken words and dictate the rhythm of written ones. Each mark has evolved [...]