Monday Tips: Help with story-telling mechanics

It never ceases to amaze me that writers published by a legacy publisher still manage to produce work that has not been properly edited. Forget the typos, what I’m talking about is structural editing problems.

Without mentioning any names, I will simply say that I recently read one novel by someone employed by a top MFA program that was clearly lacking in basic storytelling skills, i.e. how to hook a reader and keep their nose glued to the page, another written by someone in another well-regarded MFA program about a couple of passive-aggressive characters in a stagnant story, and a third, also a teacher in a well-regarded MFA program, who wrote a novel with too many characters.

My favorite go-to book when I need help on story-telling mechanics is Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor. It is not just a book of exercises, but a collection of writer’s lore. A book that tells us not only how to handle words, but how to see things as a writer sees them. How to find the right structure for the ideas that we have. And most of all, how to collect words.

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