The Mark Program


To Outline or Not To Outline

I tend to cringe at formulas, probably because I was never any good at math or chemistry. If I studied hard enough before a test, I might do okay. But in due time, I’d forget everything. So it stands to reason that when it comes to writing fiction, I tend to reject anything that smacks of formula on principle.

WRITERS' REEL: Junot Díaz On How He Writes

On the publication of his collection This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, talks about how he writes novels and short stories and the inspiration behind them.


I know they aren’t cool, and I know a lot of writers hate them, but I'll admit it: I love writing prompts.

I can understand why many literary folk roll their eyes at them. Why would you want someone to tell you when and what to write about?


I have been cutting a lot from the stories in my collection. I feel the need to trim the stories to make them tighter. In my mid-project review notes, advisor Rob Roberge encouraged me to cut 10-12 pages from a forty-page story. He said, “Trying to cut 20-25% is a great exercise in editing.” I’ve been experimenting with this challenge. The result is that the writing is getting tighter. However, the original parts aren’t a waste.

Bookmark This: Louis CK & Catcher in the Rye

Have you ever noticed the correlation between Louis C.K.'s humor and J.D. Salinger's writing style? Minh Le over at Book Riot did. He writes, "The other day I was flipping through Catcher in the Rye, and after a few pages I realized that the narrator in my head was Louis C.K. Which, as I kept reading, turned out to be kind of perfect."

The Genius Dilemma

Sad to say, but it seems I was not born a genius. At least, not according to my accomplishments thus far. Whether it’s my genes, upbringing, motivation, discipline, or some kind of mystical selection process, I have not been bestowed with a brilliant mind or the kind of prodigious talent that made Mozart begin composing at the age of five, Michael Jackson a super-star by 10, and Bob Dylan write some of his best songs before he hit 25.

WRITERS' REEL: Bad Writing Outtakes with George Saunders

On today's Writers' Reel George Saunders talks about what he thinks produces bad writing.
"The reader is a person you need to charm, you better bring your good shit…because they don't have time to wait around for you to work through your Hemingway phase."


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Since the moment I heard this Chinese proverb, I have loved it. Over the years I’ve recalled this saying when feeling overwhelmed by a large task.