Word Count or Time Count?


– This is an interesting question. I think setting aside the time is more important than a specific number of words, and I try not to look at the word count until I am done with a writing session. That said, I obsess about the number of words I am producing, too. My goal for the next year is to average 500 words of fiction per day. For me that means writing at least 800 per day, because I tend to overwrite everything, so the first thing I have to do in revision is cut about a third of the draft.

More Than Just a Habit–The Letters of Flannery O’Connor


– A nice post about one of my favorite authors.

Margaret Langstaff

The recent attention and acclaim Flannery O’Connor’s previously unpublished “Prayer Journal” has received inspired me over the holidays to pull out my well-thumbed marked up copy of her selected letters, THE HABIT OF BEING (edited by Sally Fitzgerald and originally published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1979).  It had disappeared in my bulging over-stuffed bookcases because the book’s colorful jacket was long gone, having fallen apart years ago, and the book itself is bound in dull black cloth.  I had to search and re-search the shelves before I located it finally by homing in on the bristling yellow post-its, tabs and whatnot marking favorite passages. Yes, there it was, hunkered down rather like a small porcupine with colorful quills springing out in all directions, lurking in the shadows on a top shelf.

As per my usual encounter with this treasure trove of writerly wisdom informed by faith and a lively intellect, I immediately fell into it head first…

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The Art of Interviewing – Tip 6


– You can find the first five installments of this series in No. 2 Pencil’s category archive.

No. 2 Pencil

Work within time constraints.

There’s possibly nothing better for an interview than being able to spend an entire afternoon with one of your interviewees. Other than the stories in which I work a day in the life of a person, getting to spend a day with someone has been granted to me twice. Most interviews are constrained to about 30 minutes.

You have to learn how to work within those time constraints. Know before setting up an interview how much time you’ll need. If you need to write a feature on one particular person, 20 minutes with them will probably not be enough.

To determine this, first write out your list of questions. Estimate that it will take roughly 2 minutes for the person to answer each question. This completely varies, of course, but it’s a good place to start. Then always tack on an additional 5 – 10 minutes…

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One of my favorite Christmas stories.


 A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote.

There exists, somewhere out there in the multimedia universe, an audio recording of Alec Baldwin reading this story aloud. I heard it on a radio program in Texas in 2000, but have never been able to locate it again.