we’re debuting a new monthly column on WriterMag.com. The Fiction Workshop will delve into issues of craft, and we’re happy to announce that David
Galef (at left), the director of the creative-writing program at Montclair
State University, will be your guide to writing more engaging stories and
a professor for more than 20 years and a prolific writer himself, David has
plenty of practical advice to share. His novels include How to Cope With
Suburban Stress and Turning Japanese, and he’s contributed to The New York
Times, Newsday and many other publications. Later this year Dzanc Books will
publish his delightfully titled story collection My Date With Neanderthal
asked David to tell us more about his own writing as well as his plans for the
do you enjoy most about writing fiction?
up stuff. Also, rigging up a really cool sentence.
a writing instructor, what problems do you see again and again in your
students’ stories? In other words, what are some of the most challenging
aspects of fiction writing?
realm of the semi-cliché. That’s what I try to root out in a lot of student
fiction, and it’s an [delete “uphill battle” and insert something fresher,
please]. Not that I demand outright originality, whatever that is, but two old
ideas gummed together at a new angle would be nice.
addition to novels and short stories, you write articles, essays, poems and
reviews. Do you advise beginning writers to try different genres?
all means. Because you never know what you might be really good at. You might
think you’re God’s gift to poetry, only to find that you’re actually a far
better playwright, and you’d never have known that if you hadn’t tried the
all-dialogue exercise that I assigned last Thursday.
also write humorous dispatches from U of All People, a fictional university,
for Inside Higher Ed, which covers news and opinions about higher education.
How important is humor in fiction writing?
love to say it’s crucial, but a lot of serious literature seems to do all right
without it. Let’s put it this way: It’s crucial to my fiction, even the sad
stories, where it acts as a counterbalance. And in life, particularly in the
writing business, I don’t know where I’d be without it.
can we expect from your column?
emphasis on craft: tips and suggestions on how to do something, from snappy
dialogue to lively characterization. I’m not too into the zen of writing or the
mystique of art.
for David’s column the first Wednesday of the month. You can find “The Fiction
Workshop” under the “Columns” drop-down menu. First up: “Not so fast,” in which
he offers a simple equation for adding depth to your stories.
C. Lange, associate editor