Chuck Palahniuk 36 writing essays

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Editing, Writing Advice
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Posted in 2011, the entirety of this essay collection is available online but requires a paid Lit Reactor account for a tiny fee of $9 per month.

Essay #24 (Stocking Stuffers) was already summarized here: Once I read these 13 writing tips, I wanted to find out more as I’m sure you will too.

If you’re brand new to writing and do not have the finances to pursue a degree in creative/professional writing, I encourage you to use these essays to guide your writing process. If you’re busy with several part-time jobs to support your finances like me, #15 (When You Can’t Find a Writing Workshop) will be a great help to you if you want to pay the $9 fee. However, most of these tips–or similar ones–can be found around the interwebs.

If a tight budget doesn’t permit spending $9, save your money blog readers, and sign up for Lit Reactor by linking your Facebook account to the site. There are plenty of other how-to essays available for free on Lit Reactor.

Or you can read more of Palahniuk’s advice. Right now. Without signing up or even leaving this blog.

I’ve accessed one of Palahniuk’s 36 essays (#13 Nuts and Bolts — Punctuating with Gesture and Attribution) and summarized it here for your learning purposes. Happy reading!

Palahniuk forbids you to use thought verbs. What are thought verbs? Empty/weak/deadwood verbs. You know the ones.
  • Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Imagines, Desires
  • Loves, Hates, Forgets, Remembers

Original: Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline.

Revised: Brenda would never make the deadline.

“Thinking is abstract. Knowing and Believing are intangible,” Palahniuk writes. Allow the reader to feel smart by showing physical actions and placing details into context. Above all else, show instead of tell, which means you can’t use is or has either. Sorry, but Palahniuk forbids. You’ve got to find some other way to introduce smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
To do this, you’ve got to unpack the meaning behind these thought verbs. Write so the reader grasps the entirety of of the character’s actions, inner thoughts, behaviors. Stop taking stifling shortcuts, and instead use specifics that arouse the senses. Like a lawyer, you must use details to present your scene as you would a case.
Identify Thought Verbs: Thought verbs can often be found at the beginning of paragraphs. Find examples of thought verbs in published works and in your own writing. Figure out ways to revise them.

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