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Are you a fan of The Hobbit? A Lord of the Rings geek? Perhaps you just enjoy a good story, well told. If you’re a writer, here are some tips drawn from Tolkien’s work. Even if they don’t magically transform you overnight into a writer with a worldwide cult-like following like Professor Tolkien’s . . . attention to these principles will improve your writing. 1. Keep those scraps of ideas. A familiar story to those who follow Tolkien’s biography is that The Hobbit “began” many years before its publication in 1937 when, in a moment of odd inspiration, Tolkien jotted down an strange phrase thatRead More →

Here”s a bit of advice from Robert Louis Stevenson, in writing about the genesis of Treasure Island (from his 1905 short work Essays in the Art of Writing). He speaks to the imaginative power of starting by making a map! The story begins in 1881 in the Scottish Highlands, during a rainy spell spent confined in a cottage, as Stevenson spends time fooling around with watercolors with his stepson. There it blew a good deal and rained in a proportion; my native air was more unkind than man’s ingratitude, and I must consent to pass a good deal of my time between four walls inRead More →

I’ve been driving cars around the block. Lots of them. I’m car shopping, looking to replace a venerable Suburu wagon that almost made it to 200,000 miles, but sadly stopped short of that celestial goal in a cloud of smoke a couple of weeks ago. Accordingly (hey, that’s a Honda pun!) I’ve been studying the names of cars. For some, I can only scratch my head. The Dodge Avenger? What exactly are they avenging . . . and how do they plan to go about it? Should I be worried? Or the Nissan Armada. Hey, didn’t the most famous armada, the Spanish Armada, end upRead More →

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