Thoughts on Unruly Fiction

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In his 2004 biography of Isaac Newton, James Gleick characterized the great scientist (and closet alchemist) this way: “He sought order but never averted his eyes from the chaos.”

A desire for order, with a recognition that chaos will disturb that order. Not only does it sound like an essential quality for any scientist, it strikes me as a description of the fictions I like best. And an aspiration for the fictions I create.

August 22, 2014 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice

Be Afraid

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“The key for me is working outside my comfort zone, and that I get scared…”

– Steven Soderbergh

Deep into my writing career, I’ve finally learned the importance of fear.

It didn’t come easy. I spent a lot of my childhood afraid. And early adulthood fearing fear – afraid that it would overtake me, paralyze me as it often had as a kid

June 27, 2014 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice


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I am a writer, and therefore a thief.

Last week the most recent case in point. A Tweet of a line I liked, one that resonated and is likely percolating in my amoral brain even now: bad decisions I don’t regret. It was, I knew, the spawn of a conversation I’d had over a drink with a new friend. It was, in my mind, fair game. She didn’t fully share that perspective.

“Didn’t we kind of arrive at that phrase together?” I asked.

May 23, 2014 | Ron MacLean

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Avoiding the Trap of Activist Fiction

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It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that activists make bad fiction writers. It’s also true that fiction writers – those who spend our lives working to see all sides of the story – make bad activists.

But this doesn’t mean that fiction can’t engage big social issues. Or that politics and fiction can never mix. Witness Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men and Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion and Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document as three examples of how such matters can be done well.

March 28, 2014 | Ron MacLean

Craft Advice Muse Author The Writing Life

The Most Important Question

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"I refuse to write for more people than I can listen to."

That quote, from the poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, has been tacked to my writing wall for years now, as a beacon. A guiding principle. Every now and then it becomes less theoretical, more practical - and therefore more of a challenge. A test, where I again consider and choose to either affirm or deny it as a truth to which I subscribe.

November 22, 2013 | Ron MacLean

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