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Bookfox

John Matthew Fox helps authors write better fiction. He is the founder of Bookfox, where he creates online courses for writers, provides editing and offers publishing assistance. He is the author of "The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments" and “I Will Shout Your Name,” a collection of short stories.

Featured Post

Why Writers Should Learn How to Quit

Hi Bookfoxers, When I was 31 years old, I’d been laboring over a novel for 5 years. It was a quagmire. I was stuck in a plot that wouldn’t move, in characters that couldn’t elicit sympathy, and with ambitions that were far beyond my skill as a writer. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t a quitter. I thought that only losers quit. I thought that way, because when I was in high school, I tried out for the JV basketball team both as a freshman and sophomore – and didn’t make the team either year. So...

10 days ago • 4 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, I once had a creative writing professor who would read out loud the first paragraph of any story submitted to the workshop. Reading it out loud was a way not only to test it, but a way to slow down and really focus on the beginning. To see whether it sounded boring, or weird, or just plain dumb. I’m afraid that nearly all of the stories did not pass muster. He would growl through the first paragraph, and sometimes he would ask whether we thought someone would want to: Have a...

17 days ago • 5 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, At the age of eighteen, Django Reinhardt, a brilliant jazz guitarist, suffered severe burns to his left hand in a fire, rendering his third and fourth fingers unusable. Everyone said he'd never play guitar again. I mean, he only had three fingers on his left hand -- 40% of his musical possibilities were gone. But Django persisted. He worked with his shortcomings rather than against them. He figured out how to use the injured fingers for bar chords, and then use the good fingers...

26 days ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Here's a tip to make your character seem like a full, complex, robust character. It seems simple but I've found it's not only a great way to craft a character, but also a great litmus check to see whether your character is too 2-dimensional. Here it is: Make sure your character exists in all three temporal dimensions: Haunted by the PAST Wrestling with the PRESENT Wary of the FUTURE This might seem like obvious advice, but the devil is in the details. 1. Haunted by the Past For...

about 1 month ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Today we're answering this reader question: I am writing a fictionalized version of my maternal grandmother's life in her voice, based on dramatic stories my grandmother told me over the years. I am embellishing some of the stories, and keeping them intact in others. But at this point, they seem like vignettes that I'm not sure how to tie them together. I keep thinking I need, "a clothesline to hang them on". I've thought of interjecting myself, using my memories to tie them...

about 2 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, I'm continuing to answer readers' questions, this time from someone who will stay anonymous, in case their neighbor reads this newsletter as well: Despite holding an MFA from a prestigious university and a recent acceptance for traditional publication for my second novel, I still have what is referred to as "imposter syndrome." I knew it was present, perhaps beneath the surface, but what drove it home was when a neighbor asked me to review his manuscript. He planned on...

2 months ago • 4 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, I've started to answer questions from readers in this newsletter, and this one comes from Brenna Labine: Any advice on toeing the line between too much visual description and the right amount of scene/character description? Great question, Brenna! Your question is really a question of pacing -- how can writers keep the reader's interest while simultaneously fully fleshing out the world of the book? If you don't give enough description, the reader won't be immersed. While if you...

2 months ago • 5 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Patricia Highsmith, who wrote "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," used to hang her writing awards in the bathroom. She'd won the award of the year from the Mystery Writers of America and the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere from France, and she hung them in the bathroom because she said they "looked less pompous there." I love that humility. She didn't hang the awards over the mantle or in the foyer for all visitors to see, she hid them in a place where...

3 months ago • 2 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Do you practice "polyphony" in your writing? Polyphony is a variety of voices in a novel. A bad novelist will make every character sound like each other (or make every character sound like the author). It's bad because it's boring. And it's bad when the voice doesn't match the character. For example, "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler succeeds as a sci-fi novel on many levels. It's a classic. But her fifteen year old narrator sounds like a grizzled 50-year-old sage. I...

3 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, You probably think of the climax as fitting into a certain slot in your story. Let me guess -- you think it's 9/10ths of the way through the story, right before the end. That's because Hollywood has conditioned you into embracing a singular shape of storytelling, where they have the climax at the same place nearly all the time. That's not wrong. But it's certainly not the only place where your climax can occur. Today we're going to look at alternative placements for your...

3 months ago • 2 min read
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