Archive for the ‘on Writing’ Category

Confessions of a Recent Graduate: What Am I Going to Do with My Life?

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

The college years are supposed to be the time when you figure out who you are and who you want to be—or at least that’s what I thought when I was 18 years old and headed to my first class at NYU in a blouse-pants combo that tried and failed to come off as business casual. I knew I wanted to apply to NYU’s International Relations Honors Program and that I would double major in Spanish. (At the time, to graduate with an International Relations degree at NYU you had to be admitted in the honors program. Current undergraduates can choose to do the major with or without the honors component). I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with these degrees. I knew I was interested in expanding my horizons in the literal sense; I wanted to learn about the political and cultural complexities of places I had only read about growing up in a conservative Nebraskan town. I also knew I wanted to help people, which I admit is a vague goal, but I felt an almost tangible empathy for the people I met and the people I read about that I couldn’t ignore.

Graduating in my backyard!

I was sure that answers, or at least some sort of clarity, would come to me. I certainly didn’t expect to feel even more unsure of what I wanted to do with my life when receiving my diploma than when I was walking to my first class. I was about to graduate, yet I was reading articles and taking personality tests trying to figure out what type of career might spark my youthful spirit (or at least not smother that spirit under a pillow) and earn me enough money to live in an apartment that’s up to code. After three years of internships, I was still no closer to deciding my career path than when I fumbled to my first interview in ill-fitting heels.

However, I’ve realized that I don’t need to find or choose a career path. I’m already on a career path; it’s right there on my resume. I have years of workplace stories to share from at least three different industries. My eclectic ventures, swinging from job to job, have shown me sides of the world that I wouldn’t have encountered at a small college where the only available jobs are at the library or student center. 

Through this series of articles, I will attempt to connect the dots between my odd jobs, from New York City to Spain, and from public relations to public defense. At first, I wanted to shape foreign policy at the State Department. Then I wanted to fight for justice and work to end mass incarceration as a top-shot attorney. Through these experiences, however, I often felt a creative urge when I least expected it. There was a love for film and literature that I couldn’t satiate no matter how much I consumed. I still want to advance a global mindset, like a UN Ambassador, and contribute to the fight for justice, like an ACLU attorney, but I want to do it through the art of storytelling. 

I resisted this conclusion for a long time, as I was tempted by the increased stability of a more straightforward career path. Through plenty of practice (and years of mental health care), I have learned to accept and even embrace uncertainty. I am constantly discovering what I am interested in, what I am skilled at, and who I want to be. I believe that going to college in New York City is one of the best ways to open yourself to the array of possibilities that is your career and your life. I will share how I navigated the competitive internship market, the setbacks of rejection, and the brilliance of finding something you love to do. I hope to convey that it is more than acceptable to feel uncertain about your future during college. In fact, that uncertainty might propel you somewhere better than you ever expected.

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By Marisa Bianco

Marisa graduated from NYU in May 2020, summa cum laude, with degrees in International Relations and Spanish. She grew up in Nebraska, but she is currently living in Córdoba, Spain, where she works as an English teacher. You can find her eating tapas in the Spanish sun while likely stressing about finding her life’s purpose.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.

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Behind the Scenes of Writing “The Gift of Listening”

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

How much pain can one endure? Everyone says it’s important to be brave and be resilient. The year of 2020 represents healing, hope and strength. During a time where our lives have turned upside down and traveling is limited. It can be easy to feel stranded with our thoughts, emotions, and overall surroundings. Our mental, emotional and physical stability is crucial during these difficult moments, as we continue to adapt to this new way of living. These new ways of living include: wearing a mask and maintaining distance. It is important to listen to ourselves, and find inspiration to be creative everyday. Oftentimes, we forget that we must discover different outlets to express our fears and concerns but it is also easy to forget about the beautiful things in life. Most occasions it’s not things that give significance to our lives but rather what fulfills us with tranquility and joy. In this occasion my experience writing my ebook was a momentum and a learning experience, it allowed me to transition my ideas to emotions and thoughts into a creative piece. 

Being given the opportunity to write my ebook called, “The Gift of Listening” fulfilled me with a peace of mind and served as a distraction from all the problems in the world. It also made me realize the power of effective listening especially during a global pandemic, you must have an open mind and appreciate the value that listening instills. Writing this ebook allowed me to share my thoughts, discover a new strength, and grow as an individual through implementing listening skills on myself as well.  The process of writing this ebook and writing in general enabled me to explore a space of my own- it helped me overcome the anxiety from the political season and civil unrest. Not to mention that writing itself is essential, and is part of our ideas and memories, conveying the influence that it has on the world.

Wagar, Hadi “Hiring Freelancer Writer|Do’s & Don’ts https://www.trendycrunch.com/hiring-freelance-writer-dos-donts/. Accessed 25 Nov 2020

During quarantine, I reconnected with my family after being busy for almost an entire year. Listening is actually the core to strengthening relationships, sharing connections, and communication. While writing my ebook I’ve been working on using these skills to become more of an effective listener. Something I’ve truly learned is the importance of focusing on the speaker versus making the conversation about yourself. There is always space for improvement, it is part of our individual growth and can be beneficial in the long run. At CampusClipper, our current weekly podcasts, requires engagement to be involved and interests in the topic of the speaker but also through the art of listening and communication. I believe that it helps us progressively grow our confidence together, it also builds a safe working environment as interns to work productively. 

Writing is a piece of art that instills creativity, effort, and dedication. Therefore, while writing my ebook, self care played a prominent role in having stability with my health apart from other responsibilities in my personal and student life. Being an effective listener is also about listening to the needs of your mind, body, and soul. Personally, my goal was to write concisely and to convey positive energy. It’s also made me appreciate the effort that goes into writing and value the hard work of publishers themselves. Writing is more than ideas or thoughts, it is a set of values. “The Gift of Listening” was an experience and a pleasure writing. I am proud of my work, as it has inspired me to explore my psyche. It has also encouraged me to manage my time to put the best collaborative effort into this ebook to empower myself. 

Here are some helpful tips to inspire you to write and use it as a creative form of expression:

  • Set a purpose behind your writing to motivate yourself
  • Set a goal to write daily, or weekly and celebrate yourself.
  • Feel free to allow yourself to write messy without critiquing your work; “free write”.
  • Remind yourself why you’re writing, it is okay to edit, delete and rewrite.
  • Be imaginative, aspire, and be creative.

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By: Yadira Tellez

Yadira is currently enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology, majoring in Fashion Business Management and minoring in English literature. She’s worked in retail and has had the opportunity to work behind the scenes during NYFW. Her dream is to be a Fashion Stylist, but enjoys creative writing to relieve stress and express her mind.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.

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The Manhattan Bubble

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

I recently finished my first year at college, and one question that keeps popping up is, “Do you regret not leaving New York for college?” This question can be interpreted in two different ways, both of which would have different answers from me.

The first way to interpret that would be, “Do you regret living at home and not dorming?” The answer to this will always be yes and no. Commuting is terrible in many ways. Throughout the year I have bitterly grumbled about the fact that I have to wake up at 6:30 am for an 8 am class, while my fellow dorming classmates can just roll out of bed 15 minutes before class and still make it on time. At the same time, I don’t have to experience the same homesickness or leave behind the people that I love for months on end. There will always be a small part of me that will regret not getting a chance to experience the dorming lifestyle, but living at home while in college is also a privilege.

The other way to interpret that question would be, “Do you regret not leaving the city for college?” The answer to this will always be absolutely 100% no. I love New York City. I have spent my entire life here and I want to continue to spend my life here, and I am so happy that I am attending a university in my city. A friend of mine once told me that in her college interviews she highlighted how much she just wanted to see grass, as she really wanted to leave the city. My application to NYU, on the other hand, was nearly entirely about how much I love this city and how much I would love to stay in the city for the rest of my life, having so much more to explore.

I have been living in New York City my entire life, and I’ve only just begun truly seeing the city. There are parts of Manhattan and Queens I’ve never set foot in, and I’ve barely touched Brooklyn and the Bronx. During my four years at NYU, I am determined to explore all of New York City and take in all this City has to offer.

That sentiment, however, is not necessarily shared by all of my classmates at NYU, at least those that are not native to NYU. A lot of my fellow NYU students are trapped in a Manhattan bubble. When they see New York City in movies and on TV, it’s always centered around Manhattan, any of the other boroughs being an afterthought. To the people who grew up with New York City on the big screen rather than it being the streets they roam, Manhattan seems to be all that really matters. To them, the city is just Manhattan.

What they don’t understand is how much more the rest of the city has to offer. To me, New York City is not just Manhattan. New York City is not just big buildings and Wall Street, not just the Empire State Building and shopping. New York City is street fairs on Memorial Day and the Astoria Park Carnival. New York City is the museums and history you can find throughout the city, from the Met in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn to the Museum of Moving Image in Queens. New York City is a plethora of restaurants and cuisines that can be found everywhere. New York City is a city of opportunities and dreams, where just about anything can happen. New York City has so much to offer and that’s not just in Manhattan.

Did you know that the biggest park in New York City is not Central Park? It’s actually Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. In fact, Central Park is only the 5th largest park in New York City. Did you know that Queens is the largest borough by size and only second to Brooklyn in population? Manhattan is actually the smallest by size at 22.82 square miles (even smaller than the most overlooked borough Staten Island).

There is so much more for New York City to off than the flashing lights and Broadway plays of Manhattan. There are the museums in Queens, the parks in Brooklyn, and the diversity of culture and cuisine in Brooklyn. Get out of your Manhattan bubble and explore the real New York City.


By Raibena Raita

Raibena is a rising sophomore at NYU majoring in English on the Creative Writing track and minoring in Psychology. Ever since she was young, she has loved to read, which later in her life also blossomed into a love for writing. She writes everything from short stories to plays to creative nonfiction. She is an in-class tutor for elementary school children. She is also involved in NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, NYU DREAM Team, and NYU Muslims Students Association, and very vocal about her beliefs. 

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.

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How to Suffer Healthily – Guidelines to Surviving NYC Campus

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

Chapter 1: A Healthful Reality

 

Anyone who moves to New York City has a goal. They have dreams and expectations and a vision of what their dazzling life in the city. Media has shown us so many encouraging stories about the struggle of making your way in New York. There are parties and fashion, runways and bankers, agents and food and artists and culture; all of these things are banded together in such a small place, it’s a wonder you get to somehow experience it all.

 

Yet, NYC college students ultimately end up asking themselves is how do you manage to stay healthy on a student budget while still trying to conquer New York?

 

To help out fellow peers, I’ve compiled a list of a few challenging realities that students should know to expect.

  1. Most Students are Still Growing Up

 

It’s not a shocking truth, but it’s one that hits home for many struggling students. It’s strange enough becoming an adult in a place that demands your attention full time, but students often move astounding distances to live in New York, leaving their family and most of their support system behind. These students must construct new routines and learn the ins and outs of solidarity. At the beginning, no one is making sure that you’re staying fit or eating healthy or eating at all for that matter. It may take a while to become adjusted to getting by on your own.

 

  1.  School is Important

 

Not only do college courses require an immense amount of focus, but now you’re paying for that focus. If you miss too many classes or your grades start to slip, it’s likely you may have to retake a class. What does this have to do with health? The human brain requires a nutritious balance of Magnesium, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and all of the B Vitamins. Without these elements in your diet the brain loses a significant amount of stamina, making it harder to do well in school. Of course, ramen and dollar pizza slices are staple foods for the regular student, but after a week of MSG and no vitamins, it gets hard to keep up with the fast pace of NYC.

 

  1. Movement is Key

Maybe this one is implied, but people in New York City are constantly moving from place to place and they are always hard-pressed to get there on time. With so much happening at once and with so much to do, it’s a wonder how students find time to stay fit. And while fitness is unique to the individual, it’s sometimes difficult to discern what exactly your body needs. It’s not essential to have a gym membership or to be a part of a sports team, sometimes it’s as simple as investing in a bicycle or scooter to get around town. Just be sure to remember, there’s a difference between being active and staying healthy. Walking around all day and running from one train to the next can be quite the workout; it’s beneficial to find time to relax and get plenty of sleep.

 

Despite all of those chilling realities, it is also extremely important to have fun. Staying healthy in school can be a breeze with the right resources, knowledge and motivation. In this book, I will explain a few tips on how to turn college survival into simply living.

 

Olivia L. Brummett

Rising Senior at The New School – B.F.A. Writing 

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Having Your Novel Published

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Image Credit: http://nerdist.com/inkshares-nerdist-novel-contest-published-sci-fi-fantasy-enter/

Image Credit: http://nerdist.com/inkshares-nerdist-novel-contest-published-sci-fi-fantasy-enter/

This blog post is for people who want to get published in some way. If you’re looking to get in print, be warned: it will be hard, it will be more commercial-based than your average undergrad creative writing course, and you will probably have to spend some money.

I got lucky and Lorrie Moore taught my creative writing class last semester, so I shall pass along some of her advice.

Don’t just send your manuscript to random publishing houses. It’s the same principle as sending your own mixtape to a record label—there are people specifically hired to go out and find new writers (or new music), and they are not sifting through pounds of unsolicited novels. If you’re determined to get this specific novel published, start small. Pick a little publisher who is not daily inundated with other peoples’ manuscripts. Send your writing to literary agents, who will in turn talk to publishers.

Send an excerpt to a magazine. Publishing houses don’t solicit books; magazines do solicit short stories. Some have short story contests alongside their regular content, some are devoted to short stories, and some love brilliant excerpts from larger pieces. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The Paris Review are mainstays. Esquire and GQ occasionally run contests. Explore magazines that are more specific to your subject and style: McSweeney’s is known for its humor, Seventeen caters to the “young adult women” genre (and they run a yearly short story contest), Asimov’s Science Fiction is devoted, naturally, to science fiction. If these all feel a little too mainstream, hit up any number of college reviews. Kenyon Review and Five Points are the most acclaimed.

Better yet, write a new short story and submit it. It’s hard to justify an excerpt of a larger work over a completed, within word count restraints, short story. Stretch those writing muscles. Word limits vary from magazine to magazine. Try to keep your story under 3,000. As a warning, submitting for contests and sometimes for general content often involves a submission fee. Don’t back out of an opportunity just because it will cost you, but know that it will cost you.

Publish online. If you’re not into the whole printing press, you do have an entire internet at your disposal: wordpress, tumblr, livejournal, AO3, etc: not just for social media. You can also set up your own page quick and simple using Google Page Creator. But if you’re serious about your writing—serious enough to put it on the internet, which is just a giant audience of Anon—it’s worth putting money on a domain name and a professional design.

Part of the getting published game is just waiting for the right moment, or trusting yourself over the publishers. A nice anecdote about this: a poetry professor once submitted his poem to an anthology; the editors sent it back with an encouraging note and a pageful of edits. He waited a few months, then resubmitted the same poem with a thank you note about the edits. The editors then published it. Trust your instincts. And suck up a little.

Sidebar: But part of the getting published game is about your writing as well.   You’re going to become disillusioned with your own accomplishment. You’re young and inexperienced and these things take time. Have some encouragement from Ira Glass:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me…is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

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Time for Revision

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

Image Credit: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/category/editing-your-novel/page/2/

Image Credit: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/category/editing-your-novel/page/2/

Yay! You’re finished! Congratulations. Pour yourself a nice flute of champagne and relax. You’ve earned it. You just wrote a novel.

If you just wanted to write a novel to write a novel and maybe brag about it to some people, then by all means, get on with it. If you want to share it with some of your closest literary friends or maybe send an excerpt to the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly—still take your time enjoying the champagne. Put the whole thing out of your mind for at least a few days. When you’re still in the mindset of cranking out the words, it’s easy to get attached to passages or characters that actually drag down your writing. After a nice rest, prepare yourself for the revision cave.

 The Writing

Now’s the time to look carefully at your writing, its mechanics and logical constructions. Style has nothing to do with it; it’s strictly a close, word-by-word reading. Check your diction. Do you really need to use “twirl” twice in one short paragraph when you envision two different motions (other words: “swirl,” “spin,” “turn,” “stir”)? Do you really need to use different speech tags (said, shouted, murmured, whispered, accused, countered, replied, yelled, etc) when the characters are having a superficially low-key conversation and everything is actually just “said”? Jeffrey Eugenides raises a similar complaint about Oscar Wilde’s diction in The Picture of Dorian Gray; Wilde doesn’t abuse his thesaurus, he merely dramatizes everything. No one ever just sits, everyone “flings himself down” on something. If Dorian is uncomfortable, he always does things nervously, and when he’s nervous, he always twitches. Pick the right word for the right image.

 The Arc

Go through and, at the end of each chapter or section or what have you, record the characters’ progressions in that section, how it fits into their overall transformations, and major plot developments. If a character regresses at some point, does it make sense? People regress all the time. There’s usually an impetus. You can’t crowd everything under the umbrella of “it’s the character” just because that’s how they were at the start. Even if you’d prefer to keep a character static, make sure the justification comes through. Laying out developments in this outline can also help you pinpoint trouble spots in pacing.

 Excise, Excise, Excise

Just because it’s a novel and you can make it as long as you want doesn’t mean you need to devote lines to everyone’s hair color and outfit or the entire layout of a room. Of course, there will be parts that need more clarification, but for the most part, you can afford to cut out entire paragraphs without confusing anyone. Whatever you leave in has to have a purpose. You don’t necessarily have to follow Chekov’s Rule, but if you’re going to spend the time to note what your characters order from Starbucks, then their orders have to mean something. Hot chocolate? Iced coffee during a Russian winter? Drip coffee instead of a latte? Americano instead of drip coffee? In real life, that doesn’t indicate anything significant, but in a novel, it matters (unless your point is that it doesn’t actually matter, in which case you have more thematic issues to sort anyway). Oh, and that huge existential monologue/soliloquy with some beautifully flowery phrases you wrote in a feverish haze of inspiration can stand to lose half its length. Hemingway says of his writing process, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” We’re not all minimalists like Hemingway, though. Hold onto some of your pretty, introspective bits. The good bits.

 Sidebar:

If you need a break or want to procrastinate even more, spend some time on www.reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com, a snarky passage-by-passage critique of Twilight. It’s an equal opportunity hater with regards to all the things people find wrong with Twilight, so be forewarned…but definitely pay attention to perhaps the most indisputable problem with the series: it’s just not well written. There are periods of rampant thesaurus abuse; there are periods of predictable diction; there are moments when the limited first person is suddenly omniscient; there are illogical sequences of action, in which someone walks away and suddenly reappears to respond to something; there are sloppy (rather than stylistic) comma misuse. (What’s the difference between a sloppy and a stylistic one? In Twilight: “He lay, smiling hugely, across my bed, his hands behind his head, his feet dangling off the end, the picture of ease.” In Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That”: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” Didion said in an interview, “every word and every comma and every absence of a word or comma can change the meaning, make the rhythm, make the difference.” Sometimes you have to earn the right to flaunt grammar. Life’s not all fair.) Forget Bella and Edward’s questionable status as “heroine” and “the best dark brooding boyfriend ever.” When your words and their order distract a reader from the throwaway details they describe, something is wrong.

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

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Writing a Good Ending

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

Image Credit: http://jasonfischer.com.au/i-finished-my-damn-novel/

Image Credit: http://jasonfischer.com.au/i-finished-my-damn-novel/

So you’re finally at the end. All ready to wrap up these 50,000 words. Feels great, right? You just need to write the ending…which can be tricky. My ghostwriting friend once said, “I actually hate the ending to most books. A lot of them have great last lines, but I’m always underwhelmed.”

When it comes to endings, novels and short stories again can have completely different natures. It’s all right to write your ending first—some of the better stories I’ve written started with the last line. It’s just another matter of getting the characters from the climactic fallout to the last line. It’s also important to know exactly where to start or stop the resolutions. A short story can be an interlude; it can lead right up to a huge battle or a nervous confession, and then end. The momentary crisis has been resolved. Leave the character to confront bigger issues by himself. There will always be people who wish that a story would extend longer than it did—that’s fine. But in a novel, which is all about life changes, there needs to be some indication that life has changed. Resolution is key.

At the same time, “resolution” and “open-ended” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Open endings are great, and often more realistic. It’s rare to find people who’ve completely closed off parts of their lives. (For example, people always complain that the “real” world is just like high school, and it’s true: people tend to get stuck on high school resentments, and, no matter what, they’ll always keep tabs on a few classmates and laugh when someone ends up getting fat.) Bret Easton Ellis never indicates whether any of the events in American Psycho or Rules of Attraction actually happened; the truth is left ambiguous, the mad characters’ fates hanging uncertainly after the fallout. Of course, that’s the entire point that Ellis is trying to make in his novels, so it works.

Whether you choose to end ambiguously or more resolutely, consider your novel’s themes again. How does your ending cap off the larger questions in your conflicts? Is total, unabated personal freedom worth the societal breakdowns that might happen? Is it right in theory, only just for certain people (and more on the nose, maybe it’s not right for the character you killed off fifty pages earlier)? Does the vapid, soul-sucking glamour of the famous and rich inevitably destroy morality and meaning in life?

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s also the danger of overwriting your ending. To draw on a movie, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King essentially has three endings: Frodo waking up in Rivendell and reuniting with the Fellowship, Aragorn’s coronation and wedding in Gondor, and the elves’ (and Frodo’s and Gimli’s) final departure from Middle Earth. This isn’t to say that these resolutions aren’t necessary. It’s just that the end of Frodo’s mission, Aragorn’s reinstatement as an honorable king of Men, and the conclusion to the elves’ saga in Middle Earth are all treated separately (and all three end on those long fade-to-white shots that clearly should fade into credits). Consolidate your resolutions, but do it thoroughly.

Sidebar: The greatest advice I’ve ever gotten is from Susanna Moore, who once said of my short story ending, “It’s a little too squishy. Too much.” She uses “squishy” in her criticism, which can stand for triteness, overly sentimental passages, sentences that sound nice but don’t indicate anything…and endings are especially vulnerable to squishiness. Novel endings are not huge dramatic banners. Don’t overshadow your climax.

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

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Spice Up Your Plot

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Image Credit: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/outdoor/guides/2010/05/guide-to-insurance-for-adventure-travel

Image Credit: http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/outdoor/guides/2010/05/guide-to-insurance-for-adventure-travel

Sometimes life goes according to plan and everything is awesome and your vague (or incredibly detailed) plot outline pulls together perfectly after months or years of staring at a screen muttering, “I know where they need to go, I just need to get them there.”

Sometimes you finally hit the climax of your novel and it feels very anticlimactic. You’ve written the final reveal — a shootout, a betrayal, a Dave Caruso-esque realization — but it doesn’t feel big. The stakes just aren’t high enough.

Well, before you jump that shark, let the novel sit. You’ve been thinking about it for a while, off-and-on since you started writing. Of course, you know what’s going to happen — you’ve probably also considered several other ways it could go, which can lessen the importance of whatever line you picked. Walk away for a little while. Don’t think about it at all for a bit — a day, a week, until finals are over… Then reread it from the start. This is a novel, not a TV show or movie. The place for small, understated stories is much larger in print than it is on a screen. Don’t amp it up just because a main character always gets shot in the third season of any crime show ever and what could top potentially fatal gunshot wounds? (The answer is a lot. Funerals and weddings, for example.)

At the same time, if you do feel that your stakes need a boost, here are a few things you can add:

  • Kill Off a Character – it doesn’t have to be a drawn-out emotionally fraught death. It can even happen off-page. The aftermath is what’s important. Just keep in mind that deaths have a ripple effect, and every remaining character is going to be affected beyond the climax. Pick a character whose personality logically fits dying in whatever manner you choose. Go back and scatter foreshadowing through the rising action.
  • Throw in a Pregnancy – nothing upends a tense wedding scene/tentative reunion like a nice illicit pregnancy. Pregnant news affects people differently, and, of course, there’s an entire undercurrent of whatever character histories are at play, which can add a layer to the events, such as resentment, concern, anger, angst, etc.
  • Make It A Family Betrayal – if your protagonist is on the verge of solving a mystery (spy, murder, theft, drug cartels, etc), and someone tips off the opposition, add a little family drama. It can be completely blindsiding (and devastating) or somewhat expected (bad family relationships are mines for exposing character flaws). This also makes everything more personal, which is great for adding personal desire vs common desire conflicts.
  • Put a Bomb Under the Table – Alfred Hitchcock used this example to champion suspense over surprise. Say two people are having breakfast, and suddenly, a bomb explodes under the table. The reader is surprised for about fifteen seconds. Now say that a saboteur has planted the bomb under the table, and these two people unwittingly sit down to breakfast. The bomb will go off — oh, it will — but now the reader knows it’s there, and the breakfasters do not. There’s an extra investment of when will it go off and will important things get resolved before it goes off. Clue your readers in before you do the same for your characters. Introduce the danger and risks covertly. The issue with this suspense trick is that it only raises stakes for the reader. The unsuspecting people involved don’t know any better (this is why many pre-World War II stories are both amusing and dully formulaic).

Sidebar:

Of course, these apply to broad, more commercial plots. Your particular novel might not be able to incorporate any of these. In that case, there’s always the option to end the world and then take some characters through the ensuing zombie apocalypse. If you’re feeling particularly uninspired, read some more books and take a crisis from one of them. Or several. Good writers borrow, great writers steal, and so on.

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

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Hitting the Plateau

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Image Credit: http://araugustyn.com/overcoming-writers-block/

Image Credit: http://araugustyn.com/overcoming-writers-block/

For the first few days or weeks, your novel will seem easy. You’ve settled into a style, you’re inspired by everything around you, you’re writing your favorite chunks of the plot. But then disaster will strike. You know that you have to link two sections of your novel, but the effort of thinking about it, much less sitting down to write it, is too much. Plus, every time you sit down to write, you can’t get into the rhythm of your style, and everything you produce feels trite and insufficient. It will not be fun.

At this point, many people give up on their novels (see myunfinishednovel.com). It just happens. And maybe most tellingly, you won’t think about your characters or your plot for days; you won’t notice small details in your everyday life and remember them for later. You will hit a writer’s block.

This is fine. It happens. If you’ve completely stopped caring about your seedling novel, then maybe it’s time to let it go. People do “outgrow” the stories that they once wanted to tell. But if you still like what you’ve written so far and you’re still (even abstractly) interested in seeing your characters through, then here are a few tips to get through the hard times:

Keep a notebook and pen/pencil with you always. You’ll have experienced by now the difference between composing paragraphs in your head and transposing them onto paper. A brilliant subway train of thought always deteriorates by the time you get to your stop. I know that you spent over half your life on a computer. You’ve been allowed to take notes on a laptop since the start of freshman year. But look: don’t underestimate the power of writing things down.

Make playlists. Follow the tradition of vampire/supernatural novelists (Stephanie Meyer and Kim Harrison do it) and several pop-y TV writers (The OC did this too): make character-specific playlists. It’s like making a playlist for finals. It’s a fun way to procrastinate, and thinking about specific songs also forces you to think about the specific character and how much certain songs fit into their lives. You can also make plot-specific playlists, or if you want to get super specific, cross reference the two and make a really comprehensive series of playlists for every character in every scene. Having a standard set of associations with your novel will also help you get into the same mood every time you prepare to really write.

Write. Write more. Joyce Carol Oates writes for about eight hours a day. Ray Bradbury tries to finish one short story a day. Ask any writer, fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or historical: the only way out is to keep writing. Whether you use any of the material you write during your dry spell is irrelevant. Take fifteen minutes at the beginning of everyday and just free write—don’t worry about the topic or spelling or punctuation. Write your bridge chapter badly, changing it every day until you can move on to the next bit. Write in the present. Write in the future. You know. Stick with it and all that.

Sidebar:

Casting your novel

A friend of mine is ghost-writing a creative non-fiction book about her boss’s grandmother. She finds it easier to work when she can look at the grandmother’s photo; she imagines the woman in the photo living her life and narrates that. I’ve celebrity cast my novel (Josh Jackson and Matthew Goode are in it), and I find that putting the thoughts and actions on a physical body helps me map a logical progression of what happens next. Also, looking up photos and making pretty montages is a great way to procrastinate.

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

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It’s Time To Start Writing

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Image Credit: http://www.professorbeej.com/2010/07/writing-my-novel-keep-on-writing.html

Image Credit: http://www.professorbeej.com/2010/07/writing-my-novel-keep-on-writing.html

So you’ve amassed enough raw ideas and information to start actually writing your novel (or maybe not. You might work better just free-writing and then fact-check-editing all at once. I don’t know your life). The task of sitting down to commit your ideas to paper can be a tough one, I know. It’s like writing a final term paper; you chose your final topic based on your greatest interest (maybe strategically planning to hold off on this topic until the final paper) and it’s actually a fun time doing the prep work—but you still have to write the paper.

At this stage, you should experiment with your writing environment and figure out what works best for what mood. A café might be great for regrouping your thoughts. A silent library might be best for sitting down and grinding out a chapter or two in a few hours. Or perhaps you’ll find that like Virginia Woolf, you work best in your own room. Make a working playlist. Try writing out your initial draft by hand. Maybe borrow a typewriter. Your novel doesn’t have a concrete deadline. Spend a few days just optimizing your productivity.

Places for Writers in New York

Café’s: ‘Snice (45 8th Street), Hungarian Pastry Shop (1030 Amsterdam Avenue), B Cup Café (212 Avenue B), The Tea Lounge (837 Union Street, Brooklyn), Outpost Lounge (where I write, 1014 Fulton Street, Brooklyn)

Workspaces: The Writer’s Studio at the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction (17 E 47th Street, by application and with membership fee), Paragraph (35 W 14th Street, by application and with membership fee), Brooklyn Creative Lounge (540 President Street, Brooklyn, by application ad with membership fee), New York Public Libraries…your…campus libraries?

If you are not terribly distractible when working with other people, it could help to join a writers’ salon so that you can discuss your writing or perhaps motivate yourself to write with other people.

Sidebar: Writing habits or haunts of various authors

Joyce Carol Oates writes in longhand for six to eight hours every day.

Truman Capote wrote while lying down, drinking and smoking cigarettes.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote his novels all on index cards.

Tom Wolfe writes ten pages every day, regardless of how long it takes for him to finish.

Edgar Allan Poe as well as Jonathan Franzen spent some time at The Writer’s Studio at the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction

Joan Didion consistently rewrites her novels from the beginning (or almost beginning) every day.

Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac both wrote in the Village bar, Kettle of Fish

By Robin Yang


Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during last year’s Welcome Week.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Share