Some Tips on Writing for 650
We’re most interested in true personal stories, and 650 is open to anyone with a good tale to tell. A few years ago Hugo Lindgren shared this excellent advice for submitting a “Lives” essay to the New York Times:
• More action, more details, less rumination. Don’t be afraid of implicitness. And the old Thom Yorke line: “Don’t get sentimental. It always ends up drivel.”
• If it reads like it would make for a Hallmark TV episode, don’t submit it.
• Meaning (or humor, or interestingness) is in specific details, not in broad statements.
• Write a piece in which something actually happens, even if it’s something small.
• Don’t try to fit your whole life into one story.
• Don’t try to tell the whole story.
• Do not end with the phrases “Looking back now . . . ” or “I realized that . . . ”
• Tell a small story — an evocative, particular moment.
• Better to start from something very simple that you think is interesting (an incident, a person) and expand upon it, rather than starting from a large idea that you then have to fit into an short essay. For example, start with “the day the Santa Claus in the mall asked me on a date” rather than “the state of affairs that is dating in an older age bracket.”
• Where, exactly, did it start?
• Write past what you think the end of the story is. (Hat tip to Raymond Carver.)
• Do not make it about illness or death, unless that is the story you have to tell.
• Try an Oblique Strategy.
• Go to the outer limit of your comfort zone in revealing something about yourself.
• Embrace your own strangeness.
• If you can’t write it, try telling it.
Oh, and here’s the address for submitting your essay: info@Read650.com
*About the Editorial Committee
Rachel Aydt is a freelance writer/editor who’s worked on staff at various magazines including American Heritage and Cosmopolitan. An Assistant Professor at the New School University since 2002, her features and essays appear in anthologies and publications including Parents, the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Huffington Post, Redbook, and others.
Laura Shaine Cunningham is a “trans genre” author of books, plays and articles, best known for her memoir Sleeping Arrangements and her play, Beautiful Bodies. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Observer and many other publications.
Angela Davis Gardner, professor emerita at North Carolina State University, is a novelist who has won more than thirty awards for her teaching and writing. She has also taught at Meredith College, UNC- Chapel Hill, and Guilford College and has worked as a journalist and editor. Her critically acclaimed novels include “Butterfly’s Child,” “Plum Wine,” and “Felice”.
Joseph Goodrich has worked extensively in the theater as an actor and playwright, and his plays have been produced in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Portland (Maine), New Orleans, Chicago, and at colleges and universities across the country. His work runs the gamut from opera libretti to comic books.
Steven Lewis Is a novelist and a columnist at Talking Writing, Literary Ombudsman for Writers Read, and a member of the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute faculty. A longtime freelancer, his work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, Ploughshares, Spirituality & Health and many others. His new novel, Take This, has just been published by Codhill Press.
David Masello is executive editor of Milieu, a national print magazine about interior design. Previously, he was senior editor at Town & Country magazine and deputy editor of 24thLetter.com, a startup website devoted to international news and culture. In addition to staff positions at Country Living, Art & Antiques, Travel & Leisure, Departures, and Avenue magazines, he was the founding editor in chief of The Out Traveler and was a hardcover nonfiction editor at Simon & Schuster.
Honor Molloy is a playwright and novelist and the author of the autobiographical novel Smarty Girl – Dublin Savage. She wrote the libretto for The Three Christs a music / theatre collaboration with Corey Dargel. Her dramatic work has been produced by New Georges, Clubbed Thumb, the Public Theatre, HERE, Dixon Place, Chicago’s Seanachai Theatre Company, Sydney’s Mardi Gras Arts Festival, and Inishbofin Arts Festival, among others.