The Other Movember

Moustaches be damned – here at n/n, November can only mean National Novel Writing Month. “International” may be more appropriate, since 400,000 writers from 200 countries are expected to participate. Those signing up tackle the Herculean challenge of drafting a 50,000-word novel before midnight on November 30, for (pretty much) nothing but the sense of achievement. More details at

By way of encouragement to all taking part, here’s some sage advice from W. Somerset Maugham:

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

If you’ll permit us to interpret, we believe the British great means that when it comes to writing, there are no universal formulas – and no shortcuts. Novels are born of determination, elbow grease and sheer love of the written word. We like to think we bring these things to our writing projects, and to all those putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, whether for the first or the thousandth time — we salute you.



Quality Control

Looks like the news world may have a new editor-in-chief — Facebook. The social media giant now drives up to 20 percent of the traffic to news sites globally via its News Feed feature, which uses complex algorithms to recommend stories that may appeal to a user. All this from an insightful (and sometimes harrowing) article by the New York Times

At New Narrative we have the utmost respect for Facebook’s technical prowess, but think this does raise some troubling questions. At its best, the news, like all good stories, should not only inform, but broaden one’s outlook, encourage dialogue and, yes, provoke debate. It’s less likely to do that if it’s expertly curated to appeal to consumers’ already entrenched preferences.


After a (new) beginning

If you’re a frequent visitor, you may have noticed a few changes around here. We’ve given our website an overhaul that we think reflects some of the recent growth of this young enterprise, and hope that you enjoy the new look as much as we do. Expect a return to more regular posting on this blog, which will weigh in regularly on the joys (and sorrows) of writing, creation, communication and other worthwhile causes. We of course welcome comments and contributions — hey, even crushing rebuttals.

You’re likely to see the ‘brand journalism’ term thrown around now and then. Ordinarily at n/n we’re no fans of jargon, but here’s a brief primer on why we’re willing to make an exception in this case: Our friends at the Financial Times have also produced an interesting take on the phenomenon — it’s a tad on the cynical side, but as former hacks ourselves, we found ourselves frequently nodding in agreement:

Before the Beginning

Here’s a bit of sage advice from a literary giant on the importance of knowing what you want to write before you try to write it:Read more

Style: a definition

“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”

—Jules Renard

The Reality Funnel

The incomparable French-Swiss director offers some profound wisdom to those of us who are tempted to squeeze every last bit of research and data into our writing:Read more

A Beating Heart

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”

—William ZinsserRead more

Writers Are Builders

Worried you might fall in love with your own words and lose sight of the plot? Here’s a strong shield to protect yourself against writerly indulgence from one of the all time greats:

“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

– Ernest Hemingway

See the light

Here’s the incomparable Anton Chekhov on that old writerly adage “show don’t tell.”Read more

Inescapable You

What force is most often responsible for ineffectual writing? That’s easy: insecurity. We see this phenomenon with all types of writing, from company marketing materials to research reports to journalism.Read more