Wednesday, November 16, 2011


And sometimes, and it's as true of authors as it is of readers, you have a life. People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well...

And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.
Neil Gaiman, from this post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."

Markus Zusak, quoting Liesel Meminger, in The Book Thief

Saturday, July 9, 2011


“It’s not possible to advise a young writer because every young writer is so different. You might say, “Read,” but a writer can read too much and be paralyzed. Or, “Don’t read, don’t think, just write,” and the result could be a mountain of drivel. If you’re going to be a writer you’ll probably take a lot of wrong turns and then one day just end up writing something you have to write, then getting it better and better just because you want it to be better, and even when you get old and think, “There must be something else people do,” you won’t quite be able to quit.”
— Alice Munro

Friday, June 3, 2011

I wrote a whole book.

The first draft of one, at least.

I'm still surprised, but I do think I've gotten over announcing it to my husband at random intervals.  I think he is pleased by this.

So here's some things  I kind of maybe learned.

1. When someone whose (who's?  whosssssssss?) book you have read and loved says "My first draft is garbage", they are NOT just being humble, or saying things to encourage you.  They are actually telling the truth.  They know that you cannot edit a blank page, so if you don't get it written, you can't get it right.

2.  I, personally, cannot plot ahead of time.  All efforts to do this will make me knit copious quantities of dishcloths, which I then have to hand out to strangers like they're candy.  (the dishcloths, not the strangers.  How could strangers be like candy?  (oh please don't answer that) )

3. It is a bad idea to take an entire week out of your life to go away and write until you know your own writing process.  I am grateful that a good writing friend of mine cautioned me to start with an overnight.  Overnight was just about right, the first few times. 

4.  Figure out your own process.  I spent at least two years insisting on peace and quiet in order to write - I accidentally discovered that that doesn't work for me thusly:

I was at a friend's, just for an overnight, and she and her husband had gone out in order to give me time to write.  I set my laptop up at her kitchen table and ...nothing.  Finally after half an hour of futzing about, I let her two great big golden labs into her small kitchen, and it got a bit chaotic.

And I wrote four pages.

5.  And that goes for plotting, too.  If you can outline your entire book chapter by chapter before you even type the first sentence, more power to you.  (Also - I hate you.  But not personally.  Only professionally.)  (My plot, beforehand, was pretty much a single sentence:  So his dad dies and he has to Step Up.) If you know that George has some thing to do that you have yet to write, and after that, the book is gaping hole of black, by all means, write George.  My book revealed itself to me slowly and the day, four years and change into writing it, that I knew the ending was a big big day indeed.  It was the day I started to believe that the term "Perpetual Novel" was a misnomer. Next time, and that is why I am writing this down, I want to remember that the people I am writing about will let me know when they're done.  (I did know there needed to be a bleakest moment, and I even kind of sort of knew what that looked like, but how they were going to get there?  Not a clue.  And then I wrote it and it wasn't actually that bleak so I had to further enbleaken it.)

6. The part after the first draft?  for someone like me?  ROCKS.  I have been begging someone, anyone, for years, to tell how to do this RIGHT.  Where are the rules? I would moan.  Tell me your process, and I will make it mine.  Give me somewhere to look this up!
This did not work.  Even if I could trick someone into revealing their process, I couldn't make myself be them.
But guess what??!?!? 

Now I get to follow RULES.  People who have written WAY MORE BOOKS than I have are going to look at it and say "I want to know more of what he's feeling here" and I will just ...obey.

To a point. 

Anyway it's more fun than "just write it."

I'm going to go outline it now.  Hee.  I'm going to go look up the plot :) :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Probably this shouldn't crack me up quite as much as it does

From a NY Times article:

"In 1925 Evelyn Waugh burned his unpublished first novel, “The Temple at Thatch,” and attempted to drown himself in the sea after a friend gave it a bad review. (Stung by jellyfish, Waugh soon returned to shore.)"

It's like - "oh wait, maybe I wasn't planning on being quite that MUCH of a drama queen.  And also ouch."

Monday, February 28, 2011


"Every novel is a failure in that you can never achieve what you truly want to achieve. That thing you dreamt on the riverbank is never the thing you achieve when you are back at the writing table, or when the paper is coming out of the printer."

Colum McCann

Monday, February 14, 2011


We can live quiet, apparently sedate lives if we express our wildness by risking and leaping in our writing.

Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, in poemcrazy

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


From an interview with Virginia Euwer Wolff, published in the back of her book, the mozart season :

Q: What's the best piece of advice you have ever received about writing?

A: "When a story is in trouble, you will ALWAYS find the source of the trouble in the point of view."  It was said in a voice and accent from the Deep South of the United States, and I might someday find that it was wrong advice, but so far, it has worked.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Stephen King

Monday, January 17, 2011


I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

William Stafford

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


"If the muse is late for work, start without her."

Peter S. Beagle's Uncle Raphael, the painter.