Uncategorized

Safe Distance

[Usually I write about writing. But what is writing about if not life? This post is a window into mine. Don’t look too hard for the writing wisdom here. Sometimes the story is enough.] Like so many others, we couldn’t turn away. At first we eyed it with simple curiosity, my 18-year-old son and I – the fire teasing above the horizon, peering down the foothills at the houses below. But then the wind picked up the fire dripped down the mountainside like angry red tears and the curiosity fell away, replaced by unvoiced fear. We had been watching from…

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Editing, Snark Alert

What To Do When You Get Your Editorial Memo

Ping. An email just arrived. The one you’ve been waiting for. The one you’ve been dreading. The subject line is three words long. Your editorial memo! The exclamation mark almost makes those words seem benign. Cute, even. But you know what the words are hiding. Red ink. Six weeks ago you sent your finished manuscript (the seventh draft, if you don’t count the first five) to your editor. And now it’s back. With notes. Comments. Suggestions. Demands. What’s a writer to do? Here. I’ll help. Step 1: Stare at the email without opening it for at least 10 minutes or…

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The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life, Top Posts

Go Away Publishing Industry. I’m Writing.

It’s entirely possible that what you know about the publishing industry is killing your chances of being published. I’m not referring to perky and/or snarky agents* who tease you forward with a one-in-a-thousand opportunity they call “querying,” or clueless editors* who wouldn’t know brilliant literature if it bit them in the Franzen. I’m not talking about the endless hoops writers have to jump through whether chasing the graying hope of traditional publishing success or the shiny silver promise of self-published glory. I’m not talking about the dearth of bookstores or the preponderance of ebooks or the utter unpredictability of bestsellers.…

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Editing, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing tips

Listen Carefully, Your Manuscript Stinks

Your manuscript doesn’t speak English. (Or American. Or Australian. Or Esperanto. Or whatever you call your native tongue.) It speaks Manuscript. This is why all the threats you sling at it in your native tongue go unheeded. (Well, that, and the fact that it doesn’t like being threatened. It can read your tone even if it doesn’t understand your words.) And while yelling at your manuscript may help release existential angst (Cue “Shout” by Tears for Fears), increased volume still doesn’t result in increased comprehension. When you’re having a novel crisis, it could be simply because your novel is truly…

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The Writer's Life, Writing tips

The Shiver

It goes by many names. The Tingle. The Aha. The Wow. I call it The Shiver. It’s that moment when you know you’ve written something good; something worthy of sharing. The words themselves aren’t anything special. They’re common words, words you’ve used before. But this time it’s different. The words…they…you have no words to describe it. They. Just. Work. For half a second you wonder if you actually wrote them. Are there writing elves? No, it was you. Surely not the you who labors over every sentence and struggles to put a thousand words on the page. Could it be…

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My Thoughts, The Writer's Life

The Other Authors

Writing is a lonely business. This does not come as a surprise to you. Whether you write in the midnight quiet of a room lit only by the glow of your laptop, or in a crowded coffee shop exploding with sound and color and scent, you do it alone. No one shares your headspace when you’re trying to choreograph the tapping of fingers on keyboard with the spin and leap of ideas. A writer, while writing, dances alone. There is exhilaration and debilitation in this truth. That a man, woman or child can organize words gathered from a thousand places into a…

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The Writer's Life, Writing tips

When Real Life Gets in the Way of Good Writing

You’ve heard it said, “write what you know.” In the past, I’ve suggested a variation of that, “write who you are.” However you say it, I think we can all agree that fiction resonates best when it comes from a place of truth – a place we understand because we’ve lived it in some measure. But our real life experiences aren’t always a boon to our writing. Sometimes they get in the way. Here’s how: “But That’s How It Really Happened” – I hear this a lot from writers. They offer it in response to my editorial notes explaining why a…

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