How I Learned to Crush My Darlings’ Souls

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

As a reader, I’ve always understood how important it is for the characters in a novel to suffer.  If the main character doesn’t suffer enough, a novel fails to engage me no matter how much I might like the character or the prose.  As I look back at the books I’ve loved at different points in my life — from Little Women to The Lord of the Rings; from Catch-22 to The Remains…


The Lawyer v. The Novelist: The Case for Thinking Like a Lawyer While Writing Your Novel

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Once a lawyer, always a lawyer. That’s what they told me in law school, and what they meant was this: we’re going to teach you to “think like a lawyer,” and you’re going to think that way forever, no matter what you end up doing after you get that degree. Well, after I got that degree, I was a lawyer for a long time, so thinking like a lawyer was…


The Secret of Failure

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This topic — the secrets we’ve kept during the publishing process — has been difficult for me to sort through, because the entirety of my writing life, from the decision to write in the first place to the selling of my book, is something I’ve always been secretive about. When I started writing, I was very tentative.  I wrote one scene, then rewrote it hundreds of times, partly because it…


The Query: Preparation is Ninety Percent, Perspiration is…Also Ninety Percent

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ah, the query.  The most important 500 words you’ll ever write. Oh, man, I wish that were an overstatement.  Here you are, a newly minted novelist, having finally finished your book with all its delicately chosen words and its delicious plotting that unfolds languorously over 350 pages like an origami butterfly, and now you have to turn into a brazen huckster who crams a hard sell into one single-spaced page….


The Room My Father Built

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When I was a little girl, my favorite room in our house was my father’s library.  We lived in a typical 1960s suburban subdivision, where every third house had the same floor plan, but my father had taken our dining room for his own.  He was a lawyer by day, but a craftsman by night, and he lined its walls with shelves that he filled with a literary treasure trove….


In Support of the Low-Residency MFA Program

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

There’s been a fair amount of discussion on the Ball this week about MFA programs, and we Debs represent a diversity of experience on that score. Of course, the way each writer refines her craft reflects her own academic, financial, personal, and life considerations, and I think one of the virtues of a blog like this, with five different voices (plus commenters!), is that it gives readers a breadth of…


A Multitasker in All But This

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Recently Stephen King wrote an essay for The New York Times in defense of prolific writers.  For every Barbara Cartwright, whose 700 books argue that quantity is inversely related to quality, he cited an Agatha Christe (91 books) and an Isaac Asimov (500+) whose body of work begs to differ.  Some writers, he explained, simply have so many stories in their heads that they can’t help writing a lot of books….