The Purge! (or, Getting that first draft out of your system)

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ernest Hemingway famously said all first drafts are garbage, except he used a way more *effluent* term instead of garbage. This is something that I’ve, at various times, thought was completely true, completely false, and now believe is somewhere in the middle. First drafts are your best effort at the time, and I hate to say anyone’s best effort at the time is no good. I’ve also read lots of…

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The autodidact’s reading list

Thursday, February 11, 2021

I’ve written previously about how I have an MBA, not an MFA. And how that didn’t work out so great for me. So when I was unemployed and stuck in a tiny apartment while raising a newborn baby, it wasn’t a great time to contemplate going back to school for yet another masters degree. Plus, I reasoned, I’d always been told I was a great writer. How hard could it…

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I left my heart in Corpus Christi

Thursday, January 14, 2021

My fellow Debs and I are blogging this week about our favorite types of scenes to write, and it made me think of something George Saunders said once about how you should always write into your strengths. Saunders claims he’s not great at plot (methinks he’s being a touch humble), and so when he writes, he emphasizes his characters, or setting, or whatever, in order to make up for the…

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The Jackhammer in the Basement: On writing (or not writing) through distractions

Thursday, October 29, 2020

“It’s a black fly in your chardonnay. It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late.” Alanis Morissette was kind enough to give us many definitions of irony in 1995, and to those I would like to add, “It’s a jackhammer in your basement when you’re trying to write a blog post about writing through distractions.” We’re getting our house earthquake-retrofitted — a project that was initially supposed to take…

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World Building in the Real World

Thursday, October 8, 2020

When writers talk about “world building” they mean more than just setting. Setting is where a story takes place. But a fictional world is setting, history, the special rules of that particular place, the people who inhabit that world, as well as the general tone or atmosphere that sort of floats over every page. The setting of the Harry Potter books is England, but in order to build her fictional…

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Abandon your darlings

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Imagine, if you will, the author in her very early twenties. She’s two months out from her college graduation, completing her second or third week as a real journalist at a real newspaper. She’s wearing a suit that’s far too fancy for the newsroom around her, but that’s just because she only owns the one right now. She’s so new she hasn’t been out shopping for business casual clothes yet….

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So Much to Be Grateful For (And Yet…)

Friday, November 29, 2019

“You have a book coming out. Aren’t you excited!” “Excited” is not the word that I or anyone around me would use. A chicken running around without her head, is more like it. Others wouldn’t be so kind. But the run-up to a book can be very fraught. You have to get blurbs, those advanced praise quotes you see on the back of books and on websites like Amazon and…

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My Book Pitch Letter

Friday, November 15, 2019

We can discuss pitching and pitch letters till the sky turns green, but what would probably be more helpful is if I show you my book pitch. Unlike fiction and possibly memoir (the debate is out there on memoir) non-fiction, which needs a lot of research to complete the book, is sold on proposal. (I’ll talk proposals another time). But you still need a pitch letter. So here’s mine. Dear…

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What is Scarier than Empty Space?

Friday, November 1, 2019

Well, I’m glad Halloween is over. Now it’s time for more prosaic fears. Myself. Yup, it’s that time of year again, when my book edits were submitted (“This is the last time you can make substantive changes,” GULP) and I am in that twiddling thumb space. I’ve been in this space before — the first time I handed in my draft in June — but after that I collapsed. I…

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Funny Thing About Working with an Editor

Friday, October 25, 2019

Maybe you don’t know this about me yet, but I’m a big procrastinator. I mean BIG. So when I ship my book/story/article off to an editor, I’m like whew. I’m not fretting about what they’ll say, worrying if it’s good enough, or how to make it better, I’m just done.  Like, it’s not my problem anymore. (It is though, but not at that very moment.) I felt the same way…

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