The Blue House garden last week. (Spring? What’s that?)
It’s been a busy time here at Chez Art and Words—I’m knee-deep in revisions on the Next Novel and other projects, and there have been big but good changes afoot, and my daughter turned ten—ten!—years old, and we had visitors and so on and so forth. Anyway, I was tagged by my writer friend Ellen Seltz to list seven things about myself as a writer. Took me a while to get to it, but here goes:
1. Both of my novels were inspired by dreams.
2. The title of the Next Novel came to me in a dream. (I’m not ready to reveal it yet, but I’m besotted with this title.)
3. Per #1 and #2: Whenever I get stuck writing, I believe in the power of sleep to unstick things, especially a twenty minute power nap. Ditto for long walks and baths—anything that puts me into a creative ”flow” state.
4. I’m a creature of routine. My writing prefers consistency over quantity. Meaning that words flow better when I write every day—preferably first thing in the morning, and in the same place. Daily practice, if you will.
5. I find first drafting painful. I love love love revising once I have a draft—that’s where the fun stuff happens. And I revise a lot—one scene in A GATHERING OF SHADOWS must have been revised nearly a hundred times before it found its final place in the novel.
6. I also reread what I’ve written a lot when I’m revising. I’m like a detective trying to suss out the hidden stuff my subconscious has left for me to find.
7. I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice. It rocks.
What about you? If you’re a writer, what seven things make you unique? Feel free to post them on your blog and share the link in the comments—I’d love to know.
Recently photographed on the Q train heading to Brooklyn. The horizon includes a hint of the new Freedom Tower.
The view from my house these days. Pretty but cold!
Snippet Sunday is a monthly meme organized by Stephanie Dray in which historical authors post six sentence snippets of their novels (and sometimes a little more). For the sake of organization, I’ve decided to post mine on the first Sunday of the month. You can read my previous snippets here.
February’s snippet is from the Next Novel, which I’m now editing in earnest (see above photo!). The Next Novel is set in 1851 England; this post offers more details. This particular excerpt occurs in the first chaper.
“A man was looking for you.” Those six words superseded Robert’s worries about his wife, and everything else weighing his mind. His employer must be mistaken—not even John, his only brother, knew he’d returned to London.
Robert was troubled enough that he detoured along Oxford Street to soothe himself. Even on a cold February day, Oxford Street offered the distraction of shop-lined pavements crowded with silk-clad pedestrians. Such was the affect of Robert’s step—he dragged his left leg slightly to compensate for the trunk containing his camera—that some paused in his wake, their top-hatted heads swerving in his direction, the bonneted ladies hanging off their arms whispering into their buff-colored gloves. Even they, strangers to Robert in every sense of the word, knew there was something about him.
Above: a few of the resources on my bookshelf.
I’m knee-deep in revising my first draft of the Next Novel, which is at the point where I’m starting to share chapters with beta readers. (Hooray? Yikes?) While I’ve been in the midst of this, someone asked me to recommend resources for someone who wants to write a novel, but doesn’t know to begin. Which is a great question—hence, this blog post.
My first answer was obvious: National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. After all, if it wasn’t for the miracle that is NaNoWriMo, I seriously doubt I would have jumped off the high board into the manuscript that became A Gathering of Shadows. Beyond this, I was surprised to find myself flummoxed for answers. I mean, I have my favorite books on the craft, but I’ve been writing for as long I could set words to paper. Some of my earliest memories are taking out “how to get published books” from the adult section of my local library while my mother assured the librarian, that yes, I could read them, please let the kid borrow them already.
So, if in doubt, crowdsource! What follows is an edited list of books and other advice generously shared by writers who know their stuff.
Anca Szilagyi: ”Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. One is all about close reading fiction, and reading for courage to do your own writing. The other encourages writing in a more general/zen sense and has a “keep going” shtick that is helpful.”
Shelley Schanfield: ”A good craft book that has lots of practical instruction on character development and story arc is Janet Burroway Writing Fiction.”
Ellen Seltz: ”The Snowflake Method. Even if you don’t wind up using it exactly, it helps to have concrete tasks to keep the manuscript moving forward, so you don’t get so abstract and woo-woo that nothing gets accomplished. It’s a good tool. If you don’t already have a process, it’s a starting point to help you build one.”
Susanne Dunlap: ”I like Story by Robert McKee. And I love Janet Burroway’s book as well.”
Diane Brandt Wilkes: ”Here are the ones that help/ed me the most, in no real order. These are off the top of the head of someone who would much rather read books about writing than actually write.
”Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
If You Want to Write by Brenda Euland
Writing the Novel by Lawrence Block
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner (My favorite.)
The Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand (She helped me finally understand what plot meant.)
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Becoming a Writer by Dorothy Brande
Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See
Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block (He’s the best at the nitty gritty.)”
Melinda Belle Harrison: “For genre fiction, I recommend The Marshall Plan Workbook : Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish. If more beginning writers used it, they would leap years ahead in work.”
Melodie Rose Winawer: ”The Business of Writing, edited by Jennifer Lyons. Given to me as a gift by my editor. Great stuff.”
Libby Sternberg: “I recommend joining Romance Writers of America and one of their chapters, even if you don’t write romance. The romance community is the most supportive and encouraging writing community I’ve encountered, willing to share information and cheer you on. And some chapters — such as New Jersey’s — have terrific conferences.”
Claude Rothman: ”There are four books I consult permanently: How Fiction Works by James Wood, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston. The last one includes very smart exercises for the creative writers to which I come back when I have a problem.”
Stephanie Renee Dos Santos: “The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, Stein on Writing & How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein, The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long, and Between the Lines by Jessica Morrell.”
I hope this list helps and inspires! And many thanks to all who shared their wisdom.