I’m away through the end of January at a writer’s residency at the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts, where I’ll be hard at work on the Next Novel. During my absence, I decided to repost some old blog favorites about publishing and the creative process. Enjoy!
Of late I’ve been wondering if are there rules for embarking on a new book or creative project—a subject brought to mind after a writer on Facebook mentioned his set of rules. After mulling a bit, I realized that I do have some. Though my rules no doubt differ from others, they’ve proven fairly consistent over the years.
Rule 1: I shouldn’t be bored. I must fall in love with the book completely and desperately. Both of these qualities are essential because I may be spending years living with it. (Though DOOMED QUEENS took me just over a year to create, THE LOVER’S PATH entailed almost a decade of on-and-off work. That’s a hefty chunk of time.)
Rule 2: The process of creating the book, or its subject matter, should scare me a little. Or a lot. I look upon the presence of fear as a sign that I’m growing as an artist. Sometimes my fear may be in an “oh my god this project is going to challenge me. I’m not sure if my skills are up to it.” (I definitely felt this way when I began writing A GATHERING OF SHADOWS. Thank goodness for National Novel Writing Month, which pushed me beyond my initial “I don’t know how to write a novel” resistance.) Or my fear might be due to the subject matter. For example, when I first thought of the concept for DOOMED QUEENS, it scared me to death: a humorous book about how royal women were disempowered throughout history? Who would want to read this? Would people be offended? Fortunately, my literary agent pushed me to embrace the darkness amid the light. Voila, DOOMED QUEENS was born and went on to became one of my most critically praised books.
Rule 3: Finally, I need to have fun while working. If a project isn’t fun, what’s the point?
So, my creative rules for choosing to work on a book come down to:
- no boredom
- embrace the fear
- have fun
That’s my formula. However, I haven’t included my biggest rule of all: to produce the best publication I possibly can, using all of the artistic knowledge and skills I possess.
What about you? Do you have any rules for choosing your creative projects?
Above photograph: Craft project by Thea for her clubhouse.
Have I mentioned I’m giving an author reading at the Cortelyou Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library next Saturday, April 13 at 3pm? Well, I am. I’ll be talking about the publishing process (minus tears) and reading from DOOMED QUEENS and THE LILY MAID. If I feel bold, I might even include a peak at my new novel underway, a gothic-inspired concoction set in 1850s England and France.
Here are the details:
1305 Cortelyou Rd. at Argyle Rd.
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Subway: Q train to Cortelyou Road
This event is sponsored by Friends of Cortelyou Library. Hope to see you there!
Above photo: Daffodil Hill in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens this spring.
This arrived in the post yesterday—so much fun to see! Rights have also been sold in other countries, but so far, only the Chinese edition has shown up. I’m pleased that it’s a lovely hard cover, so now I have DOOMED QUEENS in both soft cover as well as hard. I was surprised by the cover—I had no idea what the publisher had planned. Though it looks very different from the original edition, but I’m glad they featured Jane Grey, my favorite Doomed Queen.
I’m so very close to finishing up this DOOMED QUEENS follow up princess proposal that it’s frustrating — hopefully today! It’s been an amazing amount of work, ut as soon as I think “that’s it!” I find another way to improve it. And I’m the sort of person who can’t let go of a project unless I feel that I’ve done everything I can on it. It’s a blessing and a curse.
In the midst of this, mucho activity is going on at the gallery. The big news is that our current exhibit, On the Road of Bones: Ghosts of the Siberian Gulag Along the Old Kolyma Highway is closing tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us for a last look at this stunning exhibit! The curator will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the coldest place on earth. We’ll also have refreshments. Here are the details:
Saturday, March 5th, 1 – 4 pm
CLOSING RECEPTION: ON THE ROAD OF BONES
Children welcome. Free admission.
About this exhibit: Through photography and mixed media, this exhibition reveals the secret history and natural beauty of Kolyma, formerly the land of Soviet labor camps and the coldest inhabited region in the world. Stunning new works by young native Siberian photographers Bolot Bochkarev, Nastya Borisova, and Ajar Varlamov trace the remains of the vast highway built across the taiga, tundra, and permafrost of North Asia by Stalin’s prisoners. “On the Road of Bones” juxtaposes the events of the hidden past with the power of the frozen landscape and the contemporary lives of people in the far north. Learn more at OntheRoadofBones.com.
This event takes place at:
Kris Waldherr Art and Words studio-gallery
1501 Newkirk Avenue (entrance on Marlborough Road, across from Rite Aid)
Our next exhibit opens the following Saturday! Here’s the poster for it:
More information to come very very soon—as soon as I get this long-aborning proposal off my desk!