This post is a version of the dog ate my homework, or why I haven’t posted anything for two months. Around that time I posted my intention to do a one line writing practice every day, inspired by an article about a NY Times videographer. It was going to be a little side project, an exploration, while I did my real writing and work–this blog, two manuscripts I’m in the midst of, and some editing and consulting. Well, life intervened in the form of a medical crisis (I’m on the mend) and a hugely disruptive leak that forced me to move out of my condo for a period of time only days after surgery (I’m still not home).
And practically the only writing I’ve managed to do is those one-liners, recorded in the “notes” section of my phone. And, at the end of the year, I’ll have an archive of a kind I’ve never had before.
Being on the mend, I’m turning my thoughts to other projects. I’ve found a few interesting articles to post about. Watch for those in the coming days.
And I’m working on a workshop I’ll be teaching coming up next month (April 17th) for six weeks at Book Passages in Corte Madera, CA (for those of you who might be in Northern California). Here’s the link: Workshop information.
There’s very little I love more in the world that talking with writers about what they’re doing, sharing techniques, giving feedback, helping them shape their work. This workshop will be a chance to do it in a small group. There will be assignments designed to help you dig deeper; feedback on your work in progress; and fun!
Write on, through thick and thin. Don’t think about it too much. Just sit down and do it. That’s my instruction to myself for this week.
I found this post on a Facebook Page, Writers on Writing. Here’s the link: Jennifergaram keep on writing. I love this post. Keep on writing because it feels better than not writing (even if you’re rejected, even if hardly anyone reads your post or article or book). Because you have something to say. Because you want to tell a story.
Reach out and touch someone used to be a slogan–maybe for long distance telephone calls (back in the dark ages before cell phones) or maybe for a greeting card company. The thing is, when we write and submit for publication and even publish, we are reaching out. And as Garam writes, we never know when what we write will touch someone.
Metrics and money seem to me not to be good ways to measure our success as writers. Okay, I don’t mean to be disingenuous and I’m not a fresh-eyed young artist who thinks money isn’t important. Quite the opposite. Many years ago, when I was a new mother, with a full-time job, and trying to write and submit poetry and have a life, something had to go. It was poetry because poetry didn’t earn money to support my family, and it took away from the little free time I had to spend with my family. So money was my metric.
Now I’m looking for a different one. I don’t have one. I’m looking for one. And I’m looking to connect with my writing–to find out what I think about growing older, living in this increasingly complex world, tell a story to entertain myself.
Why do you write?
One of my favorites is The Book Designer, started by Joel Friedlander, a San Francisco Bay area publishing fixture. This site, with its newsletter and monthly magazine “Carnival of Indies” really does have something for everyone. Independent (self) publishing has come a long way in the last decade. The Book Designer has kept up with the times. You’ll find articles for newbies, writing tips, and in-depth how-tos for typesetting and cover making and e-book conversion. Check it out here.
If ever I was stumped or had a specific question, especially about book production or design, about new software resources, I’d start here.
I’d never heard of George Saunders until he published Tenth of December a few years back. I daresay many people hadn’t, even though it was by no means his first book, nor even his first prizewinning book. Saunders has been a writer for a long time. He is not one of those “overnight sensations,” who are most often no such thing. What he is is a writer who’s stuck to it and who had some good teachers. In a recent piece in the New Yorker he wrote about those teachers. You can read the article here.
Hope you like it!
This article about when do you need an agent describes one writer’s journey to agent and published book, in a pretty traditional trajectory through an MFA writing program and beyond. It’s a great description of that, but not exactly a how to. You most likely need an agent if you’re trying to traditionally publish a novel with a traditional publishing house, or most anything with one of the so-called Big Five. Obviously you don’t need an agent if you’re going to independently publish. Then you need an editor, a cover designer, maybe a consultant to walk you through your various options.
If you decide you want to look for an agent, the best things to do are described in the first paragraph of this article. Network, check out the acknowledgments in your favorite books, research on the internet.
My last little piece of advice here is to follow each agent’s submission guides (almost always available on their websites) to the T. Do not send them anything more than they ask for, or anything less. Rewrite your pitch until it’s razor sharp. Tell them who you are, what you want to write, and what you’re doing to get that writing out into the world. All in the briefest most direct way possible.
Research your options as you write your book. Write on!
I once had a colleague who loudly opined that free advice is worth what you pay for it, a curmudgeonly attitude even in those pre-internet days. But who can put a value on what spurs you to write what you’ve always wanted to write? And who can put a value on your writing?
The tips in this article may come under the category of free advice. But they’re good and sold. Check it out. You may or may not be motivated by writing for yourself as opposed to others. You may or may not have the inclination and wherewithal to attend a writers’ conference and look for an agent. Read it once, maybe twice, then go to your computer or pick up a pen and just do it.
Take what you can use and leave the rest. Write on!
What can I add? is this a cautionary tale? An inspiration? If I had a dollar (or even a nickel) for every time somebody has told me in the last forty years that if I wrote a little bit everyday on a project I would have a finished manuscripts. I’ve never exactly been able to follow this advice, at least consistently. That said, I have written everyday and finished manuscripts. And it’s advice I give and endorse.
And while not everyone who wants to write is going to go to graduate school, we can all find someone–a consultant, an editor, a writing group–to give feedback. Maybe tell us where they get kicked out of our stories. Or who, that is which characters, they might want to hear more from or about. Or another book to read to inspire us through the slog.
What can I add? Write, write, write.
For many years a poster hung on my office wall, a quote attributed to Emily Dickinson. “This then is a book, and there are more of them.” For me that pretty much summed it up–books, books to read, books to write, books to edit. A life of books. It’s what I dreamed of as a child, sitting in the apple tree with Tom Sawyer, or buried under the covers with Jane Eyre. I have been fortunate to have edited so many books I’ve lost count. To have read a great number of books. To have written a few. To have been present at the birth of many. The books in the header picture are from one of the bookshelves in my dining room. (I have them in pretty much every room in my house.) These are beloved, and some quite dogeared, poetry books.
Photograph by Evelyn Brokering