Thursday, February 22, 2007

100 words for snow?

It's debatable whether the Eskimoes have 100 words for snow. Doesn't matter. Today we have blotla, which is blowing snow and tlapa, which is powder snow.

This shows the view outside the condo.

I love snow.

Here's the beginning of a poem by one of my favorite poets, Diane Di Prima (a podcast of her on my show is at

"First Snow, Kerhonkson" - for Alan

This, then, is the gift the world has given me
(you have given me)
softly the snow
cupped in the hollows.....

(You can find her poem in its entirety here: Just scan down a bit.)

I do love snow.

We are going out
into the snow
Make a new memory
with snow.

Trav and me...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On vacation, you do little revising

Here's what I saw this morning at sunrise from my window.
We're at Mammoth Lakes with our inlaws (at their condo) and while my manuscript is here with me, I've done little with it other than think about it. How can you work when there is so much snow around you, calling you to go out into it? There is sledding, for one. And when you have a snowboarding boy who wants nothing more than to get up in the morning and go directly to the mountain, how can you say, "No. I have to work." You can't.

Although this morning, at--gulp--7:30, he went off with the inlaws to the mountain. I stayed behind at the condo, making a bean soup and doing some minor tasks in regards to revision. I brought a DVD with me: So, Is It Done?: Navigating the Revision Process, hosted by Janet Burroway. A few authors I like are on it--Rosellen Brown, Ron Carlson--and it will be interesting to hear what they have to say about revision (though, again, Carolyn See's method is tops, far as I'm concerned).

I do love the snow (as those closest to me are tired of hearing, I'm sure).

Friday, February 16, 2007

And more on rejection

A friend wrote to me about her novel that has been rejected from enough agents to give her pause, to ask me what I think she should do. Some agents have said they didn't like the "voice," and the last agent said she didn't like the writing.

Here's what I said, more or less:

All I can say is sometimes you just have to move on. I wrote two novels and 100 pages of another before I wrote PEN ON FIRE. The first novel I sent out to only one agent and she said, “The characters are navel gazing, but I like the writing,” and I thought, You’re right, they’re just sitting around talking, and I put it aside. If I’d had a passion for it, I would have sent it out more, but I realized it was the novel that taught me what writing a novel was all about.

The 2nd novel I worked hard on. I compiled a couple dozen rejections from agents. There were some really good parts but the main male protagonist no one liked. During that time, I began writing PEN ON FIRE because ...why? I loved inspirational writing books and wanted to write one, wanted to combine instruction with memoir. I had two agents who compiled a couple dozen rejections. I put it away for a year or so, hired a freelance book doctor/editor who didn’t know me to give me feedback, and I rethought the slant, researched what was out there and how could I make my book different. Came up with a new title and the aspect of time—using little time to write.

This time the book worked. I got a new agent and a great book deal. And it was 8 years from the idea to publication.

Was that time wasted writing the novel and working on PEN ON FIRE? I don’t think so.

All writing goes toward becoming a better writer. Fiction is a hard one. Many novelists write at least one novel, usually two,sometimes more, before they write one that sells. This may be your practice novel. It may not. But maybe you should put it away for a while and start something new, learn as much as you can about the art of fiction, read a ton of books on technique, read a ton of novels, and write something new. You may end up bringing this one back out and revising it so that it sells. You may not. But right now it seems it’s not happening.

Work on voice. If you don’t understand voice and what it is, read up on voice and study authors who have strong voices.

It may seem daunting now, I know.

On the other hand, if you believe strongly in this book of yours, then send it out more and don’t put it away until you have more than a few dozen rejections from agents. Or approach a small publisher whose advance would be too teensy to get an agent involved, and see what happens.

There’s no easy answer. You put a ton of work into this book. But so much of writing is about process, and certainly with fiction, this is true. Even novelists with books out occasionally write one that their agent feels isn’t right and shouldn’t be out there and they move on and write the next.

After she's already published a few novels, bestselling ones, my friend, the late Barbara Seranella, wrote one that her agent thought wasn't right somehow. Barbara wasn't happy about this, but she was a professional. She put it away and barreled on, wrote the next novel and sold it and even won an award, I believe, for that book. (I miss you, Barbara!)

Any bits of advice I missed here? What would you say to my friend?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Revision part 2

I'm still at it, more than halfway through with step 2 of Carolyn See's method. I read through the entire manuscript and then started over, detailing each page. It can be painful, but as Carolyn told me the other day via email, it saves a lot of time and mess later.

I've been searching out various methods of revision, and so far Carolyn's is the best.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ASJA Writers Conference in April

If you can only go to one conference for nonfiction writers this year, this is the one (and there's a little for fiction writers/screenwriters, too). I'm co-chair so I Will Be There.

Click here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Anna Quindlen on writing

I love Quindlen's essay in the current issue of Newsweek. It talks about the value of writing in anyone's life and echoes a chapter in Pen on Fire in which I talk about keeping a journal for your kid or sharing a journal with a significant other. Read Quindlen's essay here. Moving piece.