You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

This hilarious post about “a lot” v. “alot” was linked to in a lot of writerly places, and well it should be. It got me hooked on the site it came from, Hyperbole and a Half.

A recent post, called “The Party“, is a superbly told story. I don’t want to think too hard about it, because analyzing humor can really squeeze the fun out of it, but one thing really stands out to me: Look where it starts; look where it ends. That last sentence is utterly perfect, and leaves 90% of the experience up to the reader’s now-primed imagination.

I’m betting most people would START the story where this telling ends. At the very least, they would keep going. (And, in my opinion, lessen its impact.)

Structure is one of the most important aspects of story, at least as important as the words. I used to feel guilty over the time I spend experimenting with what scenes to include and designing their order, because it doesn’t result in any word-count progress. It feels weird to work for hours and end up with no pages to show for it.

I’m feeling less guilty now.

PS–This is SO FUNNY.


I am near finishing up the next book.

It’s harder than the first for a lot of reasons:

1) I compare the first drafts of book 2 to the polished state of book 1. Naturally, book 2 comes up short.

2) When I feel great about book 1, I feel like I can never achieve something that good again. When I feel bad about book 1, I feel like I’m lousy at this in general so why bother.

3) Book 1 was written with the internal pressure of ambition. Book 2 is written with the external pressure of others’ expectations.

4) Book 1 used up YEARS of accumulated ideas. Book 2 has what’s leftover + anything new.

5) Book 1 hit the sweet spot somewhat by chance as I experimented. Book 2 has to hit it by calculation.

6) Book 1 could have been ANYTHING. Book 2 has to be something similar enough to book 1 to please the same audience, but different enough to be its own book.

7) Book 2, in this case a sequel, has to serve those coming in with expectations from book 1, AND those coming to it without the background of book 1.

8 ) Because of all the work I’ve been doing for book 1 (edits, promotion) simultaneous with working on book 2, I’ve been living with the story of book 2 for a long time. It’s tough to keep excited about a story for so long.

I have heard that book 2 is generally the hardest of a writer’s career. I believe it.

Can’t wait for book 3! I should know what I’m doing by then 😉

PS–adding one more:
9) Took me a long time to get enough perspective on book 1 to see its overall point and its shape. When I was up close and in the middle of it, it was hard for me to appreciate it as a whole. Now I’m in that stage with book 2. I know it will become a whole book to me in its own time; it’s just hard to trust it when I see it as so many pieces.

Nathan Bransford blogged about The Pernicious Momentum of First Ideas. And I’m grateful!

I’m the kind of person who feels committed to whatever I have said I will do. This is a good thing, mostly. In writing, it can be a bad thing to get locked in by whatever first inspired me.

In book 2, things aren’t ending the way I’d planned, and the narrators are working better in a different order than I’d started out working toward. Nathan’s post gave me consciousness of my resistance to these changes, and permission to embrace them instead.

Of course progress and maturity will lead to different and better decisions than the ones from off the top of my head at the start. I’d been unconsciously viewing these changes from the original intent as a kind of cheating or expedience. They’re not.

I’m failing at Twitter.

I just don’t grok it.

Other authors assure me they have all sorts of relationships and conversations on it. I have no idea how to make that happen.

When I read it, I just see out-of-context snippets. When I write something on it myself, what I’ve said just seems to fade away, unheard.

Option A: Twitter is not for everyone. Just drop it.

Option B: Get good at it!


ETA: These are two tweets that I want to remember–good times!

It turns out that lifting latent fingerprints is a lot harder than it looks. 6:12 PM Apr 25th via web
(That was at a crime scene class at a local manor house–and, really, lifting prints was NOT simple!)

I asked the hairdresser to give me “Desperate Housewives” layered waves. She thought I meant “REAL Housewives” and gave me BIG hair–eek! Wed Jun 23 18:50:19 2010 via mobile web
(This was getting my hair done for a local TV interview. I attacked the result with a comb in the car–I *think* it came out okay…)

Okay, “never” is a strong word.

I haven’t been here for a very, very long time.

I’m living in a world where I’ve answered all my current emails.

This is a fragile state that will no doubt be gone by Monday. But, gosh, I’m going to enjoy this weekend!

Living in a great university town has a lot of advantages.

It also has one big problem:

Whenever I google to find services in my area, I end up with dozens (hundreds?) of hits of doctors/teachers/whatevers who were educated here, NOT currently based here.

(Not to mention Cambridge, Massachusetts. No, it doesn’t get rid of the problem to limit to UK-only websites–you’d be amazed at how many UK sites refer to US businesses!)


My mom used to make yogurt. You can’t do that completely from scratch, though. You have to have a small bit of yogurt to start with, then new yogurt grows from there.

Most of my characters start with some small piece of me.

Some of them start with small pieces of people I know, or people (real or fictional) that I’ve observed.

I take the small piece–a gesture, an expression, an unexpected reaction or surprising opinion–and set it all by itself, apart from everything else about the person it came out of.

Then I make stuff up.

From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."