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My sweetheart does a lot of great things.

My favorite “husband of a writer” story is the time the disk I’d been saving a project on wasn’t recognized by the computer. I called him at work to ask his advice. He said, “I’ll be right home,” and indeed showed up shortly thereafter *with a computer from work in his arms.* He tested the disk in the alternate computer. No luck. The disk was unreadable; the project was lost.

So he TYPED THE ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT BACK IN for me while I read aloud from the most recent printout.

This story has two morals:
1) Always backup your work.
2) Marry someone wonderful.

What did he do this weekend? Because he’s heading off on a business trip shortly, which will leave me on 24-hour single parenting duty for the rest of the week, he took the kids for two straight days so I could write/edit in prep for a phone call with my editor tonight. AND he made a fantastic homemade soup.

Happy birthday, sweetheart. I’m know how lucky I am.


This one has been posted all over the place, rightly so:

This one makes me laugh too:

A reader recently congratulated me on having a book with “zero mistakes” compared to others she’s recently read. (No, this is not a challenge for anyone to seek out a mistake and prove her wrong. You will only make me cry.)

I’m delighted that that was her experience of my book, and I sympathize with her frustration with what looks like laziness. When one finds an obvious grammar or spelling error in a published book, it reflects not only on the author, but on all those who read it and worked on it along the way. Not only did the author create the mistake; everyone else missed it!

But that, in my experience, is not actually where mistakes come from. I make few mistakes when writing from start to finish. (With the embarrassing exception that, in my current manuscript, I wrote manner instead of manor; shocking! My excuse is that I was sleep-deprived. And, it was caught by every person who’s looked at it–thanks, guys!)

The big mistakes start when I look at small pieces of the story in isolation. Once a scene, or paragraph, or sentence, is divorced from the whole for the purpose of editing, mistakes are easy to make. At that point, they are also terribly difficult to recognize. Once you’ve read something a dozen times, you see what you expect, not necessarily what is.

Here’s an example: I sent an email invitation that originally had two events on it, and then added a third. One sentence originally read:

“Please let me know if you plan to make either of these two films.”

I corrected that sentence by changing the “two” to “three”:

“Please let me know if you plan to make either of these three films.”

Which is now wrong, because I didn’t notice to change “either” to “any.” I would never write “either of these three.” But it’s easy to end up with it when I edit bits and pieces.

So if you do find a mistake in a book, chances are it crept in later in the process, when the manuscript as a whole was already past most readers, and it was just the author and editor, working on it piecemeal.

There’s a ticket machine at the bus stop near us. After you put your money in, pressing the green button will get you a ticket. Pressing the sticky-out button will cancel the transaction and get you your money back. Easy, right?

Then why do so many people who want tickets press that sticky-out button instead of the green one? Even when there are TWO signs on the machine saying “PRESS THE GREEN BUTTON”?

Because design trumps words. Yes, the signs tell you to press the green button. But the shape of the machine and the arrangement of the coin slot and buttons lead the user to the sticky-out button.

It’s easy, as a writer, to get frustrated when a reader makes assumptions that contradict things we’ve plainly said. “Look! Right there! I specifically state that she’s 25 years old!” But if everything in the design of your story (the character’s behavior and choices; the reactions of those around her) imply otherwise, the reader is more likely to believe the design.

If there is something you want the reader to know, put it into more than words. Put it into the action of your story.

Look! I have a lovely new website, thanks to Sean Palmer and Solar Jet Productions.

Look what they gave me! So pretty.

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."