Make what no one but you can make, what no one but you wants to make. Create a space that protects your creative spirit and makes sure that others aren’t looking over your shoulder either figuratively or actually. Keep your work to yourself while it is still in its infancy, vulnerable and easily mocked. Before you give others a chance to say what it is, make sure you know what it is—and what it isn’t.
Some writer friends asked me today how many words I write in an average day and I groaned a little. Partly because people say they hate me when I answer this truthfully, but more because this is the wrong way to think about something that is essentially an art. Yes, writing is also partly commerce, but it’s also deeply artistic, and trying to measure art is just wrong.
Sure, we do it. We do it every time a painting sells or a book is up for auction. We do it when we look at our amazon rankings and when we google ourselves and when we look up our bookscan numbers and when we ask our editors what our sales figures are and when we compare our advances to someone else’s and when we think about movie deals and on and on. And all of it is crazy making.
Sure, there is a place for being a business person. Even about your writing, you need to be able to separate yourself from the work and think about target audience and genre and where it will be place in the bookstore and what kind of a cover will get the right person to pick it up. I’m not saying you should put your fingers in your ears and ignore everything but your own muse’s voice.
I am saying that you should put earplugs in while you’re writing, though. And if you can’t turn off your mind from spooling about numbers while you’re writing, you might need to turn off some of your feeds that are drowning you in the wrong kind of information.
Instead, may I suggest reading a favorite book of yours that never made any money?
May I suggest reading a poem that wasn’t discovered until the author was dead?
May I suggest finding a book written by an author who spent twenty years researching it and never wrote anything else?
Numbers can matter, but books are not to be reduced to their numbers. You are not to be reduced to your number as an author. If you write 50 words in a day and they were the words you felt were the ones you needed to write that day, it doesn’t matter how many someone else wrote.
“Were I to make the same reductive assessment of all adult literature that the genre’s critics make of YA fiction, then the serious novel would be about a middle-aged person struggling with career collapse and sexual frustration. I don’t want to belittle these topics, but they’re only serious to sexually frustrated middle-aged people, coincidentally being the same narrow demographic that adult literature seems to serve.”—Damien Walter in the Guardian, responding to recent critiques of young adult books. (via sarazarr)
Only a few years ago, observers projected that the rise of chain stores and Amazon would lead to the vast shrinkage of independent bookstores. According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of member independent bookstores has increased more than 20 percent since the depths of the recession, from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014. Meanwhile, Borders went bankrupt in 2011, and the fate of Barnes & Noble, which failed to make the Nook into a viable e-reader competitor with Amazon’s Kindle, appears murky. What happened?
The short answer is that by listing their shares as public companies, both Borders and Barnes & Noble were drawn into a negative vortex that destroyed the former and has crippled the latter. Not only did they become public companies, but they positioned themselves as high-growth companies, focused on innovation and disruption. That forced them to compete with the growth company par excellence in their space: Amazon. It also forced them to pursue high sales volume at the expense of inventories. Those strategies, as it turned out, were precisely wrong for the actual business they were in: selling books to a selective audience. Which is precisely what independent bookstores are good at.
“Rejections are often far less personal—and far more subjective—than I would have ever imagined. This is good news, and it’s bad news. When agents and editors say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” they usually really mean it.”—Lisa O’Kane, author of Essence, shares her best advice for aspiring authors. (via yahighway)
“I’d like to emphasize that when a reader finishes a great novel, he will immediately begin looking for another. If someone loves your book, it increases the chance that he or she will look at mine. So there is no competition between writers. Another writer’s success helps build a larger readership for all of us.”—
“I had hoped that the move to a longlist would shine the spotlight on the full range of young people’s literature, and that has yet to really happen over the first two years. To wit: Are picture books not young people’s literature?”—NBA Longlist — Heavy Medal (via schoollibraryjournal)
When I was a teenager, I wrote tons of fan fic. I wrote a Star Trek novel, a Perry Mason novel, a Sherlock Holmes story. This was excellent practice. No one told me that I couldn’t write those things, that they wouldn’t be published because of copyright issues. I wrote when I wanted to read.
There was a point in my 20s when I realized that I still hadn’t figured out what my “voice” was. People talked all the time about how important voice was, and I believed it was true. I could see voice in the writers I read and reread. I could hear it in my head when I put the books down. Those characters were alive beyond the words on the page.
But how to do that myself? I couldn’t figure it out. I wanted to have a voice like that, which of course, you can never do. You can’t borrow another person’s voice. Occasionally, I’d hear people say that you can’t write until you’re older, because you don’t have “important” things to say about life until then, which I thought was typical adult crap, devaluing the things that young people do.
Maybe there is some truth to the reality that you get older and you find voice isn’t such a struggle anymore. But if so, it’s because you stop caring what other people think. It’s not that you stop trying to do what other people do, or that what you have to say is suddenly more important, though.
Some tips to finding your voice:
1. If you’re angry, write while you’re angry.
2. If you’re sad, write in that moment, with tears dripping down your face.
3. Write up your most embarrassing moments. Every detail.
4. Make fun of writers and writing you think is ridiculous.
5. Write about food. Or about running. Or about your children. Write about what makes you passionate. Write about things no one else cares about.
6. Write endings to stories that finished wrong. Write better versions of things that you wanted to love.
7. Write dangerous things.
8. Write about the things you don’t want anyone to know about yourself.
On Twitter today — and everyday — there was some chatter and scuffle about Some Authors’ Careers and Some Authors’ Fame and whether they had deserved it. Some folks invariably said the chatter and scuffle was jealousy. Some others invariably said not everything is…
Another quote from WIP: “Ignorance was not, in my mind, a proper attribute of a lady. A lady did not listen when a husband told her not to worry about money for the future. She could make sums on her own, and she demanded to see the books. She did not accept that others would “do well” for her. She did well for herself, and she did that by facing the truth. If it was bad, it was not made better by being ignored. And if it was good, well, it had better be good for her, as well.”
Quote from WIP where pov character is—well—difficult:
"Those who think that happiness matters more than money should spend time with an aching stomach and see how much they sing then or write poetry about the joys of privation. Happiness cannot exist without money, which I well knew. Love does not survive the first touch of the day’s reminder that the body must be fed, clothed, sheltered, and offered hope for the future."
“Wherever perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. Perfectionism is not about healthy striving, which you see all the time in successful leaders, it’s not about trying to set goals and being the best we can be, perfectionism is basically a cognitive behavioral process that says if I look perfect, work perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid shame, ridicule, and criticism. It’s a defense mechanism.”—"Why Doing Awesome Work Means Making Yourself Vulnerable"
Children should remain silent, and they are ‘good’ when they’re quiet, but ‘bad’ when they are not, because they are disturbing the adults and causing trouble. This attitude runs through the way people interact with children on every level, and yet, they seem surprised when it turns out that children have been struggling with serious medical problems, or they’ve been assaulted or abused.
The most common response is ‘well why didn’t the child say something?’ or ‘why didn’t the child talk to an adult?’ Adults constantly assure themselves that children know to go to a grownup when they are in trouble, and they even repeat that sentiment to children; you can always come to us, adults tell children, when you need help. Find a trusted adult, a teacher or a doctor or a police officer or a firefighter, and tell that adult what’s going on, and you’ll be helped, and everything will be all right.
The thing is that children do that, and the adults don’t listen. Every time a child tells an adult about something and nothing happens, that child learns that adults are liars, and that they don’t provide the promised help. Children hold up their end of the deal by reporting, sometimes at great personal risk, and they get no concrete action in return. Sometimes, the very adult people tell a child to ‘trust’ is the least reliable person; the teacher is friends with the priest who is molesting a student, the firefighter plays pool with the father who is beating a child, they don’t want to cause a scene.
Or children are accused of lying for attention because they accused the wrong person. They’re told they must be mistaken about what happened, unclear on the specifics, because there’s no way what they’re saying could be true, so and so isn’t that kind of person. A mother would never do that. He’s a respected member of the community! In their haste to close their ears to the child’s voice, adults make sure the child’s experience is utterly denied and debunked. Couldn’t be, can’t be, won’t be. The child knows not to say such things in the future, because no one is listening, because people will actively tell the child to be quiet.
Children are also told that they aren’t experiencing what they’re actually experiencing, or they’re being fussy about nothing. A child reports a pain in her leg after gym class, and she’s told to quit whining. Four months later, everyone is shocked when her metastatic bone cancer becomes unavoidably apparent. Had someone listened to her in the first place when she reported the original bone pain and said it felt different that usual, she would have been evaluated sooner. A child tells a teacher he has trouble seeing the blackboard, and the teacher dismisses it, so the child is never referred for glasses; the child struggles with math until high school, when someone finally acknowledges there’s a problem.
This attitude, that children shouldn’t be believed, puts the burden of proof on children, rather than assuming that there might be something to their statements. Some people seem to think that actually listening to children would result in a generation of hopelessly spoiled brats who know they can say anything for attention, but would that actually be the case? That assumption is rooted in the idea that children are not trustworthy, and cannot be respected. I’m having trouble understanding why adults should be viewed as inherently trustworthy and respectable, especially in light of the way we treat children.
“Never be afraid to apologize to your child. If you lose your temper and say something in anger that wasn’t meant to be said, apologize. Children need to know that adults can admit when they are wrong.”—American Humane Society (via maninsun)
I am a bloated writer. My manuscripts always end up 20-30% longer than my publisher wants them to be, and that much longer than they need to be or should be. So after a first draft, I go back through every manuscript and I cut 20-30% of the words before I let anyone else read it. Here are the things that I cut:
1. Extraneous scenes. This is the biggest bloater of manuscripts. I like my characters to stand around and talk. I think I’m good at character development. Nonetheless, when your characters are sitting around saying, “What should we do next,” it’s a good hint that it’s you, the author, coming through and that though it might have been necessary for you to write that scene to get to the next one, your reader does not need to read it.
2. Rambling. I admit it, I ramble. My characters tend to ramble. I get into their heads deeply and they take control of my fingers and type the words that they/I think. If the rambling is a sentence or two, you can let it stay. If it’s longer than that and doesn’t reveal important character information or hint at plot development, take it out.
3. Repetition. You’d be surprised how many words can be cut from a manuscript simply by taking out words that mean the same thing or sentences that echo the same meaning. I swear, I write a lot of things twice and I’m hitting the reader over the head. There is no need to assume they are too stupid to get it the first time, just because I was too stupid as a writer to formulate it right the first time.
4. Information from a second pov character that we already have from another pov character. If you’re doing multiple povs, be careful that each one says distinct things. And really, resist the temptation to retell a scene just because another character has a fun take on it. You only get to tell a scene once.
5. Too much too soon. Sometimes when I edit for word count, I find that I’m also doing wonderful things for my tension. Just because I revealed to myself what a certain character’s motivations are, that doesn’t mean that I need to reveal that to the reader at the same point. Lots of the time, it’s better to hold back.
6. Less is more. If you’re giving details about a physical description, a history, or anything else, just the right detail. A lot of the time, a single word that is precise is better than a vague paragraph.
7. Cut adverbs as ruthlessly as possible. If you’re using a shortcut in dialog, telling the reader the character’s emotion through adverbs rather than through the actual words of the dialog, cut the adverbs and then rewrite your dialog better. Which brings me to dialog.
8. Characters in a book have snappier dialog and more meaningful conversations than most people in real life. Get to the meat of it. You don’t need all the chatter and small talk that you’d feel necessary if you were there (or I would). Think about it as the movie version, which can only be 90 minutes long.
9. Don’t feel obliged to make whole sentences. If a fragment works, take out the rest of the sentence. This is true in dialog, but it can also be a great way to get voice. People who think in full sentences are often boring narrators.
10. Combine sentences when possible. Commas are your friend. Semi-colons and colons to put sentences together rarely are. I’m not talking about making longer sentences here, really. Just see if your two sentences can be put together into one shorter sentence by using just a phrase from the first or second sentence.
So my daughter, who is a student at Berklee School of Music, is home for a few days before the start of classes, and told me that one of the best things about Berklee is the number of practice rooms available for students to reserve on a regular basis. For two hours, she can go in, close the door, and SOUND BAD.
That’s the main thing she loves about the practice rooms. If she’s at home, with her keyboard, she rarely practices. Not the good kind of practicing, anyway. Because people are listening and she’s supposed to be a musician and that means making good music. So she “fiddles around” instead of practicing.
Because practicing is about doing all the nasty parts that sound crappy and that you skip over when you’re running through pieces for fun. Practicing is about the nitty-gritty, the parts you’re crap at. You have to confront them head-on, no glossing over them. Do it wrong again and again until you get it a little better, and then a little bit better.
And that kind of practice doesn’t happen unless the door is closed and no one is listening.
I’m sure writers can see how valuable this analogy is. We try so often to write “well” to begin with. We want our first drafts to be beautiful and they aren’t. So we work on the same first chapter again and again, afraid to go on until we get it “right,” afraid to “practice” the tricky parts of the book, the middle section, the sad parts, the parts where we’re unsure what is supposed to happen.
My advice? Find a practice room. Or make one.
You need a space where you’re safe, where it’s quiet and there are no distractions to keep you away from just being bad. You’ve got to be bad. There’s no way out of it. You have to practice writing just like a musician practices music. And if you’ve never heard a musician playing badly in practice, that’s just because you’re not in the practice room and they’re really just “fiddling around.”
Don’t fiddle around with your writing.
Don’t let people see what you are working on. Don’t share it while it’s crap, at least so long as it’s crap you know is crap and you know how to fix. When you get to the crap you can’t figure out, sometimes you have to share and invite another musician into your practice room. But until then, keep the door closed and make sure it’s sound-proofed.
Be real inside the practice room. Don’t fiddle around. Play the hard parts. Dig into them. Make it hurt. And when you’re finished, you fling open the door and you leave the practice room behind until the next day, when you come back in, close the door again, and let the bad music commence!
So, I was at lunch with a friend and his sister after seeing ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, catching up on stuff and talk turned to the new series of Doctor Who - our expectations, Peter Capaldi, Jenna possibly leaving, the Matt Smith era - and his sister suddenly…
“I think one thing you can do to help your friends who are depressed is to reach out to them not in the spirit of helping, but in the spirit of liking them and wanting their company. “I’m here to help if you ever need me” is good to know, but hard to act on, especially when you’re in a dark place. Specific, ongoing, pleasure-based invitations are much easier to absorb. “I’m here. Let’s go to the movies. Or stay in and order takeout and watch some dumb TV.” “I’m having a party, it would be really great if you could come for a little while.” Ask them for help with things you know they are good at and like doing, so there is reciprocity and a way for them to contribute. “Will you come over Sunday and help me clear my closet of unfashionable and unflattering items? I trust your eye.” “Will you read this story I wrote and help me fix the dialogue?” “Want to make dinner together? You chop, I’ll assemble.” “I am going glasses shopping and I need another set of eyes.” Remind yourself why you like this person, and in the process, remind them that they are likable and worth your time and interest.
Talk to the parts of the person that aren’t being eaten by the depression. Make it as easy as possible to make and keep plans, if you have the emotional resources to be the initiator and to meet your friends a little more than halfway. If the person turns down a bunch of invitations in a row because (presumably) they don’t have the energy to be social, respect their autonomy by giving it a month or two and then try again. Keep the invitations simple; “Any chance we could have breakfast Saturday?” > “ARE YOU AVOIDING ME BECAUSE YOU’RE DEPRESSED OR BECAUSE YOU HATE ME I AM ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU.” “I miss you and I want to see you” > “I’m worried about you.” A depressed person is going to have a shame spiral about how their shame is making them avoid you and how that’s giving them more shame, which is making them avoid you no matter what you do. No need for you to call attention to it. Just keep asking. “I want to see you” “Let’s do this thing.” “If you are feeling low, I understand, and I don’t want to impose on you, but I miss your face. Please come have coffee with me.” “Apology accepted. ApologIES accepted. So. Gelato and Outlander?””—
P.S. A lot of people with depression and other mental illnesses have trouble making decisions or choosing from a bunch of different options. “Wanna get dinner at that pizza place on Tuesday night?” is a LOT easier to answer than “So wanna hang out sometime? What do you want to do?”
Questions Without Answers #4: What do I do when I get conflicting advice about revision?
First of all, pat yourself on the back.
Seriously, if you’re getting conflicting advice about revision, that means that you’re showing it to lots of different people, which is a courageous step and is really healthy for you becoming a better writer. It also means that you’ve found people to read your work who are giving you real feedback and not just “It’s great!” that family and friends often stop at.
Second, welcome to the real world.
If you go and look at reader reviews at amazon or goodreads, you’re going to see how varied the opinions are. Some people love Twilight with a holy passion. Other people hate it so much their minds explode. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people react differently to your book, in its first stage.
I’d suggest making sure that you take notes if you go to a writers’ group to get criticism. Write down anything that immediately chimes with you. If you think—that’s what I meant to do or—of course, I should have thought of that, highlight or star or underline or box these comments. And then don’t work on the book immediately. Let it sit for a month and then go back to it and you will probably be able to see more clearly what *you* want to do to make your book better.
I say this as someone who has tried several times to write a novel based on a committee of feedback, trying to please everyone. A little distance can help you see things more clearly and gives you time to forget exactly what other people said. You don’t need the voices of other people in your head while you work. What you need to do is make an action list of things that *you* want to fix. If that happens to coincide with a few items on other people’s lists, that’s fine.
Beware of doing everything anyone tells you to do. Yes, even your agent. Yes, even your editor. Beware of doing nothing other people tell you to do. While I would read an editorial letter a few times during the process just to keep touch with the comments, don’t read it every day. That’s my advice anyway.
Conflicting advice during revision may make you think that no one knows anything. I remember when I was in high school, there were a bunch of students who thought that anyone who graded an essay was doing it completely subjectively because there were no objective standards for a good essay. Au contraire! The same is true for novel writing.
I would pay more attention to people who say things like:
1. I was confused by … .
2. I thought this part was boring…
3. I didn’t understand why this person did this …
I would pay less attention to people who say things like:
1. I really didn’t sympathize with this character…
2. I think you should add more of this …
3. I wish you would take out this part because it annoys me …
And here is something to remember about any critique that you get, paid for or in a writers group or anywhere at all. Your book is *your* book. No one (not even your editor) can MAKE you change something. I’m not saying to be stupid and refuse to listen to people who are trying to help you make a better book. But if you have a reason (even if it’s only that your gut is telling you something), talk it over with an agent or editor. And with other people, you don’t need to convince them. They shouldn’t be looking over your shoulder while you write. They give you feedback. You decide what to do with it.
“The trend of labeling women “crazy” is part of the culture that socializes women to go along to get along. When women are told over and over again that they’re not allowed to feel the way they feel and that they’re being “unreasonable” or “oversensitive”, they’re conditioned to not trust their own emotions. Their behavior – being assertive, even demanding or standing up for how they feel – becomes an “inconvenience” to men and they’re taught not to give offense and to consider the feelings of others before their own.”—On Labeling Women “Crazy” | Paging Dr. NerdLove - Part 2 (via brutereason)
Questions Without Answers #3: How Can I Tell if My Editor’s Comments are Right or Wrong for My Book?
I can answer this with a zen comment like, “If it *feels* right, then that means that you should go with it.” I’ve heard people say that if it chimes with you automatically, then it’s the right way to go. Or that if you envision the book with those changes and it is closer to the book you wanted to write, then they’re good comments.
Here’s the reality:
No editor is ever going to see the book in exactly the same way that you do. And this is a good thing.
Yes, I have seen people make changes that an editor suggested that I thought were a mistake.
But most of the time, what happens between an author and an editor is a collaboration that ends up with a book that is better than what either of them would have produced separately.
That means that the collaboration isn’t just a compromise kind of situation, where you get some of what you want and the other person gets some of what she wants. It means that you are bouncing ideas off of each other and sparking brilliant new ways of solving problems that you couldn’t do yourself. The best kinds of collaborations between authors do this same thing.
But with an editor, it’s a little different because an editor has a sharp eye for what is working and what isn’t working. Editors also have a bit of an idea (if they’re experienced) of how to get an author to think about something differently, or how to approach a problem in a new way. Sometimes other authors don’t always know how to do that.
So I would say that it’s less important if you immediately feel a zen peace with your editor’s comments and more important if you and your editor work well together. If you can call up your editor and start pinging ideas off of her, that’s a great thing. If she has ideas for you, also a great thing.
I know some people don’t like editors suggesting something. They only want critical feedback of the sort that says—this needs to be fixed. I’m a little more loose about what an editor does. I tend not to mind if an editor (horror!) adds a sentence here and there to my manuscript. I don’t feel possessive of my words that way.
I feel like a novel is a collaboration between an author and a reader, as well, and I have much less control over that. Having an idea in the first place, writing it down and then going through multiple drafts on my own—that’s my first step. But letting other people see it, writers groups, friends, agent, and editor, doesn’t make me feel like the novel is less mine.
That said, I would beware of you as the author feeling resentful about changes you feel “forced” to make. That should never be the spirit of the relationship. And if you feel like you’ve lost the sense of the novel being yours, that’s a problem you’re going to have to work out. You may need some time without the editor seeing the book to play with and get your touch back for it. Same thing with multiple drafts with a writers group or an agent.
Questions Without Answers #2: How Do I Know When I’m Done Editing?
Everyone is going to answer this a different way.
1. You’re done editing when your deadline hits.
2. You’re done editing when you say you’re done and you shouldn’t let anyone rush you.
3. You’re never done editing and you are going to keep editing a book in your mind every time you see the words again.
4. You’re done editing when you’re ready to write the next book.
No one can tell you the answer to this question. You make the answer to the question by your own actions.
Does that mean there isn’t anyone who can offer you useful advice? No. Hopefully, you have writing friends who can give you general rules of thumb. An agent can be useful if s/he can say, “Now it’s ready to go out,” which isn’t the same as being done being edited.
But ultimately, there is no expert about this. There is no one who can say, “You edit it six times and then it’s done. The first time, you edit for character. The second time, you edit for plot. The third time you edit for pacing. The fourth time you edit for time scale. The fifth time you edit for language. The sixth time you edit to get details right.”
Yes, there are lots of people out there who will tell you a very specific answer to this question. To me, hearing people pontificate about a specific answer to something like this is really useful to me because then I can add them to my list of people that I don’t ever want to talk to about writing (or politics, either) again.
As a kid, I remember that when adults told me that the answer to something was “it depends,” I got really frustrated. I didn’t want to be part of the adult world where everything was gray and there was no black and white. That’s why I liked math, see? There was an answer and the teacher knew what it was.
But the adult world of writing is even more full of gray than I had imagined. No one knows the answer to my questions. And as an adult, I’m actually really happy about this because the questions I’m asking are only interesting to me because there aren’t any answers.
The reason that no one can tell me when I’m done editing my book is that I’m writing a book that no one has written before, not even remotely. If someone else had written it and there was an answer so that you knew when it was done, I wouldn’t be writing it.
(And as it turns out, after talking to my mathematician friends, this seems to be true in math as well. Mathematicians are not at all interested, once they are on a certain level, in working on problems with obvious answers for the rest of us. They want to deal with questions no one knows the answer to yet, too. So they find problems that are really, really hard. And spend sometimes their whole lives working on them. And this makes them happy. Go figure.)
A lot of writers will ask me a variation on the following:
How do I know if this is the right book for me to be writing?
I want to kind of laugh, but really, it would be mean. Because I know it’s a real question and I know that someone is hoping that another person has the answer to it.
I suspect what they’re hoping for me to say is something like, you know it’s the right book because you have a feeling inside that just chimes. Or, you know it’s the right book because when you talk about it, everyone is super interested in it. Or you know it’s the right book because your agent keeps bugging you to write it.
But that’s not really the way that it is. Sure, there are ideas floating around and some are probably better than others. Some are hackneyed. Some are so overused that at the moment, it might not be a good idea to spend a whole bunch of time on a book idea that might feel to an editor that it’s been overdone.
On the other hand, who would have guessed that it was time for vampires to come back when Twilight was published? Did The Hunger Games anticipate a new trend for dystopia or create one? Why is Harry Potter the school with wizards book that made it big when there are arguably better school with wizard books out there already?
No one can tell you which book you should write. And there’s no magical sense of “rightness” that’s going to make you sure that this is the one. Asking for that is basically asking for a time machine.
All I can say is this:
You make a book the right one by refusing to give up on it.
You make a book the right one by revising it again and again until it’s so good that people love it.
You make a book the right one by pouring yourself into it in ways that make you squirm and embarrass you when people who know you too well, including your parents, read it.
You make a book the right one by pushing aside thoughts of success and writing the best book that you can write.
You make a book the right one by becoming the right author to write that kind of book.
You make a book the right one by refusing to ask yourself if it’s the right one because you’re not going to work on another one until this one is finished, by gum!
“In general, I think we need to move away from the premise that being a good person is a fixed immutable characteristic and shift towards seeing being good as a practice. And it is a practice that we carry out by engaging with our imperfections. We need to shift towards thinking that being a good person is like being a clean person. Being a clean person is something you maintain and work on every day.We don’t assume ‘I am a clean person therefore I don’t need to brush my teeth.’ When someone suggests to us that we have something stuck in our teeth we don’t say to them ‘What do you mean I have something stuck in my teeth—but I’m a clean person?!’”—Jay Smooth in his TED speech “how I learned to stop worrying and love discussing race” (via tropicanastasia)
I get embarrassed when I talk about my writing process. It feels like it must be wrong, but it works for me.Sometimes I wonder if that is the way you know you’ve found the right way for you, because no one else does it that way.
The way you write is like the way you pick your nose. No one cares how you do. They don’t want to see it or talk about it. Just see it’s done.
While I have you on the line…or I guess fanmail-tumblr-thingie, I was wondering if I could ask you a question or two. Yeah, two. You don’t need to respond if you don’t want/have time to, but I’d appreciate it if you did :) Firstly, what made you start writing in a way that made you love it,…
“There are moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and it’s not often they turn out to be the same moment.”—Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races (via compelledbybooks)
There are a lot of ways to change the world, and I would certainly not want to say that one is the only way or the best way. But I am going to say that I think writing and publishing is a valid, enduring way of changing the world.
I have come to believe that many of the worst evils in the world are caused by thinking that “we” are, in fact, “us” and “them.” We make these binary systems up because they are easy, and then we read and experience so many stories that confirm them.
Germans vs. Allies in WWII
Men vs. Women in many romantic comedies
Straight vs. Gay
Religious vs. Atheist
Americans vs. Everyone else
But the best books, in my experience, are the ones that force us to see the world from the point of view of the “other.” They make us give up our old ideologies and make new ones that are more inclusive.
No, writing a novel isn’t going to end a war today or tomorrow. Probably.
But writing a novel might end the wars that will happen in another generation. It will change the hearts and minds of the future. It might not stop people from thinking in terms of a binary, but it might make them give up some of the old categories. It might make them think twice before creating new ones.
Writing a novel is the act of making a world. And if you can make a world where we see each other more truly, you are fighting injustice. If you make a world where heroes are not of one color, you are changing the soldiers of tomorrow. If you make a world where women have the same opportunities as men, where men and women work together and have equal parts to play, you are expanding the world that your daughters and sons will live in.
And that, to me, is enough. That will mean my work has done its part.
Picture book people! I’ve been asked multiple times to get a picture book conference going, and now we have one! On August 30, Jodell Sadler, an agent who is interested in finding picture book clients, will be at our Sundance One Day Writing Retreat.