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angelnotesVisiting family in Minnesota this past weekend, I was delighted when my little nephew presented me with a gift: a winged figurine called “Courage.”  He’s a sweet little guy in preschool who knows me primarily as the aunt who tickles, and I was touched that he thought of me at all, let alone in terms of spontaneously picking out a present for me.  And courage, of all things!  It’s exactly what I need just now.

My latest step of going forward with my writing has involved deleting… Continue reading

Adding the Unicorn

Add Drama Here

I don’t add unicorns to my novels, but sometimes I can tell that a scene needs something more.  The stakes need to be higher.  A surprise needs to occur.  A bone needs to get snapped.  Last week, I tried adding a dead sister to my novel.  For a whole day, I played around with how that could tie certain threads together and add resonance to family scenes, and then I realized I was crazy.  It would mean telling an entirely different story from the… Continue reading

Lining Up These Book Guys

GuysI have guy characters in this novel who are not doing what they’re supposed to do.  They manipulate the system, they’re preoccupied by computer games, they smell like work, they talk back to adults, they take stupid risks, they’re restless, they’re competitive, and their timing is awful.  They’re also thoughtful, generous with small things and big, intensely creative, loyal to their families, and fierce.  One is good at kissing in the rain.  Another is funny.

I know, as a writer, I should line up one of… Continue reading

Listening to Voices

WoodsLooking over my shoulder the other day, my son asked me if the scene I was revising was the scene I’d revised most in the entire novel, because, according to him, every time he looks over my shoulder, that’s the scene I’m on.  Frankly, at this point, I have no idea which scene I’ve revised the most.  All I know is the scene needed more work.

Here’s how one of my scenes evolves through revision.  At first, the characters say somewhat random things that I write down,… Continue reading

Switching Editors Mid-Book

Nancy Mercado

Nancy Mercado

Almost five years ago, when editor Nancy Mercado took on Birthmarked, she delivered the written offer to my agent in a box with an orange.  Since an orange in the novel symbolized hope in dark places, her gesture resonated with me.  I knew she would be the perfect editor to help me make the most of Gaia’s story, and it has been a delight to work with her through three and a half novels.

I’m going to miss her.  Nan called a month… Continue reading

Learning from That Writer I Knew

Birthmarked, First Draft, 2.13.2008

Birthmarked, First Draft, 2.13.2008

I went back to my very first draft of Birthmarked this morning to see how it opened, and I was surprised by how decisive and certain it sounded, especially since I know I was making it up at the time.  The draft was in single-space, which also surprised me because I write in double-space now, and this drew my eye to the size of the paragraphs, which were short, and the white space that flowed around them.  The prose already had a distinctive cadence… Continue reading