project next

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

Write and Write and Write

Franconia Ridge, and a little perspective, 9.15.2013

Franconia Ridge, and a little perspective, 9.15.2013

At the top of my to-do list, an ever-evolving string of reminders and chores, is the directive “Write and write and write.”  It’s always the first item, at the top of the morning, a small, nudging cheerleader telling me three years into doing this full-time that yes, writing is really what I’m supposed to be doing every day.  Not in a half-baked, lazy way, either.  Lots of it.  No matter what.

I’ll tell you what’s daunting: sitting back from… Continue reading

No Hearts, Gulps, or Sighs

heartToday I wrote the first draft of an awful scene.  It’s scary and sad and troubling to me, and I hadn’t seen it coming, either.  It evolved naturally in a new chain of events I was trying in Project Next, and then, bam, I had to be responsible to my characters and expand a full-blown, agonizing scene.

It’s hard to write about emotion and have it work on the page.  It’s tempting to throw in tears, beating hearts, gulps, and sighs, but although those feel important and… Continue reading

Splitting Wood, Writing, and Persistence

logsWhen I was last in Minnesota, my brother invited me to help with hauling wood logs to cut and split for the fireplace.  I was game.  Four of us set out together on the job, and at one point, while my older brother manned the chain saw and my younger brother levered out nails with my husband, it fell to me to take a turn splitting logs.

I was not a natural with an axe.  Secretly, I was concerned about chopping my foot off, but I was… Continue reading

A Retreat, of Sorts


A Chair with a View

For the past three weeks, I lived on Long Island at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where my husband was running a course.  It was a writing retreat of sorts for me, with none of the usual interruptions of life at home, and long, solitary hours with my computer.

Food was available three times a day in the dining hall, so I had no groceries or dishes to consider.  No cleaning was needed.  No chores piled up.  I felt very spoiled.

Survival of the Fittest

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

As I understand Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in nature, whatever can survive best in its environment will endure, allowing its offspring to evolve over generations.  The theory covers lizards in the Galapagos, the prehensile nature of elephant trunks, and my own lack of a tail.  I find the idea elegant and rather beautiful.

I’d like to propose the theory of Writing Darwinism, where the environment is the novel, and the characters and plot points that can survive generations of revisions must be able to evolve… Continue reading