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How an Opening Changes over 8 Revisions

When I met up with an old friend this weekend, she asked how a novel could go through 10 or more revisions and what that looks like. She was really interested in the nitty-gritty. Explaining my process often makes me aware of how messy it is, how unlike the organized planning, outlining and drafting that my friend was expecting. I do outline, but not until after I have a rough draft, and then I routinely throw out large chunks and rewrite new ones.

Her questions made me wonder how I… Continue reading

Writing of Tunnels

The Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

When my characters descend into tunnels deep under the earth, I go along with them, craving sunlight the whole way. The silence and darkness under dense layers of stone, the cool, heavy air that sinks into my lungs, and the sense of endless, geological time all oppress and fascinate me.

Carlsbad Cavern National Park, New Mexico

I visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico last year, fulfilling a life-long dream, and now I recall those deep spaces whenever I send a character underground.

I relive… Continue reading

The Leafless Time

A lone tree by the shore at Harkness Memorial State Park

Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, CT, March 2017

In case you haven’t noticed, we in New England spend half of each year without leaves. This allows for countless opportunities to appreciate the moody grace of our trees. Here’s one, for instance, overlooking the churlish waves of Long Island Sound. Note, too, how nicely it compliments the leaden sky and dingy, dormant grass.

Gloomy? Of course. But it’s the kind of gloom that inspires and transports. I’m reminded that Heathcliff’s name was a combination of heath (the habitat), and cliff (a… Continue reading

Open Paths

A shoveled path through the snow.When I turned in my manuscript of The Keep of Ages last Friday for it to go to copy edits, I was so elated with the book and so pleased to reach the milestone that I went out for hot chocolate with my husband to celebrate, and later in my chorus rehearsal, I sang exuberantly. It is amazing to reach a point with a story, after months and months of labor, when I’m deeply satisfied with the work and excited to see it moving onto the next stage. The energy… Continue reading

Keeping Journals

Journal, 1975

Journal entry: New Year’s Day, 1975

Writing your thoughts down in private is a nifty way to discover what you think, especially if you’re puzzling through something complicated or emotionally charged. Recording events lets you relive them with a double ownership. Putting the words on paper or typing them letter by letter focuses your attention into concrete expression, and at the same time, it frees the mind to go racing ahead toward the next idea. It’s at once liberating and therapeutic.

By contrast, reading a journal can be a mixed… Continue reading

The Organized Writer: 8 Tips

writer tips for organizationMark Twain liked to write in bed.

I picture him there with his cigar ashes, his coffee, and his crumby sheets, and I know I couldn’t do that. I need a certain degree of order around me in order to be productive, and though I’m a seat-of-the-pantser in terms of plot, that doesn’t mean I’m without systems. If you’re a writer, too, you might find the following organizing tips helpful.

  1. Plan time to write. Many writers have a writing routine, like so many hours a day, or word counts. It… Continue reading
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