project next

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

Q: Do Your Characters Ever Surprise You?


Shadows in the Attic

A:  Yes.  Regularly.  It isn’t simply that they make choices I didn’t see coming or say surprising things.  There’s this play between what I consciously expect them to do when faced with a problem and what spontaneously happens once they’re in a scene.  Sometimes they do what I expect, but their reasoning for it is more complicated than I thought.  Sometimes they say what I expect, but it turns out to be a lie.

What I especially like is the… Continue reading

Bright Things in Books

SilverDishThis may be just me, but I need occasional bright things in books.  Once, when I read a string of YA dystopias back to back, the physically dark settings had me feeling like I lived in a cave, and I needed a break.  By contrast, I was rereading Levine’s Ella Enchanted this spring, and I actively noticed the happy scenes of friendship, which were just as nourishing as physical brightness.  Of course, it made the contrast all the worse when Ella lost those friendships and had… Continue reading

Stepping Back

Sometimes, when my plot has become snarled in a traffic jam, I think of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with its straight-forward, train-wreck focus, where we start steadily down a track and accelerate fast toward a visible and unavoidable disaster.  Lennie kills a mouse, then kills a puppy, then crushes a man’s hand, then kills a woman, and each time we try to forgive him and search for someone else to blame because we believe he is an innocent at heart.

FerrisWheelI look at this plot, this driving plot… Continue reading

In the Hole

Last week, I reached a place in my manuscript where I didn’t like the conversation my characters were having.  It was trivial boy-girl chatter, and nothing was happening: no trouble, no relationship development.  It bored me.  I stepped back to question if the scene was worth revising or if it needed to be in the book, and it didn’t.  So I read ahead to see where danger in the story made me excited again, and it was a good twenty pages further along.

How, I wondered,… Continue reading

Unexpected Gifts

You all know how much I love my editor Nancy Mercado since I babble on about her every chance I get. You may not know that these days, she’s on maternity leave with her sweet and miraculous babe.  I couldn’t be happier for her.  She gave me a thumbs up and an enormous amount of trust on her way out the door, and now, basically, I’m facing months of no editorial feedback on Book 1 of Project Next.

I have a complete draft, mind you.  This novel… Continue reading