Behind the Scenes: From Copyedits to First Pass Pages

After I finished going through the copyedits of Prized, I emailed the manuscript back to my editor Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook in mid-December.  The next step was a series of emails we had in early January, when Nan checked back with me about a few of my changes and other things she’d noticed, like whether a character would be called by his first or last name in a particular line of dialogue.  Here’s another example, with my reply in italics:

Pg 153 “She might be too… Continue reading

To Love, Cherish, and Critique?

I asked my published writer friends if they show their writing to their spouses or loved ones, and out of twelve writers, five of us only rarely, if ever, show our work to our spouses, and seven of us regularly do.  A few of us show our spouses our writing every day and depend upon their feedback as an integral part of the writing process.

Showing your writing to anybody always involves trust, and when you show it to someone you respect and love enough to be your life… Continue reading


More than a few readers have written to tell me they’re surprised by the vocabulary in Birthmarked, enough so that I was unsurprised to be in another conversation about “avuncular” last Friday.  We love our words, don’t we?  Especially the fun and pithy ones.

My bookmarks for Birthmarked list favorite words from the novel.

When I’m writing and revising, I consult a couple of dictionaries and a thesaurus regularly.  Often I have the meaning of something in mind but the first word that surfaces doesn’t have… Continue reading

Fifteen Minutes

One torture for me as a teacher would happen when I wrote with my students.  I’d put three choices on the board, let everyone get their paper and pencils ready, note the time on the clock, and count down “On your mark, get set, go.”  We’d write for fifteen minutes in silence, with only the sound of our pencils to accompany us.

The responsible teacher part of me had to glance around the room now and then to see who all was on task, but in good classes… Continue reading

Slush Pile Code

Warning.  This is not an inspirational post for the faint of heart.

I believe in the slush pile.  It’s one of the purest forms of meritocracy left to us.  You don’t get credit for effort.  It doesn’t count that your work shows promise.  It doesn’t matter that your teacher gave it an A or that you earned your MFA. The slush pile makes no apologies and accepts no excuses: if your manuscript isn’t good enough, it doesn’t get out of the pile.

The clear simplicity… Continue reading

Note to Self

When you keep erasing as many pages as you write each day, and you keep going in wrong directions, don’t think that you’re not making progress, because you are.  It’s just thinking progress, not pages progress, and when you eventually identify that you’ve put your main character in a position of power and influence where her problems are global rather than personal, then add in some guards and get someone arrested, preferably her.

You might think you would know by now the absolute basic rule of fiction: make things… Continue reading