Let’s talk about editing. I’d say selecting the right editor is more important than having some genetic, magical ability to put great stories on paper.
Yes — there is crap that sneaks through and becomes a cultural sensation without good editing, but it’s gross. Twilight is a Big Mac; Lahiri is prime rib.
We settle for the cheap and easy too often as readers. Fluff books are good “beach reads.”
As writers, let’s not settle.
I’m writing this post as a pep talk. I am working on the first edits for Basket Baby from my friend Sagar. He is one of those who is so smart, it is fairly remarkable he can have a conversation and make eye contact. If you’ve read it, he’s read it. And the author’s other book. And the British review of the book. And he has thoughts about said author.
(Unless it is The Alchemist. This is the book that shall not be spoken of. His Voldemort of sorts.)
He also has little to no ability to speak gently. He is direct, blunt and critical.
Our friendship was fairly new when he read my first novel. That lunch resulted with me crying into my burger at Four Peaks, and him awkwardly staring at his beer. To speak gently for him: it wasn’t his favorite.
This novel is different. I have another five years of writing practice, including multiple courses at Lighthouse, and have done a good bit of reading.
Thankfully this time Sagar can work with the story. (He still isn’t saying he loves it, but I am okay. I love it.)
He’s returned edits that are sharp, pointing out both major and minor changes I couldn’t see. He has effectively communicated how and why I should make these changes. This is the work of an excellent editor.
It is paralyzing to hand someone a project you’ve worked on for years that you think (foolishly and perhaps blindly) is perfect upon delivery, and have it returned with hundreds of suggested improvements. I imagine this is a bit like sending a beloved child to kindergarten only to have her return with a note from the teacher on all the behaviors you must work on as a parent to make her a great adult. (This is why they typically do not hire men like Sagar to be kindergarten teachers. God only knows what my notes would have looked like. “Make her shut up!” “She laughs at her own jokes. Too much.” “She sits down and reads during PE.”)
Becoming a great writer includes the rare skill of loving something so much, you are willing to let it go to make it better.
Lazy novels do not stand the test of time. As such, while I’d pretty much rather be doing anything other than editing the same pages again, I am digging in.
Let’s all agree not to settle.
Happy writing, friends!
I have a stack of ironing to finish. Knitting to complete. A book that is two-thirds read. Hundreds of pages of edits on a novel to make. A book proposal half completed. And I’m going to Vegas this weekend with a childhood friend to see Britney Spears for our 35th birthdays.
Guess which one is getting the most attention?
I’ll be back soon, and will post for Friday’s Writer School. Otherwise, just trying to manage one hot day of summer at a time — and thankful we are nearing September, with cooler, darker mornings.
We are preparing for a multi-day trip in the Grand Canyon. I’ve never done such an extensive hike (17 miles the first day) and I’m a little nervous.
Good, good Lord are hiking shoes ugly.
(More importantly — if you haven’t seen 100 Foot Journey, do! It is delightful.)
Oh, hi there. How did your goals go this week? Did you sit down to write? Did you read?
My week was a draw. I did read. I’m thoroughly enjoying Wildwood. It is young adult, fun, easy and was perfect on the beach. I read about 300 pages, passing my goal.
I also received edits back on the first 80 pages of my novel, and am slowly making them. This isn’t writing, but is essential for this book to see the light of publishing day. (Also chanting my mantra: Thick skin makes for a better author. Thick skin. You can do this. Ohm…)
I’m calling it a win.
Today’s topic: resource tools of the trade
What books have you read that have helped make you a better reader? Granted, all books help. As do magazines, blogs and cereal boxes. I am leery of writers who claim “not to have time to read.” Chances are, I’m not going to have time to read what they’ve written. As we’ve discussed, language is a fluid, beautiful stream of current thought. You’ve got to read to understand how our language has changed from “Romeo, oh Romeo — where art thou Romeo?” to “Kanye: hit me back, yo.”
A few of my favorite books and other reads critical to improving writing:
1. On Writing by Stephen King. The best writing memoir I’ve read, and I’ve got a dozen or so under my belt. Second would be Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott. Also incredibly well done and encouraging. I like King’s because he talks about routine and setting up your daily writing practice. I like Lamott’s because it feels like writing saved her. And any writer can tell you, it is a lonely endeavor and if your work doesn’t help pull you along — why bother?
2. Grammar Girl. Her stuff is fun and a good reminder of how to write well. Also, her podcast is great if you want something nerdy to listen to on the way to work.
3. A Word A Day by Anu Garg. Easy enough to understand why this is important. The weekend summaries from those who write in about their experiences with the week’s words are worth subscribing. Folks from around the world discuss their memories and experiences with the words of the week, which is extra nerdy and often hilarious.
4. The Elements of Style. Because proper word use is essential to success in nearly every profession. I keep a copy on my desk because for the life of me I still cannot remember the correct tenses of lay vs. lie or hung vs. hanged.
4. Go Fug Yourself. Sure, it is fashion gossip. It is also really well written, and in a contemporary voice. Thanks to these ladies, I know what “throwing shade” means.
(Oy, I’m feeling old.)
What are some of your favorite writing resource tools?
With any luck, this will be a vine full of pumpkins come Halloween. I’ve also got a bed of sunflowers going crazy in this heat. Sunflowers are excellent at helping repair soil via phytoremediation.
What are you growing?
Kindness is a bunny boomerang — send a bit out in the world, and watch it come back in droves. A good friend is spending some time in Europe with her family. She offered months ago to let me stay in their home, near the southern California coast, while they were away. As such, I spent the weekend with my sweetheart and a couple little ones playing in the sand, soaking up foggy mornings and bright, windy afternoons. Watching the lifeguards run through the shallows. Shooing away pesky birds from our pile of chips and crackers, crumbling in the salty air.
We cooked. We played countless hands of Apples to Apples. We ate carne asada burritos and marveled at how everything tastes better when eaten outside. We slept with the windows open, dreaming for far too many hours, lounging as the sun came up. We watched Rio 2 and giggled at the dancing birds. We spent a few days doing nothing other than loving each other and our surroundings. It was wonderful!
We could have done some of this from a hotel, but the comfort of a home made the trip luxurious. A kindness I won’t soon forget.
I’ve written two novels. I self-published the first, and am in the process of doing the same for the second.
(I’m waiting on edits, and to finalize cover art. The back cover will include, “Best selling author (to friends and family) of Under the Same Moon. Because I am nothing if not self-deprecating.)
The third book is in limbo. I have two ideas:
1. A lifestyle book including recipes, sewing and knitting patterns, and gardening ideas with a desert southwest touch
2. A female detective series set in Phoenix with a science fiction thread
Here is what I know for certain:
1. I want to write full time as a novelist. Like, as a career. I would like to make up stories and have people pay me enough to live on it.
2. I don’t write enough to do this.
3. I don’t read enough to do this.
4. I need to be more disciplined.
5. I need to not let my insecurities about not having the talent, luck or contacts to make it big in publishing. There are rather awful things published daily. You’ve read them. I’ve read them. We’ve all picked up that book and thought, “The verbs don’t agree! How did this get published?” Which, sadly, soon seems to be soon followed by, “Wait! They are making a movie out of that utter nonsense?” (Only to then be followed with, “Gah. Of course it broke attendance records. Of course. Just of course,” as I hold my head in my hands.)
So, I’ve created a plan:
1. Every Friday until I get my butt in gear, I’ll write a blog post about writing. The topics will vary, but I hope to connect with more authors online and share writing routine tips, great resources, books we should all be reading, etc. Language is fluid. We can be good storytellers if we aren’t throwing ourselves into the magical, fantastic world of prose. #writerschool
2. I will read at least 200 pages a week.
3. I will write at least 5000 words a week. This includes both blog posts and book projects.
4. I will connect with authors online.
5. I will schedule a writers’ retreat in Arizona with other friends working on being published. I have a fantastic group of women in Denver I got together with weekly for more than year. We shared our projects, edits and passion. We kept each other accountable. I sincerely miss this group for all of these reasons. I’d like to create something similar in Phoenix, and have everyone get together once a year at a long weekend retreat in the mountains where we share our stuff, including those ever elusive secrets of being published and the joy of finding your book on a stand in an airport. Or at Changing Hands. Or, who are we kidding: Costco.
The only way this plan will work is if I bear down and get after it. It would be even better if you’d participate too. Leave a comment if you are a budding writer. Tell me what you are struggling with, and share your successes. Tell me what you are reading. Tell me what you’d be interested in reading about around here.
Future Best Selling Author — to More than Just Friends and Family,
P.S. Min, this post isn’t entirely for you — but I hope Writer School is the nudge you need. You are one of the funniest, most poignant writers I know. We are all waiting on your book. And God knows if I can do it, you certainly can — and with more sarcasm and panache.
A few things I’ve saved from Instagram lately that I simply love:
Turning an old piano into a hutch? Oh, yes. I just love this.
This is my friend, Jen. She is such a creative, and I love her quilting skills. I’m trying to talk her into a weekend here where we can quilt and I can learn these basics.
Grilled salad? That sounds interesting.
Next backyard party I host — this is happening. So cute. (And I have that table!)
A way to easily entertain me for hours? Searching for “Fox Terriers” on Instagram. Nelson has relatives globally who are doing adorable things. And they all crack me up.
Just yes. Yes.
What’s inspiring you this week?
A few photos from recent walks with Nelson in the neighborhood:
Love the early, golden mornings this time of year.
They are in progress. All 20-plus of them. I love this sort of piece work, but it is time intensive. I’m also newly assigned to a big project at work (yay!) and am preparing for a long weekend on the beach (double yay!) So, I haven’t forgotten y’all. Hang in there with me.
I am giving this project an hour a day — to keep it fun, and something I’m looking forward to. Also this week: