A Few Things & The View From Here

A few things:

We are all getting lots of work done, talking about books and publishing and silly things (my favorite). I am revising my heart out or, at least, starting to. This is the view from here.

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Well, that seemed like a way more exciting post title than Essaying. Though, in fact, I am super-excited to report that Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal Instruments Reader is officially out today from the very fabulous Smart Pop Books. You can find out more info at that link and read Cassie's introduction online for this entire week.

I was beyond excited to get to contribute an essay for this, given that these are some of my favorite books in the world and considering that the contributors include many of my other favorite writers (in TOC order: Kate Milford, Sarah Cross, Diana Peterfreund, Robin Wasserman, Michelle Hodkin, Kami Garcia, Kendare Blake, Rachel Caine, Sara Ryan, Scott Tracey, Kelly Link, Holly Black, and Sarah Rees Brennan).

The lovely Smart Pop folks are also posting nice pull quote graphics from all our essays over on tumblr. Here's mine:



Speaking of which (friends, I mean), I'm about to drop off the grid–somewhat–for this year's installment of a magical retreat in Mexico and some major revision time. I may well pop up here or there, but probably not quite as much as usual for the next couple of weeks. But, it's okay, I'll be writing hard and wishing on stars. Promise.

Fast Vs. Slow

I've noticed a few posts here and there about writing speed lately, mostly from people who feel like they go slowly, but sometimes from quote-unquote fast writers too. And these kind of questions have come up at a few events I've done: How long does it take you to write a book? How can I write faster?

I don't know any writers who don't wish they could write faster, though I'm sure there must be some (but they're so zen, they can't be bothered to tell us). In general, everything ends up taking longer to finish than you believe it will. Or wish it would. And this is even after you have some experience and a general idea of how long it takes you to write and revise a book.

But here's what I'm also going to tell you: It doesn't matter.

From an interview with Junot Diaz:

"God, I know, the torment of it. You know, it's weird to be an artist who works really slow. I mean, we have a country that does not like people to take the time. We have a country that even its artists are on the punch-clock. So someone like me really stands out, you know. But you've got to do what you've got to do. And hopefully I can just finish it, forget how long it takes. As long as I can finish the darn thing, I'll be grateful.

"But, you know, that process gets lost. No one remembers it. No one – and that's what's the best part about being artist. There's all the sweat you break, all the dust you raise, all the sort of things, all the internal emotional timbre that goes in the work. No one will remember. That's the best part. All that's left is the actual work.

"And, you know, my books, I try to keep the sweat off the books. So people read it, and they're like wow, this feels like this was effortless. That's a great – for me, more than anything, that's the best part of this. My work, that what I put into it doesn't show on the page. That's, like, great."

This isn't news, but it feels like there is a lot of angst on all sides of this issue. No one feels like their process is just right. We are all Goldilocks, ready to experiment with some new method we've read about here or there, with outlining in legos or jumping up and down fifty times in the morning before we start, or using special highlighters. And any of those things might be useful. And, in fact, the amount of time writing any given book takes may well matter for other reasons, especially depending on how big a source of income writing is for the writer and other career-related concerns.

But it doesn't matter to the reader. And it doesn't really matter to anyone except you, the writer (or if you have a deadline and a publisher, you and the publisher).

Maud Newton writing at Tin House recently:

"Other than the slow pace, I’m not drawing comparisons between my writing and Tartt’s or Chee’s — certainly not in ultimate outcome. Nor do I believe that writers who work more quickly are necessarily any less brilliant or less deep than those two are. (Try listing, just for example, the works of Muriel Spark or Graham Greene on a single page.) But writing a novel is an inherently strange exercise. It’s surreal to work for years and years on a project very few people have seen. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the grips of an incredibly intricate and time-consuming delusion. So it’s comforting to know that some of the novelists who inspire me also, of necessity, take their time."

I actually know a fair number of writers who prefer to write manuscripts on spec for this reason, so they can take the time they need. Some of them are "fast" and some are "slow."

I've never been one to shy from a deadline, and I suppose I am what would be considered a relatively fast writer. This does not mean deadlines make me any less nutso than anyone else. Not even a little. There is always that stress, that feeling that this time will be the time you can't manage to pull it off. And the adrenaline when you do. Like many (if not all) of the relatively fast writers I know, I'm something of a workaholic and also usually feel I could/should be working even more. This is something I'm trying my best to get over, because it seems like a terrible burden to never feel like the work you're doing is enough.

So while I may write relatively quickly, I've also gotten much more deliberate–even just in the last year–and that feels like progress. I don't push push push to get to the end and rush a manuscript out the door the way I used to. I wait until it feels ready (enough, anyway; it never feels fully ready). I may be wrong, but at least it's not because of rushing when rushing doesn't matter. (In deadline world, this is not always possible. Alas. Sometimes meeting a timeframe does matter, and so you just have to do it. By hook, crook, or lack of sleep.)

I guess the point of this post is to answer those questions with: Write at your own pace and try not to stress about what pace that is. Fast, slow, whatever works. You're not racing anyone. Unless someone has locked you in a room where it's just you, two typewriters, and a monkey. Then you're racing that monkey to come up with Shakespeare.

(Now, if you're not writing at all…that's a problem. That's not slow, that's stopped. But, even so, there's a time for that too. We all need rests. Burnout is real. So is RSI. But so are deadlines. Don't miss those unless you have a really, really good reason.)

From an interview with Joyce Carol Oates:

"Young writers need to know that writing is work. It’s not something that can be done in a few hours. It takes much longer than that. You have to stay with it. When I look at something I wrote, I remember the trouble I had writing it.

"I don’t write in any kind of fever. Not at all. A story that is 15 pages long is written paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene. I might start with the ending and work my way back to the beginning. It’s more like a mosaic, pieced together. When it’s working right, a story has a certain fluidity. That’s my ideal, to move it along like a stream.

"I always get questions about my schedule and how productive I am. People think I’m productive, but I work so hard and so slowly. Anybody who worked 10 to 12 hours could be as productive, any normal, sane person. I can concentrate for that long because I have to, because I want to get it done."

The important part is not losing sight of the end goal, which is producing the best book you can. It will always take time. It will always take effort. It will probably take all of both you have to give…until you can finally send it on its way for good, and it's time to work on the next one.

Tuesday Hangovers

Friday Nattering Et Hangovers

Helloooo! I didn't meant to go poof vanish-y, but I did. And I'm afraid the next week or two is likely to be more of the same.

However, I didn't want to miss saying that the Bluegrass Writers Studio faculty and students showed Jenn and I a fabulous time last weekend. And it was so nice having her here. If there's any agent on the planet who is more willing to answer questions and be candid and explain how this crazy business we call pub works, well, I don't know them. (And this is just one of the many reasons I feel so lucky she's my agent. And my friend. <3) We also talked about the new secret book, which I'd just sent her to read, and much of my AWOL-ness this week has been because I'm revising (spoiler alert: she likes it; whew). After a bit from Blackwood, I read a little section of it at my reading–audience choice, and in my experience, people always want to hear from the new secret thing–and burbled about it afterward and was very much relieved at how enthusiastic people were. And they sold out of copies of Blackwood after the reading, ever happy-making. My husband, the original Christopher Rowe, is in this program, and so I went back last night to see Justin Cronin read and hang out and people still wanted to talk about the new novel. This is the kind of thing that makes a writer happy.

Having Jenn in town meant I finally got to meet a couple of other local authors previously only known on the twitter machine: Andrew Shaffer and Tiffany Reisz. Not to mention, one of my favorite things in life is taking visitors to our fab local bookstores and favorite restaurants, and I got to do that too. Puck the Dog, who is famously picky and hates everyone, loooooves Jenn. So there. A great weekend.

Anyway, I'm busily trimming away bits of research loveliness that aren't strictly speaking enhancing the story (or unstrictly, let's be honest!), and doing a bazillion other things, and still trying to catch up on reading I owe people and wearing the wrong earrings together by mistake, etc. But I shall return victorious or triumphant or something or other. I also managed to take no pictures, so no pictures to share.

But I do have a few little Friday hangovers:

Friday Hangovers

Just a few leetle things, most of which I've already shared on twitter, but things flit by so quickly there:

Resolving, Etc., And A Reading

Welcome to 2013, dear readers.

I've been really enjoying everyone's resolutions posts this year, but don't have much more to say here than what I did already. I really only have one overall resolution* this year: to play more. Which isn't to say I intend to do less work–I enjoy working (plus, I can't afford not to)–but that I want to have more time for play. This is harder than you think for someone who likes work and perhaps, at times, is guilty of saying yes too often. I suspect that won't change, but my plan is to say yes to Actual Fun Things Too. So there.

I sent off the secret book to mine agent on New Year's Eve, just barely making my own personal deadline. So now I'm trying to catch up on everything else–email, manuscript reading, etc. etc.–before I travel back to revisionland. If I owe you something, it'll be coming in the next week or two.

A few other things:

  • And I'm particularly excited to be starting off this new year as an official guest author at the Bluegrass Writers Studio winter MFA residency this coming weekend in Lexington. Aforementioned lovely agent Jennifer Laughran will be there as well, so we can do a panel for students on Saturday. BUT there is also a free and open to the public reading event featuring yours truly that evening at 7:30 at the Hilton downtown. I'll be reading some combination of things–while I may read a snippet of Blackwood, I'll read from either The Woken Gods or the secret book too. And I'll be around after to chat and sign any copies of Blackwood people want (I believe there will be some for sale). All the details here. If you are local, there's lots of other great evening events happening too. So, check out that schedule.

And now I must crawl back into the catch-up cave.

*Other mini-resolution: Hopefully, at some point this year, I'll get my act together and find someone to help me give ye olde website/blog a makeover (problem is, I just want a design spruce and face lift, but I like typepad's back end and hosting *clings to what I know*). If you know someone or are someone willing to work within those parameters, lemme know. Though I probably won't be ready to tackle it for a couple of months yet.

Season Of Reflection

That's what we're in, isn't it? We're surrounded by lists of things from the old year, and thinking ahead to what we're looking forward to or hope to achieve in 2013. This past year was a crazy packed one for me, in a way I was only tentatively allowing myself to hope for at this time a year ago.

What a difference a year makes–since then I've really begun the career I've been working toward for years by selling two books and having one come out (!),  having that book optioned for TV and then put into development at M-freaking-TV (yeah, I still can't believe that happened), and, in addition to everything else, writing two books this year. (Yes, I got to the end of my revision on the secret book; doing clean-up and it will be off my desk for a while by the end of the year.) You were not apocalyptic, but you were full of surprises and anxiety and busybusyness, 2012.

ANYway, editor Amanda asked us for Best lists of 2012 for the Strange Chemistry blog. As I explain over there, I'm a little fatigued by the whole concept of Best of lists at the moment (though not too fatigued to blow kisses at Kat Howard at Fantasy Matters, Leo Elijah Cristea, and Jenny Davidson for including Blackwood in their end of year reading wrap-ups this week). But one of the things I have learned this year–and, oh boy, I have learned a great many things–is that bookstores are even more important than I thought they were. And I've always thought they were important. I remain thrilled that you can pick Blackwood up at B&N, but a great gift of having the book come out has been getting to meet and talk to so many new book people (book people are the best people) and many of the most special times this year took place at independent bookstores. Each one unique and wonderful, and a reflection of the community it serves. As a new author, the support of booksellers has meant more than I can say. But I tried in my entry about my Favorite Places of 2012, writing about the seven fabulous indies I got to visit this year.

Go check it out, and leave your own indie love in the comments if you like. I'm hoping to get to some new places this year, especially when The Woken Gods comes out (July! soon enough I will start to talk more about this and at some point there will be a cover and ARCs and things of that sort! panic!). And while these are stores I wanted to single out because I visited them this year, please know that I appreciate each and every bookseller, reader, blogger, librarian and generally kind soul who has read Blackwood, reviewed it, put it into someone's hands or encouraged someone else to read it. I mentally give a frolicking kitten wings whenever a copy is handsold or passed on to a friend. And I hope you'll all be excited about The Woken Gods too. I'm excited for you to read it.

But who knows what 2013 holds? Not me. And I'm okay with that. I'll take another ticket for the roller coaster, please.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday Hangovers, Quicker Than Kris Kringle Edition

Guest Post: Emma Newman & A Split Worlds Story


Today I'm bringing you something a bit different than usual, but undoubtedly a treat–a guest post complete with bonus story from the fabulous Emma Newman, set in the world of her forthcoming fantasy novels for adults with good taste. The first, The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns, will be out soon (pretty cover to the right). I'll let her tell you what this is all about….


Emma Newman: In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called "Between Two Thorns." This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra tit-bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It's also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

This is the forty-second tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds.  If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here.  You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.

The first part of this story can be read here or listened to here.

Story starts behind the cut tag: