Archive for February, 2013

Pride and Publication

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I’ve just received “notes” from my editor. These “notes”–a euphemism if ever there was one–begin with exuberant praise for the book I’ve written. Apparently it’s a marvelous novel, original, salable, and charming. This flattery achieves its desired effect. I am beaming and bursting with pride for what has been established by an editor of a venerable and world-renowned publishing house as a thoroughly delightful piece of writing.

Then come the “notes”. These are, actually, commands. Six single-spaced pages in agate type suggesting–that is, suggesting very strongly–that I modify the characters, alter their relationships, change the story, eliminate key scenes, shift the point of view, select a different theme, and write a new ending. Voila, that’s all! Oh, and have it back in 8 weeks, okay?

Hey, I’m not complaining. After all, I’m being pubished. After 30 books, that’s still a miracle, given the degree of competition (Is there anyone in America these days who isn’t writing a novel?). But I am trying to make a point, and that point is that we can’t escape criticism, even from people who love our work.

Nor should we want to. Criticism illuminates the areas where our stories are weak. If it’s intelligent criticism, it points us in a direction we can take to make our work better. Even if the criticism is rude, crude, and meant to hurt us personally, there will be at least a grain of truth in it.

That’s really the only difference between self-published authors and paid novelists: One can get away with a “good enough” first draft and, for his money, then gets to strut around with his pride intact. The other (of which I am one, so I’ll use the feminine gender here) subjects herself to seemingly endless rewrites, trusting the people who chose to publish her, putting her pride in check for the purpose of producing the best book possible.

And that, I believe, is why we get published in the first place.

As to the personal wounds inflicted: eh. We all know the world is full of a-holes. Let that go. Take only what is said about your work seriously, because that’s the only thing you really need to pay attention to.

What I’m Doing

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Unique new blog, “The Page 69 Test” in Campaign for the American Reader in which an excerpt from page 69 of a book–in this case, MY book, POISON–leads into a guest blog (by me) about why Morgan le Fay turns into a beyatch. Also check out LETTERS FROM VALENTINA,, a terrific blog from Britain.

What I’m Doing

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Right now there are THREE great blogs featuring POISON:
LovLivLifeReviews (
Star Shadow Blog Series Spotlight (
and MY BOOK, THE MOVIE (bit.lyXrJZ4V)
Check them out!
Also, on Valentine’s Day (Thursday, Feb. 14), eBooks of THE FOREVER KING and THE TEMPLE DOGS will be available for 99 cents from all major e-retailers. Not to toot my own horn, but these books are classics with a history of rave reviews. So if you’ve never read them, here’s your chance!

What I’m Doing

Friday, February 8th, 2013

There’s a great blog post about POISON on LivLovLifeReviews! Here’s a link:

Meanwhile, I’m working on SIX different books at the moment: One’s with my editor, who’s getting notes (i.e. things I’ve got to rewrite) to me on Monday; another with my agent, who’s trying to sell it; the third, a longstanding novel-in-progress that I keep trying to write between projects; a partial ms w/outline about a time-traveling boy in Hitler’s Germany that’s very hard to pin down, since time travel is impossibly tricky; a completed novel that must have something wrong with it, since none of my friends has been able to finish reading it; and POISON, which has just come out and needs publicity attention. Whew! I’m sort of hoping we get a big storm that knocks out the power so I can just write by candlelight.

FLOW, Part 4: Writing Badly

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

This is the last entry in a four-part series about attaining FLOW–that state of effortless writing in which the right brain, seat of the creative impulse, takes center stage and relegates the critical-thinking left brain to the sidelines.

For some, FLOW comes naturally. These individuals write without filters or internal editors. They’ve never heard the “Mom” voice telling them they’ll never amount to anything. They’ve never imagined the thump of a “Reject” stamp on their foreheads. But these writers are rare and, in my experience, often so right-brained that they literally can’t see their own flaws and consequently never revise.

Revision is essential to producing salable novels, but revision ought to come after the first (or second, or twelfth) draft is completed. The writer who rewrites every paragraph before beginning the next is doomed. Why? Because the perfectionist who must achieve perfection right out of the box rarely finishes.

That is the point of FLOW: FInishing the novel. In earlier posts, I’ve covered a number of ways to achieve FLOW: By writing fast, writing every day, and working from an outline. But this last piece of advice, writing badly, is probably the most helpful. It’s also one of the most difficult tasks for intelligent people to take on.

Good writers don’t want to write badly, ever. And so we ponder each word, restructure every scene. The result is that our great novel remains unfinished and yellowing in a drawer. How much better to be one of those brainless spewers of words (who are all over the internet, boring us with their redundancies, fracturing spelling and grammar without a care) who nevertheless actually finish what they start!

Here’s an example– a random sentence from CLOUD ATLAS, David Mitchell’s work of genius: “I cooked up my first escape plan–one so simple it hardly warrants the name–alone. It needed will and a modicum of courage, but not brains.” This is the same paragraph, written “badly,” that is, in a way that will not impede my flow: “I figured out how to get out of there. It was a stupid plan, but something.”

The nuance, the cadence, and the narrator’s voice are all missing from my pedestrian offering. But it got onto the page in five seconds. Later, when I’ve changed into my left brain and am wearing my editor’s hat, I can refine it. For now, though, I move on.


Write badly when you’re stuck. When the way you or a character says something is important, don’t bother trying to get it right at first. Just write it the way a ten-year-old would, and fix it later. Put a star next to the section if you need to, but move on.

Write badly when the plot overwhelms you. How do you handle the big blackout scene where Professor Plum gets shot? By writing badly: “Everyone was in the room, having a good time. Nobody noticed Professor Plum. Then the lights went out. When they came back on, Professor Plum was lying in a pool of blood.” (Use of “everybody” and “nobody”, repetition of Professor Plum’s name, cliches… all of which constitute bad writing)So okay, it’s crude and uninspired and puerile…Bad!… but it’s on the page. It gets you through.

Write badly when you’re uninspired. If you’ve gone more than one day without writing, it’s probably going to be hard to pick up your threads of thought. That lack of continuity will feel like a lack of motivation. If this is the case, whatever you write will probably be dull anyway, so writing badly will at least get something on the page until your juices start flowing again.

A final word: Don’t let others see your work until it’s finished. Your friends (who–let’s get real–won’t ever tell you if the book is heinous) don’t count, and you shouldn’t need stroking so desperately, anyway. And if you’re silly enough to send a rough draft to an editor or agent, even a longstanding one (even if they ask for it!), then you’ll live to regret it. (I did!)

No one except you should know how badly you can write. But it’s your secret weapon that will get you to the end of your first draft faster than anything else. So use it wisely.

But use it.