January 7th, 2009

Take yourself on a tour

One of my publishers had all of their novelists read Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction.

One writing exercise from the book that I liked was this one:

“Sketch a floor plan of the first house or apartment, or a map of the first neighborhood, you remember. Place an X on the spots in the plan where significant events happened to you - the tree house from which you used to look into the neighbors’ window, the kitchen in which you found out that your parents were going to divorce, and so forth. Write a tour of the house as if you were a guide, pointing out its features and its history. If a story starts to emerge from one of the settings, go with it.”

I’m in between books, for a few days anyway, and might just do this. I lay awake last night thinking of my tour: this is the window I broke when I put my knee through it trying to sneak in late one night, here is the door my mom hid behind with a table knife dipped in blood when she knew I’d been across the street watching a scary movie about a crazed killer, etc.

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The Art of Running in the Rain

Going on a run is a lot like writing a book. You start out all excited. [Full disclosure: Or maybe your excitement peaks just thinking about it, before you ever lace up your running shoes.] Man, you are going to kick this thing out!

Then reality sets in. There’s a hill. And another. It’s harder than you thought. Maybe you start walking. Maybe you stop altogether and wish someone would come by and offer you a ride. You can’t remember why it seemed like such a good idea to do this. Maybe you should try something else. Maybe you should just give up altogether.

But if you keep going, if you don’t turn around, eventually there comes a time when everything is in snyc again. When you’re on the home stretch and you feel good and you even think you might look good.

Another way writing is like running: no matter how good or bad your time spent doing it is, when it's done, you are always glad that you made the effort.

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Great minds think alike [Full disclosure: maybe too often]

Two books - one title

Right now, publishers seem to be enamored of one-word titles. Easy to remember, and there’s a whole dictionary full of them.

But what happens when you come up the same word title as someone else?

Take Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, and Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness A Novel by William Bernhardt, publishing just one week apart this month. Plus, the title has already been used for books by Agatha Christie, Issac Asimov, and a book about Jackie O and Aristotle Onassis.

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An oddly good two hours

In just two hours:

- I walked into my library and the librarian said, "Oh here she is now," and the guy she was with asked me to speak as part of a panel on Oregon's sesquicentennial (150th birthday).

- I got asked to be the speaker for a writers roundtable.

- A girl on myspace emailed me that Shock Point was her favorite book.

- And wierdest of all - an agent emailed me asking if I needed an agent. And not from a little agency either. But from a big one that most people who write have heard of. I told her that I'm very happy with my agent of 15 years (has it been that long?!?).

The last one for me is a big first. I got dozens of rejections letters from agents when I was first starting out. Most were photocopies. One person just wrote a big "NO!" on my letter and sent it back to me.

My last book came out in 2006. Long enough ago that I started feeling like a fraud again. Long enough ago that someone who didn't know me well introduced me to their spouse by saying "She writes books. I mean, she used to write books."

The break wasn't of my choosing - and now it's over for at least the next three years.

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