5 Things About Writing I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago (Part 2)

When I published my first novel eleven years ago, I thought I’d finish another one within a couple of years. That’s because I thought that, having written one novel, the next one would be easier. Which brings me to:

Writing Truth # 2: Writing a novel never gets easier.

My fourth was just as difficult, if not more so, than my first. My fifth, the one I’ve recently turned in, was just as difficult to write as the rest of them. Through long experience I’ve finally accepted the fact that writing a novel never gets easier.

As I mentioned in How to Write a Novel, there’s no magic formula for novel writing. Each novel demands its own structure, its own pace, its own way of looking at the world.

Each time I complete a novel (and by complete, I mean very specifically the moment that I receive word from my publisher that the novel in its current state is ready for publication), I tell myself that I don’t know how I’ll have the patience to do it again. But patience is beside the point. Because by then, invariably, I’ve already started another novel, a novel I cannot bear to abandon, a novel that promises to be everything the last novel wasn’t, a novel that surely, certainly, will not be as difficult to write as every one that came before it.

I know, I know, the definition of insanity and all that. Call me Homer Simpson.

Where is the hope, then, for novelists, if this thing we do never gets easier? I take comfort from the ice skaters. Yes, the ice skaters. And, if I may be so bold, the aerospace engineers. It doesn’t get easier because it shouldn’t. Who wants to go back to the salcal when you can do a triple lutz? Who wants to merely go into orbit when you can go to Mars?

This metaphor implies, of course, that each novel is more complex than the last. That isn’t necessarily true. But with each new novel, your skill set is larger—or should be. That’s because you should have learned something from the process of writing the last one. Your first novel will probably teach you a lot about timing. Hopefully, it will teach you about clarity. But what it will not teach you is what shape the next novel should take. Because the shape of the story changes.

If it never gets easier, why do we do it—again and again and again? Most of us do it because we love it, and because, though we live by imagination, our imagination fails us on one particular point: we simply cannot imagine a life without writing. While such a life might very well be worth living, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

I take inspiration from one of my favorite books, a novella by Lars Gustafsson, The Death of a Beekeeper.

“Kind readers,” Gustafsson begins. “Strange readers. We begin again.”

And so, strange beings that we are, we begin again. The next novel, the next story, the next essay. And while it never gets easier, for this writer at least, it never gets boring. Each time you begin a new novel, you inhabit a new world. Each time you finish—finding, as most of us do, that the book you have written falls far short of the idea of the book you had intended to write—there is the hope of the next one. Today, the salcal. Tomorrow, the triple lutz. Carry on.

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The New NaNoWriMo App – NaNoWriMo Daily

NaNoWriMo AppWrite your novel in 30 days with the new app NaNoWriMo Daily. Exercises, inspiration, & valuable advice to help you write your novel from start to finish. There are plenty of word-counter apps out there; this isn’t one of those. NaNoWriMo Daily is a content-rich app that is as educational as it is inspirational. This is an app built by a writer, for writers.
Featuring a day-by-day guide to getting your novel on the page, plus helpful mini-lessons on plot, structure, characterization, dialogue, setting, voice, and more. In addition to the daily guide, a series of 500-word writing prompts will help you get past procrastination to get the bones of your story on the page. The Notes on Craft section includes in-depth articles on the finer points of narrative craft, as well as fascinating stories and advice from successful authors. In the Resources section, you’ll find workbooks, writing classes, and opportunities to submit your work for publication.

Want to write a novel? NaNoWriMo Daily will help you reach the finish line. I developed this app for Fiction Attic Press–a small, independent press I run out of Northern California, which is dedicated to discovering and publishing new writers.

Get it now on the itunes app store.

 

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Michaela Joy Garecht – still missing

Michaela Joy Garecht was kidnapped in Hayward, CA 26 years ago today–on November 19, 1988. She was nine years old. Her mother, Sharon Murch, is still searching for answers.Please share this age progression photo of Michaela & the composite of her suspected kidnapper. If you lived in or near Hayward at the time, please look closely at the photos. It is never too late to find answers.

Michaela Joy Garecht Age Progression (2012)   Michaela Joy Garecht, age 9   Suspect in the kidnapping of Michaela Joy Garecht

Location of kidnapping: the corner of Mission Boulevard and Lafayette in Hayward, CA. At that time it was called Rainbow Market. Today it is Mexico Super. Please share this age progression photo of Michaela and the composite of her suspected kidnapper.

Details (from the website Missing Michaela): “Witnesses described Michaela’s kidnapper as a man in his 20’s, with long, dirty-blonde hair. His most outstanding characteristic was severe acne, like boils. He was driving an older, tannish-gold, full-size sedan, boxy in shape, with body damage. The eyewitness noted his eyes. ‘He had fox eyes,’ she said…”

The case is yet to be solved. If you have any information, please call Inspector Robert Lampkin at the Hayward Police Department (510) 293-7079 Robert.Lampkin@hayward-ca.gov

Read about Michaela’s kidnapper here.

Visit Sharon Murch’s website for more information about the search for Michaela.

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Livescribe3 Brings the Romance Back to Writing

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my new love affair with the Livescribe3 smarten. Because the proof is in the pen, I thought I’d show you some images of the Livescribe3 at work. Here are the notebook pages in which I drafted this post by hand:

Livescribe3 ExamplesLivescribe3 ReviewLivescribe3 for Writers

And here is the partial transcription of my Livescribe3 notes. (On the Livescribe app, you transcribe y right-swiping your handwritten notes on your iPad or iPhone). As you can see, I don’t have the most legible handwriting. In fact, my husband can’t read a word I write. I might have to marry Livescribe, because it clearly understands me much better:

How does Livescribe3 transcription work

Granted, it wasn’t 100% accurate, but it was startlingly close, considering how elusive my handwriting can be. No lost notes, not lost writing…brilliant.

Go here to get Livescribe 3 or check out the other Livescribe products, including the Echo set for students.

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Year of Fog, Golden State, Hum, and other books. She is the publisher of Fiction Attic Press and the creator of The Paperclip Method for writers.

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5 Truths About Writing I Wish I’d Known 20 Years Ago

Last week, I visited California College of the Arts to talk to the current crop of MFA candidates about writing and publishing. I taught at CCA for several years, several years ago, but somewhere along the line I quit teaching in order to spend more time writing. I always enjoyed teaching, though, and it was good to be back there, talking to students who are at the stage I was almost twenty years ago, and who have most of the same concerns that I had at that age.

I hadn’t really prepared anything for my talk, because when you’ve been writing for as long as I have, there’s nothing easier to talk about than writing. It’s like asking a chef to talk about food. Somewhere along the line, it comes naturally. More naturally, probably, than even the writing itself, which has its good days and its bad days. Some days, writing is like drinking water; it feels completely natural. Some days, it’s like drinking lighter fluid; it feels not only unnatural, but also painful.

I asked the students what they wanted to hear about. Were they interested in the publishing world? They were. I talked a bit about that—how it was when I was coming up, and how it’s changed, and why it’s still important to have both a trusted agent and a trusted reader. The conversation veered a bit, and I find myself sounding something like an old-timer, giving the “what I wish I’d known back then” talk. It wasn’t a talk I’d given before, but it just sort of started to roll off of my tongue, because what the students really wanted to know about was the writing life: how to do it, and how to sustain it, and if it was possible, and how.

The why, they didn’t really need to know, because if they did, they wouldn’t be pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. The why for any writer comes down to this: if you’re not writing, you’re not happy. Therefore, you write. Of course, that reasoning implies that writing will always make you happy. For many people, that’s not true at all. What I should say is: when you’re not writing, you’re not fulfilled. That’s better. Want to know if you are really and truly a writer? When you go long periods without writing, you feel a bit empty. When you write well, or at least productively, you feel fulfilled, and often, if you’re lucky, even happy.

Thank you for bearing with me. It’s been, I realize, a long and meandering path so far. But that’s what the writing life is like, and that’s why we’re lucky, and that’s the first thing I wish I’d known about writing twenty years ago: (click Read More to continue to WRITING TRUTH NUMBER 1) (more…)

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