Writing in a Winter Wonderland

Winter has settled in.  The hats, scarves, and gloves that were worn with festive anticipation in December are lying on the floor next to the snow boots, a puddle of slush collecting beneath them.  We’ve gone from hoping for snow and walking in a winter wonderland to walking hunched over, bent into the icy wind, just trying to get to the car.

The year 2020 was pretty awful and I think we’re all glad it’s gone.  The year 2021, however, stands in the corner smirking and saying, “Hold my beer.”

Even with pandemic lockdowns and time on our hands, it’s been tough to get words on the page.  The stress of facing the day and whatever fresh hell it will bring has had a chilling effect on our creativity.  Finances, illness, the threat of censorship, distrust in a government that has gone mad (on both sides, mind you.)–it can be tough to slip into the trancelike state a writer needs.

Still, there have been good writing days.  I only have about half the work from my day job that I had before the pandemic, which means I have a few free hours each day.  I’ve tried to make the best of them, but I haven’t always succeeded.  My debut novel is almost finished.  I know, I’ve said that before; but each time I read it through, I find something that needs work.  If you hear anyone claim to have a finished, marketable manuscript at the end of NaNo, I want you to send them to bed without dessert.  While a manuscript has to be declared finished at some point, please respect the craft enough to give it your best before inflicting an error-ridden monstrosity onto the world.

I still have some fleshing out to do before I send my manuscript out to beta readers.  There’s an aspect of the story that required some research, and that slowed my progress more than I expected it would.  I could have winged it, I guess.  It isn’t an area the average person would have detailed knowledge about and there are different opinions about it among the experts; but in doing the research, I discovered something that would add a slight twist to the plot.  Had I rushed things, I never would have found it.  Having acquired the knowledge I needed, I now have to slip it into the story without it sounding as if the characters are lecturing the reader on the topic.  The information has to frighten one character enough that it causes him to make a drastic decision.  As you can see, there is still work to be done.

Beyond the basic plot, there are still several areas of the manuscript that just don’t sound right.  When I read it back to myself, there are spots where I swear I hear an audible clunk where the words don’t flow as they should.  If I hear it, my reader will hear it.  A red X marks the clunk and I sit and stew over how to fix it.  I find myself shrinking from the task because it will involve rewriting a chunk of dialogue for some of it and deciding how much of it happens inside a character’s head.  That can be tricky.  How much does Sam tell Tom?  How much does he hide from him?  How does Tom process what he hears?  How does it affect his decisions?  Multiple characters present multiple problems.  Seamlessly tying them together is hard work.

Having removed all the chapter breaks a few months ago (they were impeding my progress), I now have to decide where to put them back.  With the manuscript more fully formed, that shouldn’t be too tough.  I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the project.

After this novel is put to bed, I’m going back to writing for children for a while.  If I decide to write another novel (a sequel is kicking around in my head), at least I won’t have such a massive learning curve to navigate.

I hope this year brings you fresh ideas and inspiration.  Turn off the news and social media and escape into your manuscript.  Defy the fear and anxiety so prevalent in society.  Create something wonderful.

We could all use a little wonderful.

Writer’s Digest Story Competition

WD-89th-Annual-2019-WinnerSeals-Winner

A couple of years ago, I detailed for you the saga of almost getting my picture book manuscript, Wombat Wings, published.

I put aside doing any additional querying for a while to work on the novel, but made a last minute decision to enter the story in the 89th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

To my shock and delight, I won first place in the children’s/YA division!

You can see the list of winners in the November/December 2020 issue of Writer’s Digest and read the stories at: Announcing the Winners of the 89th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition – Writer’s Digest

The Cancel Culture Cancer

After typing the title of this post, I thought about turning off the comments because of how childish, uncivilized, and vicious the Cancel Culture Cult (the CCC) has become. Death threats are not outside the realm of possibility and the cult may attempt to bully me into submission.  I have no intention of engaging or buckling, so don’t expect a response or a retraction.  This is my platform and I’ll say what I damn well please, at least until the social media fascists shut this down, too.  They’re cowardly that way.  Can’t have people considering other opinions.  After all, it might change the way they think.  Can’t have that.

And yes, the CCC is a cult. It has doctrines, a very long list of right and wrong, leaders, a propaganda arm, demands blind loyalty, and has an army of jackbooted keyboard storm troopers standing at the ready to crush any opposition.  And by storm troopers, I mean the Nazi SS kind, not the Star Wars kind, just in case any recent college graduates are confused.

The CCC operates under the guise of tolerance and justice while denying those very things to people with opposing views.  It dictates what can and cannot be said and who has the right to say it.  They derive this power, or so they believe, from the supposed purity of their cause. You see, the CCC has set itself up as the sole arbiter of what is acceptable.  You can have no opinions but those the CCC feeds you.  Stepping outside the lines will get you attacked on social media, threatened with violence, doxed, and your books taken off the shelves.  I even heard of one writer whose book contract was cancelled before her book even came out because someone from the CCC didn’t like a comment she tweeted.

Gee, that’s not fascist at all!

In a delicious and ironic twist, it recently set upon JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame.  I won’t go into the details here as you can easily Google them.  Ms. Rowling would never be mistaken for a conservative, so the attack wasn’t about that.  Suffice it to say that those who set themselves up as the thought police eventually eat their own.  It’s like making a rule that everyone has to wear purple socks.  At some point, someone is going to wear the wrong shade of purple and the CCC’s very own SS will be knocking at the offender’s door.

@jk_rowling and I probably have nothing in common, but I think she’s a wonderful writer and I love everything Hogwarts.  Before Harry Potter came along, there wasn’t much on the bookshelves for the YA crowd.  If you’re making your living writing YA books, you owe her your thanks for paving the way.  Quite frankly, I suspect many of those attacking her did so out of a spirit of envy.  Ms. Rowling has genuine talent and her work can stand on its own.  Her talent has made her a very rich woman and that makes some people jealous.  Taking her down required a different tactic.  Cue the CCC.

When a dictator comes to power, among the first to be taken out are the academics and the artists because they represent ideas and the ability to communicate them.  Debate, discussion, and differences of opinion are simply not allowed in a dictatorship.  Free thinking is dangerous to the regime.  It is all the more chilling that it is the academics and artists of today who are marching in lockstep down the censorship trail, attempting to silence and destroy those who exercise their right to disagree.

Liberty is dangerous.  It takes guts.  It requires you to be so certain of your beliefs that you’re unafraid of someone else believing differently.  It means you can say you think someone is wrong without having the mob accuse you of hate.  The mob would have us believe that what they consider to be wrong ideas are equal to violence.  That’s a dangerous position to take as it lays the groundwork for censorship and book burning–and worse.  Words can inspire violence (i.e., “Kill cops!”), but words are not acts of violence.  Violence is when you take someone’s life.  Violence is when you burn down a city.  Violence is when you beat a man because you don’t like his color or his religion or his political affiliation (on either side).

My husband and I were stationed in West Germany shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I’ve been to Dachau.  I’ve seen with my own eyes the end result of marginalizing, demonizing, and censoring groups and individuals.  It eventually and inevitably leads to killing anyone who doesn’t bend the knee or fit the regime’s definition of a human being.

Once you reduce a person to a problem, you strip them of their humanity and make them vulnerable to the whims of the prevalent ideology.  Millions are dead because of that kind of thinking.  None of it started with concentration camps.  It started with hate, propaganda, and the stripping away of the rights of the individual–all in the best interest of the regime, of course.

We lived close to the border of Czechoslovakia, which was part of the Soviet Union back then.  Crossing into the 1K Zone between West Germany and Czechoslovakia would get you shot by a Communist soldier.  The Communists, being dictators, made no bones about killing anyone who might espouse ideas the Kremlin didn’t approve of.

If you think the Cancel Culture Cult isn’t leading us down that same path, you would do well to brush up on your history.  As writers, we should be in the forefront of defending free speech, regardless of whether or not we agree with the thoughts expressed.  Let the marketplace decide whether or not an artist’s work is worth paying for.  No one is forcing you to purchase it.  If you think the artist is a vile person, you don’t have to support them.  I wouldn’t watch a Jane Fonda movie if you put a gun to my head, but I wouldn’t dream of denying her the right to work just because I consider her to be a traitor.  On the other hand, I’m sure Russell Crowe and I have absolutely nothing in common ideologically, politically, or theologically, but he’s a wonderful actor and I enjoy his work.  If he produces content that offends me, I don’t buy a ticket.  I don’t try to ruin his life or make him fear for his safety.  That sort of behavior is beneath me, and it should be beneath you.  If we, as artists, fail to defend freedom of speech and expression, we unleash on the world a force that will not be contained without war.  Real war.  Again, read a history book.

These are strange times and passions are inflamed–all the more reason for calm and level-headed thinking.  Violence and intimidation have become the tactics of some because what they want can’t be brought into being through rational discussion with rational people.  Most people want to be free to think, act, and speak as they wish, but the CCC can’t allow that.

It’s perfectly okay to believe what you believe, and passionately so.  It’s not okay for you or anyone else to use threats, intimidation, demonization, demonetization, censorship, and inevitable acts of violence to bend others to your will.

Beware of people and groups who scream about freedom and equality while demanding the destruction of anyone who won’t goosestep alongside them.

Eventually, they’ll come for you, too.

The First Draft is Done!

And it’s not great.  It isn’t terrible, either.  It’s a first draft and it’s allowed to suck a little.  Okay, maybe a lot.

I’m definitely NOT an over-writer.  The draft is only about 37,000 words long.  I was bordering on an anxiety attack until I flipped through the pages and realized that what I had written was almost entirely dialogue.  The descriptions are scant and I haven’t done enough to set the scenes.

What I have done is develop the individual voice for each character.  The back-and-forth between and among them flows pretty well.  I feel like I’ve been eavesdropping and taking notes.

I put the manuscript away for a couple of days to get a little distance before I go back to page one and start the first revision.  In the meantime, I’ve been jotting down descriptive notes on weather, the town, and the characters themselves.  I’m allowing myself a daydreaming phase in which I take that walk in the park in autumn, finding words for what I see, smell, feel, and hear.  I’ve figured out what color the kitchen curtains are and what’s stuffed in the box on the back of a basement shelf.

I can certainly understand why people say they hate writing the first draft.  It’s grueling.  Part of the difficulty was my own fault, having failed to properly outline.  The rest was that I had to learn to let myself slip for long periods of time into that almost trancelike state that so focuses the mind and cancels out the world around me–except for the dog barking.  I have a German Shepherd (Leonidas).  I was alone in the house, sitting at the kitchen table with my back to the basement stairs as I wrote a creepy scene.  Someone walked past the house, triggering Leo’s guard dog response.  The sudden, loud barking almost knocked me out of my chair.  Got my heart racing at a pretty good clip.  At least I know he’s got an eye on things while my mind is elsewhere.

So, lots of work still to be done, but the foundation is laid.  Time to move forward and take a leisurely stroll through the events in the story, this time stopping to notice what’s going on around my characters and helping the reader see what I see.

It will be interesting to see how my own voice as a storyteller emerges in the revision.

Outlines are Good

I’m finding this out as I go along.  Pantsers, don’t hate me.  I need a more rigid approach to my creative pursuits.  There, I said it.

With my job on hold due to the virus, I have a lot of time on my hands.  I’m actually spending several hours a day on my novel.  It feels strange.  I’ve always felt a certain amount of guilt when making time for my writing, like I should be working to earn more money and not pursuing this dream.  The way things are, I can write without guilt.  There’s no money coming in, and it’s not my fault.

I’m looking for silver linings wherever I can find them these days.

The writing lessons continue to pile up for me, and I’ll be making changes to my writing process, should I attempt another novel in the future.

I definitely didn’t do enough of an outline.  I took random notes.  It was a plotser/planster approach.  This was clearly insufficient for the task.  I kept getting stuck, unsure of what my characters should do next.  I had a very general idea and thought I could work with that, but that was a mistake.  I forced myself to sit down and spend a couple of days writing an outline that went all the way to the end of the novel.

Not being someone who likes to be told what to do (even by my own self), I’ve already chopped a scene from that outline.  That’s okay.  When I put the whole plot down on paper, I saw that the scene was unnecessary and actually cluttered the ending.  Had I done a proper outline to begin with, I would have seen that months ago and not wasted so much thought on how to fit it into the story.  I can now use the minor character in that scene in a completely different and much more useful way.

The outline also allows me to hover, not unlike a drone, over the story and spot plot holes.  I’m pretty good at picking up inconsistencies because I have to do that as a medical transcriptionist.  I have to catch discrepancies or the patient may suffer for the mistakes.  It’s a great skill to have developed and honed over the last 20 years.

My outline also serves as a handy place to make editing notes without having to stop right away and search through the manuscript when I realize I have to change something.  For instance, I have to go back and change a lake to a river and casually mention that there’s a ferry, not a bridge, that crosses it.  This is key to the story and how it ends.  In fact, it changed the end of the story altogether.  I’m quite satisfied with it.  On the second draft, I’ll have a handy reference for those details.

I’ve never really had writer’s block that made it difficult to come up with new ideas.  My writer’s block always falls into the “what now” category.  With the outline, the “what now” is already in place (but flexible) and I can relax and work out the scene at hand.

Another change I have to make is my habit of writing notes for the same project in multiple notebooks.  I’ve been absolutely terrible about this.  It has caused me to repeat myself and forget details until I stumble upon them when I’m looking for something else.  Next time, one notebook for one project, with tabs for characters, plot points, and dialogue.

Writing picture books is a much less complicated affair, and the struggle there is to tell the story in an uncluttered and entertaining fashion.  With a novel, the struggle is keeping the story straight and the characters consistent.  An outline is also a great way to work in those small foreshadowing details that come to light at the end of the manuscript.

I still don’t know if being a full-time writer suits me.  I have the whole workday to spend on it, but I find myself tiring out after a few hours.  Those are productive hours, however, and I think I’m using them well.  Once the day job kicks in again, I’ll have to find a way to carve out more than the hour or so I had allowed myself in the past.

If you’re stuck, give outlining a try.  You don’t need to use a whiteboard, colored markers, or a million sticky notes (unless that works for you).  Give yourself a chapter number and just list events like bullet points.  I suggest double spacing to leave room for notes.

A little structure to your process just might free your imagination and benefit your overall creativity.

 

Writing and Pandemics

My medical transcription work dried up last week.  Odd thing to happen with so many sick people around, right?  Most of my work comes from a well-known hospital in New York City, a city that is currently on lockdown.  Hence, doctors aren’t seeing many patients for routine office visits.  The result is that I have time on my hands.  I actually cleaned out the hall closet this morning.

With no doctors droning on in my ears for hours each day, it’s strangely quiet here.  My husband drives a garbage truck, which is considered a public health necessity, so he’s still gone most of the day.  While we’re in our second week of a school shutdown, the Michigan weather has kept the neighborhood kids inside, leaving even their backyards empty.

This is a weird way to do life, isn’t it?  So far, the world is still relatively normal.  We can still order takeout and watch TV.  The utilities are all working.  While toilet paper is in short supply (thanks, hoarders!), we still have food.  I think the outward normalcy of this is what’s causing a lot of people not to take it seriously.  We can’t see the virus with our own eyes, even when it’s lurking just a few feet away inside an unsuspecting host. The sky is falling, but the sun is still shining.  It’s very surreal.

There are those on the front lines for whom nothing is normal.  For the sick and those who care for them, each day is a struggle.  For our first responders, mail carriers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, and even our garbagemen, the world is suddenly a much more dangerous place than it was a month ago.  May God bless and protect them.

While some responded to this crisis by hoarding or complaining about being confined to home, I think most people are handling it all pretty well.  Facebook is full of links to free concerts, virtual museum tours, and craft ideas for kids stuck at home.  Hilarious toilet paper memes abound.  There is an abundance of wonderful gallows humor.  People are talking openly about their faith and sharing hope.

This morning, a grateful citizen “tipped” my husband and his helper with a couple of packs of toilet paper.  A sweet and hilarious gesture.

My loss of income is going to be a financial hardship, but we’ll squeeze through this.  The free time I suddenly have is going into writing my novel, and I’m taking full advantage of it.  It gives me a sense of meaning and reminds me that somewhere out there is a publication date.  That means there’s a future.

Maybe you’re dealing with homeschooling for the first time.  I homeschooled my sons by choice years ago.  You’ll be okay, I promise.  Take advantage of all the great stuff artists are offering online.  Get to know your kids a little better.  By the time school resumes, you’ll have a better handle on their academic strengths and weaknesses, which should lead to parent-teacher conferences that are much more productive.

Can’t visit loved ones?  Your phone still works.  How many of us visit friends and family, only to spend the visit staring at our phones?  Now you can use it for actual conversations!

By all means, keep yourself informed; but don’t listen to the news all day.  That’s bad for your mental health, even during normal times.  Read a book.  Write.  Step outside your house in the early morning hours and listen to the birds singing.  They’re still showing up for the gig.

God willing, this will all end in a couple of months.  When it’s over, we’ll all have to make an assessment of how we handled it.  Those who hoarded, those who defied CDC recommendations and partied on the beach anyway, those who snatched toilet paper away from an old lady in the grocery store–they’ll have to live with themselves.  Most will make excuses.  Hopefully, some will learn and grow from the experience.

May we be among those who can look back at this terrible episode in our shared history, knowing we did what we could to minimize the suffering.  Wash your hands.  Stay home.  Be kind.  Be patient.  Don’t hoard.  Share.  Pray.

Love one another, as He has loved us.

 

Omniscient POV versus Head-Hopping

I didn’t realize I was head-hopping in drafting my first novel!

Myths of the Mirror

Omniscient

Today, I’m going a little techie for all the writers out there. This is another one of my “learn by failure” posts.

When we write, we strive for stories that will grip our readers. We want an emotional investment, and the best way to do that is to immerse our readers inside our character’s head, heart, and skin, the deeper the better. The reader sees, hears, smells, and experiences what the character does, up close and personal.

When I started writing, I was a point-of-view “head-hopper.” I wanted to share every character’s thoughts and feelings in every scene. My writer’s group rolled their eyes and eventually critiqued it out of me. I learned the hard way – by rewriting my entire book!

Head-hopping is a common glitch in early writing as authors learn the ropes. It’s often confused with a Third Person Omniscient Point of View. So, what’s the difference?

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Are We Blocked or Afraid?

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I’ve been wondering about this lately.  While writing this novel, I occasionally find myself unsure of how to proceed. There are kinks in the plot that need to be worked out.  Sometimes what I planned for my characters doesn’t work and I need to make a change.  Plot holes appear out of nowhere.  For example, at one point, my main character thinks someone may have broken into the house.  I had her going up to her bedroom and locking the door.

Dumb and unrealistic.

I had to add a scene in which she realizes she left her cell phone upstairs and flees to a neighbor’s house to call the police.

For several days, though, I left the problem unresolved.  It isn’t really that I wasn’t sure what to do but that I was afraid to do it.  Like the rest of you, I suffer occasionally from nagging doubts about my ability to pull this off.  It was silly, of course, and the scene I crafted turned out well.  The reader will know that the presence of an intruder can’t explain what’s been happening in the house because the police have ruled that out.  That helps to move the plot along.  I even got to know the neighbor a little better.  Maybe I can use that later in the story.

I’m guilty of going for days without adding to the story because I’m afraid to face it.  It’s too big and unwieldy.  I feel intimidated by it.  There are things I’ve left out that need to be added.  Character descriptions, for example.  Right now, the reader would have no idea what any of the characters looks like.  It’s had me slightly panicked, but I had an epiphany today.

I haven’t written the descriptions because I haven’t been able to see the characters.  And you know what?  It’s okay!  As I continue to write and spend time in the world I’m creating, the people and their surroundings are coming into focus.  I can get all of that nailed down in the next draft.  It doesn’t have to stop me from doing the first draft, which is about the plot.  I don’t have to become “blocked” over it.  Bake the cake, then add the icing.

I think this may be why there are so many characters in self-published novels that feel like they’re 2-dimensional people.  It’s as if the author felt they couldn’t proceed with the story until we knew what color nail polish the main character wore.  It feels forced.  If you’re stuck or bogged down because your characters and setting don’t feel detailed enough, let it slide for now.  The more you think about them and the more words you put into their mouths, the clearer their faces will be; and the rooms they sit in will become furnished.

My characters are finally starting to emerge from the mist and introduce themselves.  And I just realized that the living room couch in the main character’s house is a hideous shade of green.

For now.

 

 

 

 

Family Fallout

As you know, I’m working on my first adult novel.  My main character is a woman who had an abusive family.

I find myself facing a dilemma.  The story isn’t autobiographical, but I’m using some of my own experiences in it.  I guess in a sense I’m fictionalizing nonfiction events.  Both of my parents are dead and aren’t here to defend themselves.  My siblings are all alive, and a couple of them are the basis for my main character’s cruel siblings.

You see where this is going?

I have no relationship or connection to the siblings in question, having gone no contact several years ago.  There is a chance, however, that once I publish this book they’ll read it.  I expect quite the s**t storm.

Now, one could argue that if they see themselves in the characters in my book, that’s entirely their problem.  As the T-shirt says, “If you didn’t want to end up in my novel, you should have been nicer to me.”  On the other hand, I’m not writing a revenge piece.  As a writer, I’m using what I know about life to flesh out my character.  I’ve made some changes to the circumstances my character lives through and have sometimes consolidated events or changed who was responsible for them.  In the book, the character suffers primarily emotional and psychological abuse.  There is only the suggestion of physical abuse.  Quite frankly, I didn’t feel like including it because the emotional and psychological were much more damaging to me. Bruises on the skin heal eventually.

I’ve made a point of making sure my main character is as emotionally damaged as you would expect her to be.  She isn’t a warm and fuzzy person.  Rather than cowing her and making her mouse-like, what she suffered has hardened her and given her something of a prickly personality.  I’m trying to find ways to soften her or at least make her more sympathetic.  If I were a shrink, I would say I was searching for some good in myself after a lifetime of being told I’m not worth anything.  Pathetic, right?

What do you think?  Is it all truly grist for the mill?  What are the boundaries, or do they even exist?

Writing this character has brought up memories of things I’d long forgotten; and of course, my view of things is decidedly one-sided.  I don’t want to hurt any feelings.  I don’t want to make a bad situation worse.  I just want to write a story that rings true.  A happy family situation wouldn’t fit the story I’m writing.  The abuse needs to exist.

Where do you, as an artist, draw the line?

 

Making Progress & Finding the Groove

The novel is coming along.  Slowly.  I find myself being pulled back to the beginning by the need to edit what’s been written so far.  The things that need to be fixed are becoming obnoxious in their insistence.

When I write picture books or young reader chapter books, I never truly write a first draft all the way through before starting to revise.  My drafts are done in layers.  I write the draft until my inner editor starts to pace inside my head, and then I go back to the beginning and revise what I’ve done before continuing with the rest of the story.  It’s my process, I guess.

I wasn’t sure that process would work when writing my first novel.  I’ve been pretty focused on getting the basic story down before I allow myself to edit, but I don’t think that’s going to work.  I need to do the second wave of the so-far first draft before I go much further.

On a positive note, I was writing a scene involving a ghost and actually creeped myself out to the point that I had to look over my shoulder.  I’m not trying for slasher movie scary or Stephen King scary–I’m aiming for creepy.  My main character, however, is in need of some softening.  She’s a tough broad but not very likeable.  She’s too much like me.  That will never do.  Most readers won’t connect with her in her current state.  My supporting cast, however, is shaping up nicely.  I like them.  They’re very human.  Their dialogue feels natural.  They’re trying to do the right thing, but they’re scared.

When writing for children, I’m definitely a planner because the plots are simple.  Since starting my first novel, I find myself to be neither a pantser nor a planner but that in-between creature called a plantser.  I wrote a very basic plot outline that functions as a map, but every bit of the story that fills in that rough outline has been created at the cold keyboard, save the occasional idea jotted down when I was doing something else.  I’ve had some great writing sessions when I’ve slipped into that state of self hypnosis where I’m inside the world of my characters.  The scenes that were fuzzy at the beginning are becoming more focused and three-dimensional as I write.  I suppose that’s why I feel like I need to clean up what I’ve written so far.  Some of it is too vague or clumsy.

The opening scene, which lays the groundwork for the problem my main character faces later, certainly needs to be beefed up a bit.  In that scene, two characters are sent out to find a dead man and make sure he’s buried.  I can see them better now.  I can see the house in the clearing.  My characters are afraid, and now I know they have reason to be.

Developing a story in this way takes time and thought.  The story as I first envisioned it has already changed quite a bit, and for the better.  This is the wonderful part of writing, taking the time to savor each scene and put flesh on my characters’ bones.  There’s no need to rush to publication.  There is joy and satisfaction in the work to be done.  I can’t imagine anyone wanting to forego that just to beat some imaginary publishing clock.

I hope the New Year finds all of you freshly in love not only with writing but with writing well.

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