Friday, January 30, 2015

Writing in "Islands"--How I Wrote My First Memoir in Forty-Five Days

A novel in a month?  A memoir in six?  I never believed those promises, tooted by many writing books.  Not until I came across the concept of writing in "islands."

I'd already published five books, with the help of great editors, when I first heard of  "islands."  A writing friend knew I was struggling--a publisher was interested in my memoir and I had to deliver in three months.  I'd honed my skills in nonfiction, even won some awards, but memoir is a whole different animal. 

I was moaning to this writing friend about how to even get started, with such a deadline looming.  She suggested I check out a book by writing teacher Ken Atchity.  Called A Writer's Time, rereleased many years later as Write Time,  the book was not at all about time management but about the two-part process of book writing.  Atchity had noticed over the years of working with new authors that those who actually finished their books allowed random-access writing before any organizing happened.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Growing Out of Your Rootbound Pot--Why Bravery on Demand Can Help Your Writing

Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, "Every time I start on a new book, I am a beginner again. I doubt myself, I grow discouraged, all the work accomplished in the past is as though it never was, my first drafts are so shapeless that it seems impossible to go on with the attempt at all, right up until the moment . . .when it has become impossible not to finish it."

This comes from her 1965  book Force of Circumstance, which is one of many published works during her long literary career.   New book writers might read this in astonishment.  How come such a prolific and experienced writer had such beginner's emotions?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Enough Already! Is It Really Time to Start Revising or Are You Just Bored with Your Book?

Poems, articles, columns, and short stories are all creative commitments, to be sure, but even if they linger unfinished for a while, they are short relationships compared to 350 pages of manuscript.  With a book, you regularly re-evaluate your progress, your purpose, and your plans.  You recommit again and again.

 But is it ever done? When is enough, enough?  These questions come up at two particular stages,
I've found.  One marker is when the writer is ready for revision.  The other is when revision is finished and the book is ready for final editing.

A writer from New York, who has been working on his nonfiction book for several years, sent a very good question about this:   "At what point does one realize what they are trying to write is the final 'version'?" he emailed me.  "My subject/point of view has changed several times.  When do I stop?  I know the book evolves but it seems like I'm always evolving.  I struggle with having new ideas that change my point of view."

Friday, January 2, 2015

Building on What's Working: A New Approach to Setting Writing Goals for the New Year

Some writers think writing a book is just this:  sit down, write, and hope for the best.  Goals are a waste of time, because in a purely creative world, it's the flow that matters.  Just keep the flow going and you're golden.  Your book, too.  Right?

Not really.  Goals are valued by most professional writers.  They give markers and deadlines.  Writing is easily put aside in favor of a thousand distractions.  Goals give accountability.  A way to see if your writing process is actually working for you.