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Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Lost History of Henry, Kansas

Murder your darlings. The advice is frequently trotted out in writing circles. (It is just as often misattributed to Oscar Wilde or F. Scott Fitz or some other luminary. In actuality, the mantra comes from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and he probably stole it from his grandmother). No matter who it was that first thunk it, the advice is good. It’s quite easy to become particularly attached to a bit of prose that isn’t actually pulling its weight in the broader narrative. It could be fabulously written, but throwing off the pace. It could be distracting. It could be a bit of over-intrusive narration. It could be terrible, but you love it anyway. Be ruthless. Make sure all your prose serves the best interest of the story (and your readers).

As an example, I give you the lost history of Henry, Kansas. I wrote this. I like it despite its many faults. But it is clearly chub, nonetheless, and I slashed it from my book. It came early in the first chapter of 100 Cupboards (while Frank and Dorothy Willis were waiting for the bus), and it lengthened an already slow build to action. For a couple of years, it has been dwelling in some dark corner of my hard drive. But now, it sees the light—blinking, dusty, useless. . . Read the rest of this entry »

This is Me Blogging About Writing

I resolved to blog today. And even though it’s 12:05am, it still counts as today. I make the rules.

But, thanks to my daughters, I have an actual thought about writing. Background: my girls each have a little pearl necklace on a tiny silver chain (one pearl per birthday). Imagine little girls deciding to get out their necklaces to play (without parental consent) and getting the two thin chains (and nine total pearls) tangled beyond comprehension, tangled into a unified snarl nest of sterling with nine little oyster eggs imprisoned throughout. Now imagine a father (an unirritated, shockingly patient father) sitting in front of an episode of Law and Order, but not paying any attention to the detectives hard at work. Instead, he holds a needle in each hand and his neck is kinked as he hunches over the balled up knot of links. He is picking, picking, picking, hunting for sense, for straightness, for strands that connect, for pearls.

That’s what writing a novel is like. (At least for me.)

This is Why I Will Never Facebook

So, if you take a little gander at my last post, you might notice that it has been one month and four days since I last spoke into the cyber void. Christmas has come and gone, 2008 died, the Bowl Championship Series once again ripped off a worthy western team, and we even have a new president. And somehow, I never found the time to say anything. I do have excuses. I was busy celebrating Christmas, complaining about the terrible west coast bias that exists in college football, over-caffeinating, and writing. Three little deadlines came and went in the past month, one of which involved polishing up the final draft (pre-copy editors) of Chestnut King (100 Cupboards Book Tres). It has been polished.

But my excuses are gone now. I’m reading again (books other my own), going through Caffeine Withdrawal Syndrome, taking my kids to basketball games, and now . . . blogging.

We’ll see how long I keep it up. Baby steps, right? Set goals you can achieve. Today, my goal is to blog tomorrow.

Cross your fingers.