Live Free or BEA Hard.

I don’t recall hearing an engine rev, but apparently my agent, Dame Janet Reid, took a photo of me at BEA from a moving car.


The car must have slowed down for a moment or two, because Janet has other photos on her site. That she only allowed me to have this one tells you something.

Luckily, I am quite the master of late 19th and early 20th century computer technology, and so I was able to clean up the blurred photo she’d provided me. Details below.
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Why I shut down my Facebook account.

“But Zuckerberg is also being dogged by an embarrassing IM thread from when he was a 19-year-old Harvard student, bragging that he’d gathered personal information from thousands of users for the nascent TheFacebook.com. “People just submitted it,” Zuckerberg messaged, “I don’t know why. They ‘trust me.’ Dumb [expletive].” (This comes via Silicon Alley Insider.)
Naturally, the indiscreet IM thread has ignited controversy. Some argue that Zuckerberg shouldn’t be held accountable for something he’d written when he was still a teenager (all of six years ago, mind you). Others say the remarks illustrate a cavalier attitude toward user privacy.”


They want to make money. That’s fine. But I don’t have to help them.

What do I know? I’m just the author.

A great question in a comment to an earlier post, from Judith:

You say you write everyday, but you listen to your characters while you go about your daily life, right? So does that mean you like to listen to your characters first and get a clear sense of who they are, and then write, or you write right away even if the characters are still not fully developed? Basically, I guess I’m asking how soon you
start writing.

Essentially I start writing in order to find out who they are. I start with an impression, a vivid image or thought about them that is like a door. When I open the door it reveals a passage to other parts of them and who they are. Sometimes there are dead ends but I like dead ends. They can be very important in finding out who a character is and what your story is really about. The trick is to trust that who they are will be there. What happens to them is there, but events are just events, things happening is not a plot. Character revealed, tested, altered, that is plot. I’m a firm believer in the idea that I write not to show what I know, but to find out what I know.

Dibs.

I just received word from a friend that a filmmaker and a terrific actor will be teaming up on a project that sounds tremendous. It should be mind-bending, genre-blurring, heart-pounding and just all around awesome. My immediate reaction was to say, “May they burn in Hell.” Odd reaction, under normal circumstances, but this situation ain’t normal.
The plot is very close to the plot of my current work-in-progress.
This is the nightmare of every writer: spend weeks, months, years crafting something only to have someone else apparently trip-head-over-ass-backward across the finish line ahead of you with the same idea. Worse, work for weeks, months, years only to discover that your “holy cow, how did no one ever think of that” idea was actually thought of years, perhaps even decades earlier, that your idea is in fact a forgotten classic.
The response to this is visceral and immediate. I hate these people, and I hate their project. I hate that elements of it so close to mine are paired with elements so much better than mine. I hate that when it comes time to release my work into the wild there will be those who don’t understand the pace of writing a novel, those to whom it will be obvious that I “stole” the idea after seeing the movie, or if they don’t go so far as to say “stole” then they go with the less accusatory but more infuriating, “Oh, like that movie that just came out.”
So where does that leave me, and where does that leave this project?
I hope to get a seat on the train tomorrow morning so that I can continue to work on edits. I hope that I can keep to the pace I’ve been on because if I can I may finish this run-through well ahead of schedule. I hope that the next readings by betas and agent will be positive and provide me with more constructive feedback. I get here by reminding myself that these filmmakers have some elements that are similar to mine, but they lack one critical component.
They are not me.
I don’t mean this arrogantly. I mean simply that I look at the world from my unique perspective, and they view it from theirs. The chances that those views would be close enough that theme, events and characters would be identical are remote; the idea that they’ll tell my story more so. Is there a chance their story and mine could be very close? Yes. Should I worry over that? No. Every story has been told. At root my current project is a man’s struggle against his own weakness. It is the struggle against fear, isolation and emotional entropy. Is that really so unique? Has there never been anything like that written before? If I thought so it would be the height of both arrogance and ignorance. No, my story has been told before, and it may have been told better by others, and probably will be again, but it hasn’t yet been told by me.
So, I hope to get a good seat on the train so that I can get back to these edits. I’m planning on taking this story-told-a-thousand times, and making it my own.

Do the Numb thing for Nashville.

I’m very excited that an advance reader’s copy of Numb (and a bonus short-short set in the world of my next novel) is available for auction at the Do the Write Thing For Nashville blog.
I hope people will bid, and not because I want them to read my book but because it really is the right thing to do for the struggling city of Nashville. Bid on my item or any item, but please do bid.
Also, please spread the word about this remarkable effort by three remarkable ladies: Victoria Schwab, Amanda Morgan, Myra McEntire.

Falling in love again, for the first time.

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I have recently begun to revise a novel-in-progress that had been on hold for a while. I put this manuscript down in late December, and I began transcribing another manuscript, a much older, handwritten one. I was “done” for the time being, having gone through a couple of run-throughs, and I figured that transcribing the older novel was a good way to clear my head and give the newer novel a chance to chill out. It worked. I finished transcribing (thank God; have you ever tried transcribing Seanskrit on a moving subway train? I have. Don’t do it.) and got back excellent feedback on the newer novel.
Over the past three commuting days I’ve gotten lucky (not like that, you perv). I have gotten a seat on the train each day, and then the trains ran into massive delays. Yes, I have been late to work, but I have also gotten hours of work done. The best part was discovering the gifts I had left myself.
Gifts to yourself are where you can re-awaken the love for an old manuscript. I’ve read this book a dozen times over, I know what’s coming, and I no longer know what works and what doesn’t. It’s that moment that it is time to look for the gifts I left myself: moments where an object or action that seemed isolated or out of the norm can become something more in the story; something that can be pulled throughout the story in such a way that it becomes a thread that stands out instead of just a snagged flaw that distracts the eye.
For this manuscript I looked for the gifts after getting some wonderful feedback from a beta reader, George. George questioned a number of elements in the story. One was a tattoo worn by a character that is never explained or referred to again. Another was questioning if there might be more sense of the main character dwelling on the events of the first act during a lull in the second act. There was also a question about mistaken identity, and how the main character might recognize someone without there having to be a horribly explicit and clunky author-pointing-things-out-for-the-reader-moment. Anyone who has read my earlier post about my writing process knows that I don’t plan, plot or outline. I follow the story as it emerges, and this means lots of loose threads and sometimes dead-ends.
As I thought about the tattoo, an element that popped out during my early writing and didn’t really factor into the story at the end, despite an off-handed reference that the tattoo would be understood later on, I recognized that it was an opportunity for something more important than just a detail. This is what I love about not outlining, about writing from moment to moment and not worrying about sticking to “a plan.” A plan wouldn’t have allowed for the tattoo. A plan would have said, “This doesn’t fit, cut it.” But, there it was. It was a small, loose thread, but it really wasn’t. Because that tattoo, changed from a word to an image, a bird, became something else: it became the means of recognizing someone’s identity. It also became something that the main character would see being applied in the second act, and it’s application would cause him to reflect on the first act. Suddenly the lull of the second act was disrupted by the tragedy of the first, tension was re-established. Now the little-tattoo-that-never-should-have-been was a key clue for the main character recognizing what was unraveling around him. And best of all, the tattoo, changed into a bird, picked up on an image that runs through the novel; the tattoo is no longer extraneous, it is emblematic.
Look for the gifts you’ve left yourself in your writing. Don’t ignore the voice that whispers unwanted secrets in your ear as you paint your character into a corner. That secret is their escape out a window or a forgotten door. Take a look at that manuscript that isn’t working and see if you haven’t left yourself something that might not just be padding, that might in fact be the whole point. Better yet, go back to an earlier version, and look at the stuff you cut, look at the stuff that “didn’t belong.” Maybe it did.