Category: writing

So last week I wrote that I was having a Bad. Writing. Day. The gist was, we all have them, you just gotta keep coming back for more. So I did, and the very next day all of these things happened:

1) My neighbor brought me a fresh strawberry pie. No, this has nothing to do with writing, but it was a nice reminder that people are good, life is good, and at the end of even the worst of days … there is often strawberry pie waiting.

2) She brought a magnolia bloom, just cuz. Is there anything more beautiful than the scent of magnolias? I placed it by my computer, with all my notes and cards — the chaos of my mind laid out before me — and it scented the air as I tried to make sense of it all. Pretty, huh:


3) My friend, Dan–whom Daniel Hawthorne is named after in SWERVE–texted me to commiserate. Sure, it ended with:

Now let me go back to that crap-filled, crap-frosted piece of moldering crap waiting for me in MS word…”

But at least I knew I wasn’t alone.

4) My friend, Sara, emailed:

Those bad writing days? They’re just part of the creation process. Those days happen when the inner critic has risen up and come to light so much that the writer’s instinct has retreated to the inner-most cave. Those days of zero words and shiny floors force us to realize we’ve let go of the instinct and send us into the cave to find it. But to get into the cave we have to fight the doubt trolls and ask the right questions: What do I need to write next? Where did I lose my way? Which of my cards did I play from my hand too soon? Do I know my characters well enough? What part of the story am I missing? You’ll have to figure out your questions, but you’ll know it when you ask the right one. The cave will open. The instinct will be released, reunited once more with yourself. Words will flow until you hit this dark part of the cycle again. I think these dark days should count as good writing days, though, because the work has moved into the sub-conscious. You are a writer, a good writer, a real writer. You are more than just word count. (Easier said than done when staring down a deadline, I know.) Until you unlock that cave, eat, drink, be merry, exercise, clean as much as you want. It’s all part of putting your sub-conscious to work via physical activity. Take a bath, swim in the ocean. Do the things you feel you need to do, because once that cave opens, you will be flooded with words and there won’t be time to clean the floor.

I have the *best* friends.

(Aside: Why can’t we be that nice to ourselves?)

5) Talk about burying the lede, but it was the end of the day when I finally received THIS:

“Swerve is a rolling nightmare that speeds you down bloody highways and dizzying switchbacks. A road story as dangerous as a knife hidden in your boot.”
—Richard Kadrey, New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels

One upon a time, Richard and I shared an editor, so I’ve been reading his work since the beginning of Sandman Slim, I’ve recommended it to my readers often, therefore this was very much a dream come true.

And how could I remain in a funk after all of the above? Impossible. So–the sun will come out tomorrow … and all that–and the next day I was back at this:


Sorry it’s blurry–it was a quick snap to text to my husband to show him that I was back in the saddle. His reply? “Aw, cute! You’re doing arts-and-crafts!”

No, baby. That’s my brain spread out all over the kitchen counter. It may not look like much now, but if I just keep hitting it day after day–and with a little help from my friends –it’ll take shape soon.


* Cyndi and Dan and Sara and Richard and all my Facebook friends who offered up words of encouragement–thank you, thank you, thank you.


So my husband arrives home from work last night and sees that I’m in a funk. Also, the laundry is done and I’m sweeping the floor and I won’t look him in the eye. Basically, if I had a dorsal fin, it’d be bent down. So James pours two glasses of wine and sits us down by the open windows for the download.

J: How’d it go today?

Me: Not good. Not good at all. I wish this were easy for me like it is for all the other writers and I could just spit out the words and get it right on the first draft. But I can’t. I’m not that good.

J: Uh-huh. And who’s it easy for?

Me: [pulls out the big gun] Stephen King. He just won the Edgar for Mr. Mercedes.

J: Honey, he’s an amazing writer, but he wouldn’t have fallen into a crazy, drug-and-alcohol fueled stupor if it were easy.

Me: [frowns] That’s true. But I don’t think I can do it this time. I’ve never written a book like [SB] before. I don’t even know if it’ll work. I haven’t seen anything else like it. Maybe I should be writing another cat-and-mouse, like Swerve. Maybe that’s what people will want.

J: Just write the story.

Me: I’m scared.

J: Good. You should write scared. It’s when people write cocky that it turns to crap.

Me: I’m already writing crap.

J: Take a sip of wine.

Me: [sips] I mean, know my world and I know my characters and I’ve done my research and I should be able to write thousands of words, but now it’s like I have too much information and it’s all jumbled up in my mind and I don’t know where any of it’s supposed to go.

J: Did you do your notecards?

Me: Just for the first act. I wanted to get to the words.

J: How many books have you written using the notecards?

Me: All of them. Ten.

J: Then why aren’t you doing it that way? That’s your process. That’s how you organize your thoughts. So go into the study do that! Spread them out all over the table! Remember that video you showed me last weekend?

Me: I love that video.

J: So do that!

Me: But the words!

J: Just spend the whole day with the cards. Spend as long as it takes to straighten it out and tell the story. Besides, you love that part of it, too.

Me: I know. I do. It’s my favorite part, daydreaming the story. But it’s too much fun. I need to get words.

J: [goes off on a home-building analogy; ie., you need blueprints/a strong foundation, etc., before hammering the first nail. Implicit: Dummy.]

Me: Okay. I’ll go back to my notecards tomorrow. But just for the record I feel like I should be getting actual words.

J: They’ll flow once your thoughts are in order. Just have fun, and remember why you’re so passionate about telling this particular story. Tape it up somewhere. Keep it to the forefront of your mind with every scene. Get excited about it again.

Me: Okay. The words all suck anyway. It’s going to be a terrible first draft no matter what.

J: That’s not true, honey … all your first drafts are totally self-publishable.

And that’s how a pep talk goes in my household.

Off to the cards.

Back when I knew how to do this. But I don't anymore. Because I suck.

(Notecards during the writing of SWERVE. For those of you who already know the story, that’s a map of the terrain before Vegas and LA taped to the wall behind the desk. Both the map and the notecards reminded me of where I was going.)


On a travel sabbatical for 2017 -- instead, catch me on the Web!

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