Saturday, May 22, 2010

Writing lessons from moving in and Thank You!

Hi, folks, today all the lessons come from moving from a bigger house to a smaller house. You may ask how is that going to connect to writing, but it will for some, especially if you write big fat drafts that need to be pared down. A 500,000 word novel probably isn't going to sell, folks. I remember an editor telling me about a manuscript she had recently read. She mentioned that there was a good novel there but about half of what she was reading needed to be trimmed away. Who wants to to be person with a great novel, except it's 2x too long? So today is about trimming. What do you get rid of? What do you keep?

1. Duplicates. This is an easy task to accomplish. How many times does your character really need to get out of bed in your novel? Take a shower? Make out with some cutie? Cut unneccessary duplication.

2. Useless. Yes, that knick-knack frog from that casino in Las Vegas seemed like an important purchase at the time, but really? You have to cut out the stuff that doesn't move your story forward. It's just there because you are a writer and you can write that. My advice, let it go.

3. Remainders. Your parents have had a secret mission to fill your house with stuff they don't want and you are a mild hoarder. Yikes, a 10x10 storage shed couldn't hold all this stuff. Get rid of it! Goodwill! Now! Think about this. Some stuff made sense a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But your current draft is in the here and now, and you need to ditch that stuff. Are you feeling better?

4. Perfectly good stuff but there is no room. This is one of the hardest lessons of all. You have to get rid of perfectly good scenes. This stuff needs to find a good home and not your book. Save it for another book. Yes, that character who is intruding on your story may deserve his or her own book. That side trip to the African wilds is beautiful, heartfelt, deep, but needs to be in another book. Put that stuff somewhere safe where it will get all the love and attention it deserves.


5. Keepers. Your grandmother's rocking chair. Yes, it's sentimental but irreplaceable. It's full of history and rife with meaning. Keep the stuff that is deep as the ocean and wide as the sea. Keep it.

I hope you are able to do some of the hard work of writing this week. I hope that you open yourself up to the freedom of downsizing. Seize the day.

No doodles again, but this is a big thank you to all my Seattle area writing/art folk. Shortly before I moved, they threw this great going away party for me at the Secret Garden Books in Seattle, and I'm finally in a place I can look at the pictures without too many stray tears. Special thanks to Allyson Valentine Schrier for getting this all together. Here is the group photo: these folks are a solid representation of all the people in all my close community of writers and artists.

Front row: Eileen Anderson, Lois Brandt, Molly Blaisdell, Louise Spiegler. Middle row: Susan Greenway, Katherine Grace Bond, Heidi Pettit, Peggy King Anderson, Jill Trepp Sahlstrom, Judy Bodmar, Conrad Wesselhoeft, Holly Cupala and Stasia Kehoe. Not pictured: Allyson Valentine Schrier, Father Andrew Bond and Kevan Atteberry. I hope you aren't blinded by the light of all this talent surronding me. :)

There in heart: Cathy Benson, Janet Lee Carey, Vijaya Bodach, and Dawn Knight.

I have two quotes this week because I've just gone crazy with the length of this post.

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.-- Raymond Lindquist


Faith Pray said...

What good words, Molly! I want to take them and go prune something. Love the idea of manuscripts as houses, and that big house doesn't always mean great novel.

Vijaya said...

Allyson rocks! Great picture. And I am sorry to have missed your party. Baseball.

holly cupala said...

It was good to be there, Molly, and I'm grateful to be among your friends!

SWK said...

Great advice and a lovely metaphor. I know that all the big changes in your life will be inspiration for great writing. And thanks for sharing the Secret Garden pic!

Janet Lee Carey said...

Wish I could have been there at your farewell party, Molly. I was in CA (and it wasn't even sunny there.)
Yes to trimming off fat (things in the house, excess words/scenes) Hard to give up books though.

MollyMom103 said...

Not too many folks take on WAR AND PEACE or say the Harry Potter series. Big house can be good things but are few and far between.

Vijaya, Ah, the American pastime.
Holly, I'm double grateful to be your friend.
Stasia, I try to bop the hamster of happiness every day.
Janet, books are SO hard to let go.