Archive for January, 2008

How to Write a Novel (Part 2)

January 21st, 2008

So you decided to write a novel, you committed yourself to the task, and you agonized your way through your first draft — as described in How to Write a Novel (Part 1). Now one of two things will happen:

John Barth writing 1) You’ll print that sucker out and add a title page. You’ll type up a page dedicating the book to your sister Chloë in Venice, whose steadfast support and witty observations helped you get through the tough parts, and who served as the inspiration for the character of Empress Fögelschmëer (the Younger). You’ll add a cover letter, mail the whole package off to Random House, and watch the royalty checks flow in. Or,

2) You’ll look at what you’ve written and realize it ain’t publishable.

Most writers — even the successful ones — fall into that second camp. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Months or even years will have passed since you started, and the world’s not the same place. You’re not the same person. So it’s only natural that the story has wandered onto unforeseen paths. It’s only natural you look back at those early chapters and shake your head and think, How naive that guy was who wrote this stuff.

Don’t despair. Here’s a path (my path) of getting from first draft to final draft. As before, keep in mind that your mileage may vary.

Continue Reading »

Don’t Panic

January 19th, 2008

So funny that David should come up with his great How to Write a Novel post just now. Exactly twelve days after launching Breath and Bone — the culmination of the most intense writing project of my life, begun with a paragraph back in May 2004 — I agree with my publisher on a new 3-book epic fantasy series, tentatively titled The Sabrian Veil. Cheers and happiness all around…and then panic sets in…

I look back at the Lighthouse books – and my other two series – and see how complex they are, and I am absolutely daunted at beginning again. It is no wonder that so many authors find themselves going back again and again to the worlds they’ve created.

But then I start twiddling with my notes, and before I know it, I’ve started and ended a war in the distant past, and filled out a sketch of the nature of magic in Sabria – because the conflict in this series derives, in part, from the nature of magic, the differences between popular belief, manipulated perception, and truth. And Real Soon Now, I’ll commit by writing the first chapter. I had to know enough of the world and characters to write the book proposal – which was very hard for an anti-outliner like me. But I’ll flesh it out only enough to write the first chapter. I write sequentially and spirally – ie. I start at the beginning and write through to the end. Each day I begin writing by revising what came before. No real drafts at all. But that’s what has worked before, and I’ve got to have that jump off the cliff faith that it will happen again.

If anyone is interested, I’ve decided to record the daily bits of this particular development cycle on my personal blog, Text Crumbs. Join me there, if you’re interested in the sordid details.

Cheers to all. Don’t Panic.

How to Write a Novel (Part 1)

January 15th, 2008

One of the Ten Commandments of Author Blogging is “thou must write a post explaining how thou writest thine novels.” And so, in an effort to save my immortal writerly soul from scribbler’s purgatory, I’m going to explain my process in easy numbered steps that anyone can follow.

Since I’ve only written two novels to date — Infoquake and MultiReal — and am now in the midst of a third, I can’t say that this is always going to be my process. All I can say is that it’s worked for me twice now, and it seems to be doing just dandy the third time around.

More importantly, I can’t say whether this process will work for you. No two writers write the same way, and sometimes what works for one person will only trip up the next person. Life’s like that. You’ll need to adapt to your own unique circumstances as you see fit.

Here goes. How to write a novel:

Continue Reading »


January 14th, 2008

Ack. We been hacked. I’m working to upgrade our WordPress installation and fix the problem, but in the meantime be patient. (And if you need something to read in the meantime, we’ve got lots of published authors here…)

Update 1:25 PM: Well, that was quick. We’re all upgraded to the latest WordPress, and the hacked code is gone. For the irretrievably curious, we got hit with this. Everything seems to be back to normal, but if you do see something amiss, please email me.

Dance The Knife Cutting Through Worlds

January 14th, 2008

Pullman’s His Subtle Knife

Choreographed by Merce Cunningham;

Danced by the Cunningham Company

Alternate Worlds Moving on Two Stages, Performing for One Audience

I’ve been attending the revelatory Merce Cunningham ‘events’ all my adult life — on occasion the spouse has been honored as a composer for an edition of these events, so famous, for so long, in the world of art and dance. These were informal gatherings of audience and company in the Cunningham studio, devised for choreographer, dancers, composer and audience to exchange energies via the matrix of Cunningham at play, with his constant playmates, time and space.

This weekend the Cunningham Company held an ‘event’ at the glorious Dia Art Foundation – museum, which is located outside of Beacon, NY. I can personally testify that the land upon which the beautiful building is sited, provides a canvas of seasonal light and shadow display that is breathtaking, no matter the weather or the time of year. This weekend’s event at Dia included choreography inspired by Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. The NY Times dance critic describes the event thus:

[ To watch his company on Saturday afternoon in the first of two Cunningham Events last weekend at Dia:Beacon was to see a poetically compelling exposition of parallel-universe theory. Before at Dia:Beacon, Mr. Cunningham has staged events on two or more stages at the same time. In 2004, working on three stages at the Tate Modern in London, he employed a barrier that prevented audiences from seeing all three at once unless they looked up to the lofty mirrored ceiling in Turbine Hall (where the full action was visible, though very distant).

On Saturday at Dia:Beacon he placed his two stages adjacent but on either side of a square doorway. Wherever you were sitting, you could see only part, never all, of the stage on the opposite side. That door, leading from one world to a parallel stage, evoked the controlling image of The Subtle Knife, the second novel of Philip Pullman‘s trilogy His Dark Materials. In it the young hero can cut his way “slicing a square aperture in the air” from this Oxford into different worlds, at least one of which contains an alternative Oxford.

As the event began, the stage farthest from me looked breathtakingly like a mirror of the one closer to me. One group of dancers was moving in slow, controlled adagio, stepping, arching and bending with precision, while another, dressed identically, was doing the same but facing the other way.

Then, more than a minute into the dance, the denizens of the through-the-looking-glass world started to move in other steps and in a different tempo, whereupon the dichotomy between these two now dissimilar stages became both frustrating and entrancing. Here the dancers were balancing, fixed, waiting; there they were leaping fast across the space, caught up in some rush of which we could see only a fraction. And, like characters in the Pullman novels, dancers moved from one world, or stage, to another and back again. ]

Watching a Cunningham choreography, whether from early in his career (he’s now 91), or one just recently created, one feels she has left this world and re-entered another that has been lost, a world in which the sacred exists, as both sublime and far beyond any rigid and short-sighted religion, to a world that has existed long before this one, and which will survive hard and passionate once we have departed. It’s a privilege that everyone should be entitled to experience.

So it’s natural that this man would be drawn to a book by a YA author that speaks to slicing open gates into parallel worlds.

Love, C.