Finding the Heart

At the close of the writer’s retreat I attended recently, the moderators asked us to look back over our weekend’s work and consider which pieces worked best, and why. I jotted down a few words that described my favorite essays: “family” “relationships” and “love.” Then, reconsidering, I drew a big circle around the word “love,” because it encapsulated the first two words and so much more.

It was an eye-opening moment for me. I knew that the weekend had produced the truest, most raw, least polished work I’d ever done, so it was important to note that when I was forced to write fast and from the gut, I was writing from love. It was also the word that was most often used in response to my readings: “You can really hear the love that character feels,” or “There’s so much love between them.”

I don’t often think about the core of my writing or where the words come from. If I’d had to guess before the retreat, I would have been more likely to call myself a cerebral or “thinking” writer, rather than an emotional or “expressive” one. [Read more…]

The Write and the Re-Write, Part 2

Continued from Part 1…

After receiving much helpful feedback on my novel from agents, I had many questions to consider:

Should I keep querying and hope another agent would accept the original manuscript? Or should I do an extensive edit?

If I were to edit, how much would I change? Which of the agents’ suggestions would I adhere to, and which would sacrifice too much of my intent? Now that I had more distance from the project, what kinds of changes did I personally want to make?

How would I approach the edit? Did I need to do prep work such as more in-depth character studies or a stronger plot outline? Did I want to change the format completely?

If I were to keep querying, would I ever find the “right” agent?

And, the most important question: if I did find an agent, and the book isn’t as good as it could be, do I really want to sell it? [Read more…]

The Write and the Re-Write, Part 1

In my very first fiction writing class, my teacher mentioned an author he knew who would write an entire first draft of a novel, then erase it- literally delete it from his computer– and start again from scratch. My fellow students and I were appalled. I couldn’t imagine doing all that work and then using nothing but the memory of it for a second draft. What a waste, I thought. I would never do that.

But five years and two novels later, I get it. I understand why a writer would want to literally re-write an entire novel. I understand, because that’s what I’m doing right now.editing

I’ve been working on my first novel, currently titled Waist: A Tale of the Triangle Fire for about four years now. After many months of research and character development, I decided I wanted to write it in four first-person points of view. (I love multiple perspectives; see this guest post I wrote for DIY MFA.) In late August of 2011, I started my first draft. [Read more…]

2015 Writer’s Retreat

Sea Girt, NJ

Sea Girt, NJ

This past weekend, I went to my very first writer’s retreat, in Sea Girt, NJ, hosted by Women Reading Aloud. It was a wonderful, terrifying, restorative, educational, intimidating, passionate experience. I feel reticent to share details about the weekend, particularly the workshops themselves; I almost feel as though it would violate the community we writers built together. I also don’t feel comfortable sharing most of the pieces I wrote there, partly for the same reason, and partly because they’re unedited. I think that was the hardest thing for me- writing straight from the gut and not having the chance to write a second draft before I had to read it aloud. (That, and writing with pen and paper. I ALWAYS work on my laptop, and I have terrible handwriting.)

But I do want to share a short poem that came to me as I was waking up on Saturday morning in my comfy, fluffy-white bed at the B&B. [Read more…]

Friday Book Love #4

In this series, I give a brief snapshot of three unrelated books that I recently read and enjoyed. If you decide to read them too, I’d love to hear what you thought! 

10percent happierThe Category: Memoir/Self-Improvement

The Book: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

In Three Words: Exploration. Meditation. Change.

Biggest Takeaway: For some reason, I thought this book was a self-improvement tome along the lines of The Happiness Project. I wasn’t completely wrong, but it read more like a memoir. It was a surprisingly personal journey, written by a public figure. I was impressed by Harris’s genuine account of his journey toward emotional/spiritual growth and increased life satisfaction. And I’ve been inspired to try doing meditation outside the yoga studio.

the girl who came homeThe Category: Historical Fiction

The Book: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor

In Three Words: Titanic. (Do you really need another two words?) [Read more…]