Sunday Smatterings

Sunday Smatterings 11.5.2017

Morning, gentle readers, and happy Sunday. How was your week? We're still recovering from the World Series at Chez Ellison. We're a baseball house, and Dodgers in particular—DH has been a lifelong fan. I found it so amusing when people started using the diminutive DH to refer to their "darling husband" online—for a long while, I wondered why people were calling their partner the designated hitter.) But what a thrilling series it was. Congrats to you Astros fans—y'all should be proud, and I am so happy to see Houston back in the hearts and minds of the country. 

Nearing the end of the first draft of Brit #5 (it has a new name, which I announced in this month's newsletter: THE SIXTH DAY!). This is the craziest part of writing: all the threads come together at a clip, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I pound away at the keyboard... and cooking dinner has becomes the best form of procrastination. Plus, with the new chill in the air, the recipes that don't work for summer (I'm looking at you, chili!) come back into the rotation. This isn't DH's first deadline rodeo, so he's been surprised when I want to make dinner. Such is being married to a writer; we are mercurial beasts!

And without further ado...

Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

This is how a word gets into the dictionary. Admit it, you've always wanted to know. Personally, I spent an awful lot of time with my Webster's growing up...

Anti-frantic. A great message as we head into the busy holiday season. I don't get twerped out about the holidays. Decorating takes an hour, I know all my recipes by heart, I do my cards early and my shopping mostly online from fun indie retailers. Let's all take a breath, shall we?

Actors and actresses who write, from Tom Hanks to Molly Ringwald. I think we're sometimes led down the path that artists are one trick ponies, but if you think about the way actors need to interpret the writer, it's not surprising many of them take up the pen.

How I read 100 books in a year (and you can too). With all the distractions floating around, it's hard to get through one book, let alone 100. If you're eyeing a book challenge in 2018, you may find this article useful. I'm behind on my count right now, but I'm gaining steam going into the winter months!

These Golden Snitch-Topped Butterbeer Donuts Are What Potterhead Dreams Are Made Of. Holy sugar rush, Batman. 😍

The new decluttering trend is called Swedish Death Cleaning and we tried it. Sounds scary, but perhaps a great way to clear the clutter once and for all. It's a bit morbid, though, so be warned.

Let Me Count The Ways. ATTENTION WRITING DATA GEEKS: Scrivener 3.0 will give you MORE than you can possible handle. (What's Scrivener, you ask? Only the best writing software ever. And add in some Scapple for brainstorming, too!)

And closer to home:

A WORD ON WORDS Season 3 is here! Click Play to watch the latest episode.

I recently sat down with the author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (yep, like the Oscar-winning movie), Matthew Quick. His newest book, THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE, is one of the best I've read this year—so nuanced, so poignant. And Mr. Quick himself is delightful: I could have talked to him all day.

I like to ask each author I interview a few of the same questions, just to get different perspectives. One question I ask is if the writer is creatively satisfied. Mr. Quick had one of my favorite answers to that question, which you get to see in this video.

That's it from me! Y'all be good, rake someone's leaves, light a cinnamon candle and watch a good movie or two, and we'll talk again soon. Speaking of movies—what's your favorite for the season ahead?


On The Dangers of Writing Fast... Faster... FASTER!!!!!!


Many of you saw the story in the New York Times this weekend about how the ereader phenomenon of consumers wanting their books NOW is driving established authors to write faster. It was an interesting piece, but one that I think struck a note of fear in all of our hearts. The story posits that authors who used to write one book a year are now being pushed to do more: two, even three novels, with shorts stories and novellas thrown in to bridge the gap between books, because ebook original authors are producing at an alarming pace, and traditionally published authors must do all they can to keep up.

I don't necessarily want to get into a discussion about the Us vs. Them mentality that is starting to emerge between traditionally published and self-published authors. A few vociferous people are leading this charge, and it won't take you many keystrokes to find them and their opinions. Nor do I want to delve into the fact that quantity does not necessarily equal quality.

No, I'd rather look at this phenomenon emerging of fast writing, and this sudden conversation cropping up in the recesses about how fast you really can write a book.

How fast is fast enough?

Different books take different efforts. Some are hugely labor intensive. Some are research heavy. Some tap into terribly difficult emotions, and are just plain difficult to write. Some write themselves. Each book is an entity unto itself.

Each writer is an entity unto him or herself, as well. Some of us can write a book in three months. Some claim to be able to write one in two weeks. For some, five years, ten years, are the norm. For most, one book a year is a steady, reasonable pace. It allows for research, writing, editing, proper time for reviews and marketing and tours. If you're familiar with everything that happens in the course of writing a book, you'd know that it is hardly languorous. Yet suddenly, people are claiming one book a year is too slow.

I personally write two books a year. Not because that's what the market is demanding of me, but because it naturally takes me on average six months to write a book. But I don't have children, and writing is my job. I've been a full-time writer from the beginning of my career, and have been blessed with the right mix of people and timing and mastering my own learning curve to figure out an appropriate, comfortable pace for ME.

But there are many ways up the mountain.

Listen, literature is not one size fits all. Every writer I know, regardless of how quickly they produce books, are working hard, every day. Grinding it out. I have a friend whose output is maybe 100 words a day - 100 proud, keepable words a day. I have another who feels short if she doesn't hit 5,000. I fall in between - averaging 1,000 minimum, and when I'm really in the groove, easily in the 3-4,000 range. I write fast, yes, in comparison to some, but not in comparison to others.

The premise of the article hinted that readers may start abandoning their favorites who put out one book a year in favor of lesser known, new-to-them authors who are cranking out a book every two to three months. This is a theme in the new Us vs. Them mentality, and it's one that's going to get all of us in trouble.

Thriller author Steve Berry is quoted at the end of the NYT article with what I felt was the most salient thought in the whole piece. He said, "You don’t ever want to get into a situation where your worth is being judged by the amount of your productivity.”

I couldn't agree more with that statement. Especially for the writers who do take a full year (or more) to write a book. We've got a lot of pressure on ourselves as it is, with the advent (necessary evil?) of increased self-promotion - social networking, marketing and PR - in addition to writing. To start getting into the mindset that oh, hey, I'm not a good enough writer because I can't crank out five books a year is dangerous.

It will stifle creativity. It will drive the muse off a cliff. It will cause divorces and suicides and make writers quit entirely. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. We are artists, for better or for worse. And while not all of us are long-suffering, the artistic mentality is, at its heart, a delicate creature that must be fed and nurtured if it will continue to produce. Think of a farm, with acres planted, rows and rows and rows of corn. If the corn isn't watered and fertilized and cared for, it dries up and rots. Words, and Muses, and Writers, are the exact same.

I often gets fan mail that ends with the words "Write Faster." It's actually kind of a joke in my house - hubby tells me that all the time. Because ultimately, the more we write, the more we get paid, and eating and paying the mortgage is a Good Thing. We all want to make money at this, and the simple fact is, more product equals more money.

But we have to take care of our gift, as well. The Muse doesn't delight in being shackled to a desk and forced to spill words onto the page all day every day. Yes, we want more readers. I want more readers. But if I start mentally outsourcing my Muse to a factory in China, chances are, there's going to be some problems. Strikes. Lawsuits. Closures.

Writing fast is becoming expected. And that could lead to some serious burnout, and the loss of some great writers.

One of my favorite quotes is from Lao Tzu: "When you are content not to compare or compete, everyone will respect you."

I think that's doubly true for writing. Work hard. Meet your deadlines. Write smart. That in and of itself will make you fast. But don't try to compare yourself to other writers and their output, and don't cave to the pressure of writing fast if that's not your nature. That way lies madness.