Monthly Archives: January 2009

fine points

roseThe fine points of a polish… many French words to use? Are the names of the two main characters–these taken from history–too close: Louis and Louise? Use her first name? Francoise? But in history, she is known as Louise de la Valliere. Does it matter? Who knows? Who cares?

The clipping back of characters–who to leave in? The lovely, lovely, shaping of words and description to make flesh on the bones of the story. (Scenes are the bones of a story.) Sometimes, it is such fun. After the inner high drama (mine) of simply trying to shape the story, to make one scene that leads to another, that leads to story climax and then ending, it’s lovely to relax into the fleshing out, like painting a room a good color, the details that will take the reader back in time and give him or her a sense of the characters’ lives, what they cared about, what they saw when they walked into a room, a bit, just a bit, of their world view.

Scenes themselves. If they don’t propel the story, they have to be broken apart, sometimes abandoned, sometimes new ones written. It’s hard for a writer to edit or abandon words she labored over months ago, but it has to be done, ruthlessly and artfully, to make the story move.


memory through


Notes from the journal……….fictional world: a unique landscape for the reader to enter…….short story: one incident or revelation…..novel: needs overarching story, deep and big enough to encompass ongoing development over time of related characters and themes

An exercise from a workshop/list of words describing childhood:

pine cones and saffron….red dirt and cotton plants….crushed crepe myrtle pods and blackberries….the crook of Granddaddy’s cane….screen porches and Eva’s daylilies….bright green mold on red bricks….dominos…iced tea….Aunt Lillie’s garden….gold fish and gravel paths…lantern-jawed men…biscuits and bacon grease….hanging clothes on the line….the old rugged cross….nearer my God to thee….candles for souls glimmering….

It’s poetry without trying from memory through the senses……..



I wrote precious words for any novelist last week…..the end. My novel about Louis XIV is essentially finished. I must clean up the manuscript, shape up some character and plot lines, and send it to my agent. What happens next?

Once it leaves my hands, there is my agent’s reaction. Will she consider it ready to sell? Is there a market for it? (I don’t presell books any more; too hard on my writing nerves.) She may ask me to rewrite something in it, which I will listen to seriously because I respect her. 

But essentially, once I send the manuscript away, the book is out of my hands and into the hands of the fates. Who will like it? Who won’t? Will it sell well? Or not? I can affect those things hardly at all. And so I will clean my office, work on a web site, which I am years late in coming to, think about writing classes I would feel comfortable teaching (I don’t believe it’s possible to be taught how to write fiction, as if it were baking a cake. but there are essential elements), and begin thinking about the next novel.

Long ago, my first editor told me to just move on to the next book. This was when my first book sold. But I couldn’t do that. I held on to every moment, every scrap, every event about that first book. Now I know better.

this life anyway


listening to moby as i take down christmas a song’s lyrics vibrate inside me at least we were together holding hands flying through the sky he sings i remember one of the only dreams about my father long gone stern and remote we were flying through the sky holding hands under us pyramids even then the dream seemed profound all these years later the song rings through me and i think of all that wasnt ours closeness understanding rapport but at least we were together flying through the sky holding hands just the way moby sings the way we never did in life this life anyway