All we can do is take Things day by day...

I have a confession to make: I am a slow writer. Like snail’s pace slow. Like sloth-migration slow. Like glacier creating a lake bed in granite during the deepest depths of an ice age slow. I blame most of this literary sluggishness on the fact that I also happen to be what they call a “discovery writer.”

Perhaps you’ve heard us called “pansters” or “gardeners” or “extraordinarily messy” or perhaps even “amateurs” (though Agatha Christie would most likely have taken certain offense to that). In short I am one of those writers who finds that in order to string together a coherent story, I must start writing before having any semblance of a structured outline.

This often means that I have several drafts between my first rough skeleton and the manuscript that I send to my betas and my agent. Some of these drafts could even be considered distinct books in their own right. Deathsong, for instance, started out as a completely different book. Meanwhile, for A Murder of Crows, I ended up switching the entire book from 3rd person to 1st at some point, bringing Abigail’s unique snark to the fore.

By the end of such a major revision, I’m often quite proud of what I’ve accomplished. But then I send the draft to my betas or my agent. And inevitably, it turns out that the long, winding road I’ve been traveling this entire time was only the beginning.

Better and (Maybe) Better, Bit by Bit

With Deathsong, I am finally reaching the end point of what my agent, Sara, calls “the embroidery draft” — where I’ve gone yet again, this time paying much closer attention to the scene-level and line-level details, the implications and rhythm of the words I’m using, the emotional resonance of each paragraph, the textural feel of the prose and story.

In the thick of it, while I’m wrangling words and sentences on the page, trying to add depth to relationships and clarify backstories and motivations, it’s always hard to see the bigger picture. I can start to question whether what I’m doing has any real effect — or if, potentially, my edits are just making everything worse.

Yet day by day, sentence by sentence, page by page, it adds up. All any of us can do is keep going along this long and winding road, taking it one day at a time.


Quest Complete!

Last month while recovering in Malta, I asked readers of my newsletter for book recommendations to ease the isolation of a deserted island, and they delivered! Some highlights included The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler, and Under the Whispering Door by Tj Klune. Thanks to my subscribers, I now have a bunch of great titles to add to my reading list!


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