As I mentioned last week, Wanderings on Writing is now completed. It’s available as an e-book in mobi and e-pub files on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites. I’ll let you know when it’s available as a POD. We had a little trouble with the formatting, but that’s being straightened out even as you read this.
The cover art is an original watercolor by my friend, Tori Hansen. One of the most fun parts of this project was watching the art work evolve, including one memorable afternoon when Tori painted in the middle of my living room floor, assisted by cats who were sure they should be “painting,” too.
So, what is Wanderings on Writing? Well, the first thing I want to say is that it’s not a “how to write book” – or maybe I should say, it’s not only a “how to write” book. It’s also a window into how one writer (me) has managed to deal with the complexities of both creating fiction and being a professional author.
Although I’ve been a full-time writer since mid-1994, when I chucked a reliable job as an assistant professor of English to move to New Mexico, there was a time when I had to juggle both fiction writing and a demanding job. Some of the tricks I learned then have served me well throughout my career. I’ll share those tricks, some of which I adapted from what I heard other writers say they did. Hopefully, you’ll be able to adapt some of these for yourself.
A few words about the genesis of this book. Back in 2010, I knuckled under to the increased pressure that a writer must have some sort of on-line presence (beyond the required webpage). Since I wanted to make sure I had time to write fiction, I made some rules. I would blog once a week. (By the way, I hate the word “blog,” but it seems to have become firmly rooted in the language.) My once-a-week entry would have some substance. I wouldn’t write about my socks or my dinner plans or whatever. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t feel required to write about writing.
A funny thing happened along the way… I discovered that even when I didn’t mean to do so, I often found myself writing about writing. I don’t think I realized until I began writing the Wednesday Wanderings just how firmly creating stories is intertwined into just about everything I do.
Eventually, people started saying to me, “You really should collect some of your pieces on writing. They’re really interesting and you have a different perspective on a lot of things.” Two friends, Bobbi Wolf and Paul Dellinger, were particularly persistent. When I tentatively mentioned the possibility to my husband, Jim, he encouraged me.
Although many of these pieces have their origins in my Wednesday Wanderings, I’ve frequently adapted the original essay, providing examples or further discussion of a point. I’ve omitted specific references to the blog and comments. (If you want to read these, they’re still available.) However, critical readers may discern the shadows.
One thing I did not omit were references to my own work at the time when the piece was written because, in many cases, doing so would have gutted the piece. Although there is a sort of general organization, these pieces do not need to be read in order. Instead, I encourage you to dip in here and there. If a piece is dependent on another, that will be noted. Even where I have several pieces on a related topic, I’ve chosen to keep them separate. Feel free to read a little, digest the material, then come back for more.
Finally, I will offer a warning. There is no Golden Key to becoming a writer, no secret password, no arcane knowledge that will get you into the inner sanctum. Why do I feel a need to say this?
Years ago (I think it was 1996?), when I received my first invitation to speak at a writer’s conference, I consulted another professional writer who was speaking at the same event.
“They’ve asked me to suggest a topic,” I said. “I know how to teach, but I don’t really understand what the audience wants.” My friend smiled cynically. “They want the Golden Key. They’re sure there’s one and they’ve paid this workshop a huge fee in the hope that we will reveal it. All we can do is tell them there isn’t any such thing, that writing is hard work, and then share some thoughts about how we go about it.”
I don’t quite agree with my friend. There is a Golden Key. However, no one can give the Golden Key to you. You need to forge it yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to start from nothing. Pieces like the ones in this book can become your raw material. They might save you from building your fire too hot or making your mold from inferior clay.
However, in the end, you need to craft your own Golden Key. One reason I’ve left the personal anecdotes in here is to show you how I met the challenge.
(By the way, this was adapted from “No Golden Key,” the introduction to Wanderings on Writing.)