Open Wounds

Walter Dean Myers

The Review Hat-Trick

A third review in one week! The Gods are smiling on me. It’s a reviewers hat-trick (three goals in a hockey game).

This is a review from Bryan Russell, writer, blogger, and one of the alchemists of Alchemy of Writing blog. Bryan’s review is one of my favorite. The last paragraph about historical novels in general and how Open Wounds fits into his view of them is all by itself, worth the trip to his blog. It’s insightful and wonderfully specific. Thanks, Bryan, for the kind words about my book.

Bryan mentions that he usually doesn’t read YA and that he was surprised by my book. So many people don’t read YA books because they perceive them as children’s books or not adult books and so not worth reading. I wish there was some way to help people get past that. My life is richer for reading books such as, Ghost Medicine, Marbury Lens, Stick, Sunrise Over Fallujah, The Subtle Knife, the Edge Chronicles, Hunger Games, and Crossing the Tracks.

Targeted marketing or the creation of genre ghettos?

I wonder which it is?



Real Writer’s Write Right

Speed Dating Authors NYC DOE Library Services Conference

Authors who Dated at Speed

I took notes at the Library Services Conference in NYC on Tuesday.

One thing that really struck me (there were many things but this was the first) was a comment by Walter Dean Myers (yes, him again). He said he spends his time doing three writing tasks:

  1. Planning
  2. Writing
  3. Re-writing
It’s such a simple paradigm. When I heard it I thought it was brilliant. I like simple. Plus it resonated with me. I find the distinction between real writing (usually defined as the first draft) and all the rest of the writing process to be artificial. It’s just the way I see it. If I spend three months planning a project (researching, thinking, daydreaming, putting plot points together in my head in imaginary lines, maybe outlining, maybe taking notes, listening in on conversations my new characters have in my head, picturing them standing in front of me, listening to them breathe – what? doesn’t everyone do this?) that’s a very real and essential part of my writing process – and for me it’s writing. The putting down of the first draft is the most fun but it can’t happen for me unless I’ve spent the time before, planning. And then of course there’s re-writing or revising, over and over again. That can take even longer than the writing part depending on how the process goes. But no book is finished and ready for an editor’s eyes until it has been perfected in the revision process. Most writers don’t like the re-writing process, understandably. It’s the hardest part but for me too but it is also the most satisfying part because when it works and I find the right edits to make a manuscript whole, it feels wonderful. Searching for the edits sucks. It’s that simple. But finding them… ahhhhhhh.

1000 Pages a Year

Walter Dean Myers

I saw Walter Dean Myers today. Let me be clear. I didn’t meet him – though I wanted to – as he was swarmed by New York City Department of Education Librarians and I couldn’t get close. I went to a talk he was giving at a conference I had been invited to attend to do some author speed dating. I got there early to see him speak. He was speaking about his writing, the writing process, his family, the tapestry that is his writing life. He’s an amazing writer and an amazing man. I’ve only read three of his books so far and enjoyed each of them. He’s written, as of his own count, 102 (from picture books to YA novels to a memoir).

Don’t get depressed by this but here’s some figures about his writing life. If you are a writer look away as it may knock the wind out of you. He writes 5 pages a day, every day. He works on three projects at a time. He writes about 1000 pages a year and has contracts for books to be written through 2017 – as he says, “If I live that long.” Now granted he’s about 80 and has been writing full-time for a while. But this guy is not only prolific but damned good and prolific. Read his Vietnam war book Fallen Angels. It’s incredible.

So, if you are a writer, don’t despair. You’re not him and I’m not him. Obviously, yes, but still. Every writer has their own process, their own life, job, family, kids, dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, and coral snakes (coral snakes? don’t ask, don’t ask) to factor in.

I work full-time so I don’t get in writing every day on my book, but I do write every day – at least a page of something whether it’s blog, letter writing, or novel. I work on my novel all the time (and I mean all the time) in my head but on paper one or two days a week when I can get at least an hour to work with no interruptions. I can get a full draft of a novel length work done in  a year, six months if I push it and have no social life (social life?). I used to write much more but then my son was born and I try to make sure that he comes first – though I’m not always successful. I bring my computer everywhere with me in the hope of a few minutes to write. My son and my wife both complain that I’m staring at the computer screen and not them when we talk in our dining room. Sometimes I am. Well, my computer is in the same space and our dining room is very small and I am distracted easily by shiny objects. That plus I spend so much time in my own head it stops me from being the best listener. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

It’s my process. If you’re a writer you have your own process too. The more efficient it is (write when you can write, think when you can think, procrastinate rarely) the more productive you will be. Now it’s back to work.

I’ve got a day job to get to.

And if I let this go on any longer… I’ll be procrastinating.