For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn

Many of you have seen this, time and again.  So you’re wondering, why the title for a blog?

Not what you might think.  I am not trying to capitalize on Hemingway’s shortest novel ever.

Is there something that a writer, a real writer, should never write?

That’s a haunting question.  And the answer, as you will always get with an artistic sort, is variable.

For me, I had the idea of a wonderful novel, but could not write it.  Why?  Well, why were those baby shoes never worn?  Simply put, the idea for my novel hinged on the premise of a mother who was in a terrible accident with her daughter, and survived – only to discover she didn’t quite survive….

Fast forward, the mother wakes from a coma to learn that her eldest had actually perished, and while she had been “dreaming” that they made it out okay, her family had in fact disintegrated, in the loss of the daughter and the comatose condition of the mother.

The m0ther’s response?  Get me back in that coma, ASAP!  We are all together here, why would I ever wake up???

Who wouldn’t want to retreat into a dream world, where tragedy never happened, where we were happy and content?

To finish this blog, the answer is, for me, I will never write that story.  I have three beautiful daughters that I could not live without, and while that could be the next billion dollar franchise, for me, I just can’t write it.  Some stories even the Hemingway’s can’t write.  It is not true to ourselves.  It will steal from our soul, and would prohibit us from rest.  It could very well kill us from the inside.

That is why, some stories must never be written, even by the finest writers.  Ask some of the best – they more than likely will respond to an email – and they all have the story that couldn’t be told.

One of those beloved offspring of mine wholeheartedly disagrees, and feels that the story that a writer should never write, could be their best one.  What do you think?  I honestly care.

For Sale.  Baby Shoes.  Never Worn.


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Get Out And Write!

I mean that both ways.  If you want to write, you have to get out and write.  And, for most of us, you really need to get out and write.

I’m a big fan of home offices, especially comfy, well-equipped ones, but sometimes that in itself can be a writing block.  It’s so easy to quick check your twitter account.  A speedy little snack wouldn’t hurt, right?  After all who can write when they’re hungry.  And maybe just one moment to load the dishwasher, because, after all, you’ll write even better if you’re not thinking about that sink full of dishes that may or may not turn into gremlins if you wash them after midnight.

You get the idea.  We all have those moments.  The little time-piranhas, that can quickly turn into a whole school of piranhas, that eat away at our writing time and strip it to the bone before we’re aware those sharp little teeth have gotten a grip.

I’m not suggesting we all go out and secure ourselves swanky downtown offices with personal secretaries stationed like sentries out front.  There are many ways to just Get Out and Write.  Maybe you have a favorite coffee shop, maybe it even has a cozy nook just for writers with comfy lounge chairs.  Just make sure it doesn’t have wireless access, or if it does and you haven’t already been there enough times to have the access code memorized, don’t ask for it.  Why temp yourself?  We live not too far from a beach area.  It’s not ideal as the parking area is small and people keep coming and going, but I really like writing better when I can stare at the water.  Maybe there’s a park near you – probably almost guaranteed not to have wifi available – and you just happen to know that the creepy-people-contingent is low at this time of day.  Take up residence!  Pigeons are not nearly as distracting as dirty dishes.  I promise.

The point is, wherever you are, you can come up with somewhere that is not home to get some quality uninterrupted writing time in.  (I’m from the Midwest.  We love ending our sentences with prepositions.  Deal with it.)  And the change of scenery will help your writing process.  So give it a try, tell your plants you promise to bring back a treat, and set sail.  Let me know how it goes.

Happy Travels!

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A Tale of Two Agents

I recently had the pleasure of once again enjoying the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.  This year I took advantage of their one-on-one agent meetings and submitted the first 5 pages of both a manuscript and a screenplay.  If you haven’t done this somewhere in the past, I highly recommend it.  Of course I felt that the 10 minutes was too short; but in reality, 30 minutes would have been too short.  (Are we really able to put a limit on the time we want to spend with an agent?)

The review and feedback were very different, as agents are very different.  (If they weren’t, we’d all be reading the same thing!)  Agent #2 read all 5 pages, and provided one and a quarter typed pages of notes.  I got some good suggestions, and the meeting revealed two misconceptions that I needed to clarify.  My focus here though is on what to get out of a one-on-one, and how to read between the lines, so I am only going to use Agent #1’s feedback as an example.  Just as an aside, I absolutely loved both agents and found the whole experience much more pleasurable than I anticipated.  I would submit to them in a heartbeat.  I am not using their names strictly because I never asked them, and wouldn’t do so without their permission.

Okay, on with the groaning.  Agent1 reviewed my young adult novel.  I received a full page of notes, and they were very helpful.  One thing that was immediately clear as we began talking was that Agent1 had only read the first 2 of the 5 pages.  I answered some of the questions, and thought to myself, of course if you had read just a bit further that would have been answered.  So as I left happy and disheartened at the same time (yes, that is possible), I wondered.  I paid $35 for each of these 10-minute meetings. That’s $210 an hour.  Don’t they have a responsibility to at least read all of the 5 pages we are asked to submit?

After walking and mulling it over a while, I decided…no.

Yes, that’s right – no.

Back to the what-to-get-out-of-a-one-on-one: I decided to accept that in two pages, Agent1 was not clear on whether my story was humorous or serious, was not clear on a few important questions about my protagonist, and was not engaged enough to continue.  That last was the one that was most important to me, and hit home.  I knew my story was good.  I knew it was funny.  I knew it was well-written.  Except for the first 2 pages, apparently.  And without that, I may be the only one that knows these things.  It is after all, my job to make Agent1 want to read all 5 pages I submitted.  Any other agent out there that I query has no obligation to even read the first paragraph.  Perhaps if Agent1 had read all 5 pages and hadn’t asked the questions they did, I would not have gotten the needed information to successfully get my story read by agents who want to see it published.

What I took away was that I really needed to move some information up.  I needed to start where my reader would be riveted – or at least entertained.  By the end of the conference, I decided that for this story, I actually needed to change the entire point of view – from first person to third, and from one character to another.  I could immediately see the way the story would work with these changes.  When I returned home and told my husband, his first comment was “…But isn’t that a lot of work?”

Yes.  Yes, it is.  But the story will be so much better for it.

And that is why we write.

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