Do you ever have the dream where you discover that your house has an “extra” room you never knew about?

16 years ago I wrote my second novel. Apparently.

This past weekend I was organizing a big batch of hard-copy creativity: journals, short stories, poems, songs, cartoons, essays, and novel sketches. Some was hand-scrawled on napkins.

Then I found a stack of 264 pages.

An entire novel.* A novel I had completely forgotten about.

I remember outlining this story and researching and contemplating it, but I don’t remember writing it, and I don’t remember just setting it aside to languish in the same box as my cartoon drawings of talking cats.

While I’m very excited to have re-discovered this novel, called the Queen of Snows, it presents an entirely unexpected project. Now I need to get it scanned and converted using optical character recognition (OCR), because I have no idea where the digital version would be. I need to re-read the novel from a structure and flow level. Then re-write and edit the document. Hire an editor. Get a cover.

This comes at a time when I’m workshopping and editing my third fourth novel, Grave of Songs. First world problem, I guess.

Do you have that dream where you discover an extra room in your house? This was a real-life version of that dream. The lesson here for writers who are a little earlier on in their writing is: get those novels written. Don’t get stalled on your first novel, because your best novels are yet to be written, and you won’t get those other ones until you finish the first one. And the second one. And the third one.

Keep going.

*Entire novel. Entire, except the final four pages are missing. I will need to rewrite those from scratch.


This is just a quick post – I will get into tips for writing critique more deeply at a later time when I’m not in the middle of writing a scene on the new work-in-progress.

Don’t treat all feedback equally.

Asking your mom what she thinks about your writing (assuming she’s not the target demographic for your work) will most likely elicit generous and uncritical praise – unless you have a toxic relationship with her. Write about that, next time!

The same goes for other people who aren’t your mother. If they aren’t your target readers, then don’t expect them to provide constructive and meaningful feedback about your genre-specific work. Yes, they may be excellent readers for typos – those are called proofreaders. Proofreaders will not see the big picture of story arcs and character development. Save their specialized nit-picking for later once you’re polishing for publication.

I am not advising you to dismiss all feedback. You may hear nuggets of insight about your writing generally. If you hear from multiple that they don’t understand a description of something, or they’re confused by shifts in perspective, take those to heart, regardless of whether those readers are your targets or not. It doesn’t take a heart surgeon to recognize a bullet wound in the chest.

But to elicit feedback useful to you within your particular genre, first make sure you’re testing with the right readers. You want “qualified” readers. Ask your beta-readers, your writing group, and your editors what they read. If they happen to hate the genre in which you write or they don’t “read much of anything”, you’re going to get the wrong kind of feedback.

Writing Alone / Publishing Community?

Is there a point where the I emerges and sees use for the We?

Writing is a solitary activity where we spend hours in our heads or at our laptops or scribbling in notebooks. It’s at that moment, when we emerge from the doors of our little writer workshop, that we have this thing we wave in our hands – a structure of words, recognizable to others as a novel, poem, story, or screenplay.

Now, who will read it? And perhaps even a more challenging question: who will pay for it?

Our usual approach to marketing and publication as writers is to take the same approach in which we create our craft: solitary struggle. The “I” of the writer is strong. The “I” is independent and isolated. The “I” is an idealist, imaginative, and idiosyncratic. Too often, though, the “I” of the writer is ignored.

Many enterprising people have recognized the writer’s areas of lack, from copyediting to online promotion to composing the perfect pitch. There is no shortage of support a writer can pay for to guarantee, if nothing else, that Something Is Being Done.

Even so, this model ultimately still keeps the writer in isolation and in competition with other writers who also are paying their own editors, agents, cover artists, and book promoters.

Could there be an opportunity to join forces as writers and create more cooperatives? Could we not work together to put our collective creativity to bear on the pressing challenges of publishing and marketing in this crazy age of digital upheaval?

I’m not proposing a specific solution here. The outline is blurry and far off, but I see something on the horizon. Perhaps you see it, too?

If you enjoy podcasts, you may enjoy Nicole Rivera’s show called Stop Writing Alone.

I hope she won’t mind if I say “it’s nothing fancy”, because I mean that in a very positive way. It’s honest and authentic. I listen to many different writing podcasts, but hers is unpretentious and a great listen for writers who struggle with common enemies of the craft: distractions, anxiety, depression, and isolation. Check it out. She also provides writing prompts if you need a little push in the right direction.