Sunday, March 31, 2013

Writing Epiphanies

HALLIE EPHRON: As I bear down on the pub date for my new novel, I'm feeling philosophical. 

Remembering back to 2001 when my first book was about to launch and how much I was flying by the seat of my pants. Twelve years later, eleven books... I often still feel just as clueless.

But here are some of the things I've learned.

I’ve learned that... 

  • My first instinct isn’t always my best idea. 
  • I hate to write, I love having written.
  • Readers don’t have to be spoon fed; write the badda-bing but let the reader discover the badda-boom.
  • There’s no one way to get the book written.
  • No one (except other writers) wants to hear writers complain.
  • Suspense and surprise can be mutually exclusive; sometimes you have to pick.
  • There are two kinds of days: the "everything’s great" day and "it’s all a piece of sh-t" day, and neither one is accurate
  • Conflict makes dialogue more interesting, but a character who’s constantly arguing gets old fast.
  • Complexity can grow out of clashing cliches 
  • You can triangulate from your own experience to find emotion in a situation you've never experienced.
And finally:
  • The book won't write itself.

       What are your epiphanies from writing and reading?


  1. This list only proves the epiphany I had a few years ago: Those JRW ladies know their stuff. I was going to say "sh*t" but I know Hallie doesn't like potty mouths.

  2. Thanks, Jack!

    And HAPPY EASTER to everyone, too! We have a BIG FAT bunny in our yard but he's not leaving chocolate-covered raisins.

  3. I'm going to tack this list to the bulletin board in my office. It's chockfull of good reminders, especially the one about writer whining. It's a wrench to give that one up, but I'll try!

  4. I SO agree, Sammi! I think we can whine to each other... that's what friends are for, right?

  5. Even spouses don't like the whining...I've seen my hubby's eyes glaze over more than once as I blather on about something.
    Although I was - uh, sharing my difficulties about finding a certain piece of info online and - perhaps to shut me up - he found it for me. The he went back to basketball...

    On epiphanies, I would say - this draft (whichever one it is) doesn't have to be perfect so move on.

  6. Here here, Ro.

    Though I'd add: If you're bored, the reader will be, too. (Smarting because I just threw out the first 100+ pages of a novel and hit restart.)

  7. Y'all - Hallie is also hanging out at Meanderings and Muses today. Drop by if you have a minute - .

    Epiphanies. oh my. I have recently had many, although most of them have come during the "Yay, I'm finished! Time to promote phase." Hard lessons, but important, and ones I will long remember.

  8. I'm going to do what Sammi does! Very happy Easter to all the wonderful J.Reds!!! Thelma in Manhattan

  9. One thing I've learned is that nothing is written in stone. Be prepared to ditch a character, change a plot and not cling on to anything that is preventing the story from moving and flowing.

    Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

  10. I have to keep reminding myself... Just get the stuff down on (virtual) paper. Fast. It can be edited later.

  11. Rhys, it's SO ENCOURAGING to hear you say that -- you who hit every deadline and are publishing two (!) books a year plus short stores.

  12. Susan D - I tell myself that, and it really is true. And isn't rewriting SO MUCH MORE FUN than filling the blank page?

  13. Yup. The book won't write itself. Even a LITTLE bit a day makes it work.

    And what you write on the good-feeling days and what you write on the bad feeling days..will wind up being pretty much the same quality. It's what's in your head, your emotions, that's making it feel different.

    And a good idea is just around the corner.

    HAppy pub day, Halllie!! xoo

  14. I'm not a writer, I'm a blogger, but what I've learned even in short form writing is sometimes things just don't work. (Usually they are the ideas I'm most in love with too)

    Also: a favorite piece of advice from Bill Cameron (Fabulous mystery writer) is "give yourself permission to write terrible first drafts."

  15. Your epiphanies work well. Mine was to get closer to your story you have to distance yourself from what you are writing about.

  16. This is a very forgiving medium. Get your clunky, flawed ideas out there now and fix them later.

  17. HELLO, Janet Reid!!

    Why IS it that it's always the things I love the most that need to go? Talk about murder your darlings...

  18. Reine: Really insightful. Especially hard when you're writing something with any basis in truth, you can feel tethered to the facts at the expense of good fiction.

    Tilia - It IS a forgiving medium... up to a point. And then you hang yourself out to dry.

  19. It's true, Hallie. Too much reality invokes an overabundance of responsibility.

  20. I was busy with Easter and didn't realize so much was happening over here--great list Hallie! And love the ideas everyone is pitching in.

    I would add, it really really helps to write every day--less chance of losing the thread and having to go back and review what's happening.

    On the other hand, sometimes your mind really needs a day or two off:)

    One of my friends was astonished to hear that I have the word count on every page and keep a close eye on it. She suggesting turning that feature off--haven't had the nerve to try that yet!

  21. Can you turn the word count off? It never occurred to me.

    That definitely helps

  22. It's not brain surgery. If you cut out something you shouldn't have you can always stick it back in again.

  23. So love the conversations here, always make me smile

    Hallie, I can't believe you ditched 100 pages, I would have read them for you ;)

    I think husbands eyes glaze over regardless of the complaint

    Happy Easter to everyone

  24. As Darlene says, it wasn't brain surgery... I cut 100 pages but eventually I stitched SOME of them back in.

  25. I've learned to throw nothing away. Everything is inventory.

  26. My favorite: You can't fix a blank page.

  27. Thanks for the great post Hallie! I need to start book #3 and am procrastinating! You are a great role model!

  28. I'm with Robin: Make a mess. You can clean it up later.

    Also: Surprise and delight. On every page.

    And don't let your main character sigh. It's tiresome.