Tuesday, May 31, 2022



Someone asked me yesterday how long it takes to write a novel. The National Novel Writing Month (=NaNoWriMo, November) makes folks who don't write novels think it takes a month to write a full-length novel for adults.

Articles such as this (from Writers Digest) give a wild range of two and a half days to sixteen years.

Seems to me the definition of what constitutes writing a novel is what needs clarifying, because these estimates are comparing apples to oranges, or more likely— watermelons to olives. Technically, both are fruits. But this is where the similarity ends.

It’s not only the size and scope, but what do they mean by “writing a novel in X number of days.”

If NaNoWriMo is the definer, we’re speaking about finishing a first draft. Writers know that is just the beginning. It has become a sort of fashion among genre writers to fast-draft a first draft. A month’s first draft will be followed by many more, but you could claim to have written the novel in a month.

When the claim is that it took many years, we are not speaking of working on the novel five days a week for years. These books had long stretches of sitting in a drawer, real or virtual, before the writer finished the umpteenth draft and called it done.

If we look for any kind of metric, those who do not write novels would do better to ask about the general rhythm or work discipline of different writers. Every day? Only on weekends? Now and again? How many hours at a writing session?

And there, too, are wild differences. No wrong and right, just long and write.

©Tom Gauld

Tuesday, May 24, 2022



©Brian Crane


One of my sanity-keeping strategies is to not let go of my old routines even when external forces no longer necessitate them.

When I became a full-time mom, I relegated my writing to the rhythm of my kids’ school year. That meant I took summers off. I began plotting a new Middle Grade in September, with a first draft start date no later than October first, and a second draft no later than February first.

My writing days were also set, with weekends relegated to critiquing other writers’ work and drafting blog posts, such as this one.

School vacations were my days off, too. The summer was re-charge time, with the creative engines beginning to rev up in August. I jotted notes for ideas, but stayed off the first drafting table while Camp Mama was active and I was running it.

I no longer have kids at home, and my cats don’t care that it’s summer. But I keep to my established routines because they have worked well for me. I never did NaNoWriMo* because I don’t need it. I have my own novel writing month(s), and I don’t let myself off the hook just because I can.

*National Novel Writing Month= November

In truth, I always could just not do it if I didn’t feel like it. But I understood this notion to be the enemy of the creative spirit. It’s not what do I feel like today, but rather— today’s Tuesday and so this is what I will feel.

Oddly, this isn’t confining; it’s liberating. There’s plenty of time for spontaneity and variety when the day’s work is done, and the work itself shapes a kind of internal liberation. 

It’s cutting off the chains of ennui and touching the light of yes, we can.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022



Of all the “W”s of a story, (Who/Where/What/When/Why) there’s another WHY that may be the most important. Another blogger, Jennie Nash, addressed it succinctly here.


It’s the why you must tell this story.


I see this more and more with critique exchanges, of which I have done too many to count, and maybe most of all for picture book manuscripts. I’ve read nicely constructed stories based on tried and true formulas that are spelled out in writing craft books and repeated in writerly conventions or blogs. “This is how you should do it,” is their essential message, which the writer then followed to a T.


Many use so-called mentor texts. Every bit of how-to advice is incorporated.


What’s missing, sorely utterly absent, is the passion for the story.


These painted by the numbers creations remind me of birds without wings. Nice colors, pleasant faces, point-on beaks.

But they don’t fly.

It’s far easier to comb the feathers of inspired stories that, even in an un-polished state, already soar.

I’ve seen feedback that try to blow air beneath these flightless stories by suggesting a stronger action, more tension, tighter phrasing, etc. What the person giving feedback is not saying (because we try to be polite and kind) is that the passion is missing.


If you ask: “Why did you write this story?” A likely answer is a version of “I read publishers/agents are looking for such.” Or, “my kids liked that other story so I used it as a mentor text.”

Better: “Why were you burning to write this story?”


Putting it this way, I find that with wingless stories there’s rarely an answer.


For myself,  I start with that WHY. Why must I write it?

Then it’s a GO.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Less is MORE



I just finished reading a novel whose author, in the Acknowledgements page, thanked so many people that the page turned into pages, plural.

I’m one of those readers who always reads authors’ Thank Yous. There, I encounter the good feel of gratefulness, and occasionally a deeper glimpse into the writer’s process. I rarely know any of the names being thanked, but it matters not. I like the ambiance; being in the presence of expansiveness and joy, something I feel deeply for my beta readers and anyone who ever helped me be a better person.

But here comes my pet peevishness: when the number of people mentioned goes over, say, ten— it’s diminishing returns multiplied exponentially with every addition.

Like everything else in writing, (and life), curtailing exuberance actually has the effect of giving a statement power. I lamented this in an old post about overuse of exclamation points, here.

I actually went on to count the number of people thanked by name in the above mentioned author’s river of gratitude. As I did so, I wondered if some dark part of me wasn’t envious that she not only had so many people to thank, but even knew this many people. (The number is two-hundred and thirty-six, but who’s counting.😮) I’m sure every one of them is diminished by the size of the crowd.

I don’t have an exact number not to exceed. I just wanted to remind myself (and anyone reading this) that less is more.

©Mark Anderson 2015

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

CinderElliot : A Scrumptious Fairytale

 There are many variations on the Cinderella story. This one is different. And yes, it's scrumptious.

The story of Elliot, the unrecognized master baker, outdoes the traditional tale by giving him a talent where he shines. More than the original Cinderella, who mostly charmed with her beauty, this hero is spectacularly gifted. Like her, CinderElliot works hard at home. But what he has to offer the prince, beyond his good nature, is his brilliant creativity. 


And the illustrations by Stephanie Laberis, do just that. They are scrumptious.


Written by Mark Ceilley and Rachel Smoka-Richardson, the text flows seamlessly. I've known one of the co-authors, Mark Ceilley, for fourteen years. We are in a picture book critique group and I have witnessed as he wrote, revised, polished, and continued to create despite the steep odds to publication. As far as I'm concerned, Mark’s own journey to this momentous day is a CinderElliot story in itself. His distinctive style of marvelous verb use is amply displayed in this luscious tasty tale. CinderElliot's  sweet concoctions guarantee they will indeed live happily ever after.


Happy Birthday to a wonderful book 💟