Friday, September 19, 2014

The Writing Life: Re-Entry

I've been away from blogging due to a family medical emergency, so I thought it fitting to return with
Tissot, The Dreamer (1871)
an essay on "getting back into writing."

Maybe some writers have uninterrupted careers. I don’t know any, and I certainly don’t qualify. Sometimes it seems that my writing life has been one uninterrupted series of interruptions. If it’s not one thing, it’s not another. Then I have to wrestle not just with getting back up to speed on the project du jour and making up for lost time, but wrestling with guilt, regret, and self-doubt.

Guilt because I should have been able to keep focused, keep writing, No Matter What. Isn’t that what a professional writer does? If “those other” successful writers can churn out 2500 words a day, come rain come shine come conventions come weddings, then I should be able to. Right?

Regret because of all the moments spent checking my email or playing Scrabble online or anything else but writing. If only I’d resisted the temptation, I’d be well ahead of the game when an interruption happens.

Self-doubt because the present interruption will only prove – publicly and conclusively – that I don’t have what it takes. Everything else I’ve written (12 traditionally published novels, somewhere around 60 published short stories, award nominations, etc.) was smoke and mirrors. Hand-waving, nothing more. And now everyone will find out. It’s called the imposter syndrome, and I am far from alone in experiencing it. My version is that because I’ve been interrupted and I’m having trouble getting back on track, I never will. That’s all she wrote. Literally.

Before I run the risk of turning into a blubbering mass of self-pity, I do have some defense against the aforementioned demons.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

[rant] One Space Or Two Between Sentences?

Apparently, the b/a/t/t/l/e discussion over whether to use one space or two between sentences r/a/g/e/s/o/n continues. Since I have not yet expressed my opinion on the subject, here it is:
You have got to be kidding me, right? Of all the things you could worry about in writing—characters, plot, theme and metatheme, moral center, rising and falling tension, use of language -- you’re obsessed with this?

Once upon a time, when typesetters used single-letter type or operated linotype machines with “hot lead” type, such things as two spaces made sense. Anything that made the typesetter’s job easier made sense. Editors were used to seeing those double spaces after a final period and a single space looked “wrong” and “sloppy” and – heavens! – amateurish, because it was not the norm.

Word processors have changed all that. It’s trivial to do a global search-and-replace two spaces for one. Your editor can, with a couple of clicks, make your manuscript look however she wants. (As an editor, I do this quite a lot and I don’t find it in the least annoying.)

What matters and what has always mattered is not however many spaces you put between sentences. It’s what’s in those sentences and how they fit together to create a story.

The thing is, folks get all worked up about trivialities when they're trying to avoid grappling with the harder, deeper issues. No editor is going to reject an otherwise splendid story because it has the "wrong" number of spaces. Save your passion for what really counts.

Here endeth Deborah’s rant on the subject of double spaces between sentences.

Friday, August 29, 2014

GUEST BLOG: Juliette Wade on "Gatekeepers - you're one, too"

There are always gatekeepers.

I think when we writers most commonly use the term we're thinking of editors, because editors are he most famous. We think of the magazine slushpiles and those assigned to read them, whether they be designated first readers or head editors. We think also, of course, of the agents and editors in the novel-publishing world. Gatekeepers are the ones who get to say to you,


or to put it less gracefully,


Here's the thing, though. The editors and agents aren't the only gatekeepers here. Every one of us who participates in this enterprise is a gatekeeper. It's just that the job of gatekeeping without an official title is far more complex, and more likely to go unnoticed.

Say I'm online and I get approached by someone I don't know, asking to connect or even to have a live hangout with me. How do I know that person is for real, and not some sort of spammer/scammer?


Say I'm at a convention and someone wants to come up and talk to me about my writing, or their writing, or writing, or science fiction and fantasy in general. And I have somewhere to go, or I feel uncomfortable, or I've been deluged by fans (not that this happens to me!) and have had enough, etc. etc. I say no or back out of the conversation. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons to do this. Some of them have to do with mental bandwidth and exhaustion rather than anything else.

However, this is also where inclusiveness succeeds or fails.