Bottling Inspiration

The best books start here.

Tag: On Writing

notebooksAh, inspiration. The fickle beast. The elusive muse. That stupid, no-good, completely unreliable jerk. Some writers churn out good ideas by the dozens. Others wait for that one bold stroke of inspiration to strike them between the eyes.

Whether it’s through daydreaming, careful planning, or simply being aware of the world around you, everyone gets ideas in different ways. What’s most important, of course, is what you DO with those ideas.

Recently I was straightening up my apartment when I came across three small notebooks (pictured here for your amusement). I used to always have one of these on me, in my back left pocket, at all times through graduate school, when I was writing short stories, updates for a defunct blog, and jokes for The Onion (if you look closely, you can see the … [more]

wiresWe’ve spoken quite a bit about the wonders of the digital age, from how it affects your own writing to how it can help market books to how it lets you connect with other tortured artists slaving away and being tortured while slaving away during torture.

As I assume you’re all aware (since you’re spending time on this here blog right now), there are tons of distractions out there to pull you away from your writing. It’s not just you, though. We agents can get distracted, too. … [more]

large_crowdLet’s be honest: you can only do so much on your own. Yes, yes, writing, as Ms. Jessamyn West wonderfully pointed out, is a solitary occupation. We know this. But we also know that networking can help abate just how lonely the writers have to feel. And conferences. And going outside to breathe fresh air every once in a while.

The other way of feeling a little less solitary can come from sharing your work with those you trust.  I’m not talking writing workshops here—although they can, in certain circumstances, be useful—I’m more thinking a great writing group or trusted friend. Yes, writing groups also have their pitfalls, but finding a really terrific group that will be honest, constructive, and sometimes downright brutal about the shortcomings of your work can be really terrific.… [more]

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I am working on a new handout for talks, one about mistaken ideas that come out of workshops. And I thought I’d ask you all for help creating it. But first, a disclaimer: I have spent a lot of time in writing workshops—as a student and, later, as a teacher—and I have learned a ton from them. Good, useful things that improved my craft and gave a professional sheen to my work that would have taken years and criminal acts to achieve otherwise. I love workshops and think most every writer should have one, so don’t get me wrong when I warn you that sometimes …

Workshop members have no idea what they are talking about. You know the person I am talking about: Full of advice, self-important, hellbent on hearing herself speak, convinced … [more]

Believe it or not, I To-Do Listmeant to post about priorities on Friday. But, as is often the case, other things came up– notes for a manuscript, calls with someone from a contracts department–and I found myself putting this post off. Almost poetic, ain’t it?

And it wasn’t too hard to do. You see, as much as I like writing these blog posts, they fall pretty low on my list of priorities, somewhere near going through the slush pile and reading deals on Publisher’s Marketplace.

Agents are busy people. We must write and respond to emails, make phone calls, talk shop with other agents, prepare for conferences, read manuscripts, and manage a thousand other tasks that fall under the umbrella of trying to find new clients and helping our current ones. Then, of course, many of … [more]

questionsBecause one post wasn’t big enough to answer all the questions you all asked of us a few weeks back.

Q: Can one actually make a living as a writer without acheiving a megalomaniac dream’s of fame?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Good question. But what is “a living”? And where? And how good? And …  Really, this is a question better directed to working writers.

Q: When it comes to YA specifically, do you have any guidelines in mind for what you want? (i.e., word count, age range, topic, morality…)

Well, the “morality” question is one we don’t have any clue as to how to address. We disdain moralistic fiction, disdain moralistic people (even John Gardner in his woefully ill-advised and specious On Moral Fiction, though we kind of sort of adore Grendel and much of his other … [more]

Drawer2It’s time to discuss “The Drawer.” Oh, don’t play coy. You know what I mean. I’m talking the drawer that should house your first baby steps in the writing world. This is the work that’s not quite ready for the light of day, the stories that should be put away and forgotten. It’s a test run. Dress rehearsal. Of course, the things you mess up in that first project should pave the way for future success.… [more]

chalkboardGood morning, class! While most of our blog posts consist of fiction-related matters, we have at least a few nonfiction authors in our midst. For that reason, I’ll occasionally devote a blog post to the issues of writing and publishing nonfiction. As the title indicates, today’s lesson will serve as a basic nonfiction primer, and I’ll break down the various parts of the nonfiction proposal—and their importance—in subsequent posts.

Be sure to take notes—there may be a pop quiz later!

Writing, representing, and selling nonfiction is much different than representing fiction in many ways, with one of the main differences being length of the project. With fiction, publishers generally require a completed (and polished!) manuscript before they’ll consider it for publication. For nonfiction, however, publishers will often buy a project based on a 50-page book … [more]

carveresquejpgLike so many of you, I rushed out and bought the Library of America edition of Raymond Carver’s Collected Stories right on the day it was published. (Okay, that was a joke. I am a writing nerd is what I’m saying. I went to the Strand on the day of release to buy a copy. Like a teenage girl awaiting the new Stephenie Meyer.)

Yes, I already own Cathedral and Fires and Where I’m Calling From and the poetry collections (which are fine and powerful though not formally challenging but hey, that’s okay, too). I know Carver, and I love his work for the most part—not always, but for the most part—and this new edition fascinated me.

Why? Well, because it includes the original unedited manuscript, the source material for what became What We Talk [more]

raised_handsA few days ago, we asked everyone (or rather, those of you who are reliable readers of this blog, which is more or less everyone so far as we’re concerned) if there were any questions not covered in our FAQs section on our site that you were just dying—dying—to have answered. We wanted to hear all those secret questions that leave you lying awake at night, staring at the play of passing cars’ headlights on the ceiling and thinking, How will I ever find out the answer to my question about marbles?!?! and Is it really so bad to wear white after Labor Day? and Why “different from” instead of “different than,” huh? and other such dire burning issues that we all worry over but are too shy to ask about.

Well, now … [more]