Writing & Publishing Questions Batch #3, with ice and snow

Must start with art today. Nature’s art.

Our back porch has a metal roof. The last two days have been warmer than usual and the thick blanket of snow on the roof has been slooooooowly sliding down. Then it refreezes. Next day it warms up, slooowly slides some more, and refreezes.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Early this morning, it looked like this.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It is a frozen waterfall of snow that reminds me of the classic The Great Wave at Kanagaw by Katsushika Hokusai.

I am sure that by mid-afternoon the house will shake and there will be a rumble and the whole thing will slide off.

Speaking of freezing and thawing, thank you Jennifer for an extremely well-written review of Wintergirls!

Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.

You asked: What are your daily tasks as a writer?

Well, I write a lot, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I’ll take yesterday as an example. I started work at 6:45 am. Took a quick lunch break, several breaks to make tea, and a half hour off for dinner – for a total of say and hour and a quarter away from the work. With those exceptions, I was at my desk until about 9:30 pm.

What did I do there? The most important thing was fleshing out a chapter that’s been bugging me. A lot of things happen in this chapter, so I had to back up and double-check my sources to make sure I had the historical facts correct. I spent about eight hours on the chapter.

The rest of the time was spent on email: writing a historian about gaining access to some manuscript sources that are not available to the public, checking with the publicist about a small bit of writing she had me do for NPR, asking my agent about a foreign tax question, a half-dozen emails from librarians and teachers and another half-dozen from readers (who were not asking for homework help.) Oh, and I dealt with some needed doctor referrals. And I took some time out to blog, and do a quick social networking sweep, adding requested friends on Facebook and MySpace, etc.

What did I NOT do yesterday that I wanted to? I didn’t run. Didn’t go to the gym. Didn’t make a dent in the email. Didn’t take care of any of the fanmail that’s been piling up. Didn’t work on my taxes. Didn’t work on my presentation for the upcoming booktour. Didn’t work on the needed content for the website update. I’m pretty sure I didn’t brush my hair, either.

My “me time” was just before bed. I spent an hour drawing. I’ve been doing more of that lately. I have no aspirations to be an illustrator. Mostly I’ve been copying other people’s pictures. It’s surprisingly relaxing and a nice way to wind down after a long day. (I also snuck in a few pages of a biography I’m reading about Louisa May Alcott and her father – that was when I ate lunch.) I went to bed at 10:30pm, fretting about all of the stuff that I didn’t get finished.

But I have to say, when I was deep in that chapter, life was grand.

You wrote: Several times I’ve seen publishers asking for short stories, novels etc:
But trying to find out what number of words they mean can be difficult. What is your view of the various lengths?

My only concern about length is to make my stories as short and the writing as tight as I possibly can. But I understand your desire for some guidelines. I strongly suggest you check out the best website for information about publishing books for kids and teens, Information about Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children’s Books: The Purple Crayon. The site is maintained by former editor Harold Underdown, who wrote the Absolutely Necessary Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books (If you enlarge the cover image, you’ll see that I blurbed the book, which I rarely, rarely do.) Those two source will give you more specific information than I can.

Off to attack another chapter and wait for the snow wave to crash.


15 Replies to “Writing & Publishing Questions Batch #3, with ice and snow”

  1. OOOHH, which Alcott biography are you reading? I’m a bit of an Alcott nerd and am always looking for new things.

    I so love reading your daily updates.

  2. Dear Laurie,

    Thanks for the e-mail. What you wrote to me now hangs above my desk at college, reminding me always to write. 😀 I am so excited for your new book Wintergirls and I think that your Livejournal really lets us fans see what you are up to.

    Wishing you all the best,

  3. Hi.

    Nice pics you have there. We’re having the same weather in England at the moment.

    I have some questions for you. I’m currently completing an assignment for a distance learning creative writing course and also writing a short story collection at the same time. However, even though I’ve written for some years I still haven’t had any experience with how to go about researching. For both projects I have found that I will have to go about researching to find out the information I need. My question is: What is the best, simplest and quickest way of going about researching?

    My second question is: How do you manage to motivate yourself to write when you’ve become disenchanted with the project you’re working on, not because you don’t want to write it and sell it, but because there is some external factor holding you back and you’re scared to actually earn money from your writing because it will complicate your personal tax and may end up with you having nothing to live on because you live on state benefits due to illness and if you earn too much from your writing, the benefit you rely on maybe taken away from you and you may have nothing to live on. Would you suggest writing for free until you get a job, or would you just continue writing anyway. (I apologise for my awfully long sentence; I know it’s dreadful. lol)


  4. Firstly, I’m thoroughly grateful that LJ featured you in a spotlight. Writing has a been a compulsive force in my life for as far back as I can remember. Yes, really! I was crafting little stories and telling them to my stuffed animals before I even knew how to read. Even so, I can’t make it work for me. It overwhelms me, and then I wrestle with it until I’m in agony. Your posts have been a godsend. I am already gaining insight from your wisdom and look forward to more. Although I simply write to release a story that has been imprisoned in my mind, and sort out its genre and other classifications later (few end up with YA potential), your information is so universal that it may help most who wish to publish fiction.

    I have two questions.

    One, when do you know that enough is enough? I will ramble out a story in a few days, but then spend weeks revising it. I’ll pick at it, tweak it, change it, revamp it, alter it, and just pick at it and pick at it until I decide the whole thing is *expletive*, and finally reject it as unworthy. Some of my beta-readers think I’m nuts! After a revision or few, they’ll tell me that it’s great, or even brilliant, and that I should just leave well enough alone. So, how do you know when it’s time to just leave it alone and consider it good enough?

    Two, I have a general impression of the publishing industry as being like the music industry to a greater or lesser extreme. Many brilliant artists are rejected simply because they don’t fit sales trends or marketing plans. From a business perspective in a capitalist society, this makes a lot of sense. If the bottom line is not met, then the company cannot stay in business to publish more books. From an artistic perspective, it’s just plain frustrating. You mentioned in an earlier post that if publishers don’t accept a manuscript, then it’s not good enough to be published and you shouldn’t send it to them again. I agree that you shouldn’t send it back to the same publisher later, but I’m not convinced that it necessarily means the manuscript isn’t good enough to be published. At what point does self publishing become an option?

    I know your time is limited. I totally understand if you don’t answer both of them or either of them. I look forward to reading more of your answers to questions others have asked, as well.

    And yes, that snow sliding off your roof is too cool! ( …no pun intended >_>)

  5. Hello

    Laurie Halse Anderson may be able to provide different insight, but I think I may be able to help you with your second question, too. I once had a friend with severe medical problems. Her monthly prescriptions alone would have cost her thousands out of pocket if she hadn’t been covered by federal disability, state benefits, and more. She was an avid writer, until she was presented with the very predicament you described above. I’ll tell you the same thing I tried to tell her.

    It sounds to me like you’re actually scared of publishing. Writing has nothing to do with income. Publishing may lead to income snafus, but writing does not necessarily lead to publishing. Unless you already have a contract with a publisher, there is no guarantee that you will ever make a significant amount of money off of your work as a writer. So, don’t let your financial situation deter you from your calling. Yes, you should write anyway! If you can, you should completely sever your writing from any association with money. Train yourself to accept that writing does not equal income. One has nothing to do with the other. This will free you to enjoy your work once again. Don’t allow yourself to think about the financial aspect of publishing until AFTER you have a complete manuscript that you believe may be worthy of publication. Even then, if you’re scared to tackle that monster, then pigeonhole the manuscript for a while and start on the next story.

    I hope this helps. 🙂

  6. Haha, that’s awesome about the ice; it’s a very cool effect! Especially how you can still see the grooves from the roof on it.

    Louisa May Alcott – that’s pretty awesome. I’ll definitely have to check out her biography sometime. Little Women is based on her life, isn’t it?

  7. >> I spent an hour drawing.
    Soo happy to read this. You’ve mentioned a couple times here that you aren’t able to draw, and I always found that frustrating because I really think you can do more or less anything.

    I’ve been taking a break from LJ, so sorry I haven’t been replying. I really owe you a letter. Best wishes!

  8. Haha, I’m from Fulton, so I totally understand the snow thing. I hope you don’t mind that I added you– I went to one of your signings at River’s End a few years ago and have admired your writing since high school. 🙂

  9. Snow house

    How do you leave your house with that scary icicle wave on your porch? I would be afraid to leave until it melts.

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