a weblog for readers and writers

Monday, November 28, 2005

Neil Gaiman Slings Mud

Neil Gaiman is an increasingly popular writer. His best-selling novel, Anansi Boys, has been well reviewed. How does he do it? He's the first to admit that he's a mud-slinger.

He revealed his artistic method at the National Book Festival. "My method of writing a novel? It's like throwing mud at a wall. Then looking and saying, 'that resembles a face.' Then throwing some more." Gaiman explains that the meat of the novel is mudslinging, but the shape it takes comes during the rewriting and editing. That's when he gets closer to the wall and begins shaping the blotches and polishing them into something more presentable.

The point being that the first step in writing is to get it out. Spillage, mud-slinging, inspired writing. Oftentimes writers get bogged down in the quicksand of trying to get the first draft perfect. The first draft is all about throwing mud at the wall. There is time for shaping it into something beautiful later.

Learn more about Neil Gaiman at his website -- but watch for flying mud.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

National Book Awards Announced

The 2005 National Book Award for fiction was presented to William T. Vollomann for his series of intertwined, World War II stories, Europe Central. Vollomann beat out E. L. Doctorow (a previous winner) and Mary Gaitskill.

The award for non-fiction went to Joan Didion for The Year of Magical Thinking. The young people's literature award went to Jeanne Birdsall for The Penderwicks. W. S. Merwin won the award for poetry with Migration.

For more about the 2005 National Book Awards, read the story in the New York Times.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

McDermott on the Flow of Words

The Baltimore Writers' Conference last weekend lived up to its promise as the premier writing conference of the Mid-Atlantic region. Craft lectures, panel discussions and one-on-one critiques on everything from fiction to screenwriting filled the event. Writers, agents and publishers attended.

I had the pleasure of meeting renowned novelist Alice McDermott for the second time this year; she delivered the keynote address.

McDermott asked us to consider the reader-writer relationship as that of a fisherman to a fish. "What are you fishing for," she asked. "What kind of bait are you using?" She painted the metaphor of a writer dangling a certain type of writing within a pool of potential readers. She had as much to say about the ideal reader as the ideal writer.

"The ideal reader enters a story unarmed and surrenders to the flow of words." She also warned that the flow of words -- like water -- can be disastrous.

Meet Alice McDermott at the B&N link below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Old Line State Writes New Lines

Maryland Novelists are writing new lines in the "Old Line State." In fact, only one other area in the world is writing more during National Novel Writing Month. We're halfway through NaNoWriMo, and Maryland -- at the top of the list for four days -- is now number two, neck-to-neck with Minnesota.

With 16 days and 7 hours remaining, NaNo-Novelists world-wide have written 299,615,964 words, or about 1,198,463 pages. That's roughly enough creative energy to build a library in Laos, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo intends to do.

As for my own novel, I'm ahead of schedule with more than 39,000 words, or about 150 pages. Womb is told entirely from the point of view of an unborn child. Interested? You can find a draft of my opening chapter at the link below.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Baltimore Writers' Conference

Area writers, learn more about the craft and business of writing at the 14th annual Baltimore Writers' Conference this Saturday, November 12. The keynote speaker is National Book Award-winning author Alice McDermott and the welcome address comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tim Page of the Washington Post. A host of other writers, publishers, agents and experts fill out the sessions of the day, all at Towson University's University Union.

This is the region's premier writers' conference, put on by Towson University, Johns Hopkins University and the City Lit Project. The time to register is now -- visit the website below.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

And They're Off!

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) has begun! Tens of thousands of writers are racing away at their keyboards, sprinting with pens and pencils in streams-of-consciousness works of art. There are as many NaNo-Novels as there are NaNo-Novelists, all sustaining one another, plunging into those first steps of writing a novel draft in one month.

In these early-morning hours of Day Two, the collective word count is at 47 million. There are 28 days, 15 hours, 17 minutes and 37 seconds go to. By then, the winners will each have completed a draft of at least 50,000 words or about 200 pages.

Intrigued by these crazies who are determined to draft a novel from scratch in one month? Learn more about them -- more about National Novel Writing Month -- by reading my monthly column in Coloquio. It's online at the link below; scroll down to the travel section.