Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


My agent sent me a list of publishers who have recently rejected my Sceptre of Terran-Gayle manuscript. Not suitable was their only comment. I could rail about what is suitable and what is not but I won't. I will do what I usually do, pick up the pieces and continue to write and submit. Why? Good question. The only answer is: I have no other choice. I'd go mad if I didn't write down the stories in my head.

I've been receiving rejection letters for over 30 years so you'd think I would have either gotten used to the pain or given up. But no, it is the odd personal letter from a publisher that keeps me doing what I love to do. My picture book, Mama's Big Black Umbrella, was on the 'perhaps' pile for months before being returned. I was elated by that rejection. It meant I got close. Last summer, Terran-Gayle made it through several editorial committees before being rejected. The publisher loved my writing style but in the end, it was 'not right for them'.

Why do my manuscripts miss out?

For one, I don't write main stream fiction or non-fiction. I wrote fantasy before J.K. Rowlings picked up a pencil and yet I am told I shall never compete with her. I have no intention of doing so. My fantasies spring from my love of history so that is where I base them. I've researched medieval culture and witch hunts so my stories have a sense of time as well as place. Historical fantasy seems to describe my work best but today I am working on a science ficiton/fantasy so no wonder publishers find my work unsuitable. They can't classify it. What can't be shelved in a bookstore, won't sell. I understand that.

Will I stop writing? No. Will I stop submitting my work? Probably not. So rejection is in my future as it was in my past and, as it was today. Tomorrow I pick up the pieces and continue.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

It is only fitting I should begin this blog with a quote taken from 'Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens. Most think this is the first sentence of the book but it is only two phrases of a much longer one. In fact, Dickens continues in this same vein for a whole paragraph!

I first read 'Tale of Two Cities' when I was in Grade 7 and it inspired me to believe I could also write. I had always told stories -- some outright lies, some tales from my imagination. It seemed like a good idea to write them down for others to enjoy. My school teachers encouraged me with good marks, praise, and special writing projects. Little did they know the writing life I desired was fraught with such wonderful elation and such deep depression.

I began my career with a pencil and pad of foolscap. Just the name of the paper should have alerted me to the game I had chosen to play. Any fool can write; it takes an educated fool to write well. I honed my skills through years of scribbling stories and poems on scraps of paper. Finally, I taught myself to compose at a typewriter. Computers freed me to take risks with my prose and to actually edit rigorously.

Writing for me has always been about the best of times and the worst of times. I love the excitement of a new project, the researching of ideas, the developing of characters, the flow of dialogue, and the burst of description that comes to one in a flash. But, when the story is done, I must switch gears and become analytical, scientific even. Gone are the long sentences that would have made Dickens proud. Gone is the flowery language. Gone are the repetitions and the words that one loves to use.

Why can't 'undulate' appear where ever I wish?

Right now, I'm in the middle of editing a book I wrote years ago as a trilogy. I'm determined that the first book of the series stands alone. It is called the Quest of Balthasar and is a fantasy/science fiction novel for young adults. I will share my trials and tribulations of the editing process in this blog. It might also help me sort out what really matters and what is just fluff.