The Whys

These days, I’ve been doing a lot of revising. Right after the New Year, I pulled out the draft of the novel I wrote last spring and summer. Taking another look at it has been teaching me a lot.

I loved writing this book. It started out as a short story that I wrote in response to a contest prompt. One of the contest’s judges commented that they thought it should be a book, and they hoped I would try writing it. I’d never based a novel on a story before (although I’m going to try it again, pretty soon), and had no outline or plans.

Jumping in and winging it, figuring out my main character and his life as I went, was hugely fun. I often put a lot of pressure on drafts. (“If you’re going to spend this much time writing, it’d better be good!”) This time, I had no expectations going in. It was all about seeing what shook out, and it was wonderful.

This novel had a soundtrack of songs that helped me get unstuck. I listened to this one on repeat.

When I finished the draft, I was really excited. The story had taken on all kinds of layers. I adored my main character. Putting the project aside was really difficult, because I wanted to keep hanging out in that world.

Looking at it now, with a little more distance, I can see how many corners I cut. When I didn’t know what to do, I’d put something down and plow ahead. I didn’t think too hard about precision or fine-tuning. Now I’m finding entire placeholder sections, and other parts that feel like scaffolding without masonry. There’s lots of sloppy language, and lots of “clunkers,” as I call them: awkward transitions, extra verbiage to trip over.

About a third of the way through, I hit a chapter that left me thinking good lord, what a snore! As I slogged through, trying to see how to fix it, I wondered if, really, I’d come up with much of anything workable in this book at all. Maybe I’d tried to do too much with all those layers, and it was like mixing too many colors of paint: you didn’t end up with a rainbow, just a sludgy mess.

I’ve stuck with it, mainly because I do still love this character, and hanging out with him feels like solid ground underfoot. I don’t know if this story will ultimately shape up into anything that it feels right to share. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the revision now, and when it’s done, it’s probably going to go back into a folder for a while. Sometime later, I might take it out again and look at those spots where I know something still isn’t right.

Another favorite song from the drafting soundtrack.

With my first two books, especially To Love A Stranger, I felt a lot of pressure to finish-and-publish. What else would justify all that time? This time, it feels okay to put in these hours dickering with a puzzle. In revision, I love figuring out where the problems are and how to smooth them out. Every one of them teaches me something I can keep in mind for next time. This story took a bunch of risks, and uses some devices that maybe, ultimately, can’t work. That feels okay too. If I can’t fix them, I can still learn from them.

This experience is reminding me why, at the end of the day, I do this work even when no results are guaranteed. Storytelling always just feels right. Doing it keeps me grounded in who I am. Every project has some kind of joy in it, a motive power that keeps me coming back.

One of these days, maybe this current main character really will make his way into the world, whether in a version of this book or in some different story. That might be a while from now. Meanwhile, he makes me smile, and I’ll enjoy the time I can spend with him.

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The Writing Cave

Our crowdfunder for Fourteen Stones’s launch is coming very soon! I’m so excited to share this book with you. Today, as we gear up for the start of the crowdfunder, I thought I’d share a little “virtual tour” of the place where my novel took shape.

I’m not the greatest housekeeper (in fact, if there’s a list of good housekeepers, my name is nowhere in its remotest vicinity). To put it mildly, my space is cluttered, usually chaotic, but I love it anyway.

The writing space

My writing desk, which is pretty much invisible under all the stuff, was an antique-store find ten years ago, when my husband and I moved into our house and I set up my own office for the first time. The desk is a narrow secretary with pigeonholes and a front you can close, which I never do. Here you can see the playlist up on my trusty laptop, and the pile of notes I always keep around, and in honor of Fourteen Stones, the sketches I drew four years ago when I was fleshing out my fictional world. I’ve kept those drawings up ever since, as a promise to myself that the book would be out in the world one day. (And now that day is almost here! 🙂 )


I’m a huge fan of knickknacks and keepsakes. The top of my desk, and the wall above it, are repositories for some of those. The feather is a hawk feather, found on a hike my husband and I took. The top photo is one of my husband’s pictures. The gray cat in the other photo is Robin, whom we adopted as an elderly former-feral and who was my beloved companion through her last years. The lovely colorful painting was done by a friend.

View of greenery

This is the view from my office window, out at our backyard. We get lots of birds: cardinals, chickadees, wrens (we had a wren nest this year), nuthatches, titmice, finches, bluebirds, and we’ve even seen a pileated woodpecker at our suet feeder. We also often see groundhogs, and many springs have had families of baby groundhogs living under our shed. (We’ve named all groundhogs Henry, just because.)

Books and stuff

And of course, no writing room would be complete without lots of books. I do have a keyboard in my office too, which mainly came in handy for my job as a church musician, when Covid closed the church I worked at and all of our services were streamed online. I played many Zoom services on this keyboard.

More books

The smaller bookshelf on the left is devoted almost exclusively to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. He’s one of my great heroes; I’ve read all of the Discworld novels many times. If I had to pick one favorite, it would be Night Watch, although Unseen Academicals and Going Postal are also right up there.

Hardworking assistant

And, last but very much not least, this is my co-editor Fergus. He’s the youngest of our three cats, and hangs out with me the most when I’m working. Sometimes he gets a little distracting:

Apparently it’s his chair…
…and also his keyboard.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the “cave”! If you’d like to stay updates on all things Fourteen Stones, plus get Maker’s Day prompts each Wednesday, please consider subscribing to the blog. As always, thank you for visiting!