When the words do not flow

Yesterday was not one of my better writing days. My fingers were recalcitrant and my brain mutinous. After a couple hours of pointless battle with ’em I gave up and read a vast deal of Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog.

What fun. Sarah is dead funny. Her and Maureen Johnson’s blogs are two of the funniest in existence. I especially enjoyed reading Sarah’s entries over the past year or so as she sold her first novel and talks about what it’s like to be an about-to-be-published writer. It made me all nostalgic for my more than a year of waiting for my first book to come out.

Sarah talks about all the various stages. The post on her first editorial letter is delightful as well as a really good explanation of what exactly an editorial letter is. The only thing I would quibble with is the idea that an editorial letter can vary in length from “two to twelve pages”.

I have a friend who once received a one-page editorial letter. Actually, it was more of one-line editorial letter and it ran something like this:

Beginning slow. Ending confusing. Protag unlikeable. Fix.

Another friend got one that was well over twelve pages. It was almost like the editor had written a novel about the novel. Bizarrely that super-long ed letter required less work from the author than the one-line ed letter. One never knows, do one?

I also loved her post about memoirs and totally agreed with her comments about Rachel Manija Brown’s brilliant memoir:

All The Fishes has something I would really like to see in other autobiographies. Rachel Manija Brown says that sometimes she doesn’t remember things: there are several scenes where she describes what she thought was going on, then details other people’s entirely different viewpoints, and leaves it up to the reader to decide. When wrapping up the book she gives us her mother’s perspective, which is a world apart from her own, because she wants to be fair. That is awesome. And it makes me trust her autobiography, because that’s what real life is. Nobody’s going through it as a monologue: there are other players around.

There are many memoirs and autobiographies that do this. Some of my favourites become a meditation on memory and how we construct our understandings of the world based on these memories. So what does it mean that we all remember differently?1 This always makes me think of that song from Gigi, “I remember it well” which is a duet giving totally different accounts of the same events: “We dined with friends. We dined alone. A tenor sang. A baritone. Ah, yes, I remember it well.”

Sarah’s blog is an excellent example of a really good writer’s blog. It’s well written, witty, entertaining and makes me want to read her books. It’s also a good example of how you can’t just conjure a good blog out of thin air as some new writers are being expected to do. Sarah’s been blogging for years: her archives go back to 2002; her book deal didn’t happen until 2007. She did not set out to have a Writer’s Blog to Publicise Her Writing thus it does not read in the awkward way that such blogs often do.

Yes, I have come across a few such lately. Debut writers merrily dispensing wrong advice about the publishing industry they as yet have no clue about because that’s what they feel they must do. “I’m a REAL writer now I must tell everyone how it works!”

Which is actually what Sarah does. The difference being—and it is a HUGE difference—that Sarah is very clear that she is talking about what is happening to her, and her understanding of it, and it is all new and strange and if anyone could clear up this particular point she’d love to hear from them. She never says “this is how it is”, she says “this is how it is for me“.

That’s why I cannot wait to read her debut novel. She didn’t set out to create a blog that would make punters want to read her books and yet that’s exactly what she’s done.

  1. For instance, Scott and me have totally different memories of how we met. []


  1. julie on #

    I lvoe her blog!

  2. cuileann on #

    Indeed. I just saw Gail Carson Levine at the bookstore where I saw you and Scott (Chicago area), and she mentioned an eighteen-page (single-spaced) editorial letter for Fairest! Eeps.

  3. hillary! on #

    It seems to me (but Im not a writer, so I wouldn’t know) that the longer the editorial letter, the better, because then you can see what exactly your editor has a problem with, as opposed to the one liner. But then again a short can be good too, right? If it’s beasically telling you that the story is quite good so far. Right?
    Thank FRED I don’t want to be a writer anymore.

  4. N C on #

    ha, I agree. I love Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog.

  5. Patrick on #

    You’re right! Blogs are hard to do well and for the right reasons.

  6. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    Oh dear. Brain mutiny. So dangerous, and yet so fun…


  7. Sarah Rees Brennan on #

    I sparkle in your direction. I spent my mutinous-brain day today in the park reading Suite Scarlett, and I have a funny feeling my brain may mutiny when How to Ditch Your Fairy comes out too…

    And thank you for telling me more about editorial letters! The idea of receiving that one liner made me take to cake.

  8. Justine on #

    Sarah: Blog more!

    Isn’t Suite Scarlett wondrous?

  9. Rachel Brown on #

    Thank you, belatedly.

    Maureen Johnson is fantastic. So is Sarah.

  10. emily beth on #

    Thank you for the link to Sarah’s blog! i have just read the entire thing, like, back to the first post! It’s made me laugh many, many times. Amazing procrastination tool!

    (And also: OMG she just commented! Sarah, I love you! tell me more about Saul, your awesome gay brother! Or your mom! Or anything! Just blog!)

    Maureen’s blog rocks too.

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