Waffles for Breakfast

Quote of the Day from Crazy Lady at the Gym: “This frosty weather is messing with our gardens – it’s not natural.”

I had no words. Which is saying a lot for me.

My spooky Halloween decorations look cool at sunset though, don’t they?

Clearly I’m feeling quite rambly today. I’m looking at my list of potential blog topics and none look interesting. My writerliness might be getting sucked into this new story I’m working on. It’s called (right now) “Sapphire” and it’s an erotic contemporary romance. An editor requested to see it, so I’m getting it all finished up. It’s interesting how, because it’s contemporary, I seem to be getting more into the thoughts and emotions. My modern career-gal, Taylor, has far more neuroses and hang-ups than virginal Amarantha did. Of course, they both get ravished just the same. Some things transcend era.

The big question is what to write next. I’m trying this schedule of spending three months drafting a long work, setting it aside for a month to “cook,” writing something short, then spending a month revising, then another short. October sees the end of this “writing a short” month. (Okay, I’m running about a week behind -have been since July. You can dock my pay.)

What this means is: time to work on the next big project. And I’m not sure what that will be. Oh yes, I have a list. I have several manuscripts in various phases from a jotted-down idea to one that’s 36K complete. Allison asked me which is tugging at me and I confessed it’s still The Body Gift. I haven’t quite cut that umbilical cord.

Of course, if I get an offer on it, I’ll almost certainly be diving back in with revisions. That’s pretty much inevitable. I know that, so that might be feeding in.

At any rate, I’m contemplating going back to a nonfiction project. Part of me thinks that, since I don’t have any other strong tuggings, I should pick the project that’s most marketable. Then I think, who am I kidding? If I was good at picking marketable projects, I’d be Nora Roberts. KAK has a vote in for me to finish the 36K one, which I might. It’s also probably the most unsellable project under the sun, so I’m waffling…

See? I warned you I’m in a rambly mood today. Say, I don’t solicit comments often, but let’s play Vote on the Next Manuscript!

Here’s the list: (I’m keeping each description brief, so as not to unduly bias my judges.) (And, no Marcella, none of these are good loglines, I know.)

The Daughters (36K done) – Fantasy, lots of sex magic, about girls being manipulated by a cult

Writers Group story – Nonfiction, 12 intertwined stories about women in my first writers group and how they ended up

St. Johns love story – contemporary romance, a woman travels to St.Johns because she falls in love with a singer’s voice

Wendy story – literary fiction. 30 yo woman living in small-town Wyoming with parents

Sorority book – Nonfiction, intertwined essays (yeah, it’s my thing right now) about women from my sorority, then and and the ensuing years, what sorority life was like

Papa book – narrative nonfiction, from the divorce scandal that banished my grandparents from theater mecca to the ashes of alcoholism

Post-apocalyptic vampire story – could be expanded?

Okay! What do you all think? Feel free to say you hate something, too. All suggestions welcome!

Ho-Hum to OMG

This is an old picture, taken while I was doing some field work on Pinto Creek near Globe, Arizona.

Random choice, I know.

That’s kind of how life is, though; how people are. Some days a certain or image is in our minds and the next, something else. For a while I’ll be madly in love with a certain band and later I’ll think of them fondly, with a certain nostalgic affection. Celebrities are hot one moment and yesterday’s kitty litter the next. People spend time and money trying to track and, better, create these phenomena. They can’t. Our attention is riveted, then lost.

Yesterday I read a published author’s blog post about a conversation with her agent. They’d been discussing what she’d write next. They went over a number of ideas and the agent said, which one are you most excited about – except this one. Of course the idea the agent eliminated from discussion is the one the author was most excited about. But the market has been tepid for her books. She’s had a bad run and the publishing houses aren’t picking her up like they used to. She and her agent are trying to reposition her and it’s clear she’s feeling down about it. Like everyone, she frequently refers to the “changing publishing industry.” Things are just difficult right now, she says.

I also have a couple of friends who are querying their manuscripts and getting not much response. They’re not getting requests for even partials. These are good writers with good books. But people in the industry, in the top tiers, aren’t looking for that right now. They’re looking for hot and hip. They want the next phenomenon.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Oprah’s interview with JK Rowling. You can watch it on You Tube and it’s worth the time. The best moment, I thought, was when Oprah asked JK if she had ever imagined Harry Potter would become such a phenomenon. She said no and turned the question around. It was fascinating to hear these two vastly successful women, both of whom had once been in the poorest of circumstances, discuss the amazing serendipity of their successes. Especially now that both are at the end of their particular comet-rides. Oprah is ending her talk show and Rowling has ended the Harry Potter series.

Oprah asked Rowling if she’d try to do something like it again and Rowling instantly said no. She said, in fact, that people regularly warn her that she’ll never do anything that huge again. She’s promised herself that she’s not spending the rest of her life chasing the phenomenon, trying to top what she did with Harry Potter. Oprah said she finds herself thinking about how to do it with her new network, how to make it be the sensation like her show has been. She stops herself, too.

They both referenced a moment in an interview with one of Michael Jackson’s people. How no one had expected Thriller to become such a worldwide phenomenon. And how Michael Jackson then spent the rest of his career and his life chasing it, trying to make it happen again.

He is now, of course, the great cautionary tale for all creative types.

Ambition is a necessary thing. It’s what keeps us going in the face of adversity. In the face of people who just aren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about your work. But it’s the love of the work itself that’s truly meaningful. Neil Gaiman (my hero, you know) was featured in an episode of a children’s show, Arthur. It’s only something like 12 minutes long. I thought I’d only watch a minute or two, since my boy did the voice. Then I got so drawn in and, yes, even a little emotional, I watched the whole thing.

It’s about writing a story – a graphic novel, actually – and sticking to what you want to write, rather than what people like. (I admit I did grumpily mutter, when Neil tells the little girl that he wants a copy of her book when she gets it published, something along the lines of “easy for you to say, you’re Neil Fucking Gaiman.” But it was just a little spat – he still has my heart. He can be my inner Neil anytime.)

At any rate, I think those “lessons for children” are good lessons for all of us. You never know what people will like. And what made them say ho-hum yesterday might be OMG tomorrow.

I do know this: we need to love it first.

Four Reasons I Don’t Do NaNoWriMo

The moon behind the clouds last night. I nearly photoshopped out all the little points of light. I suspect they’re artifact – bits of reflected light – but I thought we could pretend they’re stars. On a cloudy night. See? We can have it all.

I am a fiction-writer, after all.

The writer Harley May sometimes roasts author photos, for her own twisted amusement, mostly. She roasted mine today. If you care for a good laugh, check it out.

I seem to be cutting a wide swath this week. Linda Grimes’ blog post today is a result of me Double-Dog Daring her. And Marcella Burnard’s blog post yesterday talked about a conversation we had about setting aside writing time. Must be my karma lately.

Either that or I spend way too much time yakking to people online. No, no – that can’t be it.

Apropos of that, a number of people have asked me if I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month). I’ve blogged about this before, but I won’t point you to those posts because I’ve been kind of cranky on the topic in the past. Because, no, I don’t like NaNoWriMo.

A lot of people do. They love the feeling of community, the outside deadline to draft 50,000 words in one month. Several people got their first serious start at regularly scheduled writing through the project, so they have great associations.

I think I’ve mentioned plenty of times here why it doesn’t work for me, but enough people have asked that I thought it’s worth mentioning again. I’m not one of those organized bullet-point bloggers, but today I do have a list of my Four Reasons I Don’t Do NaNoWriMo.

1. It’s not about developing a regular writing schedule

NaNoWriMo is about a one-month blast of a hell of a lot of writing. With some exceptions, most writers, even those who get to write full time, don’t write that much in one month. People who commit to NaNoWriMo are making a pledge to do whatever it takes to meet the goal. That can be useful, but it’s important to me to fence off that regular writing time, write every day and make steady progress. If I stick to 1K/day, I can write 365,000 words in one year. I’m not meeting that goal yet, but it’s what I’m shooting for.

2. Too much pressure

Because I don’t yet get to write full-time, I’ve found that 1K/day is about all I can handle and still be worth my salary. I can do more than that for short periods of time – I can write 5-7K in one day, when under pressure – but it drains me. I don’t know that I could keep that up even if I didn’t work full-time. Writing 50K words in November means 1667 words/day for thirty days in a row. That kind of pressure makes me crazy and, believe me, you don’t need me more crazy.

3. It doesn’t match my own method

To write that many words in that short a time means fast-drafting. That’s writing as fast as you can with no editing, no careful crafting. The idea is that writing fast removes barriers and frees you to simply write. There are many jokes that December and January are novel-finishing and editing months. That kind of drafting can be really great if you like to write that way, or don’t know yet how you like to write. I’m not much into fast drafting. I write reasonably quickly when I’m drafting, but I do go back and edit and reshape as I go. I produce pretty clean copy when I’m done. This is the method I’ve developed over about 25 years. It works well for me. Sometimes if I’m blocked, I’ll try the vomit/fast draft approach to get through the wall. Otherwise, I’m happy with how I work. I believe it’s important to find what works for you and, like nailing down a regular writing schedule, stick with it.

4. I’m a holiday girl

Okay, I get in trouble for saying this, but I’m endlessly amused that a guy started NaNoWriMo and picked November partly because of the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m sorry guys, but I think Thanksgiving ends up being four empty days for a lot of you and a whole bunch of work for a lot of gals. I know it doesn’t apply to everyone, but how many households have you been in when the men are watching football and napping on Thanksgiving and the women are cooking? I love Thanksgiving. I love cooking for it. But I spend a LOT of time preparing for it. And when I’m not doing the labor of love, I’m spending time with family. The day after Thanksgiving I get to spend shopping and having lunch with my mom and my stepsister, Hope. It’s a very fun day for me that I look forward to, but it’s not a day for catching up on word count. All of that is fine, because I have my regular schedule and I take holiday from it, just as I do from my day job.

So, that’s my NaNoWriMo Manifesto. (heh) But all of you digging in to do it, best of luck and full steam ahead. I’ll provide the pumpkin pie.

The Hardest Part

This Cooper’s Hawk landed on our bird feeder yesterday morning. One moment the finches, wrens, jericoes and quail were flocking about, happily pecking at seeds, the next they’d poofed and this guy appeared, as if manifesting full-blown from Zeus’s forehead.

Oh yeah, they eat mainly birds. Prowling the feeders seems a titch unfair, though I suppose we’re technically still feeding birds…

We’ve been working the last few days on setting up a new group blog, the Word-Whores. It’s Allison‘s baby and there will be seven of us altogether, which lets each of us blog on one day a week. This is a group of gals who are all some of my favorite people. We plan to launch on January 1, 2011. 1/1/11 – nice symmetry to that.

At any rate, we’ll all blog on a similar theme each week, so we wanted to come up with a year’s worth of topics. We each submitted at least eight ideas and then voted on the whole list. The top 52 became our year’s worth of topics.

It was really fun for me to see the results. (Hey – I like spreadsheets, okay?) Every suggested topic received at least one vote. Six topics received unanimous votes.

The one topic I really didn’t like got six votes, too. I was clearly the only person who didn’t like it. Marcella – whose sci fi comes out ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! – said that the one topic she didn’t like made the list, too. So then we spent some time talking about those topics and how we’d address them when it came time. By the end of the conversation, I had a good idea of what I’d write for mine. And I realized I spent more time thinking about the one topic I didn’t like, than all the rest put together.

There’s a lesson here somewhere. The same kind of lesson as joining a book group because you’ll read books you wouldn’t otherwise. Working with a group of people means you entertain ideas you normally wouldn’t. It forces you to turn your perspective and see the world from a slightly different angle.

And you know I always like that kind of thing.

Aerro Nicole

Aerro Nicole De La Fuente, daughter of my stepdaughter, Lauren, was born yesterday.

She’s actually my second grandchild, as her brother, Tobiah, turned two this summer. Their dad, Damion, has gorgeous eyes, too, so I expect both kids will be heartbreakers.

It’s funny how many people don’t know I have stepchildren. I look young for my age anyway, due to good genes, a long-term skin care program and a happy life. But I also acquired my stepchildren young. I was twenty-four when I met David twenty years ago. At that time Lauren was six and her brother, Mike, was eight.

So they could have been mine biologically, too, if I’d gotten started early. One of Lauren’s best friends had a baby at sixteen, so she’ll be on my same track.

It seemed David and I were always out of step with the other parents. Most of them were older than we were – or maybe they just seemed older. I was still in grad school. David had gone to college late and was in the early years of a new career. Neither of us had any money. We lived in a tiny apartment, with a grocery budget of $50/week, and Mike and Lauren stayed with us every other weekend, all summer and visited once a week for dinner. Our friends always forgot we needed to either bring Mike and Lauren along or find a sitter when they threw impromptu parties on kid-weekends. None of our friends had children. And the parents of the kids’ friends seemed so much more fixed in life than we were.

By the time Mike and Lauren were older, that was when our friends started having kids. Many of my cohort, my high-school and college friends now have children who are around ten years old. Lauren had her first baby at twenty-four. The same age I became a stepmother, I pointed out to her. She seemed young for it, but then, so was I.

Am I young to be a grandmother? I suppose so. But I’m hearing people say 60 is the new 40, which means that 40 must be the new 20. By that measure, I acquired stepchildren when I was in grade school.

Age is a rapidly changing concept these days. People may not be living a lot longer, but they’re certainly more youthful for it. Here we are, twenty years later and David is back in school, training for a second career – or perhaps third, depending on how you look at it. Mike is back in David’s home town, doing the things David did in his twenties, before he went to college. Lauren has a son who is two years older than her new daughter, who was born the same weight as Lauren was.

It all cycles around. David and I are looking forward to spending time with Tobiah and Aerro (named for the snowboarder in last winter’s Olympics, if you were wondering. And Nicole is Lauren’s middle name) as they grow up. We have more room and more money now.

And we’re still young. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Welcome to the world, Aerro. We love you.

Hunters Moon

Our weather has finally turned. Gone are the hot, dry baking days.

The last week has been cool. All night long the rain pounds on our flat roof, a soothing sound that makes me want to tuck deeper into the warm covers.

I thought I might not catch the rising Hunters Moon, but then it crested the cloud banks over Tonto National Forest, in all its radiant glory.

We lead fortunate lives, that we don’t worry about hunting for the winter. We may fret about paying the credit card bill or defaulting on the mortgage, but we aren’t watching the descending long nights with trepidation, wondering if we’ve put enough food by to last all the way though deep winter and spring blizzards. We don’t look at our children and wonder which won’t be around for the next summer.

Perhaps worry is worry and the subject doesn’t matter.

It’s human nature, I suppose, to take the blessings for granted and focus on what we don’t have. We angst about what people might think of us, whether we can win the lottery and get that million dollars, if that agent will request a full manuscript. It’s not that these concerns aren’t important. If they weren’t meaningful to us, they wouldn’t occupy our attention.

But we’re not counting on the full moon to give us a little more light to hunt by either. Instead, it’s just a beautiful orb, illuminating the night.

Mud and Money

There’s a bru-ha-ha going on with Dorchester Press. Alas, still and yet again.

Really it’s a continuation of the same sordid story. For those not in the swim of New York publishing, Dorchester is a smallish publisher, but has been well-respected. They published a lot of romance, especially a lot of paranormal stuff. I have a number of friends who’ve published with them and have been very happy. Two Dorchester editors, Chris Keesler and Leah Hultenschmidt are well-known on the conference circuit, well-respected in the business and well-liked by pretty much everyone.

Used to be, Dorchester was a great place for a debut author.

That’s when the whole “struggling publishing industry” thing comes into play. As a smaller press, Dorchester doesn’t have the reserves and diversification of the bigger NYC publishers. Rumors have been afloat for some time that they haven’t been paying some authors royalties for years, though other authors say they’ve been paid on time. The first certifiable flag of warning was when Dorchester sold their backlist – the books that were published years ago but continue to sell – to Avon. These were their biggest name authors that they sold (the Avon folks aren’t dummies) and people wondered how Dorchester could afford to give up a bread-and-butter resource like that.

Well, they couldn’t. It was a desperation move.

Last summer, RWA withdrew its approval of Dorchester as a reputable publisher, because there were enough reliable reports that authors were not being paid. Then this fall, Dorchester made the astonishing announcement that they would no longer be a print publisher. The press intended to go to electronic publishing (much less overhead) and some trade paperbacks (targeted print runs for anticipated high-sellers). This included books that authors had anticipated would hit shelves a week or two later.

The company also slashed the staff, laying off Leah and leaving Chris the sole editor, with an assistant.

Many authors requested reversion of rights meaning that, since Dorchester had violated their contract that promised a mass-market print run of x copies, the author wanted the publishing rights back. Dorchester granted these rights-reversions.

Now it turns out that Dorchester is still selling those books. The story is here. What’s most disconcerting to me is how little recourse an author has when someone else is selling their books. Short of a civil action, which requires money, there’s little to be done until the wheels slowly turn.

There are also a lot of comments on the post, of varying levels of hysteria and reason. If you scroll down to 12:37pm, Chris Keesler adds a comment. I thought his explanation was dignified, well-reasoned and apologetic. I don’t envy his position at all.

And that’s my real point here.

It’s easy to point fingers at the big, bad corporations. Certainly they do crappy things in favor of the bottom line, but most of us have worked for corporations. We have all lived Dilbert lives in some way or another and we know how companies like that work. It’s easy for writers in particular to see editors as giant figures, flashing good-fortune lightning from their fingertips. In reality, I imagine Chris has very little power over Dorchester’s financial line. Just as, though I’m a reasonably high-level associate in the company I work for, I have no power over how they bill and when they pay. Many of us, too, have been in the position of being the surviving staff member of a larger department that was slashed. We’re asked to do the work of two or three people.

If we want to keep our jobs, we do it.

This doesn’t mean that Dorchester isn’t doing awful things to their authors. But they are also trying to stay afloat and continue as a publisher. It remains to be seen if they’ll succeed.

I met Chris at RWA National last July. He accompanied one of his authors, Leanna Renee Hieber to our big party. She was up for a couple of PRISM awards for her Dorchester debut novel, which she won. As her editor, Chris was there to support her. Being an opportunist, I asked Chris to be one of the “celebrity judges” for our Steampunk costume contest. Being a genuinely lovely person, he agreed.

What struck me about him then, was his concern that, as he and the other two judges weeded the vast field of candidates down to ten finalists, then four, then into prize-winning places, that I convey how difficult their decision was and to let people down gently. I almost thought he was silly about it. It was a party, people were drinking and eating. It was only a silly costume contest.

Then I realized, he had to do that all the time, choose from a field of people and pick the “best.”

Did Chris screw up by failing to take an author’s name off the list? Sure he did. He says he did. I’m impressed that he commented and owned up to it.

And I’m giving thanks today that the mistakes I make at work aren’t anything interesting enough to be posted on the internet for people to throw mud at.

The Lights Are Much Brighter There

Two things reminded me of my maternal grandparents lately.

Which was funny, because it felt like I hadn’t thought about them much in a while. Both have been gone from us for quite a while now. Papa died about thirty years ago and Grandmother followed him not quite fifteen years later.

I’ve written about them some – how Papa educated himself in the public library and became the youngest movie theater manager in the country. How he was even younger than they thought, because he’d lied about his age to get the usher job in the first place. Grandmother left the farm in Texas and taught herself how to be a lady in all things. The stories are full of post-depression glamor. She was his secretary and they both divorced to be together, then fled the bright lights, high-roller lifestyle and the scandal, exiled to the backwater of Denver.

I have the book all outlined, in fact, though it’s been sitting in a drawer for a while now.

At any rate, someone on Twitter mentioned that she’d bought See’s Candies. I know the stores are all over the malls still, but somehow her mention brought back vividly how Papa brought Grandmother a box of chocolates every week, all soft centers, no caramels. It was a courtly gesture that I puzzle over now. In their later years, relations between them were strained. I wonder now if buying the candies were a habit or an offering of perpetual repentance. There was always that white box though – unless it was a special color for a holiday – sitting on the table between their armchairs.

I can’t recall now if she ever bought them for herself, after he was gone.

(Since the “gone” involved first a mistress in California and then death by drinking, perhaps not.)

Then, a day later, another friend asked if anyone knew anything about Galatoire’s Milk Punch, and I realized that I did. Galatoire’s is a wonderful old restaurant in New Orleans. Papa was stationed near the city during the war and Galatoire’s became one of his favorites. I’d always known that. I also knew that Papa made “punch” every Sunday after mass. I even described it in an early writing exercise – the vanilla ice cream and milk frothing in a blender. He’d pour some for me, the ice cubes clinking in the tall glass, nutmeg sprinkled on top, the sparkly gold cocktail holder. Then he added the bourbon for theirs. No luck for me if I wanted seconds.

I only realized years later that not everyone’s grandparents started drinking on Sunday morning.

But my friend’s question made me realize where he’d learned it, in the city of languor and partying.

We live in a more ascetic time now. A box of candy every week is over the top. Spending Sunday drinking bourbon questionable.

And yet, thinking of them, seeing those old logos, makes me think of how handsome they were. For a while they were stars of their own world, a place of movie stars and theaters that looked like palaces.

I miss them all over again.


The final dregs of a dark and dramatic sunset. Very all hallows.

I dreamed last night that Allison inherited an amusement park. Very Michael Jackson Neverlandish. I think the hidden meaning here is obvious.

This was probably stimulated our conversation yesterday when Allison asked what I was writing and I told her about this new novella and that it was fun to write. She said she remembered having fun writing. Being the sympathetic writing partner that I am, I replied “wah wah wah.”

After all, she’s got the amusement park. I’m still paying to ride the roller coaster.

But even an amusement park becomes work when you’re the one who runs it, instead of being just a visitor. You don’t get to come and go as you please. The rides have to be maintained every day. You don’t get to skip a day or a week, unless you really love nasty consequences.

The query process is a funny thing because it’s like an incredibly extended job hunt. You refine your resumes, send them out to all kinds of people. Hopefully some friends clue you in on opportunities, recommend you for a job. Of course, we’ve all heard of the person who just blanket-sends a resume to everyone in the phone book. If they like your resume, maybe you get an interview. Maybe you get six interviews, of increasing length and depth. At any point in the process, someone from HR or the marketing department might walk in the room, take one look at you and say no no no.

And you’re done.

It’s like being interviewed to take over as VP of Major Earnings. There’s no starting out in the mail room, or as someone’s assistant. No gradually building your clientele over the course of years.

Then, if you get hired, you’d better perform. Earn that corner office. Increase that profit margin.

No wonder that part isn’t so fun.

But never let it be forgotten that it *is* an amusement park. We choose writing for the wild rides, for the sweetness of the cotton candy, for the sparkling lights and the carnival music.

Oh yeah, sign me up.

You Mean, My 3rd Grade Teacher Was Right??

See? Even if sunset wins out one day, there’s always another opportunity for the baby quail.

They look so rumpled, compared to their sleek parents. But in time they’ll work out the fuzzies and be more styling.

A question that seems to make the rounds of the genre writers loops from time to time regards how important grammar really is. Editors and agents will sometimes exhort querying writers to get their grammar, spelling, and punctuation straight before submitting a manuscript.

Yeah, I know. It seems self-evident.

But the genre writers frequently regard themselves more as storytellers than purveyors of the craft of writing. Unfortunately, this kind of attitude only adds to the sometimes deserved, sometimes not, reputation genre fiction has gained of being entertaining, but terribly written.

Sometimes the authors put it in terms of, which is more important, grammar or voice? Angela James, editor at Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital imprint, answered this question on her blog a little while ago. For some reason, it’s just now eliciting discussion on the email loops.

Quite indignant discussion, too.

It’s as if people have finally discovered that they *were* supposed to learn all those silly grammar rules in grade school and that there is real life application for them after all. Especially if one is, erm, trying to make a professional career out of it. By throwing “voice” into the argument, an author is trying to make the bid that the creative aspect is more important.

Of course the individual creativity a writer brings to her story is important, but without a solid foundation, art is simply a heap of stuff.

You don’t hear architects complaining that they shouldn’t have to learn structural engineering and the laws of physics, because the creativity they bring to design is more important. Even if the architect is only designing a pretty gazebo for the park instead of an office building, people still expect it not to fall down.

Musicians like to use discordant sounds from time to time, to create a particular feeling, whether it’s classical unease or a rock’n’roll wail – but the musician first must know how to play their instrument.

Painters like Picasso broke the rules. He messed with perspective, light, shadow and contrast to put a new spin on our way of seeing something. That was his art, his voice, as it were. It’s an unmistakable style. However, he spent his early years painting in a crisp, realistic way. He had to first know the rules before he could effectively break them.

People sometimes look at abstract paintings and say “my five-year old could have painted that.” A five-year old could possibly stumble upon something interesting, but only an accomplished artist can first, establish themselves in the community with the credentials of being able to paint well, and second, systematically break those rules in a way that opens our eyes.

To me, it’s key in all of these efforts is to know which rules you’re breaking and why. That makes it art and craft, not accident.

If the structure is good, then the voice shines through. Even if the voice uses a style that deliberately breaks grammar rules, that’s clear to the reader.

It just takes a bit of time and work to smooth out the rumpled bits. A mature writer who applies herself to learning craft will find she’ll gain an enviable sleek and smooth style.