Friday, July 17, 2009

What I've Learned So Far

I can't stand when people generalize, but I also know it's human nature. I try not to generalize. So when people say to me, "How's the book about the cutters going?" and roll their eyes, I usually say something teacher-y like, "It's just about kids. A girl who cuts. I'm not writing non fiction."

The book is giving me a lot of trouble. Or it was until I woke up the other night and realized I was trying to make the book too normal sounding. Normal sounding to me is dull; I don't write typical YA -- OMG!!! Is that a zit???? kind of YA. And I think I was doing something like trying to make it NORMAL to show that folks who cut are not so much different from say folks who are addicted to tv or food or booze.

I woke up and wrote the first page over, for the seventh time, and I finally think this one is a keeper.

And I do have one generalization about folks who cut (one woman is 52 and has been cutting since she was 15, so it's not just teens). They seem so willing to share their stories, particularly the painful parts. It could be that the Internet makes them able to do this, the anonymity, the sense of confession, all that -- but when I spoke to a friend who is writing about teen alcoholism, she told me she has not found that to be true. She says it's difficult to get teens to open up about their experiences. And teen alcoholism has been "done" (covered by schools, the media) a lot more than cutting.

Maybe I shouldn't make any sweeping statements, but I have found that the people who wrote to me shared experiences that I would have difficulty sharing. It was kind of an amazing deluge.

Is there a common thread? I'm not a psychologist, but there does seem to be early pain, pain that took place sometime in childhood. And of course, there is the sense of shame for their SH behavior. Maybe sharing these experiences is a way out of shame. That's what I am hoping.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First 15 Pages and I Didn't Delete This Blog

I absolutely could not get the girl's voice right in these pages. I kept deleting to the point where I felt sort of like Dr. Frankenstein: This thing will never live! I was going to scrap the whole idea for this book. That's the way writing is sometimes, at least for me. I'm never calm about any of the words.

I always thought writers sat down (I'm imagining Charlotte Bronte who was the first writer I truly loved) at a desk and wrote away into the night with this content smile.

I'm cursing and deleting and just acting nuts.

I was going to come in and delete this blog, put my notes for this story in the recycle pile, and call it a day.

Then, bing, the writing fairies took pity on me, and I wrote a shaky draft of the first 15 pages, changed everyone's name (weirdly important) and I am normal again.

Well, for me. Hopefully, another 15 pages tomorrow, but more realistically, this weekend since I'm having a three day houseguest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I can't believe I haven't been here since February! But the good news is I did begin the novel I have been yakking about. I also want to thank all the people who wrote to me about their cutting experiences. Here's an update on the novel:

It's going to be shorter than The Shape of Water, which is 312 pages, and also shorter than Light Beneath Ferns. I'm not sure how long LBF is going to be since the galleys aren't here yet, but I do know that the story is going pretty fast.

The tentative title is Field and the goal is to write five pages a day and have a draft done by August.

What I've learned about cutting from all the anonymous comments on my blog and the longer stories you guys have sent to my email have proved to be invaluable "research" as it will help make the voice of the character that much more authentic.

As you guys have asked, I will keep you updated on my progress. And if you still want to add your comment here, please feel free to do that. As I read your stories, I understand something I knew nothing about a year ago.