Hard to believe we started 2021 with COVID, vaccines, and an American insurrection. Now here we are—closing the year with COVID, boosters, and an ongoing cold war within the USA.
a question remains: what love do we still carry into night and yon?
I've sent several queries out on my novel, Reckless Joy. For those of you who don't know what a query is: it's the letter that goes to an agent asking them to read your work. I've had a couple of very kind passes, but not all responses are in. Keep your fingers crossed for a "please send the full manuscript" request, ay?
We've entered a busy time in the book world, which means queries to more agents are on hiatus until after the holiday season.
Asking and waiting may be the hardest part of the writing process. It's important, I believe, to remain humble and teachable through it.
Moving on to the Next
I've begun a new novel—a dark comedy, lighter than Reckless Joy. The story's based on an original TV pilot I wrote. Sending a story to prose enriches and deepens its storylines.
How do I begin a story? The constant has been this: I have a story once I know the ending image or feeling. Mind you, that's not the ending of the story. It's a visceral idea of where the story will land. Getting to that endpoint is the fun of writing the story.
Next comes a list of events. Very brief and incomplete. I'm one-third of the way into the new novel, and now that slug list is much longer. But still incomplete. There's room to discover and grow ideas.
There are three software apps I use:
Scrivener for writing the story. (I love Scrivener and have been using it for several years.)
Numbers (it could be Excel, but Numbers comes with Mac.) Spreadsheets are very useful to me. My outline is in a spreadsheet. A to-do list is on another sheet. A timeline of events, character birthdays on another sheet. Finally, I keep a scene-by-scene list based on my modified version of StoryGrid. That spreadsheet tells me what a scene is about, how many words it contains, and what emotional polarities a scene starts and ends on. For example, a scene might open with a character feeling contentment and end's with her disappointment. Or begin with his fear and then end on a note of relief.
SimpleNote. This notetaking app is for when I'm out in the world and have an idea I must remember. When I get back to my desk, I use the idea or transfer it to the spreadsheet to-do list. These notes are temporary, and SimpleNote is great for that purpose.
Some Reading Suggestions
Substack newsletters are so rich and varied in content. I can't read everything I want to read, but one newsletter I'm subscribing to (uh... the free version):
George Saunder's Story Club, a new offering from this brilliant writer known for Lincoln in the Bardo. The newsletter's mission is to analyze stories together. It's great—a little like being in his class at Syracuse. Very accessible and unpretentious.
Last week I finished Louise Penny's The Madness of Crowds, her 17th novel in the Armand Gamache series. It's so freaking good. You can even read the novel as a standalone if you haven't read the series.
I'm currently reading: Louise Erdich's gripping novel The Sentence.
'Till Next Time
Walker-girl and I wish you all the best as we close out another challenging year. May we all find the courage, compassion, and joy to face what comes together.
See you in 2022.
Stay kind and curious about the world, my friends! Thank you for subscribing and reading. Sending you much love,—JD
My stories explore loss, grief, interconnectedness, and how—or if—we come back together after we've been driven apart. I'm deeply interested in life in all its forms (human, animal, feathered, not), concerned about our humanity and survival.—JD Eames
1704 Llano St, Ste B-1483 Santa Fe, NM 87505 United States
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