Experiencing your novel for the first time as an audiobook... Some thoughts...

There's something surreal about listening to the words you've spent years putting together into something cohesive, something that you hoped, God willing, was even readable. Especially when you're listening to a professional, a voice actor who interprets your words into feelings and real characters and voices. It makes it that much more real - or surreal in my case.

I've been listening to Shannon McManus read LEARNING TO FALL, and I have to admit, I couldn't stop for the first eight chapters. I finally did when I realized I had to meet a client in thirty minutes all the way across town (mind you our town is small but I still hadn't gotten out of my 'home office' attire.)

There is a part of me that's quite impressed that the story actually works :) As I listen, I am struck at the emotions that pour over me. I laugh, I cry, I feel the tension. I remember where I wrote a scene: a particular table at a coffee shop; the business office of the athletic club we belonged to; the front deck of our ranch house; or in the car as I waited for the kids in the school car pickup lineup. Sometimes I hear a scene and smile because I know exact sentences changed thanks to a beta reader who's note said: "What? I don't get that??" or when an editor wrote: "Yes. But how does that make her FEEL?" The other thing that struck me are the scenes that are missing. By the end of the novel I cut quite a few, and as I listen to Brynn's story I still expect them to be there. Especially Derek's backstory. I have to remind myself that, right... that was a conscious decision. And it was likely thanks to Heather Lazare, my last lovely editor, who would cross out full sections and say, "This is good, but keep it moving. Keep the pace up." The result is a much tighter story.

One of the other things that strike me are places where I weaved things through in the last few drafts. Where I added depth and pulled through threads that had only lived in my mind, but weren't really there on paper for anyone else to see. Those surprise me, and I shake my head when I remember how many drafts it took to get there. Those were the ones that revealed the statue beneath the slab of marble. It was a matter of pounding, chiseling, polishing, but it got there (mostly).

Do I cringe at all? Yes... there are quite a few places where I think. 'Oooh... that's terrible. I could have written that better,' or, 'I could have edited that spot,' or 'Yikes! I used that word three times in the last two paragraphs!' (Slapping my hand over my forehead, wanting to get swallowed up by some big sink hole as I drive.)

I also notice how my writing changed over time. I can hear the difference in the the scenes I first wrote (and they're sprinkled throughout the book) vs. ones I wrote in much later drafts. The style changed. I recognize that I matured as a writer. As I got feedback and went to more classes and read more and wrote more. It's exciting! You know what that means? It's true! Just like any other craft or sport, to improve we need the practice. And instead of fearing writing the next book, we should embrace it because it's likely that we have grown as writers. The next book will be different. That's a given. It will be unique. Maybe it will be a little crooked here and a little less polished there, but hopefully it will find its own readers who love and treasure it and want to read it again and again. Who cares if there will be critics who say it doesn't even deserve one star? The world is full of critics. What we need are artists. Those brave enough to keep creating in spite of criticism. We need to take the feedback that helps us learn, that teaches us, and ignore the rest.

In the end, I'm so grateful that I'm taking the time to listen to LEARNING TO FALL - especially over a year since I last made copy and proofread edits. I've had time away from it. I've had perspective. It's not perfect. I know that. But that's okay. I tried, and in the end, I've achieved my dream: to find some readers that connect with it. Some who even love it. And a handful have even reached out to me to tell me that it's brought them peace, has helped them heal after a loss of a loved one, or has even brought them back to reading after a twenty plus year hiatus. What could be better than that?

If Not Now, Then When? If Not You, Then Who?

Let’s face it. No matter which stage of life we’re at, there never seems a good time to do that one thing that we know we want to do: the right time to have children, change jobs, go back to school, or…write that novel we’ve been wanting to write for the last twenty-three years.

anne clermont writing inspiration

Why is that? Why is the one thing that defines who we are in our dreams something we don’t actually follow through with?

Whenever I go to a party someone will inevitably ask me what I do. I do a lot of things outside of writing fiction (edit novels and memoirs, design websites, create book trailers), but as soon as the words “I also write” are out of my mouth, the conversation changes.

Suddenly, the fellow partygoers’ eyes light up, their hands grip their drink a little more fiercely, their energy zeroes in, and they fill me in—as if in secret—about their own aspirations of writing, their three half-finished novels/fifteen short stories/ramblings in notebooks laying under their bed. Most of the time the conversation ends with them saying they’re going to get to it SOME DAY. When they have more time. When their children are in school/off to college/when they get help with their ailing parent/when their workload at their new job eases off.

Why is following through with writing that novel so difficult?  Lack of discipline? Fear of rejection? Fear of perfection?

Last winter I was lucky enough to see Anthony Doerr’s talk in Seattle. The main premise was how the story ideas we carry around – so elegant, beautiful, shiny, all bedazzling in their splendor – are never the same when we get them out on paper. They look nothing like what we imagined. They are the torn, stapled together, filled in with black magic marker (as in Doerr’s case), sketches of the ideas we thought about for years. They’re never perfect. They will never live up to the expectations we had for them.

But with time, maybe we learn to love these distant cousins of our shiny ideas. We can learn to love the process of sitting and writing, of struggling to get our words out, of piecing together thoughts into awkward sentences until some day, there are a few that sparkle. Ones that speak to us. Ones that convey our deepest thoughts and meditations.

Why not try? If we don’t do it now, then when will the time ever come? If it’s not us that sits down to put these words to paper, then who will transcribe our greatest ideas? Who will take those ideas and portray them the way only we can?

“So as long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.” Virginia Woolf

I say, do it. Don’t wait. Don’t go to sleep tonight until you’ve pulled out your idea, blew off the dust bunnies and sat with it. Meditated on it. Spent thirty minutes thinking about how to develop it. That thirty minutes is nothing in the grand scheme of your life, but it will bring you one step closer to achieving your dream.

Go on now. As my yoga teacher said in today’s class, “Go slay your inner dragons.” If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Article originally published February 20, 2017 on Women Writers, Women('s) Books.

Beginner's Mind

Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? How about the first time you flew in an airplane? You definitely remember your first kiss. Was it everything you expected? Did you practice kissing on the back of your hand before then? I sure did. My best friend told me I had to, otherwise I’d be considered a bad kisser. When the first kiss happened, I never expected to have that weak-kneed feeling—nor did I expect to be so focused on the boy’s tongue entering my mouth that I forgot what I should be doing in return. It was over before I knew it.



There’s something mind-opening about doing something for the first time. You might have an idea of what to expect, but it’s vague, like the memory of a dream from the night before, flitting in and out of your consciousness. Maybe your expectations are really wild. Or you might not expect anything.

In my yoga class last week, our teacher switched up our usual routine several times. Instead of doing Upward Dog after a Chaturanga, she made us go back to Plank. When I expected to go from Warrior II to Reverse Warrior, she made us pause, turn, and squat into Goddess pose. She tripped many of us up, and though some laughed, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt frustrated, wondering why she was messing with us.

Then it clicked. There’s something beautiful about letting go of your preconceptions. Even if you’re experienced at something, let your beginner’s mind take over. Don’t expect a certain outcome. Detach yourself from what you think will happen. Listen to the immediate, not ingrained cues. Be in the moment. Just accept.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
—Shunryo Suzuki

The concept of beginner’s mind has become extremely important to my writing. I wrote the first novel under cover of darkness, in secrecy, hidden from the world. I had no idea whether anyone would ever read the crazy pile of words I’d been typing. I wrote because it calmed me. I wrote because of the driving need within me to tell a story. I wrote because it felt like an emotional cleanse. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know much about the craft of writing. I didn’t know about three act structures, or character development, or literary agents or the world of publishing. I had a computer, an idea for a story, and an intuition of where it should go. I focused on the writing. That was it.

That first novel is almost ready for release into the world and I am having the hardest time sitting down and writing the second novel. I want to write the second novel. I want to write many novels over the course of my life. And it’s not that I don’t have an idea for a story, because I do. I have characters that are talking to me. I see the setting, and the horses (yes, there are horses in the second one, too) and I have an almost physical, tortured need to write. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid of how much work it’s going to take. I’m afraid that now that I’ve studied the craft, gone to conferences, read more than a couple dozen books on writing, and taken many classes. I should know what I’m doing. I know so much more about the craft of writing and the world of publishing that I want this next book to be perfect (okay, really good would suffice). I know the difference between showing and telling. I know each scene needs an arc and a hook. I know I need conflict on every page. I know my dialogue needs to sing. I know where my plot points and reaction beats should be. I know all of this — and it seems so big, so damn overwhelming, that the magic of writing has disappeared, hidden somewhere in that ‘expert’ mind.

Has all the knowledge I’ve tried to gain taken over my creative, intuitive mind? What about stepping back and writing for that one reader I imagined would love my first book? What about opening up again to the unknown possibilities?

It’s vital that we, as writers, step back and allow for the spontaneous, creative possibilities that happen when writing.  It’s vital not just for us, but also for the imaginative spark it elicits in others as they read our words.

And you know what? All that you’ve learned, and everything you’ve experienced, will naturally flow into your writing. (Besides, we’re going to be revising the sucker for several months anyway.)

A beginner’s mind is innocent of preconceptions, judgments, prejudices, and expectations. Having learned so much, I know that I must somehow return to beginner’s mind and allow the writing itself lead me somewhere new. Somewhere exciting. It is, in the end, all about the journey.

What about you? How do you move forward with writing your second (or third) novel? How do you clear your mind and begin on a new journey, knowing all that you now know?

Article originally posted on Writers In the Storm Blog, July 15th, 2016.

Win one of two copies of LEARNING TO FALL!


To celebrate, I'm giving away two copies of LEARNING TO FALL and two pewter book marks! They're really cute, people!

Rules, you ask?

Just comment here, on my Facebook page, or on my Instagram with what was your biggest 'learning to fall' moment or what your favorite book is! Make sure to use the hashtag, #learningtofall and tag me so that I can share!

Good luck!!

Two winners will be announced next Monday, June 27th!

On Revising and Editing

For the last one and a half years, I have been working on revisions, attending classes and conferences, reading lots and lots and lots of books on writing, and reading lots and lots of novels. When I first started writing LEARNING TO FALL, it was purely a therapeutic and cathartic endeavor, but as the characters developed and their lives expanded, and their goals and dreams and desires became distinguished, the world became quite real - if only in my own mind :)

As of today, I hope I'm writing the penultimate draft - well, at least until the novel goes out on submission. I'm sure there will be plenty of revisions then as well. Yes, that sort of makes me cringe right now, but I know that the novel has become better, thanks to all of these wonderful drafts - and thanks to all of my wonderful teachers and beta readers!

I will keep you posted on the progress. 

I leave you with a photo of the coffee table up on Whidbey Island, where many major changes took place.

Write on!