Writing as surgery

Everyone has their own novel-writing technique, and mine (at least for my most recent novel, The Decline and Fall of Taran Elember) has remarkable similarities to one of my other favorite things: surgery.

So, Angie’s Special Novel Writing Plan (based on my veterinary surgical training):

  • Surgical Exploratory Phase–rambling first draft, lots of looking around and trying things
  • Regrouping Phase–chat with surgical staff, re-order instruments, ask for suture/sponges/clamps as needed; chill a little while you decide how to approach the problem at hand
  • Evisceration Phase–back to cutting, removing entire organs as necessary, occasionally transplanting
  • Surgical Phase–reconstructing and suturing as needed for structure, character, scene goals, etc.
  • Laser Phase–tightly focused fine edits for voice, personality, etc.
  • Micro-surgery–multiple tedious drafts to eliminate adverbs, passive voice, words I always use but shouldn’t, clichés that have managed to persist…
  • Recovery–the patient is turned over to the ICU staff (critique partners/first readers) so I can scrub out for a while and check on my next patient


I learn by teaching, think by writing — My New Latin Motto


Roman ruins of Caesarea Maritima in Israel

The Romans, gotta love-’em (photo taken at Caesarea Maritima in Israel)

Docendo disco, scribendo cogito: I learn by teaching, think by writing.

How exactly did the Romans come up with such crazily relevant stuff? As in, the phrase above that perfectly describes my life at this moment: teaching high school to my twice-exceptional son and writing writing writing.


As TVTropes (BTW, this is an extremely awesome website for writers plus all the cool kids) says: “Well, nothing can dictate pretentious credibility compared to a Latin motto. It’s supposed to confer prestige, but Latin often gives off that “we’re so much smarter, richer and generally more awesome than you” vibe…”

Okay, maybe. But I do just really like Latin. I’m one of the seven people in the world who wishes Latin had even been an option in high school, as compared to the countless millions who were forced to take it and hated every moment of it.

I’m looking for another Latin quote to describe my life with even greater accuracy–something along the lines of : “runs family business/has too many pets/drives kids around a lot/does not cook or clean house except under duress/recently allowed 12 year-old-son to put various household objects in microwave to see what would happen…”