Writing about Writing about Laini Taylor

My Daughter of Smoke and Bone mask

I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor, a writer whose work I absolutely admire. Actually that’s an understatment. Her sentences make my heart go aflutter, her characters make me woozy, her storytelling is gather-round-the-campfire perfection. If she would let me I would love to buy her a chocolate sundae or barring that we could run away together. Either or. And it’s not the hot pink hair. Or at least not just the hot pink hair.

 I’m an avid reader of her blog and she recently had an article in Figment about her writing notebook and how she starts her ideas. She keeps these little notebooks, which she decorates and jots things in. Nothing major. Just little things like:

  • masks with bird beaks
  • collector of wishes
  • the bakery window, before dawn

And then she let’s it grow, organically from there. She explains it well here:

I just really like the word “wishbone,” and so I was unsurprised when it made an appearance on my first day of writing what would become Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’ve told this story a lot, how I was deeply demoralized by a different book I was trying to write, one which just refused to ignite, and how I gave myself the gift of one day to write anything at all, just to remember that writing can be FUN. What appeared on the page, immediately and so very vividly, was an argument between a blue-haired teenaged girl and her … father? … who turned out not to be human? And from his first appearance, before I knew anything else about him, Brimstone had a wishbone around his neck that Karou was not allowed to touch.

If I didn’t make these lists and jottings, would that have happened? Maybe, but I bet not, and where would this story have been without it? The question: What’s with that wishbone? And: Why can’t she touch it? were among the handful that arose on the day of writing which had succeeded wildly in the FUN department. It was the best writing day of my entire life. I think my muse had just returned from a long gypsy caravan trip across Eastern Europe and was feeling bad for having left me to my own devices for so long, so she gave me a heavy dose of her rarest potion, Creative Glee.

Today I started the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is called Days of Blood and Starlight. Very dramatic titles huh? I squealed with nerdy fangirl glee when I saw that my hold was ready at the library and promptly went to get it. I realized from the first paragraph that all the other books I’m reading (I’m looking at you biography on George Mallory and the Game of Thrones series) are going to fall by the wayside.


Funny you should ask. Because of lines like this on page 30:

In one of his darker moments, the irony started him laughing and he couldn’t stop, and the sounds that came from, before finally tapering into sobs, were so far from mirth they might have been the forced inversion of laughter – like a soul pulled inside out to reveal its rawest meat.

AAAAAHHHHHHHH! Do you not love it??? Soul…pulled….rawest…meat!! These are the kinds of sentences that I writhe in joyous jealousy over when I read her books. They are edible. You can eat this sentence – though maybe with the rawest meat you don’t want to. But you know what I mean.

So that brings me to….well…me. Whatever, it’s my blog.

I have a friend of mine reading over one of my manuscripts. I’ve written about it here before – I call it the Chess Book cause I was never able to decide on an actual name.

This book has caused me equal parts heartache and joy. I’ve worked harder on the actual craft of writing with this book. I got caught up in the lives and fates of these characters more than any other piece of fiction I’ve written. I care about this book deeply. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book, more than any other writing I have done hits a nerve for me. It’s about more than just magic and adventure. It’s about pain and loneliness and those moments in your life when you realize that so much is out of your control. And it’s also about falling in love and learning how to trust someone. It’s about truth and family and realizing that your good intentions had unintended bad consequences.

So what does this have to do with Laini Taylor or anything else for that matter? Well, for one thing she makes me want to be a better writer. She makes me try harder. And she reminded me that sometimes you have to separate the work from the outcome.

I was emailing with my friend who is reading the Chess Book today and he warned me that while he really likes the book and really thinks I have something here, to not get my hopes up because, well, you never know. This is my answer and it is without a doubt probably the truest thing I have ever said about writing:

I don’t have any expectations. I learned what having expectations does to you – it crushes your soul and cripples any desire to do anything creative again. While Lizzy was on sub with every major publishing house in america I sat down and wrote the chess book instead of the second Lizzy book because I couldn’t stand to think about wasting time and energy on something that might go nowhere. That book, that I sent you – the one you are reading – has some of the best writing I’ve ever done.

That said, if all it ever is, is a book that I poured my heart into, that I wrote some of my best stuff (to date), that had characters that I loved and cried over then that is enough. I mean that. It took me a long time to get here where the end result is the happiness with the book and not its place in the world.

Sometimes, I don’t believe any of what I just said and I think that if I don’t get something published by a Major Publisher I’ll die a total failure. But those days are fewer.

All I want to do is write something that I would love to read. That I believe in. That talks about the things that I love and that I fear.

I still feel that way. And I hope I’ll feel that way tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. Like the hokey bumper stickers say, life is the journey not the destination.

Writing is creative work. The end result is a book no matter what form it takes. 

Creative Glee, folks. Creative glee. And remember all you have to do is write the book you want to read. Nothing, and I mean nothing else matters.

By Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them.


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