Sundog snippet: Another piece of the office puzzle falls into place

Since it’s not the end of the month yet, I’m not going to put out The Next Chapter until next weekend. That way, if anything else happens in the next day or so, I can capture it for you 😉

Also, I’m only going to dole out the CanWrite! sessions once a weekend to draw out the suspense learning. There’s one more panel, two sessions, and the wrap post to go. Why so few? I’ll tell you all about it in the wrap post, which will have some tips for preparing to go to conferences. Stay tuned!

So this is just a quick post to show you that Phil finally installed the new ceiling fan in my office (yay!). Actually, the ceiling fan was purchased a few years ago, when we renovated our bedroom. It’s been sitting around, languishing in its box since then.

You don’t want to know how long it’s been since I renovated my office . . .

I still have to refinish my office door, but that has to wait until I have some dedicated time.


Isn’t she sweet?

It’s much better than the old one (as the Ikea commercial says) which is about to be chucked to the curb. The old one still worked, but the motor had a nasty hum that made me doubt I could safely use it for long periods of time. It’s free to a good home, and I’m sure it will disappear long before garbage day. We have a lot of wise and environmentally conscious scavengers in the area.

And I’ve really needed it this weekend. It’s the first really hot weekend of the year (in the 30 degree Celsius range, plus humidex) and we don’t have air conditioning. It’s made the house bearable.

The gazebo in the back yard is still in a state of chaos and now has wood (from my mom’s deck reno) piled up for storage.

This weekend, Phil and I also went out and priced landscaping stone, crusher dust, gravel, and recycled rubber patio tiles. Over the course of the summer, Phil is going to construct a retaining wall around the patio, filling in the gaps about the concrete footings he poured (and re-poured) last year, and resurface the patio with the rubber tiles.

Then, he’s going to make a raised garden for me in the back yard with the stone, and create a stone (or possibly rubber tile) path between our two sets of entry steps. It’s a lot of work and a fair amount of cash, but if he works away at it in dribs and drabs, maybe he won’t exhaust either himself, or our bank account.

That’s all for today.

See you again on Tipsday!

BTW, like my new bit of Canva art?

Sundog snippet

CanWrite! 2014: How to be your own editor with Farzana Doctor June 19

Farzana DoctorThat’s Dr. Farzana Doctor 😉

Learning to edit your work is learning to know when to let go. Maybe that’s what this workshop should be called: Let it go.

This is what I do. You don’t have to do what I do. Do what works for you in your process, but I hope you’ll find some interesting tips and techniques you can incorporate into your process.

First, a couple of definitions:

  • Prose editing is fine tuning: Spelling, grammar, syntax, usage.
  • Revision is substantive, structural, plot-related.

To start the editing process, you must have a completed piece of writing.

What was your intention in writing the piece? That core intention will guide you in the editing process.

Plan the process

Prose editing checklist:

  • Overused or repetitive words. First identify them. Everyone has her or his words. Then, use find and replace to address them.
  • Useless words (Mel’s note: also called zero words, because you can remove them from the sentence without changing the meaning of it) such as, just, only, that, actually, etc.. If you’re not sure what useless words are, Google it.
  • Grammar tics. Again every writer has a weakness. (Mel’s note: mine is commas. I either use too many or too few.)
  • Passive language. Examples: The biscuit was eaten by the dog (the dog ate the biscuit). She was jumping up and down (she jumped up and down).
  • Telling versus showing. Telling has its place, but avoid it where possible. Check your use of adverbs, adjectives, and clichés. These are often signs that you are telling, rather than showing.
  • Dialogue. Tags – do you need them, or would an action beat be better? Do all of your characters sound the same? Said is just fine. Read it out loud to see if it “sounds” right.
  • I start with editing first, because I find it easier. Some writers may not want to do this because it may mean too many wasted words when the revision stage is reached. Editing first works for me.

Revision checklist:

  • Where does the story begin? Is it too early, too late, is there enough action, conflict?
  • The protagonist. What does he want? What prevents him from getting it?
  • Other characters. If you can take her out of the story and not alter it, she should go. Every character should serve the story. Every character should be real, have a background, desires and frustrations of her own.
  • Keep track of plot and subplots. Structure.
  • Description. Is there too much or not enough?
  • Flashbacks. Do they stall the story?
  • Is the ending satisfying? Is it a resting place?

How to do it:

  • Focus. No distractions. Space. Set time, page number, or word count goals.
  • Separate new writing from editing and revision. Could be different times of the day, or different days.
  • Revision iteratively. Editing as you’re going. Must always make progress, however. S.J. Rozan’s method of Iterative Revision – Bookbaby. Start with previous day’s work, and then move on. It’s like a progressive spiral.
  • Change perspective. Step away. Change your font. Read aloud. Print it out. Draw maps. Pretend you are a reader.
  • Create a visual outline. Literally cut and paste your scenes and chapters.
  • Write a synopsis or jacket copy. Write a logline or tagline. Write a poem. Find your theme.

Asking for feedback

  • Who will you ask?
  • When is the best time to obtain a critique?
  • Be specific about what you want/need.
  • Stay general. When did you stall, get bored, get lost?
  • Receive your critiques without resistance. Set it aside. Decide what rings true. Ask for clarification (do not defend).

The rest of the workshop was spent reading and responding to the participants’ works-in-progress.


I must admit, I haven’t thought of purposefully editing first. I have edited too early before, and regretted spending all that time fixing scenes and even chapters that I would eventually delete. For me, I would think that revising first makes more sense.

Similarly, iterative revision doesn’t work for me. I get caught in an endless loop of going further and further back. It doesn’t prime the pump for me, it engages my inner editor too early in the writing process and stalls me.

Overall, I found Farzana’s workshop informative and practical.

I hope that you, too, will find something useful that you can use in your daily practice.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz June 15-21, 2014

I think I have to declare this the week of TED. A fair amount of TED talk here. All excellent, as TED talks tend to be.

Just a bit of politics here. The Northern Gateway pipeline is that other pipeline, but it’s a Canadian thing, so some of you may not have heard. Here’s an interesting article about the lies that have been told in an attempt to push the project through.

Kudos to the UK where teaching creationism is now banned in state-run schools. I Fucking Love Science.

A man dedicated to fighting woo: The Huffington Post interviews James Randi (The Amazing Randi).

Just to offer some balance, a post on meditation from one of the woo-pitchers Randi debunks. Actually, I don’t think Randi has an issue with meditation, or its potential benefits, just all the other stuff that tends to get glommed in with it.

More IFLS: How neurons decide whether you cope or become stressed.

TED talk from David Anderson: Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals.

And related, from the Wall Street Journal: Our brains are made for enjoying art.

A TED talk from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the secret of happiness, flow.

Another TED talk from Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from.

TED talk from Colin Stokes. What are today’s movies teaching our kids? This kind of goes with the article on strong female characters from this past Tipsday. Hint strong doesn’t equal pew-pew-pew!

Jim C. Hines responds to a blog post entitled “The naive idiocy of teaching rapists not to rape.” Read to get the goods.

An interesting article from Irish Central on the black Irish and their history.

Entertainment Weekly interviews David Benioff and Dan Weiss about the season 4 finale of Game of Thrones.

And Maisie Williams on her character, Arya.

One of my favourite pair of singer/songwriters: Dala 🙂


And just for laughs: What do you Poupon?

It was a fairly thoughty week! Enjoy, my friends 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz June 15-21, 2014

There’s a little bit of everything this week. A little craft advice, some blogging tips, love for the word nerds and the book worms, writerly brain science, and a couple of thoughtful pieces about women in fiction and making it in the world of fandom.

Part two of K.M. Weiland’s how to write a flat character arc series.

Later in the week, Cathy Yardley wrote a guest post for Katie: Six tips to outline your novel faster.

Jan O’Hara discusses McKee’s four tips on writing a BIG story on Writer Unboxed.

Anne R. Allen’s blogging essentials for authors.

In related news, Roz Morris answers the question, how much time should an author spend blogging and building websites?

10 words that started out as errors from Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty.

Moar wordnerdery from 20 words that used to mean something completely different.

24 quotes that will inspire you to write more from Buzzfeed.

Also from Buzzfeed, 37 books every creative person should read.

Back with, six science fiction and fantasy books for the app generation.

Benedict Cumberbatch reads Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to McCarthy after the burning of (among other books) Slaughterhouse Five.


I just saw Lisa Cron tweet about this NY Times article: This is your brain on writing, by Carl Zimmer.

Tasha Robinson’s post on The Dissolve, We’re losing all our strong female characters to Trinity Syndrome, caused a bit of a furor on the SFCanada listserv, and elsewhere on the interwebz.

Jim C. Hines shares his Continuum guest of honour speech. It’s kick-ass. Then again, Jim’s good at that kind of thing 😉

Enjoy, my writerly peeps.


CanWrite! 2014: Agent panel, June 19

Panelists: Sam Hiyate, Carly Watters, Marie Campbell

Sam HiyateCarly WattersMarie Campbell






Moderator: James Dewar

JD: What’s changed in the author-agent-editor relationship over the years?

SH: When I was studying English literature, agents were invisible. Editors shaped the work. Now, there is too much work for an editor to do. Some of that work has devolved upon agents. The leisurely relationship between author and editor is a thing of the past. Editors want a perfectly edited manuscript to they can turn around and sell it to their publishing house.

MC: Whatever golden age there might have been, ended just before I started working in the industry. YA is a big market now. Editors are not so much about developing talent, but about recognizing it. We need to be good “pickers.” Some agents have moved into this gap.

CW: Agents are also fighting against each other to get their authors placed.

JD: How much time do you spend developing authors?

SH: I couldn’t give you a percentage, but somewhere between three and five drafts.

MC: It varies with the client. It could be anywhere from one to twelve drafts.

CW: I spend between three and six months, not just editing, but understanding the vision for the work. The “revise and resubmit” letter might contain one to seven pages of suggested revisions. You have to find out if you can work together. Some agents won’t take on a client without doing an R&R letter. They won’t take the risk.

JD: What are some of the reasons authors don’t respond to your suggestions the way you expect?

CW: The author doesn’t take it seriously. They don’t understand how much work goes into reading and analyzing and preparing the R&R.

MC: I was at a conference last year on a panel reading first pages. The top three, as the prize, would be given consideration, moved to the top of my slush pile. Only one of them responded right away. I read and signed her. The second one just came in last month. Sometimes they’re scared. When you get the opportunity, jump for it. It may not be there in six months.

SH: The easy answer is that Canadians are afraid. Americans want to see the money. Adopt a professional persona. Andrew Pyper wrote five or six books. His agent asked to see what he was working on. He presented it to his agent and the agent asked, “do you have anything else?” It’s a conversation.

MC: I had a conversation with one of my writers who said he had so many ideas he could work on. It’s my job to say, “no, no, no, yes.”

JD: What is exciting you these days?

SH: Ask me when I’ve had a few cocktails.

MC: Because I’ve worked in children’s literature for so long, it’s exciting to see the new work coming in. Because there’s so much of it, the bar is set high. Picture books were dying out, but now they’re coming back.

CW: In the acknowledgements of her second book, one of my authors said that without me, she’d be a starving artist. I was thrilled. It’s the best part of being an agent, being able to grow with your authors.

SH: I can give you an answer now. There is a graphic novel about two girls coming of age in this one summer in cottage country. Canadian writers do this very well. The book was #8 on the New York Times, moved up to #7, dropped off the list, but now a review has come out and we’re waiting to see where it goes.

JD: When you look at a manuscript, what are you hoping to find?

CW: The book always comes first, but I look for potential for book cubs, translations, you never know.

MC: With kids’ books, you have to consider the age of your audience, and then look at merchandizing. Is there series potential? Having said that, I will never say the word “trilogy” again.

SH: It depends on the book. The first may be a distinctively Canadian book, but two or three down the line, it could be a whole different story. Look at Yan Martel. Pi was his fourth book. His first was a collection of short stories.

JD: So, the book is not the end of it.

SH: The moment Pi hit the mainstream, everyone went back to buy his other two novels.

JD: How are Canadian authors doing on the world stage?

SH: That’s a really big question. Ebooks are based around genre. It’s getting harder and harder to sell literary novels. The Luminaries is essentially a thriller written in a literary style.

CW: Canadian authors aren’t as ambitious. They’re too laid back. Literary is still a market. If you’re writing genre, though, consider your setting. An anonymous town that could be anywhere in North America won’t be as problematic for an American publisher.

MC: Writers have come to me and said, “I’ve been successful in Canada. Now I want to break into the American market. Canadian’s are good at problem novels. American’s love them too, but they don’t translate into the UK market. It can affect foreign rights and sales. Consider changing your setting to Detroit.

JD: If you had one piece of advice for emerging writers, what would it be?

MC: Treat it like a business. It’s my business and it’s hard work. It’s creative, but it’s also a business.

SH: If you think your manuscript is perfect, it’s probably not. Make sure you have readers, alphas and betas, and critique groups lines up.

CW: Define what success is for you. Plan for it. Implement the plan.

Q: Is there an art to selecting alpha and beta readers?

CW: You have to give some thought to who your ideal audience is. Find people who are better than you to work with. Read everything.

MC: One of the most successful, grass-roots groups I’ve heard of is a workshop run by an editor.

SH: There isn’t a formula. Getting criticism can destroy your work. Art is not created by committee. Have a conversation with your critique group and your readers. Be discerning.

MC: A book club does not trump an editor. Don’t try to defend your work by saying that your group loved it.

Q: Do books set in other countries, like Australia, do well in Canada?

CW: Good books travel.

SH: Catton (The Luminaries) is from New Zealand.

MC: Children’s books are not sold to or bought by children, but in libraries and schools (teachers, librarians, parents). It can be tricky. For every rule there is an exception.

JD: Is sex okay in a YA novel? We’re seeing a lot more of it.

MC: We call it content.

CW: It needs to be part of a character’s development and not gratuitous.

SH: Erotica is still on the New York Times Bestsellers Lists, but the market may be saturated until the next big thing comes along.

Q: Have you ever turned down something you later regretted?

CW: I haven’t passed on anything that became a bestseller, but maybe I failed to get a deal I wanted, or someone beat me to the punch.

MC: I presented a book to an editor who passed on it, but later, when that book sold and was produced by another house, she pointed to it as her “ideal” book.

SH: Agents compete all the time.

MC: On the adult side, I recommended a book to two colleagues. One passed and the other took it and ran with it. It ended up being on the Globe and Mail bestseller list for eight weeks.

Thank God Harry Potter never crossed my desk!


I’m just going to head right into the panels and sessions for CanWrite! 2014. I’ll give a little perspective in my wrap post at the end.

Since I’m away from home, I don’t have copies of the fiction and poetry I was going to post this weekend with me. I’ll try to get one of those posts up tomorrow.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz June 8-14, 2014

Right now, I’m down in Orillia, Ontario, attending CanWrite! 2014. Started the day with a light breakfast and yoga, and I’m going to get Thoughty Thursday out before the sessions start up after lunch. Life is good.

Dame Judy Dench and Daniel Craig explore the question: Are we truly equal? See what you think . . .

What’s new in the war on Alzheimer’s Disease? from the Psychiatric Times.

Why we need creative confidence from

The quest to understand consciousness, a TED talk by Antonio Damasio.

Let these stunning photos of incredible storms inspire you. Also from

More inspirational ideas from i09: 12 futuristic forms of government that could one day rule the world.

All our patent are belong to you (did you catch the pop culture reference?). Tesla Motors makes its patents open source.

The most important sci-fi film never made from the Japan Times. Jodorowsky’s vision of Dune launched the careers of several notables in the field, including Geiger, and influenced moviemaking to the current day. I really want to see this documentary now.

Wired’s absurd creature of the week: the lion’s mane jellyfish. When I visited the Vancouver Aquarium last fall, they were featuring jellyfish. Apparently, they really do like global warming.

This week was pretty thoughty 🙂

Enjoy, my writerly friends, and I hope you garner some inspiration for your writing from this crop of curation.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz June 8-14, 2014

Another fine crop of lovely stuff to share. I’m even curating the curators this week 😉

Ten ways to tell a story – all about point of view from Writers Write out of South Africa. Solid article with good examples.

Are shifts in point of view and head-hopping always bad? Roz Morris answers.

How to ‘stay lit’ from The New York Times. An article Roz brought to my attention.

Finishing the novel: the daily task of “getting it done.” Elissa Field shares her process.

Elissa’s also a fellow curator. Here’s her Friday links for writers.

Writing the flat character arc, part 1: the first act. K.M. Weiland’s next character arc series begins!

What kindergarten got (and still gets) really, really wrong. The continuation of Lisa Cron’s standardized testing adventure on Writer Unboxed.

Robin Lafevers discusses what writing as therapy means to her. Also from Writer Unboxed.

Agent Noah Lukeman shares fifteen tips to help sell your ebook series.

The Atlantic: No, The Fault in Our Stars is not young adult fiction’s saviour. A few weeks back, I posted an article that posited Greenlit (for John Green, author of the above named YA novel) was a thing. Is this article the other side of that coin? Read and find out.

Guy Bergstom’s Red Pen of Doom: The six horsemen of the writepocalypse.

Enjoy, my writerly peeps.

I’m heading down to CanWrite! tomorrow. While I’ll keep the blog fires burning, I might be a little scarce around the interwebz otherwise. Good news, though: I’ll have more panels and sessions to blog!



The end of my season of sorrow

Fathers’ Day.

Last year I wrote at the beginning of my season of sorrow about the landmark moments marking my father’s decline and eventual death.

He was still very much on my mind, it only being the second year following his death.

This year, it’s been a little different.

His birthday, date of his admission into the hospital, final, precipitous decline due to congestive heart failure, death, funeral, and Fathers’ Day, all spanning the time between March 14 and the third Sunday in June, did not have the same impact as in previous years.

In fact, this year, though I was conscious of each date, I did not mark them in any way. I didn’t even discuss any of them with my mom.

This year, Dad’s been more or less continually on my mind. The dates meant less, the overall absence, more.

I’ve kept these things to myself, though. This remains my grieving process.

Phil’s father died recently, too, but that’s not my story to tell.

Fathers’ Day, however, is not just about my dad, or Phil’s. It’s about all dads, everywhere.

So, to commemorate the end of my so-called season of sorrow, I’m going to wish all dads a HAPPY FATHERS’ DAY with these two, lovely links:

Five dads who made us laugh and/or cry from People Magazine.

50 funny and/or inspiring quotes about dads from Parade.


Sins of a prodigal gardener

I did something terrible today. I didn’t mean to, but by the time I realized what I’d done, it was, really, too late.


I kind of gave up gardening last year, because it took too much time away from my writing. All I did was weed, and things didn’t look too bad, honestly.

This year, I got even lazier. Blame it on our long winter and late spring. Blame it on the fact that Phil had to rip up one of my trellises because he had to reroute the tube from the sump pump. Blame it on the road destruction construction going on right outside our door.

More than anything, you can blame it on me, because it’s my fault.

I started weeding, finally, a couple of weeks ago, taking a couple minutes here and there when Nuala wanted to sit in the driveway and watch the world. I’ve cleared out about half of the front bed.

Today, I decided to replace the trellis and reorder the Clematis vine and Engleman’s Ivy. I hadn’t even cleaned up last year’s dead vines and the new growth was all tangled up with the corpses.

I was careful to trace the one Engleman’s Ivy vine that had already grown up the side of the house and started to cut away all the old vines. It’s a weed-like plant and will take over your plot if you’re not careful, so I was uprooting the old growth as well.

Of course, in my fervour, I cut the one vine I thought I had specifically identified and set aside. I now have a jar of water to try and root the vine. I’ll have to replace it with a pot of soil if the vine survives. The cut was several inches above the ground.


Next, I set to trying to clear out the dead Clematis. I broke a few of those new shoots in that process as well.

Then I was what I thought was an old bird’s nest in the mess. I reached in and was about to remove it, but—

It wasn’t an old nest.

I discovered that fact (to my utter horror) when a small, downy body within it moved. There were five or six, each about the size of my fingertip.

Oh. My. God. I’m EVIL.

Mama and Papa Chipping Sparrow had been flying about and peeping at me the whole time.

The nest was almost completely exposed now. What could I do, but grab handfuls of cut vines and pile them up around the nest? It’s so close to the ground, though, I’m still worried that one of the neighbourhood feral cats is going to get them.

Fortunately, Mama and Papa returned to their fluffy family as soon as I cleared out.

It’s my hope that the babes will mature fairly quickly, and the cats will keep away long enough for that to happen.

The victims

The victims

Here’s a picture of the crime scene. The nest now perches precariously at a 45 degree angle, but Mama is curled up on top of the chicks. You can hardly see the nest. I’m hoping my camouflage is sufficient to protect them.

I feel so guilty, I can barely stand myself.

Nobody else seems to be upset about it, but I feel like I’ve committed avian infanticide, inadvertent as it may be.

Pray for the peeps. I know I am.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz June 1-7, 2014

Not tonnes to share this week. A thought-provoking photo essay, a little psychology, and a couple of funnee animal videos. Educational and entertaining, what more could you ask for? Well, maybe more of one or the other, if not both. What can you do? Some weeks are thoughtier than others.

The recent commemoration of D-Day brought this interesting photographic essay to my attention. The Huffington Post.

Ever wonder what motivates a psychopath? This article in the Psychiatric Times could be interesting research for your next thriller or mystery.

Another tasty article on the mind of a mass murderer.

A wee Ted.ed video on sleep paralysis. Parasomnias rock.

The world’s first wingsuit base jumping dog. That’s quite a claim, but I think it must be true 🙂


A guy interviews his guinea pig. Serious LOLs. Now gimme some toilet paper!


Enjoy! Tomorrow is Friday! Whee!

Thoughty Thursday