Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 21-27, 2019

July is winding down and we’re heading into the dog days of summer: August. We’ve already had more than our share of hot, humid days—fact, I’m not complaining—and I’m trying to make the most of each one. I hope you’ve been making meaningful progress in your creative projects.

It’s time to reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Janice Hardy offers a Sunday writing tip: reveal something new in every scene. Then she wonders, are you asking—and answering—the right story questions? Fiction University

Alexa Donne talks about nailing your beginnings (first sentence through first act).

Tracy Hahn-Burkett says, if you want to make a difference, tell a story. Heather Webb offers some notes from a book tour. Keith Cronin shares some serious lessons from a fool on a hill. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to make your plot a powerful thematic metaphor. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jenn Walton says, let your imagination run wild. Gabriela Pereira crawls inside the mind of a worldbuilding junkie with Fonda Lee. DIY MFA

Angela Ackerman visits Writers in the Storm to discuss character building for pantsers.

Jenna Moreci discusses some of the differences between flat and round characters.

Justin Attas wants you to create a credible magic system. Writers Helping Writers

Lisa Bell wonders, is your writing plan ready for a crisis? Jami Gold

Chris Winkle explains what storytellers should know about normalization. Choose compassion. Write stories that normalize the positive. Then, Oren Ashkenazi examines five stories with premises that don’t suit their settings. Mythcreants

Structuring a chapter. Reedsy

CBC books recommends ten Canadian science fiction and fantasy books you should be reading.

Ada Hoffman is moving towards a neurodiverse future by writing an autistic heroine.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you’ve found something for your writerly toolkit.

If you’re looking for some inspiration or research material, be sure to come back on Thursday for some thoughty links.

Until then, be well, my friends 🙂


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 15-21, 2015

Roz Morris wrote a guest post for K.M. Weiland on Friday the 13th. Though it’s more than a week ago, I didn’t get around to sharing this gem until Sunday (!). So here you go: Four reasons you might be missing out on your best plot ideas.

Katie’s Sunday post and podcast: The crucial way you can figure out how much time your story should cover.

And her Wednesday vlog: Why a killer hook may not be enough to sustain reader interest.

Anne R. Allen offers nine considerations we should all review before we send our first novel out into the world.

Adventures in YA publishing offers this story concept worksheet to help you nail your story’s concept.

Chuck Wendig delivers another excellent post on writing strong women characters. This caused quite the discussion on the SF Canada listserv.

One of those members, Ada Hoffmann, made i09 with her Twitter mini-rant on agency. A cogent summation of the issue.

The second of Nina Munteanu’s posts on rejection. This time: how rejection can help you as a writer.

Dan Blank wrote this wonderful piece for the National Endowment for the Arts on risk in writing. Everyone needs to read this. It’s awesomesauce.

And on the sad side, here’s Oliver Sacks’s piece for The New York Times about what he’s decided to do now that he knows he doesn’t have much time remaining.

Jamie Raintree shares her experience with Storyist on Thinking through our fingers.

Chuck Sambuchino’s definitive guide to manuscript lengths.

Ten authors who took themselves way too seriously. ListVerse.

The writing habits of famous authors, an infographic shared by BookBaby blogs.

The three roles of the shapeshifter archetype. The Better Novel Project.

Buzzfeed shares 21 reasons why the Harry Potter series was the cleverest ever.

So, this priest decided to adapt Leonard Cohen’s “Allelujah” for a wedding:



Ad Astra, day 2 (yes, still): What makes a great villain?

Panel: Ada Hoffmann, Matt Moore, Rob St. Martin, Thomas Gofton

AH: I write short stories and other things.

MM: Science fiction and horror writer.

RSM: Author of three horror, three urban fantasy, and five steampunk novels.

TG: Film producer, actor, and editor. Heroes are no fun to play.

RSM: Do villains drive the plot? What makes a great villain?

AH: The villain opposes the hero, but in some way, is secretly like the hero.

MM: A good villain is someone readers want to know more about.

RSM: The villain is the active force in the novel. The hero is reactive. Nobody thinks they are a villain. Villains are the heroes of their stories.

MM: Villains can be forces of nature, like Jaws or the T-Rex in Jurasic Park.

TG: It’s great when heroes have to dip into their inner darkness to defeat the villain. A great villain inspires fear. Mordred, for example.

RSM: The villain should instil fear in the reader. What will happen if the villain wins?

TG: Sometimes a villain never gets comeuppance. There was one character in The Messenger who was an absolute prick, but he gets off Scott-free.

MM: Think of great villains, like Hannibal Lector, or the Joker. They are completely foreign to the audience, fascinating. The universe is not necessarily just. It has no morality. It’s realistic.

TG: In terms of comics, the DC villains are cool while the heroes suck. In Marvel comics, it’s less black and white. Xerxes from 300 is a great villain, too.

Q: What traits do you choose?

MM: Look at some of your favourite villains, Beloque from Indiana Jones, or Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Pair your hero and villain, give them opposing character arcs. Everybody wants something. If the hero and villain want the same thing, but for different reasons, it gets interesting. Villains should be larger than life.

RSM: Hannibal is a monster, but he’s so charming. His relationship with Starling is what draws us in. Lestat was originally a villain, but he became the hero in later Anne Rice novels.

Q: What are your thoughts on moral greyness? For example, the monster as hero, the human as villain?

RSM: Look at King Kong, or Godzilla.

MM: After 9/11, everything became grey. Can the villain rehabilitate? Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons is a great example and a redemption story.

AH: Work out your novel’s morality.

MM: Alfred Bester from Babylon 5 was a fascinating character study. I’d like to point out that every human villain we’ve discussed so far has been a man. What about women villains?

A brief discussion ensued about the stereotypes of women villains, Disney’s wicked stepmothers and witches, which led into a discussion of some truly awesome women villains, but I must confess I became so engrossed by the discussion, I forgot to take notes (!) Now, a month later, I can’t remember what was said 😦

Mea culpa. I have c.r.a.f.t. disease: can’t remember an f-ing thing 😉 I’m too young for this shit.

If any of the panellists care to weigh in, please comment and fill in the gaps.

Other than that, if you, my dear readers, have some examples of absolutely fabulous, or terrifying, women villains, please share.

Ad Astra, Day 1: Writing when you have a day job

Panelists: Marie Bilodeau; Karen Danylak; Ada Hoffman; Joel Sutherland

AH: Scheduling your writing is like another job in itself.

JS: Now that I have kids, I use my time more efficiently. I writer on my lunch hour at work.

KD: I’m in a similar situation, but I can’t write at work. I have to carve out time elsewhere. I can’t write every day either. How many of you manage to write every day?

JS: It’s not always a possibility.

AH: Some authors say that you must write everyday, but I find that advice can’t apply equally to everyone.

JS: I get depressed if I can’t, though.

AH: I think the advice might be meant to counteract the people who claim to be writers but never actually write.

JS: I commonly do what I can do. I ignore everyone else while I’m writing. I once attended a reading by a single mom with seven kids who wrote her first book on her bus commute. [Mel’s note: Joel later supplied the author’s name: Martine Leavitt.]

MB: You do what you have to, especially when your publisher has a contract for two books with six month deadlines. I did my research. I used to write in the morning. Life changed and now I write in the evenings. I do write every day. It may not be much, but I write something every day.

AH: If I’ve been away from writing for a couple of days, it takes a while for me to get back into it. I try to write every day and I find I miss it when I can’t.

KD: I beat myself up for a while. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for your choices.

MB: I burned out after Heirs of a Broken Land was complete. I couldn’t write for a while after.

JS: Full time writers often have a rich spouse or some other financial supports to rely on. A friend of mine got a $25,000 advance and I was jealous until I realized how far $25,000 goes.

AH: And what about health insurance?

KD: So the plan is to marry rich. Bose noise cancelling headphones really help me to focus. I put them on while my three kids are in gymnastics. Yes I’m that person. You have to learn to write anywhere. Don’t let Mom Guilt get you. That’s the worst. I have to leave the house sometimes, or before you know it, I’m doing laundry. I made up a Tuesday night course so I could get out of the house and write.

AH: I set myself a goal. I have to write so many words before I get to do the laundry.

MB: Writing in the evenings is more difficult than writing in the morning.

KD: “Who dropped you on your head and broke your ‘NO’ button?” You have to learn to say no.

JS: It helps if you don’t have friends.

KD: What’s your Kyrptonite (outside the day job)?

MB: Zombie novels. Netflix. Anything shiny. I write by candlelight so I don’t get distracted.

AH: I’m in a long distance relationship. When my boyfriend comes over nothing gets done.

JS: Relationships. Kids, I love reality TV.

KD: Sometimes I binge-watch something, but I have given up TV in general.

MB: What about binge writing? I’ve written for three days straight before. You get ridiculous word counts. I go to a convent, a silent retreat. They provide you with meals but otherwise leave you alone. I talk to Giant Jesus. And one time, one of the nuns scratched my ass.

KD: Sometimes I binge write, like when I’m away a cons. I’d recommend Sherry Peters, author and coach. She has an ebook: Silencing your inner saboteur. Stay off social media.

[Mel’s note: After the session, I approached Marie, whom I’d met years earlier when she came to Sudbury. We reconnected and she said the nicest thing, that she was fascinated by my journey (!) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet up with her again before the convention was over. Online stalkage begins!]