Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 25-Oct 1, 2016

Yup. Lots of informal writerly learnings for you this week. LOTS!

K.M. Weiland answers reader questions about scenes versus chapters. Helping writers become authors. Later in the week, Kate invites Wordplayer, Usvaldo de Leon, Jr., to share his thoughts on setting up the potential for change in character arcs.

Lisa Cron guest posts on Writers Helping Writers: how your character’s misbelief drives the plot. Later in the week, Angela Ackerman provides this amazing list of resources for writers.

Karen Woodward explores C.S. Lewis’s writing advice.

Jo Eberhardt shares her lessons learned from watching Supernatural. Writer Unboxed

Kristen Lamb shows how Girl on the Train demonstrates the two elements that all great stories share.

Barbara O’Neal responds to the Merritt Tierce article I shared last week: money and the writer. Writer Unboxed

Joanna Penn interviews Toby Neal on The Creative Penn podcast.


Janice Hardy guest posts on Writers in the Storm: five reasons your revisions aren’t working.

Erika Robuck has a message for all of us about remembering why we started writing. Writer Unboxed

Steven Pressfield digs deeper into the reasons he writes.

Jami Gold explores how to strengthen your stakes. It’s not always about going big.

Veronica Sicoe discusses story world design and choosing the right time period.

Oren Ashkenazi lists six ways flight changes a fantasy setting. Mythcreants

Bonnie Randall guest posts on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University: on balance versus burn-out.

It’s NaNoWriMo prep season! Joe Bunting shares ten catalysts that will help you win NaNoWriMo. The Write Practice

Catherine McKenzie unpacks the issue of audience limiting covers for books by women authors. Writer Unboxed

More fallout from the Lionel Shriver keynote:

Stephanie Saul reports on how campuses are teaching freshmen about cultural sensitivity and microaggression. The New York Times. This was the kind of thing that Janet Reid ranted about last week.

Liz Dwyer closes the diversity gap in young adult literature. Take part

Tshaka Armstrong discusses Luke Cage, Black Panther, and why superheroes of colour matter. Rotten Tomatoes

Jenny Kay Dupuis shares her grandmother’s residential school story in honour of Orange Shirt Day. CBC

Heidi Ulrichsen interviews Danielle Daniel about her new memoir. Later in the week, Danielle was interviewed on CBC Sudbury’s Morning North.

Carl Slaughter of File 770 interviews Kelly Robson.

Haralambi Markov reviews Charlotte Ashley’s body of short fiction.

Fran Wilde’s characters aren’t defined by their disabilities. Natalie Zutter for

PW Radio interviews Nisi Shawl on her novel, Everfair, and Writing the Other.

Rachel Cordasco reflects on the Three Body trilogy.

Margaret Atwood writes about re-envisioning Shakespeare’s The Tempest in her novel, Hag-Seed. The Guardian

Laura Miller muses on the haunting of Shirley Jackson. Literary Hub

Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters, the showrunners behind Marvel’s Agent Carter, sell series ideas to various networks, including a series based on Wesley Chu’s Tao series. Deadline

Susan Spann explains when you should walk away from a publishing deal. Writer Unboxed

Ed Nawotka of Publishers Weekly says the publishing world needs more Canada.

Wallace Immen visits the Penguin Random House offices where curling up with a good book is encouraged. The Globe and Mail

Award news! The British Fantasy Award winners announced 🙂

The Scotia Bank Giller Shortlist is announced.

Martha Schabas reviews Hannah Moscovitch’s Bunny and the play’s exploration of the double standard of consent. The Globe and Mail

Tori Amos: Trump is disrespectful to all women. The singer/songwriter talks about her response to Audrie and Daisy, the role of storytelling in her creative process, and accountability. The Daily Beast

And here’s her LA Times piece on the same issues.

Thu-Huong Ha lists 30 words and phrases that will soon be eliminated from American English. Quartz

Author Hannah Kent dives into the Irish world of faith and fantasy. Donna Liu for The Guardian.

John Plotz writes about the influence of Ursula K. Le Guin. The Guardian

Matt Santori-Griffith interviews Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman and queer narrative. Comicosity

Entertainment Weekly shares a fan-made mash-up between Stranger Things and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Awesomesauce 🙂

Anne Perry recommends five Stephen King books you should read if you liked Stranger Things. Hodderscape

Estelle Tang talks to Sam Heughan about sweat, sheep-dipping, and Outlander spoilers. Elle

Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly takes a first look at Outlander’s new season. Later in the week, Lynette shares some breaking news on another actor cast for season three.

Film festival audiences say Split may be M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie yet.


Whew! I’m exhausted.

See you Thursday!


The Writing Process Blog Hop

Yes, it’s actually happening!

I had a bit of a false start back in April when Gemma Hawdon originally tagged me, and now that Claudette Young, A.K.A. Claudsy has tagged me for a second time, I actually found a couple of fellow bloggers who hadn’t already done it 🙂

First, I must thank my nominators:

Gemma Hawdon and familyGemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She writes articles, short stories and web content for clients. She’s just completed the first book in a two-part children’s fantasy series and writes a blog about – funnily enough – trying to get to the top of the slush pile. She loves hot coffee, long walks and sneaking off to the movies when everyone else is at work.

Public Contact Details:
Twitter: @gemmaleehawdon


Claudette J. Young began writing seriously in 2008 and continues to write in multiple Claudette J. Younggenres. She strives to learn something new each day—a new poetry form, new writing technique, new foreign word, or whatever strikes her fancy. Her primary genres are poetry, science fiction/fantasy, flash fiction, children’s literature, women’s fiction, along with creative non-fiction, essay, and memoir. She tries to cover all of her bases by writing for audiences that range from young children to senior citizens.

Claudette has been published in numerous online publications for poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as print magazines and two international poetry anthologies. She continues to hone her craft by working on multiple projects, including book-length ones. Her regular work can be viewed on her collaborative website and blogs at: as well as


Now for the hard part

I have to answer four questions all about—you guessed it—my WIPs and process. I’ll apologize to my followers, for whom some of this will be a repeat of my Next Chapter posts, but I hope there will be some new, tasty stuff in the mix for you too.

What am I working on?

Several projects. This year, I decided, inspired in part by Rochelle (one of my nominees – see below) to attempt working on multiple projects at once.

First is my epic fantasy, Initiate of Stone.

An aspirant mage is betrayed by those she trusts most, but when war razes her village, she loses family, friends, and the possibility of initiation. The secrets kept from her may be the keys to stopping the mad god intent on enslaving her world and her quest for power leads to a confrontation with the man who tore her life apart.

Yeah, still needs work.

It’s currently out with betas. I have a couple who are very thorough/detail oriented, and that’s just fine with me, because I’ve been able to use the time to make some major decisions about the novel, remap it, make editing notes, a beat sheet, and reverse engineer the plot. When I hear back from my peeps, I’ll be ready for one more massive rewrite, and then it’s onto querying.

Second is a young adult urban fantasy titled, Figments.

Her father’s murder sends a girl spiralling into depression, and, she fears, delusion. As her figments turn out to be real, she learns that everything else she thought she knew is a lie, opening the door to the terrifying possibility that her father was a modern-day Frankenstein, and she is his apocalyptic monster.

Figments was last year’s NaNoWriMo project and I am currently mapping it out, then I’ll get to the beat sheet, edit notes, and reverse engineering. This one has a few revisions ahead.

My third project is Gerod and the Lions, a middle grade, traditional fantasy.

A boy’s father sells his little sister to the Child Merchants and he sets off, alone, to rescue her. Clever, but small, he fails his first attempt and finds shelter in a circus where he discovers a talent for talking to lions and allies who help him track the Child Merchants to the capital, where a royal encounter and a daring rescue bring the boy face to face with his sister and her new owners.

I’m still drafting this one, but I expect to be finished by the end of this year.

Finally, there’s Apprentice of Wind, the second book in my epic fantasy series.

She’s come into her power through an act of murder and now a rogue sourceress (it’s not a typo), in the company of the half-brother she never knew and the avatar of the goddess, must defend the king’s city and then race to battle the mad god. If she can’t become powerful enough to defeat him, her life and her world will be destroyed.

The draft has been assembled and mapped, but will require substantial rewriting because of the revisions to IoS.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

What’s that saying? There’s nothing new under the sun.

The only thing that distinguishes my work from other fantasy novels being written and published is me. It’s my writing and my voice that will set them apart.

The epic series is pretty standard fare, but I have what I hope is a truly strong heroine who drives the plot and some compelling secondary characters all of whom I torture mercilessly. None of the characters is purely good or evil—except the mad god, he’s just psychotic—so it’s complex and dark and unrelenting. And there’s a lot of vomiting, or so I’ve been told by at least one reader 😉

The YA novel features a gargoyle, but I think in the search for “original” beasties, this ground has already been trod, as has the Frankenstein angle, but not, perhaps, in the way I have approached it.

The MG might be fairly original, a young lion tamer who takes down a child slavery ring? I might have something there.

Why do I write what I do?

The main reason is that fantasy and science fiction were what I started reading: C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’engle, Ursula K. Le Guin. It was also what I started watching: Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.

As I read or watched, I imagined myself as a character in the story. Sometimes I’d even dream about it. These derivative, or fan-based, works were some of my earlier stories. When I grew older, I understood that I wanted to help other people feel what I felt as the consumer of these creative works.

How does my writing process work?

Sweet Jebus.

The thing about my process is that it is . . . a process. It’s what happens between my head and the page. The two words I might choose to characterize my writing process are organic and evolving.

I generally shoot from the hip. I write first and ask questions later, but I’m also addicted to learning. With every writing craft book or blog post I read, or workshop I take, I learn something, and I incorporate bits and pieces of everything into my process. How do I choose which bits and pieces? It feels good or right. It fits.

I’m an unapologetic pantser, but I generally outline after the first draft, and even though I may not have a formal outline to write by, I always know where my story is going. I know the end and major events before I begin. I may even have sketched out scenes and characters before I get to the actual drafting. I do a lot of preliminary work in my head (read, incubating).

According to some coaches, that’s a form of outlining. *bats eyelashes endearingly*

I’ve tried alpha readers (who read an early draft), beta readers (who read later drafts), professional editors, reviews of the first X pages, first act (some of this done with Jenny – see nominees, below) . . . I generally give everything a try once and decide by the results I get whether I’ll do it the same way next time or not.

In this moment, here’s how my process works:


Ideas emerge from dreams. I, like many writers, dream in story. It may be a bit surreal, but they’re full-colour movies, sometimes even in three acts. This used to happen a lot when I was a kid, but now, I might get one or two story dreams a year. Still, that’s a fair backlog of ideas.

Ideas emerge from journaling. I started keeping a journal in university when knowledge from different disciplines kept colliding in my skull. Now, I find that my curation is taking the place of journaling. I share the articles and posts that make me think or feel and that becomes a kind of record. I also use Evernote.

Ideas emerge from reading. I’m a “clip-rat.” If I read something physical that makes me think, I clip it, or make a copy and save it in my idea file.

Ideas emerge from exercises or prompts. This is not as frequent as I’m not keen on exercises and prompts, but on a few occasions, it’s worked. Gerod and the Lions resulted from a Natalie Goldberg prompt.


I used to draft long hand because that was the tool I had most easily available to me. The idea that became Initiate of Stone filled two large spiral-bound notebooks.

Then, I started to type.

That gave way to word processing when I got my first computer. Those were the DOS days of black screens and orange text.

Now, I rely mostly on Word, and though I have purchased Scrivener, I’ve found that the process of importing and formatting is a bit cumbersome. I’d rather be writing. But I have enrolled in a course, so that may change.


After drafting, I let things sit for a while and move onto other projects, or work on short stories, or do something completely unrelated like home renovation or gardening.

I print out my draft as economically as possible and read it through.

I “map” my novels out. It’s an outline of sorts and I can easily rearrange, cut, and rewrite based on my map. Mapping is done long hand and then transcribed into a computer document.

Beat sheets and edit notes are generally long hand as well. I usually relocate to the living room or some other place than my office to make these notes.

Once I have all my structural work and edit notes completed, I’ll launch into editing the draft, copying each chapter into a new document and rewriting/editing it fully before moving on to the next.

This process repeats until I’m satisfied.

Alpha or beta readers, or editors might come in around the third or fourth version.

And that’s pretty much how it’s gone to this point.

My process is continually subject to change.

And finally, my nominoms (da-doo-da-do-doo – yes, I’m a Muppet at heart).

Jenny Madore (writing as JL Madore)

JL MadoreJL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto.


Rochelle Sharpe (writing as R.L. Sharpe)

I’m many things: A reader; a writer; a mother of 2; a wife of 1; Christian; Australian.Rochelle Sharpe

I’ve been telling stories since I could talk and started writing them down when I was 8. It will take an awful lot to stop me – like death. Some say I’m a dreamer, and I have my head in the clouds, but I say that’s better than having two feet planted firmly on the ground.

I define myself as a storyteller. Writing is my life. Through writing I get to record all the worlds I have been blessed with discovering, worlds I would love to share with you fully one day, as soon as I can convince a publisher my worlds are worth sharing 🙂

I spend most of my time in fantastical worlds with fantastical people, both I have created and those created by others, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my time.

I work hard on making my dreams come true. And I believe in myself, because if I don’t, who else will?

Writing Process Blog Hop

Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?

I thought it was about time I answered this question.

I was reminded that I hadn’t addressed the issue yet when I read Martina Boone’s guest post on DIYMFA yesterday.  Martina writes:

Writing fiction is alchemy. We can have all the ingredients for a great story and still miss that wow factor that makes it all come together, makes our work transform from words on a page to a living, breathing entity with the possibility to burrow into someone else’s consciousness.

I’ve always thought of writing as a kind of alchemy, a kind of magic.  This might be

My only souvenir of Siobhan’s art is this book cover.

because I write epic fantasy.  Or it might be because when I started reading for pleasure, I started with C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and Madeline L’Engle.  It could even be my inspiration for writing: the wonderful artwork of Siobhan Riddell.  When I was in grade three, she and her grade five classmates wrote and illustrated their own storybooks.  Siobhan’s was of a knight fighting a dragon.  Classic fairy tale.

And I was hooked.

I wanted to write something, even then, that made people feel the way Siobhan’s storybook made me feel.  That was the kind of magic I wanted.

Much later, I tried out a few of writers’ groups.  One was composed of friends from university: Kim Fahner, Steven Lendt, and Dan McCormick.  I actually proposed the name “Alchemy Ink” to them.  No one seemed particularly keen.

The next was a group of women brought together around the fabulous Si Tranksen.  That group published Battle Chant in 1999 and included Paulette Dahl, Violet Brenner, Louise Lane, Carole Trepanier, and, though she departed before the book project came together, Sonny B.

After that, another group of women writers, including the fae folkstress Dolores Dagenais, Gypsy, and fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members, Irene Golas, Margaret Lavoie, and Sue Scherzinger met irregularly to engage in creative stuff.  We didn’t only share our writing, but did cool things like playing with clay.

When the chemistry is right, a writers’ group can be magical.  I’m going to use some of my dreadful learning lingo here, but synergies can develop between the writers, and the creative energy so generated tends to fuel the creative self in wild ways.  Some of my best writing/most productive periods were inspired while I was in writing groups.

This is why I’ve called this category Alchemy Ink.  It’s a kind of substitute for the old writing groups.  Magical things can happen when you share …

But getting back to the writing of fiction, transforming what is in my head and heart onto writing on the page is pure alchemy.  I struggle to create gold, but what I might have is a means to immortality, the other goal of alchemy.  My words, if they’re good enough, will have a life outside of mine.  With luck and diligence, they may outlast me 🙂

Martina goes on to write that she is not a pantser (like me).  For her, the magic happens between the characters, in the backstory, in the execution.  She uses plotting and structure to “make room” for the more magical aspects of her art.

The last word belongs to Martina:

Chances are, that’s the part of storytelling we fell in love with in the first place.

Why did you fall in love with the alchemy of storytelling?  Where does the magic happen for you?

I failed the test

Back in December, Robert J. Sawyer shared this:

Rinkworks warns the following:

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.

The problem is … I answered yes more than once.


4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme bad guy?

Well, it’s about three young characters, two who “come of age” and one who just figures out what his damage is, spanks his inner moppet and gets on with it, all three of whom have roles to play in the defeat of the dark god Yllel, and his sourcerous servant Kane.

12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?

Yes, Aeldred is dithering and occasionally confused, but he is the exception and considerably younger than most of the magickal movers and shakers in my novel.  Plus, he’s not even close to being a main character.

21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?

That would be Aislinn, actually and she’s not torn so much between the two peoples as derided and feared by both because she is the first child born of a Tellurin (my version of humans) and an eleph (my version of elves).  She’s actually going to be pivotal in uniting the two peoples.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

Actually, all of the above.  I’ve changed the names slightly and given them different origins.  My orcs are called okante and are peaceful tribes-people who generally live in harmony with the Tellurin tribes of the north.  They’re only drawn in as villains because Yllel tricks them into soul-slavery.  My elves, as mentioned above, are called eleph and they come from a different world.  One of my gods tries to do something good, but ends up tearing a hole in the world and sucking half the population of Elphindar into Tellurin before the gap can be closed.  The eleph are not pleased.  Dwarves are called dwergen, and are the children of the elemental Gods of earth and fire.  Rather than halflings, I have gnomes I call dwergini and they are the children of earth and air.  Neither race is terribly differentiated from their fantastic forefathers, but they’re certainly not dour and I try not to make them overtly stereotypical.

Enough of the justification, but I can tell you that I was not a little disconcerted by saying yes even those four times.

Fantasy Forest

Fantasy Forest (Photo credit: ozjimbob)

Then, in January, Author Salon posted this for the benefit of the Fantasy and YA Fantasy peer groups, two of the more active in the AS fold:

Again, I shook in my metaphorical boots because my story is fairly littered with orcs, trolls (which I call krean), ogres (the gunden), etc.  Will renaming be sufficient?  It’s not like any of them play a significant role, but they are there in their standard and stereotypical glory.

I started questioning the value of my novel in a serious and neurotic way.  Then I sat back and tried to put things into perspective.  My story is not “about” any of these tropes, save perhaps for my protagonists coming of age, finding power, and defeating the big bad.  Renaming will likely be sufficient in most cases.  I don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I almost failed another one

AS says it wants thick-skinned writers.  Though I do tend to take some criticism more to heart, or react poorly to some of their advice (largely because I think that it’s being posted because someone has looked at my work and though poorly of it, even though I “know” I’m not that important to anyone), I’m learning to understand being thick-skinned in the same way I understand being courageous.  Being brave doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid; being brave means that you act despite your fear and try not to let it limit you.  I’m taking the same, long view of being thick-skinned.  It doesn’t mean that my confidence isn’t shaken; it means that even when it is, I get my shit together and soldier on.

Then Rachelle Gardner posted this in March:

It’s good to know that agents feel the same way us writers do sometimes 🙂

Writing well is the best revenge 🙂

Then I came across a very helpful blog post:

I’ve always aspired to be transgressive; sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not so much.  I think ultimately, I have to focus on writing the best novel I can, so that when I do break the rules, I’ll be forgiven.  It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, right?  It’s such a relief to know that I can write my way out of the corner I seem to be getting scrunched into.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness

In future posts, I want to get a bit into the background of the novel, stuff that won’t necessarily be in it, but all of the window dressing I developed so that my world would work fairly consistently.  Stuff like cosmology, the historical timeline leading up to the novel, religion, the way magic works, my various peoples and their origins (in more detail than above), naming conventions, and some of the unique things about Tellurin.  In other words, I’m going to write about world-building.  Have any interest in that?

What are your feelings about tropes and their use/overuse?  Would you fail Rinkworks’ test?  What about the Author Salon article?  Does it give you pause?

If you liked this post, feel free to use the “like” or sharing buttons below.  Or, you may consider subscribing via email, or RSS feed (there are links below each post, or on right side menu on my home page).

Until next week!

More guardians, more growing up …

I’ve always dreamed very vividly, and in story.  As a child, I was an insomniac, mid-cycle onset.  I’d wake at two or three in the morning and rehearse my dreams until I went back to sleep.  Either that, or tell myself new stories if it wasn’t a dream that woke me.  I told my dream-stories and nightdreams (as opposed to daydreams) to my best friend, Margaret, at lunch and recess.  I dreamed about characters and settings from my favourite television shows and movies: G-Force and Star Wars mostly.

Resources for dreaming and creativity:

I was also big into comics at the time.  Not the typical ones.  I wasn’t fond of the male heroes, and instinctively disliked the groups, in which the women were neither strong, nor independent.  I gravitated toward Wonder Woman, Huntress, Batgirl, and other solo heroines.

Unfortunately, my waking daydreams were also populated by Greg Evigan from “BJ and the Bear,” and Shawn Cassidy from “The Hardy Boys Mysteries.”  For better or worse, Margaret shared in all of that too, and was a regular reader of my stories.

Though I was a huge “Doctor Who” fan, Tom Baker never made it into my dreams, go figure.  More recently though, David Tenant’s made the short-list 🙂

I read C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Madeline L’Engle, Zylpha Keatley Snider, and even checked out Pierre Burton‘s The World of OgJoan Aiken, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Lois Duncan, and Joan Lowery Nixon joined the list soon after.

Grade six was a rough patch.  Though I’d auditioned and made it into the choir, which was great because I liked to sing, the practices were after school, and one day, I was in an unfortunate situation.  **Those of delicate constitution may want to skip this next part.**  I’d gotten my period, always painful and heavy, even then.  Feeling like crap, and on the verge of bleeding through my clothes, I needed to go home.

My teacher came out into the hall where I was at my locker, preparing to leave, while other students walked the halls and the rest of the choir waited in the room, right next to me, and asked me what I was doing.  “Going home,” I said.  With increased volume, she asked me why.  I tried to tell her that my mom needed me at home.  I wasn’t about to tell her, and everyone else, the real reason.  She berated me for my fickle loyalties and tried to bully me into staying.  I committed to the choir and that meant that I had to be at every practice.  Did I want to be a part of the choir, or not?  Cornered like that, I had no choice.  I quit.  Once again, I was left out of the performance, and the choir, for the rest of the year.

Though I was terribly upset, there was no going back.  I would not be allowed to explain the situation in private.  That wasn’t my teacher’s style.  I wasn’t about to reveal my shame to the class, and wasn’t going to ask my parents to intervene for the same reason.  So I remained embittered for the year.  It was my own fault.  I hadn’t learned the trick of standing up for myself yet.  At the time though, it felt like persecution.

It was another low point on the teacher graph for me.

English: A bottle of Liquid Paper correction fluid

English: A bottle of Liquid Paper correction fluid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That same year, someone I thought of as a friend asked to read my stories, and flattered, I consented.  She used an entire bottle of Liquid Paper to obliterate my words.

Another guardian, another lesson: even your friends can’t be trusted.

As you can see, I identify with the hero/heroine’s journey, writer’s journey, or whatever else you’d like to call it.  My guardians have been the defining, or crisis, moments in my creative development.  In that respect, I’m a slow learner.  It took me years to realize that what these people did to me, or to my work, had nothing to do with its value or my own.  I let those formative lessons inform my inner critic (the worst guardian of them all) and it told me that I was worthless.  I believed it for far too long.

So again, I will ask you to share guardian experiences.  Who has put a roadblock in your creative path?  What lessons did you learn?  Did you find a way to overcome your guardians?

My Process

Educational Resource:  "Writing process"

Educational Resource: “Writing process” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

First, some thoughts about process from other writers:

The thing about process, is that it is, a process.  It changes over time and is as individual as the artist.  For what it’s worth though, this is what I’ve learned about mine …

daydream believer

When I was a kid, I dreamed, and those dreams became the bases of stories.  I didn’t keep a dream journal until much later in my life, but that’s how it started.  In my waking life, I was influenced by the things and people I liked: Siobhan Riddell’s wonderful artwork, Star Wars, G-Force, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander.

first thoughts/morning pages/whatever you want to call it

When I was in university, I started to keep a journal, and I have ever since.  I recorded not just my dreams, but also the wonderful insights I gained in my classes.  An interesting thing my roommate taught me about my dream life: I talked in my sleep.  Sometimes I even got up, opened my eyes, and seemed to interact as though I was awake.  I’ve since learned that I am also subject to night terrors and sleep walking.  I once opened all the windows in my apartment in the middle of January and didn’t remember a thing about it …  That’s settled down now that I’m older, but so has my dream life.  I still dream in story, but now the stories my mind tells are all adult ones, about work or other stresses.


When I worked in libraries, I became a clip-rat.  It’s kind of like being a pack rat, but with article clippings.  I’d see something interesting in the New Yorker, or the Saturday Night Post and photocopy it.  I have some articles on economics that I have a story idea about, and a series that the Toronto Star did back in the 90’s about welfare and homelessness that’s fed into another.  When I travel, the daily newspapers left at my room door still yield clippings for the idea file.

my very own science guy

Discussions feed my creativity too.  My husband, Phil, is Mr. Science.  Professionally, he is a network administrator, but in a past career, he was a medical lab technologist.  His hobbies include cosmology, astronomy, and geology.  We have amazing conversations and I have several ideas that have had their genesis from his interesting insights.


Poetry comes alive in the moment: what I see, how I feel.

Short stories come from life events, or arise out of the need to explain them.

So that’s how the process starts, where the ideas come from.

Then they incubate.  It could be minutes, days, months, or years.  It depends on the idea, its purpose, and the genre it decides to be embodied in.

Poetry has the shortest incubation and usually writes itself.  If I revise, that may not happen for a considerably longer period of time.

Short stories are usually written in one sitting, and are usually revised two or three times before submission.  Every returns story is revised again before the next submission.

I’m still discovering what my process is with regard to writing a novel and I suspect it will change significantly before I have it pinned down.  I’ll cover this in a bit more detail in my work in progress category.

ming-ti is everything

(say ming-ti over and over again, very fast … thanks to the Battle Chant grrls for that one!)

I work a day job, and so must write in the evenings and on the weekends.  One of my biggest challenges right now is how to balance my job with my personal and creative lives.

Tools are important.  I have a particular preoccupation with …

ways and means

Though I journal, I don’t have a practice with respect to this aspect of writing.  I’ve tried writing daily, but didn’t find it productive for me.  Now I write in my journal when I have something I want to record.  Sometimes it’s just blather, but I do make a point of writing.  I may not write for a few days, a week, or longer, but then I’ll write several days in a row, or even several times in one day.

I prefer spiral or perfect bound journals that can lay flat, with hard covers in case I’m writing in a place where I there’s no table or other surface to write on.  I have a purple pen to write with.

Poems are sometimes drafted in pen, but most of my fiction writing is conducted on my computer.  I have a desktop and a lap top so I can write in different places in the house, outside, or while traveling.  I have heard that it can be useful to change surroundings occasionally and have done this frequently myself for the following reasons:

  • My day job requires me to travel and I have to write (I can’t do without), so I take my lap top and write wherever I happen to be.
  • When we were renovating my office, and then the bedroom, it wasn’t really possible for me write in my accustomed surroundings.  The lap top became very useful, allowing me to write in the living room, the back yard, or at my Mom’s.
  • Sometimes I just need a change.

be the target

I set goals: a number of pages, or words, a short story revised, or poetry submission prepared.  I try to stick to them, but don’t beat myself up if I can’t meet them.

I write every day.  The rare time that I am too ill, or exhausted, to write, I miss it terribly, so I try at least to do something writing-related: journaling, administrative tasks, research, going over timelines or character sketches, even email counts.  Social media and blogging count too.


I try to do something else creative that’s not writing.

There was a time that I thought I’d be a visual artist.  I still sketch occasionally: characters, maps, and the like.

I used to sing in the church choir and school choirs when I was a kid.  Later, I joined the Bel Canto Chorus for a season and surprised myself with a successful audition for Theatre Cambrian’s production of Hair in 2000.  Though I haven’t sung publically in years, I still sing, even if it’s just in the car.

I take photos, and some of them have merit beyond the simple recording of events.

I try to get out to the odd concert, or other event, just for fun.


I stay minimally active.  If all I do is walk the dog, or walk home from work, I try to do something every day.  I tried jogging for a few years, but I never liked it.

Sudoku, solitaire, and jigsaw puzzles help me relax and help keep my mind engaged.  I used to play Massively Multi-player On-line Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like Champions, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and EverQuest, but I don’t have time for those anymore, even as a reward.  They are very time-consuming, though immensely fun.  A lot of my creativity ended up going into the game as opposed to my writing, so I had to make a choice.  In the end, it wasn’t difficult.

I like to listen to music while I write, but don’t always do so.  I find music relaxing.  It inspires me, though I know some writers can’t have any distraction while they write at all.  I’m fairly eclectic in my musical tastes.  Random selection from my I-Pod: Tori Amos, David Bowie, Sarah Brightman, Kate Bush, Great Big Sea (still a groupie), Sarah Slean, The Fixx, Imogen Heap, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Dala, and Loreena McKennitt.  Though I don’t listen to them often, I also have CDs of Berlioz, the Eddas, Beethoven, Japanese flute, and gamelan music.

Did I mention my tastes were eclectic?

a room of one’s own

I don’t close the door to my office, though I can.  Phil knows to leave me alone while I’m working, but steals in now and then for a kiss.  Even the dog stays away when I’m at my computer.

Plants are a must, as are shelves filled with reference works and fiction yet to be read.  My office is also full of items of personal interest, gifts from friends, masks, and my altar.  With respect to this last, all I’ll state here is that writing has become my spiritual practice as well as my vocation.

don’t feed the muse

I read all the time.  I’m not as fast as I used to be because I don’t have so much time to devote to it, but I still read, and fairly widely.  I try to read something contemporary, perhaps in my chosen genre, then a classic, or another work of fiction outside sf.  Then I read a work of non-fiction, alternating between something for research related, overtly or not, to what I’m writing, and something on the writer’s craft.  My current favourites: Sheri S. Tepper, Guy Gavriel Kay, Diana Gabaldon, Charles de Lint, Ursula K. LeGuin, Heather Sellers, and Donald Maass.

I’m a CBC junkie, particularly “Writers and Company,” “DNTO,” and “Spark.”  I get ideas, inspiration, and insight from them too.

I like shows that have a plot line that carries over seasons: Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5.  I also indulge in Castle and Grey’s Anatomy.  I try to think critically about the plot lines and story.  I watch repeats of the shows I like so I can get deeper into their structure.

the bottom line

Ultimately, everything I do has a purpose, or I can relate it somehow to my creativity.  Everything feeds into process in the end.

Donald Maass writes in The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, that most writers, even those who teach creative writing, have no idea what their process is, and I would agree with that.  What I’ve shared here is what I’ve learned in my lifetime of writing to date.  My process is a part of my life and lifestyle.  It changes as I change and it’s difficult to articulate what is process and process alone, distinct from the rest of my life.

Perhaps the point is that there is no distinction.  A writer’s life is her process.  What do you think?