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!


Ad Astra 2016, day 1: The relationship between self-publishers and editors

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please let me know and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

Panellists: Rob Howell, Jennifer Jaquith, Charlotte Ashley, Beverly Bambury (moderator), Vanessa Ricci-Thode


VRT: There are three types of editing: the substantive edit, line editing, and copy editing. The substantive edit is also called a comprehensive edit, or a structural edit. It’s big picture stuff. Does the story make sense, is it compelling, are characters distinct, are story events consistent, are there too many or too few characters? Line editing looks at the story on a paragraph/sentence level. Given your style/voice, is each sentence written well, does each paragraph make sense, do your transitions flow? Copy editing is the nitty, gritty stuff: spelling, punctuation, and so on. There are places where the various editing tasks might overlap. In doing a line edit, some spelling and punctuation might be addressed.

RH: My editor works with me in stages. She’ll address global concerns first, then move on to more detailed editing. My mom’s a professional copy editor, so I have that covered.

BB: I don’t work with a self-publisher who hasn’t had at least one professional edit done on their book. What are the common issues editors see?

JJ: I have a list of hit words. Seems, felt, just, started to, etc.

CA: People who come to me at the wrong stage are a challenge. I love writers who come to be expecting the cost and work involved. Writing is a process of drafting and resting, but some people are on deadlines and they can’t do that.

NRT: Writers make the same mistakes over and over. Mixing tenses, head-hopping, showing versus telling. If you enter into a relationship with your editor, we get to know your particular weaknesses and look out for them.

BB: I look for the crutch words . . . actually, as I see it. Filler words that don’t really add anything to the work.

RH: I am guilty of overusing the shrug. I use it a lot. My editor points it out so I can fix it. You need an editor who can see your faults.

BB: How did your relationship with your editor evolve?

RH: When I was writing academically, I had my ego knocked out through editing. We’d debate the amount of white space on the page.

BB: Editors, how is it from your perspective?

VRT: I use beta readers for structural editing, but otherwise, I depend on my editor.

CA: I write short stories. You don’t get edited until the story is accepted for publication.

JJ: I’m a possessive writer. In technical writing, you hand everything over to the editor. I don’t argue and nine times out of ten, I’ll make the requested changes. Sometimes I don’t know how to improve the piece.

BB: I wrote a piece for Dirge. A friend of mine turned out to be a sexual predator. It was very internal. The editors helped me turn it into a personal essay. You have to trust the process.

CA: I write a lot of non-fiction as well. I once wrote a book review and the editors cut it up. I didn’t know until I saw it in print and at the time, I thought they hadn’t liked it. It turns out it was a matter of the space they had to devote to the review.

RH: If you’re a writer, the most terrifying moment is when you have to send your work off. I know I have someone on my side. It’s still terrifying, but it’s better.

BB: Do you have a success story you’d like to share? What constitutes a successful relationship?

RH: I’m the driver of the race car, the jockey on the horse, what have you. We all do our parts, everything comes together, I read the manuscript one last time, and if I think “I like this,” it’s a job well done.

JJ: You have to understand that the editor wants to like your work. They want to make it better. You have to be open to questions and discussions. You have to make a connection.

CA: A successful client is one who comes back to me. Some don’t come back, or they come back years later and say “you were right.”

VRT: Authors who come back, who are happy with the results, who are willing to do the work.

BB: The editor is rooting for the writer. Everyone needs an editor.

Q: How much time does a substantive edit take?

VRT: It varies, but I can review an 80 to 100 thousand word manuscript in 30 to 40 hours. Sometimes I might recommend a manuscript evaluation. It’s focused on overall strengths and weaknesses.

RH: Scheduling is important. I create a schedule so I can produce consistently. I try to write three books a year. My business model works because I produce. I have 2016 all planned out.

BB: That’s a good point. How far in advance should a writer make contact with the editor?

AC: I like two months lead time.

Q: What’s better proofreading or beta readers? And if you have betas, do you still need a developmental editor?

CA: An editor will be able to tell if your work needs a developmental edit.

VRT: A good editor will be honest.

RH: I chose my beta readers for specific reasons. I have a friend in martial arts who looks specifically at my fight scenes. I have a horse person who looks at logistics and whether I’m treating my fictional horses right or not.

Q: When you’re doing a developmental edit and you hate the story, what do you say?

VRT: I can tell the author that I’m not the right editor for this piece. I’m a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) and we make referrals to one another.

CA: When someone says to me they’ve sent the manuscript to 500 agents and 1000 publishers and nobody wants to take it on, I know I have to be cruel to be kind. An editor can’t sell your novel for you.

JJ: I can’t edit horror. I can’t sleep.

CA: There are some issues I can’t handle in a manuscript. Racism or sexism is a definite “no” for me.

BB: As a publicist, I see some things that bother me. People of colour who are stereotypes, pedophilia.

Q: How do you generate a client list?

VRT: I work through the EAC and referrals mostly, but I get some clients through social media and networking.

RH: I have an embarrassing story for you. My editor Kelly and I have known each other forever through the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The first two editors fell through and only after I was working with the third and had my first book out did I find out that Kelly was an editor.

CA: I get most of my clients through word of mouth.

Q: How much should I expect to spend?

CA: A substantive edit usually runs about $2000. Proofreading can be $300. Expect to spend between $500 and $1000 on average.

And that was time.

Next week, one of my favourite sessions from this year’s Ad Astra: The influence of Shakespeare on  science fiction and fantasy.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 27, 2015-Jan 2, 2016

Not off to a raging start in 2016. I have a feeling that there’s lots of Writerly Goodness yet to come, though.

K.M. Weiland shares her five step plan to analyze your favourite books (A.K.A. read like a writer).

And here are five ways Katie says will help you make better writing resolutions in 2016.

Jami Gold talks story beginnings.

Oren Ashkenazi shares six overused tropes and how to avoid them. Mythcreants.

And he returns with six clichés to watch out for. Mythcreants.

The ten self-editing mistakes writers make and how to fix them. These are some excellent pointers 🙂 Cathy Presland for Author Unlimited.

Emergence and depression: an interview with Charlotte Ashley.

Jane Friedman offers five industry issues for writers to watch in 2016.

If you’ve seen SW:TFA, you may remember that island where Ray finds you-know-who at the end. Guess what? It’s a real place: Skellig Michael, in Ireland. Irish Central.

Though Seth Abramson say he loved the film, he still found 40 ‘unforgivable’ plot holes in SW:TFA. BEWARE: HERE BE SPOILERS. The Huffington Post.

See you on Thursday for a wee (and I mean wee) bit of thoughty.


Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Deconstructing tropes

First, a disclaimer

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.

We good?

Alrightie, then!

Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet, Charlotte Ashley, K.W. Ramsey

KWR: What if you love genre, but hate tropes?

LB: Tropes are clichés. They’re mass produced. They’re widgets. Genre is more than just the tropes that are common to it. Genre is an assumed set of knowledge. This can include tropes, but it’s more enjoyable for most readers if the writer alludes to tropes rather than spelling them out in the same ways as other writers before them.

GZM: We have archetypes, the Hero’s Journey. That’s structure. To use a construction metaphor, not every house will be built the same way, even if the builders start out with exactly the same materials.

KWR: You have to understand the tropes to use them properly. When you understand what an FTL [faster than light] drive is, and the scientific problems attendant upon creating one, then you can use it well.

GZM: Butcher does that with Harry Dresden. He’s a wizard, and powerful, but he lives without any of the benefits you would think go with that power.

CA: Dresden is basically an import into urban fantasy of the hardboiled detective trope.

KWR: And there are writers who do this well. Firefly mixed science fiction and the tropes of the western. Defiance tried to do something similar, but they didn’t understand the tropes they were trying to use in enough depth to use them well. The writers behind Firefly were conscious of what they were doing and wrote around their tropes intentionally.

GZM: After the Civil War, people went west, not seeking adventure, but because they’d been on the losing side.

KWR: Defiance trots out their tropes too obviously: here’s the stagecoach episode, etc.

LB: A photocopy of a photocopy eventually fades to nothing. If we see the same tropes used similarly in story after story, they lose meaning.

GZM: If the writer wants to be successful, she has to bring something new to inform the trope and give it fresh life.

LB: We all read books for different reasons. Some readers want comfort and familiarity. For these readers, tropes are fine. Some readers want their minds blown.

CA: In that sense, Firefly does not subvert its tropes.

GZM: It’s not just the tropes, though. Characters can bring something fresh as well. Tropes alone will only get you so far.

CA: Comfort reading is like decor. Mind-blowing reading is deeper.

LB: The stories that meant something to us as children need to be reinvented for a modern audience.

GZM: Myth is bigger than the telling.

CA: Look at Diana Wynn Jones’s retelling of Tam Lin.

LB: The books that point out that “this is messed up” further the conversation. We need these conversations.

KWR: Literature is cyclical. It responds to what has gone before but also invites the next voice to the conversation. The pendulum is always swinging.

GZM: In the 50’s and the 60’s, the cold war was a huge trope in science fiction. Recent authors have brought that tropes forward successfully.

LB: There’s a genre fallacy that there should only be one conversation going on, though. For example, post-colonialism is not part of the SF conversation.

CA: A Stranger in the Laundry speaks to that.

[There was a short side-track into the Hugo’s controversy that I chose not to record.]

CA: Is Star Wars not a post-colonial narrative?

KWR: The Jedis are basically samurai. It all goes back to the Tokugawa gun law.

GZM: What about Carpe Demon? The protagonist is an everyday person. She has to get the kids to school, work, manage her household, and still fight demons.

LB: That’s just good writing. Rounded characters are the result of good writing. Kate Elliott is an underrated writer. Karen Addison’s The Goblin King is fabulous also.

And we were out of time.

Next week: You get a double shot. Science Fiction in YA from Ad Astra 2015 and my next chapter April update.