Join me over at DIY MFA for my latest Speculations

In part three of my series on the tarot for writers, I create a rough outline for a story using the tarot. It was a lot of fun. Maybe you’d like to try it?

Mythic Storytelling: Tarot for Writers, Part 3

TarotPt3

And while your there, check out the other great columnists and all the awesome Gabriela has up for offer.

See ya Thursday!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 10-16, 2020

Welcome to week nine of #pandemiclife.

Here in Ontario, the Premiere has authorized some businesses to reopen. Street-facing retail stores that can deliver curb-side service. Veterinarians, groomers, and pet boarding businesses. Essential-adjacent health support services. My mother-in-law will be able to get her housekeeper back—physically distanced, of course. And golf courses. And cottage country (which really doesn’t want to be open, from what I’ve been hearing).

Will we have another spike? Will we have to dial back? I’m maintaining the status quo. Kind of. I’ll be delivering virtual training over the next couple weeks. It’s going to be interesting. And … I’ve already been asked to deliver the next session, which is pretty much back to back, because there aren’t enough trainers who are comfortable with the platform, or even virtual training, to spread out the burden.

There are apparently five such courses to be delivered between now and September. I hesitate to be on the hook for all of them. But this may be my work life, moving forward.

I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, please enjoy some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland uses a brave critique volunteer’s work to discuss seven possible hooks for your opening chapter. Helping Writers Become Authors

K.B. Jensen explains how to throw a virtual book launch using Facebook Live. Then, Chantel Hamilton provides a comprehensive guide to finding, hiring, and working with an editor. Jane Friedman

Shaelin Bishop continues her series on developing a novel with part 4: form, style, and voice. Reedsy

Joanna Penn interviews Larry Brooks about how to develop strong fiction ideas. The Creative Penn

Leanne Sowul touts the power of paying attention. Later in the week, Sarah Fraser lists five signs you’re ready to work with an editor. DIY MFA

Jim Dempsey helps you decide, your words, or your editor’s? Juliet Marillier: consolation or challenge? Kathryn Craft shares eight ways to unblock your scene’s potential. Writer Unboxed

September C. Fawkes explains how plotlines add dimension. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold wonders whether breaking the rules is easy or hard.

Jenna Moreci says imposter syndrome sucks, but you don’t.

Nathan Bransford tells you everything authors need to know about dialogue tags.

Aliza Mann explains how to get back on track when all your planning fails. Fiction University

Kristen Lamb wants you to create a story-worthy problem that will captivate an audience.

How the strong black woman trope has evolved. The Take

Barbara Linn Probst lists three motivations to write: artistry, identity, and legacy. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle says, no. “Art” does not entitle you to spread harmful messages. Then, Oren Ashkenazi gets facetious with seven musts for dominating a fantasy battle. Mythcreants

Richard Marpole goes for a walk among the trees: a look at forests in myth and media. Fantasy Faction

Esther Jones: science fiction builds resilience in young readers. Phys.org

Simon Winchester: has “run” run amok? It has 645 meanings … so far. NPR

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ve taken away something to support your current work in progress (or planning/development of same).

Until Thursday, stay safe and be well, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 3-9, 2020

Even as various provincial governments consider “opening up,” we are becoming aware of reports from China and South Korea that their attempts to do the same are resulting in another spike in infections and deaths. While I think that, with testing and tracking and sufficient PPE, a certain degree of business resumption can occur, I’m worried that the testing, tracking, and PPE are not in place as yet.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, this week was another rich one for informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

Sara Letourneau explains how your protagonist’s motivations influence your story’s themes. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Helen J. Darling for an inside look at self-publishing. Pamela Gay shares five ways to write about something difficult. DIY MFA

Sonja Yoerg encourages you to give your story the time of day. Donald Maass: the meaning of meaning. Julie Carrick Dalton considers the earned plot twist. Jennie Nash: the secret to more efficient revision is pattern recognition. Writer Unboxed

How to develop a novel, part 3: plot & world. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford shows you how to weave exposition naturally into your story. Later in the week, he suggests giving your protagonist a mini-quest before the plot takes off.

Aziraphale and Crowley share a message with the world.

Tiffany Yates Martin wants you to give your characters agency. Then, Susan DeFreitas serves up the next part of her developing a writing practice series: captivating. Jane Friedman

Jami Gold explains how to improve your story with action beats. Later in the week, she wonders, do your characters take on lives of their own?

The Take explains the woman-child trope.

Joanna Penn shares her self-editing process. The Creative Penn

Meg LaTorre explains how to juggle writing and parenting. Writers Helping Writers

Fae Rowan show you how small decisions can make big story impact. Julie Glover: in defense of editing as you go. Writers in the Storm

Juliette Dunn profiles five characters coded as autistic. Mythcreants

What English does that no other languages do. NativLang

Eileen Hunt Botting introduces us to Mary Shelley’s journals of sorrow. The Times Literary Supplement

I’ve been trying to avoid a lot of overt covid-19 material, but Kim Stanley Robinson’s article is too amazing not to share. Coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations. The New Yorker

And this: Sabrina Orah Mark. Fuck the Bread. The Bread is over. On making your own fairy tale, embarking on your own epic tasks, and finding meaning. Beautiful and wrenching and ultimately hopeful. The Paris Review

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ve taken away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 26-May 2, 2020

We’re staying the course here. I will likely be working from home for the foreseeable. I could also see our local and regional management making the case that we can and should continue to work from home on a permanent basis.

My current position has been largely virtual since I moved into it eleven years ago. There’s still an element of the surreal to the situation (where does the job end, how do I transition into home/creative life?) but now that we’re closing in on two months of pandemic life and  six weeks (for me) of working from home, I’m finding my way to a workable routine.

Here’s hoping that whatever your circumstances are, that you’re finding your feet, so to speak. Everyone’s dealing with “stuff.” Take a break and peruse some of these informal writerly learnings.

Tasha Seegmiller offers five tips for having hard conversations. Ellen Buikema teaches you how to love your hateful antagonist. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland lists 15 productive tasks you can do when you don’t feel like writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

How to master fight scenes (a follow up from the other fight scene video I shared—as Tim will tell you, please watch that one first). Hello, Future Me

Justin Attas explains the puzzle piece plotting method: using what you know to build what you don’t. Susan DeFreitas is helping you develop your writing practice, part five: neurohacks. Later in the week, C.S. Lakin touts the three Ms of character setup. Jane Friedman

Developing a book, part 2: the characters. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford tells you everything you need to know about inciting incidents.

Related: Jami Gold explains the difference between the inciting incident and the first plot point.

Jenn Walton shares three ways to preserve your creativity. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle lists five reasons tension is missing from your story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi considers six ridiculous cultures in speculative fiction. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu uses a walk in the forest to discover hidden character archetypes.

Alison Flood: study shows most authors hear their characters speak. Do you? The Guardian

Keziah Weir says poetry is having its moment. Vanity Fair

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something to assist you with your current work in progress, even if you’re not actively writing.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday2019

The next chapter: April 2020 update

Here we are in the first week of May. It was an interesting and surprising month.

Pandemic life

In Canada, and Ontario, specifically, there are indications that the numbers of new cases and deaths are no longer increasing exponentially, but they are still increasing. This is likely due to the number of international travellers over March Break and returning Snow Birds as well as various waves of repatriation.

These returning travellers were all back in March, yes, but I think that because most of those travellers were not equipped to quarantine for two weeks, there was likely some scrambling to shop for supplies before self-isolating, and that unintentional transmission occurred. I’m not pointing fingers. None of us had any idea things would get so bad so quickly. People can contract covid-19 and not be symptomatic. There are reports of people in Italy and Spain being diagnosed almost a month after self-isolating. We live and we learn and we try to do better.

Because they’ve had to, the federal and provincial governments have made public their “plans” for reopening. I have to emphasize that these are plans, and plans that are dependent on widespread testing and infection tracing. Several plans do not contain hard milestones because they can’t. It’s a matter of waiting until the curve is truly planked—and confirmed—and then implementing a cautious reopening of some services and businesses and waiting to see how that affects the rates of infection and death before proceeding.

It’s true that some provinces haven’t been as affected as others and thus may be tempted to rush the reopening process, but the federal government’s message remains, “stay the course.”

And so, we are.

The month in writing

AprilProgress

I had adjusted my writing goals for Reality Bomb once again because I had almost reached my writing goals but ultimately fallen short of them in the past two months. I had lowered my overall goal to 85k words and am pleased to say that I’ve exceeded that goal this month.

Specifically, I wrote 11,378 words of my 10,264-word goal, or 111%. This put me over the 85k mark.

But … the story’s not finished yet. So, I’ve extended the project into May. Technically, I only have 4,057 words left to reach 90k, which was my original goal, but I suspect I’m going to have to overshoot that, possibly by quite a bit, to finish the story properly. Then I’m going to return to the middle section to see what needs to be cut (it is a bit of a sprawl) to bring the overall word count back down to 90k.

I once again blew away my blogging goal. I wrote 5,283 words. My goal was 3,750 words and that meant I achieved 141% of my blogging goal.

I also wrote my next Speculations column and, because it was the creation of an outline using tarot cards, it was another of my huge posts. I wrote 2,112 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 211%.

Overall, I aimed to write 15,014 words and ended up writing 18,773. That’s 125% of my goal and makes up for prior months’ shortfalls. Actually, with respect to writing goals, I achieved 111% in January, 91% in February, 99% in March, and 125% in April, for an average total of 107%. The only month I worked on revision, I achieved 96% of my goal, so that means between writing and revision, I’m running an average of 101% of my goals. I’m good with that 🙂

In addition to my writing, I finally got my poetry collection organized and submitted it to a press. We’ll see where that goes. I also entered several of my poems into a contest. The results should be out May 15, 2020. I’ll let you know if I get good news or bad news.

I heard back from the short story submission. It was rejected, but with a couple of comments. The mystery was solved too easily, which I accept and can work on. The other comment was something I’ve seen many times before, and that was that the story felt more like the basis of a longer work. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever effectively conquer short 🙂

I’ll definitely keep trying. In the meantime, my backlog of novel ideas continues to grow.

In non-writing-related happenings, my right eyelid became inflamed. It’s called blepharitis and was probably due to a blocked gland in the eyelid. I had the same thing two years ago. Same treatment. Warm compresses twice a day and antibiotic drops (as a preventative) every four hours for five to seven days.

And then, it appeared that my iPod classic (the kind they don’t make anymore) finally kicked the bucket. I’ve had it for a loooong time and thought that it was due. Basically, it froze (wouldn’t sync with iTunes, change menus, reset to factory settings, or anything) and none of the troubleshooting tips appeared to work. Phil and I were considering buying a new Touch, but lo and behold, I looked over at the shelf where I put the poor, gorked (or so I thought) thing, and it had miraculously reset.

I am now happily listening to my musics again 🙂

Filling the well

In April, I attended a Webinar through the Canadian Authors Association on the publishing process following the completion of a book (fiction or non-fiction). It was called, “The End” is just the beginning.

I also participated in a stress test of Zoom breakout rooms in anticipation of its use for a virtual conference. It was pretty cool. I was shunted in to two or three separate breakout rooms, hung out for a while and chatted, and then the experiment was over. We didn’t break Zoom, as far as I understood, but I think it was a valid trial of the system for the intended purpose.

This weekend (May 1-3) was to have been the Ad Astra convention, but it was, of course, cancelled.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched I Am Not Okay with This. The series was short and so were the episodes. One of the people involved in The End of the Fucking World was behind it and the series had the same aesthetic. It had a very retro vibe (the soundtrack dates it in the 80s) but the story felt contemporary.

Syd discovers she has telekinetic abilities even as she discovers her sexual identity. It’s a kind of supernatural weaponizing of a coming out story, kind of like how Ginger Snaps supernaturally weaponized female sexual maturity. The fact that Syd feels she needs to hide who she is and what she can do makes her doubly monstrous. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but continually ends up doing the worst possible thing in the moment. It was good, quirky, and horrific in a metaphorical and (fictionally) literal way.

There wasn’t anything new that we were interested in on the immediate horizon, so we turned to catching up on Supernatural. We’d watch up to the end of season 12 on Netflix and then they dropped the series. It moved to Amazon Prime, but we didn’t have the gap to indulge until recently. We watched season 13 and have started 14. I classify it as comfort watching. Supernatural doesn’t demand a lot of the viewer 🙂

We also watched Spiderman, Far from Home. Not as good as Into the Spiderverse, but we enjoyed it. Tom Holland is the best Spiderman yet.

In my personal viewing, I finished up the latest season of Frontier, Jason Momoa’s passion project about the genesis of the Northwest Company. They did some necessary hand waving at the travel times for story reasons (they couldn’t dedicate realistic screen time to the ocean journeys), but the story was interesting.

In terms of reading, I read the next two books in Sabaa Tahir’s series, A Torch in the Night and A Reaper at the Gates. The story is good. I liked how the three main characters each develop in their own ways. It’s the continuing relationship drama that frustrates me as a reader.

I also read Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver. SPOILER WARNING I quite liked the displaced Tuatha de Danann, living in seclusion in America. Good plot, humorous secondary stories, and a damaged and compelling protagonist.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz was thought provoking. Newitz comes at the topic of slavery from multiple perspectives. The protagonist, Jack, is a slave to her past. Threezed, is a human slave. Paladin is a robot with a human (cadaver) brain that aids in facial recognition. Most bots are created indentured but can earn their autonomy through service. Med is a bot created free, educated, and with a stable career. Elias, the human antagonist and Paladin’s partner is a slave to his preconceived notions of free will, consent, and sexual identity.

Throw all of these characters into a mixing pot of big pharma, piracy, a drug that enslaves people by addicting them to their jobs, free labs that attempt to make life-saving pharmaceuticals available to everyone, and the security agency tasked to police it all and you have a SF thriller that never stops and never stops making you think.

Finally, Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward was surprising. I’ve read quite a few of Sanderson’s novels. I really liked the Mistborn series. I enjoyed the Legion novellas, Steelheart, and The Way of Kings. Warbreaker was good, too. But Skyward kept me reading in a way his other novels haven’t. I was really invested in Spensa’s journey. The theme was simple: what does it mean to be a coward or to be brave? Spensa’s father was a pilot—a great one—but in one of the greatest battles in her people’s history, he’s said to have run from the fight. Spensa grows up under the burden of that legacy, but still wishes to be a pilot despite it. Frustrated at almost every turn, Spensa has to come to terms with what her father did, her true legacy, and she has to decide who she really is.

It was fabulous.

And that was April in this writer’s life.

Until Tipsday, be well and keep safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world still needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 12-18, 2020

I hope everyone is staying safe and keeping well. Here’s your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings to help fill some of your time (I know you’re all doing what you can to keep yourselves occupied).

Helen J. Darling says that if you’re finding it hard to write, try keeping a pandemic journal. Sara Farmer considers fiction from Daphne du Maurier to Megan Abbott: the gothic horror of womanhood. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Jeff Garvin about dismantling the stigma of mental illness. DIY MFA

Lori Freeland helps you understand point of view: P-O-What? Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland explains how to get some writing done: discipline vs. enthusiasm. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jim Dempsey offers a simple guide to symbolism in stories. Kathleen McCleary wants you to fuel your writing with feeling. Barbara Linn Probst shares five ways to light the spark of a novel. Writer Unboxed

Sacha Black wants you to breathe life into your prose with the sense of touch. Writers Helping Writers

Specificity and concrete language. Shaelin Writes

Susan DeFreitas shares part three of her developing a writing practice series: important.  Then, Mathina Calliope reveals the easy-to-fix tense problem that might be tripping up your readers. Jane Friedman

Jami Gold explains the difference between passive and active voice: was and not was. Later in the week, she wonders if pandemic anxiety is forcing everyone to count their spoons.

Chris Winkle breaks down act 3 of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at six magic systems that need stricter limits. Mythcreants

Writing fight scenes. Hello, Future Me

Chuck Wendig writes about being broken in half but wanting to be whole. Terribleminds

Steve Toase confronts the default: portraying homelessness in fantasy and science fiction. Tor.com

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you take away something that will support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, stay safe and well, my writerly friends.

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 5-11, 2020

Another week of physical distancing has come and gone. Another week of working from home or unemployment, and increasing numbers of confirmed illness, hospitalisation, and deaths from covid-19. There is also hope that, in some areas, at least, that we’re reaching a peak, beginning to flatten or plank the curve.

Treatments are being investigated while a vaccine is in development, but this new normal may pertain until a vaccine is available. I hope that you’re finding a way to navigate the enforced isolation.

My own humble contribution is this curation of informal writerly learnings. Enjoy.

K.M. Weiland lists seven ways writing saves us when life is hard. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan DeFreitas returns to Jane Friedman’s blog with part two of her developing a writing practice series: community. Then, Susann Cokal suggests that instead of setting a goal, try a writing dare.

Shaelin Bishop explains show, don’t tell, so you can actually understand it. Shaelin Writes

Over on Reedsy, Shaelin lists the pros and cons of past and present tense so you can choose the best one for your story.

Tamar Sloan shares what you need to know to keep the words flowing in difficult times. Writers Helping Writers

Jeanette (the Writer) Smith considers whether you can trust editing software. And here’s my latest column: five books on the tarot for writers. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci shares her favourite man tropes 🙂

Jami Gold wants you to escape generic storytelling by asking why. Then she helps us understand the past perfect tense.

Janice Hardy helps you identify whether it’s a loss of momentum or writer’s block. Fiction University

Chris Winkle tackles Act II of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains what Tolkien did right—and wrong—when he built Middle Earth. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb shares the truth about introverts and why isolation is hard on us, too.

Thank you for visiting, and I hop that you’ve found something here to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe.

Tipsday2019

Join me on DIY MFA for my latest Speculations

Hey, everyone!

On the last Speculations, I provided a brief introduction to the tarot. This time, I review five books on the tarot for writers.

FiveBooksonTarotforWriters

While you’re there, you might as well peruse the site and the great articles by my fellow columnists. Or have a look at some of the awesome resources Gabriela has put together for you.

Until next time, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 29-April 4, 2020

As we all adjust to the new normal, some things offer continuity. Here are you informal writerly learnings for the week.

K.M. Weiland presents eight challenges (and solutions) to writing at home. Helping Writers Become Authors

Shaelin also offers her advice on how to balance writing and a remote job. Reedsy

Joanna Penn interviews Mark Leslie Lefebvre about getting your book into libraries and bookstores. The Creative Penn

Janice Hardy lists the pros and cons of studying writing craft. Later in the week, she poses five questions that will make your scenes stronger. Fiction University

Gabriela Pereira exposes an internet abomination. How the Internet Archive’s Open Library hurts readers, writers, and the whole publishing industry. Then, Abigail K. Perry wants you to use the Story Grid scene analysis template to read with purpose. DIY MFA

Matthew Norman shares confessions of a former anti-outliner. Donald Maass: the upside of anxiety. Cathy Yardley explains how to strike a balance between productivity and chaos. Writer Unboxed

Susan DeFreitas shows you how to develop a writing practice, part one: stepladders. Then, Lisa Cooper Ellison is writing from the bottom rung. Jane Friedman

Jami Gold considers whether to italicize character internalization. Then, she considers tenses: what is literary past tense?

Tim Hickson explores (and he really does) writing mental illness in video games. Hello, Future Me

Chris Winkle breaks down act one of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s a fun web movie. Ideal for these times. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five contrived legal conflicts in speculative fiction. Mythcreants

Jonathan Bailey recounts the bizarre history of the copyright symbol. Plagiarism Today

Thank you for visiting. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my friends!

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 22-28, 2020

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

I’m now working from home and only leaving to walk the dog. Phil continues to be our designated shopper. We’re all remaining as isolated as possible given the circumstances.

While you’re at home, you might have the time to catch up on your informal writerly learnings.

Julianna Baggott is creating in the time of quarantine. Liz Michalski: sea glass. Heather Webb says, the beauty is in the words. John J Kelley: for the love of Moira—the arc of a memorable character. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland touts the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time. Helping Writers Become Authors

E.J. Wenstrom explains how authors can build a true community of fans. Later in the week, Savannah Cordova lists five signs your story’s structure needs work. DIY MFA

Shaelin shares six ways to improve your craft. Reedsy

Barbara Linn Probst visit’s Jane Friedman’s blog to explain the when, why, and how of peer critique and professional editing.

Lisa Hall-Wilson explains how to write compelling emotional triggers. Ellen Buikema explores white space on the page. Writers in the Storm

The Take takes on the weird girl trope.

Chris Winkle helps you make the most of your narrative premise. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why zombies aren’t a good pandemic parallel. Mythcreants

Meg LaTorre shares ten fantasy tropes she loves. iWriterly

Jami Gold explains how point of view affects dialogue.

Nina Munteanu: dreams and perceptions and “the other.”

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies fable vs. parable vs. allegory. Writer’s Digest

Adrienne Westenfeld recommends the best books for distancing yourself from reality right now. Esquire

Open Culture introduces us to the world’s first author: the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019