Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 11-17, 2021

Ah, Tuesday! The day when you get to catch up on your informal writerly learnings of the previous week.

Janice Hardy explains how the wrap up works in a novel. #storystructure Fiction University

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arc series by introducing us to the hero’s shadow archetypes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Wonder Woman 1984: gravity would like a word … Jill Bearup

Kathleen Marple Kalb explains how to navigate a book launch through social media. Then, Sharon Oard Warner wonders which comes first: character or plot? Jane Friedman

Shaelin explains how to write science fiction. Reedsy

Then, she covers sci-fi tropes to avoid or embrace. Reedsy

Nicole Souza shares some tips for creating strong female characters. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Alli Sinclair wants to help you use your fiction skills to earn money. Writers Helping Writers

Jim Dempsey tells you how to cut the cost of a professional editor. Then, Kathleen McCleary explains how regrets reveal and forge character. Later in the week, Porter Anderson is suiting up for serialization. Kelsey Allagood: writer, know thyself. Writer Unboxed

Erica Brozovsky: what’s the longest word? Otherwords | PBS Storied

My latest Speculations column went live on April 13: celebrating Perseverance. DIY MFA

Brannan Sirratt defines nonfiction and fiction dimensions. Story Grid

Queer coding, explained. The Take

Piper Bayard lists 10 common kitchen items to use as weapons. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle explains how to teach world terms without confusing readers. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with unsatisfying endings. Mythcreants

The sympathetic villain. The Take

Kristen Lamb: how to write stories that grip readers and don’t let go.

Thom Dunn explains why it’s harder for neurodivergent people to break into publishing. Boing Boing

Julia Skinner: libraries and pandemics, past and present. JSTOR Daily

And that was tipsday for this week. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 28-April 3, 2021

Welcome to another tipsday, your chance to stock up on informal writerly learnings.

Janice Hardy shares four ways to create emotional peril in your characters. Another piece of advice I desperately need 😦 Later in the week, Janice explains how the climax works in a novel. Fiction University

Tiffany Yates Martin helps you figure out when your story is “finished.” Matthew Norman says, scenes matter most. Later in the week, Julie Carrick Dalton takes us inside the writer’s dreamworld. Then, Deanna Caninian shares four writing lessons from binge-watching TV. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how to write distinct character voices. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part 8: an introduction to the 12 shadow archetypes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story explains how to give a great podcast author interview. Writers Helping Writers

Then, Shaelin explains how to format internal narration and thoughts. Reedsy

Jim C. Hines offers some considered yet passionate commentary on identity policing and own voices.

Nathan Bransford lets you know when to hire a freelance book editor.

On her own channel, Shaelin demonstrates line editing on short stories. Shaelin Writes

Anita Ramirez recounts the life of a writer: and so, it begins. Angela Yeh: poetry is for you. Yes. You. Then, Mark Stevens wants you to get good at taking feedback. DIY MFA

Julie Artz explains how to get accepted by a writing mentorship program. Jane Friedman

The teen mom trope; tragic, heroic, or glam? The Take

Kris Maze lists 13 ways your writing inspiration already surrounds you. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle analyzes five ridiculous stories about stories. Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at seven prologues and the problems they cause. Mythcreants

Jacky Barile shows us how 100-year-old books are professionally restored. Incredibly soothing. Insider

Alexander Chee explains how to unlearn everything. When it comes to writing the “other” what questions are we not asking? From 2019, but still relevant. Vulture

Ashawnta Jackson relates how Kitchen Table Press changed publishing. JSTOR Daily

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

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 7-13, 2021

We’re half-way through March and heading for the vernal equinox. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part five: the king arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy shows you five places to find your novel’s theme. Then, Janice lists four steps for choosing what details to describe in a scene. Later in the week, Angela Ackerman recommends you do this one thing to write unforgettable characters. Fiction University

Princess Weekes: Lovecraft Country … was just not that good. Melina Pendulum

Lisa Cron returns: still crazy after all these years. Then, Jim Dempsey lists five reasons you need a professional editor. Juliet Marillier celebrates wild women. The Cailleach and Baba Yaga, two of my personal favourites! Later in the week, Kathryn Craft explains how authenticity builds a satisfying author career. Then, David Corbett looks at two approaches to dramatizing character change: Emma vs. Hamlet. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how to convey emotion in your writing. Shaelin Writes

Jane Friedman considers which is better for authors, blogging, or an email newsletter. Then, Lisa Cooper Ellison shares three traps that subvert our ability to receive feedback. Jane Friedman

C.S. Lakin explains how to face down writer fear. Live, Write, Thrive

The ice queen trope, explained. The Take

Kris Maze offers five dialogue quick tips for page-turning fiction. Later in the week, Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes list ten common bedroom object to use as weapons. In a pinch. Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold discusses setting as character. Later in the week, David Duhr wonders, do you focus on the doing or the having? Writing process vs. product. Writers Helping Writers

In defense of basic. What does it meme? The Take

Laura Highcove wonders, why does it feel like you can’t write after a writer’s conference? Then, Manuela Williams explains how to nurture your reader community. Later in the week, Elly Griffiths advises you to follow the feet. Then, Angyne Smith shares five things that saved her novel from oblivion. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci shares her structuring method.

Lucy V. Hay offers a comprehensive guide of ALL. THE. STORY. STRUCTURES. Informative and somewhat overwhelming. Bang 2 Write

Chris Winkle explains why you should watch out for hindrance characters. Then, Oren Ashkenazi points out five problems with focusing on internal conflicts. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb extols the art of embracing the suck: commitment matters.

Julian Lucas shows how Octavia Butler reimagines sex and survival. The New Yorker

Stephanie Burt: we live in the world of WandaVision. The New Yorker

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found resources to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 7-13, 2021

Another week, another batch of informal writerly goodness. Enjoy!

Janice Hardy lists four ways to develop character agency. Then, Laurence MacNaughton shares six steps to fast and easy revision. Fast and easy? OMG, this is what I need. Fiction University

Jessica Conoley is helping you build your writing support triangle. Then, Lisa Cooper Ellison helps you fix your story shapes to quickly improve your manuscript. Jane Friedman

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Lizzy vs. Darcy proposal fight. Jill Bearup

K.M. Weiland starts a new series: archetypal character arcs, pt. 1. Helping Writers Become Authors

Joanna Penn interviews David Farland about valuing your books for the long term. The Creative Penn

The Queen’s Gambit – what happens when the genius is female? The Take

Jim Dempsey wonders, what makes a good editor? Then, Kathleen McCleary asks, who are we now? Kathryn Craft examines the power of declaration. Later in the week, David Corbett explains the unique structure of the love story. Then, Desmond Hall drops some writing wisdom. Writer Unboxed

The bimbo trope, explained. The Take

Marissa Graff lists three critical elements of opening scenes. Again, advice I seem to be in desperate need of. Then, Savannah Cordova shares five tips for writing stellar romantic subplots. Writers Helping Writers

Leanne Sowul shares her DIY MFA story: trust your gut. Then, Adam W. Burgess answers the question, what is LGBTQ+ literature? Gabriela Pereira interviews Sharon Harrigan about point of view. Later in the week, Dr. Antonio Gomes helps you write medical fiction. Then, Kendra Beckley shares five effective tips on fiction writing. DIY MFA

Ellen Buikema offers ten self-editing tips. Later in the week, Eldred Bird explains how to write locations as characters. Writers in the Storm

All about structure: how to plot a book. Jenna Moreci

Chris Winkle lists five ways to make a selfish character likable. Then, Oren Ashkenazi discusses five bad habits writers learn from movies and television. Mythcreants

Shannon Luders-Manuel examines the “tragic mulatta” of Bridgerton. JSTOR Daily

Thank you for taking the time to visit. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 9-15, 2020

It’s that time of the week again, time for informal writerly learnings!

Melinda VanLone offers a quick guide to image copyright issues. On Valentine’s Day, Julie Glover helps you love your writer self. Writers in the Storm

Rheea Mukherjee is writing in a time of global trauma. Jim Dempsey wants to help you create conflict in your characters. Kathryn Craft lists seven ways to overcome story implausibility. David Corbett: if not love … Writer Unboxed

Something just for fun 🙂 Shaelin shares five false writer stereotypes. Reedsy

And then, she shares five true writer stereotypes. Reedsy

Christina Kaye guest posts on Helping Writers Become Authors: four research tips for writing legal fiction.

Laurence MacMaughton offers three rules for raising story stakes. Fiction University

September C. Fawkes explains how premise plays into theme. Brandon Cornett helps you figure out when situational writing works better than plotting. Writers Helping Writers

Jeanette the Writer answers this knotty question: will an editor steal my ideas? Bess McAllister explains how to make your own writer luck. Then, Gabriela Pereira interviews K.S. Villoso about world building in epic fantasy. Anna Thu Nguyenova shares five tips for writing great short stories. DIY MFA

How to write heartbreak. Jenna Moreci

Nathan Bransford suggests you start with the problems before leaping to the solutions in editing.

Chris Winkle shares lessons from the purple prose of The Witcher. Mythcreants

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you’re taking away something that will help you progress in your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!


How to get published

Once again, here’s some November catch up displaced by other priorities.

On November 6th and 7th, I travelled down to Humber College in Etobicoke (Toronto) to attend the How to get published workshop Hosted by Cythia Good and Jennifer Murray.

Humber Shcool For Writers Lakeshore Campus

About the presenters: Cynthia Good is the former president and publisher of Penguin Canada and current director of Humber’s Creative Book Publishing program. Jennifer Murray is the former director of marketing at Penguin and vice-president, marketing at Kids Can Press.

As with any of my transcribed sessions, discretion is advised. I fully acknowledge my humanity and there may be errors. If you see any, please be kind enough to let me know so I can make corrections, post-hasty.


You can’t make a living creative writing alone. (Mel’s note: It is possible to make a living writing, even in Canada. I know several people who do it, but it usually involves a fair amount of risk that most of us are not prepared to take. Do not lose heart if it is your goal to quit your day job. You just have to plan carefully and understand what level of risk you are comfortable with. As ever, do your research. /end rant)

It’s a brave new publishing world since the advent of digital publishing.

Publishing used to be a paternal system. Now it’s more like a partnership. Much more business and marketing knowledge is required of the average writer.

There have been a few big sea changes in the publishing world.

Two years ago Random House and Penguin merged (Mel’s note: officially, it’s Penguin Random House, or P/RH, but I still like Random Penguin). It’s a 51% to 49% balance of the controlling interest in the company and a shift from primarily German to primarily English oversight.

More recently, HarperCollins (HC) announced that it would be shutting down its Canadian distribution centre. This will mean the layoff of 120 people including the former president of sales, distribution, and administrative finance.

What does this mean for HC? They bought Harlequin last year. Another merger of sorts.

Another recent bit of news is that the government has disallowed new foreign publishers to set up operations in Canada. This is affecting Simon & Schuster (S&S) and their imprints, resulting in the departure of several key employees.

A Canadian publishing company that started up eight months ago may not be able to make it in this increasingly hostile publishing environment.

Will we see a HC and S&S merger?

The thing about mergers is that in order to support their infrastructure, publishers depend on authors whose sales will finance that support. Midlist authors are being dropped. Fewer chances are being taken on new authors.

These authors are going to small and boutique Canadian publishing houses.

In Canada, a bestseller is about 5,000 copies. Really, if you take into consideration returns, the print run should be anywhere from 7,500 to 10,000 copies and at least 5,000 of those must sell. 5,000 is the break-even point.

Why go for a traditional deal?

If you write non-fiction, there’s still money for public speaking. Though marketing and promotional budgets are disappearing, there is still some money to be had.

Traditional publishers are also branching out into digital. Hazlitt is an online magazine put out by RH.

They’re also getting into providing author services. Author Portal, through RH again, is much like Kobo Writing Life and offers similar metrics. Penguin bought Author Solutions (Mel’s note: BOO!) because selling author services ala carte is more lucrative.

Marketshare by format (Canada)

  • 18% ebook (24% in the US)
  • 58% paperback
  • 24% hardcover

Booknet keeps the statistics and only publishers and booksellers have access to that.

Ebooks have hit a plateau and are expected to hold. Pricing is not expected to hold, however.

Scribd, through HC, is billed as the Netflix for books. Amazon also offers a subscription-based service (Kindle Unlimited) whereby you can loan unlimited material.

In general, Amazon sells ebooks at a low price. Print prices are also falling.

Publishers in Canada can’t compete and can’t survive without government grants.

Three years back, in the battle between what was then the Big 6 and Amazon resulted in an Amazon win.

In part, it comes down to discoverability. How do readers find their books?

The traditional path between author and reader: author -> agent -> publisher -> distributor -> bookseller -> reader.

Now authors can go directly to the reader.

There are also book apps. Apps based on popular books. No one is making money on boo apps yet.

E.L. James’s success led to trends in erotica. Young adult and new adult are still strong categories.

Wattpad is a Canadian company and you can post your novels on there, chapter by chapter, for free. You can get great reader feedback that way. There are no stats currently on how releasing material on Wattpad may affect sales of ebooks or print books later on.

Of the Big 5 publishers, Canadian authors have access to three:

  • P/RH – both still take submissions seperately for the main publisher and all imprints. RH has Vintage, DoubleDay, Knopf, McClelland and Stewart, Tundra, etc. Penguin’s imprints include Viking, Allan Lane, Hamish-Hamilton. Collectively, they publish 100-150 books annually.
  • HarperCollins, which has recently acquired Harlequin.
  • Simon & Schuster, though they are, as mentioned, in the midst of transition.

There’s also Scholastic. They’re US-based, but Canadian authors can access them.

Small or independent publishers

  • Dundurn in Hamilton. Their focus in on history. They are in growth mode.
  • ECW publishes everything.
  • ChiZine is a niche publisher of horror.
  • Bundoran and Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Micropublishers, or boutique publishers

  • Biblioasis
  • Gaspereau
  • Freehand
  • Goose Lane
  • Pedlar Press
  • Bookthing
  • Tightrope
  • Insomniac
  • Mansfield
  • Groundwood
  • Pyjama Press
  • Second Story

How do you choose?

If you aim for a big publisher, you will usually get a better deal.

With smaller houses, you get more attention and they will take more risks on new authors. Smaller presses are more agile and have specialties.


It’s a matter of match-making. The editor needs to make money for their publisher. They have a lot to read and a lot of work to do for their current clients.

Make sure your first page is memorable.

A well-written book with excellent sales can make an editor’s career. They receive bonuses based on sales, awards, and word-of-mouth (reviews). They usually have “stables” of writers.

They curate their authors’ best work.


Do you need one? For the big publishers, yes. The best way to get an agent is to get a publisher (ironic, isn’t it?).

You can approach editors directly. They’re always looking for new authors.

Think about why you want an agent. They can offer:

  • Emotional support
  • Editorial support
  • Career counselling
  • Access to big publishers
  • The ability to negotiate a good deal
  • Contract review
  • Interpretation of your royalty statements
  • The ability to negotiate for marketing budget or cover input
  • Advice on next books

For all this (sometimes more, sometimes less) they get 15% of every sale. Foreign rights, television, movies, audio, etc. (all subrights) generally demand 20%.


  • Westwood Creative Artists
  • Cooke Agency
  • Transatlantic Literary (primarily children’s)
  • Anne McDermid
  • Helen Heller (commercial)
  • Rights Factory (experimental/literary)
  • Rick Broadhead (practical/non-fiction)
  • PS Literary
  • Beverley Slopen

Always check the agency’s submission guidelines.

Other resources that might give you additional information on agents are the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Writers’ Union of Canada.

Make sure that your manuscript (ms) is complete and polished. N.B. Non-fiction should be queried with a proposal.

Why might you not want an agent?

  • Control over your career
  • Direct relationship with editor or publisher

A Baker’s Dozen (things to do before you query)

  1. Perfect your manuscript
  2. Get feedback
  3. Attend writers’ workshops and courses
  4. Hire an editor (freelance). N.B. Humber is launching its own Publishing Services.
  5. Submit to journals and magazines
  6. Research and submit to competitions
  7. Attend conferences or conventions
  8. Volunteer for or attend literary festivals like Word on the Street (WotS)
  9. Read
  10. Get to know local bookstores and librarians
  11. Have a presence on the internet
  12. Be prepared to give it away.
  13. Learn everything you can about publishing (Publishers Weekly, Quill & Quire)

Preparing to write your query

Research your comparatives/competition. Market research.

Be professional.

Submit to multiple agencies. Have your A list, your B list, etc. It’s also good to identify what you’re not interested in.

Have a strategy.

Query letters

Start with the story. Make it compelling. Get to the facts (word count, genre, etc.) at the end.

  • Introductory paragraph – if you have met or been referred to the agent. If not, show your research. Why do you think you’ll be a good fit?
  • Pitch/short synopsis – be as interesting as possible. Don’t give away the ending.
  • Comparables – be realistic.
  • Biographical info – keep it relevant.
  • Closing.

Agents will not appreciate it if you do not state the word count, call your book a “fiction novel,” use poor spelling, and/or poor grammar.


This is not new. Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman self-published.

Keep in mind that for every Hugh Howey there are thousands of self-published wannabes. Only 400 out of every 1.5 million books published sell more than 100 copies.

Consider your motivation. You may be:

  • An oft-rejected writer (this doesn’t necessarily mean your book is badly written, but consider the possibility)
  • Someone who wants to establish credibility
  • Someone who wants to help others
  • Disappointed with traditional publishing
  • Interested in establishing a legacy

If you self-publish print books, you generally need as many as 2,000 books for distribution.


  • Certainty/total control
  • Speed to publishing
  • Increased income


  • Up-front costs
  • No advances
  • Time consuming
  • Marketing and promotion are entirely on you
  • Distribution
  • Liability
  • Access to prizes and grants

Terry Fallis states he spent $1,400 for editorial review, cover layout and $2,000 for additional editing.

Use Wattpad to get reader feedback.

Use Kickstarter or Indie-go-go to fund your publication.

Check out James Altucher’s blog. Start with this post on Publishing 3.0.

Be prepared to become an authorpreneur.

Consider partner publishing with a company like Iguana Books.


As I said at the outset, my notes are not complete. I can’t write down everything said in the course of a day and a half. We also wrote query letters and critiqued them in class, as well as learning how an agent sells your book to a publisher. We also went over non-fiction book proposals, which I chose not to share with you here. There was a lot I couldn’t include.

That was the first day and a half. The last half of the second day was given over to Jennifer Murray to discuss marketing and promotion.

I’m sorry, but I didn’t take notes for the marketing piece.

You’ll have to register for the next session if you want to find out about that 😉 I’d recommend it if you’re in the Toronto area.

And that’s it for Writerly Goodness tonight. Toddling off to Bedfordshire.