Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 21-27, 2021

Welcome to March! You’ve made it through Monday. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland presents part three of her archetypal character arcs series: the hero arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Writing Fat Characters – a conversation with Marianne Kirby | Writing the Other

Tiffany Yates Martin explains the difference between criticism and critique. Then, Tasha Seegmiller asks, are you a whole-hearted writer? Later in the week, Laurie Schnebly Campbell explains why character motivation matters. Writers in the Storm

Tim Hickson talks elemental magic systems. Hello, Future Me

Susan DeFreitas shares four key tactics for addressing backstory and exposition. Jane Friedman

Abigail K. Perry points out some must-knows about picking comparable titles. Then, Sara Farmer recounts crime authors caught up in real crimes, cozy to cold-blooded. Later in the week, Constance Sayers shares four historical fiction writing hacks. Then, Briana Cole offers five tips to get your story written fast. DIY MFA

Shaelin breaks down the Save the Cat plot structure. Reedsy

Janice Hardy offers some tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing. Then, Orly Konig shares some revision tips for pantsers: three steps to a full rewrite. Fiction University

Kasey LeBlanc is learning to say no thanks: standing up for your creative vision. Heather Webb declares that hope springs eternal: hang on, writers. We’re almost there. Then, Julianna Baggott shares the results of a survey on process: that thing you do. Later in the week, Julie Duffy wants you to focus on short fiction. Writer Unboxed

Literary Icons You NEED to Know from the Harlem Renaissance (feat. Princess Weekes). It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb: tough choices are the professional writer’s daily grind.

Chris Winkle set out to praise “The Eye of Argon” and all she got were these lousy writing lessons (and a t-shirt?). Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at ten justifications for oppressed mages and why they fail. Mythcreants

Bridgerton is a fan fiction about today. The Take

The Jewish American Princess – beyond the stereotype. The Take

Trey Mangum reports that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the next Superman film for DC and Warner Bros. Shadow and Cut

Thanks for visiting. 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, Oct 25-31, 2020

Welcome to the first—and last—tipsday of November! Load up on informal writerly learnings and I’ll see you in December. ‘Cause NaNoWriMo.

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

Wear your masks. Maintain physical distance. Get your flu shot. We are firmly in the second wave and the situation is getting steadily worse. We all have to pull together to survive and protect each other until a vaccine is available.

Kim Bullock explains why writers need rooms of their own. Later in the week, Barbara O’Neal distinguishes between using memory vs. backstory. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland: the midpoint as the swivel of your novel’s linked structure. Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy shares six steps to creating a great character. Fiction University

Susan DeFreitas says, don’t hold out for publishing to make you feel seen. Pursue this goal instead. Jane Friedman

The Karen trope, explained. The Take

And then, the witch trope, explained. The Take

Tasha Seegmiller: how do your characters love? Later in the week, Eldred Bird offers some tips for upping your “what if” game. Then, Laurie Schnebly Campbell explains why we love (and resent) alpha males. Writers in the Storm

Gilbert Bassey offers four ways to fix a boring story. Writers Helping Writers

Helen J. Darling wants you to reconnect with your values if you’re feeling stuck. Then, Pamela Taylor helps you create authentic details in historical medicine. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Laura Jamison about writing the ensemble cast. Then Sara Farmer interviews Linda Olson. DIY MFA

Shaelin reviews structuring your novel with Dan Harman’s plot embryo. Reedsy

And then, she looks at the traditional three act structure. Reedsy

Jami Gold gives some thought to world building on an epic scale.

Oren Ashkenazi analyzes the mixed climaxes of Marvel’s phase three, part 1. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb explains why some stories fall apart and fail to hook readers (spoilers: it’s story structure).

Summer H. Paulus offers some insight into the origins of Halloween and its traditions. Fantasy Faction

Tricia Ennis reveals the strange, difficult history of queer coding. SyFy

Aja Romano explains how voice actors are fighting to change an industry that renders them invisible. Vox

Disney’s new content warnings on classic animation featuring racist characters. BBC

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 20-26, 2020

Here we are at the end of September. Where has the month gone?! Console yourselves with some informal writerly learnings.

First: Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

There’s some debate about whether we’re into the second wave here in Canada. We’re seeing infection numbers in several provinces that haven’t been seen since the beginning of May, most of them in younger people. We’ve had 9 new cases in Sudbury in September. It may not seem like a lot, but the fact that the recent cases are community spread from unknown contacts is concerning. I’ve downloaded the government’s covid tracking app even though I hardly leave the house these days.

Anti-mask protests are on the rise. As the government faces a non-confidence vote (we do NOT need an election in the middle of a pandemic), CERB and EI ERB have ended and new transitional benefits through Employment Insurance are being established. The uncertainty is distressing. I won’t mention the distress I feel over the situation in the US. I try not to watch a lot of news. Overwhelm is a thing.

Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Maintain physical distance. Please.

Let’s get to the links:

Vaughn Roycroft: sustaining hope is an artist’s specialty. Then, Julie Duffy wants you to craft titles that hook readers and optimize success. Heather Webb is managing expectations, one book at a time. John J. Kelley: am I still a writer (if words evade me)? Writer Unboxed

Princess Weeks covers the fiery history of book banning. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

K.M. Weiland advises you to use slang in dialogue sparingly. Helping Writers Become Authors

Tim Hickson tackles Dark Lords! Hello, Future Me

Lisa Hall-Wilson helps you use deep point of view in limited third person. Later in the week, Ellen Buikema outlines the journey of writing historical fiction. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci shares her best tips for writing women.

Janice Hardy offers a recipe for writing a great scene. Fiction University

Nathan Bransford explains how to use hopes and dreams to make characters come alive.

The “fridged woman” trope, explained. The Take

Sara Farmer interviews Sheena Kamal. DIY MFA

Andrea Dorfman and Tanya Davis created this poetic short film (riffing off their earlier collaboration, How to Be Alone): How to Be at Home. National Film Board of Canada

And, just because it was so lovely, here is How to Be Alone:

Chris Winkle: it’s time to throw out The Hero with a Thousand Faces. While controversial (or maybe just provocative), I always appreciate the opinions and analysis of the team at Mythcreants. HwaTF was never intended to be a writing guide. It has to be said. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes the good and bad climaxes of Marvel’s phase 2.

Thank you for visiting 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, Aug 16-22, 2020

Welcome to another week of informal writerly learnings!

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is a fundamental truth.

The EI ERB and CERB have been extended for the third time and three new transitional benefits are being created to support Canadians in this crisis. It’s resulted in chaos at work, but chaos has been the rule since March 15th.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay within your bubbles and avoid crowded events. Take care and stay safe. You don’t know who you could be putting at risk with careless behaviour.

K.M. Weiland shares five exercises for honing your story instincts. Helping Writers Become Authors

Vaughn Roycroft explains why he prefers novels with prologues. Dave King is discussing fiction in the time of plague. Then, Sarah Penner shares the results of a working-from-home survey: navigating changes to our work environments. Later in the week, Porter Anderson discusses emergent voices. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin Bishop shares some of her favourite writing techniques. Shaelin Writes

Tasha Seegmiller: every novel needs a village. Then, Barbara Linn Probst advises us to read like a writer and write like a reader. Later in the week, John Peragine explains the vital importance of your writing community. Writers in the Storm

The muse trope, explained. The Take

Rochelle Melander suggests some tools for revision. Fiction University

Christina Delay uses the lyrics of “Yesterday” to look back at the first act. Writers Helping Writers

Helen J. Darling helps you build your author newsletter list. Then, Pamela Taylor helps you figure out whether you’re writing historical fiction, or something else. Later in the week, Chere Hughes describes the key features of a no-fear critique. DIY MFA

Susan DeFreitas explains what your first 50 pages reveal. Jane Friedman

Nathan Bransford wants you to be very careful with dreams and hallucinations in novels.

Chris Winkle explains why story structures like the Hero’s Journey don’t work. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with anticlimactic endings. Mythcreants

What English can’t do. NativLang

Alexandra Alter: “We’ve already survived an apocalypse”: Indigenous authors are changing science fiction. The New York Times

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe.

Tipsday2019

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

Black Lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. I believe this more than ever. I’m not going to stop putting this important message out there until it’s true.

Regardless of whether your area of the world has never closed, is reopening, or is still under some degree of lockdown, please, for the love of all you hold dear, wear a mask.

As for schools, I sincerely believe the safest way forward is to keep all classes virtual. I know this isn’t a popular stance, but we know how quickly a common cold, or the flu proliferates in a classroom. And this is covid. We still don’t know the long-term effects of this virus.

I also know that virtual learning presents its own challenges. This will require a sea change for parents, teachers, schoolboards, employers, and governments and I think leaving these important discussions to this late date was naïve on the part of many. Ignoring the issue is not going to make it go away.

Having said that, Sudbury hasn’t had any new cases reported since about June 22 or so. We’ve only had 67 conformed cases and two deaths. It might be more reasonable to consider modified, in-person classes here, but I’d like to wait on the possible impact of phase three of reopening before we go there. Those numbers have yet to be publicized.

Now, onto the informal writerly learnings!

Kris Maze shares seven unstoppable YA plot ideas to make your novel fabulous. Barbara Linn Probst is editing for theme: search and employ. Writers in the Storm

Elizabeth A. Harvey explores a writer’s sense of place: where I ought to be. Jim Dempsey is writing and napping. Sophie Masson shares what she’s learned about presenting online workshops. Then, Juliet Marillier tells a tale about finding resilience: a dog story. Writer Unboxed

Gender and Jurassic Park. Cold Crash Pictures

Janice Hardy explains some story rulez: the two things every novel needs to do. Later in the week, Angela Ackerman stopps by: how emotional wounds can steer a character’s job choice. Fiction University

The female friendship revolution. The Take

Peter von Stackelberg shares an intuitive four-step process for creating vibrant scene structure. Helping Writers Become Authors

Andrew Noakes offers six principles for writing historical fiction. Jane Friedman

Lindsay Ellis looks at Tolkien’s constructed languages. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Leanne Sowul wants you to commit to self-education about racism and anti-racism. And here’s my latest Speculations: ten Black science fiction and fantasy authors to read now. Then, Gabriela interviews Django Wexler: using fantasy to “literalize” the metaphor. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle explains why storytellers fail at grimdark and how to fix it. Then Bunny and Oren Ashkenazi team up: five reasons your story shouldn’t deny that it’s a story. Mythcreants

Deborah Ahenkora is slaying the dragons of hate with words. CBC Books

Aya de Léon: crime fiction is complicit in police violence, but it’s not too late to change. Electric Literature

Jeana Jorgensen describes what happens when fairyland is not for you: on escapism, fantasy, and survival. The Wrangler

Paula Findlen explores Petrarch’s plague: love, death, and friendship in a time of pandemic. The Public Domain Review

Thanks for visiting, and I hope that you found something to support your current work in progress (whatever stage it’s in).

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

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 1-7, 2019

This week’s batch of informal writerly learnings is a bit more select than usual, but it’s all good stuff 🙂

Greer Macallister is defending (or not) historical fiction. Annie Neugebauer has some advice for writers who are in it. Donald Maass: the anti-arc. Therese Walsh wants you to move beyond two-dimensional character building and capture the real. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland dives deep into creating your character’s inner conflict: want vs. need. Helping Writers Become Authors

James Scott Bell asks, how realistic do your action scenes need to be? Then, Angelica Hartgers recommends using backward design to plan your story. Writers Helping Writers

Helen Darling gives you the lowdown on ISBNs. Rebecca Fish Ewen expounds on the impact of lost words (and decries their loss). DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci explains how to end your story.

Chris Winkle shares six ways to add novelty to your story. Mythcreants

Kris Kennedy’s back on Jami Gold’s blog with part two of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Jillian Boehme offers some survival tips for writers who would rather hide. Fiction University

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found something you need to fuel your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019

Book review of What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes

What the publisher says:

In the mid 1500s shipwrecked African slaves melded with the indigenous peoples of coastal Ecuador and together they fought the Spanish colonial power to a standstill, to remain independent for centuries.  The story of the people of Esmeraldas is told through the eyes of three characters: Alonso, an escaped slave; Expectation, an a-gender shaman; and Alejandro, a priest on the run from the Inquisition.

With its slipstream elements this novel carries a flavour of South American magical realism tradition into a grand historical epic.  Both sweeping and intimate, it is a delight to read from beginning to end, and we are honoured that Matt has decided to entrust his grand work to us.

Pulp Literature

WhatTheWindBrings

My thoughts:

Hughes is not shy about calling What the Wind Brings his magnum opus. It’s a novel that’s been over twenty years in the making, the author not wanting to publish the work until he felt it was ready to meet the public. That time is here, and Hughes has produced a novel worthy of his ambitions for it.

My favourite character was Expectation, the nigua shaman. They’re an outsider because of their vocation, but even more so because of their gender and identity. None of the other characters quite know what to do with or about Expectation or even what to call them. Accordingly, some characters identify Expectation as she, some as he, and some identify them by their vocation, or, pejoratively as a witch.

Expectation doesn’t care. They know who they are and what they need to do, and they find a way to persevere despite the antagonism of Anton and the other Africans who have taken positions of power within the new community after the shipwreck.

Expectation has a spirit guide, who counsels them in their work. They heal sickness in the community and they, in turn, counsel the community’s leaders.

They’re pivotal to the melding of the Africans, the nigua, and the other tribes eventually brought into the larger Esmeraldas community. Expectation also plays an important role in Alonso’s story arc when they recover Alonso’s lost spirit guide, and in Alejandro’s arc, when they trepan the Trinitarian monk’s skull after a severe head injury endangers his life.

What the Wind Brings is, in my opinion, Expectation’s story. They’re the character that does the most to bring the community together and ensure its continued harmonious survival. While Expectation’s shamanism is the source of the novel’s speculative elements, they also display a healthy scientific curiosity, thinking about the nature of illness and contagion. These ponderings enable Expectation to adapt to other ways of thinking and healing and help them to remain relevant in the changing political structure of the Esmeraldas community.

Hughes writes with candour and compassion about the African slaves, the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples, and even the Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. His characters are, first and foremost, people with relatable fears and goals, flaws and better qualities. He does not shy away from the harm his characters do to one another, purposeful or inadvertent. There is great violence in the novel, but also great moments of compassion and love.

Highly recommended.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.

Review of The Sorrow Stone by J.A. McLachlan

I’ve been a fan of Jane Ann’s for some time and when I saw that she was launching her latest historical fiction novel at 2018’s Ad Astra, I had to pick up a copy. Jane Ann is an excellent storyteller and The Sorrow Stone did not disappoint. I have been lax in my commitment to write reviews for my author friends. I read The Sorrow Stone some time ago and I’m only now rectifying my tardiness in writing my review.

TheSorrowStone

What Amazon says:

Winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for Historical Fiction.

What if you could pay someone to take away your sorrow?
In the middle ages people believed a mother mourning her child could “sell her sorrow” by selling a nail from her child’s coffin to a traveling peddler.

Lady Celeste is overwhelmed with grief when her son dies. Desperate for relief, she begs a passing peddler to buy her sorrow. Jean, the cynical peddler she meets, is nobody’s fool; he insists she include her ruby ring along with the nail in return for his coin.

A strange but welcome forgetfulness comes over Celeste when the transaction is completed – until she learns that without her wedding ring her husband may set her aside, leaving her ruined. She embarks on an urgent journey to retrieve it. But how will she find the peddler and convince him to give up the precious ruby ring?

Pretending to be on pilgrimage, Lady Celeste secretly hunts for the peddler. In dreams and brief flashes her memory begins to return, slowly revealing a dangerous secret buried in her past. Will she learn what she needs to know in time to save herself, or will the knowledge destroy her?

If you like realistic, well-researched historical fiction with evocative prose, complex characters and a unique story, you’ll love The Sorrow Stone. Travel to 12th Century France with this compelling story based on an actual medieval superstition.

“J. A. McLachlan is a terrific writer — wry and witty, with a keen eye for detail.”
~ Hugo award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer
“Strong, character-driven fiction — McLachlan makes you both care and think. You can’t ask for more.”
~ Aurora award-winning author Tanya Huff

My thoughts:

While this novel is somewhat of a departure from her adult and young adult science fiction publications, the inspiration for the story is a superstition and fantastic elements infuse the novel.

In the wake of the transaction that forms the inciting incident, Celeste is not only forgetful, but she’s also lost her capacity to feel compassion in any form, making her alien to her lady’s maid, the nuns of the convent she’s been sent to for her recovery, and the clergy and pilgrims she meets on her journey.

The only thing she’s certain of, at first, is that something terrible happened that sent her to the convent and, because she can no longer feel the love she once did for her dead child or her husband, while she knows the something terrible involves her infant’s death, she can only assume that her life had been one of cruelty and pain to have resulted in her current state of health. Celeste uses her mind and sense of logic, skewed because of her lack of feeling, to try to unravel the mystery.

She’s afraid of revealing her compromised state to anyone and engages is some radical behaviour to achieve this end. She travels with only her maid as a companion, she seeks the means to become independent, and she tries to track down the merchant to whom she traded her sorrow and her wedding ring with the intent of reclaiming only the ring and not her emotion, now viewing it as a weakness. Her actions in pursuit of these goals verge on cruel.

For his part, the pragmatic merchant Jean finds his life plagued by unwanted compassion. He wants to rid himself of Celeste’s ring and the sorrow attached to it, but his every attempt to do so ends in failure or worse. After he recovers from a robbery and assault that nearly results in his death, Jean returns home to find his bad luck extends to his family. His daughter is seriously ill and may die if he doesn’t find the means to set things right.

The outcome of these intertwined journeys involves a mystery, betrayal, and greed on multiple levels. As Celeste’s husband pursues her, thriller elements come into play. Can Celeste reclaim her ring before her husband catches up to her and finds out what she’s done?

The Sorrow Stone is a complex story about how important it is to achieve a balance between logic and emotion, the destruction that greed engenders, and the revelatory and healing powers of love.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.

I really liked it 🙂

I’m going to try to catch up on my review obligations over the next weeks, so you can look forward to more reviews on writerly goodness.

 

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 5-11, 2019

I hope everyone had a marvelous Mother’s Day. Looking forward to Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada 🙂 In the meantime, please enjoy your weekly batch of informal writerly learnings.

Greer Macallister says, history wasn’t white, so historical fiction shouldn’t be either. Kathryn Craft shares six tips for creating good bridging conflict. Juliet Marillier introduces you to the writer’s dog. David Corbett shares what teaching in prison is teaching him. Writer Unboxed

Critiquing an excerpt from a brave volunteer, K.M. Weiland reveals eight quick tips for show, don’t tell. Helping Writers Become Authors

Emmanuel Nataf stops by Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog to explain why science fiction is needed now more than ever.

Jenna Moreci returns with more dialogue advice.

 

Janice Hardy: how a limited vs. tight point of view can confuse writers. Fiction University

Marc Graham guest posts on The Creative Penn: becoming a story shaman.

Meg LaTorre visits Writers Helping Writers: how should I publish my book?

Piper Bayard considers backstory: the more I know, the less you have to. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle wants you to understand character representation. Mythcreants

Elizabeth Winkler: was Shakespeare a woman? The Atlantic

Florence + the Machine: Jenny of Oldstones (from Game of Thrones).

 

And that was tipsday for this week.

Come back on Thursday to add some thoughty into your life 🙂

Until then, be well!

tipsday2016

WWC 2014, Day 2: An hour with Jack Whyte

Jack WhyteJack is simply fabulous. You can read more about him on his web site, camulod.com/aboutjack.


 

When I wrote The Sky Stone, I was called by the Historical Society to speak to a bunch of academics. Do you know what I told them? “Do you think my head buttons up the back?”

Eventually, I was decided to go, and I ended up getting three standing ovations. One of the reasons why? Historians are bound by the historical record. Writers get to speculate. We get to write what the historians wish they could.

That’s the kind of research you have to do, though. You have to be able to speak to a room of historians as though they were your peers.

You can do it all on the internet, but don’t rely on Wikipedia. Because anyone can contribute, occasionally, they do. It’s a place to start, but then go to your public or university library.

Research can obsess you. Answer the questions you need to proceed with your novel but no more.

You have to be able to write with authority.

Look at the art of the time, the architecture, the fashion, the design. Get the whole picture first. Most of it won’t even make it into your novel, but when you get the details right, your fictional world will come alive for the reader.

Q: How did you start?

In college, I was dating a beautiful woman. I called her “the Polish princess.” We made a date to go for a walk together. I read Quo Vadis, while I waited. She was an hour late. It turns out her grandfather was the author. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be neat if this happened to me?”

Everything I write is written to be heard.

I was a great fan of Frank Yerby (Mel’s note: Yes, I totally get the irony of citing Wikipedia in this transcription, but as Jack said, it’s a starting place. You want to find out more, go research.). He wrote magnificent historical fiction.

Read your work aloud. I record it and listen to it while driving. Your errors will become apparent.

Q: What’s a typical writing day for Jack Whyte?

I write from 8 pm to 2 am. The next day, I print and edit the pervious day’s work.

Discipline is the key.

Q: Do you plot?

When I begin writing, I know the ending. Then I look for the start. But I just write. I don’t plot, per se.

I’ve written 9 novels in 37 years.

There’s a bit of snobbery in Canadian Literature. Look at Pierre Burton and Farley Mowat. Commercial success and genre fiction are dirty words.

Q: Have you ever had any legal issues?

Not really. We have a moral obligation not to defame anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

In the end, everything is fiction. Even an historical document, because it was written through the frame of the time its author lived in.


 

Next week: Business planning for creative people.

Tomorrow: Finally ready to write my Series discoveries post and I’ll have a brief update on the week.