Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, June 19-25, 2022

Welcome to the final tipsday of June! Fill up on informal writerly learnings for the last time this month.

Sara Farmer lists more of her favourite Sherlock Holmsian mystery series. Then, Abigail K. Perry analyzes the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Angela Yeh explains why all writers should play with poetry. Then Angela unlocks writer’s block sideways. Later in the week, Lewis Jorstad lists five reasons your novel’s premise is a powerful writing tool. DIY MFA

Nathan Bransford provides a novel revision checklist.

How to write a non-fiction book proposal. Reedsy

Matthew Norman explains how his career in advertising helped shape him as a novelist. Dave King: when worlds collide. Kelsey Allagood wants you to let your words grow wild. Then, Deanna Cabinian wonders, when is obsession a good thing? Victoria Strauss warn about the predatory contracts of serial reading/writing apps. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland helps you understand the new normal world of a story’s resolution. Helping Writers Become Authors

Erica Brosovsky suggests some foreign words we need in English. Otherwords | PBS Storied

Lisa Norman explains why you want people to hate your website. Then, Megan Ganesh promotes diversity and inclusion in writing. Eldred Bird says Chekov’s gun is a double-edged writing sword. Writers in the Storm

Nina Amir reveals how to quickly develop a writing habit. Live, Write, Thrive

Elizabeth Spann Craig points out yet another use for outlines.

Allison K. Williams reveals why agents don’t give feedback—and where to get it instead. Jane Friedman

The curse of creativity. Tale Foundry

Becca Puglisi wants you to go beyond the superficial character talents and skills. Jami Gold

Cheryl Rainfield helps you avoid writing mental health stereotypes. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Yates Martin asks, are you writing safe or risking your readers? Fox Print Editorial

Chris Winkle explains how to make your character novel. Then, Oren Ashkenazi says that the three-act structure is a mirage. (!) Very insightful and something that’s been bothering me about most story “structures.” Mythcreants

Workplace dystopias aren’t fiction. They’re here. The Take

Angie Hodapp talks rhetorical story development. Then, Kristin Nelson asks, can a writer set out to write a bestselling novel? Pub Rants

Kristen Lamb explains why we play “follow the reader.”

Terry Nguyen says we need rituals, not routines. Vox

Cassie Josephs: Murderbot is an autistic-coded robot done right. Did I not nail this in my last next chapter update? Oh, yeah. I did. Tor.com

Thank you for spending some time with me. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, April 17-23, 2022

Happy Tuesday! You survived Monday 🙂 Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Sara Farmer enters the not-so-elementary university of Sherlock Holmes, part 1. Then, LA Bourgeois wants you to acknowledge your limitations and set your stage for success. Gabriela Pereira interviews GG Kellner about using history to speculate the future and change the present. Then, F.E. Choe helps you create your own writing space at home. Gracie Bialecki bemoans the double-edged sword of deadlines. Finally, Ashley Christiano lists five ways astrology can help you write your novel. DIY MFA

Jill Bearup says choreography doesn’t matter.

Jan O’Hara: and the Oscar for best reality show script goes to Will Smith (or, writerly takeaways from the infamous slap). Dave King is in search of faith and goodness. Then, Barbara Linn Probst considers time: backstory, flashback, and chronology. Natalie Hart wonders what if you gave up? Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland outlines the six challenges of writing a second novel. Helping Writers Become Authors

Shaelin shares 11 writing exercises to help break writer’s block. Reedsy

Becca Puglisi shares creative ways to brainstorm story ideas. Then, Lynette M. Burrows presents one plotting tool for all. Ellen Buikema continues her literary tour of the senses with the power of vision in writing. Writers in the Storm

Alice Gaines offers three tools for deep point of view. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Margaret McNellis helps you tell your story with three tarot cards. Then, Catherine Baab-Maguira explains why Frankenstein still sells 40,000 copies a year. Jane Friedman

Erica Brozovsky talks about pronouns: the little words that say a lot. Otherwords | PBS Storied

Lisa Hall-Wilson offers one reason readers cheer for unlikeable characters. Then, Angela Ackerman explains how writers can turn the page this spring. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Yates Martin: “Leave me alone—I know what I’m doing.” Fox Print Editorial

Kristen Lamb: small steps and the value of just showing up.

Why we’re still so obsessed with the Heather. The Take

Chris Winkle recommends seven external plots for relationship-centered stories. Then, Oren Ashkenazi wonders how useful Michael Moorcock’s ten rules of writing are.  Mythcreants

Angie Hodapp helps you balance the explainable with the inexplicable in speculative fiction. Then, Kristin Nelson says all the writing talent in the world won’t save the wrong story. Pub Rants

Why is Turning Red getting so many weird reviews? Xiran Jay Zhao

Alana Pickerel: new poster exhibit by the Sudbury Writers’ Guild highlights Sudbury’s rainbow hospital. CTV Northern Ontario

Alan Neal interviews John Degen of the Writers’ Union of Canada about proposed Copyright Act changes. CBC’s “All in a Day”

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Feb 13-19, 2022

It’s the last tipsday of February! Fuel up on informal writerly learnings for the week.

Roz Morris explains how to write a novel with multiple points of view—seven voices. Nail Your Novel

Raya’s queerbaiting of Southeast Asians – the importance of cultural context to queerness (part 3 of SEA critique of Raya and the Last Dragon). Xiran Jay Zhao

Ann Marie Nieves: PR and marketing questions answered, part VI. Dave King recommends cutting your way to freedom. Then, Barbara Linn Probst shares something that might not actually be true. Porter Anderson: ego, “litflation,” and honor(s). Tom Pope is creating without hope and fear. Writer Unboxed

How do we read? It’s Magic (almost)! Be Smart

K.M. Weiland explains how archetypes and story structure are connected. Helping Writers Become Authors

Joanna Penn interviews C. Ruth Taylor about self-publishing in Jamaica and the Caribbean and the importance of diverse voices. The Creative Penn

On worldbuilding: fallen civilizations. Hello, Future Me

Alexander J. Lewis shares his experience going a year without social media as a freelance writer. Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis explain how to pitch like a Hollywood pro. Jane Friedman

Christina Delay takes the measure of a character. Then, Fred Koehler takes you from concept to query in ten months. Writers Helping Writers

Well, THIS seems familiar … Jill Bearup

Nathan Bransford explains how to crystalize the stakes.

Colice Sanders wants you to answer the call for diversity. Then, Disha Walia lists the seven deadly sins of speculative fiction (and how to fix them). Lori Walker: going from preparing to write to actually writing. Alexis M. Collazo shares five reasons to start a morning writing routine. DIY MFA

Dealing with writer burnout. Reedsy

Lynette M. Burroughs: things I wish I knew before I published (pat 2). Writers in the Storm

Angie Hodapp is zeroing in on comps (part 1). Then, Kristin Nelson wants you to dance with the right partner at the publishing prom. Pub Rants

Possibly controversial. Rules vs. Craft. Shaelin Writes

Oren Ashkenazi: how useful are Jonathan Franzen’s ten rules for novelists? Mythcreants

Cory Doctorow reveals that a bug in early creative commons licences has enables a new breed of superpredator. Medium

Promises as a magic system. Tale Foundry

Anne Delaney discusses words on the way in: a retrospective. JSTOR Daily

Ellen Gutoskey shares 11 things you should know about Audre Lorde. Mental Floss

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Oct 10-16, 2021

This week’s batch of informal writerly learnings is loaded with writerly goodness 🙂

Stephanie Bwa Bwa shows you how to grow your email list (and your influence). Later in the week, Helena Hunting is finding work-life balance as a full-time author. Then, Brian Leung shares five tips for finding the kind genius writer in your mad genius writer. DIY MFA

Tim Hickson reveals the true ending of Lord of the Rings. Hello, Future Me

Janice Hardy explains how narrative distance affects telling: how far is too far? Then, Dario Ciriello waxes on the importance of commas, meter, and reading aloud for the fiction writer (with help from Cordia Pearson). Fiction University

Jill Bearup takes issue with The Guardian’s list of the top 20 duels.

Tiffany Yates Martin explains why you can’t stop thinking about “Bad Art Friend.” Then, Jim Dempsey is telling the truth in fiction. Kathleen McCleary: when you’re the passive protagonist of your own writing life. Then, Kathryn Craft wants you to make your big issue work through story (part 1). Anne Brown: spiders, snakes, public speaking, and querying agents. Later in the week, Kelsey Allagood explains why you should tackle that ambitious dream project now. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin tells you everything you need to know about publishing your short fiction. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland introduces us to the archetypal antagonists of the mage arc: evil and the weakness of humankind. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sarah Tinsley shares seven ways to create an empathetic antagonist. Live, Write, Thrive

Lori Freeland helps you figure out whether to comma, or not to comma (part 1). Then Piper Bayard lets us peek through a window into the top four organizations (writing spies). Lynette M. Burrows wants you to discover your writing strengths (and weaknesses). Writers in the Storm

On her own channel, Shaelin helps you handle rejection. Shaelin Writes

Angela Ackerman asks: who’s standing in your character’s way? Jane Friedman

Nathan explains how to make your novel un-put-down-able. Then, Christine Pride shares what she learned about writing from being an editor. Nathan Bransford

Piper Bayard shows you how to write the good fight. Then, she provides a writer’s guide to knowing your weapon. Kristen Lamb

The anti-Disney messaging of … Disney movies. The Take

Chris Winkle explains how to create a mysterious atmosphere. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes six magic powers that writers had to ignore. Mythcreants

Kristin Nelson makes the case that content creators deserve a larger slice of the earnings pie. Pub Rants

Maria Tatar discusses her new book Heroine with a 1,001 Faces with Moira Weigel. Harvard Book Store

Wab Kinew reflects on Canada Reads and the meaning of reconciliation. CBC Books

Three northern Ontario writers in the running for the Governor General’s Awards. CBC

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Sept 26-Oct 2, 2021

Welcome to October, my favourite month of the year 🙂 It’s all informal writerly learning treats and no tricks, all month long.

Erika Liodice explores the creative connection between travel and writing. Then, Robin LaFevers is navigating self-doubt. Jennie Nash recommends seven business books every writer should read. Then, Julie Carrick Dalton advises you about knowing when NOT to write. Deanna Cabinian examines the time vs. productivity paradox. Writer Unboxed

Kristen Lamb shares five simple ways to finish a book by making (not finding) time. Then, Cait Reynolds wonders, is podcasting the new blog? Kristen Lamb

Tim Hickson talks soft worldbuilding. Hello, Future Me

K.M. Weiland introduces us to the archetypal antagonists for the king arc: cataclysm and rebel. Helping Writers Become Authors

Susan DeFreitas: can fiction make a difference in the world? Jane wonders whether Black voices in publishing is a trend or a movement. Then, Jane considers what authors earn from digital lending at libraries. Jane Friedman

Shaelin helps you draft a short story. Reedsy

Following up on her last instalment on planting bugs, Piper Bayard explains how to find bugs (writing spies). Then, Kris Maze compares pros and cons of using Scrivener and Plottr for outlining. Writers in the Storm

Elizabeth Spann Craig looks at the pros and cons of outlining.

Death worms: fact or fiction? Monstrum | PBS Storied

Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre discuss co-authoring The Relaxed Writer. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford explains when to get feedback on your novel. Then, Shalene Gupta reveals how to make and keep writer friends. Nathan Bransford

Richelle Lyn is challenging a genre identity crisis. Then, T.J. Torres offers some advice for committed BIPOC writers. DIY MFA

The “white trash” trope and its hidden agenda. The Take

Sofia Jeppsson clears up seven misconceptions about madness and psychosis. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five movies critics loved but audiences hated. Mythcreants

Richard Marpole says that you’re writing medieval fantasy wrong. Fantasy Faction

Kristin Nelson reveals the connection between velocity, volume, interval, and the New York Times Bestseller List. Then, Angie Hodapp reveals that genre isn’t everything and high concept isn’t king. Pub Rants

How to tell she’s definitely not a Mary Sue. The Take

All the LOLs: the hilarious dictionary of Finnish language and culture. Design You Trust

Allison Flood announces that Laura Jean McKay wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The Guardian

Thank you for taking the time to visit, 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, Aug 15-21, 2021

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

Vaughn Roycroft is living with unpublished characters. Then, Barbara O’Neal is finding the particular. Barbara Linn Probst considers writing: is it an art, identity, or profession? Why not all three? Later in the week, Porter Anderson gets provocative about flights of self-censorship. Then, Kelsey Allagood explains how creation myths affect character motivation. Writer Unboxed

Princess Weekes explains how true crime reveals the corruption and failures of the legal system. Melina Pendulum

K.M. Weiland explains why you should always identify your characters, pronto. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jane (herself) says, the value of book distribution is often misunderstood by authors. Then, Tiffany Yates Martin shares the secret to a tight, propulsive plot: the want, the action, the shift. Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Michelle Brower and Jennifer Chen Tran about whether you should publish with a small press. Jane Friedman

Related: E.J. Wenstrom shares what she’s learned in six years of small press publishing. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Story structures: In medias res. Reedsy

Melinda VanLone offers some advice for branding a series. Then, Lisa Norman lists seven things every author website needs. Miffie Seideman offers some helpful advice on writing about drugs: Fentanyl 101. Writers in the Storm

Andrea Turrentine shares two key factors in successfully outlining stories. Live, Write, Thrive

Rayne Hall lists 11 reasons you should submit your short stories to anthologies. Then, Janice Hardy wonders, why ask why? Because your readers will. Bonnie Randall considers the risks and rewards of uncommon narrative structures. Fiction University

Nathan Bransford advises what to cut when your book is too long. Nathan Bransford

Seven-point story structure. Reedsy

Ambre Dawn Lefler wants you to be a conference guru. Then, Susan Francis Morris explains how writing helped her live life after trauma. Later in the week, LA Bourgeois offers five ways to trick yourself into writing. DIY MFA

E.J. Wenstrom explains why we need ADHD representation in fiction. Terribleminds

Christina Delay is breaking free. Writers Helping Writers

Chris Winkle: what do writers need to describe? Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five characters with the wrong skill set. Mythcreants

Why it’s time to write out the nag. The Take

Angie Hodapp introduces us to the trinity of premise, plot, and prose. What happens when one is missing? Then, Kristin Nelson shares 14 reasons why agenting is harder now than it was 20 years ago. Pub Rants

Nina Munteanu: to boldly go where no human has gone before ….

Rebecca Thomas explores Mi’kmaw language in poetry collection: I Place you into the Fire. CBC’s The Next Chapter

Vicky Qiao reports that Ojibway journalist and author Tanya Talaga to write three new nonfiction books. The first will be published in 2023. CBC

Thank you for taking the time to visit. 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, April 25-May 1, 2021

Welcome to the first tipsday of May 🙂 Get your informal writerly learnings while they last (just kidding, the archives are always accessible)!

Kim Bullock: what your protagonist’s Spotify playlist might reveal. Elizabeth Huergo recommends Kathleen Acalá and the extraordinary. Then, Sophie Masson shares her experience writing an exclusive audio novel. With apologies for the earworm, Lisa Janice Cohen says she’s “losing my ambition.” Milo Todd wants you to read outside your lane. Writer Unboxed

Tim Hickson: on writing great character descriptions (and he shares one of Shaelin’s). Hello, Future Me

K.M. Weiland delves into the king’s shadow archetypes in part 12 of her archetypal character arcs series. Helping Writers Become Authors

Shaelin Bishop shares three great writing tips that no one ever talks about. Reedsy

Janice Hardy explains why you should know who your narrator is speaking to. Fiction University

David Kadavy promotes mind management, not time management. The Creative Penn

On her own channel, Shaelin shares her short fiction writing process. Shaelin Writes

Tasha Seegmiller shows you how to build your own MFA experience. Then, Eldred Bird lists five writing tips we love to hate. Later in the week, John Peragine discusses serialized storytelling (part 1). Writers in the Storm

Yara-ma-yha-who: Australia’s Regurgitating, Blood-Sucking Monster. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Susan DeFreitas shares three key tactics for crafting powerful scenes. Then, Catherine Baab-Maguira wonders, what if it takes 12 years to get an agent? Jane Friedman

The paradox of cottagecore. The Take

Richelle Lyn helps you create your own virtual writers sabbatical. Then, Amanda Polick explains how to ignite tension in your story with food and natural disaster. Gabriela Pereira interviews Rena Rossner about weaving together history, folklore, and fairy tale. Later in the week, Finola Austin lists traps to avoid when writing in first person. Then, Angyne Smith shares five tips to make your writers’ circle sing. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci shares ten self-care tips for when you’re busy AF.

Angela Ackerman explains how to write emotion well: know your character. Writers Helping Writers

Bunny and Svend Phillips collaborate on this list of five tired tropes about teenagers. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains how Revenger fails at technology. Mythcreants

Kristin Nelson is not a fan of publishing house mergers: a non-love story. Pub Rants

Ashawnta Jackson introduces us to the haiku of Richard Wright. JSTOR Daily

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

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

The next chapter: July 2016 update

So, here we are again at a monthly update. August. Where has the year gone?

One of the great things about tracking your production (and this applies to all things, not just writing) is that you can look back and see the evidence of your work. It’s very comforting.

In addition to wrapping up my work in July this time, I’m going to review the year to date.

July

JulyProgress

This month, I finished my first review of Gerod and the Lions. As with the last couple of novels, I wasn’t twitching as I reread, reacquainted myself with the story, and worked on some of the flow issues I saw. One reason for the flow issues was that GatL was written in chunks, separated by work done on other projects.

Sometimes the gaps were months long, and it shows. I had to get my head back into Gerod’s world and each time I returned to it, it took a few days to recapture the feeling.

The draft comes in at 44,996 words, which is decent for a middle grade book and 124% of my revision goal for the month.

I also continued work on the short story, which I’ll be submitting for consideration soon. 2,615 words written on that.

And, of course, there was the blog, and since I continued to participate in the weekly challenges presented by Gabriela Pereira to her DIYMFA Street Team, I far outblogged my goal.

Between the short story and the blog, I wrote 173% of my goal for July.

I also had the pleasure of guest blogging a couple of times in July, once on Mel’s Madness, and later, on DIYMFA (holy cow!). I have another guest blog due out this month on Kristene Perron’s Warp World blog.

I continued querying.

Year-to-date

Please keep in mind that revision is a very different animal than writing. I’m not writing all these words from scratch. I’m rearranging words, rewriting sentences or paragraphs for flow, inserting or removing punctuation, and making notes for future revisions.

Writing equates to original words.

Month Revision Writing Projects
January 69,774 words 186% of goal 9,274 words 141% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
February 40,708 words 108% of goal 5,027 words 90% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
March 66,637 words 177% of goal 8,436 words 141% of goal AoW, Figments, Marushka, blog
April 37,478 words 100% of goal 10,498 words 187% of goal Marushka, blog
May 50,882 words 136% of goal 10,474 words 181% of goal Marushka, Reality Bomb, blog
June 48,009 words 128% of goal 12,013 words 207% of goal Reality Bomb, blog
July 46,656 words 124% of goal 11,387 words 173% of goal RB, Gerod and the Lions, short fiction, blog

 Now and the rest of the year

With GatL, I’ve finished reviewing all of my drafted novels. Many of them are still grossly underwritten, but at least I have a better idea now of where I’m going with each.

For August, I just finished up my short story, which I will now revise, and otherwise, the only writing I’m doing is on the blog.

I’ve taken some time off to consider the remainder of the year and what I want to do.

Under consideration are:

  • Assembling a poetry collection (going to submit to a local small press) – August
  • Organizing a collection of my non-SFF short fiction (again, targeted at the small publisher) – August
  • Outlining the third book in my epic fantasy series. I’ve already taken a shot at it, but I know I have to rework it. I’ll do this anyway, because it’s this year’s NaNoWriMo project, but it’s on the list. – concurrent with other projects through to the end of October
  • Returning to Initiate of Stone and AoW, to recapture the voice of the series and bring everything into line in light of the outlining and NaNo for the third book. I want to get to November steeped in the world and its characters. – September and October

Because the third in series is of the epic nature, I expect to be continuing the drafting well into December.

I’m also taking a bit of time to think out how I want to structure my writing year from here on out. Previous to 2016, my focus was on getting the words down. Great, but then I had six novels drafted, only one of which was ready for querying.

This year, I’m focusing on the revision of all those drafts. They won’t be completely ready to go, but I’ll be in a place where I can alternate writing and revision in the coming years.

I want to draft new work twice a year, and then work on revision in between. I don’t know exactly what form that’s going to take (except for NaNo), but I think it’s something I can do.

Other stuff

I’m heading out to WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II on the 17th. It will be my first big con, so I’m super excited. This will be my last convention or conference for the year, though. I’ve blown my budget.

As a result, though, I’m going on a blogging vacay. I’ll schedule my Thoughty Thursday curation for the 18th before I leave, but you won’t hear from me again until I’m back and recovered and ready to resume bloggage on the 27th. Sacrifices have to be made.

I’ve done the crazy and applied for Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars. I’ll find out how that goes on the 25th. Not saying more about it for now.

I’m investigating partnerships with an editor. I want something long term, a professional editor who can help me get my drafts into publishable states.

I signed up for a first five pages workshop with NLA. Again, I’ll leave the deets for later.

And that’s this writer’s life.

Next weekend, I’ll be continuing with my CWS 2016 reportage with my notes from the Writing Hard Truths panel.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: August 2015 update

Ok. Let’s just get this out of the way. August sucked for writing.

I had every intention of writing when I was down in London, but I should have kept in mind the lesson I learned back in the spring. Mel + travel to deliver training = no writing.

Well, it wasn’t absolutely zero writing. I revised a short story and submitted it, and I revised my query letter based on feedback from Kristen Nelson (more on this in a bit), but that amounted to very few words.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, delivering training, though I’m good at it, drains introvert me something fierce. Add that to travel, not feeling well for most of my time away, not being around home to help Mom with her first cataract surgery, and not being around my support system, and you have the perfect storm of non-productivity.

Plus, it was two and a half weeks away. That was a fair chunk of the month. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Here’s how the month broke down (pun intended):

August progress

I drafted another 2,206 words on Marushka, but am still not quite at the end. I hope this month will see the end of the draft (at last). I am 95% toward my 75k word total goal for the draft, so that’s something.

I revised 62 words on short stories, only 8 of those while I was down in London. I sent two stories out and received two rejections.

I blogged 3,801 words, and I decided not to blog on the weekends while I was away. Ostensibly, this was to make it easier to write, but I’ve already mentioned how that went.

Total words for the month: 6,069. That’s my lowest monthly total all year.

August Summary

Other stuff I did in August:

When Roz Morris shared HodderScape’s open submission period, I had to submit Initiate of Stone. I’ve had no word, but I’ll definitely fill you in on the results.

Last year, I missed out on Kristin Nelson’s query letter intensive. It was that whole work thing, again. So, this year, I signed up, hoping against hope that my manager would find someone else to go to London in my place. It was not to be.

So I emailed NLA and advised that I would not be able to join the webinar. And Kristin offered to meet with me one-on-one when I got home.

That meeting took place this past Thursday and Kristin gave me some excellent direction.

Kristin was great, and though I think I was still a little fan girlish, I tried to make the most of the opportunity.

Yeah, I get star struck by agents. That’s the kind of geek I am.

So that’s it for my very unproductive month.

Rest assured, I’m back on track and aiming high.

The Next Chapter

Six questions with J.R. Cameron

John Cameron

John Cameron

I’ve never understood why it’s become common practice to write the author bio in the 3rd person. John R. Cameron lives in Sudbury, Ontario. If you’re taking the time to read my bio, isn’t it because you’re essentially interviewing me for a chance to be a part of your life for a short while?

Hi. I’m John.

I have a wife and a kid. They often drive me to the brink of madness; not a difficult thing to do, considering how close to the edge I already am. My daughter is a hellion. At the age of six, she’s both bright and bold, obstinate, and pushes every button I have. My wife blames my genetics: “I was never like that,” she claims. I deny it, despite knowing that I was also an uncontrollable child.

I’m thirty, and a teacher. I’m very worried about the current state of education. I’m concerned about the future, in general. I don’t think we all necessarily need to be alarmists, though I do believe that if you look at the world around you and aren’t a little worried, you and I probably aren’t going to agree on much. (Don’t worry, I’ll pretend not to look while you navigate elsewhere. There’s plenty of other entertainment online. Crushing Candy, and so forth…)

_______________________________________________________________________

WG: When did writing first come into your life (or vice versa)?  Give us the origin story of John Cameron, Superhero Writer.

JRC:        I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. I was one of those people who sat around saying, “I’m going to write a book one day,” but just never got around to it. I can’t claim that I couldn’t have found the time. I’d be lying if I did. I’ve pissed away a solid three decades of my life. Over the past few years, it’s like the thoughts running through my mind have turned into a constant third person narrative. We’ll call it the ‘itch’, I suppose. I realized the day was coming when I’d open a Word file, and start typing. I just didn’t know when that day would come, or what I’d be writing about. Until this past winter, I’d never made any attempt at a serious literary endeavour.

WG: What was the idea that became The Second Lives of Honest Men and how did it occur to you?

JRC:        In December of 2011, I walked away from a terrible car crash. This was only because of blind luck, or fate, or whatever you’d like to call it. I slammed into a guard rail doing 100 kilometres an hour, backwards. I was pushing it – trying to get home on the first snowy day of winter, before the roads got worse. I rounded a bend, and low and behold, that stretch of road was worse. I fishtailed back and forth over the slush, trying to correct my course. It was a hopeless effort, and I quickly lost control. I clutched the steering wheel and braced myself against the seat, preparing for the inevitable. I blew out seven posts of the short, twenty post rail, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the highway. It was the only guard rail on that side of the kilometre long stretch.

I could have hit one of the many rock cuts, or been flung into the deep, stony valley between the East and Westbound lanes. Instead, I momentarily laughed off my good fortune while I waited for a tow truck. I even went bowling that night. When you walk away from an accident like that, the implications of ‘what if?’ begin encroaching on your soul. The harder you try not to think about it, the more the darkness grips you. I eventually came to terms with what mortality really is, and what it really means. I spent the better part of 2012 in a deep apathy, as I began seeing a lot of things in an entirely new light. I questioned how I’d been interpreting the world around me, and what my role was in it. In October of 2012, I was watching television with a good friend while we discussed the problems of society; how the moral compass seemed to be broken. An advertisement for Spielberg’s Lincoln came on during a commercial break. I made an off-hand remark, something to the effect of, “Maybe that’s what we need – Honest Abe to travel through time, and come fix things.” The idea was one I simply couldn’t shake. A premise, characters, and a rough plot formed in my head over the next few weeks. When I had enough pieces of the puzzle, I opened up the Word file and set to work.

WG: How long has it taken to take The Second Lives of Honest Men from idea to finished manuscript?  Can you give us some idea of your drafting or revision process in your response?

JRC:        My first draft took me seven weeks, working on it 8-10 hours a day, often more. I think the word is ‘obsessed.’ Once I felt that it was reasonably polished, I printed ten copies, and brought it to my first group of beta-readers. A month later, I met with each of the readers, gathering honest, critical feedback. After this process, I had a pretty good feel for what the book was lacking, and had some ideas how to improve it. I made several major changes to a couple of characters, altered some aspects of the plot, and narrative… It was a fairly extensive edit, that added about 6,000 words to the manuscript. I brought the second draft to a Philosophy professor and a History professor, both of whom were very encouraging, and willing to offer more great feedback. The third draft was a less exhausting revision than my second one was, and it saw its way to several more professors (three English professors and another History professor), and to many other people in my life. Again, all the feedback was extremely positive, and the additional advice was also great. One of the English professors convinced me to do two things: Write a fourth draft to fix a few lingering problems, and hire a professional editor. I’d hoped to avoid the latter. He made the case that no matter how good the book was, ‘Even Stephen King has an editor.’ That’s a rather humbling statement if ever there was one. So, I wrote the fourth draft, and had it professionally edited.

WG: When you mentioned your genre to me, you admitted that it sounded convoluted.

Writerly Goodness challenge time!

Imagine I am a high-powered literary agent, like Kristin Nelson, Janet Reid, or Donald Maass.  If I told you I could negotiate you a six-figure advance if you could nail down your genre, what would you say?

JRC: I always try to explain it like this: If you asked George Orwell what genre 1984 fell into, I seriously doubt the answer he would have given is “Science Fiction.” (Or, like me, he simply cringed whenever he was asked the question.) That’s the genre we typically associate with his novel, however; that is, the genre that our culture has branded it with through the passing of time. My book (should anyone ever care enough to define it) will undoubtedly be classified as science fiction. Like 1984, it’s set in an urban dystopia. I tried to use only as much science fiction as necessary to carry the plot, and have been relentless in making that aspect of the book accessible to readers of all genres. Personally? I think of The Second Lives of Honest Men as a character driven, philosophical odyssey that touches on technology, truth, freedom, hope, and redemption.

*Sigh.* I’m not getting that advance, am I?

WG: All kidding aside, you’ve opted for self-publishing over a traditional publishing deal.  Why have you chosen that route?

JRC:        Several reasons. I feel that my book is very relevant to today’s world, and the problems which we’re facing as a society. I’ve seen so many authors who try to go the traditional route, and they often end up disappointed, jaded with the system, and their hard work sits on a shelf (or in a file) for years. Eventually, they simply give up on it, the moment of ‘now’ having passed them by. I can only imagine how many great books have been written by authors who never saw their work get published. I don’t want to be one of them.

Over the past five years, the traditional publishing model has been flipped upside down. E-book sales represent about 30% of the market, a number that’s sure to climb as people continue to shun paper, using digital formats instead. The big traditional publishers won’t look at newcomers, and the small ones often don’t have the push to establish a new author. Big or small, traditional publishers expect authors to do most of their own promoting, then thank you for your hard work by taking the lion’s share of the profit. I don’t blame them for the business model: Most books don’t do well, and they ride out the losers by standing on the backs of their best authors. By self publishing a well crafted e-book at a modest price on all the major e-sellers, and having Print on Demand paperbacks available through Amazon, I can access a world-wide market. There are many successful authors using this business platform, bypassing traditional publishing routes to put food on their tables. Being able to take care of my family while I do what I love – I think that’s the dream of every author, no?

WG: What’s next for you and The Second Lives of Honest Men?

JRC:        I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, “Writing the book is easy. The hard part comes after.” Let me tell you something: Writing the book wasn’t easy. My first draft may have only taken two months to complete, but they were also two of the most emotionally draining months I’ve ever been through. Still, the parable isn’t wrong in the sense that the harder part does come after. The editing process required a vast amount of work. The biggest obstacle was learning to put my faith in other people’s opinions. I only gave the book to people that I trusted to tell me the things I didn’t want to hear. And they did. It was always painful, as I listened to their advice over a hot drink (or a cold beer.) I’d scowl, counter-argue, and on some points I’d simply hold my tongue. After a number of days, (or weeks), a smattering of what they’d said would start sinking in. I’d be haunted by their voices as I tried, in vain, to sleep. I worked hard on the manuscript, mollifying the voices one by one, and repeating this process through each new draft (and each new round of well meant criticism), until I could finally rest. I passed the manuscript off to my editor the next day, and sent her a cheque. I struggled with the decision of what to write in the memo field. I finally settled on, ‘In Editor We Trust.’

Navigating the world of self-publishing has been an ordeal of its own. The Internet brings you a lot of information, but almost all of it conflicts. I made mistakes along the way – none fatal, but some costly. The good thing is that while I was waiting for my different rounds of beta readers to give me feedback, it left me plenty of time to prepare the other aspects of the book that a publisher normally takes care of: conceptualizing the cover, finding an artist, an editor, the best places to list the e-book, to promote the e-book, hiring (and working with) a website designer, finding a company to convert the book into slick, multi device / multi client formatted .epub, .mobi , and Print on Demand files…

Anyway, long story short… It’s finally all come together. The book is now for sale on all major e-sellers, and available in paperback through Amazon.

The Second Lives of Honest Men - cover

The Second Lives of Honest Men – cover

The website is up, and I’ll be using it as a platform to coordinate my Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts. You can visit at www.johnrcameron.com , www.thesecondlivesofhonestmen.com , or www.embracetheirony.com. (All three domains lead to the same website.)  I have a well crafted, fun short story that I’ve made available on the website for free: Moonshine Perfume. I’ll also be writing short essays (I think they call them blogs, now) to accompany any more short stories that I find the time to write.

I’ll have a table at the Paranormal Show in Sudbury, Ontario, on November 30th, where I’ll be premiering the book and signing copies. The Paranormal Show itself is “a spectacular assortment of Supernatural feats that will make you question everything you thought you understood about REALITY.” – For more info, check out the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/590105517693380/

Come for the stage show, stay to check out the great work of local artists and authors.

I’ll be having signings at some of the more traditional outlets early in the new year: dates to be announced.

You can also find me on Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/664867.John_R_Cameron , on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/embracetheirony , and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/EmbraceTheIrony .

Thanks for a great interview, John, and all the best with your future authorial adventures!