Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 14-20, 2017

A little bit of this and a little bit of that, all to get your mental corn popping 🙂

SOS Safety Magazine lists four signs of a person with high-functioning depression. This is me.

How stress changes the brain and body (with helpful TED-Ed video). Mindful

ASAP Science shares seven ways to reduce your stress right now.

 

Wendi looks at the dark side of empathic people. Parhlo

Jesse Menayan shares what he and the Casper research team discovered about how couples affect each other’s sleep. Yeah, it’s a big ole advertisement, but the research is interesting and sleep is important. Medium

Dom Galeon: our brains might be 100 times more powerful than we thought. Futurism

Heidi Priebe profiles the personal hells of each Myers-Briggs personality type. My personal hell? Learning how everything I’ve said or done has hurt someone else, intentional or otherwise. Yup. Writhing already. Thought Catalog

A wee clip from Michael Moore on Finland’s school system.

 

Simon Parkin: teaching robots right from wrong. 1843 Magazine

Etan Vlessing covers the creation of A World without Canada, a dystopian series narrated by Dan Ackroyd and featuring Robert J. Sawyer. The Hollywood Reporter

Richard O. Prum writes of duck sex and the patriarchy. Though it’s hard to tell from the title, this is an amazing article. The New Yorker

Gaze in awe at these colourized photos of Russian women snipers, who terrorized the Nazis in WWII. Julian Robinson for Mail Online.

Alex Tizon tells the heart wrenching story of his family’s slave. The Atlantic

Chris Jones shares footage of how narwhales use their tusks. IFLS

Skandinavian folk on nyckelharpa, by Myrkur:

 

And your kawaii for the week: Ozzy, the desk weasel.

 

See you Saturday for my wrap up post about Writing the Other. Tasty, tasty!

Be well until then, my friends.

thoughtythursday2016

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Story Masters: May 11-14, 2017

This lovely workshop came to my attention last year through Jenny Madore, a writer friend. It was put together by Lorin Oberweger and Free Expressions. Jenny sent me a notice last spring, yes, that was waaaay back in March of 2016, with the notification and a special early-bird discount.

The notification? Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass would be coming to Toronto to present their Story Masters workshop. Needless to say, I registered on the spot.

Fast forward to May 10, 2017, and I was on my way to the Crowne Plaza Airport and excited to learn from these three masters of story.

Day one: Christopher Vogler

ChristopherVoglerI’ve read The Writer’s Journey (and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter, as well as watching Campbell’s series with Bill Moyer, The Power of Myth), and I was looking forward to meeting Christopher Vogler in person.

One thing I’d forgotten, having read his book years ago, was that Vogler is a screenwriter. He’s been working with the hero’s journey for forty years, since his film school days.

Highlights of the presentation:

  • A knowledge of structure will help you see the bones of a story.
  • The map is not the journey.
  • Get all five senses on the page – Ray Bradbury.
  • They won’t remember your words but they’ll remember how you made them feel – Maya Angelou.
  • Economy of language.
  • Make invisible things visible.
  • Use dissonance.
  • Theme – boil it down to one word.
  • The chakra system can be used to orient where your story comes from. There’s a parallel between the chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Vogler’s rule – the story’s good if two or more organs are leaking fluids. Visceral, but accurate (blood, sweat, tears, vomit, pee—from fear or laughter, and, erm, sexual fluids—it’s true; a well-written sex scene gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?).
  • A story should be focused, “in alignment with the grid,” a term from dance.
  • How your protagonist/main character enters the story is critical. Classically, protagonist means the first person to struggle. Now, that’s your hero or main character.
  • A story should evoke catharsis. The classical definition of catharsis was vomiting. Now it’s an emotional cleansing.
  • How stories work: want vs. need. Want is generally external or physical. Need is internal or emotional. There are two story questions, one inner and one outer. It creates suspense. There’s always a price.
  • Every world/milieu is polarized. The hero brings synthesis.

Vogler also showed us a number of movie clips to illustrate the 12 stages of the hero’s journey, discussed the two founders of screenwriting, Aristotle and Syd Field, three-act structure and how the hero’s journey works with it, storytelling aesthetics, and his own meeting with Campbell.

Day two: James Scott Bell

I’ve read some of Bell’s writing craft books and followed his collective/blog – Kill Zone. Again, I was looking forward to meeting JamesScottBellsomeone I’d only ever known as a virtual presence.

  • A writer needs to have an edge. What is it? Unforgettable writing. Seductive believability.
  • Write from the middle. The mirror moment. What’s happening to the character at that moment is what the story’s about.
  • The mirror moment can focus on one of two things: 1) Who am I? What have I become? What will I become? [emotional/spiritual struggle] Or, 2) I’m going to die. [Physical] The death can be metaphorical. Both result in the transformation of your character.
  • Once you know what your story’s about, you have your focus, your theme.
  • Pre-story psychology. Does your character have a moral flaw to overcome? Do they change or get their comeuppance? Is your character ordinary? What circumstances force the character to change?
  • Short fiction is about a shattering moment rather than a mirror moment.
  • Bell’s golden triangle: pre-story psychology leads to the mirror moment, which leads to the transformation. It can be applied in an individual novel, or over the course of the series, or both.
  • The shadow story – what’s happening elsewhere?
  • Keep a story journal to keep track.
  • Great characters jump off the page. They’re unpredictable, burning, wounded, complex, resourceful, courageous, noble.
  • Bell’s corollary to Vogler’s rule: you must have a fluid fight inside your character.
  • Ways to develop character: 1) The closet search – what’s the skeleton? 2) Throwing the chair (out the window) – why do they do it? 3) Best day/worst day. 4) What tattoo do they have, where, and why? Or, why would they never get a tattoo? 5) what would they do or think about in jail?
  • Opposition character: you must know what they yearn for, why they deserve it, and then make your closing argument (convince the reader).
  • Cut the boring parts, or, make them interesting.
  • Fear is a continuum. It raises the stakes. Fear of the known. Fear of the unknown.
  • Scene structure: every scene must have an objective, obstacles, and an outcome [yes, but/no, and].
  • SUES = something unexpected in every scene.
  • Every scene has a reaction: time for thought, perception, emotion, backflash (short remembrance), or flashback (full scene – use sparingly).
  • Dialogue: every character has an agenda. If those agendas are conflicting, even better. Dialogue creates conflict/tension, subtext, sets the tone for the scene, and sets the tone for the characters. Specific concerns: vocabulary, expressions, syntax. They should vary between characters. Dialogue should be unpredictable and compressed. Dialogue should reveal character webs, backstory, and theme.
  • Tools: Orchestration, transactional analysis (Google it), curve the language.

Bell, also from a screenwriting background, showed us clips from Casablanca and Now, Voyager and cited a number of novels (ranging from Gone with the Wind to The Hunger Games) to illustrate his points, linked to Vogler’s hero’s journey, and set us up for Donald Maass’s presentation on the next day.

Day three: Donald Maass

DonaldMaassI think Donald Maass was the story master I was most excited to meet. I’ve bought and read all of his books (except The Emotional Craft of Fiction, which I bought at the event), and I’ve read and shared all of his Writer Unboxed contributions.

I’m such a fan that when I met him in the elevator, I blurted out, “I’m here to see you!” like a total fangirl.

He paused. “Do I know you? You look familiar …”

“We’ve never met in person, but you may have seen me online—the white hair’s distinctive. I share all of your posts. I’m a big fan.” And then, mercifully, we reached the lobby and debarked. I was completely mortified, certain Maass thought I was a stalker.

It reminded me of a recent post by my friend, Kim, who said she becomes so distracted in the presence of a writer that she says the most inappropriate things. Happens to me all the time.

For those of you who haven’t been to a Donald Maass presentation, it’s a bit different from what you might expect. He presents a topic, speaks briefly, and then, he begins to ask questions. The questions are intended to guide you into the heart of your characters, your scenes, your story.

It’s very meditative, very zen. And totally effective.

Unfortunately, after a few hours, the brain stops working and you just write down the questions for future review and examination. At least, that’s what happened to my brain.

I just wanted to give you a flavour of Maass’s style.

Openings

  • Too many novel openings are written objectively despite the prevalence of first and close third person narration.
  • Where does the story truly begin?
  • Story does not equal plot.
  • What’s different and how does your protagonist know things will never be the same? What symbolizes this? What do they do differently? What needs to be explained? What expertise does your protagonist have? What do they know that the reader needs to know? How does the trouble come? Why?

Voice

  • Writers adopt a voice that suits the genre, but not the story.
  • What happens? What’s unique to the setting? What anchors you? What wakes you up to your reality? What’s unique to the character? Name, role/occupation, what task/goal/purpose do they think they have? What’s on the “to do” list of your character?
  • [We then did an exercise in which we rewrote the beginning of our works in progress with three different voices: ironic, academic, and spiritual.]
  • The inner life of the character is the true story.
  • Plot does not equal story.

Emotion

  • You have to write with emotion about emotion in a way that deeply engages readers.
  • What makes you angry?
  • Your protagonist feels a new emotion. Pause. Slow things down. Go deeper. How does that change your protagonist? What will they never do again? What will they never feel again? What will they never feel the same way about again?
  • How do you create the sense of an evolving human being rather than someone to whom stuff happens?
  • Does your character have flaws?
  • My Writer Unboxed colleague Lisa Cron wrote a book called Story Genius that I highly recommend. She states every character has a misbelief that shapes their story. What is your character’s misbelief? Who will be hurt because of their misbelief? What does the character get wrong? What do they believe that will cost them dearly? Who will walk away from them because of the misbelief? What will they lose? What can they do that shows they’ve changed? Is it big? Symbolic? What’s the secret they’ve never told anyone? Is your protagonist concealing something from someone else?
  • What’s the character’s origin story?

Other facets of novel construction

  • Summary. Lorin Oberweger posted on Writer Unboxed about this. When should you use it?
  • Scene structure. Things have changed by the end of the scene. Subvert expectations. Show the inner shift in the novel. Scenes must change either the plot or the character.
  • Enhancing the story world. What’s the environment? What does your protagonist see that no one else sees? What does your antagonist see? Is there a class structure? How does that play out with your characters? What historical events have shaped the world? What are the political structures? What is just not done? Is there a code of honour? How do you make a deal? How do you pay respect?
  • Telling and showing. Both have value.

What do readers want?

  • They want an emotional experience. They want to engage with your protagonist. They want a satisfying payoff. They want aesthetic value. They want a challenge. They want to figure it out. They want a feeling of success.
  • Readers have their own journey.

Third level emotion

  • Pick a pivotal scene in your novel. What is the character feeling? What else are they feeling (cancel out any similar emotions)? And again, what else (that is like neither of the first two)?
  • Use the third emotion you identify to frame the character in the scene. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s very effective. Readers use cognitive evaluation.

Mythic roles (archetypes)

  • What fairy tale character is your protagonist most like? Shakespearean? Biblical? Greek or Roman mythos? Indigenous or other cultural figure? Urban legend?
  • What symbology have you built around your character?

The four things your story must do

  • The macro level: structure/plot/character arc.
  • Scene level: structure and goals.
  • Microtension: every page, every line. Court cognitive dissonance.
  • Subvert reader expectations.

The big event

  • Think of the event that changes everything for your protagonist and the story world. What causes people to think it’s never going to happen? Think of three reasons why. How do we know it will happen? Think of three reasons.
  • Take out foreshadowing. Include misdirection. Manipulate expectations.
  • Choose a secondary character who is good. Invent a way to create doubt. Cast suspicion.
  • Make the reader wait for the payoff. What are three reasons it might be the wrong thing for your protagonist to do? Build a case for doing something different.
  • Every story has a moral map. Point the reader down the path. What makes a reader care even when nothing is happening? Hope. What is good? What can be saved?

StoryMasters

Day four was an analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird in which all three story masters brought their individual strengths to bear.

My brain was mush by the end, but I brought a lot of awesome back with me and twice as many pages of notes as what I’ve shared with you here.

RobertJSawyerOther writerly goodness: I met Jenny Madore in person, saw writer friends Jeanette Winsor and Sue Reynolds, and hung out with Robert J. Sawyer for a bit. It was comforting to know that someone I consider a story master in his own right is still learning 🙂

I had a fabulous time and suggest you check out the Free Expressions web site if you’re interested in attending one of their workshops.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 19-25, 2017

Another bumper crop of informal writerly learnings for you!

K.M. Weiland shares nine tips that will help you create opening and closing lines that readers will love to quote. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate helps you determine when it’s a good idea to use a made-up setting.

Shanna Swendson guest posts on Fiction University: is your plot complex, or chaotic?

Vaughn Roycroft is embracing perseverance. Writer Unboxed

Maya Rock helps you prepare for the emotional roller coaster of revision. Writer Unboxed

Dave King takes a look at Stephen King, a master of suspense and suspension of disbelief. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb tackles writing through the soggy, infuriating, anxiety-inducing middle. Writer Unboxed

Dan Blank encourages us to use the magic wand of generosity. Writer Unboxed

Jeff Lyons guest posts on Jami Gold’s blog: how to make every story idea the best it can be.

Constance Renfrow lists five story openings to avoid. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Dan Blank on DIY MFA radio.

Kolina Cicero shares five tips for reading like a writer. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci: show vs. tell.

 

Chuck Wendig has some considerations for you, if you want to be a professional writer. Terribleminds

Kameron Hurley guest posts on Writer’s Digest: how to build fantastic worlds.

Amber Mitchell offers six tips for fantasy worldbuilding. Writer’s Digest

Jennie Nash visits the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: how to rescue a book in danger of dying.

Jody Hedlund suggests three ways to add depth to your novel.

Kristen Lamb helps you evaluate whether or not you have a story (or just 85,000 words). Later in the week she  wonders, do some people lack the talent to be authors?

Jenny Hansen shares some helpful hacks to build a strong brand. Writers in the Storm

As a follow up to Jenny’s post, Jami Gold offers some tips for keeping our sanity while building a brand.

Alice Sudlow offers a lesson on phrasal verbs. The Write Practice

Merriam-Webster explores the history of thon, the proposed and forgotten gender-neutral pronoun.

Grace O’Connell interviews Robert J. Sawyer for Open Book.

Wyl Menmuir shares data from the app that helped him write his Booker long-listed debut. The Guardian

Natalie Zutter shares the full length trailer for Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Tor.com

Hope this gave you something you needed to keep creating.

Be well until Thursday!

tipsday2016

WorldCon 2016: Mining history for the future

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.

historyfuture

Panellists: Dana Cameron, Jennie Goloboy, Jack McDevitt, Robert J. Sawyer, Renee Collins (moderator)

Joined in progress …

RJS: Alternate history does what science fiction does, but takes a step back in time rather than looking to the future. Jean Auel’s novels and Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle are examples.

RC: What are we mining history for?

JG: History is a great way to see how things could have been, “if only.” What if Shakespeare lived in Native North America?

DC: There’s a hashtag: #whatshouldhavehappened  It gives us a great opportunity to look at our tropes and culture through the lens of the other.

RJS: History teaches us the rate at which events happen. You can see the cause and effect in retrospect.

JG: The thing about historians is that they’re always looking at what’s different between then and now. There’s something inspirational about the possibilities of change.

DC: The rate of change is faster now, though.

RC: The contrast and comparison is fascinating.

JM: Another approach is that we are the past. What do people in the far future think of us?

RJS: Science fiction is the literature of human contingency—Robert Charles Wilson. We engage in thought experiments. How could things have gone differently?

RC: What are the advantages of using history as the basis for science fiction?

JG: Usually science fiction and fantasy writers get the details right.

RJS: In my Neanderthal Parallax series, I researched heavily in paleoanthropology texts and journals. I looked for the more interesting theories. One of them was that Neanderthals didn’t have religion. My Neanderthals did.

DC: Coming from my background, I had a difficult time writing alternate history.

JG: It’s worldbuilding, not a mistake.

JM: Science fiction writers have an advantage. We can manipulate time. We value history.

And that was time.

Next week, I’ll be transcribing my notes on generation starships.

Be well and stay strong until then!

CWS 2016: Diversify your writing income

And . . . I’m back from WorldCon and my blogging vacay 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you see anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it, post hasty.

Presenter: Robert J. Sawyer

RJS1

One of the easiest ways to diversify is to use your expertise and become a public speaker. If your expertise is in writing, you could receive a nominal fee, funded by a professional writing organization or granting agency.

A science fiction writer, however, can use their scientific research as the basis to become a futurist. A futurist demands a more substantial fee, potentially between five and ten thousand dollars. The more established the writer is as an expert, the higher the fee offered for their presentation.

Public speaking ability, is, of course, a benefit. Join your local Toastmasters to develop that. Sign up for an improvisation class.

Short fiction can earn a small amount, but even small amounts can add up over time and the publication credit becomes part of your platform. Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo award is named, founded Amazing Stories and paid .06 cents a word. It’s still a payment standard used today.

A more lucrative form of writing is screenwriting. The Screenwriters Guild has standardized rates of pay for screenwriters. A one hour script for a television series, such as ABC’s Flashforward, based on my novel of the same name, earns the writer about $3600. That’s approximately 6000 words. Compare that to a short story of 6000 words paid at .06 cents a word.

If you do get a novel published, pursue film and screen rights. It doesn’t happen without effort, though.

I’ll never win a Giller Award, but I earn the equivalent of that prize amount every year.

Whatever you write, become an expert in that subject.

Authority comes from the same etymological root as author. Market your authority.

Record your presentations. A video is a great promotional tool. It will convince people to hire you. Embed it on your web site.

Too often, the author is the only person not being paid.

If you present in schools, don’t be shy about asking for a fee. The only classes I don’t charge are the ones studying my book. If they’ve bought a class set of my book, it’s not fair to charge further, in my opinion. Some professional writing organisations will provide you with a reading fee. Some will cover travel or accommodation expenses as well.

In general, non-fiction sells better and pays better that fiction. I might avoid book reviews, though. The Globe and Mail will pay $175 for book reviews, but you have to either be prepared to hold your punches, or have someone want to punch you. You can’t like everything you’re given to read.

Write what you want to find out about. Maureen Jennings writes the Murdoch Mysteries. She also writes articles on historical Toronto.

Q: What are the tax implications?

I happen to be a dual citizen so that makes some of it easier. The IRS is assiduous about getting its money, but you can work around it to some extent. I live and do most of my work in Canada. It makes a difference. For a presentation I gave in the US, I wrote it in Canada. If the work is completed in Canada, the income is declared in Canada.

For publishing income in the US, you need to have a ITIN or EIN.

Q: Do you enjoy public speaking?

Yes, I do. The more speaking engagements you get, the more comfortable you get on the stage.

Q: How did you get started?

Back in 2000, I was invited to speak at an AI conference based on my research from a recent novel. Previous to that, I was making $250 per speaking engagement as a science fiction author. I asked for $2500 and the organizers said yes. I could have asked for more.

I used to be on panels with Jay Ingram and Bob McDonald, but now I can earn more than they do for a speaking engagement.

Q: How does the unpublished or minimally published author make a living?

The number one thing is to get on television or radio as soon as you can. An agent or publicist can be helpful with this.

I used to teach for Ryerson, but it was actually the least lucrative channel of income I had when you factor in the hours spent on prep and marking.

Q: Do you have to seek out engagements?

Initially, yes. Not so much anymore. Once you’re an established expert, people will come to you.

If you have an author newsletter, let your readers know that you’re available for talks. Fans will convince their businesses to hire you just so they can meet you.

Q: Can diversification compromise your author identity?

It can.

There are some writers who end up making more public appearances and presentations than writing novels.

In 1988, I was 28. I wanted to be a novelist, but I was writing financial columns. That was how I paid the bills. I decided to start turning down these opportunities to make more time for writing novels. I was terrified. In 1996, eight years later, I won the Nebula award. It took that long to make the transition.

And that was time.


You’ll be happy to know I’m returning to Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday curations starting this week.

Next week: I’ll be offering up my next chapter update for August and then I’ll have only one more session from the Canadian Writers’ Summit to share before I move on to WorldCon panel notes 🙂 I have enough of those to keep the weekend blogging going into 2017 (considering the time I’ll be taking off for NaNoWriMo).

Be well until next week, writerly peoples 🙂

The next chapter: May 2016 update

The year of revision is progressing steadily.

MayProgress

I finished my first run through of Marushka, which ended up at 75,473 words total, 33,258 of which were revised in May, and moved on to Reality Bomb. I revised 17,624 words on that manuscript.

I achieved 136% of my revision goal for May with 50,882 words revised.

All my writing was on Writerly Goodness, and, because I joined Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA launch team and have been posting twice each weekend, I’ve achieved 181% of my writing goal for May with 10,474 words on the web.

In other news, I’ve let my querying slip. I’ve received enough form rejections that I have this feeling I need to return to Initiate of Stone and give the manuscript another run. I’ve come up with some ideas to improve my first pages (and other stuff) as a result of working on Apprentice of Wind and I’m not sure I should burn any more agent bridges . . .

At the same time, I want to continue on the chance that I haven’t presented IoS to the agent that will love it. I’ve had success pitching the novel in person to both agents and small publishers, so the idea has merit. It must be the execution that needs work.

Accordingly, I’m probably going to take a break from revising RB for a few days to focus on reworking the first chapter and query of IoS and then get back at it.

I’ve booked my flight to Kansas City in August. I’m one step closer to WorldCon and a visit with a friend who lives in KC. So looking forward.

In the meantime, the Canadian Writers’ Summit is taking place in less than two weeks. I’m looking forward to that, as well, but the scheduling is a bit strange. Because the

CWS is a joint conference between a number of professional writing organizations in Canada, some of the sessions are overlapping. It will make things challenging, but I’m also going to get to attend a great session by Robert J. Sawyer, as well as key note addresses by Jean Little, Kenneth Oppel, and Nalo Hopkinson.

If I had more leave, I might have gone down Wednesday evening to see Lawrence Hill, but I had to make a choice between the CWS and WorldCon/friend visitation. Seeing a new city and an old friend won out 🙂

A new short story idea is brewing for an anthology call later in the year, but I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to short fiction this year, as was the plan. We’ll see if I can keep the idea from blowing up into a novel-sized concept and premise.

I’ve signed up for another online course, this time from one of my favourite authors/writing craft experts, Kate Weiland. It’s another thing I’m looking forward to. We’ll let you know how things go in future updates.

And that’s it for now.

I’m doing too much, as usual, but enjoying every minute of it. I’m really not happy unless I’m learning something/pushing my boundaries.

Hope everyone has a productive, happy-making month!

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 20-26, 2016

Holy shemoley! Lookit all the Writerly Goodness!

Ok. This is big news around here. Sudbury has a new poet laureate, and its first woman in the role, my awesome soul sister, Kim Fahner! The Northern Life. And here’s the interview she did with Markus Schwabe of the CBC’s Morning North. She had a cold, but it’s still a fabulous interview 🙂 She’s on her way to Banff right now to work with the wonderful Mr. Lawrence Hill!

Jane Friedman points out the pros and cons of maintaining a personal profile versus a professional page on Facebook.

Susan Spann advises us when a book is considered out of print. Writer Unboxed.

Jed Herne guest posts on The Better Novel Project with The Half-Blood Prince guide to question arcs.

Michelle Hoover writes an excellent guest post for Writer Unboxed on the duplicity of a character’s desire.

John J. Kelley explores the art of the plausible for Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal discusses the matter of talent. Writer Unboxed.

C.S. Lakin offers three ways to keep readers reading past page one. Live, write, thrive.

Tiffany Lawson Inman explains how to build dramatic momentum in fiction. Writers in the Storm.

Janice Hardy explores the ebb and flow of plotting a novel. Fiction University.

K.M. Weiland’s back with five more ways to trim your novel’s word count. Helping writers become authors. Later in the week, she helps us choose the right protagonist.

Kate Elliott gives us the tools to write women characters into epic fantasy without quotas. Tor.com

Awesome: How do we write about diversity when the word has lost its meaning? With Daniel José Older, Ashley Cassandra Ford, and Tanwi Nandini Islam. Elle. (Really? Yuh-huh.)

Steve Kettmann: On knowing what to leave out. Medium.

Victoria Mixon shares her super-easy formula for creating a blurb.

Ruthanne Reid points out the two most important words for writers: don’t quit. The Write Practice.

Kerry Lonsdale writes an open letter to writers at every stage of publishing. Books by Women.

Kameron Hurley ponders her sales.

J.K. Rowling shares rejection letters on Twitter to help beginning authors. The Guardian.

Jamie Raintree explores how to decompartmentalize your art.

Anna Lovind bares herself in this post on the process of creative transformation.

Dan Blank shares what he’s learned from 30 days of vlogging.

 

Thinking about a writers’ retreat? Sarah Selecky gives you a place to start looking.

Madeleine Dore offers 50 ways to take care of yourself in the arts. Performing Arts Hub.

Robert J. Sawyer shares his creative process with Inverse’s Lauren Sarner.

Where five Canadian authors read. The Globe and Mail.

Buzzfeed lists 21 German words we should be using in English.

Victorian doctors thought reading novels made women incurably insane. History Buff.

On the other hand, art is proven to have mental health benefits. The Butler Collegian.

National Geographic lists its top ten book stores in the world.

Daniel José Older: Notes on love and revolution. Guernica Magazine.

Brainpickings shares Charlotte Brontë’s love letters.

The Telegraph lists ten novels with titles from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s skull stolen from grave. BBC.

15 Welsh myths and legends. Wales Online.

Michael Boyle and Daniel A. Kaufman wish Babylon 5 a happy birthday. This is one of my all time favourite series. The Electric Agora.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted!

See you Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 20-26, 2015

Here’s a little Writerly Goodness for you 🙂 Looks like I really did take a holiday last week. Yay me!

K.M. Weiland talks about coincidences in your fiction and what mistake in means you might be making.

C.S. Lakin calls these stylistic devices. I call them rhetorical figures. I lurves me some rhetoric. I blame the politicians for rhetoric’s pejorative connotation 😦 However you choose to look at them, they’re a lot of fun and can add something special to your writing.

Dan Blank says that creative work is performance. Writer Unboxed.

Why writers need human connection. Jamie Raintree guests on Writers in the Storm.

Chris Winkle shares lessons learned from the awkward writing of The Sword of Truth. Mythcreants.

George R.R. Martin uses it. So does Robert J. Sawyer. Find out why Wordstar is the preferred word processor for these authors.

And speaking of nifty writer tech, here’s Jamie Raintree’s new writing and revision tracker*. This is the spreadsheet that revolutionized my attitude toward my writing. I hope it will do the same for you 🙂

*This year, Jamie’s made the spreadsheet fairly foolproof. You can only enter data into certain cells. So much easier. I’ll still do a little post on how to set it up, but it won’t be as extensive as I thought based on past years.

Before you launch a Patreon for your writing, read this. Nicole Dieker for The Write Life.

Madeleine Monson-Rosen recounts the twelve happy accidents that helped save science fiction. i09.

Now this is my idea of a happy Christmas: Jolabokaflod. NPR.

Hope you had a wondrous holiday.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 28, 2014-Jan 3, 2015

K.M. Weiland’s last post and podcast of 2014! The difference between your story’s hook and your story’s heart.

Chuck Wendig’s 2015 publishing wishlist.

Here’s a podcast you may want to check out: Coode Street. The episode I’m sharing features Robert J. Sawyer and Peter Halasz having a heated, but friendly, discussion about Canadian Science Fiction.

The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2014. i09.

Brandon Sanderson explains why superheroes are so hard to get right. i09.

Western fairy tales given a Korean makeover. i09.

Arthur Kade interviews Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe from last summer (in case you needed a little droughtlander viewing).

 

Neil Gaiman’s eight rules of writing on Brainpickings.

Margaret Atwood’s timeless advice for writers. The Huffington Post.

Our poet laureate is putting poetry on our transit 🙂 The Northern Life.

Opportunities for writers in January and February 2015. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

19 short story competitions from same.

Enjoy!

Tipsday

Ad Astra 2014: The journey there (back again comes later!)

It’s been a challenging week. Having thrown my back out last Sunday, I was bed-bound Monday, but there was work to be done and I decided to go into work Tuesday through Thursday, hobbling like Quasimodo. I’ve blogged those lessons separately.

All week, I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Ad Astra at all. But here I am, and I’m having a great time.

I had booked Friday off work so I could travel down. The opening sessions weren’t until 7 pm, so I figured that I wouldn’t have to leave until 1 or 2 pm to get here in time. I’d be able to have breakfast with Mom to make up for missing our standing date on Saturdays.

Friday morning, we had a power outage. It’s important that you know this. It has an impact. Later.

At noon, after breakfast and puzzling, I returned home and was going to call the car rental place to come pick me up, and pack while I waited. Unfortunately, I had to wait out some physical discomfort first.

I ended up calling them at 1 pm and was told that they’d be able to pick me up in a half an hour. I packed, as I had planned, and waited.

Turns out the driver went to the wrong residence (we have a couple of apartments up the hill and everyone goes there first).

So I finally got the car, signed the rental agreement, and got it home. It did not have heated seats as I’d hoped. My back would have appreciated a little heat for the drive.
The only things I had left to do were to check the weather for the weekend and to print out my Google maps route.

The problem was that the internet was out. I went into the basement and tried to reset the cable modem. I gave it the magic three tries, in fact, before I gave up. By this time, it was 2 pm and it was starting to rain.

Since the temperature was hovering around zero degrees, the rain was supposed to turn into freezing rain before long. I did not want to be driving in that.

So I called Mom and her internet was fine, so I packed the car, went over, and printed out what I needed. Unfortunately, her printer was out of colour ink and wouldn’t print the maps in grey scale. Plus, Google kept giving me instructions that included pulling several U-turns. A map wouldn’t help very much with that.

At 2:35, I was off, and it rained steadily all the way down.

I’d never actually been in this area of Toronto, well Richmond Hill, before, and so I just trusted that the U-turns were errors on Google’s part and tried to follow the directions otherwise.

Turns out that if a turn is greater than 90 degrees, Google calls it a U-turn. Still, I made the journey in four hours and found the hotel largely without incident

It took me about an hour to search fruitlessly for a parking space (there was also a medical conference, a tennis tournament, and at least one hockey tournament here), check in, finally find a parking spot (next to the bin), and make my way to the registration area.

nicebutsmall1The room here is small, and set a half-floor down, but it has a heated bathroom floor and really, for one person, it’s all I need. I’ve just been spoiled travelling for my employer where upgrades are de rigueur.

I basically dropped everything at the room and hobbled.

 

nicebutsmall2nicebutsmall3

Registration was easy and I got a lovely little package of gifts including a book, Flashpoint trading cards (I think – it could be a booster pack for a game), and some consuite drink vouchers.

By then, I’d missed the opening ceremonies and the walking tour of the facilities. I attended two panels that night, saw, but did not approach Robert J. Sawyer (he was often talking with someone and I didn’t want to intrude), reconnected with Marie Bilodeau, who gave me an awesome compliment, and then had a very late supper while I listened to Klingon karaoke.

Just to be clear, people were not singing karaoke in Klingon, that was just the name of the event.

When I got back to my room, I discovered the microwave did not work. Another point against my sore back as I’d have to do without a warm wheat bag for the night. I got that fixed up this morning.

I’m going to begin blogging the sessions I attended, but only on the weekends. I have to go back to work next week, so I will not be spending my writing time with further bloggage. I’ve had to pace myself because of the back, so I shouldn’t be blogging Ad Astra forever. Just a few weeks. Probably enough to see me through to the next conference 😉

So that’s how I got here.

More fun to come.