Monthly Archives: May 2016

Time Management

whiterabbitHands up if you manage your time … wisely. There is a tried and true cliche that states if you want to get a job done, give it to a busy person. I agree, because that is the type of person who knows how to manage their time wisely.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) For more details email

Some people have neat and tidy desks, some people have paper strewn everywhere – it doesn’t matter what type of desk you keep. What matters is whether you have an agenda in your notebook, phone, computer or your head. Those of us who appear to live in a world of chaos desk.1only appear to be that way. My desk is untidy, but I keep a running tally of what the important tasks of the day are. Yes, I screw up periodically, but on the whole I get plenty done – and still have time to read – and voraciously read, at that Plus, I get time to feed my addiction – Words With Friends.

Here are some ways to help you manage your time.

  1. Make Lists – I religiously make lists, then promptly lose them. If I list stuff on my phone, I forget to check it, but the very act of writing down what I’m thinking about helps to solidify it in my head.
  2. Tackle the easiest or toughest tasks first – your choice. Sometimes, it’s better to attack a few easy jobs and feel you have accomplished something. It will give you the impetus to get to the hard tasks.
  3. Think before you say ‘yes’ – if you can come up with a few scenarios before you need them, you are a lucky person. It will help you to get out of commitments you don’t want to – well, commit to. The trick really is to think about them beforehand so you are not caught off guard.
  4. Be a morning person. Do the dirty work when you are fresh, so you still have time to do the stuff you want to do.
  5. Take a break. If you have a dog you are a lucky person. Take advantage of your furry friend’s need to get outdoors. Even a walk around the block or tossing the ball to Fido will get your circulation moving and help you to think more clearly.

How do you manage your time?

What Writers Fear Most

chickenWe’re chicken, each and every one of us writers. Here’s what writers fear most:


And boy, are we going to have to put up with tons. When that novel is finally finished and you type the words ‘The End’ the rejection begins. How? Well, now you have to write a query and synopsis to hook a literary agent, and that my friend, is tough as nails. You may have written the book, but how do you boil it down to three paragraphs. An almost impossible task. Then, get set for rejection after rejection from the agents. There are many compelling reasons why agents will reject your work and it may have nothing to do with the quality, but it’s tough to keep a smile on your face and struggle along. But that’s what we have to do. Because that wonderful day will come when the right person matches up with you and your work and then the long road to publishing will happen … or so we have to believe. Never give up, never surrender, as a key character in a science fiction show once said.

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons  in Oakville  – Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug 10) For more details email

‘Not good enough’ Syndrome

So many people, not just writers, just don’t believe in themselves and in what they do. Writers have this syndrome big time. And it’s hard not to have it. After all, when you see the amount of incredibly rich stories out there, it’s hard not to feel inadequate. When I feel this way, I like to read a really poorly written book. If such a book can get published, then there’s hope for me especially when I secretly know my book is way, way, way better.

Fear of Success



Yes, most people think they have a fear of failure, but I think it’s really a fear of success. So many of us feel great writing – and writing – and writing our novels … and not knowing when to stop. Or perhaps not wanting to stop. I think that’s indicative of a fear of success, because the person is afraid to go forward and see if his/her beloved book can achieve any success.

Are you a one-time wonder?

You’ve written your opus and now you’re stuck. No grand ideas and you wonder if you will ever get another idea. Think about it endlessly and you probably won’t get another good idea. But allow your imagination to drift, use prompts or take a writing class to kickstart your creativity and you’ll be surprised. There’s more than one story in you, for sure. I guarantee you.

What are your fears?

Why Writers Write

snoopyWriters write because they have no choice. It’s true. Once a phrase, a plot, a character jumps into your mind, it’s like your head will explode if you don’t start writing down whatever crazy scenario springs to mind. Elizabeth Gilbert was correct when she talks about the muse in her excellent TED TALK called Your Elusive Creative Genius.

But there are a host of other reasons why writers write. Some have lived through spectacularly unfortunate childhoods which have given them incredible stories to share. Here’s my list of some hard-to-put-down memoirs:

Crafting Your Novel – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9) Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) For more details email

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wellsglass castle
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  • On Writing by Stephen King (this one is fantastic for writers)
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Some writers write to educate the public or to teach certain self-help tricks. In fact, self-help books are the world’s best-selling genre!

Here’s why some famous authors write … and which I agree with.

gaiman“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.” – Neil Gaiman

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” – Harper Lee

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.” – Roald Dahl

“I just knew there were stories I wanted to tell.” – Octavia E. Butler

Pacing Your Novel

snoreZzzz, Wheeze, Snort, Snuffle.

That’s your reader falling asleep because your novel has become boring, ho-hum and downright dull. You are sure your story is interesting, you are certain your plot line is full of conflict and your characters are quirky so why is your reader off to Snoozeville?

It is probably because of PACING. If you want to keep that reader turning pages and salivating for more of your words, then you need to recharge your novel by adding different rhythms, action and sizzle to your story.

Crafting Your Novel – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9) details here
Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10) details here

Every chapter – indeed, every paragraph and scene, must keep that reader glued to the page. If you can achieve that, your novel has flow and pacing. Pacing is when your reader gets so caught up in the story and begins to identify with the characters. He/she becomes hooked.

5 Tools to Master Pacing


Try writing your action scenes with short, choppy sentences so the reader is immersed in what is happening. This is not the time for long descriptions or internal thoughts. Allow the reader to experience the danger, the conflict, the scrappiness of the action.


This may sound crazy to a budding novelist, but every chapter, indeed every scene should have some kind of cliff hanger to keep the reader engrossed. This does not mean that every scene or chapter should end in a ‘Who shot J.R.?’ scenario. It can be something small like a surprise, a revelation or a threat.

  1. PING-PONG DIALOGUEping pong

A rapid back-and-forth exchange will get the point across quickly and infuse the scene with tension. Take this example from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book:

            He tipped his head to one side as if he was listening to something. “They’re hungry,” he said.

            “What are?” asked Nick.

            “The things in the cellar. Or belowdecks. Depends whether this is a school or a ship, doesn’t it?”

            Nick felt himself beginning to panic. “It isn’t … spiders … is it?” he said.

            “It might be,” said the other boy. “You’ll find out, won’t you?”

The scene is building and the reader is starting to get as nervous as the boy.


Cut from the main plot to a sub-plot to keep the reader hungry for what comes next. Just as he or she gets cozy with what is happening, it’s time to jump to another scenario. Keep it edgy and the story moving rapidly forward.


punchThe words and particularly the verbs you choose can help keep the pace of the book rolling crisply along. Onomatopoeic verbs like slam, crash, lub-dub, crackle, all convey sensation which is what you are striving for. Play up the spirited, lively sentences and keep them short to add drama and conflict. Fragmented sentences should not be used often, but when they are used, they can add a dash of spice to the prose.

And last, but not least, try and write in the active voice as much as possible.

High Concept Stories



High Concept Stories? Huh?

Every time you turn around, the publishing world has changed and added new submission guidelines, genres or sub-genres for the various novels that are being turned out.  Literary agents now often ask for high concept stories. What the heck does that mean?


There is none!

Ask a panel of literary experts and they’ll all give you different answers. So what’s a writer to do when even the experts are confused. High concept appears to be a story that can be boiled down to a few spectacular requirements. No pressure, of course.

  1. You must be able to capture the essence of your story in the title and the tagline – whew!



  1. It must be unique and original – Nothing new there! All that means is that you need to put your own slant on any story … something we should be doing anyway.
  1. It must appeal to the masses – we’re talking N.Y. best-sellers here. Of course you don’t know if you’re book is going to be a best-seller but if you come up with a plot that is so outrageous that only a very few people would be interested in reading it – well then, you can strike it off the high-concept label.
  1. It means that the premise of your book has to have a ‘wow’ hook – something that is immediately recognizable and that will appeal to the largest possible audience 



  1. Whatever genre you’re pitching has to be obvious and grab the reader immediately – it all boils down to hook, line and sinker
  1. Your elevator pitch should be 1-3 sentences tops and the pitch should make the person clunk themselves on the head and wish they had come up with it.

If you have all these elements, you have a high-concept novel.


2016 Summer Classes in Oakville

Crafting Your Novel – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9)

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10)

For more details click on the links or email



Your Character’s Inner World

Many times writers get so caught up in their main plot they forget the inner worlds of their stories. That’s a mistake. A character must be multi-dimensional, just like in real life, or the reader will find him boring and will discard him in the worst way possible … ignore him.

Action and plot are of course extremely important but it is your characters that will make the reader care about whether they truly loved the story or not.

So how do we build inner worlds? We do this by focusing on a number of points:


thinkerDoes your character have internal dialogue? This internal thought has to show the inconsistencies, anxieties, challenges, joys and heartaches that are central to the character. Thoughts they probably would not voice aloud but are integral to them.


What distinguishes your character from the other people in the story? Is he a maniacal serial killer? Was he the victim of something tragic that makes him think and react the way he now does? Does he use humor as a buffer? What feelings set him apart?

Physical Sensations

Pull the reader into the character’s sensory world—the smell of frying bacon that brings him dogback to his childhood; a particular song that transports him to a different time. How does the physical world impact him. Don’t go for the obvious, delve into the character and let him show you his inner world. Then show the reader what it is.

The Past

imagesThe past—our memories, shape us in more ways than we can imagine. What happens to you in your childhood will forever be imprinted on your brain. It’s the same with your characters. You don’t need to have continuous flashbacks to show why the character is the way she is but knowing certain aspects will allow you to craft your lines to display this. So make sure your characters have pasts that shape their destiny and the way they look at life.


How do you create your character’s inner world?


2016 Summer Classes in Oakville

Creative Writing 101 – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9)

Crafting Your Novel – Wednesday afternoons Aug. 3 – Sept. 14 (no class Aug. 10)

For more details click on the links or email