Tag Archives: authors

Writer’s Notebook

If you call yourself a writer, chances are you have a writer’s notebook tucked in your purse (if you are a woman) or in your pocket or briefcase (if you are a man). imagesIf you don’t have one – run out right now to the Dollar Store, Staples or any other place that sells stationery supplies.

Why? Because it is one of the most essential pieces of equipment a writer must possess.

Why again? Read on chickadee because without it, you will probably never be able to capture the essence of the world. Scratch that – you might be able to if you are a seasoned writer or someone with a photographic memory. But if you are just starting out, a writer’s notebook is a gift from the writing gods above. Take it and use it.

What to jot down in your writer’s notebook

  1. Random thoughts or memories that occur to you as you while away the time waiting for someone. These are precious because you never know what they could lead to.
  2. Enjoy a coffee in an outdoor cafe download (particularly in a large city) and watch the world go by. You will be surprised at the diversity of people that stream by your table. Make notes of the weird, the strange and the ugly. These are the characters you can base some of your own fictional ones on.
  3. Describe that perfect sunset you just witnessed or the hurricane that knocked your deck off and floated it away. The thoughts, impressions and observations that occur to you at that moment may not come back to you. Write them down immediately.
  4. Allows you to brainstorm – an almost impossible task on an iPad, tablet or computer.
  5. Culling words, sentences and phrases from your favorite books and jotting them down in your writer’s notebook. Reading them over will help kick-start your own creative process.

No need for top-of-the-line stationery. All you need is something serviceable. And yes, while you can jot down notes in your phone, it just doesn’t work the same way. For one thing, flipping through them does not jog your mind the way words on a piece of paper does. Try it and you’ll see I’m right.

What’s in your writer’s notebook?


2016 Spring Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced

Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons April 12 – June 28 in Oakville

Crafting Your Novel – Wed. afternoons April 13 – June 29 in Oakville

Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons April 14 – June 30 in Oakville

For more details click on the links or email beverleyburgessbell@gmail.com

Plagiarism Versus Inspiration

What is the difference between plagiarism versus inspiration? I think there is a huge difference. First, let’s try to look at it through simple definitions. According to Merriam-Webster, plagiarism means to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas. Fair enough, no one can argue with that.


Inspiration, on the other hand, according to Merriam-Webster again, is something that gives someone an idea about what to do or create or a force or influence that inspires someone.

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” Voltaire

How do you know when you are writing a story whether you are being completely original? Well, sadly, it’s highly doubtful your plot line is completely original. According to Christopher Booker and his 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots:Why We Tell Stories, there are only … well, seven basic plots. They are:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

So, I guess with only this many original plots, what’s an author to do? Well, that’s where inspiration comes in. If you copy a book word for word, or make small changes like substituting a name that is like the original, but close enough that it is recognizable, you are plagiarizing for sure. But if you take a story you admire, and base your own on it, then you are drawing on the original for inspiration.

In actual fact, plagiarizing is quite difficult if you set out to write a story. Try it. Take a novel you wish you had written and begin to copy it. Change the names of the protagonists and the setting and begin. Within a page or two you will find that your story has taken off and your characters have achieved a life of their own. What you thought was plagiarism was inspiration.

It’s actually very difficult to imitate someone else’s writing style since we each have our own unique voices. Take the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I loved reading that series. Sadly, Robert Jordan died before he could complete the last two books, which were finished by Brandon Sanderson who did a phenomenal job. But … there was just something missing – that indefinable stamp that gave the books that came before that je ne sais quois. That’s what I mean – it’s extremely difficult to copy anyone.

Do you agree?


2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story”  

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished”  

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript”  







Writers and Political Correctness

Writers and political correctness do not go hand in hand. I repeat, they do not go hand in hand. If you want to be politically correct, choose something else to do – become a politician.

Our responsibility as writers is to tell it like it is. But it’s fiction you say. True, but even in fiction the truth is an absolute necessity. Let’s say you are writing historical fiction. I once came across a writer who was writing a book about the deep south during the time of slavery. That writer refused to use the correct appellation for the slaves. He persisted in calling them African Americans. Well, that was downright wrong. I skimmed through the internet trying to find out when the term African American began being used in the mainstream – it was tough to find anyone willing to discuss this, let alone give it a time frame. But I think I’ve locked it down to the early 80s.

Would this writer be considered a bigot for using the word ‘Negro’? No. because that was the term used during that period of time.

Author Anne Rice has this to say about political correctness.

anne rice

I agree with her 100 per cent. Do you?

It is absolute insanity to say that only someone from one culture should write about that particular culture or race. I actually have experience in this particular area. One of the books that I’m shopping around to literary agents is called THE SHAMROCK TWINS (it is actually with a wonderful agent right now who I (cross my fingers) hope will sign me on as a client). Anyway, this agent I spoke to here in Toronto asked me

1) if I was Irish (no, I’m not)

2) whether I had African background (no, I do not) since my twins end up in Africa on a quest to find their pot of gold.

What rot, is all I can say. A storyteller tells a story regardless where he or she comes from.

Let me know if you believe an author should write honestly and from the heart.


2016 Creative Writing Classes at Beyond-The-Lamppost

Tues. afternoons January 12 – March 29 in Oakville “Shaping Your Story”  

Wed. afternoons January 13 – March 30 in Oakville “Get Your Story Finished”  

Thurs. afternoons January 14 – March 3 in Oakville “Almost there: Revising & Rewriting Your Manuscript