Deflating and Energizing on Day 3 of SIWC !

Highlights from Day 3 of SIWC !

Okay, so two full days of activity at a conference can take its toll. At the beginning of the third day, people came ambling into the ballroom looking a bit like…


          Monaghan‘s bacon trick did its job to get us all there (eventually), and then a hard-hitting keynote by Laura Bradbury brought people to attention. Clearly, there is never a reason to delay writing down what’s inside. It shouldn’t take death staring us in the face to make us write, and her success story is both scary and inspirational at the same time.

          On a last-minute decision, I decided to go to a session other than the one I’d first highlighted in the conference booklet. I headed over to Andrea MacPherson‘s “Poetry: Vision & Revision.” It was a great decision. She showed us Diane Thiel’s “Memento Mori in Middle School” before AND after revision (useful!) and gave ideas about thirteen different areas to look at during that process:

  1. Title
  2. Opening
  3. Form
  4. Speaker’s voice / stance
  5. Setting
  6. Tension
  7. Language
  8. Voice and Tone
  9. Rhythm
  10. Structure of Imagery
  11. Specific words, lines, stanzas
  12. Accessibility to readers
  13. Closing

It was a revealing workshop taught by a professional poet who has also acted as editor for two literary journals, Prism and Event. I kept thinking about ways many of her ideas would serve well to improve ANY kind of writing, not just poetry. Add redrafting exercises, preferred teaching texts, and her latest books to love, and it was a very valuable workshop to all who attended.

By the time I returned  to the ballroom for our final “breaking of bread” together, I noticed a change in people. They looked a bit more like this:


           Hallie Ephron energized us once again with her keynote, signing off on a weekend with a reminder to throw nothing away, to merely wait for the right moment to use those useful tidbits…and that’s the conference itself, isn’t it? I told Donald Maass at lunch one day that I picked up his book and workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel years ago, too early, really, before I was ready for it, and it was incredibly intimidating.  When I revisited it lately, it’s proving to be worth its weight in gold. There’s a right time for everything.

          At the lunch tables, we started recapping all that had happened over the past few days–lessons we learned, people we connected with, good news and good times, and in practically every case, ENERGY and IDEAS to get writing again. It confirmed what I’ve always known about this time in October…

          SIWC is actually healthy steroids for writers! It’s a legal kick and utterly intoxicating. Now I’m signing off on this blog because, well, I have work to do, poems to pen, stories and novels to plan…and I know already, I won’t be able to stay away.

          See you in Surrey in 2015!

Brain Purge on Day 2 of SIWC !

Highlights from Day 2 of SIWC !

Okay, so today at SIWC, I got just as bombarded by great information, amazing people and presenters, and surprising encounters as I did yesterday, maybe even more. But I found out the secret for dealing with it effectively. It’s called a …


More about that later… here are a few bites (bytes?) of good writer food I got today:

  • Keynotes from Doctorow and Wendig today, different in tone and message, but with the same deep effect on listeners. Both were extremely eloquent and well-prepared and I learned all about intellectual rights and Owls in an Outhouse.
  • From Anita Daher, 19 plot archetypes (including Riddle, Rivalry, Forbidden Love, and Wretched Excess); 8-point Arc Worksheet; and a Guide for Pantsers. Key moment–hearing that character driven books lend themselves more to pantsers and plot-driven books more to planners. It’s the difference between a romance and a “pursuit” book. Definitely helped explain why my process changed a bit on my latest book, which was more character-driven.
  • From Chevy Stevens, the baring of her writing soul. Her session on three-act structure took us through plotting from beginning to end–different approaches, complete with docs and web links. She also then told us about HOW this structure worked in her own five novels as well as other works like The Walking Dead, Lost, and The Killing. She was extremely up front about the troubles she faced as a writer, and took time to explain new skills she acquired with each book she wrote. EXTREMELY honest and helpful! On top of that, a 9-page handout, just in case it might have been quite a bit of info in quite a short time. Much appreciated!
  • From Mercedes Fernandez, a pitch that became blue-pencil. Mercedes listened carefully to a pitch for one of the three novels I’m attempting to find an agent and/or publisher for at the moment. After asking some great questions, she told me an issue I would have to deal with–parts of the novel are YA and parts are NA. It has to clearly be one or the other for publishers to be able to market it effectively. It showed me the few parts I need to rewrite to make it completely YA. Kind, helpful comments! TY!
  • From Abby Ranger, senior editor at Harper Collins, great interest and great questions about another book I’m pitching, a YA medieval fantasy, and a request for pages too!
  • Meeting some tweeps I’d only ever known online and getting to be able to put faces to names in reality. Okay, Crystal Bourque gets the prize for looking different from her Twitter pic, because she had these awesome thick-rimmed glasses on that made me sit and think for a LONG time before asking her if she was on my Twitter. I mean, you don’t want to look like a stalker or anything, but you don’t want to ignore someone either, right? It was a nice chance to connect at the banquet tonight, and she has both right brain (urban fantasy) and left brain (technical writing) skills, so it was a pleasure to meet such a talented wordsmith.
  • I also met Holli Moncrieff, who writes horror and who has a fantastic TRUE story all her own that made me understand why she might write in that genre. Strong! Carmen Wright has not one, but two daughters I’ve taught (English 10 and Writing 12), and she has her own recent horror story involving a sewing machine and Halloween costumes, a whole OTHER tale. Neither daughter ever told me their mother was a writer. Sheesh!
  • And I heard some success stories for people I’ve grown close to–Tricia met with an agent who cleared up exactly what she needed to do with the unique style of nonfiction writing she does. It was an eye-opener and a real revelation for her, one she’s revved up about; Hector had a request for a partial manuscript of his literary novel today; and Bonnie had two requests for partials, partially because at the SIWC idol today, her beginning was read and got favourable reviews from several agents. Nice work, everyone!
  • I had a chance to chat and connect with many others today, too, and it really struck me how different this conference is–someone with 20 million plus books in print takes time to speak to someone with 0 books in print, and there is no hint of pretentiousness whatsoever. I mean, the camaraderie and encouragement  are remarkable.
  • Autographs from Robin Spano (who is SO encouraging!), Robert J Wiersema (who is SO creative!), and Chevy Stevens (who is SO knowledgeable!).
  • And of course, a Saturday at SIWC wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of “The Hippopotamus Song” by Jack Whyte. I swear the guy’s singing voice IMPROVES with age. So unfair.

So that brings me back to the beginning of my post. How come my head didn’t bulge to the brim like an active volcano the way it did yesterday?

A brain purge.

While the book signing was going on downstairs, and romance writers were having a party in another room, I went to the upstairs hallway, which was empty, and I found one of those comfy chairs and began to read Larry BrooksStory Physics and Story Engineering. A peaceful time–about 45 minutes for me. And that was all it took to get my head back into the game.

It’s late / early, depending on your point of view, so I’m off to bed to get ready for our final day… all good things must end, I know, but I’m going to miss everyone and everything that is SIWC come Monday.

See you all tomorrow!

DAY ONE OF SIWC: A Head Full of New Knowledge !

Highlights from Day 1 of SIWC

Day one of SIWC is over for me, and as always, this is what I feel like after a day of sessions and other activities:


          Yes, my head is about to explode, but that’s why I journal and blog–to get it OUT (where I can think about it some more). That said, let me give you a few highlights from today:

          First, both Kathy Chung and kc dyer flagged me down to thank me for my top ten countdown to SIWC. It’s definitely my pleasure, as SIWC is the highlight of my writing year (which runs from SIWC to SIWC, not from January to December).

          I ran into writing buddies like Hector Curiel, Bonnie Jacoby, and Tricia Barker, whose positive outlooks and attitudes and love of writing push me more too. I spoke to some SIWC success stories, like Shari Green, whose first published novel, Following Chelsea, was released this very week, and Denise Jaden, who now has three published YA novels as well as a book about how to write a novel.

          I ran into two of the Pulp Literature editors, Jen and Sue, one who was attending the conference and one who was volunteering, and I ran into a few other writers who have published work in that fantastic journal (like KL Mabbs, author of “The Death of Me”)!

          Don Maass sat down at our lunch table,  and asked me about my writing. I told him about two of my YA novels, and he expressed interest in one, adding that the title grabbed him too. I later went to his workshop about world building, and it was literally great idea after great idea after great idea. He often got his audience thinking by asking THEM questions, like:

  • Picture something special. Who made it? Who takes care of it? What would the effect be if it was taken away? What will be gone in a day, in a year? Those moments are precious to protagonists, so they will be to readers too.
  • Everything that’s beautiful has an ugly side. What’s something your character wanted, but then discovered wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? How does the character’s world change because of it?
  • Picture a place of fear. Where is that place you don’t want to go? How many scary, mysterious things can happen there? What will force the protagonist to go there? What is lost that must be retrieved there?

He is a master storyteller himself, and he often interspersed personal stories and works from other writers to illustrate his points. I have pages and pages of notes from the hour I was there.

I was late getting there because of a pitch session I had with Rachel Letofsky. I quickly told her an elevator pitch for three novels and asked her which she was most interested in. She chose two, and I quickly told her about both of them (one was the one Don Maass gave positives to earlier too). She asked for a synopsis and pages for both of them, AND she noticed that in most of my fiction, I use female protagonists, and asked why. I told her it’s to take me out of “me” mode, so my main fictional characters don’t sound like me. She seemed to like that answer and in less than ten minutes, she picked up on a few things about my writing and impressed the heck out of me!

Another session I went to was a presentation about short stories by Mary Robinette Kowal. She gave many useful ideas about deciding the scale of your story, about how every character or scenic element will add 500-1000 words, and how, when making those shifts, you’re forcing the readers to do some rebuilding of the details in their minds.  Then she brought out the MICE:

Milieu / Idea / Character / Event

She showed us how each story you tell can be told in different ways:

Milieu–it’s about location. Someone enters a place at the beginning of the story, and they leave it at the end.

Idea–there are questions that need to be answered. It ends when the question is answered.

Character–the character  is dissatisfied with his or her current role. It ends when the character IS satisfied with it, or has a new role he or she can be satisfied with.

Event–Something disrupts the status quo. The story ends when things return to normal.

She proceeded to show us how computer nesting code could help us organize elements (I’m not kidding, and yes, it works!), pacing, scenes, endings, and economy of language. She went OVERTIME to give us everything she possibly could before she had to leave so the next presenter could get ready.

Anita Daher (“DAYER”) spoke about writing for young people. She included ideas about middle grade, YA and NA, took questions at the beginning, and answered all of them by the end of her presentation. Her plot checklist ALONE contained the following ideas:

1. What does your main character want?

2. What or who gets in the way?

3. Is the primary conflict internal or external?

4. How does the main character PLAN to get what he or she wants?

5. How will you maintain tension?

6. How will your hero BE the hero in terms of your story climax and resolution?

7. What is your charcter’s growth, her change from beginning to end?

8. How will you begin your story?


Add to that a few useful handouts and an engaging presentation, and wow–between all the sessions, I wrote 29 pages of NOTES in my journal today. Solid. I’ll also mention that I ran into some other teachers at this conference, including one who also teaches creative writing to high school students. Even more, I ran into a MOM of not one, but two kids I’ve taught–and I had no idea she was a writer. I met a journalist who turned from nonfiction to fiction, and she told me a story she had self-published that was engaging from the get go to the very end.

This is a PIECE of what happened to my brain today…and it’s huge and wonderful…and tiring. I’m off to bed to prepare for ANOTHER crazy day tomorrow.

Peace always,



SIWC Countdown: 1 day: And there’s only one…

1 Day Away: The Power of ONE

The power of ONE…. There is ONE day until we’re at SIWC–it’s crazy, and it’s come faster than expected. But ONE is all about being…


           …and whether it’s your first time at SIWC or your fifteenth, you’ll soon learn that there is only one Kathy Chung, one kc dyer, one Carol Monaghan, one Ed Griffin, one Diana Gabaldon, one Jack Whyte,  and one …



          Enjoy the three days of fun, and remember to say hello if you see me there. I’ll be the one with the big smile on my face…okay, I get it–that may not be specific enough in a building with 800 people with smiles on their faces. Don’t worry–it’s why we have name tags! See you tomorrow!


SIWC Countdown: 2 days: 2 ideas to keep in mind during the conference !

2 Days Away: 2 Ideas to Keep in Mind !


Okay, we are getting super close to conference time. The excitement is building and the nerves are jangling. There’s a good chance we get swept up in the three days and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over, and we’re looking back wondering, What just happened?

So BEFORE the conference, there are two thoughts to keep in mind, two ideas to cycle through your thoughts:

  1. No regrets: No “I should have…I could have….” During the conference, talk to that person. Show that piece of paper with your words on it to someone. Otherwise, it will be a long 365 days until you get your next opportunity at SIWC.
  2. Don’t get overwhelmed. When you take in a session, take notes, but think, What is the most valuable idea I got from what I heard and how can I take advantage of it? Acting on the information is key. Go into a session, blue pencil, or pitch thinking If I only get ONE key idea out of this bit of time, it will have been worth it, and then focus on finding that kernel of information that will make a difference to you and to your writing.  

And, by all means, remember to share YOUR ideas with others as well. It will make the conference even more valuable, and you’ll feel like you’ve not only been taking in but also giving back. As the pic at the top shows, if you share an idea and I share an idea, we EACH have two ideas. Priceless!


SIWC Countdown: 3 days: 3 editors to pitch to! Pass GO and Collect!

3 Days Away: 3 Editors to Pitch To!


To me, pitching to editors and discovering they like your work is a double blessing. It’s like getting that card in Monopoly that tells you to advance to such and such a place and head on over directly past GO and collect!

The first is editors work with MOUNTAINS of manuscripts in your genre. They know what works and what doesn’t. Even if you get rejected, their insights are extremely valuable and could help improve your manuscript.

The second is that you have someone who works at a publishing house who is interested in your manuscript–it’s like bypassing the agent step altogether (you probably still SHOULD get an agent, but it will be MUCH easier once you have an editor and publishing house already interested).

That said, here are three editors who will be hearing pitches at SIWC:

mercedes fernandez


Mercedes Fernandez is an assistant editor at Kensington Publishing, where she acquires commercial women’s fiction, cozy mysteries, multicultural fiction, urban literature and contemporary romance.



Emily Ohanjanians is an editor with Harlequin MIRA who continues to search for breakouts in all areas of commercial fiction. Now she continues to seek outstanding commercial women’s fiction that will appeal to a mainstream market. She has a slight obsession with story structure, and likes a fast-paced, poignant, emotional read with lots of tension as well as relatable and—for lack of a better term—messed-up characters.



Abby Ranger is a senior editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Her current focus is middle grade fiction of all stripes: fresh and honest contemporary, smart epic fantasy, stories with elements of magical realism, and original takes on subjects of enduring interest. She also acquires select picture books and young adult novels.

What next? GO directly to SIWC a few short days from now. Pitch one of these heavy hitters and if you succeed, GO, GO, GO directly to the land of the published people!

Peaks and Valleys: The Ups and Downs of Entering Contests …


Peaks and Valleys



I just wrote an entry about contests, and their benefits, but I also need to include a word of caution. Contests create super highs and super lows. Here’s what I mean:

When you see a contest that interests you, it’s a super high to consider the possibility of placing in it.

That high continues as you finish and edit a piece that you feel is just perfect for it.

Once you send it in, you feel great that you took action and sent your writing to another human being.

But then the suffering comes…

You need to wait for the entry deadline to pass and for the days to crawl by while the judging happens.

You near the date you’re supposed to hear back, and your heart does flipflops.

Then MAYBE you hear that you’re a finalist—and that’s another high!

You know you’re close to being one of the winners and you wonder…and go through pain again, waiting for the final word.

And that word comes, and if you’re fortunate, you hear you’re a winner, and you are on cloud nine!

But maybe that word DOESN’T come, and you realize you lost…ughhhhhh!

So here’s a look inside my mind (scary as that might be!), and a few of my contest experiences this year…

ace baker

First, I was in a novel contest, one put on by Grasmere Publishing. I found out that my novel, Summer of Blades, made the longlist of 9. Top nine, I thought. Great! Then I heard it was shortlisted to top three. Fantastic! Two books away from winning the prize money and a publishing contract. And then I heard that I lost. So close, and nothing to show for it, or so I thought. Then I got the words from Governor General Award Winner Arthur Slade about my novel:

I’ve certainly lived in your world and met your characters so I feel like I know you. This book was a marvellous blend of action and humour. I know it’s hard to not “win” the competition, but it was incredibly close…and that means this book is very close to being ready for the world. Thank you for sharing it with me. Arietta is a wonderful heroine and the world you’ve created was believable and intriguing. And I laughed my head off several times. So thanks for that, too! -Arthur Slade

Flash forward to the Magpie Poetry Awards. I hear that I’m a finalist—fantastic! I find out at the launch of issue #3 of Pulp Literature that I’m the winner. I’m over the top with emotion. I hear the words that the judge, George McWhirter, past Vancouver Poet Laureate, had to say about my poem, “Big Red Schoolhouse,” and I’m over the top! And then I get copies of the book it’s published in and see how wonderful the editors and typesetters have made my work look—incredible!

And later, I had a piece of flash fiction shortlisted for the Hummingbird Award—nice! And it dies…not nice. But it turns out that it receives an “editor’s pick,” and it’s going to be published—yes!

And my latest? SIWC. I had both a poem and a nonfiction piece that made finals. Great! And the weekend before the conference, the one when they normally call the winners, arrives. Time for the suffering to begin. And Saturday comes…and goes. No call. And Sunday comes and goes…no call. And I enter the valley again.

But then I think: I have never before been a finalist the same year in two different categories in the SIWC contest. Even though I didn’t win any prize money and won’t see either of my works in print, there’s a small positive hiding there. Plus, I’ve never been a finalist in the nonfiction category. That’s a plus too. There’s a line from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, that says something like “Nothing’s either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Sometimes, it takes a bit of effort to find the silver lining.

It always seems like there are more valleys than peaks, but just like on a roller coaster, you need to go through them if you’re going to soar to the heights again. Those extremes may just be why I’m a contest addict.

peaks and valleys

But I figured I’d give you fair warning—since the chance is always there that you might become one too! Ready to go for a ride? Malahat’s Open Season Awards deadline is November 1st

Just sayin’.


SIWC Countdown: 4 Days: 4 Writing Contests, 4+ Reasons to Enter !

4 Days Away: 4 contests, 4+ reasons to enter!


Four SIWC writing contest categories and FOUR reasons to enter!

Okay, so the contest may be over for this year (more on that in a later post), but the best time to begin your entries for next year is . . . now! That said, here’s a bit of info directly from the web site:

Four Categories:

SIWC Storyteller’s Award: short stories 2,500 — 5,000 words

SIWC Non-fiction Award: maximum length 1,500 words

SIWC Writing For Young People Award: maximum length 1,500 words

SIWC Poetry Award: one poem per submission: 100 lines max.

  • Please Note: The ‘Writing For Young People Award’ is a category comprising stories written for people under 18 years, including picture books, chapter-style stories and YA. The writer’s age is immaterial.

Now here are 4+ reasons why you might consider entering next year:


  • Yes, there’s the prize money. First place finishes win $1000 (I was fortunate to have that happen in 2011 in the Poetry category, and in 2012 in the Storyteller category). Honorable mentions earn $150 (I’ve never had this happen). Other finalists earn the recognition of having been finalists (I was a finalist in 2013 in Storyteller and a finalist this year, in 2014, in Poetry and Nonfiction).
  • Winners are published and see their work in print. Pieces are printed in the World of Words Anthology sold at the conference. It’s nice to know your work will be read by other writers.
  • That exposure can lead to other opportunities. Another editor, Sue Pieters of Pulp Literature (also an SIWC writing contest winner, multiple times in multiple categories) contacted me about purchasing second rights for my award-winning story, “Victory Girl,” a year after it was published in the anthology. It appeared in issue 4 of Pulp Literature this month, along with an award-winning poem of mine!
  • Writing contests give you an assignment—a specific word count and type of writing, along with a deadline. It’s like an extended writing prompt…and many of us know about the tendency to procrastinate if we don’t have that Sword of Damocles, that deadline, hanging over the head as a reminder to put the butt in the chair and put words on paper.


Bonus reason: It can add to your bio.

Having won a few contests, I can write:

Ace Baker’s poetry has won the SIWC Poetry Contest, the PNWA Poetry Prize, and the 2014 Magpie Award. His short fiction has won the Storyteller Award in 2012, and a YA medieval fantasy novel of his, Summer of Blades, was shortlisted (top three) for the 2014 Grasmere Publishing Children’s Fiction Contest.

So what are you waiting for? You have four contests with guidelines above. Pick your favourite and get working on your entry for the 2015 SIWC writing contest!

SIWC Countdown: 5 days: 5 kudos, gold stars, and TYs!

5 Days Away: 5 People to say TY to at SIWC!


5 days away–can you believe it? It’s going to get crazy really fast, really soon! And at SIWC, it can get crazy too–rushing off to pitches, blue pencils, sessions, trying to take in all you’re being taught, and going from one thing to the next to the next, until, at the end of the day, you’re exhausted…in a good way.

But take time at the conference to thank a few people. It doesn’t take much time, it means a lot to them, and it’s an opportunity for you to slow down and smell the roses too. Here are 5 to think of:

1. Leaders. I know if I mention some leaders and not others, I could get myself into trouble, but Kathy Chung and kc dyer deserve special thanks. These two work all year long to pull the conference together, and imagine what that means–the facility, food, and family of 800 writers; registrations; attending other events (like Word Vancouver) to get the word out about SIWC; dealing with writing contest entries and the contest anthology; vendors; creating a silly writing contest and asking for draw prizes and writing prizes and silent auction items; lining up keynote speakers AND writers who don’t mind being TEACHERS, which is what makes this conference special. They also update the web site and stay in touch with a newsletter and social media so people can set up pitches and blue pencil appointments, oh, and they make sure people new to the conference can be eased in without overwhelming them–the beginning orientation session is a comfort! That’s a piece of what they have to think of.

2. Presenters. At other “writing” conferences I’ve been to, the guest speakers at the sessions get up to read from their work, and you listen, and then you clap. And they leave and you leave. At SIWC, the writers TEACH their craft, and they live with you in the Sheraton Hotel for three days. It’s a friendly environment, and the presenters, some whom have millions of copies of their books in print, still take time to connect with those who attend. Amazing!

3. Other writers. So you’re a writer–you’re used to being in some spot, alone, with your laptop or journal, or if you write in a café, you’re used to being left alone to do what you do. And then you make the move to spend time with 800 other writers who have also taken the leap to move out of their comfort zones and spend three days with other people just as crazy as they are. Take time for each other.

4. Volunteers and the hotel crew. Imagine helping 800 people for three days. There are questions you’ve answered a million times, small emergencies and big emergencies, and the little task of serving food for those 800 people who are a little crazy and very hungry after rushing everywhere all day.

5. Yourself. You’ve made an investment in your writing and in your life as a writer. You’ve decided to come to the conference to learn and get inspired and you’re here–you’re actually here. Take a moment to thank yourself for the investment of time, money, and energy. Charge those life batteries, and you’ll find that, a year from now, you’ll be ready to return for another go at it–or a fifth, or a twelfth…or…well, some of us build our yearly schedules around it, let’s just put it that way!


SIWC Countdown: 6 Days: Find a Muse to Light Your Fuse!

6 Days Away: Find a Muse to Light Your Fuse!


This is not your average keynote.

No PhD dissertations here. No academic hoohah.

At SIWC, a keynote address is motivation and inspiration, pure and simple, like Robert Dugoni’s now-famous “This Day We Write!” speech, which had the SIWC crowd take up arms against blank pages and writer’s block. If you need a spark, if you need a jumpstart, if you need to breathe again, here are six keynote speakers, listed in order of appearance, who can act as your new muses:

Peter Rubie , a man of many faces: agent, journalist, professor, writer, editor, journalist, reviewer, and jazz musician, to name a few! He’s likely taken a great amount of time writing and editing his keynote speech, could probably play a tune to put you in the mood to hear it, and then might just look for a way to sell it once he’s finished!

Sarah Wendell, author of the book Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Novels, co-author of the book, Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, and co-founder of Smart Bitches Trashy, one of the most popular blogs examining romance fiction. I mean, definitely do NOT expect your grandmother’s keynote speech here.

Cory Doctorow, and for him, think power: science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist, co-editor of Boing Boing (, a contributor to The Guardian, the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Wired, former Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, winner of .the Locus and Sunburst Awards ( and nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards)… and I, ummm, so far today, have had a coffee and written this blog entry…okay. Time to get off my butt and DO something!

Chuck Wendig, who yes, is a best-selling novelist, but who also is known for “his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog,, and through several popular e-books (including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest).” I mean, the guy’s written a book called The Kick-Ass Writer, folks! ‘Nuff said.

Laura Bradbury, a self-publishing success story, whose book, My Grape Escape hit #1 on the “France” chart almost immediately, as well as placing in the top 5 of the “Travel-Europe” category and in the top 100 “Memoirs.” A rising star!

Hallie Ephron, whose work has been called “Hitchcockian” by USA Today and “deliciously creepy” by Publisher’s Weekly. SHE is anything but—she’s an inspiring writer who is extremely gifted at teaching her craft—as you’ll discover if you attend her sessions at SIWC.  A three-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Hallie wrote a multi-award nominated Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style. 

SIWC: Come for the motivation, but stay for the awe … and the ahhh, and the ohhh! and the YEAH!


SIWC Countdown: 7 days: 7 reasons to consider doing a blue pencil session!

7 DAYS: 7 Reasons to Consider Blue Pencil !

Seven days…I know, it sounds like a certain horror movie:


But it’s not bad at all–and neither is a blue pencil editing session. There is much to be gained from putting a few pages of your work into the hands of another writer or editor. Here are some of the main ones that come to mind:

1. This is not your pitch, but it IS a chance to talk about your work.

2. This is not your mother…it’s an objective view about your words.

3. This is not your English teacher…it’s feedback from people who write!

4. This is VALUABLE feedback. In years past, many suggestions I’ve received have improved works that later won writing contests or found their way into print.

5. This is a chance to make a connection with another writer.

6. This is a chance to learn how to communicate with others about THEIR writing.

7. This is a treasure. Okay, maybe this is a weird personal one, but I value pages that have been marked up by amazing writers and poets like ZsuZsi Gartner and Evelyn Lau. (You might even sneak in an autograph too).

          It takes guts to put your work out there…I get it–I still feel that every time I let someone have a peek at some of my work. But remember that what is to be gained by doing that outweighs any discomfort you may feel. Take the step of faith, put your words out there, and you might be surprised at what you learn!

See you tomorrow as we continue the countdown…

Step 7 of Nanowrimo Planning: Your Shopping List!


            If people have quite a few groceries to buy, they make a shopping list. Now, you don’t have “a few things” to do with your novel—you’re going to be filling hundreds of pages. You make a shopping list to make sure you have enough food and don’t forget anything. You make a spreadsheet of scenes for your novel to make sure you have enough material for a book-length work and so that you don’t forget anything.


            For this step, you create a list of 80 to 100 scenes (not chapters, scenes—several scenes make up a chapter). This is a list of things that might happen, beginning to end, in your novel. Here’s a look at how I do it:

SCENE #       VIEWPOINT CHARACTER           DESCRIPTION                     SML

1                      Blake Mack                                         slams into cyclist                     l

2                      Blake Mack                                         fakes his own death                m

3                      News report                                        car explosion reported           s

4                      Roxy Lee                                            harassment at office                s


The scene #s just help me keep track. Once I have between 80 and 100 scenes, I know I’ll have enough material for a book-length work.

The viewpoint character helps me track the amount of attention I’m giving each character. In this novel, Roxy and Blake SHOULD get the majority of the scenes; they’re my main characters. The list shows me if I have my scenes balanced in terms of the attention each character gets, but it  also makes me aware of how long I’ve left a character before I come back to him or her.

The description is plot. This makes that happen which makes something else happen which leads to the end. In my mind, the accident in scene one leads to Blake faking his death and assuming his identity in scene two. The news report is of a high-speed chase that led to the death of small-time criminal, Blake Mack. Roxy Lee, the newest female officer at her detachment, will be dealing with this seemingly open and shut case, since no one really wants to handle the paperwork, and all of the other work seems straightforward and boring.

S, M, or L? Small, medium, or large? I used to attempt to guess the number of pages a scene might take, but that got frustrating and ate up a ton of mental power. Instead, I now think, Is this a big part of my novel (L), or a small one (S)? Neither? Then it’s in between (M). The reason for this? Pacing. Too many long scenes in a row, and the story begins to sag; too many short ones in a row and you have machine-gun fire that your reader will find hard to keep up with.

Try this:

This is basically a scroll of scenes that takes you from the beginning to the end of your book. It is not set in stone. If you get a better idea, go with it, but by having a plan for your entire book, you know where you have to get to at least and can feel free to take detours along the way in HOW you get there. Finish this step, and you’re ready to WRITE YOUR NOVEL!

SIWC Countdown: 8 days? 8 Ways to Prepare for the Writing Conference!

8 Days: 8 Ways to Prepare for SIWC

Prepared Not Unprepared

1. Read bios of your favourite agents, editors and writers.

2. Practice your pitches.

3. Decide which works to blue pencil.

4. Check the schedules for workshops that interest you.

5. Select clothing for three days—you don’t want to be thinking about that kind of thing during the weekend. There’ll be enough on your mind!

6. Buy some business cards to help you stay connected.

7. Purchase books you want autographed.

8. Prepare to come out of your shell for (at least) three days. Many writers are natural introverts, but put 800 of them together, and they can let loose…



SIWC Countdown: 9 days? 9 Ways…to find opportunities at SIWC!

Time is ticking…only 9 days until the main conference begins…here’s what to expect:



1. Education—attend workshops where writers and others teach you their craft.

2. Inspiration—keynote speakers who will light your fire!

3. Sustenance—great food, and drink, and vendors to fulfill your needs.

4. Treasures—autographs from your favourite authors.

5. Contact—with about 800 other writers, all under one roof.

6. Feedback—blue pencil sessions that can help you improve.

7. Night Owl offerings—like Michael Slade’s Shock Theatre!

8. Creativity—wear your Friday night theme costume (secrets, lies and bad guys).

9. Pitch opportunities–tell all about your work to agents and editors face to face.

Tomorrow: 8 ways to prepare for the conference!

Step 6 of Nanowrimo Planning: Time to Get Real!




          Build and expand, build and expand . . . . Remember those five sentences you wrote in step two that you made into five paragraphs in step five? Well, we’re going to expand each of those to a page each…with a twist. We’re going to write what a part of each section might actually sound like in its part of the novel. That’s five pages of actual writing that you might actually use in your novel.

By writing a page of prose for each of the five parts, you get and keep the scope of the novel in your head. Also, this can become a bit like “connect the dots.” Once you have these five pages, you fill in the in-between parts connecting them, and you have your book. Of course, if you write a page and you feel like continuing, don’t fight it. Keep going until you’re happy with that part.

To give you an idea, here’s the first page for the first line / paragraph plan for my novel, JUST MAKE IT HAPPEN:

The body flew up and to the right as the silver Camaro smacked into it. Blake slammed on his brakes, nearly sending his car fishtailing over the edge.

            “Stupid, that was stupid,” he said to himself, slapping both hands on the steering wheel repeatedly. “I could’ve been killed.”

            He shot the car into reverse and pulled onto a narrow logging road. He killed the engine, killed the lights, and waited a moment to catch his breath. No cars, no lights, no sirens.

            He hiked up to where the bicycle lay in a tangled mess of metal, then rushed up and down the road, collecting pieces and pushing them to the side. A small patch of blood pooled on the gravel, and was already beginning to soak in. Blake scuffed his boots on the ground, pushing dirt over the blood. The spot looked smaller. If anyone found it anytime soon, it would look like some forest creature had met its maker at the wheels of a logging truck.

            Now, where the hell did the body go? Blake peered into the blackness and saw nothing.

            “Shit! Another loose end! Now I’ll be nailed for murder on top of everything else.” He scrambled down the slope, searching the bush to the left, to the right. He was about to stop for a breather when he heard a gurgling choke from directly below.

            He slid down the bank now, faster and faster, until his foot met with flesh.

            “Unhhh!” the cyclist groaned as another rib cracked from the impact. Blood soaked his body, his face, the ground all around him. He managed to flop his head back so he could look into the eyes of the one who had done this to him…


Try this:

You get the idea. The writing you do for each section will actually be in “novel form.” You won’t be writing ABOUT your novel; you’ll be writing your novel. And once you have a few pages finished, you KNOW you’ll be ready to go…but hold off a bit. There’s one more step…and in a few days, I’ll post it. And then you’ll need the rest of October to complete it. It’s a doozy, but it will set you up for success in Nanowrimo! See you in a few days…