Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Write On The Beach

Write On The Beach

This weekend I wrapped up a 2 day inaugural writers’ workshop I was co-hosting. It was a ton of work, but an extremely exciting and successful event – which is what really matters. I’ve never attempted anything on this scale, and bringing together 4 diverse, very successful authors to Grand Bend to teach 90 minute workshops to an equally diverse audience of new and “wannabe” writers proved to be no small challenge.

We couldn’t have done it, and done it so well, if not for the help of my partners-in-crime, Mary Alderson and Jonathon Roulston. Of course without the financial grant support of the Grand Bend Community Foundation, the Lambton County Creative County Fund, and the Grand Bend Art Centre, none of it would have been possible. I’m incredibly grateful for these groups and individuals who pulled together to make this entire event and weekend a success. Our instructors were also a real treat to work with. Jeff Rasley, Alicia Rasley, Bonnie Burnard, and Robyn Doolittle are professionals of the very finest merit. Their wisdom, humour, and expertise were appreciated by everyone. Judging by the comments I received from attendees, each session was chock full of insightful, helpful information and take-aways.

Grand Bend Harbour

Grand Bend Harbour

One of our added goals was to increase awareness of Grand Bend, Lambton Shores, and all we have to offer residents and visitors. Long known for our beautiful, wide sandy beaches, incredible sunsets, beach town vibe and family-friendly restaurants and activities, we wanted to showcase Grand Bend’s cultural and creative side as well. Visitors to the workshop, including instructors Jeff and Alicia Rasley who travelled from Indianapolis, Indiana, came away impressed by Grand Bend, and stated more than once that they’ll be back.

These are all true win-wins for everyone involved. I like that. It also means we’ll definitely be going ahead and doing one again next year, so stay tuned next spring for details.




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I’m so excited to share information on a new 2 day writers’ workshop series in Grand Bend, Ontario (2 hours from Toronto, 45 minutes to London and Sarnia) this June 11-12/2016! With four A-class, seasoned writers as instructors talking on a variety of topics, there’s something for everyone! Whether you’re already well into the writing journey, just starting out, or want to learn how to get started, these workshops were made for you. 

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Moving on Up

Moving on Up





We’re moving again. Even though I tell myself before, during, and immediately after every move that I’ll never do it again, life gets in the way and I find myself packing boxes and going through a surprising accumulation of stuff. It’s a tremendous chore to pack, sift through, and unpack everything you own, but it can also be a good thing.

First there’s the feeling of a new start that is inherent with any move. It can also be one of the most stressful situations we can be in – up there with divorce, change of jobs or schools, marriage, and new babies. But life is constantly changing. We’re forced to either accept the tides of change, or get sucked under. Personally, I like the opportunities that moving brings with it (I guess that’s why I keep doing it). While I’m grumbling about all the work it is to move, I try to focus on what’s ahead. I imagine my new home, and in my head I decorate to my heart’s content. I place furniture in different rooms, paint walls, hang pictures, and visualize how it will all look. I talk about it at length to my husband, and make long lists of what to keep and what to toss. It’s exhausting, but also strangely liberating. It’s personal world-building in the very truest sense.

Inspiration Moves Us

Inspiration Moves Us

Writing is the ultimate in world-building though. We’re literally crafting characters, worlds, situations, and outcomes out of the ether. Our job is to make the reader enjoy the journey and be able to make sense of the world we’ve created. Even the most outlandish fantasy stories must contain key elements of grounding for the reader to hold on to. If the writer fails in that, they’ve lost the reader, because he or she can only go by what’s written in front of them. They can’t see inside the writer’s head for the details that failed to make it to the page. If something is jarring or seems completely out of place, the writer risks upsetting the dear reader to the point where they close the book and become dissatisfied and distrustful of the writer.

Writers are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. Not only do characters need to have substance and value, but consideration must be paid to things like time, place, costuming, language, point-of-view, and what characters see, smell, hear, and touch. Be careful of the info drop though, since no reader wants to slog through pages and pages of description before getting to the good stuff – action and dialogue. It’s a careful balance, but when achieved, brings the reader right into the heart of the story. They’re right there chasing the bad guys, or up in the rigging fighting (or being) pirates, or falling deeply in love. The reader is taken out of his/her everyday life and given a chance to be someone they aren’t and explore places they may never see. That’s what they pay for. They buy a book in hopes that it will transport them. World-building is complex, but must appear seamless for it to come to life.

Like moving to a new home, the first page of a book is a brand new start. A new adventure. As a writer, you determine where you’re taking the reader. You get to decorate to your heart’s content, and when it comes time to edit, well, it’s like down-sizing; you take away the things you know you aren’t going to need, and even get rid of things you once loved, but no longer have a place for in your new home. You build a new world full of hope and promise, and is a reflection of the story you are telling yourself and visitors. Welcome readers to your book like you would to your home. If you’ve done your job, they’ll return for another visit.




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A Balancing Act

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, or a rocket scientist, or a stay at home mom, we all struggle with finding the right balance in our lives. We want to “find our passion”, but it often seems to elude us. We rob Peter to pay Paul, and then rob Paul to pay Peter back (Peter has a big stick and might come after you).

So, is there really any balance? I believe there is. My circle may look a little lop-sided from time to time, and just like you, I struggle with keeping it all going in a forward motion. To do that, I sometimes have to stand still, while at others, I have to look back. Sound strange? Well, I’ve always believed that you have to be able to have 360 degree vision to really stay on track. My thinking is that this way I’ll at least see some of the blindsides before they get to me so I can duck.

Doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does. Besides, when you stop and look around when you’re stuck, or unsure, of the next move, it gives your brain a chance to rest and consider the options. When you look to the sides, you are able to see if there’s a way around an obstacle, and when you look behind you, you might see something you’ve missed along the way, so you can go back and retrieve it.

Because I’m still working on the final edits for In The Spirit Of Love – yep, thought I’d have them done by last weekend, but here I still am, I keep relating my life to my edits. This whole writing and publishing thing is so new to me, I keep discovering new ways of doing things, and not doing them. When I finished the edits last week, I thought ‘I’m done!” I was sooo relieved. Then after my second congratulatory drink, my husband said, “Are you going to read it through one more time to make sure you haven’t missed anything?” I immediately answered, “NO!”. I was done. I was finished with this manuscript. I wasn’t looking back. I was going to email it to my publisher, Echelon Press, first thing in the morning and be done with it.

Then I started thinking, I’ve been so anxious to get this editing thing over with, and it’s taken me far longer than I imagined, that I was right to move forward, right? But what if I’ve missed something? So I stopped. I realized I’d put so much effort into this “baby”, that I owed it to myself, my publisher and the manuscript, to do all I could to help it stand on it’s own. Heaving a sigh, the next morning I sat down at the computer and began re-reading the story from the beginning – aloud. I’d once read that if you read printed words out loud, you’ll discover errors in syntax, punctuation, or just plain errors.

Well whadya know? I’m finding quite a few more than I’d thought I would. In reading aloud, I’m realizing some of the lines just don’t sound right. Because I’m having to slow down (I read very fast) and really focus on what’s actually written in front of me, I’m discovering errors I hadn’t picked up on before.

So what does this have to do with life and finding balance? It occurs to me that, just like in book editing, sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself, is this the best I can do? Am I missing something? Have I taken on too much, or not enough, to really maximize my potential in my job, my role as a person, as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, etc. Am I doing what matters to me, or am I just doing?

Like 98% of writers, I have to work at another job, because my writing hasn’t given me the life of excitement, money and ease I dream of. It doesn’t pay my bills – yet. Things are pretty tough for us financially right now, but I have my eye to the future and I’m not giving up. I’ve taken on a new job that’s very demanding, but exciting in it’s own right. Because I’m new at it, the learning curve is huge. Just like the learning curve I’m experiencing as a writer. I’m up at 6am to start my day, because I can’t sleep past that ungodly hour (to me it’s ungodly). My brain starts stirring and won’t let me rest. I have things to do, I have things to write, I have a life to live. I definitely feel overwhelmed sometimes – and I haven’t even gotten to the real marketing of the book part yet! I still have a husband, family (even grown children and grandchildren deserve my time – and are part of how I want to spend my time), household chores, etc..

So, like you, I struggle. Every day. But I’m doing what matters to me. I’m working hard at getting it right and loving the process of living. I guess I’m constantly editing my life. I lean too much in one direction, then have to re-adjust so I don’t topple over. My circle of balance isn’t perfect, it’s a little wobbly, but I’m working with it.

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People connections

Making the Connections

When writing a book, one of the first things we have to do is decide on the characters who will people our books, and the roles they will play. The interactions between them, their idiosyncrasies, dialogue and the amount of time we give them, all factor in.

 I don’t know about other writers, but I start with the two lead protagonists, then add people in around them as I go. Some I can identify right away, others kind of sneak in and take over larger parts than I thought. Then there are the characters I thought I’d use more of, but for one reason or another, end up taking more of a back seat than I’d first thought.

 For each character, I have to see them in my own head – details of what they look like, their personalities, and for major characters, I also need to have an idea of their history (who, what, when, where). I learned early on to keep a separate profile page to refer and add to as I go, otherwise I’ll forget small details. I’ve discovered this is even more important with serial books. You wouldn’t believe what I can forget between Book 1 and Book 2!

Because I’m currently hot and heavy into the final edits of In The Spirit Of Love, I can’t help but address this issue. As per usual, while editing, (or writing), I think about what’s currently happening in my own life, or my life experiences to draw inspiration from. Well, as my husband and I waved goodbye to my English cousins at the airport the other day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how these wonderful people just walked into my life and took up a place in my heart. Two weeks before, I’d only ever met their mother (whom I’ve loved and respected for years), now I knew my cousin, his wife and their two young boys. With only two weeks, I don’t know them well, but I have a much clearer idea of who they are. I can hear their Lancashire accents clearly in my head, and I know a bit about each of them – yes the boys too – to understand who they are and some of their likes, dislikes and small quirks. I found out my cousin reminds me of his father, whom I really liked, he is a lawyer and circuit Judge in his native country, has a quiet manner, a quick wit, and ready smile. He also feels deeply for his family, and took to my father immediately. He’s also co-written a play that was produced and won an award, and is in the process of co-writing a second one. His wife is a lovely woman who works in the auto industry, has a wonderful laugh, is smart and witty, and works hard to keep her family looked after and all the minutiae of life in order.

Having met them, they are now real to me in ways they weren’t before. They now have a role to play in my life they didn’t before. I want to keep up the relationships we’ve started to form, and this means working at it. Emailing, Skyping, and hopefully, visiting my father’s homeland of England sometime in the next year or two. I’ve learned a lot in my years on this earth so far, and one of them is that people enter your life for a reason. It’s up to us to decide what role they will play and what interaction we allow them. Had I not liked my cousin and his family, I guarantee I wouldn’t attempt to keep in contact. I’d happily wave them goodbye and leave it at that. We do that with everyone in our lives, to some degree or other. Relationships take work, they take an investment of the heart, and they require effort of time. We add new people to our lives all the time. Whether family members we’ve never met before, or work colleagues, or the new cashier at the grocery store we frequent.

My point is, as in life, we need to be flexible enough in our writing to allow characters to enter the plot, show us who they are and what role they’ll play in our story. Sometimes the most amazing characters of all come out of left field. This writing gig is an evolving thing; we don’t always have a clear picture of who our characters and sub-characters are, or how they’ll interact with our protagonists (our alter egos). But if we allow enough ebb and flow, it’ll become clear and the story much stronger for their addition.

Then we edit, edit, edit, till we have crafted the best story, dialogue and characters we can. We can do some of this in life as well. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who are positive, and supportive of us, and “edit” the people who aren’t. This doesn’t mean we can eliminate the negative people in our lives completely, but we can definitely choose what role they play in our lives and how we allow ourselves to interact with them. In doing so, we craft a better story for our lives and enrich the experiences we share. By the same token, we can choose what part we play in other’s lives as well.

We can either be positive or negative influences. I prefer to try to be a positive one to those people whose lives touch mine.

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Change is inevitable



Woohoo, I’m working on my final edits for In The Spirit Of Love! It’s a ton of work, and at first glance, I felt a little overwhelmed with all the little red marks and comments my publisher attached to the manuscript. On second thought though, I realized it was my opportunity to clean up areas that needed cleaning, tighten sentences that were sloppier than they should be, and review – again, my finished product before sending it out into the big wide world.

It’s not often we get a chance for this kind of do-over. Or is it? As I sit, hour after hour going through the manuscript line by line, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels to life. How many times have we wished we could just go back and erase something we said or did? I don’t know about you, but for me, lots.

Just about everyone I know has regrets; things they’ve said, or didn’t say, missed opportunities, or things they’ve done that have hurt others (intentionally or unintentionally), but wish they could change.

With life, we hopefully learn, and as Oprah Winfrey says, “When you know better, you do better”. Well, I’ve learned a hell of a lot, and I know I could have done better in a lot of areas. As parents we’re always second guessing ourselves. There are always ten thousand things we wish we’d done differently or better. Being a parent means learning to live with guilt and regret, but most of us get enough right to raise reasonably sane and productive adults who contribute to society, love themselves and value the importance of family, religion and doing the right thing.

But what about actually making a change? What about do-overs in life? Well, we may not be able to go back in time and change the past, but we have full control of changing the present and the future. We can make amends to those we’ve hurt, we can apologise for hurtful words or deeds, we can choose to make different decisions and thereby change the future. We can even choose to change the world if we want.

I recently attended a large incentive and rewards trade show in Toronto and was fortunate enough to attend a seminar by keynote speaker, Scott Harrison, Founder & CEO of charity: water. I really hadn’t paid any attention to who was speaking, I just went to the seminar because my boss asked me to. I came away with a deep appreciation and respect for this young man who was able to pull off one of the greatest do-overs I’ve heard of. Going from popular event promoter in New York City living a carefree life of parties, booze, drugs, and irresponsibility, Scott made a decision to change his life, and thereby changed the course of many lives. I sat in that packed amphitheatre and listened to his story and was amazed at what one man could, and has, done to make a difference in his own life and for so many others. Wow. Very cool. I encourage everyone to check out Scott and his organization to learn more about this 100% fixable global problem of insufficient clean water.

I think too often we think we can’t change things, we can’t change ourselves or our direction in life, or that our efforts and deeds don’t matter. We can, and they do. Every day we make decisions on how we want to present ourselves to the world, how we want to interact with our fellow human beings, and how we contribute to this life and planet.

It’s true we can’t change our past – it’s done and over, but we can change our outlook, our direction, and our future. For sure not as easily as I edit my manuscript, but in editing the words on a screen, I’m reminded of the bright possibility of tomorrow, and of the do-overs yet to come.



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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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