I have once again taken advantage of our local Writer in Residence program hosted by my library. Last week, I attended a virtual presentation entitled Writing Three Dimensional Characters That Sing. It was a highly informational session. As writers we are always learning and taking the time to learn is essential in improving our writing craft.
There was an extra bonus to this year’s writer in residence as she is an acquaintance and a great writer and writing community advocate. Rayanne Haines is the author of seven books, including three poetry collections. Her artistic practice focuses on projects that look to redeem and empower women’s narratives. In addition to her writing, teaching, and festival work, she also produces/curates intersectional feminist poetry films and panels with authors across Canada. Her current work focuses on mental health and intergenerational female trauma.
Having the opportunity to access a writing mentor and their free services through this program enables local writers to gain insight into their work. The program services include individual manuscript consultations, public readings and talks, information on the publishing process and networking with the writing community.
Do you have a similar program where you live?
What devices, programs and events do you use to learn your craft?
Tuesday’s this year will incorporate author interviews, writing news, the progress on my various writing projects and will be open to blog sharing.
If you would like to be interviewed or if you would like to share a blog post, your book news or events then please contact me with the details.
I am happy to connect with writers and authors no matter their geographical location or their writing experience. The more we share the better our writing community becomes.
As it is the first post of 2019, I will share my writing goals.
Firstly, I want to revise & edit the sequel to my fantasy novella, The Rython Kingdom. I have settled on a title – Rython Legacy. It is currently just under 30,000 words. I will participate in a NaNoWriMo workshop run by some of my writing group members in the next couple of months to get feedback on the story.
Secondly, the other novella I had planned for NaNoWriMo, grew to well over the novella length and continues to grow! It will be my first steampunk novel. It is exciting to write another genre. I have decided on the title: The Commodore’s Gift.
I will also host my writing group’s monthly meetings, attend book events and blog.
This week is a little less hectic with two events on my schedule. Both are enjoyable in different ways. Firstly I am co-hosting a regular writing group in a local senior’s lodge. These meetings are filled with memoir, wisdom and laughter and I feel honored to be a part of it. The meetings began as part of a program my writing foundation created after creating a guide book of sorts. I also co-wrote the book.
This workbook is based on the presentation, Your Lifetime of Stories ~ Ideas for Writing Memoirs, written and presented by the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC). Subsequently the group was asked to present this session at various venues in their community. The positive response received, and the request for more information, prompted members of the WFSC to compile the workshop details and comments into a workable format – so you could begin to collect your memories and share your story. This led to a program for residents in local senior lodges and the creation of regular writing groups.
The practical suggestions included in the pages of this book will suggest to you ways you can identify, record, and organize your collection of memories so you can begin to write your stories. It is not a how to write but a how to begin workbook. http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/retail/books/your-lifetime-stories
Contributing authors: Mandy Eve-Barnett, Linda J. Pedley, and Karen Probert
My second event is at my local library with a friend and fellow author, who wants to discuss her manuscripts and which direct/project she should pursue. Our last meeting was over lunch but ended up being four hours long! Such a treat to be totally absorbed in our writing life.
What writing or reading events do you have planned this week?
Other local events:
Stories From the Front Porch: Stories for Adults
Strathcona County Library Mon Mar 20, 7:00pm – 8:45pm
Join Sylvia Hertling and Friends for a cup of tea and to honor the age old tradition of the story-sharing circle.
This informal gathering, powered by TALES Strathcona, celebrates World Storytelling Day with historical, family and personal stories amongst friends. Writer in Residence, Richard Van Camp will also contribute a story at the event.
Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven, Book of the Year 2016/17. The free reading is open to the public on Thursday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. Emily will be answering questions on-stage and signing books as part of the evening. http://www.macewan.ca/wcm/MacEwanEvents/AnnualEvents/MacEwanBookoftheYear/ThisYear%E2%80%99sBook/index.htm
St. Albert Public Library presents a STARFest author: Madeleine Thien. The 2016 book from this award-winning novelist and short story writer, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, tells one family’s tale within the unfolding of recent Chinese history. It won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and Scotiabank Giller Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize….
Ottawa’s Versefest runs March 21–26, and it features writers from all around the world.
LitFest NewWest celebrates readers, writers, and community March 31–April 2 in New Westminster, BC.
My current flu has made concentration rather difficult so my creativity has suffered this past week.I think it is struggling against a ‘fuzzy’ head that has made creation arduous.
What illness / situation has made your creativity stall?
However, I was able to begin beta-reading two manuscripts for author friends, one is a thriller and the other a memoir. Both are intriguing in their own way. I am reading each one at separate times of the day so that I am ‘clear’ of one story line before reading the next one. I have shared a list of tips on beta-reading for those of you interested.
I continue to enjoy Beyond the Precipice by Eva Blaskovic. The writing is creative and the interwoven music elements make the story unique.With my other reading projects it is nice to let the story embrace me and lead me forward.
Does the story begin with an interesting hook, creating a desire to read more?
Does the manuscript begin in the right place?
Characterization & Motivation:
Are the characters compelling, sympathetic, or someone you can root for?
Do the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with distinct voices, flaws, and virtues?
Are their goals clear and proactive enough to influence the plot (not passive)?
Do their motivations seem believable, with well-drawn and appropriate emotion?
Are the secondary characters well-rounded and enhance the story rather than overwhelming the story or seeming like they should be cut?
Are the relationships between the characters believable and not contrived?
Plot & Conflict:
Are the internal and external conflicts well defined for each main character?
Are the internal and external conflicts organic and believable, i.e. arising out of characterization and circumstance rather than feeling contrived or forced?
Are there enough stakes and/or tension throughout to make it a “page turner”?
Does the premise avoid cliché and/or bring a fresh perspective to an old idea?
Are the plot twists believable yet unexpected?
Do the characters act or react to events in a plausible, realistic, or believable way?
Do scenes progress in a realistic, compelling manner and flow with effective transitions?
Does every scene add to and seem important to the story?
Does the story move along at an appropriate pace, without rushing or dragging?
Is there a hook at the end of each chapter or scene that makes you want to read more?
Is the story free from information dumps or backstory that slow the pace of the story?
Setting & Worldbuilding:
Are descriptions vivid and give a clear sense of time and place?
Do the details enhance rather than distract from the story?
Is the dialogue natural and appropriate for the story, not stilted or overly narrative?
Does dialogue move the story forward and reveal the characters?
Are characters’ voices consistent and distinct from one another?
Is there an appropriate mix of dialogue and narrative?
Does the writing “show” the scene with the senses, using “telling” only as appropriate?
Does the writing quality allow the story to shine through and draw the reader in, or are flaws jarring or intrusive?
Is the tone appropriate and consistent for the story?
Is the point of view (and any changes) handled appropriately and consistently?
Is the voice unique, fresh, or interesting?
Does the story deliver on the promise of its premise and opening scenes?
From a reader’s point of view, did you enjoy reading this story?
Additional Questions for Comment:
Are there any confusing sections that should be made clearer? (Mark in the manuscript)
Do any sections take you out of the story? (Mark in the manuscript)
Is the story a good fit for the stated genre, and if not, why not?
Who are your favorite—and least favorite—characters and why?
What aspects are especially likable or unlikable about the protagonist(s)?
What three things worked best for you?
What three things worked least for you?
As I told you all earlier, I submitted part of my speculative fiction novel, Life in Slake Patch to our current Writer in Residence – Richard van Camp. He answered with:
I’ve had a read of your intro and it seems to me that you find your rhythm in Chapter 4. I found the first three chapters to go so quickly, too quickly, that I couldn’t get a lock on any of the characters or their back stories. Perhaps a rewrite of your intro? My advice is slow down; take your time. Have fun with each scene. Sights, smells, etc. Give us setting; give us tone; set the mood.
Now for new or seasoned writers, critique is a double edged sword, some is favorable, some not but all should be taken as constructive rather than destructive. Several rewrites previously I took another writer in residence advice and ‘info dumped’ at the beginning of this story to ‘set the scene’.
So do I change it or not? Do I follow my gut and revise to balance the slightly conflicting advice from these two marvelous authors? Or do I rewrite a completely different introduction? This is something I will ponder and decide after careful consideration.
Have you experienced conflicting critique?
How did you resolve the matter? Did you change it or not?
Books: My review of The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
The story was a neat concept but fell short, unlike Claire’s previous two books. The character was complex, the story arc well constructed but the use of numerous synonyms of words detracted from the flow of the story – taking me out of the narrative. I understand as a fellow author that these descriptions were an explanation of the main character’s inner most thoughts but they were too much of a distraction for me.
However, it will in no way put me off reading another of Claire’s books – her ability to engage a reader is wonderful in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August & Touch.
I have just started reading – I Can See You by Joss Landry.
I was engaged from the first page!
Writing Tip: Chuck Sambuchino
Remember the Three “P’s”: Patience, Perseverance, and maintaining your sense of Purpose.