Writing in My Brain

A couple of months ago now I started a new novel on the drive back to CBS from Aspen Cove. It was a story that had been in my brain for a couple of years now and I had lots of first pages. But it never seemed to click with me. Then, that day we were driving past Carmanville when what the story needed hit me and I jotted down the first couple of pages. All the way back, I wrote and wrote until I knew my character well enough and I learned something quite surprising about her. I could see it all unfolding before me.

But when we got back I had edits to finish for my agent and then got back to revising something else I’d already finished (two something elses, actually). But I felt okay with not getting back to New Novel because I knew what it was going to be. And besides, I had already written so much on that drive.

So yesterday, when I decided to type up all I had already written of New Novel, I got out my current notebook to look for the pages. I was shocked to find Continue reading

Getting Your Manuscript Critiqued Part 3 Making it Better and Separating from Your Work

I like to think that I ask people to read my manuscript because I want to make it better. Of course, the part of me that loves the book, wants them to love it too and to just say, “oh, but it’s perfect the way it is”. That’s the part you have to let go of because your manuscript is not perfect. It is not perfect and you want to make it better. You have to remind yourself of that. Continue reading

Getting Your Manuscript Critiqued Part 2: Other Trusted Readers

Besides your first reader, you also need other trusted readers to look at your work. At least that’s what works for me. First reader then two (or more) other people who have become trusted readers for me. Maybe you want to have them all do it at once or maybe you think your first reader is enough. That’s great. For me, like I said in part 1, my first reader is also my cheerleader. My other trusted readers are too and I trust that they want to help me make my book better. They are writers who I trust and whose opinions matter a lot to me. They are more critical and I am, quite frankly, more scared of them because they throw the book at me. Figuratively, of course. They look for details writers should notice like point of view or tense problems, plot holes, fake sounding dialogue, description problems, and character motivation and consistency.
Continue reading

Getting Your Manuscript Critiqued Part 1: The First Reader

Stephen King and I have a couple of things in common. Unfortunately my books don’t immediately (or ever, so far) hit the bestsellers list but we do both have thick glasses and our spouses are the first ones to read our books once we’ve finished writing them. Stephen’s wife, Tabitha, is the person he always looks to for that important first opinion and so it is with me and my husband. You don’t need a spouse to be a first reader but you do need someone you trust to be that first reader. And not someone who will just say he or she loves it because they love you. A first reader needs to be honest as well as critical.

Like I said, my husband is always my first reader. I pass him a manuscript when  Continue reading

Update on TiNoWriMo

Okay, so I’m going to have to put TiNoWriMo down as a fail. Obviously, I don’t do well without a solid goal, a challenge and a number I can see and measure. Of course, I did give myself the general goal to write more this month and I have but, as I told you in the last post, that’s not saying much. I think I was a bit burned out from writing a first draft of a novel in less than five months. Yes, I know I did one last year in one month but that one wasn’t as good a complete draft (but is a great idea and a book with real potential I need to find the time to get at since it is very timely and, as far as I know, has never been done before anywhere). The draft I finished in early September was much better and it should be because I got a grant from the lovely and fabulous Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council to write that draft and now, I am pleased to say, just received another grant to complete the novel. This is a real show of faith when they give you money and think your project is worth funding. It is quite the morale boost for me and I am tickled and thankful. As for writing more, I know this will happen now because I have had a break away for a bit and been picking at Unnamed Fun Novel so getting back to work on Rewriting History will be great. I have a renewed passion for it.

My second goal for TiNoWriMo was writing every day and that has been an epic fail. Completely measurable and for sure I didn’t do it. What else is there to say? Excuses, yeah, I have them but so does everyone and I had way worse get in my way last year during NaNoWriMo and succeeded so excuses don’t matter now.

I hope all the NaNoers out there are doing better than I’ve been doing and, if you’re behind, don’t give up. Now is the time to change your main character’s name to something long and unwieldy. The longest name ever, according to the websites I searched this morning, is Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Jack Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorft Senior. If you really need it to catch up, take it and run. And if people say you’re not playing fair, ask them where their novel is.  Write on!


Last year this time, I was starting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as thousands of others are this year. I made it clear last year that I didn’t think I’d ever do it again. Not that it wasn’t a great thing to challenge myself and to force all my writing muscles to work hard but it just didn’t seem the best use of my time. This may change if I ever get around to editing the book I wrote then and it goes anywhere but for this year, I am content to not paricipate in NaNoWriMo. But, I have decided to start my own writing goal this year and it’s TiNoWriMo–Tina’s November Write More. I gave myself a goal of writing every day in November and writing a lot more than I have been of late (which, quite frankly, wouldn’t take much). I was going to give myself the goal of writing 50,000 words this month in my various works in progress but decided against it. A word count goal means typing which takes away time from writing or means I have to type while I write which stifles me. I could count all the words I write in longhand but that seems a giant waste of time. This writing every day thing works for me as I would usually write a couple of thousand words at a setting anyway so it should work out. Finding extra time to write is my goal and also getting those writing muscles built up again. So if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, good luck and don’t give up. You can do it! And if you just would like to write more, feel free to join up for TiNoWriMo. Or make your own NoWriMo. It’s about what works best for you so get at it!

Word on the Street Halifax

I am so excited that I’ll be off to Halifax this weekend to take part in the Word on the Street Book and Magazine Festival in Halifax. I’ll be flying in on Saturday and then taking part in the festival on Sunday. I’ll be on the Nova Scotia Main Stage at 12:30 on Sunday, September 26th and am thrilled to be sharing the stage with Russell Wangersky and Darren Hynes. Of course, you know me, I’m already nervous too but strangely a panel situation makes me feel a little less nervous than just straight standing up and reading. I’ll be terrified on Sunday, I know, but once it gets going, I’ll be fine. I know Russell and just his being there will probably make me feel more relaxed (one can only hope). Plus, my husband is going with me too and he’s the best in the world at calming me down when I’m nervous. So, if you’re in the Halifax area, come on by and say hi. I’ll be signing copies of A Few Kinds of Wrong (and this much is true, I assume) after the event as well.

Creating a playlist for your writing

I’ve always written with music in mind, even if I don’t always write to music. All my books have soundtracks full of songs that inspire me or make me understand a scene or character. Early ones were on mixed tapes, then CDs and now there is the oh so easy to change, iPod (Touch) playlist. One of the novels I’m writing now has become firmly planted in my soul now because I have a playlist for it. That’s how I usually know that a novel is working for me–when I find myself hearing music and thinking of the characters and can then make a playlist.

Last week we were listening to music over supper preparation and eating and I put my new novel’s playlist on shuffle. My husband listened and, after keeping quiet for a while (we’ve had many discussions over my odd and varied tastes in music over the years, some out loud and some said with surly looks at me), he finally said, “what is this?” I told him it was the playlist for Rewriting History and he seemed satisfied with that. A few songs later though, he spoke up again. “Um,. I don’t get this playlist at all. The songs don’t really seem to have anything in common.” I smiled and told him he didn’t understand how I make playlists.

As I’ve explained here before, I often write internally, frequently while on a treadmill or elliptical machine while listening to music. Many scenes, and almost all pivotal scenes, have a song or two associated with them, almost a music video that I can picture while I listen. But some songs on a playlist are more about a mood. They are sad and I can feel my character being sad through them, even if the lyrics don’t match a scene. Or they are upbeat and I can think of my character driving too fast while listening to them on a sunny day. Rewriting History has three main characters and the story is told through each of them so the Rewriting History soundtrack also includes songs I think each of them would like. Since the main characters are quite a bit older than me, they are not necessarily the songs I’d like but I think I can imagine my characters listening to them so that lets me understand them more. So, you can see how listening to a playlist that includes The All-American Rejects, Kris Kristofferson, Cher, the Tragically Hip, the Dixie Chicks, The Killers, and Billy Idol, (to name a few) might be confusing to my husband but for me, and for the people who live inside Rewriting History, it makes perfect sense. I just wish one of them didn’t like the Beatles so much. Maybe she’ll force me to become a fan yet if I listen to them enough. Maybe you will find that creating a playlist like this for your writing will help bring your characters new life.