Posted in Publishing, Writing

5 Writing Myths You Need to Bust Now

As I said in my book Permission to Write, there are myths and there are realities. It’s about the difference between how you’d like it to be and how it really is.

What exactly is a myth? It’s a story that may or may not have a basis in reality―a widely held belief that is largely unfounded or false.

In the twenty-first century, when it seems like everyone is writing a book (and publishing it), there are so many myths about writing and publishing that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for any serious writer to know what to believe. Over my 30-plus years of writing, I’ve learned more than a few realities. And what I have learned is that continuing to believe the myths eventually becomes an obstacle for anyone who aspires to write and publish successfully.

Do you know what’s real and what’s a myth in this world of writing and publishing?

I’m not sure where all of the myths about writing and the writing life come from; I only know that new writers seem to have a lot of unfounded beliefs. Here are five tips for busing those myths.

The myths you need to bust now summarized:

  1. Talent is over rated.  Anyone can be a successful writer. The sad truth is that although talent is not enough, it is necessary for success.  And this is true of any field.  Talent can be cultivated.
  2. No one cares about grammar. I beg to differ.  Everyone cares about grammar; it’s just that some of them don’t know about it.  Get out the grammar book.
  3. I write better than most people.  Can you hear me laughing?  As American writing guru William Zinsser says, “Most people have no idea how badly they write.”  And if you don’t know who he is, stop reading and go immediately to Amazon and order his book On Writing Well.  Then read it.
  4. Thousands of Instagram and Twitter followers guarantee success.  Now I’m grinding my teeth.  If would-be writers spent as much time practicing their writing and having it edited by someone who knows what he or she is doing rather than amassing thousands of Twitter followers, success would be more likely. 
  5. My friends think my idea is great, so everyone else will, too. I just have one question for you: how did you get friends with such deep knowledge (backed up by data) about how your target readers will think at any given time?  The rest of us would love to know. 

You might also have other unfounded beliefs about writing success, but these are the ones I see demonstrated most often.

Get over these ones, and you’ll be able to move ahead with a clear view of the future.

Posted in Books, Writing craft

Five Essential Books Every Writer Should Own

For most of my life, I’ve believed you could learn just about anything short of brain surgery from a good book. (My husband, a doctor, says you could probably learn a lot, even about brain surgery with the right book, too!). When you consider the rise of such book series’ as “Books for Dummies,” it seems clear that you can distill even the most complicated material into essential elements that just about anyone could understand. This observation is probably more accurate for writing than anything else.

Most of us who write these days don’t hold MFA degrees in fiction writing or journalism degrees if we’re nonfiction writers―and neither did most well-read writers throughout history. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn about your craft. I believe it’s important to continually learn and improve even as your writing career achieves success. But, where to begin?

Courses, in-person and online, are often terrific ways to learn your craft. However, the most accessible place to start is with a growing library of your favourite writing reference books. And it’s not good enough that these books sit on your shelf to impress your dinner party guests. They should be read again and again, highlighted, underlined, dog-eared.

There are many well-crafted writing books that both inspire and instruct. There are also increasing h=numbers of books penned by writers who probably know little more about writing than you do. How can you decide which ones to choose to begin your collection?

I have five tips for five of what I consider to be essential writing reference books, most of which have stood the test of time.

Here they are…

Posted in Book trailers, Books, Writing, Writing books

When a story takes over – a writer hangs on for the ride

In modern parlance, I’m what might be called a “plotter” when it comes to my writing. This is in contrast to those of you who are called “pantsers,” although I’m not sure why anyone would accept that slightly dubious moniker. Anyway, plotters plan things – characters, timelines, settings and, yes, plots. Pantsers go “by the seat of their pants” evidently. I plan.

I think my planning comes from my background as a nonfiction writer. To sell a nonfiction book to a publisher, a writer has to learn to write a dynamic book proposal. An, what is a book proposal except for a big, detailed plan? That’s what it is. So, when it comes to fiction, my tendency is to take the same approach. Up to a point.

I have a new book out this past week. I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written – but, as my mother used to say, “Self-praise is no recommendation.” Thanks, Mom. The thing about this new book is that I started out with a plan, but something or someone took over. I think it might have been Charlie. Let me introduce you to her in a minute. First, I want to talk about this writing process.

I started this book with a thin outline and an idea for a character. This character would make a discovery that would take her on a journey of discovery. I just didn’t know at the time that it would be a journey of self-discovery – for both her and for me. Charlie was supposed to be a kind of wise-cracking, sarcastic thirty-something with a penchant for seeing humour everywhere she went. Sort of like Jenn, the main character in my novel Plan B. I suppose the universe must be telling me that I need to diversify my contemporary women’s characters a bit because Charlie is not much like Jenn!

(When I write historical fiction, characters don’t seem to be wise-cracking, sarcastic women – but I suppose that’s an idea!)

As I began writing this book, it took on a whole different dimension – a whole different kind of disposition. It felt different to me as I was writing, and it looked very different when the story was out there in front of me.

Here’s what happened.

The book is The Year I Made 12 Dresses: The almost-but-not-quite-true story.

A struggling writer, an enigmatic shop clerk, an old sewing machine and an inspirational journey of discovery – where every dress is more than it appears to be.

After her mother’s unexpected death, struggling writer Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson moves into her family house after her older, mostly absent sister Evelyn instructs her to empty the family home of objects and memories to ready it for sale.

When Charlie stumbles on a dusty old sewing machine hidden away among the clutter of detritus in the basement, she has no idea of the journey it will take her on, or of the secrets it might reveal about her mother, her family and herself. If only she will let it.

With the help of an enigmatic fabric-guru named Al, Charlie discovers how little she really knows about anyone – especially herself.

So that’s it. And here’s the trailer…