How Do You Chose Which Writing Project to Focus On?

February 11, 2018

I don’t know about you but as a writer I have an abundance of SHINY & EXCITING IDEAS. Some of them are small and fragmentary.

For instance, this project exists as a TITLE only. I have no idea beyond the title. It’s called:

Conversations with Myself

Uh…now that I think about it, that’s just another name for blogging!

Okay. Maybe not that one.

Let me present some other examples.

Some ideas exist only as a GENERAL OUTLINE, like this mystery-sci fi crossover!

After an alternate earth from a parallel world intentionally crashes into ours so it can take ours over, war breaks out.

There are spies on both sides. When the spies on our side start mysteriously dying an As Yet Unnamed Great Detective is called out of her retirement to investigate…

I’ve also always wanted to write:

An anti- success story about a writer who writes a novel and tries to get it traditionally published but hits every imaginable obstacle.

She then tries self publishing but this doesn’t go anywhere either and in the end she gives up and settles into the truth of her own mediocrity.

It would be a tragicomedy.

Then of course there are all the Regency GENRE BOOKS I want to write…

Like my Regency mystery series. I started (and stopped) the second book after REGENCY ROMP, the one with Lord Byron as guest star.

The third in the series was going to take us to Italy and we would get to meet the Shelleys. (Yay!)

Some books exist only as CONCEPTS, like this one that continues to haunt me:

Romantic Poets and their notion of nature as The Sublime.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Romantic poets plus The Sublime.

But I know there is a book in there somewhere.

I’ve also got an idea for a SCREENPLAY!

Take all the letters Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron wrote to each other in the early 1800s and fictionalize it.

Boom! Period Drama of the year!

(Why hasn’t someone done this yet? I guess maybe it is up to me?)

There’s also my current project, the companion piece to Hill of Greens.

So as you can see I’ve got enough writing big and shiny ideas to last me a good long while.

Trouble is…I don’t have time for all of them.

I can’t keep up with the IDEAS.

I can’t chase every single one.

And I can’t let all the SHINY IDEAS distract me from my primary writing purposes or I would never actually complete anything.

Now having said that I’m sure you want to ask me:



Sometimes that energy flags but ultimately I follow the project that has the most energetic juice. The one that means the most to me. Which is why I dropped my Lord Byron mystery and I spent a year and half solely devoted to my clifi comedy Hill of Greens.

To align with this energy you have to listen to and trust your writer instincts.


Writing a novel takes hard work and there are moments when you want to chuck it. If an idea is worth slogging through the hard stuff for, you will dig deep and pull forth that writerly grit and DO IT.

If it is worth it to you, you will do the work. You will know, deep down, that you need to persevere. You won’t allow yourself to get distracted.

Again I refer that nebulous concept: writer’s instinct. It will tell you if a project is worth fighting for.


Ah. Well. This is what makes writing an art form.

Writing is not a solely mechanical operation. It is not simply the ritual of words written down and words edited and revised for clarity of meaning.

Writing requires an inner emotional thermometer.

This inner thermostat tells you when you are getting closer to the essence of your writing power  (it yells: warmer! Warmer! Then: Hot! Hot! Hot!) and when you are not (it yells: too cold! Go back! Try again!)

And how do you get this inner thermometer?

Through writing, of course!

And reading.

You need to observe ‘hot writing’ by which I mean, good writing. As you test your inner thermometer on those good writing pieces (by reading them), your calibrations should align.

Then you try that thermometer out on your own pieces. And over time you develop your own calibrations.

As always, practice makes perfect!

The more you do it the better you get.

Sometimes it takes time to sort this out.

But eventually your inner writing thermometer will show you the way.

So to summarize: follow the piece with the most energy, you will stick with it if it means that much to you, and if you want to develop your writer’s instinct? Write. And read.

Yes, it really is that simple.


Dealing with Rejection and Low Writerly Self Esteem

February 3, 2018

If my writing life were a movie right now, it would be a montage of different doors slamming in my face. A visual representation of all the NOs of rejection.

Everything I have submitted thus far to literary agents or writing contests over the past two years has come back NO

(Well, okay: I got one MAYBE but that turned into a NO).

So the tally so far? All NOs.

I did not expect to be so emotionally affected by this part of the process. (I thought writing the novel/essay/short story was the hard part oh ha ha ha).

It has been incredibly difficult to maintain my writerly self esteem in the face on all of this negative reception to my work.

All of these people? They don’t like ANYTHING I’ve written?


Well, okay. One person said they liked my novel’s title. But they still said NO.

  • Why is this?
  • Do I really suck that badly?
  • Seriously, what am I doing wrong here?

Oh, I know I addressed all of this already. I have written here about how to use rejection to improve your work and how to be BOLD and also how to not take it personally and blah blah blah blah blah blah

So I should know how to deal with this and not let it get me down.

And of course I am well aware of the the need for persistence. Rejection is part of the process. Gotta get all those NOs before you get a YES, right?

Persistence, persistence, persistence!

But how many NOs is it going to take? A page of NOs?

And what if it’s not just a single page full of NOs I have to slog through but 50 pages of NOs? And what if I slog through all those pages and there is no YES at the end?

That happens to people, you know.

Not everyone gets a YES.

Someone asked me: why don’t you self publish? Why do you need that external validation? Just do it yourself!  Give yourself the YES!

My response: that’s not what my dream is. That’s not what my Inner Child wants.

I am stubbornly sticking to my childhood dream and that dream involves traditional publishing.

I was a writer-child in the 80s when self publishing meant hammering it out on an electronic typewriter in the basement and distributing it to your friends.

And traditional publishing, in contrast, meant you had MADE IT to the big leagues. It wasn’t just for your friends anymore.

  • Perhaps this mode of thinking is outdated.
  • Perhaps it is a snobbish childishly conceit.
  • Perhaps I need to rethink my interpretation of traditional vs indie.

One thing’s for sure: I liked my writing life better when I was not trying to sell my writing as a product.

Because this is just a gloomy, grim, gritty place to be.

Ok: you are officially invited to my writing pity party!

In other words, this is the part in my Writing Life Movie where I cry and walk in the rain, get drenched, go home, tear up my writing pages in a fit of frustration, only to wake up on the cold floor in wet clothes, shivering amongst torn paper.

Full of remorse: Oh my god. what have I done? My precious writing!

So right now, on an emotional level,  I’ve got a Writing Life ‘hangover’ to deal with and a bunch of torn paper to clean up.

I need to handle that before I can rally myself again and leap back into the fray.

Ps. Any advice fellow writers, on how to better manage rejection? I can’t keep holding Pity Parties for myself!


4 Writing Goals to Consider For 2018

January 27, 2018

Let’s Move Beyond Word Counts!

Yes, okay, I will admit: I check my word count totals ALL THE TIME.

Yes, I am trying to hit approx 90 000 words.
So, yes, I do have a word count goal in mind…

But word counts are not really what is all about for me this year.

In 2018, these are my writing mantras. I put them forth for your consideration.

Here’s a fact universally acknowledged: If you don’t show up to write then no writing will get done.

You have to show up for yourself in order to write.

There is no ‘boss’ asking you to do this. No one but yourself is asking you to do this.

You are your boss.

And your inner boss says: show up for work.

I’m not saying this needs to be a daily practice…but it does need to be a consistent and fairly regular one.

In my adult life, I have always been—out of necessity— a ‘writing on the run’ kinda gal. Writing happens in small increments—but it still happens fairly often. Somehow I wrote a novel in a year and a half using google discs on my phone.

I have 30 minutes while the kids take swimming lesson? Sweet! Let’s write!

Oh, I have ten minutes before I need to leave for work? Sweet! Let’s write!

Small gains over time equals a big gain in the long run.

All because I keep showing up.

So, in 2018: show up and keep showing up.

But it’s not enough just to show up in your writing chair (metaphorical or literal).

You actually have to do the work.

That means doing what needs to be done, and not just the fun stuff! That means:

  • -being gleefully creative (that’s the easy one to do)
  • putting your ideas down, even if they feel unrealized and awkward
  • working through heavy emotional stuff
  • going where characters lead you
  • honouring your writer’s instinct to drop/start/continue a project
  • editing even when tedious
  • sending work out, even if it scares you
  • and so on!

No point showing up if you don’t do the work. They kind of go hand in hand.

So, in 2018: do the work.

If you say you are a writer then you need to write. There is no other way to be a writer.

All the time I tell people. I’m writing a novel! I’m writing blogs! Hey did you know I am a writer?

I AM A WRITER is a tee shirt I wear.

Actually, this is the tee shirt:

By telling everyone I AM A WRITER it, I

  1. own it for myself
  2. publicly claim it as my identity and
  3. make an implied promise to myself and others that I am a writer, a person who writes.

Which means I had better write. I had better do as I say.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t opened my big mouth and told everyone about this part of my identity.

Sometimes I wish I had kept this part hidden until–suddenly– I am ‘successful’ and I can say, hey, guess what, all those years I was secretly writing! And now my successful book is out!

That way I wouldn’t have to share the embarrassing bits that happen along the way, those fun about being rejected and trying and failing and struggling and having to admit it isn’t working out and also, maybe, might never work out in that way.

But that feels like it would be

  1. a lonely road
  2. like cheating myself.

I’d much rather be honest about my reality, and show how I am walking the walk, all the way to the end of the line…

But, also, by the way, there is no end of the line as a writer…we are ALWAYS WORKING ON SOMETHING. There is no singular finish line. That’s a myth!

You finish one project, start another. And on it goes.

So, in 2018: walk the walk AND walk the talk.

Say you are a writer and then write.

I wrote about this the other day.

This is the really challenging one for me.

I am not that good at the ‘self promotion’ bit.

Oh, I’m better at it. And of course I want readers.

I write to communicate, after all.

But I will admit to a little, ahem, half heartedness in this area.

In fact, at the end of 2017, I had to take a closer look at such heady inner workings as ‘self doubt’ and ‘self-sabotage’ and ‘perfectionism’ and fun things like that.

Basically it came down to this: I am uncomfortable and somewhat afraid of being bold.

Sometimes I can do it. In other areas of my life, I am better at it.

But as a writer? YIKES.

However, I am adding this to my 2018 #writegoals list.

Because it is time to get over this.

BOLDNESS means putting myself out there. BOLDNESS also means persistence.

Keep at it
Use your voice.
Put it out there.
Keep at it.

In 2018, fellow writers: be bold


Good Job, Writers! Here’s a Sticker For You…

January 14, 2018

IMG_2747Taking my cue from Gemma Correll and her awesome stickers for ‘adults at the art museum’, I thought, hmmm, hey, why don’t writers have these?!

Here are some ideas for ‘writer stickers’ for you!

  • I wrote today!
  • I wrote a challenging emotional part today!
  • I switched the entire story from past to present tense!
  • I switched the entire story from first person narrator to third person narrator!
  • I wrote the word ‘awkward’ correctly on the first try!
  • I multi-tasked & wrote in between cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen!
  • Someone asked me if my ‘novel’s done yet’ and I just smiled mysteriously!
  • I put pants on and left the house!
  • I figured out the ending!
  • I wrote the ending!
  • I sent off a query!
  • I got rejected—and I didn’t let it hurt me TOO much!
  • I shared my writing with someone!
  • I started a new story!

Hey, world, guess what?  

I wrote today!


Writers, claim your stickers. You are doing a GOOD JOB!



How to be BOLD as a Writer…

January 6, 2018

IMG_2652What, me? Bold? Huh?

If, like me, you are a bit on the shy side, when someone says BE BOLD you go: Uh, no thanks. Why don’t you go be bold and meanwhile I’ll be over here on the couch reading a good book, ok?

That is my preferred response.

But when you are a writer you are, by definition, bold.

Boldness is built into the process.

Being a writer is an odd mix of solitude + introversion + creativity + stubbornness + boldness.

Here’s how you are bold as a writer.

1. When you write
When you sit down and pour out your ideas on paper/napkin/phone/laptop you are being bold.

This does not always seem obvious but every time you write it is an  act of self assertion. It is you saying: this idea matters to me and I am going to preserve it, shape it, design it and give it the space it deserves in the world.

Being creative requires that you be bold.

So you are bold whenever you decide to honour the voices within you and give them shape.

Recently I went through a few (agonizing) stretches of self silencing. And when those moments finally broke I felt like the hero in a movie finally climbing those steps/picking up the sword/squaring off against the enemy (in this case, self doubt).

Just making it up to the page and laying it down, making something or of nothing, is BOLDNESS.

2. When you share your work with others
Whenever you hand something over to another and say “I made this” there is vulnerability. Whenever you say: “this is my idea” or “this is what I think”, there is vulnerability. To face ones vulnerability, one must be BOLD.

Dealing with feelings of vulnerability  is a central aspect of being a writer. We tap into our intellect, empathy, experiences, imagination, and we take all that and magically weave it into something important to us.

When we share it, we risk the judgement of others.

This goes for everything from a tweet to a trilogy.

Once you put your words out there, they belong to the world. It’s in the hands of the audience and some might appreciate it but some might not. Some might not even care.

And so we also risk indifference.

Whenever there is RISK you need to be BOLD.

Whenever you put yourself out there, you are being BOLD.

3. Self promotion
Ugh! This is the tough one and I think for most writers this is what they think about when they think of being bold…

The moment when you really have to ‘put yourself out there’ in the marketplace.

This is beyond just ‘sharing’. This is when you are deliberately entering the book selling business and have to do things like make a pitch, write a query letter, tweet/email someone in the business or, if you are self publishing, pick a platform, and self promote.


This is when you/I have to make yourself/myself get up off the couch…

Ok.  Square the shoulders, and assert yourself with purpose, with focus, and with polite firmness…

Declare: ‘my work is worthy of of the market’s attention’.

Say it again: ‘my work is worthy of of the market’s attention’.

This requires BOLDNESS x 10.

But by this point, remember: writers are boldness ninjas.

Before we even reach this point, we have acted with considerable boldness. As noted above, we experience many many many micro-bold moments over time.

Now here’s a macro-bold moment and guess what? You got this!

It’s the same muscle group. Just flex it!

And that, I think, is the writing life writ BOLD.

Just follow step 1-3 on and on, to infinity.

Or did I miss something? Where else are we bold with as writers? Any thoughts? List them below!

PS. How do you like my low-tech comic (above) made from recycled cardboard with a sharpie pen? Bitstrips as I knew it is no longer, alas. So no new bitstrips comics from me.

I’m going DIY. But TY Bitstrips, we had a good run!



Apologies for disappearing…

January 6, 2018

Yes, I went away from this blog for awhile but I have the perfect writer excuse!


Since my last post, I spent a lot of time on a new blog called Hill of Greens AND I also completed a novel inspired by that blog.

I wrote that novel in about a YEAR. I was on fire, people!

It is also called HILL OF GREENS and I am currently in the process of seeking representation!

I am also writing the sequel.

And now I’m back here.


Multiple creative projects. It’s the writer’s curse, yes?



Writing to Avoid Writing aka #writerproblems

August 12, 2016


I haven’t been here in awhile because every time I’ve had a creative writing moment, I’ve poured it into my latest novel. There are only so many writing minutes in a day, after all, and I have to use them wisely!

So there has been no time for blogging or other writing projects! It’s been full on, primary novel writing, which is a good thing, right? *round of applause*

But recently I hit that novel writing milestone of leaping from the beginning portion (part 1) and entering that middle portion (part 2) which I personally find to be the most challenging, most tedious, most annoying part of the entire process. (As I have detailed in prior blog posts: here and here).

So of course now I’m more susceptible to procrastination. I’m quite eager to be diverted, to chase after things that are shiny! (Hello, Internet! Isn’t that what the Internet is for?)

This leads me to my current, strange-yet-eerily-familiar predicament of using writing to avoid writing.

Oh, my poor writing brain!

Overloaded by bothersome novel writing chores such as hashing out necessary plot details and confirming character consistency, I’ve suddenly found myself wanting to start a different story…something with pizzazz, something with some high energy to it…

Beginnings of stories are always fun! Full of discovery! (Who are these people? OMG What’s happening to them? What world is this? Where am I?)

Indeed, I have a drawer/computer file full of beginnings! My writing Achilles Heel is writing novel beginnings. I have many, many novels I’ve started that, alas, fizzled out because they just did not have the substance to keep going.

Crafting novel beginnings is my version of ‘something shiny’.

However…it can be tricky at times to know where to invest one’s creative energy. Sometimes that energetic juice is right on the money! It feels, with this new stuff, like I am really onto something!

So I have to ask myself: is this an avoidance of the writing grind or an alternative to the writing grind? Perhaps this second project is something that will sustain me through the dry spells!

Writing, after all, tends not to be linear.

I can hop back and forth, can’t I? It won’t take me twice as long to finish both, will it? I can indulge in this little detour, right? It will still take me to the same place, won’t it?

Arg! Writing decisions! What do I do? Just write, I know. But write what? WHICH ONE?

Fuss, fuss, fuss!

#writerproblems, indeed!






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