On May 22nd I’ll be taking part in a fun contest to promote reading and writing.

Readers will have the chance to win one of these books.

group pics



Writers will have a chance to win a critique from a published author and teachers will have the chance to win a Skype visit from an author!!!

Of course, if you happen to be all three, you can enter to win all three types of prizes!

Here’s a link to the main site for more information.

On Writers’ Block

I dropped by a #litchat twitter chat a few days ago and the topic was writer’s block.

Opinions on this topic vary wildly. But I’ve chosen to believe that:

a) it doesn’t exist, you just need to push through, or
b) if it truly does sink in for you, it might be clinical depression and you should see your doctor.

Writing is hard. If it were easy to finish a novel, everyone would do it.

If it were easy to revise a lousy or mediocre novel to make it a good or exciting novel, more of the people who complete the first step (already very few), would do the second and there wouldn’t be as many badly written self-published books out there. I know there are great self-published books out there, before someone yells at me. :) I know that these days self-publishing is a choice, not a last resort. But let’s face it, an awful lot of the stuff out there, especially by writers who were never previously published traditionally, is crap. But back to writer’s block.

Prolific and wildly successful romance author Nora Roberts has been quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing): There’s no such thing as writer’s block, just lazy writers. She also says something like: You can’t fix a blank page.

And I’ve taken those two quotes to heart on the days when the writing isn’t going well.

I’ve also discovered that, for me, writing can cure writers block. If I’m hating my work, or it seems all wrong or I just can’t think of a good plot twist or a clever way to say what I want to say, I just start typing (or writing in a notebook) about how frustrated I am, or about why I think the book’s not working, or what might work, or ridiculous ideas of things I know won’t work–and almost always (I can’t think of a time that this hasn’t worked) by the time I’m done ranting on the page, I start back into the work again because I’ve thought of a solution to the problem I’m having or I start to realize how to fix it. (That is one long sentence. Is there a prize for that?)

Or somedays, if the right words aren’t coming, but I know what’s going to happen, I’ll just give myself permission to write it badly. Or write detailed outlines of the scenes instead of the actual scenes. Or put in things like “Glory does something that shows she’s happy”, instead of stopping to think of the absolute perfect and specific thing for my character to do. That works too. At least it keeps me moving forward to a point where my momentum and ability to form words into nice sentences might come back to me. I can fix it later. (You can’t fix a blank page.)

I think the important thing is to keep moving. To treat writing as a job, even if you’ve never been paid for it, or even if you’ve been published but also need a day job, or a spouse’s income, to make ends meet (as 99% of us do).

And today I stumbled on this Stephen King quote.

And this really spoke to me, too. Our best work, no matter what style of writer we are, or which genre the industry lumps our work in to, comes from deep inside us and sometimes hurts coming out. But the stuff that hurts, the stuff that’s hard, is also usually our best work.

I also realize that most of these great quotes about not being too precious about your work, and being professional, and just getting it done, come from so-called genre fiction authors, who are often looked down upon by writers deemed more literary.

Well, okay. I get that it might take longer to write a truly great literary novel. I get that each scene might take more time and more revision might be required when you’re writing a book where the words count more than the story. (I don’t know if I actually believe this. Story is hard too. Great characters are hard too. Writing emotion is hard too… But whatever. I’m conceding for a moment that literary fiction might take longer.)

And my point is, no matter what you’re writing, ultimately it comes down to “butt in chair, hands on keyboard” at some point.

I think too many creative people use the word muse as an excuse.

NB.  This doesn’t mean I don’t get to stare out the window, or play Bejeweled and call it work. Sometimes we need that, too. To let the subconscious do it’s thing. Okay.
Just don’t whine and call it writer’s block.

High School Writers

Today I talked for an hour to a grade 12 writers arts class in Toronto. I was invited by the teacher of the daughter of a friend of my sister’s. (How’s that for a complicated relationship.)

It was really great and inspiring (for me), and I hope, most of all, that I didn’t completely discourage them from seriously pursuing writing… Because I told the truth–mostly–about publishing.

Looking back at myself at that age, I would have loved to meet a published author and ask questions. But since I didn’t have the guts to try writing as a career back then, hearing the truth about how difficult it is to earn a living as an author probably would have just reinforced what I’d already decided. To do something else…

But still, I really hope that I didn’t say anything today to discourage these budding young writers.

It took me a lot of years to discover (or admit to) who I really am. Here’s hoping the kids I meet today get there sooner. :)


SCBWI vs. RWA Cage Match

What are the similarities and differences between these two writers’ organizations’ big national conferences?

I discuss today over at my group blog Drunk Writer Talk.

(Aside) The first manuscript I ever wrote was a romance, as was the second, which I abandoned before revising, having decided that romance wasn’t my genre. And while I made that decision back in 2003, I’ve remained a member of RWA because I love the organization and the friends I’ve made there.

Now I have a new love… SCBWI. (end of aside)

In my post, I compare the two conferences.

Another difference I thought of after I posted is: free books.

At RWA’s National conference you end up with at least 10 free books without even trying (you get them when you register and at each keynote) and by trying you can end up with boxes and boxes and boxes of free books. The big six (and smaller) publishers all host free book signings for their authors. Also the publishers give away at least one title (usually more than one book) for each all of the keynote speakers. (The books are on your chair when you go into the room.)

RWA also has a HUGE author signing open to the general public, where the books are donated by the publishers, and any published member attending the conference can sign. It’s HUGE. Hundreds and hundreds of authors signing. And last summer, when it was held at the Marriott in Times Square, the line started hours in advance, trailed through the entire hotel, snaked around the driveway and down the street. It was my first time signing, with Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and I have to say it was quite a thrill. Quite a few of the younger teens who came up to ask me to sign books had clearly been given lists of authors they were allowed to talk to/buy from by their mothers. :) Not surprising given the range of authors signing, from well, me (with a young-skewing YA) to full-on erotica novels.

If my comparison had been scoring based on getting books, or opportunities for published authors to get their books into the hands of readers, RWA would win hands down. But from my perspective as an author and conference attendee, I’m not sure I could pick a clear winner.

While I love the free books I get at RWA… I often end up donating them to a library or hospital, or giving them away to friends, and I kind of liked not needing another suitcase to go home. :)

RWA Home Page

SCBWI Home Page