Tip #2

Finding the time to write

Don’t wait for inspiration. Set aside some uninterrupted time and get going. It can be early in the morning or late at night. Whenever it is, make it a time you can stick to. Writing demands a huge discipline ethic and it needs energy, focus, and patience with a mindset of steel to stay on task.

Most of us have to deal with work, chores, shopping, gym workouts, walking the dog, getting the car fixed, etc. But no matter what the daily tasks are, make a decision that, if you are going to seriously write, you are going to find the time, even if it’s bits of time all over the clock.

Scrutinize your typical day. There is usually down time such as a half-hour here, 15 minutes there, coffee breaks, or commuting time that can be put to writing use. These moments are perfect to make notes, record an idea, flesh out thoughts, or write a few sentences that will get a story going.

Try ten-minute takes. These are moments when you are taking a breather from something else. They are little nuggets of time that let you get something down that can be worked on later. 

Discipline yourself to write while the TV or the radio are on, the kids/grandkids are roaring around the living room, or while preparing supper. Keep a notebook on standby and scribble away while potatoes simmer. If you are driving and a great idea surfaces, pull over and get it down on paper or on your digital device. Don’t go anywhere without something to record on!

How you use your writing time is critical. You need time to think, plan, plot, develop story lines, work on the backstory, tweak a lead-in, get on with research, develop a marketing strategy, and decide how to promote the project.


Tip #3

Editors’ needs

The four most important things on an editor’s wish list are a writer’s accuracy, flawless copy, staying within the word count, and meeting the deadline.

Just about all editors are great to work with. The important thing is to understand their pressures, the stresses they are often under, and what they expect from you. Your job is to provide editorial copy that is ideally ready for typesetting.

Editors are under all kinds of deadlines. The more you can make their deadline easier, the more they will want to continue working with you as you develop stories.


Tip #4

Character biographies

Get to know your characters really well. A name and physical description is not enough. You need to get inside their heads. Format a biographical sheet with the following headings:

Name, age, education, profession, family background, ethnic background, core personality, childhood memories, likes, dislikes, greatest fears, traumatic memories, favourite food/sport/recreation, pressing issues and what is the biggest challenge facing him/her right now.

Do this for every character in your book. Then look at the relationships between each of them as to whether they are friends, family, support characters, enemies, or strangers. Understand how your characters speak, especially if they are foreign or raised in a unique community. How they speak is how they think so understand their thinking processes when faced with a dilemma. How would they respond?

Toward the climax of your novel, you need a turn-around moment, a crisis that forces your character to reach for depths inside him he didn’t know he had. What is that depth? And how does it twist the ending? Only by really knowing these characters your spending your time with will you be able to give them the reins to triumph.


Tip #5

Writer’s block

Every writer faces this at one point. The writing spark has hit the pause button. Character dialogue has flatlined. The drama is muddled or the feature article has gone dull mid-stream. Don’t despair! You need to shift gears temporarily to get that creativity up and running again. Here are a few strategies.

First of all, don’t be hard on yourself. Remember, a slow-down is part of the process.

Take a break.

Take a walk.

Sleep on it.

Work on something else. Always have more than one project on the go so one piece of work can give relief from another.

Change where your write or the time you usually write

Set a new writing schedule. Stick to it and write something every day, even if it’s not the project that is giving you grief.

Set a deadline for your project and a minimum number of words each day. Or do one page per day. That’s 365 pages in a year. At an average 250 word count for each page (double spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt), that’s over 91,000 words. Really good planning for your story will help you stay on track. 

Think of writing as a job you have to show up for each day.

Do some research to see how other writers overcame these challenges.

Try some writing exercises. Write 500 words around a photo, a sentence that starts “What happened then…” or a lost pet.

Take a moment to examine whether you have any deep seated issues with the story. Would approaching the project from another angle work? Did it start off on the wrong footing?

Use 10-minute starters. Give yourself 10 minutes to start a story, any story. When you’re done, don’t toss it out; toss it into an ideas folder to develop later. There might be something good there!


Tip #6


Your pacing will determine the peaks and valleys in your scenes, the speed by which an action causes a reaction. Your protagonist will face confrontational dilemmas, conflict coming from all directions, and a final showdown which will come up gradually and stealthily toward the climax of your book.

Pacing is critical and so much is driven by the personalities of your characters and the style of your own writing. Pacing fixes the flow of information, dialogue and scenes.

Each peak is your hero’s advancement forward while each valley is something that throws the story on another curve. The climatic event at the end of the book will be advanced from a variety of fronts until the solution is revealed.


Tip #7


Dialogue is the soul of a novel. This is where your readers meet your characters at the most intimate and memorable level. Those witty, sharp, haunting, funny one-liners get engraved in our psyche. Those aching monologues provide glimpses into the heart of your hero that no amount of narrative can quite achieve.

So know how your characters speak and allow them to have unique expressions and mannerisms. Those idiosyncrasies can come from their ethnic core. Or they can come from pieces of leftover childhood habits. Let them speak from the heart. Let them get things wrong. Let them stumble and fall over their words because at some point they are going to get back up and be compelled by what they said to move forward.

Much can be said in a story once someone begins to speak. There are seven components to dialogue that include:

What is said.

Who said it.

How was it said which will convey emotion.

Who was it said to.

What information did it convey to move the plot along.

How was it perceived, which will reveal the relationship between two characters.

How is it driving conflict and tension.

Craft your dialogue carefully. Make every spoken word count. Really play with the layers of personality that dialogue reveals and how it impacts the character/s in the scene.


Tip #8

Children’s dialogue

Dialogue is where children’s books come alive. A conversation reveals character and provides information. But it also reveals emotion, tension, and conflict between two people.

Dialogue between youthful characters should be short, snappy, and sometimes witty. Children, especially young ones, are just learning language and how to read, so the words and sentences must be ‘reachable’, appealing and fun.

Children love to listen to conversations between others. They will often scan the pages looking for dialogue where they find their characters. It’s like meeting friends.

Don’t construct dialogue beyond the age ability of your character. Young children are still learning to talk. So they don’t always speak correctly. When wondering where his mom is, you wouldn’t have a four-year-old say, “I don’t know where my Mom is but I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”  Wouldn’t he just say, “Where’s Mommy!”

Dialogue is more dynamic than narrative in children’s books. But there is poor dialogue and good dialogue. Allow the personalities of the characters to come through in the chatter but keep it short and to the point.




Aug  2013

Many writers tell me that they sometimes have trouble getting started on a writing project. I know what they mean. Finding the exact words to start a book can be really frustrating, not to say daunting. So don’t worry about the ‘real’ beginning in the beginning. Just write something.

TIP: Start your project where your passion for the story is the strongest.

You probably already have a few words or a sentence or two tumbling around in your head. You know perfectly well that it’s a piece of the story but not the start of the story. And they have likely been floating around for a while as the germ of the story idea grew. Open up a new file, get those sentences up on the screen, and save them as a draft. As more thoughts, ideas, and words surface, type them in. This draft manuscript is just the very raw beginning. But that’s the point. It is the beginning of your writing journey.

Getting the first few sentences or a paragraph up on your screen is really empowering. I have always found that a few sentences, bits of dialogue or a character’s inner thoughts can start the words flowing. As the project builds and it starts to roughly fall into place, you will know where the real starting point is and you’ll be able to cut and paste accordingly. In fact, you will be cutting, pasting and editing your work many, many times before it starts to feel right.

Words beget words. Sentences build, paragraphs form, and a sense of story structure starts to emerge. It’s an exciting moment for it is when that kernel of an idea actually becomes a real, unfolding story.

Open a separate file and call it “Notes”. Type in this file any themes, character notes, plot thoughts, ideas to be researched, and any other brainstorming ideas that build the story or enrich the nonfiction book. As thoughts move along, often quickly, you need to be able to grab them and keep them to work on later.