RSS

Category Archives: Writing Tips

Do You Have the Right Writing Team?

Team of 4-yr.-olds on stage

Team of 4-yr.-olds on stage

We hear it all the time: You’ve got to be a team player. Take one for the team. Come on, team. Let’s win this.

And it starts young. At summer camp my wee grandson is on stage performing with his group. (Read team.)  We applaud their cute antics as they learn to work together and perform a song or act out a skit.

“All you ever need to know you learned in kindergarten.” So goes the saying. Of course I never went to kindergarten but you get the idea. We all have to learn to coexist with the other people on the planet and most of what we do is with, for, or instigated by others.

So it goes with writing. Yes, I know. The actual putting words on screen is usually a solitary process but after that loads of people are crucial to me.

This graphic from last year’s Ontario Writers’ Conference demonstrates how together we make something beautiful. The organizers took the last names of all of those registered who had published a book that year and made this lovely picture. Each of us has our name up there several times, large and small. I was delighted to be a part of the larger whole.

On front wall at writers' conference.
On front wall at Ontario Writers’ Conference.

In a similar way I am surrounded by amazing people who help me achieve publication. For the first two books in my trilogy I used an interior designer from Paris, France for helping to choose the typeface, the setup of chapters, and generally the whole look of the interior of the books. Her knowledge and helpful suggestions saved me hours and hours of learning all this myself.

Even more so, my cover designer, a suggestion from my awesome printer in Victoria, British Columbia, was, and continues to be, a ready and reachable source of knowledge on everything from just what the purpose of the cover is to formatting my manuscript for the different e-book platforms. And she is a dream to work with, always sunny and excited about the project at hand.

So, too, my printer, who does rush orders for me with nary a whimper, smooths out any little bump in the printing road, and is just generally a pleasure to work with.

But what about before those people get their hands on my work?

I get to bounce ideas off my friend, author and poet Robyn Marie Butt, and various others of my friends who are writers and readers. Luckily my inner circle allow me to natter on about my work in progress and offer ideas and suggestions when I ask. My family does this all the time, especially my daughter and my husband. My son, with his question to me when I confided my writing dreams, got me thinking large enough to write a novel. He asked “If not now, when?”.

And my beta readers! These people are the ones who keep me honest and searching to improve all the time. Millie, particularly, gives me an excellent critique and is wonderful at discussing the work-in-progress. The others offer insights, too, all from the vantage point of their particular talents and experiences. We writers do not see everything about what we’ve written. We need fresh eyes on the work and I, for one, really treasure those who help me by venturing into the final (?) draft of my novel.

I’ve used two different editors, both excellent and both thorough, for edits large and small. Because I taught senior English for twenty-some years my eyes are pretty good at sourcing out grammar or other errors but these editors are good at looking at the overall novel. I may not use all of their suggestions but I definitely consider them thoroughly.

So there you have them–the people behind my author’s name on the cover. And here’s a great big THANK YOU to all of those on my writing team as I work on the third book in the Loyalist trilogy.

How About an Authors and History Tour? Click here for details of this amazing cruise. Come join us!

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction! Book Two in The Loyalist Trilogy!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Luck Here.

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

The Loyalist’s Wife, Book One in The Loyalist Trilogy!

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

Short-listed for Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair’s Canada Self-Published Book Awards

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife here.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

7 Lessons Related To Being a Writer

20141019_132341Eight years ago (almost) when I first started my novelist’s journey, I knew I’d be using my love of words, my English teacher knowledge of grammar and spelling, my research abilities, and even my computer knowledge. Piece of cake, I told myself.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Heard that before? The expression refers to being blissfully ignorant of not only the how-to’s but of the fact that the how-to’s even exist. And after those eight years of conferences and workshops, writing groups and editing notes, rejections and suggestions, I am on a totally different piece of ground than when I began.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
10 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Marketing Books, Writing Tips

 

Tags: , , , , ,

How My Workspace Fuels My Fires: 12 Points, With Pictures

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

When I step into my sunny office I’m surrounded by objects and remembrances I treasure and that fill my heart (and my head) with joy and thanks. Every morning I put my glass of water on a stone coaster imprinted with Eliot’s quote. This coaster has been a talisman for me for over eight years and each time I read it, I’m refreshed and ready to push on with my writing.

1-3.  The picture on my computer screen is bright and beautiful to me, my light, which I originally bought for beading, bathes my workspace, and a card on the left at the back tells me to Celebrate! I got it from a lovely couple at my first book launch.

desktop

4.  A bulletin board to the right of my desk holds pictures of many of my life’s treasures.

bulletin board in office

5-6.  I have a long table attached to my desk where I can assemble the projects I’m working on and, in the foreground, my book selling paraphernalia are stacked ready for the next person who comes to my door for a copy. Yes, they do that and it’s wonderful both for the sales and for the personal visits.

books on office table

7.  One evening my husband and I were dining in a new restaurant on a trip and this painting caught our attention. The local artist (the restaurant was in Orillia) had several of her paintings displayed there but we loved this one. My lovely husband promptly bought it for me and I painted my office  to match it. (My snapshot hasn’t rendered the colour of the paint at all correctly!)

office scene

8-9.  As we circle around the room past the door, my own framed photograph of a spot we found walking one day in Hilton Head, South Carolina hangs above my “imagine” sign. A perfect gift for a writer that sign, and I received it long before I’d published any books. How wonderful for writers to have people believe in us!

imagine

10. Here are more family pictures. I’m there at nine and at twelve, I think, posing for a record of our good times. I didn’t think much about it then but now I smile into the memories.

photo[7]

11-12. And on the other side of the window my siblings and I are posing for our last family photograph while we were all still alive. My family is so much a part of who I am. Oh, and on the filing cabinet beside my desk in a pottery dish I myself crafted is my collection of rocks and minerals which I and my wee grandson have rearranged thousands of times.

photo[17]

Things in and of themselves are not all that important I know, but these things glow with the memories they elicit and wonderful memories are worth everything. On a day when I have just a bit of an urge to chuck the revision and go walking or just watch a movie, being surrounded by my things and my people reminds me to keep working at being what I can be. Thanks, George Eliot.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction, Just Out!

Book Two in The Loyalist Trilogy!

Purchase The Loyalist’s Luck Here.

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

The Loyalist’s Wife, Book One in The Loyalist Trilogy!

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

and

short-listed for Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair’s Self-Published Book Awards

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife here.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Authors, Awards, Writing Tips

 

Tags: , , , ,

Character Author Sharon Clare Comes to Visit

Today, while I’Delve Deepm cruising the waters near Alaska :-), multi-talented author, Sharon Clare, is here to visit. Sharon runs really helpful workshops and is not afraid to delve deep into her writing. She also markets her books and others’ through an online game called Second Life. Her book store within that game is called The Book Nook and my book is for sale in that virtual book store. Truly innovative marketing. Today she discusses writing meaningful and memorable characters whose personalities intrigue readers. Please, readers and authors, feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments section below. And Sharon promises there will be an e-book available after her weekend workshop which she mentions below. (For all of you who can’t make the workshop!) Welcome, Sharon!

She’s Not All Bad, She Has Values!

Are you getting any of the following feedback from beta readers, contest judges, or agents/editors?

  • Flat, predictable or generic characters
  • Characters lack motivation/conflict
  • Characters are inconsistent and ring false
  • Dialogue all sounds the same
  • Can’t connect with, or downright don’t care about characters

Or do you just not know where your story should go next? If so, you may need help with characterization.

When we begin to develop characters to tell our stories, we want to build dynamic characters, real people with values and flaws, histories and dreams, secrets and strengths, characters who will not only change and grow over the course of the novel, but will help lead the way.

The character arc is an evolution. Your protagonist should not be the same person at the end of the story that she was at the beginning. She needs to learn a lesson or two after dealing with all the conflict you’ll send her way, so she may not be her best at the start of the story. She may be painfully shy and come off as arrogant or she may be bitter and have mother issues or she may be insecure with a need to control everything around her. Any of these qualities will make her interesting and may not endear her to the other characters, but you want to endear her to your readers despite her flaws.

So how do you do this?

Sharon Clare

Sharon Clare

In the opening scene, give the reader a glimpse of the heroine’s potential, the person she has the ability to become, (just one core attribute you can use to emotionally engage your readers). Share something she values deeply, something that makes her likeable, and show it early on, preferably in the first chapter.

In Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s, Breathing Room, the heroine, Dr. Isabel Favor, is America’s diva of self-help. Until her life falls apart. She’s accused of being the boss from hell, a total control freak, driven, demanding and difficult, and we see from her behaviour that it’s likely true. But the following short exchange between Isabel and the cleaning lady shows us another side of Isabel, a side that shows she values compassion.

Isabel starts off this dialogue:

“Speaking of hookers, did I tell you those two ladies who hang out by the alley showed up at the new job program yesterday?”

“Those whores’ll be back on the treat by next week. I don’ know why waste your time with them.”

“Because I like them. They’re hard workers.” Isabel kicked back in her chair, forcing herself to concentrate on the positive instead of that humiliating newspaper article.

Even though a few paragraphs earlier, Isabel couldn’t help telling the cleaning woman how to do her job, we see that despite her control issues, Isabel is a good person.

So along with your character’s imperfections, be sure to show what he or she values at the onset of the story.

Here are a few ideas for values taken from the more extensive list in how to use core attributes to emotionally engage your readers in the Delve Deep Into Character workbook:

Sharon's icon.jpg

  • spirituality
  • health
  • generosity
  • independence
  • morality
  • honesty
  • playfulness
  • ecology
  • security
  • cleanliness
  • leisure
  • romance
  • family
  • honesty
  • ambition
  • tidiness
  • compassion
  • diversity
  • self-control
  • freedom

Remember, values can show character flaws as well, but that’s a topic for another day, and an aspect of our weekend workshop!

“Look within—many characters are to some degree a projection of the writer’s own personality.”                                                                                            ~ NYT bestselling author Robert Dugoni

Know Yourself, Know Your Character! We invite you to join us for a unique intensive writing workshop where you will learn a cutting edge technique to delve deep into yourself as a writer, so you can…

Delve Deep Into Character: 7 Steps To Leap From Cliché to Compelling

Please find details of the workshop here on our website.

Sharon’s Bio is here.

Irene Jorgensen, Sharon’s workshop partner, has her Bio here. 

Coming in the fall of 2014–Soon!

The Loyalist’s Luck_cover_apr1.indd
John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

For All Lovers of Historical Fiction

Available Now: The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in The Loyalist Trilogy!

by Elaine Cougler, winner of the WCDR 2014 Pay It Forward Scholarship

The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.indd

When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

Tags: , , ,

How To Publish and Keep Control

IMG_2433_editedSo you write a book, and it takes you a year, and you think the next step is handing it to a publisher. That’s what I thought seven years ago. And then came revision, character arcs, economy of words, and a host of other writing no-no’s and must-do’s.

For five of my six years to publication, traditional publishing was absolutely the way I wanted to go. The marvellous books I’d read were published by the big houses, and I longed to follow that tradition.

Throughout all the conferences, workshops, online searches, critique groups (even one I started myself), and connections with writers, I dreamed of finding a publisher. I pitched, queried, rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned something else. Read the rest of this entry »

 
10 Comments

Posted by on June 11, 2014 in General, Writing Tips

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

How Can You Justify Spending Money on a Writing Conference?

Last Friday I braved the drive to Ajax along the busy 401 past Toronto to attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference.

Should I go or should I give pass it by? I wondered. Especially since last year I paid my money but spent the weekend in the hospital. Nevertheless I signed up. I wondered about the wisdom of my decision the whole three hours and twenty-five minutes that it took me to drive the normally hour and a half route. Grrr. But I went and I met my friend, Sally, and we carried on.  Here are some of the things I learned in the full sessions and workshops I chose:

  1. Character, plot, setting. You can’t have one without the others. Of course we knew that but being reminded of the intricacies of each is always good.
  2. Authenticity. People want to know that the author knows what she is talking about.
  3. Whether to wiki or not depends on how crucial to the story the detail is. If it’s really important, go further than Wikipedia.
  4. Regarding research, you need to know ten times more about your subject than you actually use in fiction.
  5. Put setting details sparingly throughout the novel and not all at once.
  6. Pace revelation of detail throughout the book and only as needed to drive the plot or character development.
  7. Writing a good pitch before you start writing helps the writer consolidate just what the book is about. It’s also useful for that elevator pitch.
  8. Make sure the stakes are crucial. Why would anyone care about what is happening to your characters?
  9. For writers to write about what hurts allows readers into the story in an engaging way which captivates them.
  10. When you decide to write you are joining the human condition.

Of course meeting other attendees and reconnecting with those I’ve met before is always a terrific experience and luckily a lot of that happened. I connected with Terry Fallis who gave me great cover quote for The Loyalist’s Wife last year. He was the final speaker and once again connected on a professional level and on a more personal level with everyone there. The lunch speaker was Wayson Choy whom I had never met before. That afternoon I came upon him by himself in the anteroom and had a chance to express my appreciation for his knowledgeable and empathetic remarks to the crowd. Both of these writers have not let their great successes ruin them. They are most generous to those of us who haven’t scaled the heights yet.

While the conference did cost me quite a lot for its length I found it absolutely worthwhile. And the fact that every time we sat down again in the large hall my name was up on the screens overhead as one of the authors who published a book in the last year, well, that just was the icing on the cake. Oh. And a number of people knew my name when I introduced myself. That was fabulous. All in all the Ontario Writers Conference 2014 was a great break from editing and revision and gives me new energy to forge ahead on The Loyalist’s Luck.

 

Coming May 14, 2014!

The Loyalist’s Luck Cover Reveal

book two in The Loyalist Trilogy, coming in September, 2014

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
 

Tags: , , ,

7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

IMG_0768

A Big Job Well Done!

Today I feel like the spider who has finally completed this huge undertaking. You know what I mean.

We all have those large tasks which seem to take forever and which gnaw at our innards until we finish them. Writing a book is such a task. Oh, sure, it’s a rewarding job overall, especially when it’s finally published, but many days the hill seems just too high.

Last week I neared the summit of another book project, or at least one of several hills. And I felt like the industrious spider at left who toiled and spun until this fabulous web was done. What was my milestone?

I finished the rough draft of The Loyalist’s Luck!

Just like the spider and her web, though, I still have lots of holes to fill before the final draft gets sent. So I got to thinking about other ways to brighten a writer’s day because finishing a draft takes months and months and we need more high points along the way.

7 Ways to Brighten a Writer’s Day

  1. Finish a chapter on your work in progress.
  2. Find an amazing bit of research.
  3. Write a wonderful sentence.
  4. Read another great comment about your first book.
  5. Check your book sales and find they’ve doubled from last month.
  6. Speak at an event and sell lots of books.
  7. Finish writing your first draft of a new project. (This is so rewarding it bears repeating.)

Coming Soon!  Book Two in the Loyalist series:  The Loyalist’s Luck

John and Lucy escape the Revolutionary War to the unsettled British territory across the Niagara River with almost nothing. In the untamed wilderness they must fight to survive, he, off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she, left behind with their young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy–her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.

Watch for the cover reveal for The Loyalist’s Luck, coming very soon! And if you haven’t read the first in the series, here are links where you may purchase it.

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Purchase The Loyalist’s Wife for your Kobo here

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Authors, Writing Tips

 

Tags: , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,954 other followers

%d bloggers like this: