Category Archives: Writing Tips

writing tips and ideas

Creative Ink Festival

I had a fabulous time at the Creative Ink Festival and am sending a big thank you to author Sandra Wickham for bringing this event into existence. It was my first time going and it was so energizing! I ventured out of my midnight writing cave and into the daylight hours to learn new ideas, check out fantastic books, and meet other writers and artists.

I recently had my story “Grounded” accepted into the science fiction anthology Tesseracts Twenty: Compostela. And who did I get to meet at Creative Ink…but Brian Hades, the head of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing which puts out this Canadian anthology. Writing is a very solitary event for me where sending out stories via the Internet is the closest I come to connecting with others, so it is wonderful to meet the people who are making a “home sweet home” for my stories. “Grounded” will get to be mere pages away from work written by Robert J. Sawyer. In case you don’t know who he is, check out his biography below from EDGE’s website:

“Robert J. Sawyer is one of the most successful Science Fiction authors in Canada and the world. He has written numerous novels which have been translated into several languages, and has contributed to a number of anthologies and publications. He was part of the group that founded Vision TV, the world’s only multi-faith television service, and hosts the Vision series Supernatural Investigator. He has won the Hugo, Nebula, Aurora, Seiun, Galaxy, Audie, Skylark, Homer, Hal Clement, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Arthur Ellis Awards, as well as a number of other prestigious Science Fiction accolades.”

At the conference, I was not only able meet Robert J. Sawyer, I was able to get a blue pencil session (this is where a professional in the field will tell you the good, bad, and ugly truth about your writing) with him. He had a selection of pens neatly lined up like a brain surgeon ready to dissect my short story. I was so nervous to have such an established writer look at my work that I felt like my own personal rain storm. I had prepared myself for a horror flick amount of red slash marks to criss-cross my pages.

I was completely astonished when he had only positive things to say about my writing. He circled things he really liked in my story. He told me I should be writing books and I felt so overwhelmed. It’s like being a Muggle and being told by a Grand Wizard that I do have magic (Can you tell I’ve been reading Harry Potter with my kids?). It was so amazing to meet him, and I feel so inspired and excited to get back into writing more.

If anyone ever wonders if it is worth it to go to conferences, I would definitely say yes. I am already looking forward to the next Creative Ink Festival.

How to Clear Your Mind to Let the Writing Process Flow

How to Clear Your Mind to Let the Writing Process Flow

I had someone ask how I clear my mind so I can focus and get writing. I would like to say I do yoga and mental mind-clearing exercises to make this happen. I think these would be great activities to do exactly that…but I have not done either with regards to writing.

Still I do notice a few things that have worked for me and will happily share them with whoever is reading write now.

Set My Head the Night Before

I set my head the night before, like I would set a clock. I set my mind to prepare for the countdown of when I’ll get to write next. I tell myself to tick, tick, tick away with ideas in the background of my daily running around. I guess you could also think about it like a crockpot of ideas simmering until I have time dish my food for thought out. It’s great because I usually have something I want to write about by the time I can squeeze some writing in for the day.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I need to have my basic needs properly met. Sleep. Eat. Drink. (By “Drink,” I mean healthy things like water and milk)

In particular, I need to make sure I’m well rested when I’m writing. I have literally fallen asleep while writing. The stuff just before I fell asleep was oddly enough, not my best work. Whereas I find if I do get a good night’s sleep, then oddly enough, I’m able to get a good day’s work in.

Don’t Go Online

Don’t go online. Don’t go online. Don’t go online.

I can get lost on the Internet: reading the latest news, checking social media, researching ideas, etc. I find social media a particularly bad habit. I want to see what everyone is up to, I want to respond to emails and twitter about.

But then I’m reading, responding and reacting. My head is running with other people’s problems, ideas, agendas. But what I need to do is write about the problems, ideas and agendas of my characters. Yes, in order to write and go into my character’s world, I need to hide from reality.

Hiding from Reality

Hiding from reality also means not checking your phone, answering your phone or calling/texting. It means putting a Do Not Disturb sign on the door of the room you are writing in. It means talking with the people in your house about respecting your writing time so you can complete your work. It perhaps even means finding somewhere else to do your work like the library or a coffee shop if you can’t be left in peace to write at home.

Write When the Fancy Hits You

Sometimes I’m just hit by an idea. I’m just doing something random and/or I see or hear something and I get an idea for a story or for a line to put in a story. Find a computer, your phone, paper or pen and scribble down your ideas. If you are really excited and have the time, then go start writing then. Often though, I don’t have time to dig deep into my idea, but it’s good to jot the basics down because it gives me something to go with the next time I do have time to write.

How to Clear Your Mind to Let the Writing Process Flow

So the best way to clear my mind is keeping it busy in the background during the time before I write, making sure I get enough sleep, staying away from the online world, hiding from people while I’m writing and scribbling down a good idea when it hits me. Happy writing!

The Spooky Truth of Being a Writer Mom

The Spooky Truth of Being a Writing Mom

I know Halloween is over, but it’s still on my brain as I keep scarfing down chocolates and candies. Here are my thoughts about what it means to be a writer – ugly guts and all.


Evil Mastermind Commitment to Evil

ReaperFor a long time I treated my writing more as a hobby, so it kept getting shunted to last priority. I had all these great ideas, but they weren’t on paper. An evil mastermind needs to do more than just hatch devious plans; she needs to make them happen. I had to commit to getting my diabolic plots typed up for others to read. So I could unleash them on the world! Bwhaha!


Mad Scientist Work Schedule

I had to cram writing into every tiny crevice of time I could find. I’d look at my day planner and see I had a one-hour window. I’d set the clock and spew out whatever I could. It wasn’t pretty – but at least it was out there. Like a good mad scientist, I could cut and hack parts I didn’t like. I could come up with new shady characters and painful plot twists for my shoddy first draft creations. I could take that really ugly baby and make it into something people would want to pick up and love. Or at least it had a face only a mother could love.


Vampire Hours

vampire teethWith work and kids, I often find the day a hard time to accomplish much. For example, I see all the things that need to get done around the house. Some days of procrastination have the byproduct of a very clean house. I love kids, but they tend to want things from me often…all day long. (I find getting interrupted throws my train of thought that often hadn’t left the station any way – but that’s getting off track now. :))

So I’ve adopted vampire hours to work on writing, depending on my workload the next day. The window of time somewhere between 10-2 is the time I have as my own. The sweet creatures that would scream my name are sleeping. And in the dark the mess doesn’t look so bad. I’d find myself a dark corner where it’s quiet and let the writing bug sink its fangs into me.

Zombie Mom

zombie momThere, of course, is a price to pay. If I stay up too late and too often I become Zom Mom. That’s right, I risk becoming the dreaded Zombie mom. That means walking into doors by accident and feeling foggy-headed. Need more brains! Need more brains! So I have to balance out getting sleep, even if that means sneaking in an afternoon nap.

I would try to use sleep-deprivation as a learning opportunity. I would tell my kids how important sleep is and use myself as an example. See how cranky  and clumsy I am? Why do you think that is? That’s right, I didn’t get enough sleep. It’s early to bed for everyone.


house work out of handHaunted House

The other byproduct of spending every free moment writing, is that I would do little work around the house. Yes, I’ve allowed actual cobwebs to grow and multiply in my house. I told myself that would help provide ambiance while I wrote late at night. Mountains of laundry grew! Dirty dishes piled up! The horror! My housework has gotten out of hand.

So I can let that go for awhile, but eventually I need to do a major exorcism and clean the house up.

Ghost Writer

ghostThe other thing I find when I get on a serious writing jag is that I become less social. My brain is so busy scheming disasters and dealing with dubious characters that I’m not quite in the real world any more. It’s like a ghost of me is walking around and doing all the social things I’m supposed to. I’m so busy in my story world that I keep finding my mind floating away to it.

So, in order for me to write, I do have to be monstrously dedicated. It means I have a mad scientist schedule to follow and it often means writing late at night. This can lead to being zombie-like in my day-to-day interactions and a house of horrors as far as laundry and dishes are concerned. When I’m all into my writing, sometimes it means I have trouble switching gears back into the world of the living. This is the scary truth o writing in the real world.

I do my best to stay balanced, but a little unbalance goes a long way. Need more brains! Need more brains!

How to Get Over Writer’s Block


Getting Around Writer’s Block

I knowdog there’s debate about whether writer’ block really exists. But, whether it does or not, there will always be days when you feel like all your creative juices have gone. Somehow they leaked out your ears, formed a puddle on the floor and then were promptly slurped up by the dog. The dog ate my creativity! We can fix that.  The  following are tips to help get around writer’s block (get it – get a “round” writer’s block :)) and restore your creativity.

Just Write (About Anything)

Oh yeah. People say that all the time. Just write. Pbbbbt. I stick my tongue out at this advice. But, then I go back to my computer and remember that’s indeed a good idea. I had a great English teacher who had us do “free” journaling. She gave us10-15 minutes to write about anything. And I mean anything. Some days I just wrote “blah blah” for the whole page. Some days I wrote about very personal problems. But she didn’t mark us on content. In fact she never read any of it. Our mark was solely for filling the page. It was all about the process, just being able to get into the rhythm of writing. So give yourself the freedom to write about anything. Blah, blah, blah.

Write a Journal

Or segue journal writinginto very personal problems. If you do have a lot going on in your life, writing a journal might be a good way to kickstart your writing. It’s helpful because it allows you to transfer “worry thoughts” on to paper. Instead of having them run around in your mind, trap them in words in your journal and leave them there so you can focus on your writing. Also, just the process of writing in your journal warms you up for writing your book/story/play/poem/etc.

Ditch the Computer, Really Write

Sometimes it’s nice to change mediums. Maybe the computer is no longer being your friend. It’s just staring at you with that blank-page look on its face. Get old school. Go paper and pen. Try pencil and paper. Use ink and a calligraphy pen. Use a stone tablet and a chisel. Particularly if you’re writing anything historical, it could be fun to write how they did during that time period. (This does not mean I condone writing in blood if you’re a horror writer.)

Doodle and Draw Your Story

Even mcrayonsore glorious, and taking you back to the glory days of your creativity, I dare you to go bust out a box of crayons. Doodle. Scribble. Remember what it’s like to be a kid again – when you knew you were going to grow up to be a professional race car driver and Olympic ballerina who also worked as a scientist who invented cars that run on fart power. Draw to have fun and to get your hand and brain working together again. Or you can ramp it up a notch and try drawing a scene, character or map from your story world.

Find Your Story Somewhere Else

To get to your magical story world, sometimes you need to actually physically move. If you’re writing in the kitchen and the sink full of dishes keeps calling you – Escape!!! Find a new place to write. Ideally go to a quiet space where you can concentrate and won’t be interrupted. For some people, it mean going outside their house to work. If going to a coffee shop is too expensive for you, the library is a great quiet alternative – without coffee.

Start in the Middle, Start at the End

Sometimes end signwe get caught up in being chronological about our work. I always tell kids when they have a test, not to stay stuck on a hard question. Put a star by it and come back to it. Go through and do everything you can, skip to the easy parts and then go back to the hard parts. If you have a great idea for the middle of the story, go for it. If you know what you want for the ending, go ahead and get writing that up. That’s what I did.