Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Expo America (BEA) 2010

I was like a kid in a candy store! That’s the best way to describe how I felt at the Book Expo in New York City (It was my first time at this event but not in NYC, of course). It’s always a delight to visit the Big Apple, the vibrant city where you can shop at your favorite store at 11:00 PM, go for a stroll among the brightly lit billboards in Times Square, eat roasted peanuts from the sidewalk vendors, take pictures of the myriad of street characters--I found Spiderman and Obama, and a NY trademark, the mounted police—and more!

The BEA is like the Formula 1 of books. So imagine the rush I felt upon entering the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. My supervisor, Hajni Blasko, Online Book Publicist at Substance Books and I spent two full days there meeting new authors and independent publishers. The first day was mostly workshops, conferences, and opening night keynote speaker, Barbra Streisand that was there promoting her book, My Passion for Design. The last two days were dedicated to showcasing the 500 plus authors and 1,500 exhibitors.

I learned this event was bigger in past years; however, the organizers did a good job. There were designated areas for meetings, press, book signing, and luggage. And, who can forget food? If you needed a caffeine jolt, you could even get a cup of Starbucks cappuccino.

I relished getting FREE books (galleys). The lines to have books signed were ridiculously long! But it was worth it! It’s all part of the experience. Having Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller The Help signed, for me, was one of the highlights of this event. Pelé, Rick Springfield, James Patterson, and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, to mention a few, were among the scheduled authors signing books.

Once I got my galleys I wandered through the booth-laden aisles. This was a great networking opportunity; I met wonderful people in all areas of writing and publishing. By the end of the day, I had four canvas bags (one of the many freebies), filled with business cards, brochures, pens, staplers, catalogues, and galleys, of course!

On the last day, I couldn’t carry the bags with all the goodies I got for myself and for my fellow writers. Overall, it was a great experience. I’m definitely going to next year’s Book Expo!
For more info visit:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating characters for your audience not yourself

I just finished working on a story. I had so much fun writing this piece because my protagonist took control of the story and the dialogue. I asked a friend and fellow writer to read it. She came back with great feedback. As a reader, she expressed exactly what I was looking for: a reaction about my character. Giving life to a character is sometimes a difficult task. We, the writer, must detach completely from our characters so they can take on a life of their own, so they can have an impact on the reader.
Here are a few pointers for creating interesting and unforgettable characters:

Leave your ego behind and be modest. Think of your character as a voyage into the unknown. Don’t assume you know him/her. We don’t know people thoroughly, not even our own husbands/wives or family members. So approach your characters with that in mind. If they are mysterious to you, they'll be mysterious to your readers. Isn’t that wonderful?

Be open to new possibilities. Let your key characters say unusual things, things that you wouldn’t say. If you use curse words, let your characters do it only at the appropriate time and appropriate scene. If you overdo the swearing you’ll lose your readers. Let your characters be out of your control. They have free will just like we do. They have to surprise you so that this effect is transferred to your readers.

Remember that your characters are not your children; therefore, they do not have to bear obvious resemblance to you. Even if your characters are inspired by some aspects of your personality, they don't have to be your mirror image. It would be more interesting if every attitude and opinion of theirs was contrary to yours.

When things happen to you unexpectedly, you respond in a certain way. So this will be the case for your characters in your story. Let them react, not as you expect them to, but as they choose to. Don't control them.

Remember characterization allows us to empathize with the protagonist and secondary characters, and thus feel that what is happening to these people in the story is vicariously happening to us.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Unleash your creativity

Creativity is an ethereal relationship between logic and the subconscious and between technique and imagination. As writers, we want to run away with our creativity, have leeway with our text, explore unchartered writing styles, and forget about the technical part (I know, that’s my case most of the time). However, we need both in order to produce a great story, novel, or screenplay. In one of the workshops I took two years ago, the teacher said, “Write about what you know.” I pondered on that thought for a while. Although he may have point, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the norm. If we only write about what we know, then we’re stifling our creative process. Let me give you an example. I wrote a short story about FGM. This theme is completely foreign to me but I did thorough research about it and came up with a poignant and thought-provoking story. It was published!

On May 18th, I went to McGill University to hear Antonio D’Alfonso speak about his independent film, Bruco. Mr. D’Alfonso recently received the Best Director Award for Bruco at the New York International Film Festival. A poet, literary critic and author himself who has also collaborated on other films as scriptwriter, cameraperson and editor, talked about creativity when producing his films. He said, “Creativity is a clever play on words that is contradictory and paradoxical. Creativity is a question of coming and going, going and coming, and everything in between the words Start and End.”

D’Alfonso elaborated on this as he explained the creative process on the paradox he used for his film. He added, “When I write I always go to the end, that is the death of the text, the death of me, and the birth of my community. I start with the end. The end enables me to know where I am going, which road to take, which direction to follow. Knowing where it all ends permits to look back and decide where to go. Where will I be at the end of this trip? How will this story rap up? What sort of concluding remark do I wish to make? If I cannot answer these questions, I cannot begin to be creative. The fastest way to Rome is to fly to Sydney, Australia. The fastest way to die is by living. The best way of being personal is by being cultural. Such is the paradox of creativity."

Paradoxically, when we write from the imagination we are writing what we "know" but from such a deep level of knowing that we don't know that we know it until it is revealed in our writing. But when we write from our subconscious, we give birth to our true creativity. It keeps us alive, it keeps our writing alive. So, unleash your creativity, set it free, and don’t restrict yourself to just mundane themes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finish your novel in four simple steps

Do you have writer’s block or are you just afraid? We sometimes hear writers complain they have no time to finish their novel. Some are probably not making the necessary sacrifices to create time. I would advise them to prioritize by fitting their writing schedule into their daily life. Being afraid of failing is a major hindrance to either starting or finishing the novel. Failure shouldn’t be an option. I am always doing research and reading articles that will hone my writing skills. I want to share some insightful advice from novelist Lin Enger. He teaches us (and I include myself because I’m writing a novel) how to transform that out-of-shape first draft into a story with staying power. He advises to use these four revision strategies to make our novel go the distance.

This first rule deals not so much with revision, but with resisting the impulse to revise as you write. This is difficult in large part because it means forgiving yourself for writing terrible prose. There’s no way around it. Fast means sloppy—sloppy diction, syntax, grammar. Any damage suffered by your writer’s ego, however, will come at a small cost compared to the benefits gained.

Truth is, a quickly written draft produces a narrative with a clean trajectory. Think of it as a carpenter’s chalk line, the graph of your story’s arc. Your characters might remain undercooked and your subplots unexplored in this first go-through, but in working fast you have little choice but to hew close to the basic story line. As a result, you’re saved from the tempting side-trails and seductive tangents that can derail your progress. (You can come back to those later, when your task is to spice up and thicken your characters and plot, to pursue all of their wonderful complications.)

Here’s the point: Once you’ve blasted through to the end of a book, you have a much better sense of what belongs in the beginning and middle sections. And to your great advantage you won’t have wasted your time writing, revising and polishing unnecessary scenes that will only end up on the cutting-room floor.

Readers can tell if a passage fails to advance the story in some way. If that’s the case, they begin to skim, or worse, they toss the book aside. Therefore, the best way to start revising is to begin rereading your first draft and ask yourself this essential question at the opening of every chapter or scene: “What exactly happens here, and how does it surprise my character or offer some new perception to the reader?” Be sure every dramatized incident, whatever it is—a fight, a conversation or merely a silent moment in which a character ponders some issue—moves the story to a new place. When you find scenes that don’t, you’ve found the first targets of your revision. Scenes don’t have to be highly dramatic in order to perform valuable work. Yet it’s important that you examine them one by one, satisfying yourself that each will deepen your readers’ connection to the story and urge them to turn the page. Failing that test, scenes need to be cut—or reworked until they pass.

As novels progress, they inevitably alternate between the modes of scene and summary. Scenes, of course, depict moments of decision and high emotion, turning points that demand a full dramatic rendering, complete with dialogue, action and vivid descriptions. But intervening periods of time, lulls between episodes of heavy weather, character histories and complicated relationships also must be accounted for. Summaries, then—long passages of exposition—are a necessary evil. (All that densely packed prose, with no white space for the eye to rest upon!)

One way to help your readers persevere through spots where the pacing lags is to spice up the passages with bits of live action, with mini-scenes. Be on the alert, then, in your own work for long paragraphs consisting of backstory, physical description and character analysis. The information in such passages may be necessary, but unless you sprinkle in memorable scenic elements—snippets of dialogue, little clips of movement— your readers might lose patience.

Chapter breaks and other pauses allow readers to catch their breath, ponder what they’ve read and anticipate what might be coming next. As you revise your novel, don’t miss the opportunity to look at them collectively and make sure you’re offering a variety of chapter kickoffs to pique your readers. Sometimes you’ll want to give them what they expect—but a good novelist walks the line between keeping readers comfortable and making them crazy, so other times it’s best to startle them.

The most common method of getting a chapter started, one that takes readers by the hand and gently guides them into the next section of the story, is to position a character in time and instantly establish the dramatic situation. There’s nothing flashy about this strategy, but it gets the job done.

Remember that every new chapter offers the opportunity to reintroduce your story and re-orient your readers to the world of your novel. So as you revise, be strategic with your chapter openings. Your efforts will stave off reader complacency and give your novel the chance to hook your readers again and again.
Are these all strategies you could employ while you write the first draft? I don’t think so. It’s not until you can stand back and look at that draft as a cohesive whole that you will be able to apply these rules effectively and give your manuscript the revision it requires.

Writing and revising a novel means hard work, months or years of it—all the more reason to keep your readers’ needs at the forefront of your mind as you’re working. The time and energy invested in your novel doesn’t come to an end, after all, once you revise the last page, or even after the manuscript has been edited, produced and published—because, finally, your readers pour themselves into it, lay their own claims to it. Keeping this in mind should inspire us to fashion novels that are enjoyable yet challenging, familiar yet surprising, and as free of unnecessary hindrances as we can make them.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to write a successful thriller

My best friend and I were talking about books we've recently read. We recommended each other our recent finds. Somehow, we digressed  and ended up talking about thrillers, which I never read (He jokingly said, "It must be a guy thing."). I must admit I'm not too familiar with this genre. However, I promised him I would find a good article about it. So, to all those who read or write thrillers, here's a great article by bestselling writer Gary Braver.

People often confuse the mystery and thriller genres. While it's true that they often overlap, there’s a distinct difference: A mystery follows an intellectual protagonist who puts together clues to solve a crime after it's been committed, and a thriller details the prevention of a crime before it has been committed. To captivate an audience (and agents and publishers), Braver offers these 10 essential ingredients for a successful thriller.

1. You need to have a good story. Thrillers want to be thrilled. A common element in thrillers is that the protagonist will fall victim to someone else's scheme and get stuck in a moment of dread. There are only three themes in all of literature: death and rebirth (Stephen King's Misery); the hero slaying a dragon to restore the world to normalcy (James Bond, Indiana Jones); and the quest to make life better (The Da Vinci Code). Know which theme fits your story.

2. Write about the underdog. Tell your thriller from the point of view of the person with the most to lose. The protagonist gives the story character. Give him baggage and emotional complexity.

3. Multiple points of view can give you great range in a thriller. They allow you inside the heads of many characters, which can build more dramatic tension and irony.

4. Open your book with an action scene. Don't put biographical information or exposition in Chapter 1 (do that later). Introduce the crime—which tells you the stakes—and introduce the hero and villain, and even some obstacles the protagonist may face. Don't sacrifice style—use metaphors and good language—but stick with action.

5. Early on, make clear what your protagonist wants and what he fears. You should know what the protagonist wants and how he would end the novel if he were writing it. There are two quests: Stopping the bad stuff form happening (In The Silence of the Lambs, it's to stop Buffalo Bill from killing) and dealing with the character's baggage (for Clarice to be a good, professional FBI agent in a [then] male-dominated profession). Think Cinderella: Her main quest is to get to the ball. It's about liberation. When she gets to the ball she finds freedom.

6. Make your characters miserable. Ask what the worst thing is that could happen to your protagonist and make it worse. Give them grief, false hope, heartaches, anxiety and near-death experiences. We don't want our protagonist to win until the end.

7. Your main characters have to change. It has to be an emotional change that shows growth and victory over some of his baggage. In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice is stronger and tougher at the end and she gets a good night's sleep.

8. Pacing must be high: Strong Narrative Thrust. Each scene should reveal something new, no matter how slight it is. Don't tell us about stuff that has nothing to do with the story. The villain has a ticking clock, so there's no time to waste on pages with useless information. Short paragraphs and white space are good. Consider using cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, albeit a sudden surprise or provocative announcement.

9. Show—don't tell. Avoid the passive voice. Use action verbs (He heard the screams in his bedroom). Avoid adverbs—they are cheesy and cheap ways of telling instead of showing. Don't start sentences with –ing words (“He stared” vs. “Staring at the …”). Make the subject and verb close and up front in the sentence.

10. Teach us something. Make sure your audience has learned about something—an animal, medical treatment, social issue—so we walk away with more knowledge.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Advice for Self-Published Authors

In my writing circle there are a few writers that have self-published and are happy with the outcome. However, self-publishing for some may be a bit daunting and overwhelming. One of my friends is writing a YA novel and asked me about the pros and cons of self-publishing. I came across this great article by the members of the Author Marketing Experts, Inc. which I would like to share with my readers and fellow writers (It's Friday, I need a break!). Happy Reading!

I want to make a few observations and comments about why it is so difficult for self-published authors to successfully attract the attention of book reviewers, distributors, wholesalers, and retail booksellers. And then offer some suggestions on what to do about it.

As well as authors that set up their own publishing company to produce their books, I include in the category of self-published authors those that utilize POD companies like iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Trafford, Infinity, BookSurge, Outskirts Press, PublishAmerica, Lulu, Vantage, Tate, and the dozens of other companies who, for a price, will take any author's manuscript and turn it into a book.

It is very well known (or should be) that the Midwest Book Review has championed self-published authors from our very beginning in 1976 down to the present day. And will continue to do so for as long as I remain its editor-in-chief.
Our current book review publications for May 2010 feature reviews for 47 POD published titles and reviews for 6 books whose self-published authors didn't even bother to create a publishing company name for themselves and so were identified in the 'info block' that is a part of all our reviews as being 'Privately Published.'
There's about a half-dozen reviews for self-published books that didn't even have snail-mail addresses available for their 'info blocks' - only email ones. Those self-published authors who did make up their own company names (complete with intact address contact information), the number of reviews runs to somewhere around a hundred or so. Therefore my comments on why self-published authors tend to labor under a prejudice within the publishing industry are well-meant by a truly sympathetic observer.
Here they are:

1. Substandard covers which render a book to be uncompetitive on esthetic grounds to the casual bookstore browser. You can have pure literary gold inside, but if the outside screams 'amateur' or is otherwise repellent, it will get passed over as its competition on the shelf proves more attractive in seducing the buyer's attention. This lack of competitive appeal also applies to reviewers, bookstore managers, and everyone else in the between the publisher and the reader, when considering to accept or reject a title.

2. Interior flaws that run the gamut from excessive typos, to grammatical errors, to exasperating font selection.

3. Content categories that are flooded in the marketplace with competition and/or have limited mainstream audience appeal. The market for poetry is minuscule. The demand for personal memoirs of overcoming medical, psychological, or flawed upbringing adversities is even smaller. Because of the ease of desk-top publishing, each year sees works of general fiction increasingly flooding a marketplace where each of those years sees a smaller percentage of people spending their leisure time reading general fiction.

4. Ignorance and/or naivety in dealing with the various elements of the publishing industry and therefore coming across as non-professionals. With respect to reviewers, this is often displayed by inadequate review copy submissions where the requirements were not met. With respect to booksellers it is very much the same.

5. When it comes to reviewers, the single most grievous thing a few (and in my experience, very few) self-published authors do to 'spoil it' for all other self-published authors is to harass a reviewer about the review process - that is, persistent and frequent questioning as to when their book will be reviewed, why their book was not selected for review, taking personal offense with respect to the actual review when one is done. It only takes a handful of such experiences to sour a professional reviewer or a book review editor into not wanting to deal with someone who is not a seasoned, experienced, professional author. For wanting to avoid authors who are so emotionally and/or financially invested in their self-published book that they become rude, and even down right abusive.

And please believe me when I say that in the 34 years I've been doing this I've had these kinds of encounters more times that I can count. So how can a self-published author overcome this publishing industry reluctance to get involved with a self-published book?

1. Appear and act as professionally and maturely as you possibly can in every aspect of your contacts with reviewers, booksellers, and everyone else in the publishing industry you encounter, solicit, or market to.

2. Insure that your book is flawless with respect to what's inside, and competitive in terms of its outside appearance.

3. If your book is in a category where the numbers of competing titles is enormous, concentrate on marketing your title as if it were something very special, identifying and capitalizing on something that would make it 'stand out in the crowd.' If your book is in a category of a minimal or a specialized readership, target your marketing efforts directly to that niche group.

4. Don't expect to make a profit, or even recoup your initial investment, in the short term. Be prepared to engage in a long-term effort, one in which the months will turn into years, and the years into decades - with you plugging away in your marketing efforts throughout it all. And expect to learn new (and hone existing) publishing and book marketing tips, tricks and techniques throughout it all.

Reprinted with permission from the Midwest Book Review. Jim Cox is Editor-in-Chief and founder of the Midwest Book Review from 1976 to the present day, producing nine monthly book review publications and a major provider of reviews for and library systems across the country. The Midwest Book Review is dedicated to promotion literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. Visit the Midwest Book Review at

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Get your pens out (or keyboard) and turn your story into a winner!

If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve read all my tips regarding writing. It’s time to put your knowledge to the test. If you are currently working on a short story that needs tweaking or major editing then you’ve come to the right place. There’s NO entry or reading fee, so what are you waiting for?

The guidelines for submission are simple:
1) Length must not exceed 2,500 words (Word count is strictly enforced).
2) Manuscripts must be typed, double-spaced, and in Word.
3) Font should be either Arial or Times New Roman, size 12. (This will make it easier on our panel of readers’ eyes)
4) You must be an aspiring or emerging writer.
5) You must be working on this story (not published before).
6) Only one story per participant.
7) You must register to follow my blog.
8) Deadline to enter June 18th. Winner will be announced in my blog on July 18th.
9) Send it via e-mail to:

The prize: You’ll get to work with a Canadian author, editor, and poet. He’ll give you feedback on this story in order to make it better. You’ll have the opportunity to revise it twice and ask him questions. He’ll give you overall comments on POV, dialogue, and characterization. I am giving this opportunity to aspiring writers because I know how difficult it is to make it into this business. I bet you’re asking, so what’s the catch? An easy one! Join my blog. Click on the icon “FOLLOW”. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain by reading my tips and advice on everything there is to know about writing, editing, and publishing. Is that so bad? If you have any questions regarding this contest contact me to the e-mail address above. Keep your pen moving and your eyes on the prize!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finding a soul mate for your book

You’ve finished your book, so now what? After the grueling process of going through hundreds of publishers with no luck, it’s time to get an agent. Finding a good agent is not a problem, but finding one that believes in your book is another story.

In one of the lectures I attended at the Blue Met this year, I learned that having a sound relationship with your agent is like being in a marriage and making it work. One of the authors present said he developed a great relationship with his agent because she believed in his writing. He added that it is also the writer’s responsibility to do the research when looking for an agent. Find one that matches your needs. A children’s author said that she got lucky because her agent is also her editor (the agent has an editing background as well). To sum up, the consensus of the group was that you should do the following:

1. Find someone who is actually interested in the kind of work that you’re writing. If you manage to get an agent that generally works with material in your genre, then you’re most likely to do well. This is a win-win situation as your agent will be eager to get your book in the limelight.

2. The best agents shouldn’t just let you slack. Your agent should push you to work harder without forgetting this is a team effort. There should be a great give and take between the two of you, allowing you to maximize your potential.

3. An agent who’s not really excited about what you’re writing isn’t likely to do too much for your book.

4. A good agent should be there for you like a good spouse to listen to your questions, especially when you’re a new author. Your agent should be there to guide you through the process. Make sure he or she is reliable and not full of excuses.

5. Stop! Before you commit, make sure your new agent will be there every step of the way. If it’s not working out, divorce him/her (not literally!). Your baby, as we authors usually call our books, will be caught up in the middle. Remember, your agent is someone who’s going to represent your work and who’ll be tied to it for years to come—so, isn’t it better that you find your book’s soul mate?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Blog Jog Day was fun!

I'd like to thank everybody that visited my blog yesterday (May 9th). I really appreciate your kind comments. I'd like to reply to each one of you, but please bear with me as I am getting ready for BookExpo America in New York City.
Please continue to explore all this Blog has to offer, then jog on over to

If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, go to

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to write a winning story

Entering our short stories in the slew of contests out there can be daunting, especially for emerging writers. We are sometimes competing against seasoned and published authors. Do not fret! The mere fact you entered your story makes you a winner. If your story doesn’t cut the mustard, see it as an opportunity to hone your writing skills by editing and editing some more. Here are some pointers to consider before you enter a competition.
1. Sluggish beginnings: Some stories start with a long preamble or too much details or unnecessary background information (the bright blue birds were singing, the old woman sat silently watching TV, etc). This makes the judges lose interest to continue reading.

2. Common beginnings: Stories that begin with the date or the weather are not interesting. Remember, this is a story not the weather forecast. Hence, begin with something that’ll hook the reader (in this case the judges).

3. Don’t overdo it: Sometimes the writer gets carried away and uses pompous words or flowery prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. Be careful, if you don’t know the meaning of these words you may end up using them incorrectly. You don’t have to use big words to show how clever you are, readers know you are clever because you are writing the story. As the author, don’t let your ego or your presence get in the way of the story. The characters are the only ones who should be there. In other words don’t manipulate, describe or explain.

4. Give your reader credit: Overly detailed description of accidents, medical performances, and torturous deaths can make the judges cringe. Give your readers credit. If you tell them Sally heard a knock on the door, they can assume she stood and walked towards the door. Avoid the need to explain more than once what's going on, as if the reader can't figure it out on his/her own. Don’t lose momentum with unnecessary details that just clutter your page.

5. Clichés: "Tears, like pearls rolled down her cheeks." "New houses sprung like mushrooms." Be creative; come up with your own similes and quirky sentences. It’s easy to fall into cliché-laden territory if you don’t edit. Wouldn’t you like to be different and have people imitate your writing?

6. Keep Focused: Make sure the tone of the story is consistent: think of a piece of music; a classical piece does not wander off into jazz, not unless the story is supposed to be that way. Keep the sentences to about thirteen words, the paragraphs to the width of the bowl of a tea spoon. Readers get bored if the writing is too dense. Keep the story and action in one place and one time slot. Stay within one story, don’t go off on a tangent because you are fascinated with your own characters and plot line. Let the character and action carry the story. Write in the active tense of verbs instead of the passive. The active tense moves the story faster.

7. Leave the soliloquy to Shakespeare: Make sure a character's internal narrative—what the character is thinking or feeling—matches up with reality. Avoid having the character think about things just for the sake of letting the reader know about them.

Remember, you’re a reader as well therefore, you don’t want your audience wasting their time with a bad story. Your readers will want to experience the events for themselves, they will want to be there to laugh or cry along with the characters.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The brush and the pen are the weapons to fight aging

Last night (May 4th) I attended the lecture “Writing Wild: My Wilderness Palette” by Professor David Lank. This was the premier in a series of six inspiring events organized by the Personal and Cultural Enrichment (PACE); a new program from the McGill Centre for Continuing Education Enrichment. These interesting lectures will showcase art, writing, religion, and film.

I was lucky to have been part of a touching and thought-provoking lecture. Professor Lank is a great storyteller. He shared anecdotes from his childhood when he discovered his gift of drawing and painting to his adulthood career in writing. He talked about how the shape of letters fascinated him as a child. This led him to understand that the marriage of pictures and words have more significance. There has to be some triangulation in order to express the bigger components. Furthermore, he said that in the layout of a picture book you integrate the pictures into the text, you don’t segregate them. To prove this, he showed us a picture from his book Surely the Gods Live Here from his trip to the Himalayas. He was right! The images make more sense on the page according to their position.

I was deeply moved when he told us the story about seaman Poole, an illiterate sailor he met in one of his many trips, and reminded us that the power of words on a page can change a man’s life. I won’t write this story down because of its length. However, if you want to know more about David Lank, Director Emeritus of McGill’s Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies, former Chair of the McCord Museum, guest conductor of the McGill Chamber Orchestra, you’ll have to wait until next week. He gave me the opportunity to interview him. Professor Lank is as colourful and fascinating as his drawings. I'll leave you with a powerful quote of his, "When did you become too busy to find stones that needed kicking, or dogs that needed fellowship? When did you become less attuned to the cosmic symphony of wind, ripples and rain?...these moments might lead you to make discoveries about yourself of Copernican importance."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Measure your novel’s success by your dedication

Worried that your first novel isn’t that good and is a waste of your time? Don't give up before even trying. Published authors and writing professors can tell you that lessons in publishing are often costly. You don’t want to waste time or money. But this could happen if you don’t do your homework.

Learn about the industry.
This means, get to know the publishing market. Do research on what is being published. Take a trip to the bookstore and browse the latest publications. Subscribe to literary magazines. If you want to save money, then go to your local library. Get the Writer’s Market. It’s filled with boundless information. Knowing the market can help you avoid expensive missteps.

Meet with like-minded people and professionals.
Some people are hesitant to approach authors. Some do not feel comfortable networking. If you are either one of these people you are in trouble. I’m not saying you have to harass or become a stalker to befriend authors. All you have to do is attend local literary events, readings, book launches, and conferences so that you can meet writers, publishers, and editors. These are the people who can guide you in the right direction.

Be open to feedback.
Feedback is a crucial part to any writer's career. If someone who is more knowledgeable than you about the industry you are in is willing to give you feedback you should listen. Don’t let your ego take over and dismiss valuable information.

Do your research.
Learn about your genre. What do publishers look for in your specific genre? Learn about the appropriate length for your book. For instance, a literary novel should be between 80,000 and 89,000 words. Learn about contracts, agents, editors, and book sales. There’s a myriad of online resources out there. Get to know them!

There are no guarantees.
Be aware that no one can promise major book sales, fame, or be the next J. K. Rowling (based on sales). If anyone asks you for a down payment or a starter's fee, you should know this is a scam. Do not fall for offers that sound too good to be true. Success is not just about hard work. It's also about being smart and making the right choices. Success is about being relentless, believing in your work and your mission. Success is about being objective, realistic, and humble. Focus on what matters to you and your readers.

Doctor and philosopher, Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”