Hello, back then

About two weeks ago I was working in one my favourite coffee shops when I noticed two people at a nearby table with a large manuscript. One of them was clearly mentoring the other. I went over and introduced myself as a fellow writer, and I was told the gentleman was having his work looked at for the first time ever. He had been writing in isolation, and he was having a hard time accepting feedback. I assured him this is natural, something we all experience. The poor man was so distraught, and it brought me back to my own first experiences of reading out loud, sharing, and receiving feedback.

I suggested he read Stephen King on Writing, because he talks about the two stages of writing, the first writing behind closed doors, the second letting the world in. He seemed very uncertain and I left with a feeling that despite our encouragement that this feeling of disillusionment is normal, he may withdraw.

It got me thinking about myself, and I wondered what advice I could have used most as an early writer. I think it would have been great to hear something like this: don’t take yourself too seriously. And by this, I don’t mean not to take my study of the craft less seriously, but to take the work itself, the product less seriously. With time and work there’s constant evolution and growth, and I think I wasn’t really aware of this. I was quite stuck thinking that I had to produce the best now, today, and in a way this was a barrier I was writing over.

How about you: what advice do you think you could have used at the beginning of your writing life?

The King!

“…books are a uniquely portable magic.”

This quote from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King, sums up the whole book for me. I finally read it, and thanks to all you out there who insisted I do!! I loved the book, and now it is my turn to insist that any writer who has not read it – READ IT!

I can’t count how many pages I’ve folded, or how many passages I’ve underlined – there are too many, but I will tell you the two main things I got from the book.

1. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

Sounds simple, eh? (notice my Canadian accent coming out!). For me, it is and it isn’t. It’s a concept I hold dearly, but never thought of in those terms, and as we all know, wording is everything.

One of my main struggles with my current wip is pacing – how much to reveal at what moment. I also find it drags at the beginning, and I have wondered how much info is needed. My writing is character driven, and so are my favourite reads (I struggle with plot driven novels of any genre). Since the characters make the novel, this line puts everything into perspective for me, and not just with the opening of my wip. If it’s not story, I don’t need it.

2: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

I love the magic of the first draft, of not knowing what’s coming. It is probably my favourite part of writing. Re-drafting, is all about transferring that magic into something others can see. But, I had never drawn a clear line like this. It changes a lot in my thought process, it suddenly makes it possible for me know when it’s time to let others in (metaphorically, of course).

I think more than anything this book gave me the desire to write. Sometimes when I read a book on writing I become intimidated or overwhelmed with all the details (I am a writer who relies a lot on instinct), and I hesitate with my next writing session. This book had the complete opposite effect on me – with every section I read I became more enthusiastic about writing.

I’ll leave you with what I think is an appropriate quote for the New Year: “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Happy New Year!


Are there any writing books that you recommend?

The Dreaded Query

After deciding that I had procrastinated enough, and that I had re-written my query letter about twenty too many times, I sent it out to four agents via e-mail. I regretted it each and every time I pressed the send button on my e-mail. The amazing part of this story is that within twenty-four hours I had a response from three of the four agents asking for a full ms. For days I could hardly speak. I became so nervous I wished no agent had ever asked for my manuscript to begin with.
A few weeks later, and I am now a writer with a broken heart. Two of the agents have said “Thank you, but no thank you.”


Yes – I know – we are not supposed to take rejection personally.

I tell myself I am now officially a writer – after all, I’ve been told that you can’t be a writer without experiencing rejection, and lots of it!

We all know the stories of the bestselling award winning authors who faced rejection:

carrie stephen king
harry potter
john grisham
the princess dairies

Last winter I won a literary award for a short, and after the initial thrill, I was dismayed – I would be expected to perform from now on like an award winning writer. It felt much the same way when I was asked for a full ms – uh oh – I wrote a great query – but can my novel live up? I have decided the answer is yes. I am just going to have buckle down, roll up my sleeves (yes – I just used two cliches!) and get hard at work.

In the meantime, I’ll try to enjoy my status as a rejected fiction writer. (And, I’ll be holding out for that third agent…)


rejection letter b

rejection letter c

rejection letter d

rejection letter e