Is Writing What You Know Holding You Back?

Cracked earth lightbulb

How the hell did “write what you know become” the most opt-repeated piece of writing advice anyway?

Maybe it’s because it’s the first advice many of us ever received.  Certainly it seems like it should be beginner advice.

I can see it perfectly: a student of sixteen or seventeen hunched over his/her desk at school, pencil in hand poised above a sheet of three-hole-punched, lined loose leaf.

(Am I totally dating myself with this memory in longhand?  Do high school students even write by hand  in school anymore?  The pencil in this vision isn’t even mechanical).

Continue reading

On the Responsibility of Writers

What responsibility, if any, does a writer have to society?

This was the question I posted to the message board of the writer’s group I run to be the discussion topic for our next meeting.

I knew at the time of writing it that it was a provocative question – one that different people might interpret in different ways.  Regardless, I was sure it would result in a lively, interesting discussion as my writer’s group meetings always are.

What I didn’t expect, however, was the overwrought response on the message board from an out-of-nowhere, aggrieved and impassioned troll.

Continue reading

Moving Sucks; We All Know It

The Jeffersons

Most people, I think, agree that moving is the pits.

This even includes moves that one has planned well in advance and will ultimately result, like the Jeffersons pictured above, in a move on up.

Imagine then, the perspective of one forced to move against his/her will.  This is the very situation I now find myself in.  Not because I threw too many parties or trashed my apartment or was otherwise a horrible tenant.

Rather, they call it “renoviction” – a practice that occurs often enough in Vancouver, British Columbia to warrant its own regionally-specific Wiktionary entry:

Continue reading

5 Habits I Didn’t Know Were Strange Until People Told Me

Well, I found a stock photo of it so it can't be that unusual.

Well, I found a stock photo of it so it can’t be that unusual.

As a writer, I trade upon odd and unusual characteristics.

Conventional writing wisdom says that a story’s protagonist, no matter how much of an everyday, person-in-your-neighbourhood s/he’s meant to represent, should possess some special quality –  something that not only makes him/her memorable but also plays a role in motivating and ultimately resolving the story’s plot.

I mine a lot of my own life in my creation of characters – both my own characteristics and those of people I observe.  I then proceed to spend months and years with these fictional people, to the point that they become like real people to me: fully-realized, self-determining, and with certain traits in common with me.

This, I suppose, has the effect of inuring me to my own oddities.

Continue reading

There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Birthday (and how I celebrated mine)

Sad birthdayThe morning began as most as winter workdays do, which is to say dark, and because of that, what felt far too early to me.

This year, I made a conscious effort to remember my writing birthday – to commemorate it on the actual day, or if nothing else, to at least make note of it.  February 12: in truth, an arbitrarily-chosen day meant to mark the start of my first (incomplete, shelved) novel as approximated through a forensic accounting some emails I sent to a friend around that time.

I’m an Aquarius writer.

Continue reading

Why I Don’t Read Five-Star Book Reviews

Amazon star ratingsEver since my very first Amazon book purchase on October 25, 2002, I’ve never stopped debating myself on the value of customer book reviews.

(If you ever want to enjoy a nostalgia-filled blast through the past, go through your Amazon purchase history order by order, year by year, back to the very beginning.)

On the one hand, professional reviewers aren’t always giving in-depth reviews of the books I read or want to read.  As well, there are way more customer reviewers out there; the law of averages alone suggests I’m more likely to share tastes with an amateur than a pro, many of whom fall into more similar social demographics to each other than to me.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Nearing the End

Book near the end

I should qualify this by saying I mean the end of my novel.

(Were I talking the end of my life, my thoughts would be considerably different, and if nothing else, I’d perhaps be referring back to this post about my bucket list.)

Ending a novel is hard.  The fact that I’ve done it twice thus far in my writing career hasn’t made it any easier.  Perhaps this is because only once did I consciously do so since my “two-book” series-in-progress grew to three books initially without my realizing it.

Continue reading