On Writing

November is my cruellest month, but I distract myself with NaNoWriMo aka National Novel Writing Month. It inspires me to write, and also to share what I’ve learned after decades of honing this craft. I hope you find the following useful.

My Approach

• Set a daily goal, using words or time. Mine is 1 hour or 700 words.
• Write at the same time every day. Similar to working out, doing it early ensures it gets done.
• Edit yesterday’s writing before starting today’s. This helps ease you in and means you’ve already edited once upon completion.
• Don’t edit while you write. You can do it tomorrow. It’s easy to get caught in an editing loop and run out of time to write.
• End today’s writing mid-scene, paragraph or even sentence. This will help prevent writer’s block.

My When Words Collide Panel Talks

When Words Collide is a literary festival that takes place in Calgary, Alberta, every August. In 2021, I had the opportunity to speak on the following panels:

  • Awakening to Social Sensitivity
  • How to Keep Revising when You’re Completely Sick of a Project
  • Writing Pain and Trauma
  • The Danger of Digging Too Deep: Self-Care for Writers

As well, I was interviewed with Joy Norstrom by our publisher, Dixi Books, about the festival. Click the button below to download any of my panel talking points or for the interview.

My Strategy

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, chances are you haven’t heard of plotters or pantsers either. Many writers define themselves as one or the other based on whether they fly by the seat of their pants to write, or plot stories out diligently before putting pen to paper.

Myself, I’m a mix of both. I’m a plantser. The creative artist in me throws caution to the wind and writes whatever is inspiring in the moment. My logical, organized side craves structure. Can’t take the mech eng out of the writer.

My writing coach Shannon Moroney taught me that “structure is everything.” She snapped this photo of me three years ago when I pulled out my scene plan. She was impressed by my organization because… structure is everything. It really wasn’t hard. I pantsed away at the scenes I felt inspired to write, wrote a sentence summarizing each scene onto a sticky note, then arranged the sticky notes in chronological order. I shifted sticky notes around as I remembered and wrote fresh scenes, and when I ran out of inspiration I used the sticky notes to create the timeline (below). This helped me to figure out what needed more explanation in the book, and also reminded me of things I had forgotten to include.

On Writing

Finally, my book recommendations. I began writing before the internet was a thing, when all I needed was a dictionary, a thesaurus, a NOTEBOOK, and a PEN. I still use the reference books pictured at the top of this post, but only because I’m sentimental. The one book that is always recommended to me is Stephen King’s On Writing. One of these days I’ll get around to reading it and learn how I could have made my life easier decades ago.

Happy NaNoWriMo!