Tag Archives: writing

Five bad traits writers can justify

One of the great things about being an author, besides the millions of dollars you get for your debut novel, is the privilege of claiming that your negative personality traits are actually vital to your craft. To get you started, here are five common bad traits that writers can easily justify.


Also known as “lying,” but embellishment sounds classier, doesn’t it? As a writer, you have a keen sense of what makes a good story… and sometimes the truth just doesn’t cut it. (And sometimes it does: see Gossip, below.) So if you’re right in the middle of regaling everyone with the tale of how you met Johnny Depp and your friend pipes up that it was just an actor in the Pirates of the Caribbean area of Disneyland, remember: you’re not lying. You’re working on your craft (specifically, narration and pacing).

My aunt taught me this trick on one of her visits. I was in another room when I overheard her telling my roommate that I’d failed my driver’s test six times before finally passing. I stormed into the room to correct her–after all, I failed twice, let it be known! But she just laughed at my outrage and said, “Yes, but six makes a better story, doesn’t it?”


“And they all lived happily every after” is the end of the story, not the middle. Without conflict, readers have no reason to turn the page. So if this instinct to find the drama in everyday situations spills over into real life, you’re hardly to blame, right? Sure, your mother may have simply forgotten to sign your birthday card because she was in a rush or distracted… but maybe it was because she’s passive-aggressively punishing you for taking so long to potty-train. And come to think of it, she always did like your sibling better, right? Now there’s a story!

So the next time you’re accused of making mountains out of molehills, you can reply, “Exactly. Because who would pay money to go see a molehill?” (Or you can say, “Why are you always so mean to me?” and collapse into a dramatic, sobbing heap. Both approaches work.)


Also known as “part of the creative process,” procrastination is endlessly justifiable. Disciplined writers may tell you that “butt in chair = pages”–which is true–but there are tons of ways to justify your procrastination: maybe your muse is silent. Or your subconscious is busy mulling over the story and you don’t want to interrupt the process until it’s done. Or perhaps your office is a mess and it’s impossible to organize your thoughts until you’ve organized everything else, right down to your pens and paper clips. In any case, the dog needs a walk and the cat is napping on your keyboard, so writing will have to wait.

Note: I am writing this blog post rather than doing my taxes, which are already late. But I figure I should get some points for writing to procrastinate rather than procrastinating about writing, right?


Some may consider this a subset of procrastination, but it can be an art of its own. Daydreaming can range from your average head-in-the-clouds musing about life to wild fantasies about how you’ll spend the millions of dollars you earn as a famous novelist. And it’s productive: by coming up with all sorts of possible (if unlikely) ideas, you’re giving your imagination a good workout.


Come now, how are you supposed to write convincingly about other people’s lives if you’re not constantly sticking your nose into their business? And what better way to learn about different personalities and voices than to befriend a variety of people, especially the ones that like to tell you their life story? It’s not petty gossip, it’s serious character study! But be discreet, or you may find your friends clamming up when you’re around.

An aside: One day, you will construct a single character out of the personalities of three of your friends, and none of them will recognize themselves–but a completely different friend will be absolutely convinced that the character is based on him. You will never be able to convince him otherwise.

Ok, I’m off to do my taxes… but if you need an excuse to avoid your work-in-progress, go ahead and leave your own favourite “writer trait” in the comments!

Behold the author chair

When I’m not hauling my netbook on the subway to take advantage of my longish commute, I’m happily typing away at home, in what I call The Author Chair. Julian hates when I call it that, because it was his chair before we moved in together. And he’s not an author (unless you count writing code). But how can I write anywhere else? Desks just don’t do it for me. All I need is my Poang to lean back in, my laptop pillow to keep my netbook from burning my legs, and my footrest. (No, I do not work for Ikea.)

Oh yeah, and a kitten. There’s often one of those. The picture above features Sir William Purrington III, but I sometimes catch both of them on it, like so:

My fellow kidlit author Hélène Boudreau likes to write while working out on a treadmill, which is much more impressive than my comfy Poang.

Where do you do most of your writing? (Or reading. The Author Chair is also quite suitable for reading.)

Still kicking!

Ok, I will admit that playing with the kittens and planning a wedding have both resulted in less time writing blog posts. But! I do have a few ideas germinating, so I will post again soon. (My goal is to post at least weekly.)

Some news: Fractured got another review, on My Book Thoughts! Part One. Part Two. She summarizes, “For fans of re-telling of fairytales I think this one is definitely a must and I’m glad I discovered it.” Yay!

Also, this reader found me on Twitter, which is awesome, and got my book from her library, which always makes me happy. (Not that I don’t want to sell books, of course! But I’m always thrilled to see my book in a library, and to know that it will reach even more readers.)

NaNoWriMo: halfway point

It’s November 15, and I have written 12,410 words in two weeks. (Plus another 4,500 words of guest posts and interviews for my blog tour, but that doesn’t count. Hmpf.)

This is actually just under half the amount of words that NaNoWriMo participants are aiming for by this point (25,000). My NaNo account helpfully calculates exactly how many words I’ll need to write per day to finish by Nov. 30, and the number keeps climbing. (It’s gone from 1,667 to over 2,500. Daunting!)

But instead of feeling defeated, I’m feeling proud. So if you’ve fallen behind with your NaNoWriMo project and suspect that, like me, you probably won’t end up with 50,000 words in the next two weeks, don’t despair. Here’s what I’ve already gained from two weeks of (almost) daily writing; perhaps you’ve accomplished more than you thought, too!

  • I’ve written 12,410 words. Who cares if it’s not 25,000 words? It’s 12,410 more words than I would have written had I not been doing NaNoWriMo!
  • I’m writing daily, or almost daily. Which means that I think about my stories more often: even when I’m not writing, a corner of my subconscious is busy figuring out the next scene.
  • When I write daily, it’s not as daunting: it’s okay if I only produce 350 or 500 words, because all those little amounts add up fast! (I’m enjoying writing on my subway commute to and from work.)

I probably won’t have 50,000 words by the end of November. I’ll probably be lucky if I have 25,000. But no matter what my final word count is, I’ll be happy to have written anything at all, and I hope that this exercise will keep me writing well into December, and January, and February…

So join me and write on, everyone!

Yes, I caved to NaNoWriMo

Way back in 2002, I decided to enter the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, which was then hosted by Anvil Press. The rules were simple: write an entire novel in just three days, over the Labour Day long weekend. Sleep is for the weak.

I took up the challenge and churned out a short novella that I thought was pretty good (though I haven’t touched it since). I entered again the following year and produced a shorter novella, which I wasn’t pleased with. The third year, I gave up on the first day. After that, I was conveniently too busy with Labour Day long weekend activities to even think about entering again.

Anyway, I can’t remember when I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those in the know, “November” to everyone else). It was probably around the time I was competing in the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest for the first time, because I remember scoffing at taking a whole month to do what I was setting aside a single weekend for.


Almost a decade later, I am older and wiser, and this month I’ll be trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. The goal is 50,000 words (works out to 1,666 words/day), but I’d be happy with 30,000 or so. I got off to a slow start with under 800 words yesterday, but today’s a new day!

Feel free to follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo website. (Unless you’re just doing it to laugh at how few words I’ve written. That would be mean.)