Spring and Writing

Spring. Planted three roses today, deadheaded the daffodils, revised my talk for tomorrow night at the City of Kawartha Lakes Library, Lindsay branch, and continued revision of my work in progress.

On Saturday I attended the Ontario Writers Conference, and I must say the workshops and lectures were very useful. I especially appreciated the session on grammar by Cathy Witlox, who teaches at Ryerson and is the only grammar enthusiast I’ve ever met. She discussed an error I’d been making for years(unbeknownst to me) and how to correct it. I had been creating run-on sentences such as this. “He braked, then skidded off the road.” instead of He braked and then skidded off the road.” I didn’t always leave out the conjunction, but often enough.

I also appreciated a talk by Annette McLeod on characters and the role of archetypes in fiction.

I’ve sent a book out to be considered by a traditional publisher, without an agent, but after listening to Kobo executive and novelist Mark Lefebvre on self-publishing, I’m giving that more thought.

A great conference—lots to learn, old friends to meet and new ones to make. I’ll be going next year.

What’s next in the garden? I have hardy cyclamen to plant and one hundred summer bulbs that came free with my cyclamen order and a gift of a dinner plate dahlia. I haven’t grown dahlias, but I’ll give it a try. Haven’t even looked at annuals yet.

It’s difficult to focus on writing in the mornings, with the birds singing outside the window and the bulbs yelling from the garage that they want to go in the ground, but I keep trying.

Books about Writing

Long ago I took one English course at University. At the time, I was so intent on medicine and my science courses that I failed to take advantage of an opportunity. The teacher was Tom Marshall, Canadian poet. He was working on his MA that year and I think we were one of the first classes he had to teach. What an ordeal that must have been— bored medical students and engineers, most of us.

I remember being terrified most of that first year, felt unprepared and well out of my depth. I produced nothing good enough even for a B. I’d closed my mind to writing.

Now, I’m trying to catch up, to learn what I should have then, and so, I read books about writing.

Sol Stein: On Writing, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York.

I didn’t know his name when I found him on a list of writing teachers. He has written several books including On Writing, How to Grow a Novel, and Sol Stein’s Reference Book for Writers. He worked as an editor and publisher and playwright and successful novelist.

He also has developed a computer programme to teach the writers craft: the new Write Pro.

I haven’t bought the programme, but I have read the books, and tried to use his techniques in my writing. His lessons about revision, what he calls his triage method, focus on plot and character, major areas that always need work. When he does get to the front to back revision, he suggests scene by scene decision. Does it work? If not, out it goes.

Nancy Kress: Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint, Writer’s Digest Books.

I took a brief on-line course at Writer’s Digest some years ago, on character development and recently read the book that accompanied it again. Or rather, am  reading it, because I’m in the process of revision and need to understand characterization more than I do. Nancy Kress taught the course and the characters I developed with her and their conflict form the nucleus of the book that I’m revising.

Theses are just two of the books on my shelf. Useful additions to any writer’s library.