Category Archives: Writing Life

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Day’s Lee for inviting me to participate. And congratulations Day’s for having your YA novel Guitar Hero named one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens for 2014 by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre!

Read Day’s Lee’s post on her writing process at Day’s Lee Exploring Writing, Self-publishing, the Chinese-Canadian Identity and Beyond

Now for My Writing Process:

What are you working on?
I’m finishing revisions on the follow-up to Shredded, tentatively titled Cut Off. The story follows Lauryn, one of the secondary characters from Shredded. Lauryn wants to compete in extreme adventure sports but her parents insist that she go to college so she pretends to be in school while she’s paddling in rapids, rappelling down rock faces, and zip-lining through a jungle to get to the finish before they discover the truth.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Young adult novels about female athletes tend to be about mainstream sports or are focused on romance. My novels are about fringe sports and include hints of romance.
Why do you write what you do?
A character who has to constantly explain what her sport is, and then prepare for the inevitable “are you crazy” look is immediately interesting to me. There are so few girls in some of these sports that they instantly connect when they find other like-minded people, whether they like each other or not. That backdrop provides a fantastic landscape for story creation. Exploring the “why do you do it?” and “what drives you?” questions for these athletes keeps me digging deeper to discover more. “Book research” allows me to explore way outside my comfort zone.

How does your writing process work?
I usually start with the main character, then find the right sport, and then figure out what happens at the crisis or black moment. I puzzle the plot together into a loose outline and then write a high-level notes-style draft to see if the story holds together. When I’m happy with the big picture I create detailed character sheets for all characters and write a readable draft. Then I start revising and refining characters. It’s a slow process!

I enjoy learning about how other people write. I’m amazed by people who start at page one with no outline and just keep writing to the end. I’m curious to learn about the writing process of the next two authors taking part in this tour next week:

Shawna RomkeyShawna Romkey, teacher by day, writer by night (or day or whenever anyone leaves her alone long enough to get some work done). Bestselling YA / NA paranormal author of Speak of the Devil. The second in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It, will release in September. For more info, check out her website at

AGrahamAngela Graham was born and raised in southern Ontario, Canada. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. Her passion for reading and writing led her to write stories for her own children. By day she is part of the leadership team at a local college. By night she is a parent and writes stories which aim to inspire children to read. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, their two children and their dog. Visit her here.

Who was that zombie?

Photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Creative Commons License use.

Great FAQ on THAT vs WHO from the Chicago Manual of Style Online:

“Q. When referring to a zombie, should I use the relative pronoun who (which would refer to a person) or that (since, technically, the zombie is no longer living)? Essentially, does a zombie cease to become a “person” in the grammatical sense?

A. Let’s assume this is a serious question, in which case you, as the writer, get to decide just how much humanity (if any) and grammatical sense you wish to invest in said zombie. That will guide your choice of who or that.”

Thank you to my editor, the wonderful Anne Victory of Victory Editing, for the reference, after I asked her if I was wrong to be irritated when I saw “that” instead of “who” when referring to people.

She confirmed that it’s not technically wrong to use “that,” but it creates distance and dehumanizes whatever you’re talking about.

The guy that kissed me.

The guy who kissed me.

I hate seeing that used in reference to a person. Especially a person who just kissed me. If I were writing about Edward I’d use THAT, but for Jacob, WHO.

Zombie? That.

And no kissing.



Swag Sneak Peek

I’m working on (actually my designer is working on) bookmarks, postcards and more for the RT convention coming in April. I love love love what she’s done – it’s hard to choose. Here’s a sneak peek at a possible bookmark front.


The Devil Wears My Yoga Pants

My boss, who used to be easygoing and reasonable suddenly turned into a complete ogre, insisting that I work 12-hour days, eat at my desk, never go out, neglect friends and family, keep working though weekends, not get enough sleep, and give up exercise. Normally, in any other situation I would have set my boundaries, drawn the line and refused, but this time I couldn’t—I was trapped. Why? My boss from hell was me.

I wanted to make a lot of progress on my book and I kept pushing and pushing and pushing. The script running in my head was completely ridiculous, even abusive. What do you mean you need to slow down? If you can’t churn out 4 books a year you may as well not bother! You want a break? I guess you just aren’t serious. This must be a hobby for you. If you were serious you would neglect everything in your life and sacrifice it all for your “art.”

Luckily I had a big vacation planned that forced me to take a break, and when I got back I had enough distance to see what had been happening. I had to re-evaluate my goals and the big picture of what I wanted in life. Did I want to be the most successful, most productive writer who ever lived? Or did I want to be happy and not exhausted all the time? There’s a huge difference between being lazy and genuinely needing some balance in life.

Being your own boss isn’t easy. If the only time you wear your yoga pants is when you don’t have any other clean pants because you never have time to do laundry, then you need to re-evaluate. Look at your to-do list. Would you ever ask someone else to do that much work in a day? If it’s too much for someone else, it’s too much for you. Be the kind of boss who motivates employees to work smarter and helps them get everything done in a reasonable work day.

Now my boss wears her yoga pants to yoga class, and guess what? Productivity has not suffered. I did a quick survey of her employees, and they all say they’re much happier.

My ideal writer’s retreat

Terrible Writer’s Retreat Location

The concept of a writer’s retreat is intriguing, but the ones I’ve read about wouldn’t work for me at all. Not due to budget or time, it’s the location and setup that are all wrong. Attention organizers! Here’s what I need:

  • Sequester me in a suite in a crime-infested area where I’m likely to be killed if I leave, or somewhere with horrific weather that makes me glad to stay in.
  • Give me only one hour of internet access per day.
  • Let me earn entertainment “points” by producing word count. To earn enough points for 2 hours of movie-watching privileges, I’ll need to produce 5, 000 words.
  • Deliver meals through a slot in the door. No interaction, no disruption.
  • Do not let me leave until I’m done.

Under these circumstances I’d be highly motivated to finish so I could go home.

I don’t understand why people would go to a writer’s retreat in a lovely ocean-side resort or other enticing location. The LAST thing I’d want to do if I were in one of those places would be to stay inside and write. Dangle that weekend getaway in front of me as my reward for finishing, but don’t expect me to feel inspired to do anything but go outside if you set me up somewhere beautiful.

Is it just me? These retreats seem to be popular, but I just don’t get it. To me, they’re the worst possible circumstances to get anything done.

Forget firemen, give me an IT guy any day

After freaking out over my NaNoWriMo project and almost abandoning it, my writer friends talked me off the ledge at brunch Sunday so I buckled down Sunday afternoon and cranked out 5,000 more words to get back in the game.

Monday I lost everything I’d done Sunday.

And it was my fault.

I didn’t follow the proper protocol for file naming on the laptop, there was a mixup with old folders with same names, and… *poof* all gone.

Distraught, I stumbled down to the robot lab in tears mumbling ‘laptop’ and ‘all gone.’

After stabilizing me with a couple of hugs, E put down his chain saw or whatever he was doing, went upstairs and somehow managed to cobble together bits of files from the laptop and my memory key and was able to piece back together what I’d lost. I have no idea how he did it, but he’s officially my hero!!!

So, I’m telling you, IT guys are the new firefighters. I mean what are the odds of you actually starting a 5-alarm blaze? The only accidental fire I ever started was when I tried to sterilize a sponge in the microwave (bad plan).

Having your IT guy sprint up the stairs, roll up his sleeves, tell you not to worry and retrieve your 5,000 words is priceless.

He doesn’t do it for the glory or for the chicks, he does it for the Nanaimo bars. I owe him a big batch : )

Originally posted November 2009

Exceeding maximum load on 2nd floor

Even though I can now store zillions (ok, lots) of e-books, I have still managed to accumulate so many print books that we now need to add two more floor to ceiling bookshelves in the guest room/library. How did this happen? There’s my stash from the RWA conference, plus a shopping spree at Half Price books while on vacation, plus a $1 sale at Borders, plus books from my parents, plus picking up a few books from the sharing shelf at the family cottage. Is this normal?

Originally posted on my previous blog August 2009