Monthly Archives: June 2011

Your Beta Readers Don’t Have to be Toilet-Trained

For a variety of reason, we Restless Writers have been a bit lax of late, both in our meetings and pages, so I’ve been e-mailing my WIP (a chapter book aimed at those aged 7 to 10) to the ladies for some eFeedback.

This latest project is very dear to my heart, not to mention heaps of fun, because the entire family is involved: my husband came up with the initial character; my three-year-old daughter coined some catch phrases; and my eight-year-old son has provided me with key plot points.

When I received suggestions from Beckie and Maria, they were as usual, spot on. However I’ve noticed after reading the outline to my son that he had very similar comments regarding the pacing, characterization and even setting.

Obviously he didn’t use these terms; more often than not they were along the lines of, “That part’s boring, mommy…” or “Why wouldn’t they do (insert his better idea here) instead of (my idea)?”

I mentioned my son’s critiques to Beckie and she offered me some sage advice: “Listen to your kid!” I’ve decided to do just that. He doesn’t realize it, but my son and I have been having regular editorial meetings at bedtime.

I’ll still need my Restless Writers as I complete this manuscript, but they won’t see any pages that haven’t already passed the kid test.



Filed under Writing ideas, Writing resources

Permission to proceed imperfectly

I think I’ve lived a pretty charmed life. Most pursuits in life came easily to me—not the lottery or boys, unfortunately—but things like doing well in school and getting into university, or starting my career and making new friends.

My first piece of writing after a decades-long hiatus was published in a national newspaper without much fuss, so I assumed all my writing projects would be like that. Easy-peasy.

It never occurred to me that there might be things that I’d actually not be stupendous at right out of the gate.

I’m not good at letting myself be bad at anything. God forbid I fail at Ultimate Frisbee. Or backgammon. Or that cute Ponycorns game. I’d be terrible at something like golf, a sport most people spend their lives trying to do better at. I’d want to be the best right away. I hate that I’m not perfect at everything I undertake. And that means it’s hard to even get started.

I’ll read a novel—something like Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume (which, if you haven’t read, will completely change your life when you do)—and think, if I can’t write like that, if I can’t blow people’s socks off with my writing, why even try? So my current writing project is coming along very slowly.

Fellow Restless Writer Lori Dyan thinks it’s hilarious that I sometimes compose my tweets in Word before transcribing them to Twitter because I don’t want to make any mistakes. Her advice to me was to “tweet dangerously.” (She might have followed it up with you silly bitch, but she meant it with love.)

I know that if I ever want to let the characters in my head see the light of day, I need to retrain myself. To start, I need to give myself permission to “tweet dangerously,” so to speak. To proceed imperfectly. I have to learn to let go of my big, tender ego. Just toss it in my sock drawer or some other dark corner, and write with abandon.

As Anne Lamott urges in Bird by Bird, I have to let myself write a shitty first draft. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts” (Anchor Books, 1994). I can burn it afterwards if I want. But only by writing that shitty first draft will I ever go on to write that improved second draft, that impressive third draft, and that astonishing final draft.

They say that walking is a controlled unbalancing. I suppose writing is the same thing. Every time I approach the blank page, I’m like a toddler taking those first hesitant and reckless steps. Wobble, topple, fall over, stand up, get my balance, and keep moving forward.

Here’s my lesson to myself: Proceed imperfectly. Walk with controlled unbalancing. Write without caution. And maybe, with practice and perseverance, I might just blow someone’s socks off.



Filed under Uncategorized

The Book Launch of Carrie Bradshaw’s Dreams

Okay, not quite. I don’t have a best friend who is a publicist, but I can assure you, THIS book launch will fit your itsy-bitsy writer’s budget. And let’s face it; it all comes down to you, the author, unless your name is Rankin, Rushdie, or Rowling.

For the last year, I have had the pleasure of writing a book within the realm of my ‘day’ job. The book was published in May and just this week was the book launch bash. It’s a book for children, and clearly, whenever you involve kids in an event like this, you can’t lose. The launch included everything from a media release to fancy cupcakes (with feathers on top), an animated book reading, buttons, stickers, photos, free gifts, book signings, and interviews with the press. OMG—the local media showed up, notebooks and cameras in hand. And I did my very first book interview, ever. The inner workings of my mind now exist in the public domain, for all to praise and scrutinize. Umm, bring it on.

I couldn’t have asked for a more successful book launch. The kids had a blast and the media had all but good things to say. It was blogged, facebooked, and tweeted—a perfect day, that made for a great week of coverage. Now just emerging from this super satisfying experience, I thought it might be nice to share some of the gems that made it great. When it’s your turn for a little exposure, try these book launch ideas. They worked for me.

5 Tips for a successful book launch:

Be realistic. Plan a launch within your means and splurge on the right things. Since my target group was kids age 4 – 8, I splurged on “themed” cupcakes, because they are 1) pretty, 2) kids like them, and 3) so do I.

Location, location, location. A childcare centre was the perfect place to launch a picture book. Staff loved the exposure and there were no rental fees. Be warned however, there are REALLY small chairs at such places.

Cultivate relationships. With the popularity of social networking, I secured a handful of sites to blog about the event and link back to the book site.

Get your ‘press hook’ on. Inform the media. Promotional interviews score some big bang and large readership—at no cost to you. Sending personal invitations with a media kit to these folks is a super duper idea.

Be prepared to chat. You will need to speak at your book launch. It’s a given. Be ready to talk about the book and where the inspiration came from. This was the #1 question to me at the launch.

Offer incentives. This includes everything from signed copies of the book to cool prizes (free books/DVDs) for doing an online review. These reviews are promo pieces you can use and quote later.

With some creativity and a modest budget, you can make a nice splash. Sure, a book launch may not make or break your book, but it can certainly help, so do whatever it takes to make it memorable. And above all, treat yourself—to a cupcake or a swig of champagne, YOU TOTALLY DESERVE IT. Cheers!

B Jas


Filed under Author events, Getting published, Success stories

Confessions of a Reformed Pantser

(That's not my scrunchie)

I hate outlines. I prefer to write like I read: with no idea what will happen next. While writing without a plan may be thrilling, it is also a very time-consuming, painful process for me.

My last manuscript was written in a few months; however I then spent the next year revising it, which included scrapping the first seventy pages. Although I liked the idea of pantsing my way through a manuscript along with Stephen King and Nora Roberts, in practice I ended up writing myself into all sorts of corners.

For my newest WIP, I’ve gone the planning route and the results so far have been outstanding. The feedback I’ve received from my fellow Restless Writers on my outline has allowed me to control the pace of the story, delete superfluous scenes that haven’t even been written yet and flesh out my protagonist (thereby ensuring that the first seventy pages of this WIP aren’t full of unnecessary character sketches).

In one sense, it feels like this process takes a lot longer, but I know that the bulk of my work is already done. If only I could apply this newfound organization to things like grocery shopping, I figure I’d have three or more hours a day to actually write.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Are you committed to one method? Why does it work (or not) for you?



Filed under Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Success stories, Trials and Tribulations