20 June 2016

An Outliner's First-Novel Survival Tips

No single "magic" way exists to write fiction. As writing coach Elizabeth Lyon says, "There is no right way; there is only your way" (A Writer's Guide to Fiction, p. 11).

So, if you're a committed seat-of-your-pants novelist and don't outline, feel free to skip this post. Most of us, however, need some planning before we can write scenes, and outlining was a key activity in writing my first novel, The Two Row Scholar.

A fragment of The Two Row Scholar's outline. I placed colour-coded sticky notes where subplot scenes fit among the main plot's events. Note the scratched-out and modified scenes: it's a trial-and-error process.

From my fuzzy memories, what follows is my process in writing The Two Row Scholar. That book is nominally a mystery story, but it includes three subplots besides the mystery element.

11 March 2016

Bridging Historical and Contemporary Fiction (Guest Blog Post)

Historical fiction, like all genres, has fuzzier boundaries than publishers and bookstores would have you believe.

As I learned in writing my novel The Two Row scholar, some novels of contemporary life can have strong historical elements that influence character, setting, and plot. The challenges of this hybrid category form the topic of my essay: "Even contemporary fiction can have historical elements."

Thanks to M.K. Tod for the opportunity to write a guest post on her blog, A Writer of History: Inside Historical Fiction.

23 January 2016

Inspiration: Our Home on Native Land

This documentary video features interviews with people on both sides of the Grand River Land Dispute (AKA Caledonia), which began as a protest in February 2006 by some members of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Six Nations is an Indian reserve located about 100 km (60 miles) from Toronto, Ontario.

In researching my first novel, The Coyote River Killer, viewing Our Home on Native Land informed the development of characters on both sides of the dispute. I hasten to point out that neither of the two individuals in this video show up in any guise as characters in the novel. But their stories highlight the family discord and personal pain that some people experienced.

A SureHallLick Production, presented by Mohawk College. Produced by Megan Hall, Theo Scheurwater and Wymon Stanlick. (Standard YouTube Licence)

10 January 2016

Subtext II: Types of Subtext

My earlier post "Subtext I: In a Nutshell" detailed the four building materials of subtext: characterization, human "stuff," nature, and mood/atmosphere. Those are the raw materials for creating subtext.

But what about subtext itself: is it one "thing" or does it come in different varieties? Well, it comes in six types, as Elizabeth Lyon discusses in Writing Subtext.

If you can learn to identify, and use, each type of subtext, your fiction will carry heightened emotional depth and suspense.

10 August 2015

Review of Giles Blunt's The Hestitation Cut

Today, on Bookshelf Reviews, my review appeared of The Hestitation Cut, Canadian crime novelist Giles Blunt's latest book, a suspenseful look at dysfunctional relationships. It's the story of a failed monk's obsessive love for a famous -- and suicidal -- New York City novelist. But fear not, you'll find humour too within this novel.

See the full review at the Bookshelf Reviews blog.