Technique & Mad Skills—

What does “show, don’t tell” really mean?

  A Daily Prompts subscriber recently asked me what I meant by “scene.” What exactly, she asked, should be in one? I’ve thought a lot about her question. Here’s the truth: you can spend a lot of time thinking about what you should put into a scene, but that’s not the most important question. But […]

Humility and chutzpah: how to revise.

All of the writers we truly adore have a mix of these two qualities: humility and chutzpah. You know this paradox. You live in it, too. You have to be humble enough to see the truth and write it down honestly. You surrender. You write a story and follow the scenes even though you don’t […]

How to train for your writing marathon.

Writing is about endurance. Especially writing a novel. But unlike a marathon run, a marathon write means you’ll be sitting for hours at your desk. We all know now that sitting is the new smoking. It’ll kill you! When you’re sitting for hours, hunched over, lost in the depths of a fictional world, it’s easy […]

Don’t try to make it symbolic.

I was invited to a Canadian fiction class at McGill University once. This Cake was on the required reading list for the course (!), and the students had all read the book and prepared some questions for my visit. It was a surreal experience. When I wrote the stories, I hoped for readers. But I […]

How to write characters who are different than you.

Two wonderful questions about character came into my inbox recently. After some reflection, I decided to answer them both at once. The answer to these two questions is the same, but the questions approach it from opposite ends. Q: I’m trying to work though SSM and I’m having trouble creating characters in Lesson 3. I […]

A Little Conflict.

Writing conflict is difficult. Scary, even. It demands that you venture past the edge of what feels comfortable. When I write conflict from a comfortable place, it feels like pretending. Because I am pretending. If I feel totally okay while writing it, there’s no real struggle. It doesn’t feel true. Crystal Pite’s talk on conflict […]

2013: A Retrospective

Happy new year! To celebrate this crackling new January, I thought I’d take a look back on my site and share my favourite posts from 2013. I’ve selected one for every month of last year, and compiled 12 sweet articles to refresh, inspire, and clarify your writing goals for 2014. Enjoy this year in review! […]

Creative Collaboration: On Being Islands In the Stream

When I watch musicians perform, I often feel a pang of admiration and longing about the way they can be in the zone together, sharing a creative experience. They’re making music by playing individual instruments, but when they play together, they’re tapping into something that’s bigger than the separate components of drum, guitar, piano. And […]

Write what you want to read.

subscribe