Make Something Happen!

My writer's tip isn't exactly my own, but a customized version of advice I came across from Raymond Chandler: "When in doubt, have a man come through the door holding a gun."

What's important about this is neither the man nor the gun, but something happening.  When you find yourself in the middle of a scene - or a book, for that matter - and things seem stuck or stale, introduce an unpredictable element to the action.  A bird flying into the window, a pounding from the floor above, a man emerging naked from the woods.  It doesn't really matter what the interruption is, so long as your characters find it dramatic, upsetting or intriguing.  Because once you have your characters reacting to something new, your scene will be alive again.  What's more, the way your characters respond to the interruption will often be revealing of an aspect of their personality perhaps even you weren't aware of.  Making something happen makes other things happen.

Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist, was an international best seller. His most recent novel is The Damned

Keep Your Bottom on Your Chair!

Put in the time, and don't wait for inspiration to come to you. For me the hardest part of writing is keeping my bottom on my chair and putting the hours in. When I do that consistently, day after day, week after week, characters and story begin to take form. The inspiration rises out of the words I've already put on the page, rather than the other way around, even if those first words/first drafts are clunky and wooden and seem without promise.


Nancy Richler is the author of Your Mouth Is Lovely. Her most recent novel The Imposter Bride was shortlisted for Canada’s Giller Prize.

Trust Your Subconscious!

Trust your subconscious! When I’m through my writing day (scheduled, like any job: 9-4, Monday-Friday) I tidy my papers, leave my office, and try not to think about my work. I put it in a mental closet and shut the door, letting my subconscious take over. The next morning, I begin by editing the previous day’s pages. Usually, during this process, the closet door opens, revealing the mind’s deep deliberations. This gives me energy and allows me to go forward. 

Beth Powning’s  The Sea Captain’s Wife was nominated for an IMPAC Dublin Award.  She discusses her latest, the highly acclaimed A Measure of Light, with Adrian Harewood at Ottawa’s International Writers Festival on Sunday, April 26.

Create A Schedule

My tip is twofold: first, create a schedule. Writing is a job. When I'm working on a novel, I have a routine that Irefuse to break. For example, I write every morning first thing for three hours. Then I go back late afternoon for three more hours. Make your routine/schedule realistic. If you tell yourself that you're going to write every day for ten hours straight, you're setting yourself up to fail. Start with a reasonable daily schedule/routine, say sitting down to write for one hour at the same time every day. No outside distractions, no cell phones, no internet. Just you and your notebook or computer. Soon, you'll find that you might be writing for 70 minutes, an hour and a half, two hours. Most important, though, is to religiously stick to your schedule.

Second, always remind yourself that every word that comes out of you isn't going to be golden, isn't going to be perfect. Take away the huge stress that everything that you write is going to be perfect the first time and you'll free yourself up to write for real.

Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce received The Giller Prize. Last year his novel The Orenda won CBC’s Canada Reads.

Write To A Deadline

Photo Credit:  FRANEK

Photo Credit: FRANEK

I guess one tip I'd give is that as a writer you should force yourself to write to deadline -- even if it's a self-imposed one. Which essentially means making sure you write on those days when you least feel like it. It's important to treat writing as you would any other profession, and sit down daily and put in the time. The notion of 'waiting for inspiration to strike' is simply time-wasting. 

Esi Edugyan is the author of the Second Life of Samuel Tyne and the GIller Award winning Half Blood Blues

Feel Free To Make Mistakes

The most important thing to me is to keep in mind that although my writing may ultimately

become public, the true act of creation --- especially during the unspooling of the first draft --- is private and should be free from any kind of scrutiny, including self-scrutiny. I want to feel free to make mistakes.

Jane Urquhart


Jane Urquhart is the author of Away one the best-selling Canadian novels of all time. Her novel The Underpainter received a Governor General’s Award.

Write What Frightens You

Write what frightens you, what feels too dangerous to say. Don’t worry about publishing it, or even submitting it for publication—unless and until you want to. Just know what it is. It’ll be the core of your writing and where you are most likely to find your voice, your subjects. And, of course, read, as much as you can, without fear of being influenced or intimidated. Read for pleasure, read for fun, read to be infuriated and to be inspired, to figure out “how did she do that?” Along the way you’ll figure out what you can take from all this reading and make it your own.

- Diana Fitzgerald Bryden


Diana Fitzgerald Bryden is the author of No Place Strange, longlisted for an IMPAC Dublin prize. Her essay Dog Days appears in The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood.