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6 Writing Lessons From A Series Reader

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Earlier this month, I read a young adult dystopian series. In the end, I felt cheated and foolish. I kept wondering why an author would want to do that to her readers and I can’t come up with an answer. I don’t think she did it on purpose. However, I did realize there were some lessons for me to learn as a writer.

Make each voice distinct

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The first two novels of the series were told by one first person narrator, but the last book had two first person narrators. I couldn’t tell whose point of view I was reading in the last book because the characters spoke the same way. I need to make sure I discover my characters as deeply as possible so that I can switch back and forth between multiple voices and/or POVs without confusing myself or my readers.

Write characters that are relatable

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The main characters and their friends were easy to understand and care about. That’s why I kept reading. I wanted to see their development. Some of the antagonists were a little more difficult to understand because they lacked background. I struggle with this as a writer. How much do I want readers to understand where the antagonist is coming from? How much do I want them to empathize with him? My way around this is to make sure he acts destructively and hurts the protagonist.

Check the facts

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In the information age, we all know a lot, but we can’t all be experts. So use that search button and double check the facts, especially if the plot hinges on those facts. I don’t want to start ranting about the major science blunders in the series, so I’ll move on to the lesson that can be extrapolated from this lesson.

Build a writing team

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Build a writing team with a critic partner, a developmental editor, a proofreader, and a beta reader! Each of these roles should probably be held by a different person and each person should probably have a different background. So, hopefully, one of them will notice if my plot falls apart because it’s illogical, unsupported, the absolute opposite of reality, etc.

Take worldbuilding seriously

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I majored in Comparative Religions and noticed something interesting about creation stories. They answer the questions of how the world was created, where it was created, who created it, what came before it. They also reveal the view and philosophy that the folks living in a shared religious and cultural tradition believe. Rarely, did they leave me with a question. Approaching worldbuilding as if it were a sacred revelation might be the way to avoid leaving readers with unanswered questions about the setting and the worldview that the characters are operating within.

Each book in a series needs to stand alone

A series can be linked by characters with each book being more like an episode within the series such as Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Series. Or it can be linked by an overarching plot like Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles. The Saxon Chronicles span ten novels, each with a different plot, and the overarching plot begins in the first novel and always becomes a secondary priority until the final novel.

I’m going to keep these things in mind because the last thing I want to do is upset my readers with poorly written novels.

What is your favorite series? What do you like about it most? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.

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Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I have so many things to be grateful for this year. It’s hard to believe how long this list is.

Fired
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My job was terminated. That doesn’t sound great but it opened up many possibilities. It enabled me to step aside and look at my career. I determined the types of tasks I really like doing, the type of role I like playing, and create a plan for the future. I’m also grateful to my former employer for setting me up with a career services agency so that I could get my resume together, polish my interview skills and network like a pro.

Montreal Map
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Without a job in Toronto, I had very little reason to stay there. So I moved back to Montreal where most of my family and friends are. I’m grateful for my friends and family and, especially, my mom for taking my daughter and me in until I find a job.

Writing wise, I’m grateful to be working on my next book, the third novel in The True Hearts Series, which I plan to release by the end of this year. I’m encouraged by the success of the first two in the series. The Indie Editors of Kirkus Reviews magazine featured a review of my first novel Masks in the February 15 2018 issue. And the second book Secrets received an Honorable Mention under General Fiction from the 2017 London Book Festival.

Happy Turkey Day!

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What are you grateful for most this year? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

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Hoarding In Secrets

Secrets - eBookIn Secrets, Ron Pearl, Diana Rainville’s love interest, is a hoarder. In the story, the death of his mother and Diana’s support lead him to clean his basement. That seems miraculous, doesn’t it? Even Hollywood. But it’s not so farfetched. Alcoholics who fall in love often note that they drink less when they start a relationship.  The abuse victim feels strong and powerful. Depressed people are happy. Research shows that falling in love does cause a high due to a change in brain chemistry. Some research suggests the rush is Mother Nature’s way of making sure we bond so that eventually we reproduce. But that feeling of euphoria doesn’t last forever.

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So what happens to Ron’s hoarding after Ron and Diana have been a couple for a few months? The only thing that can happen. It returns in full force. As much as love can heal all wounds, only self-love can heal them directly. The loving people can help the healing by being supportive, accepting, respectful, open-minded, encouraging, by listening and by empathizing. So how can hoarding become part of Ron’s past?

Heartbroken
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In the story, Ron seemed so in control and confident, but he was far from it. His parents fought all the time. He couldn’t stop his father from leaving when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He couldn’t stop his mother’s cancer or her death. He can’t get an education due to the medical bills and his career is chosen for him. He hangs on to garbage like a security blanket. It’s his way of dealing with his emotions. He gets a high from finding things he could use although he doesn’t use them. He collects them in his bedroom and his basement.

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When his mother talks about counselling, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s been to counselling and he does clear the basement so he is cognizant of the problem. But denial is a big problem for many hoarders. It is a life threatening disease. The only reason the hoarding hasn’t taken over in the story is because of his mother’s presence. But his room has no space and neither has the basement. If allowed, he will eventually fill the entire house. Eventually becoming unhealthy and unsafe for himself and his neighbors.

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Whether hoarding comes from collecting trash or buying too much, it’s a ritual which creates excitement. It’s also unusual for hoarders to share with others. And it’s not surprising that Ron didn’t need to think twice about dumpster diving alone when Diana wanted to leave. He just let her go without blinking. It is not an addiction although it can be associated with addiction and other mental health issues, nor is it an obsessive compulsive disorder although it can coexist.

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The only cure is to stop and deal with the emotions that are causing the hoarding. To learn more about hoarding, check out these resources:

www.hoarding.ca

https://www.helpforhoarders.co.uk/resources/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20356056

What do you do when you are avoiding emotions? What do you do to accept those emotions? I love to hear from you. Leave a comment.

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Mixing Tourism With Learning in New York City

I spent last week in New York City with my family. We played tourist together for four days. Despite the crazy heat and high humidity, we managed to grab the hop-on hop-off bus to tour Manhattan. Then, we got the bird’s eye view from the Empire State Building.

View from Empire State Building

Restaurants were quite expensive, but we did find a grocery store a few blocks away from our hotel and we’re able to eat more affordably. Thank you Morton Williams Food Market.

Capture

We boarded a ferry and admired the State of Liberty from all sides. Until we approached the island from the boat ourselves, it had never occurred to me what a combination of fear, excitement and relief newcomers must have felt when they first saw her.

Statue Of Liberty

We sweated our way through some of Central Park, visited the impressive Cathedral of St John the Divine and admired the architecture of the buildings facing the Park.

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Of course, we had to grab red velvet and chocolate cake from Magnolia Bakery.

Bakery

And it wasn’t enough to see Times Square during the day time, so we went back in the evening. Interestingly, there’s so much digital advertisement that you can’t tell that it’s night time.

My touring time ended on Thursday night. I’ll have to go back because I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to. Plus, there are still so many libraries and museums to visit.

Friday morning, I joined my fellow writers. Writers tend to write alone. Maybe that’s why most of us are so social. We join associations, attend workshops, network at conferences and support each other online.  And why not? We write to share our knowledge through non-fiction, our experiences through memoir, or our stories through fiction and poetry.  We are people of the world. I love to meet new people, explore new places, and learn new things. Who doesn’t? I’m sure there’s a little bit of a writer in everyone.

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The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference was great. I got to learn craft from Steven James, Jane K. Cleland, Whitney Davis, Jordan Rosenfeld, and Chuck Wendig. I also took some genre workshops and discovered some great speakers like Gabriela Pereira, Kim Van Alkemade, and Rachael Herron. Any writer will tell you that you need to know the business of writing as much as the art of it. So I sat in on lectures by Jennifer S. Wilkov and Carol Van Den Hende. If you think that’s enough, it’s not! I made some new friends: Gail Nastacia, Marti Mattia, Patricia Powell and Silas Archambault. Overall, the conference helped me grow as a writer and charge my writing batteries.

Time to work on novel number three.

Number 3

Is there an event in your field that focuses and energizes you? Tell me about it. I love to hear from you.

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Valentine’s Day

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, I can’t help but wonder if I should have my next novel revolve around finding love for or on Valentine’s Day. I’ve been plotting it in my mind for a while and I wrote the synopsis. Nowhere does Valentine’s Day or any other holiday figure in my writing, but why not? Well, one reason is I plan on releasing it in December, so if there’s going to be the mention of any holiday, shouldn’t it be Christmas or Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve and Day? Ugh? Don’t know. While making the holiday a central part of the story would definitely make it a specific holiday story, bringing the holiday into the story wouldn’t matter so much as long as it makes sense to have it there, right? Probably.

Something else has surfaced

Romeo beanie boo
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A few weeks ago at the bookstore, my daughter mentioned she wanted a Valentine’s Beanie Boo. Friday, I found myself shopping alone and picked up a card and some chocolate for her. (I’ll get to the beanie boo. I have to.) As I was browsing the cards, I noticed how many were for romantic relationship. I remembered sending my mom chocolate or flowers at Valentine’s Day and my ex-husband asking me why I would do that, it’s a holiday for lovers.

 

But is it?

pexels-photo-590510.jpegSunday, I had a “Remember when…” moment and sent this text to my BFF: Remember when you, Alain and me would go to Mike’s Restaurant on boul. Cartier on Fridays/Saturdays after work? Sometimes Diran would join us. I can’t remember who else ever did. But we would talk and laugh and plan the future. I did not send the text out of nostalgia, but out of love. A “Hey Girl, we’ve been through so much together. Love you.”

Isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? Sharing love. It doesn’t have to be about chocolate and flowers or dinner and sex or champagne and jewelry. It can be about family, friendship and romance. It can be about recognizing those who are important to us and who impact our lives, and about knowing who loves us and loving ourselves.

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Who are you sending a Valentine to? Who are you hoping to get a Valentine from? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.