Write with emotion


Silk’s Post #133 — It has been an emotional year, and not half over yet.

The world has had its punishing cataclysms, some delivered by nature, others by the hand of man. It has had some surprising social victories to celebrate, including progressive decisions by the US Supreme Court, and a demonstration of the awesome power of forgiveness in a Charleston church. Personally, I’ve had some unforgettable, joyful travel adventures and shared some soul-nourishing times with people I’m glad to have in my life. I’ve also lost some dear friends. Three women who I love have lost their longtime partners to cancer.

So, yeah, my feelings have been working overtime.

And that’s the natural response to the highs and lows life throws at you. In fact, despite the pain of sorrow, I think we long to experience emotions. It’s in our DNA. It means we’re alive. Maybe it even keeps us alive. My thesis is that emotions give our journey on earth meaning and significance, perhaps even more than the worldly successes we strive so hard to achieve.

People need to feel. And that’s why I think people read to feel.

While storytelling may be about connecting through narrative with ourselves, with others, with our past and future, with our common humanity, and with the rules of the road in life – as well as being the purest form of entertainment – it has a cardinal rule. And that rule has to do with emotion.

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Toy Story), in his fantastic TED Talk, The Clues to a Great Story, in 2012, said storytelling must do one thing above all else:

Make Me Care.

In his excellent book Writing 21st Century Fictionwriting guru Donald Maass puts it another way:

What is it that moves readers’ hearts? What conjures in readers’ imaginations a reality that, for a while, feels more real than their own lives? What glues readers to characters and makes those characters objects of identification: people with whom readers feel intimately involved, about whom they care, and whose outcomes matter greatly? Emotions. When readers feel little or nothing, then a story is just a collection of words. It’s empty.

You’ve heard this all before, haven’t you? As an abstract piece of wisdom, it seems so obvious it scarcely needs to be said. Of course storytelling must evoke emotions. It’s right here in my How To Be A Great Writer 101 notes. Got it. Let’s move on.

Actually, let’s not. Let’s stay right here in the complicated, shape-shifting, constricted, psychedelic, colourless, loud, passionate, confusing, silent, elating, scary, inspiring, tragic, heartwarming, tense, quicksand-filled world of emotional landscapes. Okay, let’s get out the roadmap and see where we are. Oh, right. I forgot. There is no road map.

We know a lot about emotions. Life is full of them. Psychology books dissect and explain them. We all feel them, personally. We can call upon all that knowledge to tell how something feels. Oops … did I say “tell”? Yes, that’s the trap, isn’t it?

So, following the fiction prescription of Show Don’t Tell, we can probably describe the visible clues that convey our character’s feelings. The glistening eyes that speak of sorrow held in check. The muscular tension of anger. The white-knuckled grip of fear. The glowing face of love. That’s better, right? Well, maybe.

But here’s the challenge. Getting across to a reader that a character is experiencing an emotion is not the same as getting the reader to experience an emotion. Far from it.

As Maass says, “Familiar emotions, especially when in neon lights, have little effect on readers.” He cautions against the extremes of “warm” emotional landscapes bestrewn with flowery purple prose, and “cool” emotional landscapes so devoid of overt feelings they’re like deserts of the heart.

So, let’s go back to Stanton’s cardinal rule: Make Me Care. It’s not just about intensity, or even authenticity. It’s about connection.

And that, naturally, leads us to character. If a reader doesn’t care about the character, can’t relate to him and what he’s experiencing, isn’t emotionally engaged in the outcome, all your attempts to write with emotion fail. The words just lie there on the page, dead on arrival.

Of course, you’ve heard all this too. Make your character relatable! Lure the reader into caring about him! Let’s say you’ve zoomed ahead of many writers (hopefully going beyond the simplistic advice of giving your character a flaw, because people are reported to love flaws, so any character with a flaw must be automatically relatable), and you’ve managed to achieve this wonderful state of character grace. Congratulations!

Now when you convey your character’s emotions, the reader should definitely feel something, right? Well, maybe.

What? There’s more to this emotional landscape navigation? Sorry, but the answer is Yes. Hey, if it were easy, everybody could be a bestselling novelist!

For example, there’s cliché avoidance, which applies to emotional stimuli and responses just as it applies to character, language and other elements of fiction. Two-dimensional (aka cardboard) emotions, predictable responses, melodrama – these don’t move readers at a deep level. Maass talks about the power of more nuanced emotions that surprise, that conflict, that intrigue and provoke.

The character’s dog is hit by a car and dies? Yes, that’s horribly sad, and it’s natural for the character be broken-hearted. But what else does he feel that adds dimension? Anger at the driver who hit his dog, or at himself for letting the dog run out on the road? Remorse and regret if he ran over it himself, in a mindless hurry to get somewhere? Secret relief that his life is simpler without a dog, that he’s now free to take that trip to Kathmandu? Self hatred at feeling this relief? Delayed mourning for his dead mother who gave him the dog when he was a teen? Fresh resentment for his girlfriend, who never liked his dog? What if there’s something about the circumstance that he actually finds funny, and is stricken with intolerable guilt about this taboo response?

It could be a simple case of boy-loses-dog. Or a much more nuanced case of boy’s-karma-runs-over-his-dogma. Sorry, I couldn’t resist a bit of black humour, so to all you dog lovers out there, please don’t send me hate mail.

Although, if you did, it would suggest something important: I Made You Care.

I believe some of the most powerful emotional effects you can achieve in fiction arise from those things that are the hardest to talk about in real life. Things that are threatening, taboo, disturbing, dangerous, fraught with dilemma. Things that are close to the soul, risky to examine. Things that reveal more about our secret selves than we want to share. Not just things we’re afraid of, but things we’re afraid to admit about ourselves. Things never talked about by what another writing guru, James Scott Bell, calls “Happy People in Happy Land.”

And that’s why, as writers, we open our own veins and bleed all over the paper. Everything we reveal about our characters also reveals something about ourselves. Writing with emotion in a way that really touches and engages readers to feel something means writing from the heart.

Or, as some of the greats would put it …

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. — Robert Frost

It’s all about passion. Heart is what drives us and determines our fate. — Isabel Allende

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. — William Wordsworth

You get your readers emotionally involved in your characters by being emotionally involved yourself. Your characters must come alive for you. When you are writing about them, you have to feel all the emotions they are going through – hunger, pain, joy, despair. If you suffer along with them, so will the reader. — Sidney Sheldon

What comes from the heart goes to the heart. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. — James A. Michener

I want to make you laugh or cry when you read a story … or do both at the same time. I want your heart, in other words. If you want to learn something, go to school. — Stephen King


Focus. The answer to get your writing done.

Karalee’s Post #117

paperworkI know how to organize myself. I make wonderful lists. I keep up my schedule in my calendar. I also purposely keep a few things solely in my head to challenge my intellect in the hopes that somehow I’m preventing Alzheimer’s by challenging my brain.

Yet inevitably I don’t get my list scratched off. I allow myself to repeatedly do the cardinal sin that successful people DON’T do. I do stuff that’s important alright, but I put off doing what I really don’t like to do.

It’s something that takes a lot of organizing, a lot of keeping track of everything and tallying up this and that. It’s putting everything in its proper slot, filing and recording separate entries. It’s one of the worst jobs I know of other than cleaning toilets.

The nasty is paperwork. I surmise that accountants don’t enjoy it either. Paperwork is a nine letter word that you can say fast twenty times and it still sounds like paperwork. It’s a relentless word that replicates itself like amoebas and makes scratching it off the To Do list impossible.

It’s my nemesis.

And my new business is creating a heck of a lot of new paperwork, which creates just as many reasons for me NOT to do it! And not doing it adds stress, which takes away from my ability to focus on my writing!

What am I to do? Am I a writer or not?

Well first off, if I am a writer I best think like one and get into the writers’ zone – that fictitious world that doesn’t give a damn about all the other worldly stuff that is happening regardless of one’s To Do list and paperwork that shoulda coulda be done.

I must focus in the writers’ zone to be productive, in the zone where writing is prioritized and guilt-free and there is nothing else to worry about. Period. End of.

Other stuff will wait.

Writers write despite the To Do list.


Achievements this week:

  • preparations for my daughter’s wedding are coming together including a PowerPoint slideshow
  • continued training and connecting with people in my new business
  • 1 hr/day writing. July 5th is on its way!

Keeping balance in my life: 

  • Sticking to the Slight Edge philosophy to achieve success in my new business and juggle all the busyness in my life right now.
  • Daily meditation and exercise. Focusing on gratitude keeps me in a place of peace.
  • Staying in touch with fellow 5Writers every Monday (or Tuesday) keeps us connected in our writing and in our personal lives.
  • A positive attitude keeps me happy.

Perspective Photos:

garden ornament and flowers









reading figure







Happy Writing!

Getting back to work

Joe’s Post #143

Getting back from a writing retreat or a workshop, or even a conference, is a lot like coming back from a vacation with a bad case of the runs. It’s not like you don’t want to get on with life, but sh*t just keeps cropping up.

orange is the new blackBack at home, there’s all sorts of distractions, from Orange is the New Black to a regular life full of ball hockey practices, dishes and yelling at the dog for barking at the cat who’s hissing at the frogs, to bills and fights with Canada Revenue Services.

So while it’s easy to find time to write when you’re on a retreat, or at a workshop, it’s hard to keep that momentum going.

In the last week, I wrote 30 pages. Better than most weeks in 2015, that’s for sure, but far below what I should be doing. And that got me thinking.

How do you keep up the momentum?


For me, it routine is still my best hope, but I can write for 2 hours a day in the morning and produce 2 hours of crap. So that may not be everything.

keyFinding inspiration is the key. I mean, that’s what those other events are for, right?

Can you find it from other writers? Sure. So you need to be part of a group. A fun group that loves to write.

Can you find it from books on writing? Maybe, but it’s just as easy to get bogged down in editorial mode and that could mean you’ll be writing and rewriting and rewriting the same 30 pages over and over.

Can you find it from novels? Ah, that’s the ticket. At least for me. Nothing inspires like a good book.

Can you find it alone? Hmmm. Maybe, but inspiring myself is kind of like trying to cut my own hair. It usually ends in tears and a trip to the doctor to reattach an ear.

So how do you stay motivated?


Is writing a lonely occupation?

Karalee’s Post #116

I have been known to say that writing can be lonely. I’ve even changed my life this year  by joining a business in direct marketing to augment my retirement AND meet up with friends and talk to strangers. Lots of strangers. And many of those strangers have become friends.

My life has changed. I’m happier being more social. I’m more at peace and moving in a direction that I’m enjoying. Now, did I make this change in my life to get out of the house more because writing is lonely?


My answer is a resounding NO!

No that is, that writing is lonely. It isn’t. Not ever. When I think about it, I was wrong when I said that writing can be lonely. How can it be when my mind is filled with characters and places and relationships and mysteries and, and, and…. There’s so much happening when I write that there is NO ROOM for loneliness!

So where does this sense of loneliness come from?

I had to laugh when the truth hit me. I realized that the only time I feel lonely “writing” is when I’m not actually writing. It’s when I stop writing and sit there, just me and my computer, and I feel that I’m the only “real” person in the room or the house. It’s when the sun is shining outside and I think I’d rather be in the garden, or when I “should” be doing the millions of other chores in my life that suddenly become important.

It’s when my writing isn’t flowing that I can feel lonely. It’s when I have hours in my day to write and I continue to have difficulty staying focused that loneliness creeps in.

This was happening to me and I needed a change. I had to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. My family no longer required my full attention and I had energy to burn.

AND, I have come to realize that I am more social than I ever thought I was. I want more social interaction and if I can achieve this and do business at the same time, it’s a win-win for me. I used to own a large physiotherapy practice and I’m enjoying the challenge of being in business again.

I’m not throwing in the towel regarding writing. Not at all! With fewer hours to sit in my office chair, there’s more push to stay focused and be more productive. My “not writing” hours will be fewer and therefore not as lonely.

A change is good for my writing!


Achievements this week:

  • my garden is all planted and set to grow!
  • I’m the sole caretaker of the neighborhood traffic circle garden. I also got this area planted/weeded for the season.
  • reorganize my office/writing area. I’ve moved twice in the last three months to accommodate others in the house. Back to normal in September!
  • 1 hr/day writing. Need to get 30 pages done for July 5th!


Keeping balance in my life: 

  •  Sticking to the Slight Edge philosophy to achieve success in my new business and in my writing.
  • Daily meditation and exercise. I am healthy, have good energy and am staying more centered.
  • Staying in touch with fellow 5Writers every Monday (or Tuesday) keeps our group strong and supporting one another!
  • A positive attitude leads to more happiness, and more writing!

Perspective Photos:

















Happy writing!


Writing through adversity


Silk’s Post #132 — After all that rah rah excitement and recommitment to writing generated by our terrific writing retreat only two weeks ago, here I am finally getting to my Monday post on Wednesday. Do shots of enthusiasm last only a week? What happened?

The Mother of All Colds, that’s what happened. It’s so exhaustingly, frustratingly miserable that I’m tempted to regard it as something higher up the food chain of infections … bronchitis, pneumonia, some kind of exotic flu that has a name so long it’s known by its dreaded acronym.

But no. It’s nothing fancy. Just a cold. Something that doesn’t really impress anyone because we all get them, and then we all get over them. I won’t gross you out with the details, but the consequence of this (so far) 10 days of mind-numbing, energy-draining phlegm production is that I’ve been working at about half speed, at best.

(Newsflash: my husband just walked in and told me that, after careful research down in the village – otherwise known as local gossip – he thinks what I have is the latest plague raging around our island, a new mutation of the old Hong Kong flu from the 1950s, or 1970s, anyway sometime last century. Apparently it lasts a month. Goody.)

But no matter. It all started me thinking … what if I really did have some awful adversity to cope with, something that wasn’t going to go away anytime soon? Or maybe ever? Am I in any way prepared to overcome that, to write through it?

The truth is that I’ve had a reasonably easy time of it since I’ve been here on Earth, as lives go. My improbable chain of luck – one that statisticians will tell you beats the odds at a lottery-winning level – began with being born in the first place. All those competing sperms, and mine won the race! Of course, if you’re reading this, you can also count yourself a winner from the get-go for the same reason.

I was also lucky to be born where and when I was – a wealthy country in the 20th century. There were no bombs falling (although we were, we thought, all prepared in case some did by having air raid drills in elementary school). People weren’t running around shooting each other, at least not in our neighbourhood. There were good drugs around (like antibiotics and polio vaccines), but not many bad ones (like crack cocaine and meth). And even though we ate stuff that everyone now knows is horrible for you (like Twinkies), and all the adults (including virtually everyone on TV) smoked like chimneys, we were pretty healthy. At least compared to the many countries in which children, we were told whenever we pushed our perfectly good spinach or lima beans to the edge of the plate, were starving (and, no you can’t send your leftover spinach to them, just eat it).

I grew up “middle class,” (Hey, remember those good old days when there was a big one?) Yes, I realize not everyone in the United States and Canada had the same lucky experience, and that’s just my point. Even my lifetime circle of family and friends has been, generally speaking, stable and supportive. Sure, a few heartbreaks, but nothing truly devastating. My health (apart from this #@%*&!!! cold) is also pretty much in the middle of the spectrum. Not perfect, but not dramatically debilitating.

In other words, I have little experience coping with real trauma. With life-changing adversity. With fear and terror. With displacement. With truly painful, chronic, disabling or life-threatening illness or injury. With abuse. With addiction. With stifling prejudice or oppression. With hunger or poverty. With war or threat of war where I live. With untimely, gut-wrenching loss of loved ones. With natural disaster or devastation.

No. My drive and determination can be slowed to a crawl by a simple cold. What a wimp.

It made me think about the incredible hurdles writers and other creative people have had to overcome to produce their art. There have been some true heroes, though they’re rarely celebrated for their bravery and persistence in the face of adversity.

It’s almost shocking how many famous authors are said to have suffered from dyslexia or a similar learning disability, for instance: granddaddy of fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson; novelist and screenwriter, Stephen Cannell; legendary American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald; children’s author (Captain Underpants), Dav Pilkey; Pulitzer Prize-winning short story writer, Richard Ford; Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright W.B. YeatsFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe author, Fannie Flagg; celebrated American author (World According to GarpJohn Irving; prolific British author, Bernard Taylor; and Madame Bovary author, Gustave Flaubert.

The grande dame of cozy mysteries, Agatha Christie suffered from a related disability called dysgraphia, which is described as “a writing disorder, characterized as a learning disability in the category of written expression” whose sufferers may have difficulties with certain letters, often will write the wrong word when trying to formulate their thoughts on paper, and have problems with both motor and orthographic skills and spelling. Apparently, she couldn’t even balance a chequebook.

There’s also a long list of authors who are thought to have struggled with what we now recognize as ADD/ADHD. One of them was George Bernard Shaw, who wrote more than 60 plays and won both a Nobel Prize and and Oscar for Pygmalion. Science fiction pioneer and godfather of steampunkJules Verne, who had trouble in school and reported having a hard time focusing, was also thought to have undiagnosed ADD or ADHD.

Of course, there’s an even longer list of writers who have famously suffered from depression, from Mark Twain to Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Anne Rice and Stephen King. Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, who today is probably the world’s most commercially successful writer, was once a suicidal 20-something single parent and struggling writer. She sought help for her clinical depression and obviously overcame this writing hurdle in spectacular fashion. Not so fortunate was poet Sylvia Plath, whose treatment with antidepressants in 1963 began, it seems, too late to stop her suicidal compulsion.

When it comes to authors who have overcome physical adversity, addictions, personal tragedy, poverty, abuse and a whole spectrum of other obstacles, a whole book could be written. But here are some extreme examples that make me feel ashamed of myself for being distracted from writing by my own insignificant hurdles.

There was Irish author and poet Christy Brown, for example. His famous autobiography My Left Foot documented his struggles as a cerebral palsy victim who was incapable of deliberate movement or speech for years (except, of course, his famous left foot). His family life no doubt toughened him up, as he was one of 13 surviving children out of the 22 born to his Catholic parents.

French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, once the editor of Elle, suffered the rare neurological condition known as Locked-In syndrome after coming out of a coma after a heart attack. While his mind was normal, his entire body was paralyzed. In the last two years of his life, he “wrote” an entire book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which he composed in his head and dictated one letter at a time to a (very patient) interlocutor, by blinking when the letter he wanted was reached in a repeated recitation of the alphabet. His book was published two days before he died.

And do I even need to mention the deaf, blind, prolific author Helen Keller?

Well, that’s made me feel so much more ambitious and less sorry for myself that I’m going to just blow my nose, swig some cough syrup, and get back to work.

Routine is a writer’s ally

Karalee’s Post #115

Our 5Writer’s retreat was a much wanted and well deserved coming together for our group, a push to jump start our writing and marketing again. Our passion is definitely there and we set deadlines again for critiquing.

We agree, deadlines will keep us going.

Sometimes I wonder if we need this camaraderie to keep our writing on task. Are we passionate writers? or hobbyists and coffee lovers with a computer at hand? Writers, well, just write, right??


Last week’s retreat once again brought us together and showed me that we all have the fire of fiction within us. We all want to get our stories out and reach The End with a sense of great self-satisfaction. We want to share our stories and keep writing more.

To me, that’s the essence of being a writer.

The fact that it’s difficult to sit and get the job done is simply that, a fact of life. It is hard for me to put the time in daily, difficult to say no to other important things in my life. But truth told, if I want to get to The End, I have to sit and write. Often. With a sense of importance.

So, routine has to come into play. Once again WRITING is on my “must do” To Do list. My daughter is getting married in July and I’ve recently started a new business, so I will be realistic and put 2hrs/day as my set amount of time. Note to myself: Don’t veer from it. The dishes/cooking/looking after the family and dogs/part-time work, etc. all have their spots too. BUT don’t bypass the act of writing!

Stick to your routine.

Out of curiosity I looked up the word routine. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines routine as:

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order; a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way; a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

Well, these definitions have me wondering why I would say in my title above that ‘Routine is a writer’s ally’. None of the above definitions really fit. For instance:

  1. a regular way of doing things in a particular order. For me, I don’t write in any particular order. Often I write the first chapter and jump to an intermediate chapter to capture my thoughts and actions that I feel are important. Also, I usually write the last chapter early on to have a place I head towards. That said, the ending is often not in the place I first had in mind. I am flexible and take heed
  2. a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way. Maybe the fact that I rarely do my writing in the same way day-to-day is a good reason that it is never boring. For me the process is never boring. Challenging, absolutely. The great thing is that I can always “have something happen” in my story to entertain myself at any moment. That’s the magic of fiction!!
  3. a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance. Well, writing isn’t a repetition of the same thing over and over regarding what is happening in a story. A theme can be repeated by having different character’s life story played out in the same theme, but the actual events happening will be very different. Although writing often feels like a juggling act (who is where when, and to do what), the balls in the air are never the same and they are all dancing to their own arc. But, if my book ever becomes a movie, now that would be a great performance!

Since for me writing isn’t a routine that fits the MW’s definition, then why do I think that routine is my ally in writing?

It comes down to TIME. Time dedicated to the act of writing. Time slotted in my day on a regular basis. Maybe that’s what is defined as being boring and regular.

Regarding the actual writing itself? Thank goodness that is never routine!


Writing Goals: 2 hrs/day. Submit 30 pages/month to my group. We chose the 5th of every month. Fitting, right?? 🙂

Keep in mind: 

  • 2 hrs/day, one word at a time will soon become a scene, then a chapter, and eventually a completed book. Keep sticking to the Slight Edge philosophy.
  • daily meditation and exercise keeps me centered and healthy.
  • our group is amazing, their support a great motivator!
  • a positive attitude leads to more happiness, and more writing!

Perspective Photos:

















Happy writing!

What I learned from the writer’s retreat

Joe’s Post #142

Or how you can make it better.

writing quotes

  • The energy of writing is always there. Even if someone’s off having a walk, eating salmon omelettes at Molly’s or taking a snooze, there’s usually someone writing. It’s hard not to write when someone else is writing.
  • There needs to be a place for everyone to retreat to for naps, quiet time, looking at shoeporn, whatever. It’s hard to write for a whole day. Not impossible, but for me, I needed a place to recharge my brain.
  • Going from 0 pages a day to 30 is hard, if not impossible. Going from writing 0 hours to 8-14… same thing. It’s hard. Practice ahead of time. Like you would for a marathon or a binging 3 seasons of game of thrones.
  • Don’t forget to take breaks. Oh, it’s easy to get lost in the writing, to sit and write, write and sit, but breaks allowed me to clear my mind. Exercise helps. I worked out plot problems while walking in downtown Gibsons. I worked on character while wandering the beach. I reworked dialogue while looking for chocolates to buy my cutie.
  • When you’re in a house with writers, you can talk writerly stuff. Like how do I make an opening scene better, or what’s not working here? No more asking yourself those questions in your own head, you have other heads to help you out.
  • IMG_7017Get some sleep. Have coffee. Eat well. Sure they’re the basics of any life, but sometimes these things are easy to forget when you’re retreating.
  • Have some fun.

I think we 5/5/5 had a great success with our retreat. 4 writers broke out of their slump and began to write, again. I broke out of my ‘getting stories out into the marketplace’ phobia. We had a few laughs, brainstormed a few ideas, and had a chance to spend 3 wonderful days in sunny Gibsons.

So, if you get the chance, go on a retreat. It doesn’t have to be in Maui or on a cruise in the Mediterranean. It just has to be a group of writers getting together to write.




Retreat, revitalize, re-writewritewrite


With a view like this, how can you not be inspired?

Silk’s Post #131 — Two of the greatest letters in the alphabet: RE. They’re magic. Adding this little prefix to every imaginable action verb reminds us that life is full of do-overs.

There is a huge collection of old saws, clichés, quips – whatever you prefer to call truths we all know but nevertheless have to remember again and again – that elaborate on the power of restarting …

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
  • It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
  • Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries. — James A. Michener
  • If you never fail, you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Never, never, never give in! — Winston Churchill
  • A few fly bites cannot stop a spirited horse. — Mark Twain
  • It’s never too late to start over.
  • Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. — Vince Lombardi
  • It’s like deja-vu, all over again. — Yogi Berra
  • Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. — Babe Ruth
  • It always seems impossible until it’s done. — Nelson Mandela
  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
  • It’s always too soon to quit. — Norman Vincent Peale
  • If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer. — R.A. Salvatore

Karalee captures the Sunshine Coast scene.

So, that’s what we did this past weekend.

At our 5/5/5 writers’ retreat, we reconnected with our writing colleagues, recharged our batteries, renewed our commitment to the writing life, resurrected old manuscripts, revived our enthusiasm … but mainly, we took step one again: we just wrote some stuff.

5writer Paula (who herded us cats), her ever supportive husband, John (who baked us cookies), and her entertaining poodles (who took us for beach walks), were hosts extraordinaire. We ate well, slept well, read to each other, drank a little wine and a lot of coffee, and thoroughly got our heads into writing.


Paula, Karalee, Loulou and Gryphon. Trusting you can figure out who’s who.

If it must be quantified, we did pretty well production-wise. I think Joe did about 20 pages of wow. Karalee rewrote her opening scene twice; she aced the last version. Paula went berserk and wrote at least 30 pages on a brand new story. I wrote one of my main character’s mysterious backstory, desperately needed to drive the whole plot – 10 pages of blood, sweat and tears. Helga continues with her journal. She is our saint for finding time to join us and for keeping her writing close to her heart.

More important, by miles, is the qualitative measure of our writers’ retreat. We’re excited. Can’t put a measure on that. It’s too huge. The proof? We’re getting back into a schedule of monthly cyber-critiquing. Just to keep us honest.

We’re back, baby!


One word at a time

Karalee’s Post #114

Paula's 7Imagine life with no responsibilities except to write! Sleep, write, eat, write, eat, write, sleep….. You get the idea.


One word at a time. Before you know it, a whole scene has been written! And scenes lead to chapters…

There’s breaks for a bit of dog walking to keep the circulation going, a bit of standing to prepare meals, and the occasional stretching of one’s arms.

The rest of the time is for – writing.

I admit it’s a bit weird to have our group together so quietly, at times all in the same room. There’s an occasional laugh or gesturing as one of us reacts to something going on in our imagination that seems “real” and “is happening” in our story. It’s fun to watch really. It’s also enlightening that others do it too, that I’m not crazy after all. My fellow writers are normal too!

It’s also odd that we are together and not critiquing. Not even 30 pages each, nonetheless a whole 250 or so page book, a book a day for 5 days like we pushed to do at our Whistler retreat! Now that was WORK!!

Oh, we’re spending a few minutes talking about our openings, how we are outlining with purpose, discussing how we mind map, or how we are working on character development through backstory to understand at a visceral level how a main character thinks and reacts. But on the whole we are, well, writing!









Paula's 3

Paula's 5








The dog may be bored. But hey, a dog can’t write!










Writing Goals: study mind map in detail again, write 2 scenes a day (or rewrite)

Keep in mind: 

  • One word at a time will become a scene, then a chapter, and eventually a completed book. Stick to the Slight Edge philosophy.
  • daily meditation and exercise keeps me centered and healthy.
  • our retreat is amazing, our group is amazing.
  • a positive attitude leads to more happiness.

Perspective Photos:



















Today I am happily writing! Are you?


The time has come to write

Joe’s Post #141

retreatA writing retreat, you say? How can we 5/5/5 make this a success?

Silk outlined her research. Paula has her hosting planned out. We have pets to keep us company. We even have an agenda of sorts. Our agenda even has some writing planned.

But the real question is can we capture the magic of writing, again.

Or is that impossible?

I think it is. I won’t lie. However, do you need writing magic to write or can you replace it with something else? Like replacing coffee with green tea? Or the Coke with New Coke?

My solution… replace the magic with routine. I managed to get a novella of 37,000 words written in a month by simply putting my somewhat large butt in my somewhat comfy chair and pounding out the words. I know in the grand scheme of things, that’s not super impressive, but that’s more writing than I’ve done in a long time.

So on this retreat, I’m going to go with what worked. Get up about 7. Get coffee. Start writing. Stop for lunch. Maybe stop before that to pee. Go for walk. Write. Look at the pretty world for a bit. Write. Stop for supper. Eat something vaguely healthy. Read. Go to bed at a decent time. (If I write past about 7, then I get all writer-ie in my head and I can’t shut off my brain enough to sleep.)

In the meantime, 9 things to avoid while on a writer’s retreat. (Cuz I couldn’t think of 10 due to a lack of conviction on following through with #3.)

Avoid….. negative calvin and hobbs

  1. Negative people. We all have enough negative voices in our heads, we don’t need them personified in our writing space.
  2. Watching TV. The opiate of the masses. Aka my favorite thing to do. When time is precious and writing time scarce, there’s simply no time for the Simpsons.
  3. Drinking (a lot). Why? Once upon a time, I could drink and still be a functioning adult (though candid pictures of me may show otherwise). It’s not like I get all Hemingway-ish and suddenly find my muse after one drink. No. I find a pillow and start to snore – and I’ve found I cannot write in my sleep.
  4. Gaming. No Clash of Clans. No Candy Crush. No FIFA 2015. Sacking someone’s town hall in CoC will not get me published and I may even be sacking the town hall or an agent or editor. Luckily, though, I go by the name of SeanSommerville69, so I’m tanking someone else’s career.
  5. Eating too much food. Very similar to too much alcohol, minus the dancing on the table and singing My Sharona until the bouncers throw me out. Too much food makes we want to do #2.
  6. Shopping. No heading out for new shoes, new iPhones or new appliances. No buying dog toys, waterguns or new, non-stick pans. No looking at cars, dresses or houses. Just say no to shopping until you get back.
  7. Spaghetti sauce and white shirts. Trust me on this. Either don’t bring a white shirt, or don’t eat spaghetti with sauce. If you do, you’ll run out of clean shirts and that leads to either having to go shopping, spending time cleaning the damn shirts or having to eat your oatmeal topless.
  8. Facebook. It’s the work of the devil, anyway. If you can’t give it up, then limit it.
  9. Fear. Fear feds doubt. Makes it fat. Doubt then sits on your shoulder and poops all over you. Just let the fear go, have some fun. Write.

Will we be able to find a way back to writing? I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you at 8pm, we’re sitting with our laptops open, some of us are muttering to ourselves, but all of us are pounding away on our keyboards.

Stories are being created. Characters developed. Worlds built.

What better way to start?