Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2012: What Does It Mean To You?

Do you see the changing of the calendar year as a chance for a new start, or a time to try something new? Maybe this year will be your year! Will you finish that book? Maybe actually sit down and start one?

Let's talk in January about goal-setting. Think about what you want to do, and just how you're going to do it. In the meantime, enjoy this holiday season with your family and friends. Recharge and refill your creative well. Read, watch movies. Get out and enjoy the outdoors. Have some fun! Relax and rest, because all too soon it'll be time to get back into routine.

So however you celebrate it, have a safe New Year's Eve and we'll get down to business in the New Year!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: Take a Break

As you're all aware, the holiday season is upon us. Suddenly our days seem to be filled with concerts, parties, shopping, baking and cleaning. During all this hustle and bustle it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with your daily or weekly writing goals*. And you know what? That's okay. Don't beat yourself up about missing a day or two of writing. You should be taking time to spend with your family and friends. Go sledding with the kids. Curl up in front of the TV with hot chocolate and watch a favorite family classic. Build a gingerbread house. Go look at Christmas lights.

In other words, look at these moments as refilling your creative well. Use the time you're not at your desk to take in the world around you and enjoy it. And if you really feel the need to add to your word count, ask for an hour or two of quiet time. Send the family out shopping or to the movies, and take advantage of that break.

As with goal-setting in general, it shouldn't be an "all or nothing" attitude. Flexibility is key, especially if you do have a family and commitments outside of the home. Keeping this sort of attitude will reduce your stress levels and help you to be more productive. After all, how creative can you be if you've continually got one eye on the calendar?

Good luck, and Happy Holidays!

*Don't have goals or know about goal setting? We'll be talking about that in January!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Friday Reads

I'm starting a new series of posts on what I'm reading. On Fridays I'll talk about my current book (as applicable -- I don't read as much as I used to, thanks to my growing family), and I hope you'll tell me what's on your nightstand!

My ten-year-old and I have been reading the 39 Clues series together, and we've both really enjoyed it. We came in late to the series so we were able to do a good glut of the books as we got caught up to the publishing schedule. The most recent one we just completed was The Medusa Complex, which is the first book in a subsequent series called Cahills vs. Vespers (sounds horribly complicated, doesn't it?). There are 11 books in the original series, and thus far two in the second series. (Wikipedia shows slots for a total of six books in series two. Careful with that link! Spoilers abound!)

Siblings Amy and Dan Cahill inherit a mystery and a challenge: find the 39 clues before any other branches of their large family do.

I like to think of these books as Clive Cussler or John LeCarre lite. They're packed full of adventure (there tends to be quite a bit of disbelief suspension here, but they are kids' books, after all!) and the main characters are very likeable. There are a couple of deaths that take place in the first series (not graphically), as well as some rather scary moments, so I'd hesitate on giving them to readers much younger than 9 or 10. In some ways the books are much like a literary version of the TV show, The Amazing Race. The families (teams) must race from location to location, solving puzzles to find clues. The pace is screaming-fast, but the books are short so that's not really a surprise.

For adults, they're very easy reading, so most will be able to finish these within a couple of days. If you're looking for something fun to share with your child, these will fit the bill as well. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: The Idea File

Talk to any published author and they'll tell you that one of the most frequently asked questions they hear is "Where do you get your ideas?" And in many cases, the answer to that question will be: "Everywhere." Authors constantly gather new story ideas. They skim, file and store away snippets that may or may not be used again later.

But what are some of the ways they get these ideas? you might ask. Here are a few suggestions. Beyond that, you can use your imagination -- because that's what writers do, right?

  • Read. Everything. Inside of your genre and out.
  • Read non-fiction. Magazines are great sources of material, as are newspapers and professional journals. Maybe some little-known fact or scientific discovery will be a plot point in your next novel.
  • Listen. The world is full of conversation. The next time you're seated in a public location, take a moment to listen to what's happening around you. Great bits of conversation can lead to more.
  • Keep notes. Have a notebook and pen with you at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike, so you'll want to be prepared. This is especially true at bedtime. Ideas always seem to pop up just as you're drifting off to sleep.
  • Play the 'What If' game. Ask yourself "What if?" over and over, always taking your answer one step farther. Who knows where you'll end up?
  • Climb up your family tree. Maybe you've got interesting ancestors or relatives who did amazing things.
  • Finally, Write. Keep writing. Many times the creativity of the writing process will feed upon itself. The more you exercise your brain, the stronger it will get. A number of authors will say that their own work will spark something new.
These are just a few of the ways to to get your creative juices flowing. I'm certain you can come up with even more. Good luck!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Tuesday Tips: Hobby or Career?

You want to write a book. You know desperately, deep down in your soul that that's what you're meant to do. You've got a notebook overflowing with story ideas, each one better than the last.

So what do you do with this ambition, those great ideas? Do you sit down at your computer every once in a while, when the mood strikes, and tap out a paragraph or two? Or do you have a daily routine that incorporates either page count or word count goals?

Which trait do you think is going to lead to greater success?

We all know people who've said that magical phrase, "Oh, I'm going to write a book someday." don't we? We might wonder if this magnificent piece of literature will ever see the light of day, especially when the author (to be) makes excuse after excuse for not having the book finished.

But the author who rises at 7:00AM every morning and steadfastly types away at the keyboard for two hours, or the mother who steals thirty minutes of time during her baby's nap, or the guy who stays up until midnight every night, steadily working -- they have a much greater chance of success, even though (for example, in the mother's case) the daily word count totals might be quite low.

What's the difference here?

It's the fact that the authors who are writing consistently and regularly, setting aside specific blocks of time to work, are treating their writing as a job, not a hobby. And this is what you need to do, especially if you are serious about writing books and making this your career or second source of income. Despite what you might believe, you *can* get up a half-hour earlier, or stay up a half-hour later. Or skip watching that sitcom. Or spend less time aimlessly surfing the internet. (Okay, I know, that one's easier said than done!) There *is* time out there -- you just need to find it and commit to using it productively. And if you can do that, you're a giant step ahead of all those who say "Oh, one day..."

Good luck!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Craft

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that in order to be truly world class at whatever it is that you do, you need to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing or honing your craft.

To make that number more tangible, those 10,000 hours equal approximately four years of working full time. Can you imagine having to work on books for four years straight to be successful? Truthfully, for some, it does take that long to write a book that will sell, but for others the process can happen much more quickly.

Does that mean you shouldn't try to log those hours? Not at all. I think the most important point to remember here is whether it takes you a hundred hours to write and sell that book or ten thousand hours, you are constantly improving. The more you write, the better you'll be at it. With each book you complete, your skill level rises. So the more hours you can commit to putting your rear end in your chair and getting your hands on your keyboard, the better off you'll be in the long run.

Next time, we'll talk about hobby vs. career. See you then, and good luck!

ps. Remember -- if you have a question about the craft of writing, or something industry related, let me know and I'll answer you in one of the Tuesday posts!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Craft

Today's tip is one that I think is quite helpful:

Read your story out loud.

I know the idea sounds ridiculous, but I want you to give it a try. There's no easier way to check if your writing is too stilted or formal than to read it aloud. You can absolutely do this in the privacy of your own home, but if you want an extra pair of ears to follow along, there's nothing wrong with reading it to a trusted friend, either.

If the words coming out of your mouth sound strange or make you stumble, it's a surefire sign that you need to relax and tweak your writing. Your reader will feel the awkwardness as she reads, so you want your prose to be as natural as possible. You also don't need to read the entire manuscript at once. Break it up into chunks. Maybe by paragraph or page. But definitely give it a shot. I think you'll find it incredibly helpful. Good luck!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Ask Tanya!

Dear Tanya,
Help! I can never remember the difference between their, they're and there. Any tips?
Sam, Illinois

Sure! Boy, the English language can be tricky at times, can't it? Here are a few suggestions to ensure correct usage of these terms.

Their is used when referring to ownership. Eg. He was searching for their luggage.

They're is a contraction of the words they are, so when you're using it you need to think of those two words. And they are usually doing something. Eg. They're going to the movies tonight.

There refers to a location. Eg. Did you see the bonfire over there?

I find if you always double check your sentences when writing, eventually knowing the difference will become second nature. Good luck!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tuesday Tips: Ask Tanya!

Dear Tanya,
I wanted to know, do I need an agent to get my book published?
-- Kim, Toronto

Great question! And the answer is relatively straightforward -- mostly. It all depends on the goal you have in mind for your book. Are you aiming to have your book in print with a traditional New York publisher? Or have you written something that doesn't quite fit in the "traditional publishing" box, ie. a novella? Maybe something written in an unusual style? For the former, you more than likely will need representation, but for the latter, you probably won't (by this I mean epublishers, independents, self-publishing, etc.). The easiest way to find out would be to check the publisher's submission requirements. In our current online world, this is not difficult to do. All of the houses have an online presence where they will explicitly outline exactly what they want to see.

And an important point of note here: the guidelines are there for a reason. You can't assume that they don't apply to you, for whatever reason. Blatantly ignoring a house's guidelines is the quickest way to the rejection pile that I know. It's also the first step in building the wrong sort of reputation in the publishing industry. (If he/she can't follow simple submission guidelines, what is he/she going to be like to work with later?)

So how do you find that agent? One word: research. There are many reputable, hard-working agents out there, and there are unscrupulous ones as well. Word-of-mouth is a great tool. Also, finding agents who represent authors who write in a similar style or genre to you could also be helpful. Just be cautious before you sign your name on that dotted line.

And whatever you decide to do, good luck!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

Hope everyone has a spooky day!

What's your favourite scary novel?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

And the playing field widens...

Just heard today that Kobo Books is joining Amazon et al in the book publishing business. Check out this article on the CBC website for the details.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


...and welcome!

I presume you're here because you're either curious about the whole book publishing process, or you've written one or more books and are looking to actually take the next step with them. That's great! I hope you'll find something of interest here on my blog. Rates and services are available by clicking on the tab at the top of the page. Also, you can always email me at tanyasaari AT gmail DOT com and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Good luck, and here's to publishing success!