Book Trailer First – Then the Book! The Journey to #MNM2016 Beginneth!

Whenever a Muskoka Novel Marathon draws closer I kind of set into a panic mode of sorts. I look around me like a chef in Cutthroat Kitchen, desperate to find the ingredients and cooking implements I need to complete my next task. And I hope and I pray that nobody (i.e. me!) throws a monkey wrench sabotage into the works to mess me up. The marathon is only 72 hours long. And it only comes but once a year. It’s like I only have this short window to jump onto the merry-go-round and take a spin. I have to get it right…right out of the gate. The margin for error is ZERO.

So, this year…in my year of almost zero writing…I feel slightly more desperate than ever before. It’s April. The marathon is in July. I’m already looking around myself in desperation. WHAT CAN I THROW INTO THE BOWL? HOW DO I GET MY INGREDIENTS GOING!? The chefs on Cutthroat Kitchen get what? 30 seconds to grab everything they need from the pantry to make the required dish? I feel like my 30-second pantry time for the Muskoka Novel Marathon has begun. (I won’t even throw into this mix the fact that all the ingredients I pick up in my 30 seconds might just be taken from me once the starting bell rings out and the 72 hour writing adventure begins–believe me, this has happened to me in the past. I have gone in with a plan and immediately scrapped it and started writing something completely random as I sat down to begin. The marathon is organic when it wants to be—outlines be damned!) I’m looking around. And I’m saying, “How am I going to do this?! What can I throw into the bowl?!”

Enter my Book Trailer as an Outline idea I came up with for a workshop I did a couple years ago. I never did explore the story I created for the book trailer. Now, I’m thinking, ‘Well, there’s this?”

From the blog post I wrote at that time:

a YA wherein a boy comes out of the trees and gets himself wrapped up in the life of the girl who just moved into the house beyond his magical woods. It’ll be a story about him adjusting to being a teenager (as opposed to being the soul of a tree) and his romantic ties to the girl from the house…as they both adjust to being new at the area high school. I came up with this future YA project as a sample of a BOOK-TRAILER-AS-NOVEL-OUTLINE for a workshop I put together recently. I threw the book trailer together in a few minutes to show one way a writer can create an outline—especially helpful to writers who abhor outlines—ME. So after the book trailer was completed I thought, ‘that’s actually not a totally terrible idea’. I am now going to be exploring it and checking to see if it has a novel in it.

Here’s the trailer I culled together as an example of creating the trailer before you create the book:

If you are a writer…I think it’s worth the effort to explore creating a book trailer in advance of writing your next story. It’s creatively fun…and you may find that you come up with a more cohesive idea when you’re piecing it together in this way. I just watched this trailer again…after practically forgetting all about it. And I’m thinking, ‘Hey…I’d read that book!’ The question is, will I ever write it!!!???

I might just run with this idea at the #MNM2016 It’s not like I have any other ideas in the pan. I sense that the less you write, the less you use your imagination, the more it dries up and withers away and dies. But I may be wrong. I might step into the room at the marathon and be hit with a thousand and one ideas. Who knows? I find it’s best to be prepared with something…in case nothing comes on its own at the time the bell chimes and the writing begins. One needs to be able to start click click clacking on the keys the very second the marathon begins if one wants something to come out of the weekend. Down-time is the devil at the Muskoka Novel Marathon!

Speaking of the Muskoka Novel Marathon… I can certainly use your help raising funds for the literacy programs of Simcoe Muskoka County YMCA. My donation page is live. Any amount will help. I need to get the ball rolling on this one. We writers do have a decadent weekend of writing bliss to look forward to in this marathon…but the number one goal is to raise funds for literacy. We ARE Writers supporting readers, after all. Please consider making a donation…be a part of the solution and help usher those who need these programs out of the darkness of illiteracy and into the light!

Click on the pic below to be taken to my donation page…


Dear Diary – Exploring Character Through Diary Entries…

This is an article on writing originally published in the June/July 2004 issue of WCDR Wordweaver.

Dear Diary, Today I Discovered…

Is writer’s block getting you down? Are you working on a story but find that your characters are withholding information about themselves? What’s stopping you from getting into their heads, taking hold of the dark and sunny contemplations lurking there and pulling out the ever-illusive back-story?

Knowing your characters is, at times, the hardest part of writing fiction. You can leave them in limbo for days on end as you agonize over their next moves. If they’re not willing to open up to you, you’re stuck.


But as their creator, you should be omnipotent. It’s your right to intrude on their privacy and find out what’s under the surface. There’s no better way to do this than to take possession of their minds and write their personal diary entries!


One day I was faced with a character I loved, but could find no means to carry him forward into my story. Struggling with his motivations, I couldn’t imagine what he’d do next. It was obvious that I didn’t really know who he was. That’s when I had an idea. Why don’t I just step inside his head and find out? He could tell me where he wanted to go.


You might think this sounds crazy. But one of my personal theories about writers is that we’re all just a few drops short of a river to begin with (i.e., we’re right-brained geniuses who are able to see the world around us as a constantly shifting wonderland filled with endless fictional possibilities).


Maybe this diary entry concept is a writing tool you already employ. But if not, I have a feeling you might be thinking, ‘Hmmm, sounds like a good idea’, especially those of you who have a minor character haunting your backstage, waiting to be thrust into the limelight of your story.


Diaries don’t form who we are, but they’re definitely a living record of that forming. You can’t read a person’s diary without knowing them a whole lot better afterwards. I’ve been keeping separate diary notebooks for years, exploring my characters in ways I never before could.


I simply write a character’s name and a date at the top of the page, throw myself into that character’s headspace and begin writing the entry.


I find that the date I choose is always helpful in this character study. If I choose a date years prior to my story, I can learn things about my character that have helped to form the way he reacts to certain situations.


For instance, if I explore a childhood entry I might find him writing about a traumatic experience and I suddenly understand why he is timid and skittish. Or I may choose a date a week prior to my story and discover why my character is in her present mood. If she writes about losing her job, her true love and her house all in one day, I’m going to understand why, on page two of my story, it makes perfect sense that she’s on the subway with unkempt hair, waving a loaded .45.


You can also write an entry that takes place two months after your story ends. Think of the possibilities this opens up! You might learn how to end your story by knowing what your character is going through in the future.


You’re the creator. This makes you the god of the quirky little worlds you create. When writing your story, don’t feel the need to trap yourself within its timelines. You have the right to move freely through time – something your characters can’t always do themselves.


Sure, you’ll feel like you’re being intrusive, like you’re somehow invading a sacred place. You might even sense people breathing over your shoulder as you write. But don’t worry. You’ll learn that your characters enjoy writing in their diaries. It gives them the opportunity to stretch their limbs and tell you a little about themselves; maybe they’ll even feel more real and validated.


The entries you create will definitely have an impact on your stories, even if what you write never finds its way into your narrative. Consider these entries as getting-to-know-you sessions. Never actually using the material does not make this a futile exercise.


On the contrary, you may find yourself on the fast track with loads of new material to work with. These people will have lives leading up to and away from your stories. You will have to write faster just to keep up with them! Now, where was I?


Oh yeah, ‘Dear Diary…

Writers – Fill Your Toolbox with Love Not Hammers

I wrote this a few years ago. It was originally published in the WCDR Wordweaver Newsletter. I think it’s a good reminder for writers everywhere…
Filling Your Writerly Toolbox
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the writer’s toolbox could include such a thing as a hammer! We could smash those uncooperative words to bits and smithereens whenever they decide not to mold to the articulations of our wandering thoughts. Sadly, this is not a very helpful tool to the creative force behind writing. We would tend to think of the hammer as Home Depot’s answer to that nagging internal editor… not very practical when creating. Perhaps we should leave it where it belongs… in the editor’s toolbox. They are more apt to use it with the care, precision and respect the weapon, er, tool demands.
What the writer should be able to find in their toolbox are flowers. And trees. And memories. And people. And voices. And birds. We should be able to open that box every day and walk into another world. Picture Narnia without the bulky wardrobe, Neverland without the hassle of learning the leap of faith needed to fly or even Wonderland without the bumps and scrapes accumulated from the fall that takes you there. We should be able to open our toolboxes and look in, reach in and grab out imagination itself. Whether we crack it open for a creative session of poetry or to write the latest freelance article on sleep apnea, we should be able to find helpful gadgets inside that will help us reach our eventual goal.
Writers should realize that the world around them is their toolbox. They should remember to take long walks in conservation areas, memorizing the texture of bark and the names of plants, trees and flowers. (Or even the taste and grit of dirt on their tongues, if they are so inclined.) They should sit on benches in malls and stare into the faces of strangers. They should collect scars, hairstyles and peculiarities from these people… write them down in notepads for future use. They should be in the business of accumulation, swallowing whole the world around them and spewing it back into their neat little toolbox for future excavations into the world of words.
Alongside daisies, alders and people–pictures that can be freely amassed–writers should also find at least one dictionary and an accompanying thesaurus. (We are never too old to learn new words and strengthen our vocabularies.) Leaning against their collected sounds of the ocean, and insects and wind, they should find a good reliable style guide. These things help to curb our tendencies to ramble, suggest to us the best possible way to present our thoughts. These are all good things, just as necessary to the process of writing as jumping off the edges of our imaginations to discover other more tantalizing worlds than our own.
Whatever you choose to arm your own toolbox with, you should make sure it contains a healthy balance. It should be two parts imagination, one-part reference books and maybe even one-part bravado… borrowed or genuine. If this is not enough, if capturing the world and squeezing it into the small confines of an imaginary toolbox is not quite enough to get you to where you need to go…take courses. Attend workshops in the areas that interest you. Never forget to squeeze mentors and teachers into that bustling box. Never underestimate the amount you still need to learn to improve upon what you already know about this thing called writing… this beautiful gift that is yours for the taking. Cultivating your gift with a well-stocked toolbox is the only way to show it the respect it deserves.