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Anatomy of a Page-Turner

Anatomy of a Page-Turner

"I couldn't put it down!" Authors love to hear readers say those words. So do our publishers. But what, exactly, is this mysterious literary essence that hooks a reader? What holds them so hard, they simply must keep reading, often long into the night? I unlock the...

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The Thrill of the First Sentence

The Thrill of the First Sentence

How To Write a Winning "Hook" Do you slave over your story’s opening sentence? Good! That’s what successful writers do: write it, revise it, and tweak it until they’re sure it will fire the reader's desire to know what comes next. A first sentence must be a "hook."...

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Writing Is an Extreme Sport

Writing Is an Extreme Sport

Writing? An extreme sport? Hell, yes. We rappel up rock-faces of chapters. We raft through rapids of plot. We hang-glide on unstable character arcs, and bobsled down ice alleys of dialogue, then run a marathon of revision. Sometimes, like the fellow in the Stephen...

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What You Have in Common with this Bestselling Author

What You Have in Common with this Bestselling Author

  I’m a big fan of bestselling author John le Carré, so I’ve often applied admiring adjectives to his novels. But I came across an unfamiliar adjective in a review of his latest book. The critic wrote: “Le Carré’s prose remains brisk and lapidary.” Lapidary? What did...

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“Wondrous” Is the Word

“Wondrous” Is the Word

Exciting update! I recently posted here about a fine writer I mentored – Christine Higdon – whose debut novel The Very Marrow of Our Bones was just released. Well, the Toronto Star has just given it a glowing review, calling it “a wondrous book.” Absolutely true! I’m...

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Magic Moments

Magic Moments

The package arrived on my doorstep. A crisp new book, sent by the author, Christine Higdon. Her debut novel. I felt a sweet excitement, because I had mentored Christine in the early stage of her manuscript, and now here was the published book in all its bright...

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Words of Wisdom: Advice from the Pros

Words of Wisdom: Advice from the Pros

What should a writer write about? The all-too-common answer is: “Write what you know.” But in his book The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (above) blows away that dusty dictum, warning that “Nothing is more limiting to the imagination.” I read that statement by Gardner...

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Bold Beginnings: Your Story’s Inciting Incident

Bold Beginnings: Your Story’s Inciting Incident

Knowing where to start your novel is crucial. It’s also difficult. New writers often make the mistake of beginning with description – pages and pages that describe characters, backstory, setting – before the story gets rolling. The trouble with this is that readers...

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Writer’s Block? Try These Block Busters

Writer’s Block? Try These Block Busters

A writer I’m mentoring asked a question the other day about how to deal with avoidance – that feeling that you just can’t seem to get down to work. The dreaded “writer's block.” In my career as an author, I’ve learned that the issue is not so much a blockage as a...

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A Musical and a Funeral

A Musical and a Funeral

A musical and a funeral. What, you might ask, could these two disparate experiences possibly have in common? Well, they both set my writer’s senses humming. First, my daughter and I saw the Stratford Festival’s brilliant, boisterous production of the musical comedy...

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Cherish Your Writer Comrades

Cherish Your Writer Comrades

Has this ever happened to you? You’re at a party, telling a new acquaintance about a plot twist for your story, and they look at you with polite bewilderment, and perhaps a wince of boredom. But later, you tell a fellow writer about the same plot twist and they’re...

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NEW: The “My Writing Mentor” Program

NEW: The “My Writing Mentor” Program

There’s no satisfaction like completing your book and celebrating, because you know it’s really good – the kind of book that can attract a top agent and win an offer from a major publisher. But moving forward all alone can be a challenge. You may be finding yourself a...

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The Creative Process: Finding Your Own Way

The Creative Process: Finding Your Own Way

Story creation is a joy. But sometimes the process can lead us on a twisty path. I’m at work on a new novel with the working title Fearful Symmetry. I say “new” but the idea for it came to me years ago. Sixteen years, to be exact. At that time, I’d had a satisfying...

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Wise Advice from a Legendary Agent

Years ago, when I was querying agents about my first novel, I read an interview with top agent Albert Zuckerman in which he was asked, “What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d give a new writer?” His answer was, “Be willing to work your ass off.” Aha, I...

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Purple Prose vs. the Real Deal

Purple Prose vs. the Real Deal

I spoke by Skype recently to a very gifted writer I’m mentoring, and he told me his previous attempts at fiction were an embarrassment of “purple prose," the phrase writers use for overblown, overwritten language. He had, he said, cured himself of that failing. I told...

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Common Problem, Easy Fix

Common Problem, Easy Fix

If you’re a writer, you delight in words. Word patterns. Word play. Word power. The love of words is in our DNA. Words are also the most basic tool you have in creating a story. The wise writer chooses words very carefully. Mentoring a writer recently, I pointed out...

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Your Path to Writing a Page-Turner

Your Path to Writing a Page-Turner

Announcing! I'm so excited to share this with you. My new online program "Your Path to a Page-Turner" is now live. I designed this program to help you create the kind of book that excites agents and publishers and thrills readers. A page-turner. A book that leaves...

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I Know How You Feel. I’ve Been There.

I Know How You Feel. I’ve Been There.

In my career as an author, I've faced every challenge you're facing now. Writing a compelling book takes serious work, but the rewards are so worth the effort. Let me tell you a true story. Years ago, like every new writer trying to break in with their first novel, I...

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Pitch Perfect: 10 Tips for Writing a Successful Query

Pitch Perfect: 10 Tips for Writing a Successful Query

Finished your book? First, congratulate yourself. Writing a book is a marathon, and only those who’ve made it to “The End” understand the determination it requires. Now you want to get it published, and that's your next challenge. In today’s tough marketplace you get...

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The Essential “Three A’s” of a Page-Turner

The Essential “Three A’s” of a Page-Turner

In my career as an author, I've faced every challenge you're facing now. Having had ten novels published with sales of over half a million books, I know what agents and publishers are looking for, what they want—and don’t want. What they always want, whatever the...

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? I once heard bestselling author John LeCarré give an interview in which he spoke about the role of conflict in fiction. He said: “‘The cat sat on the mat’ is not a story, but ‘The cat sat on the dog’s mat’ — that's the beginning of a...

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What’s Holding You Back?

What’s Holding You Back?

There's always one obstacle that gets in the way of writing, isn't there? When I was starting out (eleven novels ago), my personal obstacle was what I call the "tyranny of expectations," that unhelpful inner voice demanding perfection in a first draft. I learned how...

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Making an Entrance

My New Year's wish for you is the joy of writing. Here's a tip to bring verve to your story's opening. It's an excerpt from my book, Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy. MAKING AN ENTRANCE First impressions are crucial. We...

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Crafting a Page-Turner

“The king died and then the queen died,” is just a sequence of events, but “The king died and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. The queen’s sorrow caused her death. The characters caused the plot.

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NEW! The Thornleigh Saga Novels Are Now Audio Books

Good news if you love listening to books. All seven novels in my Thornleigh Saga series are now audio books. All are narrated by yours truly. I really enjoyed "giving voice" to the characters in these stories, and I hope you'll enjoy listening to them. To hear a...

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Virtual Book Tour

Virtual Book Tour

29 April 29 - 17 May, 2013 Join me on my virtual tour with my new release Blood Between Queens! Here's the tour schedule: Monday, April 29 Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Tuesday, April 30 Review at Bitches with Books...

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Stratford Festival – 10 July, 2013

Stratford Festival – 10 July, 2013

[wpcol_2third id="" class="" style=""] There was standing room only for my recent talk at Ontario's world-renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I spoke about "Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: Leadership Lost and Won" and signed copies of Blood Between Queens. What...

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Making an Entrance

First impressions are crucial. Your initial response when you meet a person gets imprinted in your mind and is hard to alter, and this is equally true of a reader’s first impression of a character in fiction. Their response to the protagonist, in particular, is...

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Deep Genre: Taking the Thriller Beyond Cheap Thrills

It’s often said that a good thriller is like a roller coaster ride. That’s true enough. The genre is about high stakes, countdowns, and suspense, and every good thriller delivers this kind of excitement. But the best thrillers deliver more – an exciting story that...

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“Ah,” he Prevaricated: the Delights of Dialogue

Sometimes people can’t wait to speak. Sometimes they’d almost rather die than speak. Sometimes people don’t say what they mean. Sometimes they don’t mean what they say. All of this makes dialogue stimulating to read – and challenging to write. But it’s well worth...

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Bold Beginnings: Your Story’s Inciting Incident

Knowing where to start your novel is crucial. It’s also difficult. New writers often make the mistake of beginning with description – pages, even chapters, describing characters, backstory, setting – before the story gets rolling. The trouble is, readers can’t feel...

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Tips From a First Draft Survivor

You write fiction because you’re creative. So why is creating so difficult? I believe it's the tyranny of expectations. You sit down in front of that blank screen and you have to produce. I don't know any writer who isn't somewhat cowed by that pressure. For me, the...

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Judge’s Comments

Short Story Competition 2004 Canadian Authors Association, Niagara Branch Great fiction kindles enlightenment about the human condition. A novel ignites understanding in a floodlight, while a short story creates a small but fiery flash. The illumination can be equally...

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The Write Stuff

On a brisk evening last October, fifteen strangers sat in the windowless meeting room of the Orangeville library, pens in hand. Among them were a lawyer, an HR manager, a computer programmer, an actress, a former insurance executive, a young mother, a chef, and a...

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Risk Taking for Writers

PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) Seminar March 9, 2004 Who Do You Think You Are? All of you who've come here tonight have taken a shocking risk: you dare to think of yourselves as writers. That may be the biggest hurdle – the psychological one....

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