2014 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

After a beautiful week off celebrating Christmas with loved ones, I am sitting down to work on my novel, which I haven’t touched since mid-November. Did you find it difficult to squeeze in writing time over the holidays?

Often we feel like we can’t work on our book unless we’re locked away in our room, with no conversations or plans to distract us or tempt us away from the task of concentrating and putting everything we have into one book.

This time, I don’t feel like it’s difficult to get back into the story. I don’t feel that dread you get the night before you know you’re going to have to trudge through the mud that is trying to re-absorb and remember the details of your story so that you can actually work on and improve it. (It’s no coincidence that sentence felt long and difficult to get through – just like that first edit.) What’s different this time? Confidence. Excitement. The last time I worked on my story, I deleted entire scenes and moved big moments closer together – and it paid off. I felt it when I re-read the first few chapters. And I felt it when Team Tweak emailed me back their enthusiastic response.

So do yourself a favour this year. Is your New Year’s resolution to publish your novel? To finish it? To start it? Let 2014 be your year. Here’s how.

2014 New Year’s resolutions for writers

  1. Write. Now. Don’t wait until 2014! That’s how you end up with that horrible dread and lack of confidence the night before your first big editing day. Take bite-sized chunks. Start with reading this post, then opening up that file and reading a few pages of your book to get back into your world. Then put it away. Or, at least, tell yourself you’ll put it away and continue another day – but maybe you’ll find you’re so into your own story that you’re ready to work on it now. You might surprise yourself with how wonderful it feels to be back.
  2. Make a plan. Is your goal right now to finish your book? Or to read over the complete draft and improve it? Or to find someone to publish it? You need to know where you’re going before you jump into this again.
  3. Write down what you’re going to have to do to get there. For instance, I’m reading over my latest draft and improving scenes that I didn’t get a chance to look over since Team Tweak sent suggestions for them. My book has matured so much and it’s just about ready to go out into the world. So my “steps” right now involve re-reading and tweaking. Your steps might be similar, or perhaps you’re at the querying stage (we can help you learn how to write a query letter). Perhaps you’re looking for some feedback (check out Team Tweak’s critiquing service). Or maybe you just want to get past writer’s block. Whatever stage you’re at, Team Tweak is here to help – and making a list of baby steps will help you get there.
  4. Hone your craft. Meet other writers. Get excited about writing again. If you live in the GTA, take advantage of Brian Henry’s workshops. Team Tweak met at one of these helpful classes and since then, all of us have found that our stories have reached new heights. We can vouch for this!
  5. Believe in yourself. KNOW that your book will be published, or finished, or whatever you want it to be. And TELL people. Since I’ve started my Christmas vacation, a couple friends have already asked me how my book editing is going. It feels great to know friends are interested and supportive, and it also helps keep you on track!

Happy New Year from all of us at Team Tweak!


Industry Q & A: Chantel Guertin, Author

Chantel taught me the basics of writing for magazines in Centennial College’s post-grad publishing program. She’s smart, savvy and sophisticated – and what better way to describe a woman who is editor-at-large at The Kit, a beauty expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, teaches publishing and writes novels? She’s also become my publishing mentor and a good friend.

That’s why I couldn’t be happier to say we’re giving away 2 copies of Chantel’s latest book, The Rule of Thirds, which came out this fall and was published by ECW Press. Following Pippa Greene’s adventures in high school, The Rule of Thirds blends the difficulty of losing a loved one with the fun of bonding with your best friend along with must-have elements of romance. To enter for a chance to win, comment below before December 27, 2013 and tell us: what is your favourite genre of book to read?


Name: Chantel Guertin
Genres: Chicklit, YA
Astrological sign: Pisces (this is very important!)

Q:  When do you get most of your writing done?

A: When I’m not online shopping or checking my emails.

Q:  What has the querying process been like for you?

A: I queried to get an agent for my first novel, Stuck in Downward Dog. Then my publisher bought my second book, Love Struck, on a partial manuscript. When I made the switch to YA, I sent the book out to a few editors, and my publisher, ECW Press, bought The Rule of Thirds in a two-book deal, asking if I’d consider making it the first in a series. The hardest part is definitely getting rejections. Even worse? Those form rejections where they didn’t even look at your book.

Q:  Do you do writing exercises before launching into your book?

A: No. I just write.

Q:  Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

A: I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Except for a brief spell where I thought I’d grow up to be a cashier, based on my love of the Fisher-Price cashier I had set up in my bedroom when I was 8.

Q:  How much time do you spend planning your story as compared to writing it?

A: It’s probably about equal! I tend to do my best planning while on a run.

Q:  When do you feel like your manuscript is submission ready?

A: When I get the first copies in the mail and know that making changes is no longer possible.

Q: Where do you do your best work?

A: Ideally, holed up in cabin in the woods with no internet or phones. It’s too cold to go outside, so I can do nothing but sit by the fire, drink wine, and write. When I can’t get that, I’ll settle for my bed, laptop on lap, headphones in.

Q: What is your favourite colour?

A: Easy. Blue. Just ask my fiancé. I just finished picking out 17 different shades of blue (that I was certain were very, very different) to repaint our new house, and every single room looks exactly the same.

Read Chantel’s blog or follow her on Twitter @chantelguertin.

Want to win a copy of Chantel’s latest book, The Rule of Thirds? To enter for a chance to win, comment below before December 20, 2013 and tell us: what is your favourite genre of book to read?

Industry Q & A: Erin Hagget, Assistant Editor in Publishing

Name: Erin Hagget
Company: Scholastic Canada Ltd.
Position: Assistant Editor in Publishing
Genre: Early Reader to Young Adult
Astrological Sign: Curious minds need to know


Reading! Yay!

Scholastic is one of those publishing companies that most Canadians grow up with; children flip through book orders looking for what may become their new favourite book and then grow up with fond memories of Clifford and The Magic School Bus. Any author would dream of having their books make their way into schools.

Erin is one of my closest friends from the Book and Magazine Publishing certificate program at Centennial College; since then, we’ve worked together on the online pet magazine Petpourri.ca and meet up once in a while to attend industry events, such as book launches and Book Camp TO.

Team Tweak TO connected with Erin Haggett, assistant editor in publishing at Scholastic Canada Ltd., to ask for her insight into finding jobs in the publishing industry.

Q: What is your relationship with the book you work on and the writer of that book? We’d love a brief description of what you do and how it pertains to the author.
A: I’m an assistant editor, so I tend to work on a variety of projects. I usually work on books in the later stage of the publishing process, particularly the proofreading, ebook development, and reprints stages. Because I come in so late in the process, I rarely have any direct contact with authors.

Q: How can an author help in this process?
A: I can’t speak to specifics because authors aren’t usually directly involved in the type of work I’m currently doing, but being open, accessible, and enthusiastic is always great! As is meeting deadlines 🙂

Q: How did you end up in this field?
A: I graduated with a BA in Media, Information, and Technoculture from the University of Western Ontario before completing the Book and Magazine Publishing program through Centennial College.

Q: Do you have advice for others who want to get into your field?
A: Read everything you can, don’t be too intimidated by the tough job market, and talk to others in the field—nearly everyone you meet will be willing to give advice and/or assistance.

Q: What is your favourite aspect of your work?
A: I work in children’s publishing, so I love the variety of books I get to work on—they can be anything from picture books to YA novels. I also love that I have a part in encouraging kids to become lifelong readers!

Q: How do you start your day?/What do you like to drink while working?/What do you listen to while working?/Where do you do your best work?/What is your favourite colour?
A: I generally start my day by catching up on email, then jumping right in to my project(s). I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love tea, so I usually have a couple cups a day. I don’t usually listen to music or anything else while I work. I prefer a quiet environment, without a lot of distractions, particularly if I’m proofreading. I don’t have one favourite colour, but I tend to gravitate towards cool colours: purples, blues, and greens are my go-to palette.

When will I have time to write?

On Thanksgiving weekend I was all excited to start my day afresh, to spend all day writing and editing my book, when I realized that my homework has a deadline, but my book…does not.

That’s something many writers can relate to, the big question of, “When will I have time to write?” When, between the deadlines that seem as tangible as the keyboard beneath your fingers, will you have time to write? You need to hand your work in to your boss on time. You need to submit your assignment to your teacher on time. Your friends or your kids or your loved ones expect you to be somewhere at a certain time, and you want to be there. But you also want, and need, to write. Why? Because you’re a writer.

So when will you write?

Just do it. Nike had it right. Just do it. Just sit down and do it. Even for 5 minutes – and you’ll feel the difference! Once you’re writing again, you’ll light up inside and suddenly you won’t be asking, “When will I have time to write?” Instead, you’ll be writing.

And when a deadline is looming or you feel too busy, let this be your inspiration:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Team Tweak’s Tips: Hanging Loose With Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

“Josie saw the rain clouds walking down the street.”

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.” – Groucho Marx

Hopefully reading the quotes up above made you smile, giggle or even roll off your seat, doubled over with laughter. If you find yourself rather puzzled as to why, then keep reading (but keep reading anyway, everyone!).

The quotations posted above are examples of dangling, or misplaced, modifiers. What is this newfangled notion?

As you probably already know or can tell, “modifier” is a term that refers to words or phrases that describe something or add information to something. Modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, phrases or clauses. A dangling modifier is one that has been placed incorrectly in a sentence, so that it can’t connect to the object it’s supposed to be describing.

So Groucho Marx’s “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas” could technically mean that Groucho shot an elephant who was wearing Groucho’s pajamas. Most of us read this sentence and think, “Well duh, he means that he was wearing his pajamas when he shot the elephant.” The meaning may be obvious here but that’s not always the case; plus, when you’re submitting a manuscript, you want your grammar to follow the usual rules, right?

Here are some more examples of dangling modifiers:

“Covered in a delicious layer of frosting, he wasn’t surprised when he found out his best cupcakes had won the competition.”
(OK, that’s weird, the guy who baked the award-winning cupcakes is covered in frosting!)

“Small, round and ugly, Nancy thought the baby was anything but cute.”
(If Nancy’s so unappealing, then why is she so ready to judge a baby based on its appearance?)

Usually, it helps to place the modifier next to the object it’s describing. As others have said, “Modifiers are like teenagers: they fall in love with whatever they’re next to.”

So: “He wasn’t surprised when he found out his best cupcakes, which were covered in a delicious layer of frosting, had won the competition.”

Keep a close eye out for dangling modifiers; your brain will be quick to correct the meaning of one so you might not even notice it. But an editor will! Plus, dangling modifiers are just so much fun to read and find.