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Time for a Marathon, Writer Style with Dawn Groves

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      When it comes to rough drafts, it’s all about production. Get something done.

      I don’t like production writing. Rough drafts are always bad and I don’t like producing          crappy work. Yes, I understand it’s the necessary first step yada yada. That doesn’t make it any easier to accomplish.

      Enter writing buddies. Shared misery makes it more tolerable. There’s empathy. A hour of buddy writing can yield good results. Production happens.

     Unfortunately, a typical rough draft can be three times the size of its final form. If I’m writing a novel or a user manual, I’m talking big word counts.

     Enter writing marathons.

Natalie Goldberg is credited with popularizing the writing marathon concept. Her version involves several iterations of timed writes (often prompted) followed by short readings. Differing versions of her original program have since developed, the most well-known being the Annual New Orleans Writing Marathon sponsored by The Writing Project of Southeastern Louisiana University (SELU). SELU’s website  has become the how-to home base for writing marathons around the globe.

A writing marathon makes fast work of that first purple draft. It’s also a great way to jumpstart a
fledgling project or push seasoned work into completion. Well-orchestrated marathons can inspire participants of every skill level into generating remarkable output with surprisingly little difficulty. The key is the iterative structure supported by changing surroundings, short periods of sharing, physical movement (usually walking), strong leadership and periodic instruction, motivation, and problem-solving.

I’ll be conducting just such an experience on Jan 25th, 8 AM to 8 PM starting at the Book Fare Café above Village Books. The price is quite reasonable: $69. Sponsored by Whatcom Community College, Village Books, and the Fairhaven Village Inn, the Winter Writing Marathon is a precursor to the already successful Chuckanut Writers Conference

Of course not everyone has the time to attend. If this is your dilemma, then get busy and create your own marathon. Develop an agenda, set a date, invite friends, serve snacks and make sure everyone sticks to the schedule. There’s no reason we can’t all benefit from Goldberg’s concept. Let’s make 2013 a spectacular year not just for production writing, but also for manuscript completion.

Time’s a-passing, writers. Are you game?

For more information about the Winter Writing Marathon in Fairhaven,  

Contact Dawn Groves,

Research Is Your Lifeblood by Justin “Jux” Berg

It goes without saying that it is vital to make sure you have all of your bases covered before handing in a piece, a chapter or a full manuscript.

How can you be sure?

Research is the backbone of quality writing.  It’s how you support your points of view, your descriptions of eras, events and people; and it’s even important when crafting the vocabulary and dialect you choose for your characters’ voices.

There are many ways to conduct research.  Here are some avenues:

  1. Other books
  2. Magazine and newspaper articles
  3. Archived interviews
  4. Reliable web pages
  5. Film (movies and documentaries)
  6. Conducting your own interviews

The manuscript I am currently working on is a time period piece; a historical fiction about baseball in 1932.  In order to ensure I fully capture the zeitgeist of that era, I have embarked on extensive research.  I have watched documentaries, I have watched movies set in that time period (“The Sting” and “The Natural” to name a couple), I have read books about that era and about the players I am using for characters—I have even listened to 1930’s music to round out the experience.

In my soon-to-be novel, I have chosen to use all of the real players, statistics, ballparks, umpires and public figures from 1932—even though this is historical fiction.  I have chosen to create a ‘what-if scenario,’ in which I’m attempting to capture how events and results would have differed had the color barrier in baseball been broken fifteen years earlier by a different man (Satchel Paige).  I have utilized a website called, which has archived players, teams, managers, umpires, statistics and box scores all the way back to the early 1900s.  This has enabled me to get a better feel for which players and managers were a part of the two teams I am writing about (Yankees and Cubs).  It has also provided good background information for each player as they are introduced in the story.

It has also been important to research things like automobile models, train stations, city nightlife, social trends and much more as I attempt to paint the picture of that era, enabling the reader to travel back to 1932 in his/her mind.

In summary, research is vital for successful work.  It can be an exhilarating journey, as you discover facts and tidbits about what and who and when you are writing about.  So, before you hand in your hard work, be sure to take a trip to the library, scour the Internet and find some knowledgeable people to speak with.  You can never have enough information.




On Fonts in ePub

As I began my art career in Layout & Design, I learned to use fonts as a design element in advertisments, business cards, and posters.  I learned that design work takes a particularly good eye for composition, and a love of shapes.

As a writer, I like to use New Times Roman as I pen my novels and short-short stories.  It is easy to read, smallish, and clean.  I try to avoid the overuse of italics and fonts that are scriptlike with lots of flourishes.

When I began formating my novel, Whispering, Idaho, for eBook publication, I researched the web and found Arial suggested as a good font to use for ePub.  I think it looks decent and is easy to read.  The suggestion is to choose a font sans serif (without serifs).  Serifs make the type harder to read.

Upon discussing this with a friend recently, I was informed that she loves Georgia for her ebooks.  She says Arial is boring.  I tried it, but decided to go back to the Arial.  Simplicity is akin to cleanliness and Godliness in my book.  However, as I continue to ask around, I see that font-use is a personal choice…and though there are no hard and fast rules (except from publishers) we want people to be able to read our work.  I’ve heard of people giving up on a book because of the typeface used.

What typeface are you using for your ePublications?  Comment, if you like.  I’d love to hear your opinion.

Cheers,   Nancy Canyon, MFA I’m featured artist for Volume #65 of Bellingham Review.  Here’s the link





Simple Structure for Your NaNoWriMo Novel

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo  this November, here’s a simple structure to help you manage 1666 words per day: write your novel in the three-act play format.

Here’s how: 50,000 words turns into approximately 200 pages…if we divide this by four, we have four 50 page sections.  You could write one section per week.

Imagine in Act 1, you hook the reader, get down the premise of the story, and begin building dramatic conflict.  At the end of Act 1, you have a Big Scene where your character must deal with a crisis of some sort.  The curtain closes.

Act 2 is 100 pages, the character is reeling from an unexpected event.  At mid-point (another 50 pages of writing) you have another Big Scene. The character is forced to take action.  This should be major, forcing the character to deal with life issues, personality issues, a life and death situation, in other words, serious conflict.

Another 50 pages brings us to the end of Act 2 and another Big Scene.  The character has made a decision, hoping for resolution.  Curtain closes.

Act 3, the last 50 pages, brings us up to the end of the book.  The Big Scene at the end of the book should resolve the crisis, unless you’re writing a tragedy.  Then the denouement, the final outcome of the main dramatic complication.  Curtain closes.  The end.

I like this structure, particularly since I write without an outline.  In my daily writes, I write scenes which make up chapters.  The scenes do not have to be in order…they can be ordered later when the rewriting begins.  Each scene you write will trigger another scene.  Oh, this happened, now this must happen.  Or that happened, but what led up to it.  Just remember you must continue to up the stakes for the character.

Novels takes time…but generating with NaNoWriMo, you get the raw material down in one short month, then take your time with revision.  Are you ready?

Nancy Canyon, MFA

Honey Salon Art opening this Friday, 6-9, Art Walk.  Right next to Rocket Donuts on Holly.

Solo show, Honey Salon.  Opening Friday during Artwalk 6-9.  Stop by and say hello!

Cottonwoods, by Nancy Canyon