Tom's Writing Workshop

Advice, exercises and thoughts on the craft of writing fiction.

Imagining Darwin 2

Almost from the moment the Beagle first set sail, Darwin was violently seasick and spent the first few weeks of the journey into the Atlantic confined to his cabin and unable to keep food down. It seemed to him he had made an enormous mistake undertaking this voyage. He recovered enough to change his mind […]

Imagining Darwin

  I’m working on a novel set during Darwin’s voyage on board the Beagle. In order to find my way imaginatively into his world, I’ve been creating dioramas out of my kids’ old toys, illustrating key moments in Darwin’s life (something like the collages I made when I was working on my novel Salamander, but […]

A Soundtrack for Every Blade of Grass

A Soundtrack for Every Blade of Grass What follows are the names of some tracks and artists that inspired me during the writing of Every Blade of Grass. In most cases I found that a particular piece of music came to represent a scene or an aspect of the book’s themes of wonder, loss, and […]

Naked people in books

        Read the following passage. There will be a short quiz afterward.   Augustus was intently writing at his desk when there was a knock at the door. With a low growl he thrust the quill pen into its holder, rose from his chair, strode to the door and threw it open. […]

How & Why This Writer Went Hybrid, Part 3

    Okay, I promised to get to the WHY.     Just to keep the Darwinian metaphor going a bit longer: one could compare the life of a hybrid author with that of a hybrid vehicle. Able to run on fossil fuels (traditional publishing) as well as some form of clean, sustainable energy (the […]

How and Why I Went Hybrid, Part 2 (or, the Origin of Novel by Means of Editorial Selection)

“To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom.”      Kyojukaimon   I was going to continue this story by talking about why I chose to go the self-publishing route. Then a reader asked me […]

Useful monsters

The wolf prowls the worlds of Story in many guises.   Wolves have been demonized in stories probably since stories were first told, or at least since humans began to domesticate sheep and cows and other animals. When this happened, however many thousands of years ago, when we began to keep animals as captive protein […]

The Elements of Story: The Fifth Element

“The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms.”  – Muriel Rukeyser “The creative element in the mind of man . . . emerges in as mysterious a fashion as those elementary particles which leap into momentary existence in great cyclotrons, only to vanish again like infinitesimal ghosts.”  – Loren Eiseley   In earlier […]

How and Why I Became A Hybrid Author

I’ll start with the how, and get to the why in a follow-up post. Actually it probably makes sense to start with the term “hybrid author.” When a friend first let me know I’d become a hybrid author, I had no idea what she meant and so I went looking for a definition. According to […]

“I hate it here.”

The other day one of my writing students said casually, “I don’t set any of my stories in Edmonton because I hate it here.” I was surprised, not so much about the expression of hate as the fact that she wouldn’t write about the place where she lives. A lot of Edmontonians like to grumble […]