Archive for October, 2011

Writing Update: Manuscript Finished!

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Six months ago to the day, I started drafting the manuscript for novel #3 (it’s still untitled). Last night, at close to midnight, I actually wrote the words “The End” to complete the draft. It always feels great to bring the story full circle. It comes with a real sense of accomplishment, even though the journey is far from over. The manuscript is just over 91,000 words, which should make the book about 300 pages, I figure.

So what’s next? Well, now I head back to Chapter 1 and start the editing and polishing process. I also do a ‘humour check.’ This can mean toning down or even cutting out some of the funny stuff that may just be trying too hard. Alternatively, I may pump up the laughs in places where I haven’t fully exploited the comic potential. But I’m learning to let the story carry most of the load. It’s nice to have a laugh or two along the way, but it should only support, not supplant, the story. So I’ll spend the next month of weekends and the odd weeknight massaging, rearranging, cutting, and adding to make sure the last six months of writing hangs together as one continuous, seamless, compelling story. Then on December 1st, I’ll send it off to my editor, Douglas Gibson at McClelland & Stewart, as well as to my literary agent, Beverley Slopen. Doug will carefully read the manuscsript more than once, and then add his distinctive, insightful and almost always sound editorial suggestions in pencil in the margins. He’ll pass the manuscript back to me probably by the Christmas holidays. I’ll then work my way through it, making changes where required. Then I imagine I’ll send it back to Doug sometime in January where the more formal publishing process begins. There’ll be copy-editing and cover design, not to mention the gathering of blurbs from interesting folks. Then, if all goes according to plan, the book will miraculously appear on bookstore shelves and in online catalogues in early September 2012.

But the big news today is that the first major hurdle has been surmounted. The story is fully written for the first time. I’m going to bed…

Steve Jobs helped make me a writer…

Friday, October 7th, 2011

In the two days since Steve Jobs passed away, there has been no end of worthy trubutes to an extraordinary visionary. Most of the eulogies have rightly focused on how he changed our way of life and how we interact with technology. He changed our world with the wonders he dreamed up in Cupertino, California, including the Mac personal computer, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, and most recently, the iPad. My debt to Steve Jobs extends a little further. Those who know me will agree that unlike my twin brother, Tim, I’m no crazed Apple fanboy. Tim is all Apple, all the time. But, in 2006, my life took a turn when I bought my first 1gig iPod, and discovered the world of podcasting.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved listening to CBC Radio. I learned so much from shows like The House, Sunday Morning, Morningside, As It Happens, Writers & Company, and of course the hourly newscasts. I was so interested in current affairs and politics back then that music would seldom be heard on the car radio. It was always the substance and depth of CBC. So when I first browsed through the podcast section of iTunes, I was hooked. Not only could I get my favourite CBC Radio shows whenever I wanted, but also podcasts from NPR , The Guardian, the BBC, the New York Times, Scientific American, and many others. For someone interested in books and the world around him, exploring the iTunes podcast directory was like visiting Disneyland. I immediatley subscribed to dozens of podcasts and considered having my ear buds surgically attached.

In the spring of 2006, I was so enamoured of podcasting that a colleague and I created Inside PR, Canada’s first podcast about public relations. My cohost, David Jones, and I recorded a half-hour show about our profession every week. And I mean every week. After more than 200 weekly consecutive episodes (if you do the math, that’s more than four years without missing a show), Dave and I finally surrendered our microphones to a new team of hosts including my friends Joe Thornley and Martin Waxman. So Inside PR lives on.

I know what you’re thinking. What does this have to do with making me a writer? Well, when I wrote my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, I spent a year in a futile search for an agent and/or publisher. Greeted with a deafening silence, I decided to build an audience for the novel on my own, and self-publish it. So in January of 2007, I began podcasting The Best Laid Plans, chapter by chapter, and made it avaialble for free on my website or through iTunes. In the absence of the very gratifying feedback I got about the podcast, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to go through with self-publishing my first novel. But the podcast version of The Best Laid Plans was very warmly received and still attracts new listeners every day, nearly five years after I began posting chapters.

After miraculously winning the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, I landed a wonderful literary agent and a publishing deal with McClelland & Stewart. Then the novel won the 2011 Canada Reads title and is now in its eleventh printing. M&S published the sequel, The High Road, in September 2010. It was a finalist for the 2011 Leacock Medal and is already in its fourth printing. I podcast The High Road too, just as I had my first novel. Finally, I’m two chapters from finishing the manuscript for my third novel, which M&S will publish in September 2012. I plan to podcast it as well.

Let me remind you of a sentence two paragraphs back. “In the absence of the very gratifying feedback I got about the podcast, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to go through with self-publishing my first novel.” That’s the Steve Jobs connection right there. Without the iPod, iTunes, and podcasting, it’s quite possible that The Best Laid Plans would still be a manuscript safely secreted in the electronic bowels of my laptop.

It’s been a surreal ride so far that may well have started when I bought my first iPod– that tiny perfect device born in the brain of Steve Jobs.

Everyday, I carry my iPod and my iPad with me where ever I go. I browse the podcast section of iTunes at least every other week in search of still more podcasts to feed my mind as I walk to the office every day. And late at night I’ll often be at my computer, working on a novel, as my iPod charges next to me…

Steve Jobs 1955-2011