Manuscript Evaluation Service

Written a book or a short story and wondering if it’s good enough to be published?

I have just launched a new manuscript evaluation service and would be happy to look over your work for a reasonable fee.

I will scrutinize your work with one overriding question in mind: “Is this manuscript ready for publication?”

As for my credentials, I am a much-published author who has written a series of non-fiction books, primarily in the true-crime genre. A list of my books is available on this page of my website. I have worked with a variety of publishers and have a good understanding of what they look for in a manuscript.

While I write non-fiction books, I can also evaluate novels, screenplays or any other form of creative writing.

I will provide constructive feedback on your manuscript, based on an in-depth analysis of:

-plot

-characters

-dialogue

-clarity

-theme

-message

-style

-research

-point-of-view

-believability

-technique

-tone

I will also do a light edit, pointing out typos and major errors on a paper copy of your work. I am not, however, a copy-editor. My aim is to weigh the merits of your manuscript, not correct your grammar.  

While I can’t guarantee your book will be published, I can tell you if I think it’s ready to send to a publisher or to be self-published.

For more information on rates and my availability, contact me at nhendley@sympatico.ca or visit my manuscript evaluation blog at http://natehendley.wordpress.com/

Writers: Why Start at the Start?

ladywriter

Guest blog post by Jill Edmondson

Quite often when I chat with aspiring writers they say the same thing:  I know what my book is about, I know what the climax is, I know how it ends, but I don’t know how to start it.  They wonder aloud: What would be a catchy opening?  How far back should I begin?  How much background should I give?  I can’t think of an opening line.  Should I start with a prologue?  I can’t think of a way to get it going.

This is such an easy problem to fix!  Don’t start at the beginning.  Easy as that.

There is no law saying you must write sequentially: page one, page two, page three and so on, or that you must write chapter five after you have completed chapter four, etc.

I write whatever occurs to me in the order it occurs to me.  I write mysteries and I always decide before I even begin on the key questions: who, how, and why.  For example, I’ll know that it was Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the Knife.  But that’s usually all I know at the outset (well, that plus city and time, i.e. Toronto 2009).

But that’s as rigid as I’ll be.  I may get a great idea for a red herring, something that should happen about halfway through the book.  Fine.  Then that’s what I’ll write that day.  I can insert blank pages before it when the time comes for that.

I may come up with a great snippet of dialogue that should happen as the murder investigation is just getting underway, maybe around page 60 or so.  Okey dokey – since I’ve thought of something I’ll run with it and subsequently turn that bit of chatter into a few pages.

As it happened with each of my novels, I have the big blowout climax scene in my mind right from the get-go.  I always write that section of the book—basically the conclusion—right away, since it usually comes to me quickly and I’m always enthusiastic about it.  In many ways, writing something like that builds my confidence and confirms to me that yeah, I’m writing a good story.  Doing things in this sort of bass-ackward, haphazard way also gets me over those annoying bouts of writer’s block.

The point is: write what occurs to you, write whatever you’re feeling enthusiastic about that day, write down whichever ideas are coming to you quickly and clearly. You can always go back and change/add/delete things.  You can insert a few extra pages as needed or add bridging paragraphs where necessary.

But don’t feel you have to write in sequence, and definitely don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can only begin at the beginning.  Go with your gut, and the rest will (eventually) fall together as it’s meant to.

Jill Edmondson is the author of the four mystery novels.  Frisky Business is the latest novel featuring PI Sasha Jackson.

For more info in Jill, check out her:

Website www.jilledmondson.com

Blog www.jilledmondson.blogspot.ca

Follow her on Twitter @JillEdmondson

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)

Lyrical Failure

writer

By Nate Hendley

When I was 16 me, my brother Matthew and my friend Dave decided to form a band. At last, I thought, a chance to show off the lyrics to all the great songs I had been writing over the years. Songs from my heart and soul, typed laboriously onto lined paper and stored like a treasure chest of artistic brilliance. My musings on the cold, spirit-crushing world around me as seen through jaded teenage eyes. At the first opportunity, I decided to share my trove of tunes.

As Matthew and Dave sat on the couch in my parent’s living room, I rooted through a desk drawer in my bedroom and withdrew a manila folder packed with loose sheets of notepaper. Shaking from sheer artistic exuberance, I descended downstairs and handed over the folder.

“Here are some lyrics I’ve been working on,” I told the guys. “Maybe we could use some of these for the band.”

I turned and left in a hurry. I wanted to leave Matt and Dave alone as they savoured my creative genius. It would seem like preening if I stuck around as they dug through my golden literary nuggets. I went to the basement and anxiously watched TV for a few minutes. Then, I returned to the living room, prepared to be showered with compliments. I expected to be told I was a young John Lennon in training. I certainly didn’t expect hysterical laughter.

Matthew and Dave each had a pile of my typewritten lyrics on their laps. They laughed so hard they were gagging.

“Ahhhhhhhhh! Listen to this one!” yelled Matthew, as he began reciting my words out loud.

The guys were particularly taken with a number I had written called “Cheap and Sleazy”, in which I attempted to duplicate the down and dirty lyrics of AC/DC, my favourite band at the time. The song was all about pining for a girl who was both inexpensive and nasty. Given that I was still in a pre-girlfriend state of extreme virginity, my words inspired mockery, not awe.

At the other extreme, lyrics that tried to scale the heights of profundity also amused the pair. Such was the case for “Mild” the chorus of which went, “Oh, mild, mild, mild, mild, mild, mild, mild, mild.” The last line in this number went something like “Try God, he’s mild.”

Not that I was overly religious at the time. I was trying to invoke some mystical mindset about something or other and came up rather short.

Not too surprisingly, we never used any of these lyrics for any of our songs. And I learned a good lesson. If you think you’ve written something brilliant, show it to a close friend or family member. Because if they snicker like a pair of teenage boys on a couch reading a stack of bad song lyrics, chances are your art isn’t quite ready for primetime.

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)

Interview With Me About My New John Lennon Book

Interviewed by Lorina Stephens, owner of Five Rivers Publishing, which released John Lennon: Music, Myth and Madness, a concise, informative overview of the legendary pop musician, on October 1, 2012.

Given you’ve written a book about John Lennon, I’m going to take a chance and suggest you were likely a huge Beatles, but more particularly a John Lennon fan.

I definitely grew up on the Beatles. I was born in ’66, just as the Beatles were reaching the zenith of their early career. Some of my earliest memories involve hearing Beatle songs on my parent’s stereo, particularly tunes from Yellow Submarine and Rubber Soul. I recall watching the Yellow Submarine cartoon on TV when I was about seven, and getting really upset because the song Nowhere Man seemed so sad. That was a John song, so obviously his tunes were getting to me already.

Unlike a lot of bands I listened to as a kid or a teenager, I still listen to the Beatles and love their music. Their songs don’t grow stale or mouldy on you. Plus, their output was so prodigious they have a gigantic collection of great tunes to choose from. It’s not like they had one hit song and coasted on their rep for years after. On top of writing dozens of amazing songs, they were constantly reinventing themselves and trying new approaches and new sounds in the studio. So, you can latch onto different phases of their career: a person might love their early, bubble-gum pop tunes and hate their later, more experimental songs or vice-versa. You might love Sergeant Pepper but have no time for The White Album. It’s pretty hard to find another band so beloved by such a wide demographic. Grandparents and little kids alike love the Beatles.

From a technical perspective, the Beatles put a huge amount of time into their later songs, so there’s always something new when you listen to them. I can put on the Abbey Road album, for example, and hear things that I’ve missed, even though I’ve played the songs countless times.

As for solo stuff, John put out the single best solo album (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band) but was a bit uneven on later releases.

I always found John the most interesting of the Beatles, perhaps because he was so quotable and quick-witted.

What in particular inspired you to write about John Lennon? What was it about Lennon as an individual or a musician?

My primary attraction to John is the fact he was a brilliant song-writer. While I admire some of the social causes he championed (it’s pretty hard to oppose world peace, after all), I am mostly interested in his music and words, particularly in his peak years, from around 1966 – 1971. As a guitar player, I find it fascinating to decode some of John’s songs, and discover “A-ha! That’s how the song is played.”

In the Beatles, John generally played rhythm guitar while George played lead. In other words, John played chords while George did the solos and additional riffs. I could relate, as I too played rhythm guitar in bands when I was growing up. I admired the fact that even though a lot of his playing was pretty simple, John knew how to make a song rock or weep, depending on the lyrics and tone. He was definitely a bandleader and as much of a front-man as Paul. If you watch clips of the Beatles playing, John definitely is out front and centre on his own tunes, calling the shots and leading the band, even if he wasn’t technically the greatest guitar player in the world.

When researching for the novel, were you already familiar with much of the canon of Lennon and Beatles history, or did you have moments of surprise? If so, what were they?

Well, I discovered that many Beatle biographies contain factually incorrect details. John was not born in the midst of a vicious German bombing raid on Liverpool, in World War Two. That’s a detail that was apparently embellished by his Aunt Mimi, who raised him. While it’s true that Liverpool was bombed by the Germans, they weren’t dropping explosives on the day John came into existence.

There were a few ‘music geek’ moments of surprise too. I didn’t know that John, for example, sang a version of the song Get Back or that he was always miffed that Paul wouldn’t let him sing, Oh, Darling on the Abbey Road album. I also uncovered a great lost John song called Child of Nature. He wrote this while in India in ’68 and presented it to the rest of the band when they regrouped back in the UK. They held a meeting at which each member unveiled the tunes they had been working on. They were sort of auditioning songs for their next album. By group decision, it was decided to nix Child of Nature because Paul had a tune called Mother Nature’s Son and the Beatles were afraid the titles and words seemed too similar. Kind of a stupid decision in my opinion, but I wasn’t there. Anyway, John later used the music for Child of Nature as the basis for a solo song called Jealous Guy. Now, Jealous Guy is a great song, but I still like Child of Nature better. You can hear demos of Child of Nature on YouTube.

I also did not know that the Beatles attempted a version of I Want You (She’s so Heavy) during the brief roof-top concert that capped the Let it Be movie. Apparently, they tried to play it and gave up. I’ve never heard a bootleg containing this valiant effort but am still looking.

There are very divided camps as to whether McCartney or Lennon was the true genius behind the Beatles’ enduring musical legacy. What’s your take?

I think they both could make the claim. John’s genius lay in individual song writing while Paul was more of a big picture kind of guy. For example, the Sergeant Pepper album was all Paul’s idea, but John wrote the best song for it (which never actually appeared on the album), namely Strawberry Fields Forever. Likewise, the Magical Mystery Tour film was Paul’s concept but the standout song is I Am the Walrus by John.

Interestingly enough, John and Paul kind of acknowledged their different approaches on the Beatles’ final studio album, Abbey Road. John wanted to emphasize straight-ahead, rock ‘n roll song-writing and individual tunes, while Paul came up with the idea of combining a bunch of short tunes into a clever medley complete with orchestra. So, side one was sort of masterminded by John, while side two was masterminded by Paul.

Then there’s simply John’s voice, which is magnificent. Paul had a greater range, but no one could do angst like John. When you hear a song like Don’t Let Me Down you almost picture him on his knees imploring his lover not to cast him aside. John could also sound angry as hell. Listen to Gimme Some Truth from his Imagine solo album. He’s just pouring out his scorn for the Richard Nixon presidency in the U.S. None of the other Beatles could match John for sheer, intense musical rage.

How do you feel about the statement it was Yoko Ono who was responsible for the tearing apart of the Beatles?

It’s too simple just to blame Yoko, but she was a very disruptive presence. The Beatles had a strict, ‘no girlfriends or wives in the studio’ rule. John broke that rule during the making of the Let it Be film and album and brought Yoko in. Yoko considered herself quite the artist and singer, and didn’t hesitate to give her suggestions to the boys, who, John aside, didn’t really appreciate her input.

John always seemed to need a strong parental figure in his life. Growing up, this figure was his Aunt Mimi, the no-nonsense relative who raised him. When the Beatles got going, Paul became the parental figure—kind of leading him along, and chastising and praising when necessary. When manager Brian Epstein came onto the scene, he took up the parental mantle. Brian died in ’67 and by that point, John didn’t want to be bossed around by Paul any more (although ironically he still deferred to a lot of his creative ideas). So Yoko came into John’s life just as there was a vacancy for a strong authority figure.

Yoko had a huge influence on John—for the worse. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should look up some of John’s solo clips from the 1970s on YouTube. Whether it’s playing for TV shows or doing a concert, John let Yoko constantly interrupt whatever music he was up to with her uber-annoying screeches and howls.

There’s a live concert film of John’s solo show at a Toronto rock festival in September 1969. John is playing with a pickup band that includes Eric Clapton on lead guitar. They tear into a bunch of classic rockers from the 1950s as well as a couple John tunes like Yer Blues and Give Peace a Chance. The sound is pretty rough, because they band hadn’t rehearsed, but it’s still great and everyone in the audience is going nuts. Then Yoko pops out and takes over the stage. She begins screeching her head off and doing all these weird vocal gymnastics as the band just wails away. There is no polite way to say this: she’s just awful. You hear people heckling her and booing on the soundtrack. Listening to Yoko ‘sing’is like having teeth pulled without novocaine.

It could be argued that Lennon was among the first international social rights celebrity activists. Would you say that’s true?

I would say it’s true though you have to separate his political actions from his songs. While he wrote some brilliant socially aware tunes like Give Peace a Chance and of course, Imagine, some of his real-life political shenanigans were pretty embarrassing. I mean, lounging for peace in a hotel bed for a week isn’t quite up there with Ghandi defying the British army.

John could also occasionally trip up in his song-writing. He did an album in 1972 called Some Time in New York City that’s just unlistenable. He covers just every trendy cause going and for once, his social conscience stood out more than the music. John was much better when he stuck to generalities and concentrated on the music and singing. This is why Imagine is such a powerful song. The lyrics are kind of vague and dreamlike, but that’s actually a bonus because it doesn’t date the song with period-specific references along the lines of “Imagine there’s no war in Vietnam…”

Your most memorable Beatle moment is?

A recent memory. Visiting the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park in New York City in spring 2012 with my girlfriend, Jeanne. It’s a very simple but beautiful spot. There was a guy there playing John’s songs on guitar when we visited. It was very poignant and I think John himself would have been pleased to see his music and work being remembered in such a manner. For once in my life I came prepared, and made some nice videos of the guy playing on my BlackBerry. We also saw the outside of the Dakota, the ritzy apartment building where John and Yoko lived. It’s pretty startling to see the apartment entrance where John was shot. And no, we did not see Yoko while we were there.

John Lennon, Music, Myth and Madness can be purchased through Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)

(Originally posted on: http://networkedblogs.com/EwD1q)

Interview with Author Beverly Akerman

Interviewed by Nate Hendley

Beverly Akerman is the author of an award-winning new book called The Meaning of Children.

What motivates you to write? Is it the promise of money, fame, power, recognition, self-fulfillment or something else?

Oh, fame and power, absolutely, lol! How did you know? No, really, I write because I just feel these stories inside that simply have to be told. Don’t forget, I came to writing recently after working for 20 years in science. So I think I must have been holding in a lot of feelings for a very long time (though no one in my family will believe I’ve ever held in much of anything, feeling-wise, I’m sure!).

Much of my work stems from personal experience, even though it’s fiction (my kids laugh when I say that, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). For instance, when I write about young Anglo lovers afraid of speaking english at Saint-Jean Baptiste Day celebrations [in Quebec] in the early ‘70s, that’s a piece of history that people should know, but may not. I write to conjure up my grandparents (“Tumbalalaika”), remember a foster sister who we were sure was abused by her father (“Sea of Tranquillity”), to honour a friend who might have questioned his daughter’s paternity (“Paternity”) but did not, in actuality. One of my favourite stories in this collection, “The Woman with Deadly Hands,” I wrote in answer to the question “can one ever read too much?” No one would know that’s the meaning of the story, but it is, at least to me (I only figured this out well after I’d written it). Stories are like Rorschach tests: there are certainly major themes and issues that move most readers, but there are always things people can assign their own meanings to. That’s the beauty of art.

Do you have any “tricks of the trade” that help you kick-start the creative process?

You know, I like to be moved by something. If it doesn’t make me feel like laughing or crying, it’s not really what I want to write fiction about. When my kids were young, my mom would take us all to storytelling and plays put on at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal. It was done in the round, and just the sight of all the kids, paying such rapt attention … I found that so moving, it made me cry. I want my readers to feel that way when I show them something. The other big thing, I’ve found, is to unsettle myself. Travelling does that. I’m not a big traveller, so when I go to a writing conference, it really puts me on a sort of emergency footing. That peels my nerve endings back a bit, makes me more open and vulnerable. So I would recommend getting out of your comfort zone sometimes. And writing about what really moves you.

In your opinion, is talent overrated? Does society put too much emphasis on skill and not enough on will?

No, I don’t actually think talent is over-rated. I think youth—particularly young male writers are over-rated. I used to think that was maybe just because I’m a middle-aged woman, but the recent work by Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA) and their American sisters at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts who have massively documented the systematic ignoration—hmm, is that a real word?—of women writers in the literary press have proved to me that it’s not just sour grapes. The gender imbalance in reviewing the work of women writers is a shocking shame. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons my book did not get its due: a woman writing about children? “Bleah.” Even though it’s about so much more than children, I’m sure that may well have diminished its appeal. At The National Post, for example, nearly 70 percent of the literary reviewers were male and nearly 80 percent of the books reviewed were by men in the period surveyed. It was worse at The Walrus and almost as bad at The Globe & Mail. Of course, now that the book pages are being torn from the papers, it won’t matter quite as much, will it?

Can you tell me a little bit about your book, The Meaning of Children?

Reviews of the book have been highly favourable; my work has been compared to Alice Munro’s and Grace Paley’s. One reader recently compared it to Jonathan Safran Foer’s work, too.

My stories capture pivotal underappreciated moments in the world of girls and women, in childhood, adolescence, parenthood, or life as a whole. Disparate decades and narrative voices woven together by themes of sex, death, and social prejudice. And love, always love … a girl discovers a fear of heights as her parents’ marriage unravels; a thirty-something venture fund manager frets over his daughter’s paternity; an orphan whose hands kill whatever they touch is accused of homophobia; a suicidal daycare worker has a very bad day; a mother of two can only bear to consider abortion in the second person; the wife of a retirement-aged professor finds him unconscious near his computer … The Meaning of Children speaks to all who—though aware the world can be a very dark place—can’t help but long for redemption. Women particularly love this book; I call it intelligent fiction with a beating heart.

Many of my stories are available free online; you can find the links on my website.

-30-

Biography

After over two decades in molecular genetics research, Beverly Akerman realized she’d been learning more and more about less and less. Skittish at the prospect of knowing everything about nothing, she turned, for solace, to writing—and has been winning accolades for her prose ever since. Last year, she was shortlisted for Aesthetica Magazine‘s (UK) 2011 Creative Works Competition, won the Professional Writers Association of Canada’s Short Article Award and an honourable mention for their Feature Award. Other honours include a fellowship to the Fishtrap writers conference in Wallowa Lake, OR, Pushcart Prize nominations in fiction and nonfiction and multiple submissions for the National Magazine Awards.

Her work has appeared in anthologies, in over 20 literary journals as well as in newspapers, magazines, on CBC Radio One, and in numerous academic science journals. It pleases her to believe she’s the only Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA.

Her blog is located at http://beverlyakerman.blogspot.ca/

The Meaning of Children is available at Amazon, in paperback and on Kindle.

Look for her on Facebook & Twitter, too!

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)

When John Met Paul – Book Excerpt

By Nate Hendley

Excerpt from my new book, John Lennon: Music, Myth and Madness:

“On June 21, 1957, John and the Quarry Men played their first concert. Wearing a plaid shirt, his guitar in hand, John led his band through a clutch of skiffle tunes at a neighbourhood block party. The Quarry Men did an adequate job but they were hardly impressive.

Two weeks after the Quarry Men’s debut gig, John and his band played a daytime concert at a church fete. After their brief show was over, a dark-haired teenager in a white jacket and black pants introduced himself to John. His name was Paul McCartney and he wasn’t quite 16 years old.

Paul, who loved rock ‘n’ roll as much as John, praised the Quarry Men for their performance. Paul did take a moment to point out, however, that the band wasn’t terribly professional. John tended to fake lyrics and couldn’t actually play guitar very well. A born showman, Paul picked up a guitar and performed an impromptu version of ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ by Eddie Cochran and ‘Be-Bop-a-Lula’ by Gene Vincent. Paul had an excellent voice, was a good guitar player, and possessed a definite poise.

A couple of weeks after their first introduction, John invited Paul to join his band. Despite his reservations about the fledgling band’s abilities, McCartney was keen to join. He was attracted to the prospect of joining an already formed group — and he was drawn to John, with his dark charisma and bad-boy attitude.

The two teens shared a few things in common. In addition to their love of music, John and Paul had each lost a parent. Freddie Lennon had been absent from John’s life since he was a child while Paul’s mother had died of cancer the year before.

Other than that, Lennon and McCartney were as different as Elvis and Liberace. Unlike John, Paul had been raised in a stable, loving home. His father had taken on all the household responsibilities after his wife died and taught Paul to be thrifty, self-directed and disciplined. Paul was a natural charmer with a diplomatic personality. He carried none of John’s bile and bitterness.

Being a talented musician, McCartney thought it was his duty to teach his new friend, John, how to play guitar properly. Paul was left-handed — a fact that made lessons unusually complicated for the right-handed John — though it did contribute to a pleasing symmetry on stage.

For all their differences, Lennon and McCartney were soon jamming on a regular basis. The sounds they produced were crude, but enthusiastic. They played rock ‘n’ roll songs, skiffle tunes, and anything else that caught their fancy.

After a few months of playing together, McCartney mentioned that he had a friend who was an even better guitarist then both John and himself. The boy’s name was George Harrison; he was shy, intense, and almost three years younger than John. During his audition for the Quarry Men, Harrison played a note-perfect version of an instrumental called ‘Raunchy’. John was impressed and in early February 1958, Harrison joined his fledgling band.

Paul and George attended the Liverpool Institute, which was conveniently located near the College of Art. The three young men frequently played guitar together during their lunch hours.

George usually handled lead guitar while John and Paul played rhythm. John and Paul took turns singing vocals while George piped in on the chorus or sang backup. John had a raspy, tough-guy voice. Paul had a wider range, but generally sounded sweeter, whether he was singing rock ‘n’ roll or a pop ballad.

The three boys practiced constantly, honing their musical chops. Their talents complemented each other, as did their personalities. While John was clearly the leader, Paul was the band’s showman — eager to ham it up to draw attention from the girls. John brought a raw rocker sensibility to the group while studious George provided a strong musical foundation. Everything pointed to rapidly rising success — until the band was sidetracked by a personal tragedy.”

John Lennon, Music, Myth and Madness can be purchased through Amazon in paperback or on Kindle.

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)

Author Chris Gray: Tips for the Love Shy Guy

(Christopher Gray is the author of From Shy to Social, which offers confidence-boosting tips, insights and exercises for “love shy” men)

Interviewed by Nate Hendley

What motivates you to write? Is it the promise of money, fame, power, recognition, self-fulfillment or something else?

Ideally, I would like to make a living by writing. I’ve had a few different careers so far in my professional life, ranging from technical writing to sales, to project management. Up to now my writing has usually been somewhat sporadic, and I’ve reached a point where I would rather it be front and centre. So to answer your question, I’d say that it is a career choice. Also, should any of my work help or inspire people I would get a strong sense of satisfaction from that. And a little recognition along the way would be a nice bonus.

Do you have any “tricks of the trade” that help you kick-start the creative process?

When starting a new project I always sit in front of the computer in ‘brainstorming mode,’ where I don’t worry about writing, but I jot down any one-word ideas or sentences related to the subject. Every twenty or thirty minutes I’ll get up from my desk and pace the house, while saying aloud any thoughts related to those initial ideas (even when a project is well under way), which helps me come up with new ideas. As soon as I hit on an interesting concept I return to the computer and work it into the project.

What is your book, From Shy to Social, all about? Who is it aimed at?

From Shy to Social: The Shy Man’s Guide to Personal & Dating Success is the kind of book I could have used fifteen years ago, when I was extremely reserved and wasn’t having much luck with women. A lot of guys, of any age, have trouble talking to women or have general social anxiety and don’t socialize much. My book is based on some of the successful things I did to turn my life around and gain a much more satisfying dating and social life. It’s aimed at any guy from college age on, who might be at a loss as how to successfully interact with women, to older divorced men who may be intimidated at starting over.

Have you published before? What made you decide to write a book?

Outside of a few articles I wrote for my University newspaper, my first published work was shortly after graduation when I wrote a couple of software and hardware product reviews for Canadian and British computer magazines. After writing a few pieces for these magazines I found full time work as a technical writer, and my freelance work lay dormant for a few years. But over the next decade and a half, as a reserved person unsatisfied with the direction my life was going, I decided to look for a solution. I talked to dating experts and psychologists, took acting classes to get over my fear of public speaking, and became active in my local constituency, among other things. Once I reached a certain point in my progress I realized my journey had the makings of a good story, and so I wrote From Shy to Social.

What are your “de-motivators” (i.e. things that take away your drive to write or steer it to an unproductive place)? How do you cope with these de-motivators?

The biggest de-motivator is nice weather, when I’d rather be outside walking and enjoying the city. Sometimes on those days I write in the morning and evening, leaving some time for me to go out in the afternoon. However if you do this too much you will become unproductive, so I compensate by writing in the evening, and on weekends if I have no other plans.

Do you have any role models who inspire you in your personal and professional life?

I admire people with a good work ethic, and who are adept at public speaking, because I know how hard it can be. I also admire those who have attained success, in any field.

In your opinion, is talent overrated? Does society put too much emphasis on skill and not enough on will?

Will power is the key. Even extremely talented people can sabotage themselves by not devoting the energy required to do good work. If you aren’t particularly talented at something, you can usually get better through dedication and effort.

(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)