Robert Dugoni workshop – author encouragement


R DugoniI attended a writing seminar taught by Robert Dugoni. He’s a bestselling author of police detective mysteries and about 35 people arrived from all over Vancouver Island to hear what he had to say, which turned out to be quite a lot. And it was not only interesting but useful information.

I’ve written a few books now but am still learning and I learned even more on Saturday. Here’s a sampling . When  creating a character –

  • make him strong, along with other attributes he might need for his role such as leadership, cunning, loyal – all great virtues
  • give him an Achilles heel, such as depression, over-stubborn, jealous – any one which will allow him to be vulnerable
  • make him believable so the reader can identify with him, but also larger than life so he can be admired
  • make him sympathetic, where the reader can identify his fault, not pathetic where the reader can’t relate

But the most compelling part of the workshop was the ending. Dugoni reminded us to enjoy writing, and not to get so caught up in the marketing, readings, production of material that we lose the fun of it. Good words to write by.

To learn more about Robert Dugoni, check out his website at

Pen name – yes or no?

Should you use a nom de plume, or pseudonym as it’s more often called? As an author there are a number of reasons why you would want to use your own name. You are already known to a circle of people and can capitalize on that with your first publications. However, using a different name can be useful as well. We can all think of reasons why we might choose a new name:

  1. You have another life as a pediatrician and you want to write a crime novel
  2. Your name has always been awkward – Mr Stalker or Ms Bludgeon
  3. Your name can only be written in a foreign alphabet

Seriously, there are many reasons why you might consider a different name for your publications. See what they say on Write To Done for suggestions to consider –

Either way, I think it’s important to make the decision early in your career. Changing names mid-stream can create an uphill climb to make a new name known to your audience, a climb that you’ve already committed to for your first choice. There’s no point doing all that work twice, so pick your best name, be it your own or an invented one, and put it out there for all to become acquainted with right from the start.

Passing on Your Left

Walking trail IMG_0670

There are a lot of biking and walking trails where I live on Vancouver Island. They’re well used, mostly gravel although some lengths are dirt and lead through streams and over tangled tree roots. The trails lead past farm land, up steep hills, through dense forest and down old train routes.

When you’re riding a bicycle and approach people who are walking ahead in the same direction, the practice is to call out – “passing on your left”. It’s the polite way of giving notice that you’re overcoming walkers and to let them know you are there if they don’t hear you approach.

This morning as I walked along, I thought of how my writing is going. I’m not passing anyone these days. It’s been slow for a while now and will probably stay that way for a few more months. Life has happened to me, and it will take some time to sort it out, recover and regain my equilibrium. So it is others who are calling out to me – “passing on the left”.

But you see, I don’t mind that. Those who call out give hope to the rest of us who are moving at a slower pace. It’s as if they say – “I’m blazing the trail for you. Don’t give up hope, just keep on and soon you’ll see where we are going.”

Thank you everyone for the call out.


David Bowie – be true to yourself


David Bowie is dead at 69 from cancer. His last song, Lazarus, was recorded shortly before he died and the video shot in a hospital room, showing him with his eyes blindfolded. Lazurus is, of course, a referral to the Bible where Jesus is recorded raising this man from the dead days after he died. Perhaps Bowie hoped for the same to happen for him.

There is much that has and will be said about him. He was an imaginative, talented entertainer, who showcased sometimes bizarre and little understood looks, actions and music. If there is one thing to take from his life, I think it is this – don’t be afraid to be yourself. What you express may seem offbeat or oddball to someone else, but to be yourself is a gift that can’t be taken from you.

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Write what you know – or do your research!


I just finished a book by a well-known author, who writes a compelling story. But mid-way through, he talks about a big high-speed yacht in his novel. What caught my attention was the way he described it. The boat had a single inboard engine, 250 horsepower. Now we had a 25 foot SeaRay a few years ago, and it had a bigger engine than that. I don’t think you could move this huge yacht around with an engine that size, let alone sail the seas.

Why did that grab me? Because it seemed poorly researched. And the fact of it pulled me out of the story to puzzle why they made that mistake.

Here’s another example. This is a story of a young woman who inherits her family company after her father died. She soon discovers it is near bankruptcy. After some thought and discussion, her plan is now to ask an old business friend to help finance it. After presenting the pitch to the friend, she returns to her largest store and walks through trying to envision how she would revamp it to meet today’s market.

Now, wouldn’t she have done this before pitching to the business acquaintance? Otherwise, what is the pitch based on? It looks like this writer doesn’t understand business.

What is my point here? Understand what you write about. Don’t assume that these things won’t be noticed, or don’t matter. If this isn’t your area of expertise, then do your research so that you speak from a position of knowledge. It makes your writing more powerful and compelling.

That’s my rant for this week. 🙂

Hope you have a good January, keep reading and keep writing.