Remembering Reading – Musician Autobiographies


Reading is a refresher to writing. Reading is learning structure and style. In a sense, reading can feel like a relaxing kind of work.

Of the many books I have read over the last few years, most have been autobiographies about musicians whose artistic output I have enjoyed immensely. In most of these kinds of books, the artists are writing them with the help of someone else who gets to have their name on the cover with their subject.

Those kinds of books tend to be quick reads for me. I want to get to the heart of their careers and where they went at certain times. What was happening during the recordings of a particular album, song, and so on. These kinds of books do offer great insight into how stories are told from the musician’s point of view.

One particular favourite book by Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan really took me by surprise. Duff himself has evolved into a remarkable writer with weekly columns to his credit. He tells his stories with such flawless flow that you can see how dedicated he was to honing another craft. From a book like this I have learned to let go more as I am telling a story and worry about the edits later. As someone with a lifelong addiction to revising, Duff’s book offered me a refreshing look at my own writing.

There are a few others on my shelf that were written with the help of another writer. Those books have offered the same kind of refresher course that I sometimes need. You have someone sitting with the subject and having them tell the stories for later transposition to screen and page. Occasionally, there are books where the subject is told to go and write a few suggested memories themselves. They then give it over to their co-author for professional polishing.

Regardless of your preferred genre of reading, consider reading as part of your work ethic. Sitting with a book not only offers an escape to writers. It offers insight for anyone in this business to look at ways to constantly learn and improve on their word delivery.


Deadlines Often Make the Impossible Reality – By Sarah Butland

Sarah Butland is a Freelance Writer and Author based in my hometown of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. This past week, her novella “Blood Day” was released to Amazon.  If you own a Kindle, I highly recommend this as your next purchase. Several weeks ago Sarah invited me to edit her script. It was a fun and challenging freelance assignment that I was glad to be part of. At times I found myself lost as a reader and needed to go back a few pages into editor mode. I have invited Sarah to these pages to share some valuable “shop talk”.    

Blood Day Cover

I never believe things are impossible though I too often convince myself they are nearly so. When I found the contest for the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and noted the deadline I realized how unlikely I’d be able to meet it. I had a young child at home, was busy learning how to be a mom and get back on my own feet. But I did it.

After finding excuse after excuse to just forget about it, I heard a whisper from a highly regarded friend of all New Brunswick writers, Deborah Carr, suggesting I come up with something. With her vote of confidence and a lyric floating around my head I decided I’d do my best.

The word count was 4000 and I never wrote such a long short story before but do love a challenge. I wrote an adaptation of the lyric down on paper and the story began.

Without sacrificing my commitment to my son I sat at the kitchen table while he played underfoot, literally, and I typed. More attentive to his actions and giggles than to my own fingers furiously typing in an effort to write this story in just over a week. When I was done I had no idea what I wrote about or where the story would end up.

Not much time passed from submission to being told the story, my challenge to get me back to writing, won first prize! Blood Day won the 2011 Children’s/ Young Adult Writers Federation Competition which drew high regard from local authors. The only problem with it they told me, was that they wanted more of the story.

So over the last 4 years I wondered, pondered, avoided, talked about it and avoided some more as I had no idea where the story was going. It wasn’t my usual genre, I liked the cliff-hanger ending and that people were hooked and intrigued.  But alas, I decided I needed to write it out.

Setting a new deadline, which I missed by a few weeks, I decided to launch the book on my 33rd birthday. Giving me something to start the year off wonderfully and to reset my writing career once again.

All of this to say, nothing is impossible if you truly want it. Have a time frame in mind but don’t be too hard on yourself that you get stressed trying to meet it. Our universe has a magical way of pulling it all together to ensure you have what you need at sometimes you least expect it.

Live every day to its fullest, putting each excuse to the back of your mind while you work towards living your dream.

Veronica, the main character of Blood Day the Short Story and Novella, is more lost than you will ever be. She doesn’t bleed, breathe or even see her reflection, yet still knows she has a crucial role in who she is, just by being her.

Thanks for reading and hope to soon hear what you think of Blood Day – The Novella!

And thank you to @WriterDann for editing my book under a crazy deadline from me and far surpassing my expectations of him.

Sarah Butland (2)


Twitter: @sarahbutland_co

Shop Talk – Picking Up The Pen and Letters to Yourself

Power of Words

“Just write a letter, mail it to yourself. Read it out loud but to no one else.”

From The Northern Pikes song “Hopes Go Astray”

This great line from a song by The Northern Pikes is something that rings true to me many years after first hearing it. It might make even more sense now. Writing can be a very powerful form of release. It can work wonders for clarity of thought.

An old friend from my school days recently contacted me with very kind compliments about the content on this page and my social media pages. He references me as having given him reasons for picking up the pen again. He’s working as an Actor on the west coast and paying his dues to get places. I think it’s terrific that in his pursuit of auditions and screen roles, he’s finding the time again to work on his words and how he wants to write them out.

When I say writing a letter to yourself, I don’t necessarily mean just writing a letter. It certainly can help you make sense of what you might be feeling and perhaps inspire something on a personal path to healing. I’ve found that sometimes being able to express those emotions to paper and screen can have the effect of sharing it with someone else even if ultimately it is kept private.

In writing, the notebooks and scrap papers of ideas are in a way little letters to yourself. Those inspiring moments are a reflection of what you are thinking at the time you wrote them down. You will revisit these things later on for a few possible reasons.  One might be to glance back at yourself in the past-tense and reflect on something you were feeling. Another could be to check out what you look for previous ideas so that you can forge ahead and generate writing that will be read.

If you have not written something in a while, then why not try starting with writing a letter to yourself? See if you can free up any perceived word block that you may be experiencing.  See if it allows you to move ahead in order to write more.


With thanks to my friend Heathcliffe “Moon” Scaddan for the kind words of support. 

Editing 101 – Revising, Revisions and Reflections

Power of Words

Most in this business will tell you that a completed work should get a pass before an editor before it becomes published product. In most instances I would definitely agree. A second and even third set of eyes can bring words to life in a way that the original author may not otherwise see. Still, I would not begrudge any writer who would prefer to work a project right through to completion. It can take some practice but being your own editor can have beneficial rewards. If you want to edit a sizable project of your own, then you need to look at the project as if you are the intended reader. As if you have never seen the words until they are first read.

Editing is one of the parts of the process that I find most personally enjoyable. Getting a few pages down, composing and transcribing the thoughts to paper or screen is equally enjoyable. Editing feels like a slow-down and recover process for the writing that just transpired. It is a moment of reflection. It is a meditative process that forces one to think about the words just written.

With freelance work, there is even more rewards from editing. If hired to work on a project for editing and revisions, you get to read something. Recently I completed some work where I was editing and making suggested revisions to a book project. It was a book that I found myself getting into that was very difficult to put down. In a way, I felt like I was editing one of the many books I have on my nightstand. Having that mentality knowing that I was able to be reading something as part of this job, gave me a refreshing perspective.

Freelance editing work involves reading in order to bring a project to completion. 

Having that kind of work as part of a freelance practice can also carry over into other things you might do for your business. For instance, the most recent gig I referred to reminded me to be more edit-savvy with my postings to this site. A refreshed approach to marketing yourself in this business is always a positive.

Regardless of what side of the business you may be in, even if you feel comfortable hiring a freelance editor, spend a little more time on editing your work on your own before sending it out. You may learn something about yourself and your approach to writing.

Interested in hiring a freelance editor for your work? Drop me a note in the comment section or hit me up on Twitter @WriterDann

#TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter – Just a few things not to say to a Writer


Writers can get discouraged in the pursuit of craft and trade. The night I am writing this, Twitter lit up with a hashtag of #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. I remembered a few of those things I heard and decided to share a handful of them and why they are discouraging and in many instances, just disrespectful.

1. That’s a great hobby.

For as long as I can remember, I never viewed writing as a hobby. The general reading public may still look at it that way. From the time I was younger, I always believed it to be a trade and an art form at the same time. I pursue this business and trade with passion and perseverance, and harder than any “hobby” than I might enjoy.

2. Good Luck With That

Let me explain why saying this to a writer or anyone has a negative connotation. Say this phrase out loud. The “that” part of this sentence can imply sarcasm. People might view the pursuit of something in the arts as a pipe dream. This is rather unfortunate. There are many people who have said this sentence to someone who has gone on to be successful. Being successful in this business does not necessarily mean being a best-selling author. Being able to work is a basis for being successful in itself.

3. You are not published so you’re not a writer.

There are many in this business who may not be published or never will be published. People can and will chase a dream of publishing their entire careers and may never see their names on the page. However, break down the trade further. Technical writers may never get formal credit in print for designing manuals they might produce. Ghost writers who are putting together books for others will likely be paid a nice remuneration for their work, despite never seeing their name in print. Most in this business chase a dream of being published. If you are writing because you want to, then you are a writer. End of discussion.

4. You make money doing that?

I have actually heard this one recently. I write because I love it. It just so happens that I’m fortunate to be able to earn some money doing it. Few who love this business and the craft are in it for the money. Let’s face it. It is very easy for companies to look online at a seemingly endless pool of freelancers across the globe. It is a challenge to market oneself and keep putting yourself out there. So yes, you can make money doing it.

Twitter has brought out these and many dozens more that are worth. If you have Twitter, check out the #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter hashtag on and read away. Or share a few of your own in the comment section. 


Note-Booking on paper & on screen

Power of Words

How often has it happened to you?

A decent idea that might be workable. Front and center. You think about writing it down but trust yourself that it will be so good that you will recall it later.  Only when you recall later, you just recall that you had a seemingly brilliant thought that vanished. Gone completely.

Inspired ideas cannot be left lost. Whether they become something worthwhile down the road, or something that gets shelved. Why take that chance? Keep paper close by. Most dollar stores sell small notebooks and pens for cheap. So stock up and place them wherever in your home you might most frequent. Just knowing you can reach for a place to write something down can put your creative mind at slight ease.

If you have a smart phone, you have an extra note-booking device on you at all times. Anyone with an iPhone can easily tap out an idea on to notes for transcription later. If you have dictation enabled on your phone, you can verbalize that thought directly on to the notes application.  On occasion, I have used Voice Memos to dictate something and expand on it just so I can remind myself of any extra things in connection with the idea.

Even with the assistance of technology, I still think it is vital to keep paper around. Ultimately you will do whatever is best for your writing practice. For me personally and professionally, having both options available is makes it a seem like writing insurance policy for ideas.

It is minimizing the potential for loss of potentially brilliant writing. Something that may seem insignificant at first can be revisited later with a fresh mind and fresher approach. It could be the premise to an eventual best-selling book, a highly-read and trafficked blog post. Anything. So why risk losing those creative sparks?  Give them the imprint and guarantee they stand a chance at existence and eventual development.


One for the Bass Players


It is one of my oldest friends, and enemies. I have four representations of the instrument in my home office. A beat-up Samick 4-string which I paid a hundred bucks for at a local shop in Halifax. A 6-string Ibanez which saw a great deal of work on stage and at many a drunken jam session or two. In Alberta, Ontario and here in Nova Scotia. There’s also a Cort Acoustic short-scale 4-string. Something that I can jam with, minus an amplifier.

Then there is this great thing you see in the picture below. A custom-built 5-string electric upright that I would call my favourite of the lot. This pristine captured moment is a jam session involving my Grandfather on Harmonica, and my Dad out of sight on guitar and voice. It was some horrid gospel song that Dad was playing and Gramps and I were just going along with it.  This happened a few months before Gramps passed away. He was out of breath after his Harmonica solo. He knew I hated the music but that was not important. It was important that after all these years I was able to play music with the two of them at the same time. I enjoyed that moment, as awful as it might have sounded to some.

jocko and the jam

I have long considered the bass as part of who I am. An extension really. For the longest time I was worrying that I did not continue to at least maintain what skills I have. There would be times that I would pick up a bass or stop at the upright and just play what I felt at that moment. So many times I sounded like garbage. Probably because that is how I felt. Inadvertently I would want to get mad at the bass and blame it for not sounding good. I would walk away a frustrated writer with some musical talent.

This week past has been different. For a few weeks I wanted to spin one of my favourite records and see if I could play all of one side without stopping. Incidentally, the record was The Northern Pikes “Big Blue Sky”. Jay Semko (vocals and bass) is still one of my favourite musicians and an early bass influence along with Rush’s Geddy Lee and Baz Donovan of Blue Rodeo. Much to my delight I barely missed a note. I felt a bit rejuvenated in the musical abilities I have. It was reconnecting with an old friend.  It was a reminder of how enjoyable it is to be able to play an instrument and play it well.