Search This Blog

Five Corners: The Marked Ones: Guest Post and Giveaway!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Advice for Writers

As someone who teaches writing, I get asked this a lot. I have a whole textbook full of advice for academic writers. But I think the most important advice boils down to five things:

1)     Make time for your writing. It’s easy to let life pull you away, especially if you aren’t working full-time as a writer (and even then). But making time each day to write is so important. If you don’t take time to write, you just won’t. When I was writing Five Corners, I had a rule that I had to write something, anything, every day. I wasn’t allowed to go to sleep before I had written something. And I was able to stick with that rule until my manuscript was finished. It really worked for me. Making writing a priority is hugely important.
2)     Get your first draft completely done before you show it to anyone else. Anne Lamott talks about the “shitty” first draft and the first time I read that phrase I felt a sort of release. As writers we so want our work to emerge on the page as beautiful, polished prose but the reality of writing is that first drafts are horrid and not really meant to be shared with others. Too often I meet writers who have stunted a creative work because they’ve prematurely shown others their first few pages or chapters. They get feedback before they are ready for it and often that feedback just kills the project in its infancy. Why do we do this? I think it’s because we love our work. We love our writing like a parent loves his or her baby. Without seeing any flaws or ugliness we adore it. And we so want to share it with others, after all why else would you write? But the time for sharing comes after a significant portion of editing, which is my next tip.
3)     Spend most of your time editing your work. I think the drafting phrase should be short and swift and painful. Get the darn thing on paper in some format and then spend most of your time editing and revising. I like to break the word “revision” down to “re” “vision” – seeing again. It helps sometimes to take a bit of time off from a piece before jumping into this phase of the writing process (but not too much time because it’s easy to lose momentum and forget about your work). Revise, revise, revise. Writing is rewriting as Donald Murray would say. So rework your piece and until you get that little zing that tells you it’s good, it’s perfect, it’s done (by the way, it rarely is done at this stage but it is done enough for you to share it).
4)     And now make sure you share it. I recommend two kinds of audience: a) a fellow writer whom you trust and will reciprocate with the reading of draft works, and b) a sample of your target audience – if possible 5-6 readers who love the genre you are writing in. But don’t just give them your manuscript and expect feedback. You need to provide detailed instructions for what kind of feedback you want. So questions such as “Note any places that felt awkward to you and why?” “If there were parts of the storyline that you didn’t like, please tell me and why?” “Did you get confused in any places?” I like to give 6-8 questions to my sample readers. Then comes the hard part, listening with an open heart to the feedback that comes in.

5)     Most criticism is there to help you as a writer. Let go of your ego. Don’t be one of those parents who believes his/her child is perfect (he/she definitely is not – a perfect human doesn’t exist and neither does a perfect manuscript). Instead listen to what your readers are saying and then try to figure out how you can incorporate their advice. Sometimes the feedback hurts. When this happens to me I sit on the feedback for a few days before I make any decisions. Sometimes the feedback is not useful or you just don’t agree with it. That’s fine, too. Take what you can use and toss the rest. Remember this is your creation. Just be careful that you aren’t hearing just what you want to hear to the detriment of your work.


Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls.
Kiara’s suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do.
After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers.  With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn’t trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.

Excerpt 1

Kiara felt her own mother watching her closely. She forced her gaze away from the small lifeless form. Brijit murmured softly to the parents and then moved to Kiara's side.

"Come away from here, Kiara," her mother said firmly.

But Kiara couldn't stop herself from looking back at the child, noting how someone had twined a pretty scarf around her neck, concealing the ugly slashes that she knew were hidden beneath the colorful material. The result of a blade taken to vulnerable flesh. This poor girl had had no chance against her assailant.

Brijit tugged on her arm insistently. "There is nothing more for us to do here," she whispered in a hushed undertone. "Let’s go and give the family some peace."

Kiara felt a sudden wave of shame wash over her. She suddenly wondered what she was doing here?

Don’t try to deny it, she told herself vehemently, you know why you’re here.

She had seen the Mark on the child's shoulder. She resisted the urge to rub her own shoulder where an identical Mark was hidden beneath her tunic. It was something she’d believed she only shared with her sisters. But this child proved different.

And there was no question that this child had been assassinated.


Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children.  She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.

Twitter: @CathiShaw

Buy links for book:


a Rafflecopter giveaway
This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ


  1. Hi Cathi, I followed the links for reviews you left me yesterday: I was glad to see Five Corners so well received by Ailyn at Piece of My Mind blog, but sady the one from Epic Reads is missing. That said, however, I'm intrigued by the prospect of each sister having her very own hero and the simultaneous telling of their adventures. I look forward to reading more. Thanks for the info!

    ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

  1. Cathi said...:

    Thanks so much for hosting me! Happy Purple Day, everyone! :) Today (March 26th) is International Epilepsy Awareness Day. Thia, one of the main characters in Five Corners, has Epilepsy.

  1. Great advice! Thanks so much for posting this!

    falcondraco at Hotmail dot com

  1. Great post! Thanks for posting this!

    falcondraco at Hotmail dot com

  1. MomJane said...:

    I really enjoyed your comments. I also think this excerpt is great. Sounds like a unique and awesome story.

  1. I am thankful for the advice! I'm not aiming to be a writer, but I want to at least finish this idea I have.

  1. Heather B said...:

    I really enjoyed the excerpt as well as the advice for writers.

  1. Bcteagirl said...:

    This advice for readers is very useful, and the blurb about the book seems very interesting. THank you!

  1. Unknown said...:

    I liked the blurb. It gave me just enough to make me want to really read this book. It sounds so interesting and full of suspense. Thanks for the great giveaway.

  1. i like the new book and the giveaway..
    thx u ^^

  1. Unknown said...:

    The advice is great!

  1. Unknown said...:

    What I liked most about the post is the excerpt, it seems very interesting! Thanks for the post and giveaway :)

  1. The advice was very interesting.

  1. bn100 said...:

    Nice advice to share

  1. Christine said...:

    Love the advice--especially about spending most of your time editing! :)