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November 2014

Writing Tips (Part Four): Five "Simple" Steps to Getting Published

November 3, 2014 | Richard Scarsbrook | Comments (1)

1. Write the best darned story / memoir / article / poem/ novel or whatever else you want to write.

 So. . . get writing!


2. Re-write and revise it until it cannot possibly be any better!

 Cut it!  Revise it!  Rework it!  Finish the job!


3. Send your work out to publishers!

First, get your manuscript into a proper, professional format.  A good resource for this purpose is:

The Writer’s Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats, by Dian Dincin and SeliGroves - With plain examples, this guide shows you how to properly format queries, proposal letters, articles, short story and book manuscripts, play, TV, and movie scripts, etc.

Writers digest guide to manuscript formats

Then, research and find out what magazines/journals/publishers will be most receptive to the kind of work you have created. Some great resources for this are:

  • The Places for Writers website - A one-stop-shopping website for Canadian writers, run by the lovely and talented Barbara Fletcher.  Literary news, contests, calls for submissions, grants and funding, literary organizations, and so much more.  Just about anything useful to a writer on the web is listed here. I use it as the home page on my computer. 


  • The Canadian Writers Market (ebook), by Sandra B. Tooze (McClelland and Stewart) - I consider this to be the one must have book for anyone trying to get their work published or otherwise sell their writing. It lists book and magazine publishers, prizes and awards, agents, grant programs, professional and casual writers’ organizations, etc. I used this book for finding the “right” magazines for several of my early short stories, as well as for finding a publisher for my first novel.

Canadian writer's market

  • Poetry Markets for Canadians, by Marie Savage (Mercury/League of Canadian Poets)- Similar to above, but focusing exclusively on poetry, which most other guidebooks mostly (or completely) ignore.


  • The Canadian Writer’s Guide (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)- Chock full of advice on various topics of interest to writers, including creating, editing, and marketing your work.  Contains a decent listing of various Canadian magazine and book publishers.



  • The Writer’s Handbook (Annual), by Sylvia K. Burack (The Writer, Inc.)- The US equivalent of The Canadian Writer’s Guide, useful especially for it’s listing of US magazine and book markets.


4. Enter your work in writing contests and competitions.

This is a legitimate way to get recognition for your work and potentially get published in other places. 

Beware, though, there are many writing contest scams that exist only to take your money (especially with poetry, it seems).  If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of a competition, Google it to see if anyone has reported problems with it.

Generally, legitimate contests are run by reputable literary magazines and established arts organizations. Again, the Places for Writers website has an excellent listing of these contests.

Many of the writer’s guides listed above will also list legitimate writing contests and competitions.


5. Network with other writers, publishers, editors, etc.

People in the writing business are generally a friendly lot, and getting to know others in the industry can be a very rewarding thing to do. 

  • Join a Local, National, and/or Online writers’ group or organization to take advantage of both the camaraderie and the other services they have to offer. The Canadian Authors’ Association, The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers’ Union of Canada, and CANSCAIP are just a few national organizations for writers.


  • Attend literary festivals (such as Word on the Street, Harbourfront International Authors Series, the Eden Mills Writers Festival, etc.) and go to public readings – Word, Now, Eye, and other newspapers and online sources list public poetry and fiction readings.  Local libraries, colleges, and universities often host author appearances as well. 


  • Listening to your favourite authors read is fun, and also a glimpse into how they are “hearing” their own words when they write them.  Attending readings is also a good way to meet other people in the writing world.

Writing Tips (Part Three): Creating Great Titles

November 1, 2014 | Richard Scarsbrook | Comments (0)

Studies show that a book has approximately four seconds to make a good impression on a customer.  A short story probably gets even less time!  A great title can sometimes be the difference between a story being read and enjoyed and going unread.  The title of your story makes the story’s first impression.

Don’t worry about the title too much until the story is finished.  Then, try to create a title that reflects the genius of your work in one or more (preferably more) of the following ways:

 Three Rules for Great Titles:

 1.  Use Great SOUNDING Words!

 Pay attention to the rhythm, meaning, and sound of the actual words in your title.   Words that sound good together, or that create friction with each other make for memorable titles.

 Some titles that I think accomplish this:  The Sweet Hereafter (Russell Banks), Dance Me Outside (WP Kinsella), Deception (Philip Roth), Fifth Business (Robertson Davies), A Patchwork Planet (Anne Tyler), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Cheeseburger Subversive


2.  Use an important Character, Place, Symbol, Metaphor, Theme, or Pivotal Event   

      from your story


Name of Character – Barney’s Version (Mordecai Richler), Muriella Pent (Russell Smith), The Hobbit (JR Tolkien), The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Suess),

Theme – Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Suess), A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline D’Engle), For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway)

Place – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), The Bridge to Terabithia


3.  Pay off the reader!


It’s always rewarding to a reader to get to a climactic passage in a story, to discover WHY the title is what it is! 



Writing Tips (Part Two): Literary Devices

November 1, 2014 | Richard Scarsbrook | Comments (0)

Or,  Imagery, Metaphors and Symbols (Oh my!)

 Great fiction and creative non-fiction are ultimately about ideas and feelings – causing your reader to think and feel.  Since both feelings and ideas are abstract, literary devices such as similes, metaphors and symbols help to clarify or make these conceptions more concrete. 


 Imagery is a literal or concrete representation of a sensory experience or of an object that can be known by one or more senses

 Or. . . Imagery is the effective description of a time, place or thing using as many human senses as possible


 Simile is a figure of speech in which a similarity between two objects is directly expressed; usually the comparison is introduced by “like” or “as”.

Or. . .  A simile is a comparison between two things, using the words “like” or “as” to show the comparison.

 Examples:  “You are like a hurricane, there’s calm in your eye” (Neil Young), or, alternately, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Shakespeare)


 Metaphor is a literal or concrete representation of a sensory experience or of an object that can be known by one or more senses.

Or. . . A metaphor is a simile with the “like” or “as” left out, so that one thing is simply substituted for another.

Example:  “I am a rock, I am an island” (Paul Simon)


Symbol is a metaphor that is generally used and recognised by a lot of people; it is not just the private invention of one person.

Examples:  A cross or menorah can represent the religions for which they stand, but can also represent various aspects of the religions themselves (ie. Authority, Peace, Conflict, depending on the writer’s viewpoint).

 A ticking clock can represent passing time, a crowd of people glancing nervously at a town clock tower as they rush along the sidewalk can represent time’s universal control over “civilized” humans, and so on.


Personification is the portrayal of an abstraction (an idea or feeling) as a living person: as with living persons, the name of a personification has an initial capital letter.

 For example, the idea of death personified:  “Silently, gently, Death’s cold embrace engulfed me.”


 Allegory is an organised system of symbols and/or metaphors and/or personifications in which the literal meanings mirror the symbolic or metaphorical meanings. Allegories tend to exist throughout and entire work.

 Examples:  In John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, the Pilgrim travels on a long journey, struggling up a hill, falling into a swamp, coming to a place where a man is in prison, being joined on his journey by another man who encourages him and accompanies him to the very end. The Pilgrim’s journey is an allegory for Christian faith:  the hill symbolizes difficulty, the swamp symbolizes depression, the prisoner symbolizes despair, and the loyal companion personifies hope. All the symbols fit together as an allegory of a Christian's journey through this life towards Heaven.



 1.  Avoid clichés – “butterflies in the stomach” and “a heart beating like a drum” were once good metaphors, so good that they have become clichéd and worn out!  Always try to come up with your own unique metaphors rather than leaning on ones that have been “done to death”.


2.  Avoid “stretching” comparisons – “The ground was as cold as that icy crust that sometimes forms inside a box of ice cream after you’ve forgotten it inside the freezer for six months”. . . well, sometimes it’s better to simply say “The ground was cold.”  If the comparison seems forced or thin, you’re better off without it.


During his residency, Richard will work on three new books: a novel called Meet Me at La Bodeguita del Medio, a short story collection titled Rockets Versus Gravity, and a poetry collection called (d)Evolution. Through workshops and one-on-one meetings, Richard will draw on his years of writing and teaching experience to help developing writers find their voices and perfect their works.
Writer in Residence Program