Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Resources for Writers

On The Writer's Life

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All That Effort for the Very Last Ditch

I was done with it. After over ten years of putting it to the side in favour of other more pressing things in my life, I was tired of my novel and embarrassed that I had even thought it was possible. Eventually, I made the decision – gracefully, I assured myself – to just move on. But the only thing that crawled into that now empty space was anger. I even stopped reading. Other books made me ill with envy. In my mind I burnt them all.

Out of the blue a writer friend talked to a publisher about my novel, and so he read it. He said that if I made some changes he would look at it again. It was open-ended but encouraging enough that, when my partner urged me to work with Gail, I thought, fine, I can do that. I had no money, my relationship was dissolving, we were facing one problem after another, but I could. do. that.

Maybe saying yes to the right thing sets everything else in motion. Just after cringing at the bank withdrawal, I landed a really good contract. It was in another city but the weekly commutes were doable and it meant solid paycheques for the better part of a year. Gail leading the way, I wrote at night, on weekends, early in the mornings. I even lost the entire thing at one point when my computer fan failed and destroyed my hard drive. But it hardly mattered. I put all the pieces back together and wrote some more. I kept writing after my job ended and I was back at the farm. But this time alone, just me and the chickens.

I was down to nothing. No job, no relationship, no social life, no more money, not even my grown and city-bound daughters to take the sting off. But, for once, I decided to see it as an opportunity. Carving out a six-month block on the calendar, I knew this was it, now or never, all or nothing, do or die. Clichés all of them, apologies to the books I had charred. In the mornings I laboured on a neighbour’s farm. Partly to help her out, partly to get my body as exhausted and hardened as possible. After a ravenous lunch I wrote. Wrote till the sun went down and the chicken coop door needed closing. My body stronger and my mind unhinged, I embraced falling apart in order for everything to come together.

Done, I queried another publisher. Within days she wanted more chapters. Days after that she wanted the whole thing. By the end of the week she had a contract for me.

Everything had to go wrong, and it did, for something to go right. And it did. Would I do it again? Already started.

Leila Marshy

Montrealer Leila Marshy is of Palestinian-Newfoundland heritage—she can tell a good joke, but it bombs. She has been a filmmaker, a baker, an app designer, a marketer, a farmer, and editor of online culture journal Rover Arts. She founded the Friends of Hutchison Street, a groundbreaking community group bringing Hasidic and non-Hasidic neighbours together in dialogue. She has published stories and poetry in Canadian and American journals and anthologies. The Philistine is her first novel.

Resource Categories

Blogs on Craft

On the Building Blocks of Fiction

Tips on how to craft vivid scene that allows the reader to experience events right along with the characters.

On Finding Your Big Idea

Insights into the writing process and what a writer's day really looks like, as well as perspectives on research and writing from real life.

On Getting to Know Your Characters

Advice on the many ways you can make your characters come alive on the page for both you and your reader.

On Deciding on Point of View

What is the best perspective from which to tell your story? Writers discuss how they made choices on point of view and voice.

On Choosing Your Situation and Setting

Writers talk about how they use situation and setting to build story and convey emotion.

On Developing Conflict and Structure

From how to work in different genres to finding the real story, writers offer good advice on building conflict and structure.

On Revising

Tips on how to gain distance from your work and to how to re-imagine your next draft.

On Publishing

Writers offer practical advice on the business of writing and promotion, and on the importance of finding a writing community.

On Making a Living as a Writer

Writers offer words of wisdom on living on less.

On The Writer's Life

Writers talk about their life as a writer.

About Gail

Gail's novels have been national and international bestsellers and two have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, among other awards. She works with writers from around the world on her online teaching forums.