The Nuts and Bolts of Writing


Sometimes, as a creative writing instructor, I feel like the squisher of dreams. It’s nothing I’m doing intentionally, but as I lead students through the building blocks of good fiction writing, I can’t help but imagine what some of them might be thinking: “Dude is killing the magic.”

For many writers, part of the allure of our craft is its mystery. Who knows what compels us to sit at the keyboard and transform our thoughts and ideas into words? Who knows why we spend our subway rides thinking about scenes and plot twists and people who don’t exist in real life? Who knows why we tear things down only to build them up again and again and again?

That mystery is what draws many of us into writing. Speaking for myself, I have no idea what compels me to write, other than the need to do it. And, for many of us, this is why the magic of writing is so appealing. It’s as though the writing is in control of us, rather than the other way around.

Writing should feel intuitive and personal. It’s a room we inhabit even when we’re not sure why we’re there. It’s an obsession of finding precise language. It’s a mystical experience, especially when our writing takes flight and surprises us in the best kinds of ways.

And while that magic needs to inhabit your writing, there’s another, non-magical side that isn’t quite as fun. That’s what I call the nuts and bolts of writing. In other words, our conscious writing. Nuts and bolts are the practical tools of the trade that you need to factor into your writing. I’m talking good dialogue, evocative settings, believable plot points, compelling characters and more. The nuts and bolts side of writing isn’t glamourous. It involves a lot of tedious work. Nuts and bolts aren’t always in sync with our imaginations and can sometimes interrupt our creative flows. But without the nuts and bolts, the magical side of your writing can’t flourish.

© Paula Wilson

© Paula Wilson

In my course, Becoming a Better Writer and the two workshops I co-present, Improving Your Writing and Publishing 101, I try to help emerging writers understand the importance of being conscious of their writing. And while some writers are resistant to completely letting go of their magical, intuitive sides, embracing the conscious side of writing doesn’t kill the magic. In fact, the best writers are highly aware of every aspect of their writing, both the conscious and subconscious elements. It’s only when you understand the relationship between the magical and practical sides of your writing that you can achieve the heights that all writers strive for.

Shakespeare Lives at IFOA



As part of William Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, the British Council and IFOA are celebrating his enduring legacy as one of the UK’s greatest cultural icon with an innovative and unique programme at the 37th edition of IFOA. These events will fall under the Shakespeare Lives banner, an unprecedented global programme celebrating his work. Without further ado, here are the list of events:


Shakespeare Lives in Poetry workshop

Friday, October 21, 2016 | All Day | Main Loft, Harbourfront Centre

Local spoken word poets, whether beginners or veterans, can sign up for the Shakespeare Lives in Poetry workshop on Friday, October 21st lead by Deanna Rodger, former UK Poetry Slam Champion. Participants will explore how Shakespeare’s sonnets can be utilized by contemporary voices in fresh and unexpected ways. The workshop will culminate in a performance by the participants. Download the Sign up form and e-mail us at to participate in the workshop!

Lunatics, Lovers and Poets

Saturday, October 22, 2016 | 5:00PM | Lakeside Terrace

For our Shakespeare Scholars, IFOA has partnered with both the British Council and the Embassy of Spain to present Lunatics Lovers and Poets, a reading from an anthology of short stories inspired by Shakespeare and Cervantes. Internationally renowned authors Hisham Matar and Marcos Giralt Torrente will read and discuss their work with author C.C. Humphreys on Saturday, October 22nd at 5pm. This event is co-presented with the Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain. Purchase tickets to this event HERE.

Graphic Sonnet Exchange

Sunday, October 23, 2016 | 3:30PM | Studio Theatre, Harbourfront Centre

For those who prefer their Shakespeare abridged, graphic novelists Jonathan McNaught from the UK and Toronto-based John Martz, will create their own illustrated responses to a Shakespeare sonnet in the graphic novel form. They will discuss their process during the Graphic Sonnet Exchange on Sunday, October 23rd at 3:30pm where everyone in the audience will receive a copy of their creation. Purchase tickets to this event HERE.

Slave to Mortal Rage

October 25-27 | 6:00-9:00PM on Tuesday and 4:00-8:00PM on Wednesday & Thursday | Main Loft, Harbourfront Centre

IFOA is also thrilled to welcome the Slave to Mortal Rage virtual reality installation, making its Canadian premiere at the Festival from October 25th-27th. Inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnet 64, it is the third virtual reality installation by CiRCA69, a company described by Cineuropa Magazine as “one of the most notable names in Europe to be dealing with VR”. This is a FREE event.


Who Are You Reading? IFOA Photo Contest



The 37th International Festival of Authors (IFOA) is approaching fast! Participate in our social media photo contest to join the celebration, and win fun prizes! Contest runs between September 14-21.


How to Enter:

1. Like/Follow IFOA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

2. Take a photo of the book you are currently reading, and share it. In the caption, write your answer to the question: “Who Are You Reading?” and add the hash tag #IFOA2016 to be automatically entered into the photo contest (Remember, you have to be following us on the social media platform you are using!)


I’m reading Anosh Irani! The Parcel is amazing, definitely looking forward to seeing him at #IFOA2016

A photo posted by JungEmily (@jungemily) on

3. On September 21, The IFOA team will Announce 3 lucky winners who will receive:

A tote bag with 3 books from #IFOA2016 and a Flex Pass ($90 Value) composed of 6 open tickets to the festival that you can share with family and friends!

Good luck, and happy reading!




2016 Festival Highlights

Excited about the 37th edition of Toronto’s Festival of Words & Ideas?
Here are some of the 2016 Festival highlights!


Full programme and tickets available September 20th.
Flex passes go off sale October 19th. Buy yours today!


Forest of Reading Festival of Trees 2015

On May 12 and 13, IFOA and Harbourfront Centre welcomed over 8,000 students for Forest of Reading® Festival of Trees and the Festival des Arbres, Canada’s largest literary event for children and teens. Along with award ceremonies and book signings, students enjoyed workshops hosted by the authors, the SANDS ALIVE! station, scavenger hunts, book trading and much more. Thanks to everyone involved for another successful year!



Photos © Tom Bilenkey



















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