Category Archives: Jayne Barnard

NaNoWriMo is Key to Success, An Interview with Jayne Barnard

An interview with Jayne Barnard.

Jayne Barnard, a successful and award-winning author, says that participating in NaNoWriMo has been critical to her career.  Not only was NaNo’s self imposed discipline important to learn, but it was also instrumental in launching her career. I interviewed Jayne to find out how NaNoWriMo influenced her.

#1  What did you learn by participating in NaNoWriMo?
I learned:
a) to outline (more on this later);
b) to clear my schedule of distractions. Otherwise I’ll quite happily spend all week visiting with people in person or online, reading library books because they have to go back soon, shot-gunning series on Netflix, cleaning closets.
c) that I need to reward myself for meeting my goals. The first time I did NaNo, I didn’t know to set up a personal reward structure. As the story got complicated, it got progressively harder to force myself back to the keyboard. I think I gave up around November 13th that first time.

I’ve learned since that I can lure myself through a lot of work by setting a daily word count and promising myself a couple of episodes of my current favourite show once that word count is saved on the page/screen. At 5,000 and 10,000 and 25,000 words I lined up progressively larger rewards, including going out to a movie and going out for supper (see ‘distractions’). Otherwise, I had to be at home working until I’d met the goal.

#2 NaNo requires working under pressure. Is there a lot of pressure in working with a publishing house?
I’m working for two publishing houses right now: Tyche Books, which publishes The Maddie Hatter Adventures, and Dundurn Press, which will be releasing the first in The Falls Mysteries in July 2018. Between them I have a minimum of two book deadlines per year for three full years, as well as publicity/marketing/teaching obligations. So yes, at this time there’s no shortage of pressure.

It’s not just the workload, but the creative pressure. The leisure to consider fully each individual part of each project is gone, and with it some of the joy of creation. For example, I launched Maddie’s third Adventure – MADDIE HATTER AND THE TIMELY TAFFETA – on October 23rd and was writing a video-trailer concept for The Falls Mysteries 24 hours later. It’s not my preferred way of working – I like to immerse myself in each story-world and really think about/enjoy what I’m creating – but I know it’s only for a finite amount of time, until the last 3.5 books currently contracted are written. After that, the pressure will be considerably less, and I’ll go back to enjoying myself more.

#3 Getting ready for NaNo, were you a pantser or a plotter?
I was a half-pantser. Or rather, a sixth-er. I can write the first 1/6th of any story on enthusiasm alone. That’s about 50 pages into a novel, 25 for a novella, two pages (one scene) for a short story, two paragraphs for a short-short, and about two sentences in flash fiction. If I don’t have (or make) an outline at that point, my enthusiasm will die, and so will my story.

Subsequent years doing NaNo taught me an outlining method that works very well for me now, both in keeping the story going and keeping myself going. I use slips of paper on a cork board for the overall layout – to avoid muddles in the middle – and then write the entire story out in summary, just the plot points and significant bits of character development, to cement it in my head. Often during the process I’ll find spontaneous action sequences and snatches of dialogue popping up, which lend the story life beyond the page before I ever start writing ‘for real’.

Some of those spontaneous flurries from long-ago NaNo have survived years of rewrites, three changes of title, and two layers of the publisher’s in-house editing to appear on the pages of WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS when it comes out next July. Vintage NaNo-ites may recognize a single sentence near the climax that will mark which November saw me writing the bulk of that novel’s first draft.

#4 Do you still participate?
Every month is Nano for me now, or rather every season is. Although my writing goal is only 25,000 keeper words per month, there might be a third again as many written that get cut the day after I wrote them, because I’ve discovered by the writing what the essential ones are. All year round, I’m either writing or rewriting or both. Or outlining. I have to be very disciplined about social life and other distractions, which gets more difficult the more of the year one must do so.

#5 What differences do you see between writing for NaNo and writing for publishers?
Deadlines are real, not arbitrary. Publishing a book is a multi-person, multi-department coordinated effort, with each piece scheduled months or years in advance. Missing a deadline messes up a lot of people’s work life, and costs time and money to reschedule.

Crafting rather than spewing. No throwing in words and sentences just to rack up the count. Every word has to matter to the finished story, so each must be chosen with care. I write slower, but I hope I write better.

Outlines are not an option any longer; it’s simply not efficient to meander through the story and then go back to rewrite a whole lot later. With the complete outline set down before starting Paragraph #1, I can slide in as much flavour and foreshadowing as possible, directly into the opening, instead of laboriously inserting it during rewrites. I’m not a slave to the outline but knowing where I’m going frees up my creative imps to have fun getting us to the next major plot point.

Before you ask, I’m always thinking ahead into the next book or two in a series. This not only helps my character development arcs in the current book, but allows me to plant Easter Eggs along the way, tiny references or actions or gadgets that may be fun in the moment but will gain new significance when a person is re-reading or reading out of order. When the 5th and final Maddie Hatter Adventure comes out, even though each is a fully-contained story in its own right, I want readers to look back and see a complete story that runs through the five books, with consistent character development and individual character arcs and resolutions for more of the players than simply Our Heroine.

#6 What’s next up in your high-pressure publishing schedule?
MADDIE HATTER AND THE SINGAPORE STING releases in June 2018 and WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS releases in July 2018. No pressure, right?

But it’s all fun as you’ll see if you go play in Maddie’s world with her costumed friends and foes at the purely fictional Venetian Carnevale of the year 1900. TIMELY TAFFETA is available in print at Owls Nest Books in Calgary and in print and ebook formats through fine booksellers online.

Although there’s a difference between NaNoWriMo and working with publishers, NaNo is a good way to develop skills to work under pressure and to meet deadlines. As Jayne shared, there are differences in the quality of output required, but as we hone our skills and learn to work under pressure, we will achieve quality along with higher word count. Thanks for sharing your insights, Jayne! Jayne Barnard’s books can be found at Tyche Books,,, and Kobo.

After 25 years crafting short mystery fiction, Jayne shifted to long-form crime with the Steampunk romp, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (Tyche Books 2015), a finalist for the BPAA and the Prix Aurora. This book was followed by MADDIE HATTER AND THE GILDED GAUGE, a golden autumn whirl through Gilded Age New York City, and now MADDIE HATTER AND THE TIMELY TAFFETA, taking on fashion saboteurs during a Venetian Carnevale. Jayne’s contemporary suspense series, The Falls Mysteries, begins in July 2018 with WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, the 2016 winner of the Dundurn Unhanged Arthurs. Jayne divides her year between the Alberta Rockies and the Vancouver Island shores, and her attention between writing, parasol dueling, and cats. You can visit her at her blog or on Facebook.

Jayne Barnard and Adria Laycraft: Creating Successful Author-Editor Relationships

Interview with author Jayne Barnard and editor Adria Laycraft.

An author’s worst fear can be about getting their work edited or critiqued by an editor, an agent, or even a critique group. Yet, whether indie publishing or working with a large or small press, the process of getting edited is critical to make the story the best it can be. I had the fortune to meet over dinner with award winning author Jayne Barnard and her editor Adria Laycraft to chat about what makes their relationship work. Adria edited Jayne’s latest novel Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge.

Ace: Jayne, what is your worst fear when working with a new editor?

Jayne: You really have to take a leap of faith that the person is coming into it has the right spirit, that they’re not looking to score off you or browbeat you into doing what they want with your story.

Ace: It’s not about ego, it’s about making the story as good as it can be.

Jayne: Yes, and it can come apart very quickly if either the editor or the writer is acting superior. You see that in so many series. The example of Harry Potter comes to mind. The first three books when J.K. Rowling was a new author were clean, tight, and tidy, and they’ve got cool structure. The fourth book could have been cut by 10% off the top and the fine details polished. Did that not happen because of Rowling or because the publisher felt that they didn’t need to make the investment? We’ll never know.

Ace: Adria, what is your fear when taking on a new client?

Adria: That’s a loaded question. In this case, it’s about not only doing the best for Jayne, but for the publisher who hired me, Tyche Books. The big thing for me in a new relationship is being understood.

Ace: Understood?

Adria: You know how easy it is to misunderstand the tone and the body language in a text? Are they saying: I’ll be right there, or I’ll be right there? But when we speak, we use different intonations to convey specific meanings. As an editor, I have to figure out the author’s intention and if that intention is being conveyed. So, when I make changes and suggestions, my fear is about being misunderstood and upsetting the author. If that happens, it’s difficult to achieve our common goal to make the story its best.

Ace: How do you make it the decision whether it’s grammar or the author’s voice?

Adria: I don’t make the decision. I point it out to the author and they make the decision. It’s their book and their choice. For example, I pointed out some things to Jayne which weren’t technically correct and let her decide.

Jayne: Like capitalizing the seasons. Adria noted that technically this wasn’t correct and asked if I wanted to do this. That’s a very Victorian style that I deliberately used.

Adria: Whereas an editor with a nice big ego <<grins>> charges in and fixes things so that it’s technically accurate but ends up ruining the story.

Jayne: But a good editor can also help make the story richer. For example, Adria and I are working on foreshadowing and subtext. Foreshadowing and subtext build things up from the very beginning. One word here or three words there, and then the choice of colour for a hair bow – all the things which build up a character or subplot subconsciously. Individually, they don’t mean much but all together they make the story amazing. What happens when you over-edit, and you can over-edit yourself <<laughter – we’ve all done that!>> you edit out the things that make your work colourful and strong. In effect, you’ve flattened your work. It becomes more of the same, less whimsical. When you have an editor really into your work and I’ve only discovered this because Adria is the best editor I’ve ever had…

Adria: Now I’ll have a swollen head. <<peals of laughter!>>

Jayne: …she points out the things that I can exploit to make the story richer. Sometimes, though, I think, “Hey, I could do this with it!” and then Adria asks if it’s relevant and if it serves the story.

Ace: You’re talking about danglers which should be either eliminated or exploited?

Adria: They’re the elements that never get properly tied up in the end. Some are so cool that you have to find a way to use them. But always you have to ask if you need them and if so, how you’re going to use them.

Ace: The question is: Is it a gem you need to polish or is it a stone you need to throw away?

Jayne: It’s more like throwing a ruby into the gravel. To me it’s just coloured glass, a whimsy, until Adria she points out that it’s really a ruby, dusty and uncut, but a gem. The question then becomes, does it need it be faceted and polished to its full potential, or does it need to be removed because it’s a distraction from the greater story?

I also think it helps to be edited by someone who’s writing a speculative fiction because I know her ego isn’t invested in my work, but her own.

Adria <<grinning>>: My ego is also invested in how well your book does, Jayne.

Jayne <<laughing>>: Because your name is on it too!

Adria: And I want other people to hire me to edit too. I love editing. I love helping other people realize the dream of what they want their book to be! I’d like to read something that Jayne texted to me recently: the crux of a good editing relationship is the free flow of information and ideas like a conversation between professionals. It isn’t hard to keep it professional, is it?

Jayne: No, it isn’t.

Adria: Then I said, the key for the editor is to help an author create the best version of the story they want to tell and to remember not to start rewriting their words.

Jayne: Agreed.

Adria: I’ve personally had that experience with other editors and in critique groups and all the years of critiquing others and being critiqued. The key thing that helps me be a good editor now is knowing not to over critique or to over edit, and especially to not try to rewrite the person’s story for them.

Jayne <<laughing>>: No matter how tempting it is!

Adria: And sometimes it’s really tempting! But, it’s their story and all I can do is make suggestions. It’s not my story to write. That was the big learning curve for me to become a good editor.

Ace: Advice to new writers would be that to learn how to work with an editor go to critique groups get critiques done, and give critiques. That teaches us how to be respectful of an editor and which fights are the important fights to pick.

Jayne: That’s a good point: which fights to pick. Now, I’ve been fairly lucky with Adria because she reads and writes in my genre. She thinks it’s all fine fun <<more laughter>> so in that sense we have some fundamental compatibilities in looking at the project. Adria challenges me to make it better, deeper, richer – I’ve never had an editor do that before. They focused on making it technically correct or easier for the reader to understand, but not creatively greater than before.

Ace: The special sauce of this relationship is mutual respect with a common goal which is to make the book the best that it can be.

Adria: Yes, but to really make the relationship work, my advice for new authors is to be professional, and don’t get defensive. Take the comment and go sit with it for a while. When you kick into defensive mode, I can’t help you. You won’t see what I’m trying to point out if all you’re going to do is to defend why there has to be a ruby in the gravel.

Ace: Perhaps if you have to defend something, then maybe you haven’t expressed it clearly as a writer. If your editor isn’t getting it, then no one else is going to get it.

Adria: If you have to explain it and defend it, then that’s why I’m pointing it out – because there’s an issue.

Jayne: And from the author’s side, I would say that if the editor says something you really disagree with, don’t answer right away. Go for a walk, go whack down some weeds in the back yard, or sound off to your best friend. Then, as a professional, set aside your feelings and think about what those comments mean for the story.

Ace: Some reader will always tell you that you’ve got it all wrong and they may not be so nice about it. But with an editor, you have the opportunity to consider the comments and make changes. Once published, you don’t have an opportunity to change the manuscript.

Jayne: Readers paid for your book in money and time so they have the right to their opinion even if they totally missed what you were trying to say.

Adria: If you’re a new writer, even an established writer, and you’re getting the same comment from 5 out of 8 people in a critique group, then there is a problem. If it’s just one, and you disagree with it, you have a right to disagree. If you’re getting the same thing again and again, then you must look at it. For instance, early on in my writing, I was told that my characters were passive. It took me a long time to hear that, to stop being defensive about it. I was trying to tell the story of characters who were passive and it didn’t work. When I stopped being defensive, I realized they were right.

Jayne: It’s all about the outcome – the best words in the best order. Unlike the football player or the stage actor who have to make it perfect in the moment, with no do-overs, writers have the leisure to consider what words we’re putting in what order. There’s no excuse for a writer to publish a shabby story.

Ace: Thank you both for your candor and your time. Now, when I’ve transcribed this interview, I’ll send it to you both for your editing.

Adria: But you’re the interviewer, you’re supposed to edit it.

Ace: As a good editor, I know that these words are yours and not mine and only you can have the last say!

Jayne: Touche!

<<peals of laughter>>

Adria is a grateful member of IFWA (The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) and a proud survivor of the Odyssey Writers Workshop. She is also a member of the Calgary Association of Freelance Editors (CAFÉ). Her biggest claim to fame as an editor is Urban Green Man, which launched in August of 2013 and was nominated for an Aurora Award. Look for her stories in Orson Scott Card’s IGMS, the Third Flatiron Anthology Abbreviated Epics, the FAE Anthology, Tesseracts 16, Neo-opsis, On-Spec, James Gunn’s Ad Astra, and Hypersonic Tales, among others. To learn more about her work and editing services, contact Adria at

After 25 years writing short mystery fiction, Jayne shifted to long-form crime with the YA Steampunk romp, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (2015), a finalist for the BPAA and the Prix Aurora. The second Maddie Hatter Adventure, MADDIE HATTER AND THE GILDED GAUGE,  (Tyche Books, May 2017) is on shelves now and the third is due out this fall Her contemporary suspense novel, WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur in 2016 and is being published by Dundurn along with two sequels. Jayne divides her year between the Alberta Rockies and the Vancouver Island shores.
Website:; Facebook: @MaddieHatterAdventures;
Twitter: @JayneBarnard1



Genre-Blending: 3 Keys to a Well-Mixed SFF/Crime Blend

Guest post by Jayne Barnard.

It isn’t easy to pull a balance of elements from two genres into a single story. Mysteries need crimes, suspects, red herrings, and character development for motivation. Science fiction and fantasy require questing characters, a reasonably adventurous plot, and a certain amount of world-building as well. Each of those elements absorbs words, and melding them all smoothly into a single narrative – often a short story with a tight word count – can be agonizing. Here are three keys to cutting down the word-wastage and blending the genre elements smoothly:

  1. Don’t describe anything about the story-world except the facets needed to understand the action. Concentrate on what’s different from the reader’s default Earth-based mental image. Integrate those world-building elements into the characters’ inner thoughts, actions, and dialogue. Even though you, the author, must know what political, social, technological and possibly tectonic elements shaped the physical surroundings, your readers don’t need to know it all. Your readers only need to feel confident that it does fit together in some rational pattern, and that if they asked you, you could tell them. So only describe the bits that they need to know to understand the current story.

In When the Tide Burns (appearing in BURNT, Analemma Press, August 2016), the setting is a barge moored in a garbage-packed cove as the wind is rising. This could be present time, familiar reality for coastal dwellers until the fifth sentence. The soapberry wax, all that protected their clothing and equipment from the acid spray, was down to its last sheen in the tin’s bottom corners. Not such a normal cove after all, but one holding a danger unfamiliar to the readers. The implied menace of the acid spray, combined with the rising wind, are not only effectively alien elements of world-building but introduce a sense of a rising menace against which our protagonist must pit her wits.

  1. When introducing characters, only describe what makes the alien, orc, or robot different from an ordinary human. Don’t bother with anything about their culture or planet of origin unless it’s vital to the plot of this story. You need to know it all; the reader doesn’t. Again, integrate. Don’t info-dump.

In Quest for Parts (Enigma Front, Analemma Press, 2015) we see what the protagonist sees: a scrawny, pasty, generally human-looking intruder. But… Ignoring the racket, the guy stared into the sky-blue mirror, adjusting a knob at his collar with one claw. His face shimmered, gaining warmer tones while losing the sharp tips to his nose, ears and chin. The lasers in the room shimmered, too, stopping when his face settled. This character has claws, not fingernails, and can adjust his appearance by turning a knob. He’ll need those assets later in the story, so best to slide them into our protagonist’s, and the reader’s, first impression. 

  1. Make some element of your mystery one that could only occur in that particular alternate reality. Stories that could have happened down the block but are set on a space station will not be as engaging as those that require, nay, demand the setting and culture you have created for them.

In MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND, the inciting incident sets this up immediately: The expeditionary airship of Baron Bodmin, ardent African explorer, has been found adrift and deserted. Its log-book is missing and no clue remains to its captain’s fate. A fortnight after its last sighting over the mouth of the Suez Canal, the airship appeared off the coast of Cornwall, floating low and rudderless above the waves. No escape canopy or life-vest remained on board.   The batty baron must have vanished from an airship because only airships can stay aloft indefinitely without fuel or a pilot. Exactly where he vanished, and whether by accident, on purpose, or someone else’s design, is the first of many questions for which our intrepid Steampunk reporter must seek answers.

Now to integrate them all. An example from Painted Jade (unpublished) opens with all of the above: Working security on the top side of a conglomerate-built drift makes you a traffic warden in any gated community anywhere. You spend your days petting the dogs and smiling at the nice ladies. Or, if you’re me, trying to reverse that process. Troubles happen way down the bottom, where the ore processors and overcrowded labor force are located. Not my turf. I’m up here with the shiny clean management and their families. Low crime? Try non-existent. So it was unusual, to say the least, to get a morning report about a body bobbing against a pricey porthole high up on C7. A human body, not a stray hunk of rock freed from the asteroid belt. The dome owner objected less to the body proper than to it blocking his view of ore-blasting among the asteroids.

This opening encompasses all three of the keys: world-building, character, and unique element to the crime. The space habitat, the mining industry and the rudiments of a class structure are set out immediately. The point-of-view character’s job and general attitude are on the table up front. No other setting but space allows for the body, and all the evidence the killer left on it, to be perfectly preserved from the moment of disposal. Additionally, the space station serves like one of Agatha Christie’s isolated manor houses: all the suspects and the next possible victims are trapped in one place. The story could not happen anywhere else.

Thus, the essence of a nice, smooth blend of genres: integrate world-building with the lead characters’ actions, which also reveal their attitudes and attributes. Make the crime specific to that world, and the solution unique to those characters.


Jayne from steamconJayne Barnard is a founding member of Madame Saffron’s Parasol Dueling League for Steampunk Ladies and a longtime crime writer. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Awards for short fiction range from the 1990 Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for PRINCESS ALEX AND THE DRAGON DEAL to the 2011 Bony Pete for EACH CANADIAN SON. Her longer work has been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger in the UK and won the Unhanged Arthur in Canada. You can visit her at her blog, on Facebook or @JayneBarnard1