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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

 

Get Smart!

I resisted getting a smart phone for years.

I had excellent reasons. Like, I didn’t use a cell phone much. I didn’t want to be like so many people, paying more attention to a phone than family and friends in the flesh. It was a waste of money, right?

And then I broke down and got a smart phone because of my step counter. Yeah, technology begets more technology. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done (no pun intended).

No more getting lost! No more sweating over missing an email. And did I mention no more getting lost? Honestly, I wondered why it had taken me so long to get a smart phone. And then I remembered.

Oh, yeah. I don’t like change. I don’t like taking the time to learn new stuff. And I especially don’t like dealing with new technology.

As a writer, I’m constantly keeping up (or attempting to keep up) with new technology in the industry. One day, I may log into my blog and find that the way I’ve always posted has changed (We’ve improved it! All you have to do now is follow these 18 simple steps!). The next week, the site I’ve used for photos decides to mix things up and now I must have an account (I’m not going to lie; I find another site because I have way too many accounts that I already can’t keep sorted).

It’s always something, whether it’s technology-related or just changes and improvements in the writing world that evolve daily. And every fiber of my being resists when a new something pops up. But I power through it.

You know that saying, “He who hesitates is lost”? In the fast-paced publishing world, that’s certainly true. If you don’t keep up with what’s going on around you—just think of all the changes in self-publishing!—you’ll be left behind. There are hundreds, thousands of writers chomping at the bit to get their chance. They’ll happily chomp right through you.

And before you think this is an age thing, think again. I know plenty of mature writers who are as sharp as tacks and extremely successful because they know how important it is to keep up with a dynamic industry.

But I also know a number of writers—young and old—who complain about change and sit on the sidelines watching their peers zip by. Their negativity and resistance ends up as their downfall.

Don’t let resistance get the best of you and your writing career. You don’t have to grab on to every new thing that comes along—Lord knows, I don’t have time for the hundreds of apps out there for my smart phone—but pay attention to this remarkable writing world we live in and keep up with the important, relevant changes. I promise, it’ll be one of the smartest things you ever did for your writing career!


Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. When she's not busy writing, she's busy keeping up with the ever-changing writing world. And sometimes, she spends two hours fixing her printer. Whatever...



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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

 

Meet Megan Waters Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Megan is an avid reader and writer who hails from Long Island, New York. The former cytotechnologist now spends her time reading all the material she can get her hands on to continuously improve her craft.

When writer’s block sets in, Megan likes to dabble on theprose.com where she enters writing contests and plays with poetry. She is enamored with flash fiction and short stories, and hopes to one day publish her first novel currently in the works.

Megan would like to thank her friends and family for pushing her forward while supporting her in her endeavors.

Before reading her interview, take time to read her story, “Lies of a Certain Nature.”  Megan created a story about a character who lies to get what she wants from someone who also lies.  But she’s also set the reader up  for a twist about who is guilty of what. 

WOW: What was the initial inspiration for “Lies of a Certain Nature”? 

Megan: I initially wrote this piece for a different writing challenge, one where the first sentence was provided for the contestants.  I asked myself, “What’s the difference between lying, and lying for a reason?” I decided if a character is going to justify his or her negative behavior, it’s got to be for a really big reason. 

WOW: The big reason is Ali’s, so why did you choose to use Robert as your POV character instead of Ali?  

Megan: I felt that if I used Ali as the POV character, it might reveal her feelings and thought processes too early on in the story. I wanted the reader to discover the motivation behind her behavior at the same pace Robert did. In my eyes, it lent a little more mystery to the story.

WOW: That it did! By leaving out much of the backstory, you enable the reader to see Ali as Robert sees her until her dialogue reveals the truth. How did you decide what details to include and what to leave out of the story?  

Megan: When I wrote the first draft, I had so much more information than what ended up in the final draft. I had to get to know the characters, and once I got a feel for who they were, and what their dynamic was, I continuously edited the content down. I focused on the details which revealed their selfish intentions.

WOW: What was the most difficult part of writing this story compared to other flash fiction stories you’ve written? 

Megan: Revealing the characters’ personalities while driving the story forward in a finite number of words was the most difficult part.  I wanted the reader to have a basic understanding of who these two people were without giving away too much of the plot.

WOW: What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction?

Megan: When writing a first draft, throw word count out the window. Write as much as you can so you, as the writer, understand your characters, plot, setting, etc. Once you have a firm grasp on the main theme of your story, whittle away the extraneous fluff. Also, if you get stuck, don’t get discouraged. Put the story away for a day or two and don’t think about it. When you go back to re-read it, you will see it with fresh eyes and find it easier to edit -- or at least I do!

WOW:  Throw the word count out the window until we know our story?  Ladies, do you think you can do it?  Find out more about Megan and work by following her on Twitter @MeganWaters129.

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

 

Summer Reading

Summer reading...I love to think of the stack of books that would steadily shrink as the days got longer. Then I had kids. Of course, it wasn't too bad in the beginning. I snuck in a few books while waiting poolside at swimming lessons, while the kids were at day camp, while dad was constructing a bonfire for the marshmallows they would burn to a crisp and I would end up eating. Then came summer reading. THEIR summer reading. They would come home on the last day of school with a list of books to read before the fall. Happily, my kids liked to read and we schlepped to the library each week for the summer reading program and to choose new books.

That's the catch with summer reading assigned by the school. They don't get to choose the books and they are often not the books they would normally read. So they would plow through them, complaining all the way. The reading usually goes hand in hand with a project: a book report, a journal, an essay, an art representation. This year my soon to be high school freshman is reading a book that -- after reading an excerpt in sixth grade -- he is sure he won't like. On top of that he isn't an enthusiastic reader. So, with me has his cheerleader/grumpy boss he begins his reading and chapter by chapter journal.

I'm relieved that he has a lot to say (mostly negative) about the first chapter. After blurting it all out to me over dinner, he decides what he will write in his journal and we're off and running. And so it goes, read one chapter, grumble about it over dinner, write a journal entry and the next day start over again.

As I re-read his entries I learn that he has much more detailed critiques of this book than he ever did before. In the past his ratings of books were restricted to okay (accompanied by a shoulder shrug), funny or lame. Now he's writing exactly what he thinks is okay, funny or lame -- along with plenty of other reactions. In fact, his critique is a lot more detailed than some I received from adults for a novel I'm writing.

After all, when do readers write a critique? I imagine most wait until they've completed reading the entire thing. By then many details have blurred leaving just a negative or positive feeling. "I liked the dialogue." Oh, you want specific examples of the dialogue I like? Well...um. Some of the situations felt forced. Which ones? Let me think...

Imagine if you were feeding your novel to your beta readers one chapter at a time. You could get a chapter by chapter reaction to the novel and pinpoint where they liked/disliked characters, where they were bored, what plot lines surprised them/they saw coming. Not only that, but I feel like readers would be willing to take on a critique if they saw it as one chapter at a time, rather than an entire 200+ page book.

Maybe critiquing is better chapter by chapter -- whether you're critiquing for a friend or asking a friend to critique for you. This is what I learned from my son's summer reading journal. I just hope he learned something because there's an essay on the first day of school!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

 

Side-Kicks: Making Supporting Characters Memorable

Whenever I ask someone about their book or their work in progress, their face lights up. They give me a strong snap-shot of the world they created, the major conflicts and, of course, a detailed description of the protagonist. It isn’t until I read their book that I discover their often-delightful, supporting characters.

I’ve always felt bad for supporting characters. They don’t get the love and attention they deserve. Like Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series, or Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend in Pride and Prejudice - each one is complex and interesting, but when push comes to shove, no one’s going to pay money to dress up like them for Halloween.

Creating interesting side-kicks for our protagonists is an art form in of itself. We pour time and energy into perfecting our protagonists, but without their friends, acquaintances and, let’s face it, frenemies, we can’t see all their complexities. Each supporting character brings out a new side of our protagonist, making their personalities rich and multifaceted.

In the interest of disclosure, I have an easier time developing supporting characters than I have crafting protagonists. I start by thinking of the traits my protagonist lacks. For example, in my current work in progress, my main character needs to work on her empathy. The solution? Creating a side-kick who desperately needs the patience and understanding of others. My protagonist lacks confidence, so I created a love interest who demands it of her. Even in real life, we gravitate to those who possess talents and traits which we lack. Why should our characters be any different?

By having each supporting character embody one strong personality point, I help bring out the strengths and weaknesses in my main character. Technically, these types of characters are called foils (think of Shakespeare’s incredible pairing of the passive lover, Romeo, and the intense fighter, Mercutio). By developing multiple foils, you not only allow readers to have a clear understanding of your supporting characters, but you also make your protagonist come alive.

A protagonist alone doesn’t make a story. Give some extra love to their side-kicks and watch them shine.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

 

A WAHM Guide to Not Being Productive During Summer

A post shared by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on



I say it every single year. Won’t you join me? “This summer I am going to be SO productive with my writing! I’m going to make reprint sales. I’m going to finally make progress on my manuscript!”

Yeah.

So how’s your summer going so far as we approach the end of June? Right now mine is pretty much par for the course. I thought that having kids who are finally older (middle school age, gasp!) would make things easier. Was I ever wrong. Here’s a little overview on how my June went for me.

The day after school let out—my mom arrived for a weeklong visit. She lives halfway across the country, so this was a treat. I’m not exactly sure why I arranged for her to arrive the day after what is always the busiest week at my kids’ school, but the plane ticket was purchased, and we had to go with it. Of course, the day she was scheduled to fly in also happened to be the ONLY day I could schedule an interview with a local vet for an article I was working on. I explained to him my time crunch, and we got everything settled. I rushed back home with an hour to spare to grab the kids. Of course my mom’s flight happened to be early so we weren’t there when she got off the plane. We weren’t there when she collected her baggage. Sad to say, she met us in the front of the airport and jumped in the car as I pulled up in the terminal, leaving me feeling like the worst daughter in the world.

I had also planned for us to take a road trip to the beach for two days during her visit, and reserved a condo with great views of the ocean and Wi-Fi, or so I assumed. Never assume. I couldn’t figure out how to connect to Wi-Fi and had to end up calling the owner. She was older and doesn’t realize the joys of internet connection and said she didn’t know the password, and she would try to call the property manager and find out. I tried not to stress because I had planned on doing a little work while there. One of the benefits of freelancing is that you can work from anywhere, right? Not if you don’t have Wi-Fi! I had to end up using a hotspot from my phone that used my data, which worked, but left me limited with what I could do. I never heard back from the owner or property manager.

A few days after Grandma left, my son went away to Boy Scout Camp for the very first time. I was a nervous wreck, but I still had to work and figure out how to entertain my daughter. Two days of that week, she had to volunteer at the library so I simply took my computer and worked blissfully uninterrupted. Luckily she is 14, and can pretty much entertain herself when she’s not at a friend’s house, facetiming random classmates or at a violin lesson. This week, my son is back and was exhausted for the first few days. Then the questions started. “What are we doing today?”

You may remember that I also do pet sitting/dog walking for supplemental income. This has been the busiest week I’ve ever had with two overlapping pet sitting jobs, which I’ve tried to weave in along with assignments and driving the kids where they need to be. My daughter had to be picked up from volunteering every day this week, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the car. Two nights I ago I realized I don’t have anything for my son to do when my daughter goes to music camp next month, and in desperation I signed him up for a basketball camp sponsored by our local NBA team. He was pumped, and then the next day I got the opportunity to go on a travel press trip to a water park the EXACT week of both of their camps. I slyly asked him if he wanted to go to a waterpark instead of basketball camp, and he said no. I turned down the trip. Next week we are tagging along on a business trip of my husband's and I will have my computer with me. At least I know the hotel has Wi-Fi.

You see where I’m going with this. The erratic schedule of summer is actually worse than the erratic schedule of the school year—at least in our house. So far I’ve been able to keep my head above the water with my paying assignments, but the manuscript remains untouched.

So how’s your summer going?

Renee Roberson is a freelance writer and editor who writes for lifestyle and parenting magazines and is still trying to figure out the balance between motherhood and writing. 

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Friday, June 23, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Writer's Voice

by Lauren Garner

We breathe every moment of the day, and often times, we speak with that same breath. As human beings, we never notice the sound of our voice or how it carries into another persons' ear. It just does. However, when we are sitting at our desks, laptops are open, eyes glued to the screen with our eyebrows furrowed because nothing is coming out. No words are written and no inspiration is flowing, and why is that? On a normal day-to-day basis we can communicate so profusely, but when it comes to putting your pen to paper, it's almost like you forgot how to write. It's not that you don't know what to say, it's because you don't know how to say it. You haven't discovered your voice.

To begin knowing your voice, you have to know yourself. Begin by taking a few minutes to describe yourself in three to five words. Are you funny, smart and outgoing? Or maybe you're sassy, independent, and beautiful. There is no wrong answer in this game unless you aren't being honest with yourself. Once you are done with this, ask your friends and family to describe you in a few words. Take this data and apply it to your writing.

What is that book series that you couldn't put down, or that one writer that has stolen your heart? Whoever it is, look to them for their support and guidance. All of them started out exactly where you are now and they're great mentors. Figure out what their voice is and you'll find yours, too. It wouldn't hurt to turn to your favorite musicians and things you watch such as movies and TV shows. All of it is a beautiful inspiration.

The most important part is to not force it. Write because it's fun and you love doing it. A lot of new writers think that finding their voice is the hardest part about writing, and this can cause them to become discouraged. Sometimes they'll even throw out a masterpiece because it just isn't right to them. Think of a writer's voice as being like the cheese in a grilled cheese. You wouldn't eat the sandwich if it was just bread, would you? So why would you read the book if it doesn't have any personality? Your voice is what tells people, "No one else could have written this."

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Lauren Garner has been a writer since she was a little girl. Throughout her life, she was known for always carrying her notebook around working on her latest story. With many different topics that interest her, the main goal in Lauren's life is to help others. In her free time, she writes for her blog, www.l1ttler3d.com and works on her short stories and novels.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

 

Camp NaNoWriMo


I have something of a love/hate relationship with summer.  I love that my son has time off.  But I hate trying to get things (my writing) done around his busy schedule.  I'm writing this on Tuesday and he has this day off.  So do several of the friends that he works with.  That means my dining room is wall to wall life guards.  I don't think they have indoor voices!  

The problem is that I manage to meet hard, fast paying deadlines and not much else.  Writing for fun? Work on my novel or either of my picture books in progress?  Forget it.

Fortunately, I just read about a spring and summer time version of NaNoWriMo.  Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place in April and July.  

Like NaNoWriMo, it is a great way to draw inspiration from your fellow campers.  Of course, since this is writing camp, you're fellow campers are all writers and most of them are in the same situation I am. They are trying to squeeze writing into a busy summer schedule.  

Unlike NaNoWriMo, you aren't expected to draft a novel in a month.  That's right - there is no 50,000 words in one month goal. Honestly, I have trouble even typing that.  I know I can write 15,000 words a month, but 50 thousand?  

If you feel the same way, you'll be relieved to know that Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your own goals.  Maybe you want to draft a chapter book for young readers.  Set an 8000 word goal.  Maybe you just want to get back into your novel.  Would 100 words a day do it?  200?  Set your goal to 3100 or 6200. 

The point is that the goal is up to you.  This is your camp.  

Speaking of camp - you even get to participate in a cabin.  This is perfect for those of us who are more than a little introverted.  Campers are organized into cabins.  This is a group of up to 20 people who are your "writing buddies" for the month of July.  You can register for Camp NaNoWriMo and be randomly sorted into a cabin with other campers.  Or, if this seems a little too like sleep over camp, you can join with a group of friends and form your own cabin.


Personally, I’m a lot more comfortable with this flexible program than the more heavily structured NaNoWriMo. If this sounds like something that would help jump start your writing this summer, you can sign up here.  Questions?  Check out their lengthy but informative FAQ page.

Me?  I’m just debating – duffle bag or backpack?


--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 

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