Friday Speak Out!: Mind Your P's, Guest post by Sioux Roslawski
To be a successful writer, you must be persistent. You must persevere. However, you never want to cross the line and become a pest.
Being persistent and perseverant means writing. Writing steadily and regularly and unrelentingly. And writing even when you hit a snag.
I’m working on a handful of anthology stories—some are light and bawdy and others are dark. A longish project that might end up in the BBQ pit someday. A story on—you guessed it—breasts (speaking of things that are long), which is my “go to” topic when I’m stuck. (Hey, as they descend downward, closer to the ground every year, I might as well wring some levity out of the situation.) The pieces are all saved. I simply go to my file marked “submissions,” choose one, and usually I work on a couple of different things in the course of an evening.
My longish “thing” is full of snags. Navigating is slow going as I work on it. There ain’t nothin’ fun about it right now but I’m hopeful that sometime in the near future, it’ll be the source of great joy. Almost six months ago I wrote a romance short story. This was my first attempt at writing one. My story titillated but tread lightly in the territory of romance, and I shared it with my critique group. The WWWPs swooned (but maybe that was due to the sugar surge from the cheesecake we gobbled) and I sent it off, only to get a resounding no.
However, after reading the stories that were chosen, I figured out the desired tone. Later, I wrote a completely new story for the publisher, and this time, she liked it.
But sometimes in the writing world, “no” means no. Recently I sent off a story, responding to a call for submissions. My critique group did their normal “slash and burn,” I revised it and emailed it, elated. In my opinion it perfectly fit the description of what they were looking for. When I got a reply the very next day, I was excited…until I opened it up and read the message.
A very succinct, polite “thanks but no thanks.” Since the deadline was still a few weeks away, I emailed back, thanking them for such a quick response and inquiring if they were looking for a particular type of piece. (My story was on the serious side—perhaps they were looking for lighter fare?) I figured I had oodles of time to send off something else. However, I was careful to add that if they were buried under with submissions, to not bother responding…I would certainly understand.
After getting a second reply that was as concise as the earlier response, I got the hint. To send another story for that same anthology would brand me a pest.
With my friends I’m often a pain in the rear. As a writer, I’m persistent and perseverant. But never do I want to be a pest…
* * *
Sioux Roslawski has been published in three (so far)
Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several
Not Your Mother's Book collections. A third grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she is also one of the five founding members of the famed WWWP writing critique group. Her musings can be found at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com.
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!
Labels: Friday Speak Out, perseverance, persistence, rejection, Sioux Roslawski
From First Draft to Finished Novel by Karen S. Wiesner (Review and Giveaway)
I was fortunate to get to review
Karen Wiesner's First Draft in 30 Days
before diving into From First Draft to Finished Novel
In this book on crafting a novel, Wiesner continues to carefully lead you through different layers of the process of writing—and finishing—a novel. Peeling back the layers, Wiesner helps you to set the stage for building a strong and cohesive story. As she does in First Draft in 30 Days
, she provides real-life examples from drafts and published novels.
Wiesner puts together a blueprint to follow that starts with setting forth and laying a strong foundation. She encourages brainstorming and then researching. Along the way, Wiesner gives writers the tools to understand how to write their stories. Her appendices include a glossary that helps to explain some of the elements of fiction writing. Wiesner also gives writers the easy-to-follow checklists and exercises to keep on track.
After laying the solid foundation, Wiesner spends two parts putting up the walls of your story. She helps to guide writers through evaluating their own stories, which is essential if you are going to make the story work. Then, thinking in layers, Wiesner suggests how to improve on the foundation and walls of your story.
In the third part, Wiesner helps guide writers in the revision process—giving ideas on how to involve critique groups or partners—through to the final polishing.
Want to sell the novel? Then Wiesner helps you put your proposal together. (I'm not there quite yet!)
Wiesner's style is approachable and friendly. Her advice seems to be vested in you developing the best novel you can. Her examples are contemporary and work to help demonstrate the concepts she's exploring. Her precision focus and guidance should easily help you get from your first draft to a completed novel. Her preparations helped me to look at my work more objectively. She's the writers' coach you wished lived next door to you.
is an accomplished author who has penned over 98 books in the past 15 years, which have been nominated and/or won 125 awards. She currently has 38 more under contract, spanning a variety of genres. For more information about Karen and her work, visit her websites at www.KarenWiesner.com
, and www.JewelsoftheQuill.com
. You can also sign up for Karen's free e-mail newsletter, Karen's Quill, and become eligible for her monthly book giveaways, by sending a blank e-mail to KarensQuillfirstname.lastname@example.org.
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
We are giving away two copies
of From First Draft To Finished Novel: A Writer's Guide To Cohesive Story Building
by Karen Wiesner. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, finished draft, first draft, how to write a craft book, Karen S. Wiesner, novel
Isn’t It About Time YOU Graduated, Writer?
It’s that time of year when graduates are marching forth, ready to show off their hard-earned knowledge and take on the world. Whether they’re leaving kindergarten or college, it’s the same. Excitement bounces on the breeze, just like all those colorful “Congratulations, Graduate!” balloons.
Don’t you wish writers could graduate? That we had a special day when we marched forth, all excited to take on the writing world?
You know what? We have something better
. Because writers can graduate any and every day. All a writer has to do is find the right class and sign up.
Take WOW!Women on Writing
. If you’re a faithful WOW! follower, you know there’s a plethora (See how I used a big writing word? Don’t you feel smarter already?) of writing classes offered here
. Of course, I’m a little biased when it comes to our writing classes because I know how wonderful and responsive the instructors are.
But maybe you’re looking for a class that we don’t offer. Maybe your budget or time is stretched thin right now. There are many
writing classes available—and honestly, it’s as simple as typing “writing classes” into your favorite search engine. From authors who supplement their income by offering weekend retreats to publishing giants who serve up a smorgasbord of webinars and boutique services, you can find a course that will fit both your pocketbook and time constraints.
But writer beware. Taking online classes requires homework before
you pay your tuition.
Do a little research on your instructor
. You want a teacher who’s published and qualified in the writing field she/he is teaching. (Seems like a no-brainer, I know. But I recently noticed a critique service where an author was assigned to give feedback in a field she wasn’t published in. It may not matter if your instructor is published in fantasy YA and you write science fiction YA. But if you’re signed up for a picture book class and the teacher is published in adult fiction, you might want to keep looking.)
Check about refund policies
before you send in that check. Life happens, and if your life happens to take a crazy turn before a class starts, you want to be able to get your money back.
Finally, zip around the web to see if anyone’s talking about the class
. That’s the great thing about writers. They write about everything—and dish on the details.
If your budget can’t manage tuition right now, search “free writing classes.” Instruction on the cheap—and in everything from advertising copy to westerns—is just a click away. You may not reap quite the same benefits as you would from a paying class, but you could still complete that free class and feel like you’re ready to take on the writing world.
So ditch the excuses and sign up today. And get your own
“Congratulations, Graduate” balloon!
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: Cathy C. Hall, free writing classes, online writing classes, WOW Women On Writing, writing classes
Interview with Renee Roberson, Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up
Today we’re chatting with Renee Roberson, one of our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest winners! Please enjoy reading Renee’s entry, In the Depths
, and return here to meet this busy writer.
Renee Roberson resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. In 2003, she left the advertising and public relations industry to begin working as a freelance writer
after the birth of her first child. In 2009, she received first place honors in the magazine feature article category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. Her articles have appeared online and in various local and regional publications across the country, as well as The Writer.
In between the production deadlines of Little Ones
, the bi-monthly parenting magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. where she serves as editor, she works on the fiction she one day hopes to publish. She is currently revising a middle-grade novel about a 10 year-old girl’s adventures in time travel to a sleep-away camp in the 1980s and a YA novel. While she is the first to admit her crippling addiction to the Investigation Discovery Channel, she also realizes (happily) that it inspires many of the plotlines in her fiction, so she won’t be giving it up anytime soon. Visit her blog at www.reneespages.blogspot.com
WOW: Hello Renee, congratulations! Tell us about your experience writing In the Depths.
Actually, there’s an interesting story behind In the Depths
. It was originally called The Case of Christopher
, and I first entered it in the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest. The inspiration came from seeing the news reports about a young man who lived in a nearby city who disappeared after walking out of a bar late one night. He left his coat and wallet behind in the middle of winter, which makes the case all the more disturbing, and he has never been found. That story made it through the first round of judging but didn’t proceed to the finals. I decided to revise it for the Fall Flash Fiction Contest and was thrilled when I found out it had placed. In the updated version of the story, I worked to reveal more detail about the nature of the crime that caused Christopher to disappear, and the Matthew Shepard story came to mind. The big difference in the two versions of the story is that in the first version, there’s really no hope for resolution in Christopher’s disappearance. In the second one, the story builds to the resolution, giving the reader a sense of closure.
WOW: Thank you for sharing that. It’s so easy to give up on a piece once it has been rejected; I hope your story encourages other contestants to revise their work and get send it back in!
As a strong non-fiction writer, what do you feel are the most common difficulties to writing fiction and how have you learned to work with them?
I’ve never been one to do a whole lot of revising. My background in journalism taught me to gather all my facts and crank out a story quickly (albeit accurately) for deadline. As a fiction writer, I tend to have the same attitude. I finish a manuscript and think to myself, “That should be good enough. Let’s get this thing submitted!” I’m always ready to move on to my next big idea, and I have a really hard time being patient. In reality, the revision and critique process is so important when writing fiction. I’m trying to branch out more, participate in peer reviews and work with professional editors to give each piece of fiction the attention and revision it deserves.
WOW: There’s that “R” word again—the Achilles’ heel of many writers (mine as well).
How did your experience in advertising and public relations prepare you for your writing business?
In public relations, you have to constantly look for new opportunities to showcase your clients and get them noticed. The same goes with your writing. Most of the time, well-paying clients won’t be knocking on your door with an overabundance of assignments. I believe having a website that showcases your clips as well as a blog is an important part of working as a professional writer. You also have to always be on the lookout for new markets, spend time applying for contract jobs and constantly query new publications.
WOW: All of which takes time. As a writing mom, what time saving tips can you share with our readers?
Okay, my secret’s out. Housekeeping falls by the wayside when I’m working on a big project. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned that keeping the house spotless is not as important as spending quality time with my family and writing to help pay the bills. When my kids were younger, I took advantage of naptimes and preschool hours to get interviews done, and then I would write after they went to bed. Now that they are both in elementary school, it is so much easier to focus on writing during the hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I try to keep up with the dishes and laundry each day, and my husband is a big help. But after I meet a big deadline, I go on a cleaning spree, which the kids always hate!
WOW: LOL, I can almost hear the groans, “Mom finished her project and you know what that means.”
Renee, in addition to your freelance writing you offer phone consultations for writers; we’d love to know more!
I think phone consulting is a valuable service to offer because not everyone has the time to attend an all-day writing workshop or take a writing class at a local college. I love that writers can take online writing workshops and classes now and/or choose to participate in phone mentoring. Depending on what the writer needs, we can chat for 30 minutes or an hour and tackle specific questions, whether it relates to a magazine article query or a non-fiction book proposal.
WOW: I can think of a few incidents when a short conversation would have saved a lot of time…and stress!
Thank you for visiting with us today and sharing some helpful tips. Again, congratulations.
Interview by Robyn Chausse
Labels: Contestant interview, fall 2012 flash fiction contest, flash fiction runner up, Renee Roberson, Robyn Chausse
Interview with Linda Pressman, winner of the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
By Elizabeth Maria Naranjo
Today we’re joined by Linda Pressman, author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie
. After writing her memoir, a hilarious and heartbreaking account of being raised one of seven sisters by Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, Linda secured an agent but was unable to sell her story. Undeterred, she used CreateSpace to self-publish, worked on her platform, and sold over 4,000 copies before entering and winning the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Linda Pressman is a freelance writer, speaker, blogger, editor and the author of Looking Up
. She has worked as both the short story and blog editor for Poetica Magazine
, and her freelance work has appeared in literary journals, in Brain, Child Magazin
e, in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix
and has been anthologized twice. She blogs at Bar Mitzvahzilla
, one of the top 30 blogs on JBlog, and on Open Salon. The parent of two teenagers, she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and may be reached by email at email@example.com.
WOW: Tell us about the moment you learned Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie placed first in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Details, please!
I haven’t had great success winning contests so after I submitted the book to Writer’s Digest and a lot of time went by, I had stopped thinking about it. Then, on a Thursday at the beginning of November, I was heading out of my house when I noticed an email from Writer’s Digest titled, “Grand Prize Winner – Life Stories,” which was actually the category in which I entered Looking Up
. I get a lot of emails from them so I was glad to have opened this one! It announced that I was the grand-prize winner of the 20th Annual WD Self-Published Book Awards.
WOW: How exciting, and well deserved! Looking Up is both a comic coming-of-age story and a tragic rendering of your parents’ experiences in the Holocaust. Part of the book’s power is your unsentimental descriptions of some pretty horrifying scenes. How did you manage to curb your own emotions so that the story could speak for itself?
I learned from my first writing professor, Lois Roma-Deeley, PhD, that less is more with powerful, or even excruciating, scenes. The reader’s mind must be allowed to do some of the work; the writer doesn’t have to do it all. In other words, write lightly when the emotions are heavy.
The voice I intended to convey through those sections was mine as a child when I was hearing my parents’ stories and not quite listening because they were so horrible that they weren’t quite listenable, so to speak. Raised in the U.S. in the optimistic 1960s, I was always waiting for a happy ending that didn’t come. Hopefully the reader can feel that type of holding of one’s breath that I always felt.
WOW: That definitely comes across. Your prize package included a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City in April. What did you take away from the conference you’d like to share with WOW! readers?
Regarding women writers, specifically, I found freelance writer and author Susan Shapiro
particularly inspirational. She teaches at the New School in New York and assigns something she calls the “humiliation essay” to her students. Her statistics of turning her students into published writers are pretty astounding. To date, she indicated that approximately 52% of her students are published prior to finishing her class, with many receiving book contracts based on their initial pieces and where they appear.
She gave some good advice, some of which is (1) we all need editors; (2) start at the top when submitting your work; (3) tell your secrets as they will strike a common chord with readers; and (4) keep gratitude front and center; in other words, thank those who have helped you.
WOW: “Tell your secrets.” I like that. Okay, so tell us yours: what’s your advice to WOW! readers who are considering self-publishing?
Work on your writing, first and foremost. Nowadays with the technology and opportunities available to writers, it is very easy to become published but not as easy to publish well. Don’t get more excited about publishing than you are about writing.
Establish yourself as part of the conversation ahead of time. If you’re writing a book about yoga, become part of Goodreads discussion groups, LinkedIn groups, blogs, Facebook groups, etc., all devoted to yoga practitioners. This will give you relationships and people who are interested in what you have to say, as opposed to showing up post-publication with a book to sell and appearing to have the ulterior motive of marketing. You will end up the richer for it.
I joined many groups devoted to memoir writers, children of Survivors, people who had grown up in Chicago, and those who had attended the schools I had, and most of my involvement was out of genuine interest and created new or renewed friendships with people I had known. A group of people automatically interested in your topic or in you as a thoughtful, interesting commentator is a wonderful place to start when looking for
When you’re done, give the next person a helping hand up. There’s always room in the world for more writing.
WOW: I think we can all agree with that! What are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to Looking Up
, which takes place after our family moves to Arizona. My dad becomes part Holocaust Survivor/part Arizona Cowboy, then dies suddenly, leaving our mother not only destitute (possibly the only Jewish family in Scottsdale on food stamps) but the queen of Phoenix Jewish Singles, circa 1975. Between her and some of the seven daughters it’s a little bit “Jewish Girls Gone Wild,” so to speak.
WOW: Sounds like your signature style of heartbreak and humor. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing with us, Linda, and congratulations.
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is a writer in Tempe, Arizona. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama
, SLAB Literary Magazine
, Hospital Drive
, The Portland Review
, Phoenix New Times
, and the Arizona Republic
. For links to Elizabeth’s work, check out her website at http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com/
Labels: Holocaust Survivor, Linda Pressman, Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie, Writer's Digest Conference, Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Award
Embrace the Messy Writing Process
"When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end; when we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out." Vickie Karp, poet
I teach writing and I am guilty of this one thing: making the writing process seem logical, easy, methodical. It's not.
Writing is a messy way to write a story. We struggle with the writing on so many levels, from story to grammar, from spelling to characterization. While it's messy, writing can be taught and some of the tangle can be straightened out. There are 29 typical plot patterns
that help in the early stages to lay out the possibilities for a story. There are at least 23 ways to fight a sagging middle
. But still, you must write. And it's messy.
At a recent writing retreat, I had a series of ten five-minute exercises for the participants to do. In a fast-paced hour, I asked the writers to set aside their pre-conceived notions of their story and just play. Explore. Revel in messiness. There's no magic in these exercises, the magic is in DOING them, in exploring the story freely, in letting the messiness lead you to a new level of story.
So, I offer here some suggestions. Take an hour and force yourself to try a variety of ways of writing your story, of thinking about your story. Don't let the internal censor out of its cage during this time. Just write.
- 1st v. 3rd. Which ever POV your current draft takes, write the opening scene in the opposite POV. Or, try 2nd person POV, present tense, I don't care. Just try a different POV and/or tense.
- Attitude. Your character should go into the opening scene (or choose another important scene) with a certain attitude: arrogance, annoyed, indifferent, angry, lazy, etc. Give that attitude a name. Then, at the top of a clean sheet of paper, write the opposite attitude. Now, write the scene again, but this time, your character has that opposite attitude.
- Setting. Change the setting. If it's a bedroom in 1971, make it a farmhouse kitchen in 1330. Or write a scene that takes place beside this beaver pond, while the characters are slapping at the mosquitoes and hoping for a glimpse of the beaver family. Make a drastic change of setting and write.
- Write a letter. To whom would your character want to write a letter? It can be an angry tirade, a confession, or a description of a vacation trip. It can be written by hand (yes, write it in cursive), written as an email, or just as a friendly letter. Write a letter from your main character's POV. Write an answer to the letter.
- Put something in the character's hand. Give the character something to do with his/her hands. Maybe a mother walks into the bedroom of her grown son and sees his old baseball glove. She picks it up, oils it, then sits and cuddles it as she rocks. Or, give her an iron skillet. Perhaps, a sewing needle. Put something in your character's hand and get them doing something, working to infuse emotion into the story.
- Describe. Of course, you have descriptions somewhere in your story. But have you written the descriptions from the main character's POV? Write a new description of an important setting or object, and work to let your character do the telling. What would s/he notice? Be specific.
- Compare. Write an extended comparison--from your main character's POV--between something important to the story and something that appears random to the story. Maybe compare the character's grief at a funeral to climbing a mountain. How do they compare? I don't know. But your character might know. What this does is bring characterization into the moment of grief in a new and fresh way. Write the comparison and let it take you to an unexpected place.
Think of a couple more "mini-assignments" and write those as well. Be messy. Be creative!
The Opening Scene: A Review of the Plot Whisperer and the Plot Whisperer Workbook
My first fantasy novel has become an ongoing project that has sucked me in and spat me out countless times. My plot as a whole is solid, but the beginning has been a challenge. When I say that, I’m being polite.
I took my first beginning to my critique group. Nope. It was too confusing, because I had started the story too late. I started the story earlier and tried again.
I took the new first chapter to my critique group. Still not enough backstory so I started still earlier.
When that didn’t work, my confidence deflated. I remembered a plotting diagram in the Plot Whisper
and The Plot Whisperer Workbook
. They were in my “to review” stack. What better way to test them than this first chapter fiasco? I mentally issued the author a challenge. Drag me out of this writing slump, Martha Alderson
. I dare you.
The plot diagram, Alderson’s Plot Planner, includes the character’s emotional development. Although I was convinced that the problem was plot not emotion, I sat down to do the activities. After all, a dare is a dare.
I created character emotional profiles for my protagonist, my antagonist and side kick. Apparently, Mr. Sidekick is not the goody-two-shoes people see; this new knowledge deepened the story.
I typed a list of scenes. Not difficult, but they were more numerous than I had expected.
I found a 6-foot-long piece of paper as recommended by Alderson for a full-sized plot planner. I wasn’t convinced I needed this much, but I typed my scenes including plot, subplot, emotional arc, dramatic action and theme. As I cut and taped to the chart, I realized it would take 6 feet of paper. Then I got another shocker. Original scene #1 was now scene #6, at the first turning point.
I had originally started the story way too late, a fact I would have seen on this type of plot diagram. Alderson has you look at turning points. At the first one, your character commits to a course of action different from his opening goal.
At the turning point, my character decides on revenge. If I had been using the Plotter from the start, I would have plunked down a revenge chapter and realized that the story needs to build to this point, not start here.
I highly recommend these books. The Plot Whisperer
explains the concepts you will use, showing how each is essential. The workbook takes you through exercises that get the job done.
There are sections on exploring theme; creating story arcs for your antagonist and secondary characters; how and where to work in details; testing cause and effect; and working in backstory.
I’m looking forward to playing with theme but I’ll also study the sections on backstory and all the rest. Why? Alderson has already surprised me multiple times by supplying tools I need before I understand that I need them.
Find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards and her work on her blog, One Writer's Journey.
GIVEAWAY: THE PLOT WHISPERER & THE PLOT WHISPERER WORKBOOK
Writers, you're in luck! We have three copies of each book
to give away, courtesy of the author, Martha Alderson! After Sue's marvelous review and recommendation, I'm sure you'll want to win the set for your writer's reference library. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win print copies of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
(AVR $14.95) and The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
(AVR $16.95) or e-copies—reader's choice! The contest is open to US and Canada for a print copies, and internationally for e-copies. We have six books total to give away, and we will randomly choose three winners to receive the set of both books.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Labels: character development, Contest, critique, Martha Alderson, plot, The Plot Whisperer, The Plot Whisperer Workbook