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Thursday, March 31, 2016

 

Turning An Agent's Chair

I love The Voice, that TV program where people sing and try to get a coach/mentor’s chair to turn for them. And last time I watched, I had this epic thought. Wouldn’t it be cool if writers had something like that? We could read the first two minutes or so of a manuscript and try to make famous agents in our genre turn a chair for us.

That epic thought was immediately followed by a sobering thought. Oh, yeah. We do have that. It’s called a query.

If you’ve gone down the agent stream, sending out queries by the boatload, then you know how difficult it is to get an agent to pick you. But maybe we spend more time on the query and not enough on the manuscript. All you really need is to get an agent to read the first 250 words of your manuscript and pause long enough to think, “There is promise here. I want to read more.”

So what turns an agent’s chair?


Voice

Yeah, I know. Pretty obvious, right? But I’m not talking about simply a good voice. After all, plenty of singers have good voices and nobody turns. But a unique voice? A voice that gives an audience something they’ve never heard before? That’s golden.

It’s the same with writing. Plenty of writing is good. But a voice that grabs a reader and won’t let go? Something unusual and desperately authentic? That’s the kind of voice in a manuscript that will stop an agent in his or her tracks. Plot problems can be fixed; a forgettable voice with a great plot will ultimately be a forgettable story.

It’s not easy to master voice. That’s why you need to write, and write, and write some more. Feedback and critique are critical. But let’s assume that at last, you have the voice down. Now the Battle Rounds are coming and you need to step up your game to stand out in the crowd of great writers. You need story.


Story


Yeah, I know. I did it again. But if it’s so obvious, why do we keep making the mistake of offering the same old, same old? On The Voice, a coach will often say to a singer, “You have to make it your own.” Someone’s chosen a great song, a classic song, but if the singer performs it the same way it’s already been sung, where’s the thrill in that? Writers must do the same.

Mystery, romance, adventure, they all have a basic plot. The trick for you, the writer, is to take a story and make it your own. You have to give an agent—and readers—something that’s both familiar and yet different. Your story must surprise the reader, go somewhere unexpected. If your writing is following a well-worn path, there’s no thrill. And no agent interest. So read, read, and read still more. Knowing what’s out there will keep you from telling the same old story.


Whether you’re a singer or a writer, it all comes down to voice and story. It really is that simple.

And that hard.

~Cathy C. Hall



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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

 

How to Choose a Summer Writing Program or Conference

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about summer writing programs and conferences!

Invitations to return to old programs and to try out new programs have flooded my inbox. A quick Google search for writing programs will provide you with hundreds of options. With so many writing programs to choose from, how do you narrow down your search?
Courtesy of Strawberry Creek Inn
Geography
There are writing programs available in every nook of the world. You could stay local, which will cut down on travel and other expenses and allow you to be available for commitments like child care. Or you could choose a different part of the country or the world and turn your writing program into your dream vacation.

Live in a city but want to get away from the hustle and bustle to concentrate on your writing? Try a program in a remote, rural setting. Or perhaps you live in a quiet suburb and you want to network with others in a major publishing city like New York.

Each option has its own perks and distractions, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your budget, time availability, and learning and writing preferences.

Length
Writing programs can be anywhere from a few hours to several weeks long. Choosing the length of the program depends on what you hope to get out of it and, usually, what you can afford time-wise and financially.

If you want a day to network with other writers and hear some of the industry news, a 1-day conference would work for you. But if you wanted to get feedback on your writing and have time to work on it, perhaps a multi-day workshop would better fit your needs.

Type
There are multiple types of writing programs that offer different experiences and services.

Conferences tend to be 1 to 3 days long and provide lectures and/or meet-and-greets with industry professionals. These will often provide lunches and discounted hotel accommodations for participants.

Workshops can be 1-day to multi-week affairs and provide you with opportunities to share your writing and get feedback from other aspiring and professional writers. These are often, but not always, residential programs that provide housing and meal plans.

Retreats will be multi-day programs, almost always residential, that provide writers with a lot of solitude to work on their writing with optional meals, networking, and other support services.

Some programs offer a mixture lectures, workshops, and free time to write.

Instructors and Genre
The instructors or speakers at a writing program are an important consideration because you want to make sure the people giving you advice are top-notch professionals in the writing business.

You also want to make sure they work in the area of the writing business that best suits your needs. For example, if you want to write children’s books, a writing program with Romance novelists would not be the best option for you. Likewise you wouldn’t want to attend an event for creative nonfiction writers if you’re an aspiring Sci-Fi novelist.

I recommend looking up the bios of the instructors or speakers to get a sense of their writing resumes, the genres in which they write, and what they could offer you in terms of your particular writing goals.

Cost
It would be an oversight not to put cost in this list of considerations! The cost usually depends on all of the above criteria.

If you've found the perfect writing event, but it's a little to costly for you, ask if the program offers need-based scholarships. Some programs also host writing contests in which winners receive a money towards the cost of the program.

Requirements
Many writing programs and conferences encourage writers of all levels and experiences to attend, but note that some require an application and writing samples, especially in smaller workshop or retreat programs, and the program will only select a few applicants based on quality of writing.

What are other aspects of writing programs you consider before signing up?

More Information
Check out these two databases for excellent compilations of writing programs near and far!



Written by: Anne Greenawalt

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 

Meet Beth Everett, 2nd Place Winner in WOW’s Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Contest

A short work of 750 words can come from anywhere: some uncompleted idea shoved away in your desk, or, as in the case of our second place winner, derived from larger project. Beth Everett’s prologue to her third book successfully captures the emotional world of her main character and sets the stage for a larger story. Please take a few moments to enjoy the imagery in Where Charlotte Lay.

Beth Everett grew up in the coastal hills of San Francisco. When she wasn’t writing books about ladybug circuses, she was suspecting the worst of her neighbors and looking for clues of their misdeeds. She blames Nancy Drew.

After college, Beth worked for a booming investment bank in San Francisco. She later sold real estate in a suburb of Manhattan, but always longed to return to the west coast. These days she lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and sons. She drives for Uber part-time, which she claims is a goldmine for material.

The author spends most of her free time in the woods with two badly behaved Beagles, whom she fears will discover dead bodies.

Her first novel, Death on Adler, was published in October of 2015. The second, Dead on the Dock, will be released in April. Charlotte is a character from the third book in her series, called the Lee Harding Mysteries.

Visit her website at www.beth-everett.com, and connect with her on Facebook.


WOW: Hello Beth, congratulations on placing in our Fall 2015 contest! With one book launched and another on the way, what prompted you to enter the flash-fiction contest? I’m imagining you would already have a long to-do list!

Beth: I love the challenge of telling a story in just seven hundred and fifty words. It forces the writer to cut to the most useful pieces of language.

WOW: Your writing shows careful word choices and a strong poetic influence; at what point in the process does the poet emerge? Is she there on the first draft?

Beth: The Charlotte story really represents a new era in writing for me. I moved to Portland two years ago, and the beauty of the Pacific North West has moved me deeply. I find myself needing to be in the woods even on the rainiest of days. Finding new words to describe what sometimes is just downright spiritual has been a difficult. The Pacific temperate rain forest is the real poet; I am just trying to share the beauty of it.

WOW: You’ve succeeded! Tell us about the creation of the Lee Harding Mystery series; when did you know you were ready to tackle a series?

Beth: I’ve been trying to write books for almost thirty years, but couldn’t stand my own narrative voice. I would destroy my journals then come back and try again. I wanted to be Fitzgerald.

One cold evening in New Jersey, I complained to a friend that I was stranded on the East Coast. He responded with, “Do something about it.” The next day I started writing Death on Alder and I didn’t stop until it was finished.

It was an incredible experience to start and “finish” something. I didn’t know then that I would have six more rewrites. I wish I’d done seven, but I met so many people that had been working on their books for seven or eight years and that scared me.

I’m working on my third Lee Harding book (Where Charlotte Lay). I like writing the series because I am really getting to know her now. She is a contemporary woman in her thirties; struggling with some of the marriage, family and work life issues that I and many of my friends went through at that age. My hope is that other women can relate to her imperfections. We can be so hard on ourselves.

WOW: What is your story organization process? Do you outline, wallpaper your studio with character charts, …?

Beth: My stories come to me as I write them. Sometimes I find new scenes on my walks or in with my prompt writing group, PDX Writers.

With Dead on the Dock, my poor husband had to put up with me pacing the floor for days as I tried to figure out who the murderer was. When it came to me, I cried, because I fall in love with all of my characters.

WOW: You have an attractive website! Many writers struggle with the idea of creating an author website; do you have any tips or words of wisdom to share?

Beth: Thank you. I used Sitebuilder, which is website building for the technologically challenged, another group I belong to.

My advice is to be fearless. You can always “undo.”

WOW: Good words to live by in writing and in life! Thank you for visiting today, Beth. We look forward to reading the rest of Charlotte’s story.

Do you have an old, dusty story stuck in your desk drawer? Polish it up and send it in! You can find all the information for Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest on this page. We can hardly wait to see what you will write!

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Monday, March 28, 2016

 

Seeking Reviewers for Laura Davis Hays' May Blog Tour for Incarnation

Hello readers! We are gearing up for a fun blog tour beginning on May 9. This will be only a review-only tour, so we are seeking 10-12 bloggers to read and review Incarnation by Laura Davis Hays. Both digital and hard copies are available.

Below is a synopsis of Incarnation:

Kelsey Depuis, Santa Fe scientist, and Iriel, betrothed on Atlantis to a man she cannot love―two young women bound by a single soul.

In Kelsey’s everyday world, three men shape her life: Myron Crouch, the boss of BioVenture Enterprises; Harrison Stillman, a brilliant colleague of hers there; and Stan Dresser, who twists her feelings with his kisses and lies.

But gradually, growingly, Iriel is shaping her life too. Through dreams and visions, she draws Kelsey into the ancient realm where refusal to marry Gewil has driven her to daring flight with fantastic creatures across a strange and terrible land.

As Kelsey joins other BioVenture researchers testing a new organism on a remote Caribbean island, turmoil and violence darken her fate―and Iriel’s presence grows stronger. Worlds shift and merge, danger grows. Past and present, vengeance and love swirl together as the seas rise up, the seas that once swallowed Atlantis.

Tested in life-or-death struggle, Kelsey must face an ordeal she can survive only through great courage and deep karmic understanding.

About Laura Davis Hay:
Laura Davis Hays is a California native, the only child of a theoretical physicist and a librarian. Her prize-winning body of work includes a forthcoming fantasy series, the Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early twentieth century. Hays is also an accounting consultant, a performing pianist, a composer, and a skier. She and her husband live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with their two cats, Rufus and Dexter.

Who will enjoy Incarnation:


  • Readers who like tales of adventures with a taste for fantasy


  • Those who are spiritually inquisitive and open minded


  • Fans of stories with strong, courageous, female characters


Interested in hosting Laura on this tour? E-mail renee@wow-womenonwriting.com with your first two choices of dates and whether you prefer a PDF or hard copy of the book. The tour launches on May 9 and available dates include May 10-June 3.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

The Importance of Your Tribe

Life is messy. As women, most of us say yes too much and often feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. Whether we have small children, grown children, no children at all…there is one thing we need. We need to be loved and accepted; we need a tribe. A tribe is a term that was new to me, and after looking it up I realized why it is so fitting when a woman describes her friends and family as a tribe. (I typed “tribe” into Google and this is what I found: noun/ a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

I didn’t realize the importance of a tribe until I became a mother. Maybe it was motherhood, or
maybe it was moving to the country? Maybe it was a husband who heads out to the barn at the crack of dawn and doesn’t return until the middle of the night? I didn’t recognize the loneliness, but I had all sorts of questions and ideas and it wasn't like those college days where there were people down the hall who would have the answers. I turned to my friends and family and they introduced me to more amazing people and my tribe grew. It started with a short text about getting a proper latch for nursing. That friend told me about a local group who could help. Someone in that group became a friend and stopped over for coffee. Other moms got in touch with us via social media. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by a large group of like-minded individuals.

Some of us live far away (one dear friend lives an ocean away in Ireland) and some of us live just down the road. We gather together online as well as in the kitchen at my home. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to gather in the outdoors, next to lovely Lake Michigan. Regardless of the space in which we gather, we provide one another with love, support, and we share ideas. We are not all alike. Like members of any community; we have diverse backgrounds and talents as well as differences in opinion. What we share is a common bond and desire to support and empower one another. Getting back to the tribe analogy, some members of a tribe hunt, others gather, some prepare the food, and others teach the children. They are all working toward a goal of survival for the entire tribe. This is how a healthy tribe looks in 2016 as well. Some of us bake delicious pastries, others know exactly where to find the best sun dried tomatoes, some of us are incredibly organized and can pop over to help with a rummage sale, and others are great at babysitting or giving a quick driving lesson.

As our lives move forward, members of the tribe find themselves dealing with health issues, divorce,
rebellious children, dying parents, tough economic times, etc…and like any tribe, we pull together to help one another. These tough times make the tribe stronger. A lone person walking aimlessly in unfamiliar and desolate woods would have a difficult time surviving. A tribe of people under the same conditions would find comfort with everything they need to either get everyone out of the situation or turn it into a thriving village.

Where did your tribe come from? Did they find you or did you find them? Are you an intentional tribe gathered around a salt bowl, or a social media group? No matter how you found one another or where you meet (virtually or physically), please know each of you is important and cumulatively you can do amazing things. Please leave a comment telling us about how a tribe has been important in your life.

Photo credits for today's post go to Jenn Morris-Fodden who I am proud to call a member of my tribe.

Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 7, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.


You can find Crystal riding unicorns, blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

 

Pull Your Reader into Someplace Real

Whether you are writing historic fiction or science fiction, pulling your reader into the world of your story boils down to creating a world and story that feel real to your reader.  Succeed at creating this reality and the reader will fall into your story.  Fail and the reader might not make it to page 5. 

Here are four things that you can do to create the sense of reality your reader needs.

Details make the setting.  The first step in making your world real to the reader is to create a world they can sense.  It isn’t enough for them to see it.  As much as possible it has to engage all senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, hearing, touch, and motion). This means that each manuscript page needs to include details that involve at least three of senses. That’s sounds like a lot but it is doable when you learn to take your descriptions beyond the obvious.  We know snow is cold, but how does it sound? How does summer heat smell? Choose things your character would notice and weave them into the story.

Make the culture real. This is vital for any story, historic, contemporary or science fiction, that takes place outside of the world of your reader. In book club, we read Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, set in the poverty rich hollows of the Missouri Ozarks in 2006.  These people, the majority of whom cook meth, police their own based on a complicated set of rules and morays.  In spite of the differences between this world and our own, Woodrell made the culture make sense even if it was still horrifying.

Common Goals make for a Common Experience. Another way for your reader to identify with the story is to give your character a goal the reader will recognize. It could be to see history made or to do something you’ve been told you will never accomplish (The Race for Paris by Meg Wait Clayton).  Perhaps the character wants nothing more than to clear his name (Storm Front by Jim Butcher).  Giving your character a goal that is familiar to your reader will help pull the reader into the life of the character.

Connect through Character Emotions.  None of us who read Winter’s Bone know that life, but we could connect with it through the main character’s emotions – fear and desperation at the thought of her family losing their home. The same will hold true for your story. Your characters and their lives may be unfamiliar to your reader, but the emotions that they feel are emotions that people have felt in every culture and every time. Use these emotions as another way to help your reader connect.

It doesn’t matter if your story is set one street over from where your reader lives or in the Amazon ca 2027. Pulling your reader in involves helping them connect with your story both through the setting and the characters. Learn to do it and don’t let go.

--SueBE
Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

 

How to NOT Build an Author Brand: Learn From My Mistakes

A little over  a year ago, I wrote a version of this blog post for my writing friend, Shannon Yarbrough's blog, which by the way is a great blog full of writing advice, nutritional advice, funny posts, and more! Check it out here if you never have before. I've updated my post a bit and changed some things, as my opinion changes about this writing biz, but basically here it is: 

One of the biggest pieces of marketing advice out there is build a platform, grow an audience, and write in the same genre. Sure, people with several books, such as picture books or self-help, will decide to write romance and get a pen name. But generally, good, little authors write a young adult fantasy, and then they write a sequel or at least another young adult fantasy. It’s very smart.

But I did not do this.

Hopefully, there’s at least one other author out there besides me who likes to struggle through marketing and building an audience. If you are nodding your head, then please find me on Facebook, and let’s start our own private Facebook group, where we can complain and whine together. We can call our group: "Authors who like to make the hardest business in the world even harder."

Seriously, what happened to me?

Before I had any idea what I was doing and before the explosion of the e-book and self-publishing world, way back in 2000, I took a correspondence course where lessons were actually snail-mailed to me, and I wrote Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength in Vicksburg. This is the novel I always wanted to write for kids in upper elementary grades to read at school and home. It took three-plus years to write because I taught full time and had no idea what I was doing. Then it took three more years to revise it and figure out what to do with it. That was 2006, still the dark ages considering where self-publishing and e-books are today.

This book was freaking hard to write. Historical fiction is the most difficult thing I’ve ever tackled, and I thought the whole experience might kill me. (Especially when I signed my contract, did my revisions, and then my publishing company almost went out of business. . .) But alas finally, in 2012, I held my book in my little hands and had a party.

But what happened between 2006 and 2012? I wrote other books, of course, but I vowed to never ever write another historical fiction for kids. The whole experience, as I mentioned, almost killed me. So, I wrote a few picture books and a contemporary YA, and I started to pursue publication with a couple of these manuscripts. Lo and behold—I was offered two contracts—one on the contemporary YA and one on a cute, humorous picture book.

Do you see where this is going? I know what you are thinking: Margo, you have no platform or consistency.

I KNOW! But luckily, I have great writing friends who did things correctly, such as my publisher, Robin Tidwell. One day she said, “Just try to look at what all your books have in common. They all have girls as the main character.”

She was really trying to help me! But yes, I went with it. They do all have girls as the main characters, and in each one, the girls are smart and funny, kind and bull-headed. Then, one day, in the comfort of my living room, I came up with this tagline to try and pull all this together:

Be Unique. Be Strong. Be Yourself.





Not only does it encompass my books, but it also says a lot about me and my personality.

The lesson here for me? I have to work with what I have. I’m proud of my books. I love talking to kids and teens, and because I have such a wide range of audiences, I am more versatile when it comes to speaking—there’s probably something I have for any age of kid or grandkid you have. (hint, hint)

Now I have to figure out what to write next since I've been in a slump. I have a middle-grade mystery ready to go and another humorous picture book almost ready. I also want to do a blog where I am writing about life issues, trying to reflect on some things I learned this last year going through a divorce. So, we will see what the future brings.

I would also love to hear about how you created a platform--either the right way or the wrong way!

Check out more about Margo Dill on her website.
Photo of tools by Dylan Foley on Flickr.com.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

 

Meet Fall 2015 Flash Fiction First Place Winner, K. Alan Leitch

As a citizen of both Canada and Australia, K. Alan Leitch considers himself a global denizen, and hopes one day to make a memorable contribution to American history. His work teaching literature has built upon his inborn love of writing to the point that his most rewarding moments involve the laughter, tears and outrage of readers moved by his work. Inspired by his study of literature at Oxford, and by great authors like John Updike, he challenges himself to synthesize literary style and theme with the accessible, adventure-driven plotlines that entertained him as a young reader. Other publications appear in Stringybark Stories, literary anthologies published by I.E.U. Australia, and even in a literary magazine he edited himself during icy winters in Calgary, Alberta. He is also the author of the award-winning (but unpublished) Starlite Lanes: We Bowl for Democracy, and another unpublished partner-novel—but not for long! Click here to read a sample.

Read Keith's winning flash fiction story here.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Fall 2015 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Keith: I first entered the Flash Fiction competition in 2011, at a time that I was using several competitions to motivate me to write to a deadline. The Flash Fiction competition appealed to me as a means of exhibiting a single ideal, while minimizing the risk of obscuring it to readers who hunger for twenty subplots and six hundred intertwined characters. Of course, I also enjoy writing longer fiction (including novels), but for reasons other than simply promoting an ethic. Flash Fiction is the contemporary answer to the fable, or the fairytale. I remembered feeling that way in 2011, so came back to it this year; I am very glad that I did.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story Ease?

Keith: I remember it exactly! I normally work as an English teacher, and one of my colleagues visited my home and made an innocent, offhanded comment about the beaten, decrepit leather chair into which I sank every evening. This triggered an avalanche of reflections about the nature of materialism: how our species is driven to acquire finer acquisitions and, as a result, tricked into abandoning many of the joys that materialism falsely advertises to us. This is the genesis of the circularity and situational irony in Ease.

WOW:  We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Keith:  This is a timely question, as I have been experimenting with many of these. Firstly, time is of the essence, but in the opposite manner to how that cliche is usually expressed; my creative process demands a day--preferably several days--of time dedicated to it before it really accelerates. That pesky need to eat is usually what interferes with this, as workdays can drain quality from a writer's expression.

When this happens, changes of scenery and background change the environment around my mind, and changing that environment is the essence of creativity. While I have set up a desk in my home to exploit a very nice view, there are times when my laptop and I need to escape to the beach, and other times to a coffee shop, in order for the writing to continue. I find that the sounds of life are more inspiring than the sights of it. I snatch syllables and inflections from the voices around me, and build, from this mosaic, the new voices of unique characters.

When I absolutely cannot start, I write a "throwaway" story: meaning, essentially, one that I know can never be published. This exercise sometimes takes the form of rewriting a published story, or adding a chapter to a published novel. Sometimes, I write a narrative using characters and circumstances from a favorite television series. In any case, this creates a scaffold of ideas from creators that I respect, and their ideas web intertextually with my own, until I can transplant something new into my original fiction.

Of course, on other days, I just give up and eat a brownie. Those taste nice.

WOW: Can you also share any good books you’ve read lately?

Keith:  There are so many! For those interested in experimenting with narrative sequence, Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis, chronicles a man's life lived entirely in reverse. This may seem silly when I describe it, but, using this sequence, Amis manages to give readers entirely new reasons to sympathize with a protagonist that they would otherwise be certain to despise. Also utilising unusual sequence (currently an interest of mine, with which I am experimenting in my next novel) is Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, while John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius provides fans of Shakespeare new stimulation by presenting a prosaic prequel to Hamlet.

Finally, at the risk of out-geeking myself, I have to mention a graphic novel that I just finished. J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One is a humanization of a character familiar to everyone, and a textbook example of how the voices of narrators and characters can be crafted to rewrite established history without dismissing it.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Keith! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Keith:  Enter now and enter compulsively. Enter the stories you know are great, and enter those that you wish you'd never written. Use a pseudonym, if you are embarrassed. Refine stories that are knocked out, then enter them again: my own winning entry did not even make it past the first reading in a previous competition. It is thanks to Angela's encouragement that I was motivated to give Ease another chance to earn readers, and I now have a new network of professionals I can read, and who may read the online sample of my novel or other work.

Of course, out of respect for the hardworking organizers and editors, you do want to research which competitions are best suited to the genre, style and length of each story you have written. Respecting that, though, give everyone a chance; if you are lucky enough to win some prize money, use that to pay the fee for even more entries. As your stories are celebrated and rejected, you will be left with a clearer sense of the genres and styles that different readers prefer.

The unique thing about this craft, whether profession or obsession, is that writers can measure their success through readership.

A well run competition performs the miracle of giving writers an interactive sense of audience, because we know that, victorious or otherwise, members of the industry will actually read our stories. Any writer should see that, alone, as an achievement. You cannot lose.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

 

Learning Something New

Even after all the conferences I’ve gone to, I still learn something new at nearly every conference session I attend. And at a conference last week, an SCBWI one in my Southern Breeze region, I sat down in an auditorium to listen in on a discussion of alternate streams of income for writers and illustrators, and boy, did I learn a lot!

So I figured that I would share a few of the panelists’ ideas, in case you, too, thought you knew all about ways to make money beyond a book contract.


Writing Test Passages

Many freelancers are familiar with work-for-hire projects on nonfiction subjects, but there are many more jobs available in this field than writing children’s books. Jobs like writing for tests.

If you’re a writer with a background in teaching and/or education, if you know all about the Common Core Standards, then you’re even more likely to get work in this area. And it’s work that might be better compensated than a book contract (when compared to time invested).

The trick is in finding the jobs. A quick internet search led me to a couple companies that specialize in testing, like Pearson.

Market guides can be helpful in your search as well, and don’t forget conferences. Often, the best connection to this kind of work-for-hire is the person sitting next to you at dinner. Talk to people who write test passages and pick their brains!

Beyond the Research

Have you become an expert on a subject, thanks to all the research you’ve done? Maybe it’s time you made that research pay off beyond articles. (Though if you haven’t looked into writing articles in niche magazines on your subject, then by all means, get cracking on that!)

Work up a program on your nonfiction topic and check with public libraries about presenting. Even if they’re unable to pay more than an honorarium, they will most likely allow you to sell your books. Could you share your topic with a scouting group? A club? A senior center?

If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars, not to mention hundreds of hours, getting to know your subject inside and out, then it’s worth a little bit of thinking-outside-the-box time to come up with ways to share that knowledge (and get paid for it!), as well as sell your books.

And finally, during the illustrator’s presentation when I wasn’t expecting to learn anything (because I’m not by any stretch the artistic type), I perked up when I heard something about contract templates.

Freelancers Union

Of course, there are lots of wonderful sites all about freelancing, including here at WOW! Women on Writing. But Freelancers Union might be helpful for business information and/or insurance opportunities. It’s free to join and it’s for writers, yes, but it’s also for artists and musicians and…well, any freelancer.

So a special thank you to panelists Heather L. Montgomery and Sara Lynn Cramb who helped this writer—and maybe a few of you, too—learn a little something new!

~Cathy C. Hall



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Saturday, March 19, 2016

 

The Invisible Writer


Several years ago, I entered an essay contest with the theme of “Invisible Writing.” It took me several false starts before I was able to put a set of thoughts down coherently, and it really made me dig down deep within myself. I’ve included an abbreviated version below:

A young girl grows up in a household where her mother and stepfather constantly criticize her weight. She eventually experiences a crushing depression and eating disorder in college. The mental breakdown lands her in a mental hospital for the summer, where her mother visits her and simply says, “I just wish you were normal.”

Along with stories like this, there are so many good memories tucked away in my psyche as well. Like my Mexican grandmother making tortillas from scratch and serving them to me with warm refried beans and chorizo sausage, or the way my mother always made sure my birthdays were extra special, even after I went off to college. But to fully tell my stories I have to cherish the good with the bad, because they are what made me the writer I am today.

I read the work of authors like Nicholas Sparks and Pat Conroy and I know their own secrets are woven into the fabric of their fiction. I browse through the hard drive on my computer and find many short stories and pieces of novels that are so obviously based on real-life relationships that I cringe when I read them. If I can plainly see the basis for these stories, surely my loved ones will do the same. I fear they will be hurt by all I have chosen to reveal in the name of art. These stories, interesting as they are, have remained unpublished because I do not wish to cause pain or conflict among my family.

I am not alone. Many writers know their work will open up a window to their souls, and it is hard to imagine others looking in. American poet Emily Dickinson did not actively seek to publish her work during her lifetime, most likely for a similar reason.

For years I have hidden behind non-fiction service articles to pay the bills. But while there are real-life examples that I've turned into published pieces, they only scratch the surface. I have dreams of publishing my first novel, and the outline and characters have been playing along in my head for almost two years. But the idea is based on an event that happened in my hometown, and the rest of the story is based on characters directly drawn from my childhood. I continue to work on it and try not to think about what will happen if it ever does get published. Will my childhood friends read it and recognize themselves in the characters? If I dwell on that prospect, the work might never be finished.

Writing words I'm afraid to publish is something I have to continue doing in order to grow as a writer. I can't think about the "what ifs?" any longer. I've come to realize that writing the familiar (although sometimes painful) is where I produce my most honest and sincere work.

For me, experiencing the joys and turmoils of life, and writing about them, are part of my identity. Without these life experiences, I would have nothing to write about. So for now, I have chosen for my work not to be invisible any longer.

In what ways are you an “invisible writer?” Are there memories you need to get out on paper as a way of healing, or are there ones that find a way in your own creative work, such as a memoir or novel?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning professional freelance writer and editor with hundreds of print and online articles and columns to her name. In addition to writing for regional parenting and city magazines and blogs, she is a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her at Renee's Pages.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writing Habits to Nurture

by Brenda Moguez

1. Read: when you can’t read, listen to books.

2. Write every day. If you struggle with the rigid daily commitment, write as often as possible, making your irregular schedule a homecoming, a haven from the impossibility of your life.

3. Observe the world you walk through every day. Pay close attention to the people around you, the young girl with streaks of blue in her hair, the gages in her earlobes and the trail of tattooed stars that begin at the base of her neck and end somewhere beneath the ripped Grateful Dead T-shirt she wears. Notice the nervous man standing in line at your favorite Barista and fit him out with a story the explains his jumpy disposition. Mentally note the color of the sunset you see each day but often fail to appreciate.

4. Be fearless, take yourself out of your comfort zone. Breathe in new air and surroundings regularly. You need not cross an ocean, sometimes venturing to a new neighborhood is on par with riding a jet plane to an exotic destination.

5. Block the noise from your head, move Ms. Demoralizing Doubt and Mr. Frankly A. Failure, to the outer banks of your mind, and write unencumbered. Write freely. Write passionately. Write honestly. Soar on the page as your thoughts do would when the sun burns into horizon where possibilities are endless, your hope boundless, and failure is inconsequential.

6. Limit your availably to families and friends; prohibit social media intrusions--ask yourself if the world truly wants to know what you had for lunch?

7. Listen to music, watch documentaries, indulge yourself in afternoon of movie watching, take a screenwriting or poetry class (assuming you are not a poet or a screenwriter, and if you are, try something contrary to your comfort zone), cosset your muse, feed her/him delectable morsels: read words aloud from favorite authors you cannot forget, look through a coffee table book filled with black and white photographs of faces--study the eyes and find their story. Never forget the eyes hold the key.

8. Invest in you, in your passionate self and the dream to soar above of the confines of the life you accepted without consideration. Dreams are the gateway to our ethereal selves, the wings that allow us to take flight, the key to surviving the churn that sometimes accompanies the day-to-day drudgery.

9. Taste, Touch, and Feel, use all of your senses; inhale all that surrounds you. Revel in the sensation. Close your eyes and see the world without your eyes.

10. Believe. Hold on tight to your belief in yourself, as if your life were hanging in the balance, as if you were walking a tightrope, as if your next breath hinged on your trust in yourself. A writer's ability is questioned daily, battered, beaten, kicked around, stomped on, drug through the street's gutters, tossed carelessly into slush piles. If your faith wanes, even the slightest fraction, if your heart quivers, if you permit your psyche to linger in the shadow of doubt, if you question your passion--at all, even once, the crippling virus of defeat, inadequacy, takes root and fester. Don’t let it happen, believe.

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Brenda Moguez writes the kind of stories she loves to read—women’s fiction, starring quirky, passionate women who are challenged by the fickleness and complexities of life. She’s particularly drawn to exploring the effects of love on the heart of a woman. She has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for a room of her own. When she’s not working on a story, she writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. Her second novel, Nothing is Lost in Loving, is set to release April 2016. You can find her at http://www.brendamoguez.com where she explores passionate pursuits in all its forms.
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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, March 17, 2016

 

Making the Most of LinkedIn

When my husband asks, “What is LinkedIn?” I tell him it’s Facebook for grown-ups. He doesn’t use social media at all and just knows our younger employees really enjoy Facebook, Snapchat, and as he calls it, ‘the birdie one’… (I assume he means Twitter).

I recently had a friend and small business owner ask me about LinkedIn and though my knee-jerk answer was the same one I use with my husband, we continued our conversation and I explained it as follows:

LinkedIn is an opportunity for business professionals to connect with their peers on a professional level. It’s sometimes used by headhunters and job seekers, but it really is more about connecting and less about recruiting. Facebook Business Pages is an opportunity for a small business to connect with and reach out to their customers, so many articles you would post on your Facebook Business Page could also be posted on LinkedIn. But keep in mind you are not selling on LinkedIn, so any sales-ey posts should be kept away from this social media platform.

I offer 5 quick tips for small business when it comes to LinkedIn (and yes, this applies to authors too):

1) Make sure your profile is complete – this is your chance to tell your story. Use what you have on your resume, but then add some more. There is no rule on LinkedIn about keeping your profile short and sweet. Go ahead and include as much about yourself as you feel comfortable. This will help LinkedIn make suggestions and connect you with groups with similar interests and backgrounds.

2) Look in the mirror – not really (lol) – but make sure your profile is an accurate reflection of who you are professionally. When I first started on LinkedIn, I used a head shot that was very professional and serious looking but the words I used to describe myself indicated I thought outside of the box and was creative, artsy, and fun. A dear friend pointed out that my picture should be updated to really reflect who I am.

3) Find a second set of eyes – we all have friends and/or family. Have someone else take a look at your profile to make sure there are no serious mistakes. If you own a small business, make sure you’ve included information about your business and that it matches what you have on your business website, Facebook Business Page, etc. Be consistent with your branding and marketing.

4) Get connected! – don’t be shy about connecting with people. This is your chance to connect with those in your community as well as those who have similar professions who may live on different continents. If you read a great article in Forbes Magazine and you feel you want to read more article by a particular author, go ahead and look them up on LinkedIn. Send them a request to connect and add a personal note telling them you enjoyed their article. It is unlikely they will turn down your request (as long as you are sincere).

5) Stay Busy! – I don’t want to be connected to someone who hasn’t posted anything in 3 years. Bring value to your professional network by sharing things of value. It’s great if you wrote the article about attracting and retaining a top notch work force, but you can still bring value to your connections by sharing the article someone else has taken the time to write. I suggest posting or sharing something 3-5 times each week. Try to avoid sharing articles you disagree with. Those type of shares may give you a reputation for being a ‘negative nelly’. Share value added articles and say a few words about why you felt the article was worth sharing.

If you’re already on LinkedIn, pop over and say hello or connect with me.

If you aren’t on LinkedIn yet, what’s holding you back? If you’re there, what do you like most?



Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 7, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.


You can find Crystal riding unicorns, blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

 

Query Letter as Job Application

Last weekend I went to a writer’s workshop that included a Skype session with Lori Kilkelly, an agent from Rodeen Literary Management. One of the questions that someone asked was about query letters. “Should I tell the agent this is my first manuscript?”

It didn’t surprise me when Lori said no, but her explanation as to why will help us all remember what to put into our next query and what to leave out. Think of your query letter as what it is – a job application. What would you include in a job application? Relevant reasons to hire you. What do you leave out? Relevant reasons to say no. Or laugh. Or run away.

In short, don’t tell the agent/interviewer why you are a bad choice. This includes:

  • That this is your first finished manuscript.
  • That you have no sales.
  • How many agents have already said no.

Instead, tell the agent why you are a good choice.

  • For some of us that means listing sales. But only go into detail for relevant sales. When I submit a book proposal, I only include my activity writing if I am pitching a book that includes activities. If that’s the book I’m pitching, I don’t tell about my history writing unless the activities have something to do with history.
  • Also include relevant educational experience. This looks especially good if you don’t have sales. Are you working on an MFA? Do you go to SCBWI retreats or Highlight Foundation workshops? When I applied to write for an educational publisher, I told them about my degrees in anthropology and history. My first assignment? Ancient Maya.
  • Include your work experience if it is relevant. I’ve worked in archaeology which was relevant to Ancient Maya but not 12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis. A friend of mine writes books to help children deal with tattling, divorce and people who appear different. She is a counselor so that appears in her letter.

Last but not least, make a personal connection.

  • Did you meet this editor at a conference? Mention it, but don’t stop here.
  • The best job applicants know why they want to work for a particular company. Why is this agent or agency a good match for you? Do they represent both fiction and nonfiction? Maybe they emphasize diverse book, self-help or romance novels.
  • Study the agency web site and the agent’s blog. Look for key phrases that they use to describe themselves and their authors. If you can subtly work these into your letter, they will see that you know who they are.

Your query letter is your job application. Use it to make yourself shine.

--SueBE
Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on March 21, 2016.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 

Interview with Courtney Essary Messenbaugh: Runner Up in the 2015 Summer Flash Fiction Contest

Courtney Essary Messenbaugh is a reminder that you can come into writing from a variety of directions. She has worked as a bond analyst, nonprofit project manager, waitress, library clerk, documentary film producer, and political fundraiser.

Although she’s a true introvert and claims to be shy, she also knows that an interesting life makes for interesting writing. Because of this, she likes to try new things and meet new people. Her hobbies include travel, music, movies, and books. She hikes, does pilates and yoga, and also meditates.

Visit her site to sample her writing and be sure to check out her contest entry, "The Tales We Spin."

WOW: First of all, congratulations on placing in the contest. You came into writing after working as a bond analyst, nonprofit project manager, waitress, library clerk, documentary film producer, and political fundraiser. In what way was all of this preparation for your career as a writer?

Courtney: I’m curious about lots of thing. I took a circuitous path to where I am today. It was like throwing noodles against the wall and seeing what sticks.

I did all of these things but when I had my first child I realized that the creative part of my brain had been slowing atrophying. I needed to do something with it, so I tried my hand at writing. I’m a big observer of people. I like to sit and watch, and I take mental notes on the things I see around me. This has worked really well for me as a writer.

With my jobs, I’ve taken a bit from each of these varied experiences to inform who I am, what makes me tic. This has also helped me be more in tune to what makes other people tic and what makes the world go round. It all feeds into my writing.

WOW: The bulk of your published writing ranges from automotive to lifestyle articles. What is it about flash fiction that appeals to you when you could be working on nonfiction?

Courtney: Short fiction is a new endeavor. I’d been working in politics full time. Through networking I fell into automotive writing. Women have a huge impact since our purchasing power is big in so many consumer markets. Because of this, I was able to get into automotive writing in a fact based, fun way. Then I moved into lifestyle and parenting.

The fiction is fun but it is really different. It is a piece of you on the page. It gives me butterflies to think that anyone would read it. I haven’t shown my husband any of my fiction. I haven’t shown my parents. But I can show it to you and everyone else out there in the WOW community because I don’t see you on a daily basis. With WOW, there are a group of other women like me, pursuing a dream, pursuing this really cool journey. I like being part of that community.

WOW: What was the inspiration for “The Tales We Spin”? I can’t help but notice that, like you, the main character is a story teller. Are other elements of the story autobiographical?

Courtney: To a certain degree. I’m a mother. I have two daughters but I also have a son. I implied that there might have been abuse or trouble and I’ve never been in a situation like that.

For me the two themes that came out in the story were the power of women and the fact that we all use story telling. We tell ourselves stories and other people stories for different reasons. It might be to make us feel better or to entertain. That is part of my story, but so is the theme of power. No matter how difficult life can get, you can get through it with strength and perseverance.

I like writing from an emotion driven stand point. I think we are all fighting our own tiny little battles and they are all relevant. I connect with that emotion in the story.

WOW: How did this story change and grow during the revision process?

Courtney: I wrote the first draft or two with more certainty and more hard detail. I initially went in with details and backgrounds. I didn’t go in thinking I would write a hopeful story about bad things happening.

As I rewrote, I ended up using more ephemeral detail. You don’t know if the father has gone away or if he’s dead or if he went back to work. There’s no talk of outright abuse although there are implications. There are illusions to big problems.

Leaving details out of the final story lets the reader’s mind wander a bit and go deeper into the story. There’s subtler detail about how the characters respond to the events in their lives. With these details, the readers come up with different thoughts about specific points in the story. It creates a more profound experience.

I think that’s why I like the short form. You have to leave some of the detail out because of the word count. I’ve seen films like this. At the end of the film, you aren’t entirely sure what happened, but then you think about it some more.

I like that with any art form whether it is painting or sculpture where you have to make up a part of the story. I like the interactive-ness.

WOW: What advice would you have for someone who is considering entering a WOW flash fiction contest?

Courtney: Sit down and give yourself five minutes to write something, whatever it is. Don’t stop writing until the five minutes is over and then see what you have at the end.

When you’ve done this, submit something. You can give it to your friend, your husband, or enter it in a contest. Put it out there.

One of the neatest things for me was to discover this community of people who are writing. The internet can be used for so much community building and sharing. I can go online and follow the paths of women and men who have been doing this for longer than I have and I learn how to write from them.

Learn but also write. Jump in head first. Don’t be scared. We’re all scared. You’ll realize that the water is just fine. I’m going to keep writing, to keep trying, and I hope everyone else does too.

Congratulations again to Courtney.  Don't forget to visit her site to sample her work.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

 

Creating Content - 10 Online Repurposing Formats

Creating Content - 10 Online Repurposing Formats

by Karen Cioffi

While your blog post should be valuable, it also needs to ‘pack a wallop.’ It needs the ability to be repurposed.

Repurposing content has been around a while, but isn’t always used to its fullest potential. According to Jeff Herring, the highest paid direct response internet marketer, there is a psychology to repurposing, it’s “the ability to look at one thing and see many things.”

It may be turning a blog post into a video, a product, a script for TV. The ideas can keep going.

To make the most use out of your marketing time, this is the strategy you should invest in. Don’t let an article simply be an article – repurpose that article.

Creating Content: 10 Online Repurposing Formats:

1. Expand on your article and turn it into a report that you can offer for freebie for your subscriber list opt-in.

2. Take bits of your content and tweet them throughout the month.

3. Create a podcast.

4. Combine a bunch of articles on a particular topic and turn it into an ebook.

5. Turn your ebook into a live chat workshop. After the live event, you can copy and transcribe the chat – then combine the transcript with the ebook for a combination product.

6. Turn your ebook into a live teleclass. Record the teleclass for more repurposing.

7. Turn your ebook into a live webinar. Do the same as with the teleclass, record it.

8. Turn your ebook into an ecourse. This content format is a good way to get subscribers – those interested will need to sign-up to your mailing list to get the course. Or, you can sell it.

9. Query radio hosts. Most radio hosts are always looking for guests with information to offer their listeners. Offer to be a guest and present your content.

10. Create a video and upload it onto YouTube.

TIP: Be sure to upload any Youtube video you have onto your own site also.

Creating content and having it in so many formats widens your potential customer base. Think about it, some people like to read, others love watching videos, some like the instructional format of teleseminars or webinars, and those pressed for time would rather listen to content while driving or exercising.


Remember that any information you’re sharing should have a clear call-to-action in it. Let the reader know what you’d like her to do: subscribe to your mailing list, buy what you’re offering, or other desired action.

Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.

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Join Karen's online class, BECOME A POWER-BLOGGER AND CONTENT WRITER IN JUST 4 WEEKSVisit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

 

Writing Tough Scenes: From Love to Death

I am not a romance writer, but I love to read them and help my online novel students write them. Sometimes, then, I have to read the love, well let's just say sex scene...and critique it! This is not an easy task. I think it is difficult to write these scenes so that the reader is not taken out of the story. The reader is loving these two characters, wants to get them together, and hopes that this love scene will be magical!

I'm not going to go into a bunch of tips on how to do this. But I am going to tell you a story of one of my students, and I hope it will help if you are writing a love scene...or really whatever challenging scene you have in your genre.

So here's what happened:

I was reading along in my student's scene and excited that these two lovebirds were finally going to "get physical." But when I read the actual physical act, the words she used reminded me of something from the 70s or at least--out of date--and I was out of the story. I marked them, and I tried to decide what words she should have used instead, but this is always a sensitive subject when critiquing. What do we call female and male body parts when we are reading a love scene? What do the readers expect to read?

So I asked her--have you read a love scene recently? In the romance novels you read, what do those authors call the parts?

When she wrote me back, she thanked me for my feedback and said, "I haven't read a love scene since my friend's 'bodice rippers'. You just gave me excellent advice."

I tried to make my advice so much more complicated too--trying to come up with alternate words, but all she really needed to hear was: find romance novels like yours, read the love scenes, and pay attention to the words the authors use for body parts. That's it. That's all she needed to hear.

So I learned something as a teacher and a writer from this experience.

First, reading is the key. As writers, we learn so much in our genres from other writers--what works for us and what doesn't. You must read in your genre to learn, improve, and fit in with what readers expect.

Second, when critiquing, give advice from your heart and encourage the writer to improve the scene because you as the critiquer do not have to fix the issue for the writer.

Finally, you have to find someone to read your tough scenes (at least) and give you honest feedback. It's too hard to do it all by yourself.

Have you ever written a love scene? Or a murder scene? Fight scene? Death scene? How did you handle this? How did you know what to write? 

Margo L. Dill is a published children's writer and WOW! online writing instructor. To find out more about the novel writing class she teaches, please see the WOW! classroom.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Your Bird and Your Dog, or Rob a Shop

by Hazel Butler

When I was first learning to write, I spent days on an exercise designed to help me pen realistic dialogue.

Step 1: Carry a notebook everywhere.
Step 2: Write down everything you say, and everything said to you.

The result?

Pages saturated with the loneliness of my childhood. Arguing parents, cruel peers, and numerous conversations with Sam.

Sam was my dog, and he seldom spoke.

Nobody wanted to read the dialogue of my life. This realisation led to habitual eavesdropping.

I currently have noisy neighbours. Every time I try to write, they start screaming. I’ve dedicated some time to writing the saga unfolding next door: Why did she leave him? Why did she returned? Had he cheated? Was she paranoid? And who the hell threw the brink through the front window?

She thought it was one of his whores.

He claimed it was random.

It turned out the shady activities she’d interpreted as infidelity were actually a result of secret debts. It came to a head the night after the incident with the brick. I was making a cup of tea when, clear as a bell, I hear her berating him, “How are you this thick? Your fool mate isn’t going to get you a clean gun!

I was frozen, teaspoon in hand, staring at the kitchen wall, silently thinking, Sorry, love, but he really is that thick.

He'd set upon the notion of robbing a shop. He'd arranged to borrow a gun for the escapade and was convinced it was The Answer.

She informed him, in her typically blunt manner, that he'd be caught, sent down, and have an unsolved murder (linked to the unclean gun) pinned on him.

If he walked out the door, neither she nor his dog would be there when he got back.

It was a reasonable ultimatum, the kind I’d make in her position, but it was the way she said it that floored me. I’d have written, “If you walk out, we won’t be here when you get back.” Or, “Do this, and I’ll leave you!”

Never in a million years would I have come out with the perfect line she delivered:

"Your bird and your dog, or rob a shop."

The most sublime line imaginable. There was my story, in a furious and lusty little nutshell.

Your bird and your dog, or rob a shop.

I would never refer to myself as anyone’s ‘bird’ or use the third person in that context.

I don’t know anyone who would.

We all have our walks in life. There is a limit to our social spheres. Yet characters should come a range of backgrounds and cultures, all of which have unique phrases and inflections.

As a writer it's easy to get lost in your own head. But even with your expansive imagination your internal world(s) have limits.

To write compelling dialogue, focus not on yourself but on strangers.

Listen.

Scribble in your notebook.

One day, someone may grace you with the most perfect line imaginable.

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Hazel Butler is a freelance writer and author of urban and dark fantasy. Her published works include Chasing Azrael (myBook.to/chasingazrael), an urban fantasy mystery with a Gothic twist, and Bleizgeist (myBook.to/bleizgeist), a dark fantasy novella about a young woman’s unusual magic, and struggle for acceptance in a harsh world.
Hazel blogs for The Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/hazel-butler), runs The Bipolar Bear (www.bipolarbear.co.uk), a site dedicated to raising awareness of mental illness, and The Bookshine Bandit (www.bookshinebandit.com), a small business offering services for self-publishing authors. You can find her on her website (www.hazel-butler.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com/HazelJaneButler), Twitter (www.twitter.com/hazel_butler), Instagram (www.instagram.com/hazelherself) and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/hazelherself).

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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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