Archive for the ‘WriteBrained Network’ Tag

Write-Brained Network Workshop: Registration Now Open

Sorry I missed posting so far this week—the Write-Brained Network has been keeping me super busy.

Mark your calendars for 9/10/11, kids, because the WB Workshop is on like Donkey Kong!

For only $45, spend the day learning tips from writing and publishing industry pros and mix & mingle with other writers at the Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg, Va. Registration is now open.

(Forgive the pimpage, but I’m pretty psyched that this is all actually happening!)

We have some fantastic speakers lined up—more on that later—and a fantab-looking program. For more info, visit our landing site, where I’ve posted the schedule as well as our current list of speakers.

If you have any questions, please contact me through the WB or via e-mail.

That’s all for now—hope everyone’s having a great week! :)

Metamorphosis: Shenandoah Writers Online Becomes The Write-Brained Network

A few weeks ago, one of the members of my online writing community [Shenandoah Writers Online] approached me about starting up a satellite chapter of our group.  I have SW(IRL) [Shenandoah Writers (In Real Life)], and she wanted to have something in her area of the country [the Pacific Northwest].

Introducing . . . the WB!

However, with the name of the online group being associated with the Shenandoah River Valley, said member suggested I change the name to be more inclusive.

I had two reactions:

1.) It’s an online group—and *most* SWOers aren’t from the Shenandoah Valley, so what does it matter what the name is?  If Marice can be one of us from Brisbane, Aus., then why do we need to change it?

2.) ZOMG.  What she’s asking me to do is start a writing organization.

The more I thought about that, however, the more I realized I *already had* started a writing organization.  And, while it seemed a bit scary to think of it in that way, my mind started going ping! ping! ping!, and it all sort of clicked into place.

When I started the online writing community, my goal was to bring writers together.  I wasn’t meeting a ton of writers in my area [I’d just moved to a new city and state], and I wanted to connect with other write-brained peeps and stay in touch with those I’d met at writers’ conferences.

As well, a big part of my love for writing is teaching people how to write and seeking advice from others who know more about it than I do.  I learn about my writing during both of those interactions—we all do.  Each connection we make enriches us that much more.

All that corniness [which I totally mean, actually] aside, I realized I have a “vision” for Shenandoah Writers Online.  That’s why, starting now, we will be known as “The Write-Brained Network” [or “the WB,” as I’ll nerdily be calling it].  We even have a new URL!

While we’re not going to be morphing into something completely different, we’re going to build our skyscraper on the great foundation we already have. :)  I’ve put a few things in place in order for that to happen—changing our name is just step one.

And, perhaps it’s a bit premature to state this, but I would like to have our own IRL conference sometime down the line.  That’s the five-year plan anyway.  Will it happen overnight?  Absolutely not.  But the wheels are turning, and I just happen to live in one of the most gorgeous, most peaceful spots in the country—in the Massanutten ski resort.  That has a conference center.  And a BAJILLION rental properties.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. ;)

Anyway, that’s my vision for Shenandoah Writers Online—The Write-Brained Network—the WB.

We’re still going to be free to join, and we’re still going to offer all the same cool stuff as before—but now that our numbers are getting bigger, I think our scope should as well.  We have reached more people than I thought possible at our inception eight months ago, and I can’t wait to see where we’re going.

If you haven’t yet checked us out, please do.  We’d love to have you!

In the Blogosphere: 8/16-8/20

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

STORY OPENERS

Story openers is a topic we’ve touched on before, here on the blog (here’s the post from our Shenandoah Writers Online live chat on that very subject), but let’s see what other have had to say about it.

Here, D4EO Literary’s Mandy Hubbard dishes on the five things she looks for in the opening pages.

Over at his blog, Constant Revision, the inimitable Simon C. Larter explains the methods behind the madness in his very own opening lines.

And, for a little bit of fun, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) lists a ton of first lines—so you can see a lot of these tips in action.

YOUR PITCH DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A BITCH

Think you’re ready to query or pitch?  Here’s a comprehensive pre-submission checklist from Martina Boone and Marissa Graff’s brainchild, Adventures in Children’s Publishing.  (<—post not *just* for kids’ lit, BTW)

As you go to write (or tweak) your pitch, check out Anne Brown’s four steps to battling the query in her guest post at Writer Unboxed.

And, why stress over the query?  WordServe Literary’s Rachelle Gardner divulges all the secrets to a great pitch right here!

ON SANITY

As kids and teacher-types go back to school, and as the summer comes to a close (can you believe it’s almost the end of August??), it’s time to start thinking about that evil time management thing again.

Here’s some advice on how to juggle it all from time management master and über-awesome young adult author Maggie Stiefvater.

COMMISERATE

And, if you’re feeling the rejection blues, you’re not alone:

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend!  I’m battling a cold (which is why this post was late).  Boo!!

Housekeeping: RWA & SWO

I’m leaving for the Romance Writers of America national conference (in Orlando!) Wednesday, and I have—oh, I don’t know—a bajillion things to do between now and then.  So I’m not sure I’ll be as available as I’d like in terms of blogging and such, but I do plan to keep you posted throughout the week/weekend on my experiences.

Hey, Angela . . . I have a lot of crap to do this week!

For instance, I hope to regale you with tales of all the awesomesauce things I’m doing and learning—and all the faboo people I’m meeting.

I mean, I’ve already been invited to sing karaoke with my Twitter soulmate (or Twitsom, as we now call each other), Cambria Dillon and some other cool chicas.  So, that should be a decent story, right?

Um—did I mention Twitsom and I haven’t met yet?  But we share a love of all things YA, Sour Patch Watermelons, and triathlon-doing husbands, so I’m not worried.  We are going to rip on Tim Tebow and sing Lady Gaga, and all will be well with the world.

Unless, of course, we discover we are actually the same person . . . which could be the case?  There’s a SFF story just waiting to be written!  But I’ll let you know once I meet her Wednesday. :)

IN OTHER NEWS

HOLY CRAP—MEG CABOT IS GOING TO BE AT RWA!!!!  So, I’m basically dying.  And my flight gets in at almost the *end* of one of her author signings, so I’m dying in a different way over that.  <frownies>  But I’m hoping to stalk catch her another time during the conference.

M told me to wear my tiara when I meet Meg Cabot. Should I? SHOULD I?? Yeah, probably not. :)

ON TO OTHER BUSINESS . . .

Tonight—Monday, July 26—I’ll be hosting a live chat on Shenandoah Writers Online (from 9-10 P.M. EST.).  The topic is  writers’ conferences.  Bring any and all questions you have about conferences to the chat—and, if you’ve attended any such functions, we’d love to have you share your experiences!

To enter the chat, simply log into Shenandoah Writers Online and click “Group Chat” at the bottom right of the main screen.

You must be a member of Shenandoah Writers Online to participate in the chat, but we’d love to have you join.*

OK, that’s all for now.  Writing this blog post wasn’t even on my list—yeeks!

*Not an SWO member yet?  Click here to get started.

In the Blogosphere: 7/19-7/23

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

QUERIES

Querying/pitching is up there in terms of the most discussed topics on industry blogs and at writing conferences.  I find it always helps me to look at others’ queries in order to better gauge what does and doesn’t work with my own pitches.

Here, at The Public Query Slushpile, fellow Ohioan Rick Daley has dedicated an entire forum to queries and feedback. The idea of the blog being? Leave feedback on others’ queries. Post your queries.* Get feedback from others. It’s that simple.  The site isn’t exactly like Janet Reid’s Query Shark or Jodi Meadows’s Query Project (in that it’s not just industry pros offering feedback—it’s an open forum for all), but the entries do get a good amount of feedback from readers.  And we are all trying to appeal to readers after all, are we not?  Check it out!

Who says slush can't be delicious?

Over on her blog, Canuck mathematics textbook writer (<—Yes, I included that part for my math-ed professor hubs!) Cheryl Angst compiles and comments on a list of 10 things Howard Morhaim Literary Agency’s Kate McKean tweeted as things that she thinks while she reads queries. Very interesting read!

Going along with the two, more regular, query workshops above, D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard conducted her own query clinic back in May.  Here is the post where she discusses the concept, and here is the last in the series (I’ve included this one because she links to all four of the queries she workshopped in it).

TICK TOCK

Summer seems to be about the hardest time of year to find butt-in-chair-and-write time.

Here, YA paranormal romance author Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger, etc.) offers some thoughtful advice on how writers can to best manage their time.

Over at Writer Unboxed, Anna Elliott chimes in on this subject as well.

CHARACTERS

Afraid your characters are too one-dimensional?  Paulo Campos of yingleyangle gives three tips on how to breathe some life into your darlings.

Here, longtime industry insider Alan Rinzler offers some further insight on how to create and use author James Scott Bell‘s idea of a voice journal.

RANDOMNOSITY

Since it was our four-year anniversary this week, I am posting this in honor of my husband.  Magazine editor and freelance writer Heather Trese says, “You might be married to a writer if . . . “

And, um, how random is this?  Molly is famous!  About a month ago, Annalemma Magazine used a picture of Molly (my beagly beagle) in an article they did about online writing communities.  The caption says that that pic was the first to come up when they Google image searched online writing community! (It looks like she’s since been ousted, however.  It’s on the fourth page.)

You're not the only famous beagle!

*There is a debate about whether or not to post your original work online.  It’s up to you.  Enough industry blogs host contests or query workshops all the time where people post their original queries, so I wouldn’t necessarily worry about someone stealing your work . . . but it *can* happen.  It would probably be pretty easy to prove your query was yours, though—particularly if you posted in on the Internet.  If you’d like feedback from other writers but you’re wary of posting your work on an open forum, try a password-encrypted, by-invitation-only community like *shameless plug* Shenandoah Writers Online!

If You Missed the SWO LIVE CHAT on Story Openings . . .

ME: I’m a little behind in typing up this recap.

VOICE IN MY HEAD:  A little?  You’re a month behind! *shakes a fist in Why-I-Oughtta fashion*

ME: *cowers* I know, I know.  But better late than never, right?

(End scene.)

At May’s SWO live chat, we discussed story openings.  Here’s a little precursor to our session.

If you missed the chat, or if you were there but it was too buggy to keep up (sorry!), here are the highlights:

THE GIST

At the start of the chat, attendees posted either their own story openings or the openings of their favorite books.  This was not meant to be a critique session (although a little of that went on); rather, we pointed out what the reader learns from each opening and what makes each opening successful or not.

This led to talk about what it means to have a “successful” opening.  It’s subjective, of course; but, for the most part, we agreed that in order to deem a story opening a success, it has to hook the reader in some way—because, while readers might give the author a few chapters before giving up, agents pretty much won’t.  Translation: Your opening needs to do something—and right away.

As we looked at real examples, we noted that the best ones oriented the reader.  As one member put it, an opening has to service your narrative in a clear way.

The best openings were those that:

  • Showed voice
  • Gave context
  • Displayed character insight
  • Raised questions

WAYS TO ORIENT THE READER

  • Work in age the main character’s age—especially important if you’re writing children’s or YA
    • Pay close attention to voice and diction here, as that can be very telling
  • Hone in on structure and pacing (i.e., if it’s supposed to be a tense action scene, your sentence structure and punctuation

    What's my motivation?

    should mimic that)

  • Indicate genre or story type
    • Injecting setting can do this (i.e., placing your characters in the woods might suggest it’s fantasy)
    • Names can do this (i.e., if a character’s name is “Zender,” like in one of the examples we analyzed, that gives the sense it’s sci-fi or fantasy—more so than if the dude’s name is “Bob”)
  • Indicate protag’s goals/motivations (i.e., if it starts off talking about a dungeon escape, the reader might deduce it’s probably not contemporary fiction)

THINGS TO AVOID

  • Avoid gimmicks
    • Like the “fake-out” beginning (where you set it up to look like one thing is true, but you read the rest of the page and discover it isn’t.  Many agents—Nathan Bransford, for one—shy away from the “gotcha” opener)
  • Probably don’t start with poetry
  • You don’t need to start with a fireworks display—particularly if you can’t follow it up anything
    • If you do this, it can come off as “gimmicky”

EXAMPLE

Opening of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

  • This tells so much without saying anything at all, really
    • Good guy vs. bad guy
    • A chase—an escape
    • In many ways, this one line serves as a microcosm for the entire series.

MORE, PLEASE!

Up-and-coming YA author Jodi Meadows was kind enough to send me her opening to the first book in her New Soul trilogy, Erin Incarnate.  I have posted her thoughts it on Shenandoah Writers Online under the “Files” tab at the top of the main page.  In the file, Jodi shows her original opening and talks about the changes her agent wanted her to implement—and why making those changes made her opening stronger.

For SWO members, click here to access Jodi’s file.*

DISCLAIMER

We also indicated you can probably play devil’s advocate for each of these suggestions or cite counter examples in published books.  However, it’s important to remember we’re trying to establish some “rules” here—not exceptions.  As well, we’re talking about writers trying to break into the industry given today’s market—not established authors whose books are going to sell a bajillion copies no matter what they write.

Now, it’s your turn.  Anything to add to the conversation?

*Not an SWO member yet?  Click here to get started.

New WB Writing Program: WordWatchers

I was so impressed with the amount of participation we had in May with SheNoWriMo and I received so much positive feedback from SW(IRL) and Write-Brainiacs about the contest that I’d like to implement another, similar, writing program.

I drew my inspiration from weight-loss program WeightWatchers’s point system (in case that wasn’t obvious); however, instead of trying to reduce your mass, we’ll be bulking up—on words written, that is.

From what I gather, the WeightWatchers folks design a program—specific to each person—based on a number of factors: ideal body weight according to height, age, etc.

Hear me now, and understand me later. The WB is here to PUMP--your MANUSCRIPT up!

Participants are then given a number of “points” they are allowed to consume per day, per week, etc. (foods are assigned numeric values in the way of these points), and they can eat whatever foods they want to get to their allotted points—as long as they don’t exceed their daily/weekly goals.

THE PROGRAM

With SheNoWriMo, although participants picked reasonable daily word-count goals, sometimes life got in the way.  In that event, people usually caught up over the next few days.

That said, I’d like WordWatchers to be more like that.  Let’s stick to weekly writing goals.

The WB Network's (awesome) May contest (formerly Shenandoah Writers Online)

THE RULES

Set a weekly word-count goal.  Divvy up the daily writing however you want, but make sure you get to your WordWatcher word-count total by the end of each week.  Easy peasy.  This will allow you to take days off without the guilt—whatever fits your schedule.

For instance, if you think your schedule will only allow you to comfortably write 3500 words/week (that’s two pages a day), fine.  That’s your goal.  Post it on the WordWatchers discussion in the forum on The Write-Brained Network and on your WB “wall,” and have at it.

You can write one continuous piece or many of smaller pieces or—heck—even writing prompts (you CANNOT count blog posts, e-mails, status updates, or Tweets, however).

Just set a goal for yourself, and do the writing.  And keep us posted about it.  Ideally, I’d like all participants to keep a daily record (on their WB walls) of their progress, like last time—it was nice when we were all cheering each other on—but since WordWatchers is a little more flexible than SheNoWriMo, perhaps it’s more feasible for you to mark your weekly progress.  We can still root for the participants.

SOME WORDS ON WORD COUNT

"One . . . ah-ah-ah . . ."

As a general rule, 250 words = one page of writing.  That should help you gauge the amount of words to which you think you can commit every week.

Remember: Don’t be too aggressive.  Don’t make it impossible to reach your weekly goals, or you might get discouraged from continuing with the program.  However, don’t be wimpy with your goals, either; challenge yourself.

Essentially, tailor your WordWatchers program to your lifestyle as well as your writing tastes/purposes.

ON YOUR MARKS . . .

We’ll start July 1, so think about your ideal weekly word count, and keep your eyes peeled for the WordWatchers discussion on the WB forum.

As with SheNoWriMo, my ultimate goal here is to get folks writing.  Something.  Consistently.

I do hope a lot of peeps will consider taking part in it.*

*You must be a member of the Write-Brained Network to participate.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

This Week’s SWO Live Chat: Blogs & Blogging

As frequent readers of this blog may know, I am the coordinator of Shenandoah Writers—a “real-life” writing/critique group located in Harrisonburg, Va.—and Shenandoah Writers Online—a writing community open to writers of all genres and levels, currently with upwards of 50 members located all over the U.S. and one in Australia (we’re basically global :) ).

This Tuesday, June 29, from 9-10 P.M. EST, I will be hosting our monthly SWO live chat on Shenandoah Writers Online.*  Our chats sometimes run over, if we feel so inclined, but the “official” time for this event is from 9-10 P.M.

This month’s topic: Blogs & Blogging

Come with your questions and/or expertise in this exploding area of social media.

Since last month’s chat, the Grou.ps network seems to have fixed some bugs and added some new features to the chat function—like chatting within the group, conducting private chats between yourself and another member & going “online” and “offline” in terms of chatting).  I’m hoping that means it won’t stick as much as it did last time.

Even if you can only stop by for a few minutes, it’d be good to have you poke your head in and say hello.**

*For more information about SWO, click on “Shenandoah Writers” in “Categories” in the right-hand side bar.

**You must be a member of SWO to participate in the chat.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

This Week’s SWO LIVE CHAT & Story Openers

I’m hosting a live chat this Tuesday, May 25, from 9-10 P.M. EST on Shenandoah Writers Online.*

Our chats sometimes run over, if we feel so inclined, but the “official” time for this event is from 9-10 P.M.  Even if you can only stop by for a few minutes, it’d be good to have you poke your head in and say hello.**

TOPIC

We discussed story openers at the last Shenandoah Writers (IRL) meeting, and I’d like to further that conversation with the online group.

WHAT TO BRING

It would be great if you brought the opening line or lines of something you’ve written as well as the opening line or lines from one of your favorite books.

I would like to discuss what makes these openers successful (i.e., what hooks the reader, what we learn in the opening, etc.) as well as what we think are the elements of a successful opener.

This will also give participants a chance to workshop their own opening lines/paragraphs with the group and gain some feedback.

EXAMPLE

Here is one of the openings I’m bringing:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

What do we learn from this opening?

  • We gain some insight into the characters of the Dursleys:
    • J.K. Rowling (yes, this is the opening line to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) straight out tells us they are “normal” and happy to be so.  “Perfectly” in front of “normal” and the “thank you very much” shows that they are a bit snooty—it gives a sense of being uppity (a.k.a. we’re getting voice here).
    • Just from this first line, we learn the Dursleys are the type of people who don’t like their feathers ruffled—they like to maintain decorum.  They feel strange and mysterious things are nonsensical.
  • The first part of the second line (“They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious”) suggests to the reader that, although you wouldn’t expect them to be involved in something like that, they were involved in something like that.  Thus, the juxtaposition of these opposites—normal and strange—hooks the reader.  We want to know what it is they are involved in—and how these uppity people will deal with it/cover it up.

That’s just a taste.  I’ve posted some other novel openers—including my two novel openers—in “Files” on the SWO site, so please feel free to take a look.  If you’re not a member, see below to get started.

QUESTION

What do you think makes a good opening? 

If you can’t make it to the chat but would like to get in on the conversation, please leave your thoughts in the comments of this post.

*For more information about SWO, click on “Shenandoah Writers” in “Categories” in the right-hand side bar.

**You must be a member of SWO to participate in the chat.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

SWO Write-In Report

A few people asked how last week’s Shenandoah Writers (IRL) write-in went, so I wanted to share.  I thought it went very well!

Here's a pic of the coffee station--complete with three fancy creamers and E.L. Fudge Stripes. So fun!

All SW(IRL) members attended, and we each got a lot written.  Two members were actually handwriting—one was doing outlining and the other was working on a new short story, I believe.  Another focused on editing her current WIP, and I was, of course, soldiering on with Sheena.

The husband-and-wife duo writing upstairs did a combined 4000 words that day—very impressive—and we all went out for an early dinner to celebrate the beautiful weather and our writing success. :)

I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into the writing groove—I’m generally a shut-myself-up-in-my-office-and-write-in-complete-silence kind of a writer, but the words began to flow, once I buckled down.  I wrote about 1600 words that day, and once the clock struck five, I was actually sad we had to stop because I was really in “the zone” then!

A good day all around.  I’m sure we’ll do this again, and I suggest you try it with a group as well.  It’s an interesting and very different experience!

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