Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On How I Missed a Blog Post

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By J.C. Lynne

Wow, time flies. I can't believe how fast this fall has gone. I think I skipped September and just moved on to January. Okay, okay, not January, but November is over. And don't even get me started on Daylight Savings's not Daylight. It doesn't save daylight, and it just mucks up my entire schedule all over again!

That said, looking at my blog schedule, I realized I completely forgot both a blog on my own site and a blog for NCW. I'm blaming it entirely on DST.

I'm not one of those folks who's in a great hurry to see December disappear. Yes, 2016 has been a doozy, but I'm holding my breath because 2017 doesn't look to be a winner in my book either.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is It "Ready" Yet?

By David Sharp

With fond memories of another turkey day gone by, it occurs to me that there should be a meat thermometer for books. Writing books is not unlike roasting poultry. It can look like it's done on the outside, but if you send it off to an agent before it's ready, you could get worms! Something like that, anyway.

What if there were some nifty device you could stab into your manuscript that would tell you whether or not you need to keep cooking it for a while? Sadly, there isn't. But here are some items I've added to my own checklist:

Word Count
Don't give your readers salmonella.
If you do, they won't be back for seconds. 

Agents won't want to champion manuscripts they don't feel they can sell. 90,000 words is the typical target for a novel-length work. Even if you feel your 120,000 word opus is an exception, agents and editors may reject it if they look at the size of it before they read it! It may be wise to save your mammoth texts for later in your career. Stephen King published Carrie long before he published The Stand.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I Don't Want a Pickle

By Laura Mahal

Yesterday, during a productive meeting of our critique group, one of my band-mates – I mean – fellow writers, broke into a spot-on rendition of Arlo Guthrie.

For the first time in weeks, an honest, joyous laughter filled the room. Thank goodness for lyricists, musicians, painters, poets and artists of all stripe and denomination.

Can I get a shout-out for writers? Go ahead. I’m listening.

Writing is purportedly a rough business to break into… as for me, I’ve been following the baby-steps prescription that was recently offered at a one-day genre fest, co-sponsored by the Colorado Writing School and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Courtesy of their bright minds, I offer you a complete wheel of writerly success.

It looks something like this (minus the snack table in the back of the room):

1.) Finish a novel. Or a memoir. Or a picture book. 

Whether you do this via a National Novel Writing Month frenzy, or a measured multiple-year approach, Just Do It. Hire people to nag you until you triumph. You can do this. I know you can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sadly Lacking in Inspiration

by Deborah Nielsen

What do you do when inspiration is not readily forthcoming?

I started out with an idea to write about for this week, but it’s stuck in neutral, going nowhere, which is not okay when you’re up against a deadline. And nothing else is coming to mind, which is not okay, either.

I thought I’d read through my little notebook of quotes. Enjoyable but no ideas sprang forth.

I went looking for inspiration by surfing the net. Bad idea. I went down so many bunny trails I forgot what I was supposed to be doing. Anyone else do this?

I did find inspiration but for an entirely different blog. In the motorcycle world, this is the season for EICMA, an international motorcycle show held annually in Italy where all the manufacturers trot out the latest upcoming models and concepts. 

Oh, what eye candy! Good things are coming. Um, where was I?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Top Ten Reasons to Join a Critique Group

By Ronda Simmons (aka Ronda-no-h)

I have somehow lucked my way into an awesome critique group. It has improved my writing more than any class or conference I have ever attended. If you don’t have one, get one. Here are my top ten reasons why:

10. You get to be a part of the creative process with your critique group members. 

Brainstorming is one of the most exciting, juicy things to do as a writer, whether it’s your work or someone else’s.

9. Your critique group will help you learn to handle rejection. 

As Daniel Handler said, “Rejection to a writer is like water to a fish. It’s everywhere.” That doesn’t make rejection not suck, but your critique group will help you process it. When they share their rejections with you, you know you are not alone. 

This May Be My Initial Look, But It's All Good.

8. You have a built in cheering squad to celebrate your successes. 

When you finally get that coveted “yes, please!” from an agent or editor there’s nothing better than sharing it with your critique group. Just as wonderful, you’ll get to celebrate their successes, too.

7. They will help you accept and embrace criticism. 

To be a writer you need to develop a thick skin. A good critique group will, in the nicest way possible, point out where your writing flaws are. If you want to grow as a writer you need this.

6. You can do fun writing things together. 

Last January three of us from my critique group entered the NYC Midnight short story contest. It was honestly one of the most fun writing things I did in 2016. Next year our entire group is going to sign up. Which leads us to …

5. They know things you don’t know. 

One of my writing partners told me about that NYC Midnight contest which I otherwise would have missed. Maybe they will recommend a beautiful book, or maybe they will know how to craft the perfect query letter, or maybe they will know of a great writing class you need to take. Whatever they’ve got to tell you, listen.

4. Your critique group will get to know and love your characters as well, or better, than you do. 

The characters you create become like your children. You love them and you love the people who love them.

3. You have people willing to go to writing conferences. 

Writing conferences can be intimidating for newbies and for seasoned writers alike. Knowing that you’ve got a friend or three there can make the difference between finding a lame excuse not to go and actually showing up. And showing up is good.

2. They bring skills to the table that you don’t have. 

One of the members of our critique group, Laura, is an amazing copy editor. She can find and kill dangling participles like a pro. Another, Joe, just reviewed this article and pointed out that I use the word “that” way too much. See? I did it again. It helps to know you’ve got someone in your corner who can make up for your limitations. And finally . . .

1. Your critique group will become your tribe. 

Writing can be a lonely process but it doesn’t have to be. Your amazing writing family will keep you motivated when you want to give up, will keep you focused when you lose direction and will make the entire process richer and more fun.

 If you’re already in a critique group, good for you. If you’re not, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

This Is Supposed to Be Fun

By David Sharp

Do you ever need to remember why you got involved with this whole writing madness anyway? It's fraught with setbacks and disappointments. Inspiration is fickle. Industry professionals often respond with silence, or otherwise with contradictory feedback. Readers run hot and cold on you. You read books that are leagues better than you feel you'll ever be. You invest your heart into a manuscript and then throw it out there to a world that can seem rather heartless.

If you're unpublished, you wonder how to cross that threshold. If you are published, you wonder how to increase your book sales. If you've won awards, you think about bigger awards. If you're a bestseller, you think about getting higher on the list. The next hill is always higher. But before you cycle into despair, wait! There's hope!

Why did you get started with all this?

It says here you have a high tolerance for rejection, little
common sense, chronic optimism and you are fond of coffee.
Mr. Sharp, have you considered being a writer?
I'll bet the first time you put the proverbial pen to paper was because you had a story to tell, and nobody else in the world could tell it. Most writers, I'd further guess, never sat down and thought, "Know what? I think I'm going to be a writer."

Can you even remember the point you 'became' a writer? Or maybe story is coded in your DNA. You couldn't stop if you wanted to. If you lost your hands, you'd learn to type with your toes. You wake up at obscene hours to jot down story notes you fear you won't remember in the morning.  You may be nuts, but YOU, my friend, are a writer!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Collecting Family Stories

by Deborah Nielsen

Every family has stories. Usually told around the dinner table. Do you remember all the stories grandma told about growing up when you were little? Or the story about when your great uncle ran after the Model T yelling, “Whoa, damn you! Whoa!” just before the woodpile stopped it?

Memories fade, and people die, and the stories are gone along with them. That’s the problem with oral history. It has a tendency to disappear. Families can lose history and the threads binding them all together.

When I’ve attended a writers’ event of some sort over the years, I usually meet a person who is there because they want to learn how to preserve those family stories in writing. Then they say, “But I’m not a writer.” They take copious notes and end up feeling overwhelmed. In their mind, a writer is this mystical creature who can effortlessly put words on paper that everyone wants to read. “I just want to do a book for the family,” they say.

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