Encouragement, writer routines, Writer's Digest, Writing, writing conferences, Writing groups

Writing Communities

Hemingway quote on writing
Born or Learned? http://www.alvaradofrazier.com

 

Hemingway’s quote settles the debate over whether people are born writers or if writing can be taught. Whether you’re a natural at writing or not, everyone has to work to improve their ability.

Three years ago, I participated in the Platform Challenge, given by Robert Lee Brewer, from Writer’s Digest who described himself as a poet, editor, and happy smack talker. The latter captured my interest and I joined.

Our challenge was to try a different tool, process or form of social media every day in order to build an online platform. Over 300 writers formed around that challenge and when it was over, most of the group banded together and founded Wordsmith Studio, a community of writers, of which I’m a founding member.

Many of the members are now published authors, poets, editors, book reviewers, and all around lovely writers. I’ve met so many writers who have brought me stories and poems that delighted, inspired or gave me a new perspective on a subject.

To commemorate our three-year anniversary, we are catching up with group members who are spread all over the nation by using writing prompts as a means of checking in with one another and celebrating our three-year anniversary with a blog hop.

This week’s prompt is to share our challenges and successes, to reflect on skills, tools or resources that helped us find success. And by success, I don’t mean I’m a published author with thousands of sales. Success means I’m improving, still writing stories, and sending out queries.

Now, on to the questions:

1) What are you currently working on? One of my YA manuscript’s (ms) is out in query stage after too many to count revisions and two editors (hey, it was my first novel). I’m having the hardest time with finding an agent to take on a ‘girl in prison’ story. 

The second one, Women’s Fiction, was given the once-over by an editor I met online who did a wonderful job. The third ms is on a hard drive. The fourth work in progress, a New Adult, is halfway completed.

2) For past work, what was your greatest joy or greatest challenge?

The best things that I’ve enjoyed is receiving a fellowship, twice, to A Room Of Her Own (AROHO) Foundation for their biannual writers retreat and accepted as a ‘mentee’ into the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Mentorship three month program. My mentor is an author and creative writing professor at a university.

The other best thing is when people say great things about your writing. My AWP mentor’s encouraging words, “There are remarkable revisions in this ms…Juana’s story continues to grow with drama and emotion, with compelling lives and stories, …what strikes me from the very beginning are the beautiful and powerful images that (she) remembers, imagines, and culls from her life; images you compose with beauty and power.”

From my recent editor on the second ms: “Your (ms) opens with some of the most brilliant writing I have seen for some time. There is an air of literary style, coupled with a control of sentence structure that creates an atmosphere thick with emotion. Helpless, vulnerable, deeply hurt, but with a bit of hope and denial…” 

3) For current work, what challenge are you working through now? 

My goal is to revise the Women’s Fiction ms during May. Although my editor had great comments about the novel, there are many other not so good areas to fix.

4) What have successes or challenges in your work (recently) taught you?

Utilize all the help you can get. By that I mean go to at least one workshop or conference a year on writing craft. Participate in an going critique group. Online you can use Critique Circle. Be persistent, disciplined, and believe in what you’re doing. Writer’s have to be in it for the long haul-years, decades, not months.

Being a pantser did not work out for me. My first novel has taken years and numerous revisions because I did not know story structure. I will never be a plotter, but I have found that a loose outline helps tremendously. Study story structure. I like Larry Brooks’ blog from Storyfix.

I use too many commas, use the words ‘just,’ ‘even’ and ‘was.’ To help me with grammar, redundant words, and passives I bought a month of AutoCrit. I needed it so much that I ended up buying the editing service for a year. I also use Grammarly.

6) What obstacles or challenges have you not been able to overcome, or still frustrate you?

Writing query and synopsis letters is still the most frustrating and non-fun thing to do. I would like to outsource this work.

7) How would you describe a great writing day (or week)?

Writing in my pajamas, with fresh hot coffee at my side, glancing at the flowers on my patio once in a while, and finishing what I set out to do that morning makes me feel satisfied. Taking a walk in the late afternoon and reading an absorbing book tops off a great writing day.

And in the words of Winston Churchill:

winston-c

 

 

If you are from the Wordsmith community, stop by and click a ‘Like,’ subscribe, or say hello in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a fun weekend.

 

Writing, writing conferences, writing tips

Lessons Learned at the WD Conference

 

Two words for the Writer’s Digest Novel Conference in L.A: Worth It!

A couple of weeks of craft workshops jammed into two and a half days may be overwhelming, but there was lots of value for $249.

Twenty plus pages of facts, thoughts, post-its to self, and business cards fill my note book so this will be a two parter.

I’ll start at the beginning and give some highlights. All of the speakers have websites and resources you can find through the links I’ve listed.

Keynote quote speaker Jonathan Maberry spoke on importance of being a good literary citizen,

“don’t be a jackass,”

“any completed first draft is a win even if it’s bad because you completed it.” 

1. An Intro to Structure That Empowers Plotters and Pantsers Alike and Your Story on Steroids- Larry Brooks, Storyfix.com gave us slam dunk specifics. There are too many notes to give here, but go to his site for the free downloads. A gem for me was:

“Know the difference between concept and premise. Develop these before writing the story.”

Believe me, I’m a pantser, now in recovery, and this tip helps tremendously:

“Concept: the dramatic landscape of story that is conceptual; the stage, or arena. No character names needed. Write this in two or three sentences.

Premise: the protagonist has to have a conflict to surmount, a quest. Define your story core.”

2-Your First 50 Pages – Jeff Gerke. This author/editor is the Jim Carrey of the writing world who talked about how neuroscience relates to storytelling.

“In publishing everything is decided on your first 50 pages-if even that.”

Writing has to cause the reader to identify with someone/something in the story. Make the protagonist vulnerable or have some kind of need. Engage the readers mind with action, intrigue, curiosity. The brain is looking for danger, surprise, something new, so start with that in the beginning.

Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph
Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph

3. Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisper. She uses a plot graph to show you how to correspond your novel with the beginning, middle, and end of a plot.

There are four types of scenes: suspense, dialogue, crisis, and twister.

Catch her detailed mini-workshops on YouTube where she shows you how to plot a novel or screenplay.

Every scene should have a setting…goal…sensory details…forward movement…opposition.. and emotion.

There is a difference between the crisis and the climax of a novel:

Crisis-the antagonist wins, protagonist loses. Climax-protagonist wins and learns everything in the middle.

4. Ask the Agent Panel. A list of pet peeves and suggestions:

Misspelled names…using the words ‘fiction novel,’ bad grammar, writers who don’t read the submission rules,…pitching at inappropriate times. 

As if on cue, when the Q & A period began, a woman pitched her book, “Anyone interested in….” Ugh, it wasn’t pretty.

Search for agents by using Query Tracker, Twitters #MSWL (manuscript wish list), or go to the bookstore, look for books in your genre and on the last page under acknowledgements, the agents name is usually listed. I use Poet and Writers agent listing.

One of the agents said she was looking for a YA set in prison. It was like the heavens opened up when I heard this statement. I had to make myself stop wiggling in my seat and wait for a time when I could tell her I had such a novel. During Q & A I said I had the novel she wanted,  she said send it to me.

Then  I asked a question: whether more emphasis was placed  on the query or the first 10 pages. Two out of three agents said the first pages.

I need 50 pages to know if a book is good, but only 1 to know it’s not.”

 

I hope you found something useful for your writing life. Investigate the presenters sites. Plan to attend a conference on writing craft. Invest in your writing.

If you have a specific question that I may provide information for, please ask me in the comment section.

 

 

Encouragement, Inspiration, poetry, query letters, Writers, Writing, Writing classes, writing conferences, Writing groups, writing tips

Four Secrets to Poetic Prose-Part 2

Secrets-gettyimages.com
Secrets-gettyimages.com

 

I have to tell you, I want to be a better writer.

I have stories to tell the world, and I’m tired of  my seven member critique group being the only ones to read them.

They may be tired of them too.

For almost six years, I’ve been writing stories which became an Adult Contemporary and two YA manuscripts.

I’ve spent the last year sending out queries, synopsis’, revising, and doing it all again. Still, no agent.

If you’re a writer, you might have a similar scenario to tell.

Until that ‘golden’ e-mail or phone call, I need to keep writing and improve what I’ve written.

I will not quit and neither should you.

 

That’s why I look for low cost classes. So many of us can’t afford to get an MFA or attend $400-$600 conferences.

But don’t let high prices stop you from improving your writing.

 

A few days ago, I posted the first two secrets to poetic prose, as described by author and poet, Sonya Sones.

Poetic prose refers to a narrative with some of the technical or literary qualities of poetry such as rhythm, patterned structure, or emotional heightening.

Let’s continue with the last two secrets:

 

3. The Rhythm of Three:

All sound breaks down into some sort of pattern of sounds. The syllables are either unstressed or stressed, pronounced more strongly, which gives us a beat and type of melody. 

In the children’s book, Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger, the entire book is almost all written with a rhythm of three (there are ‘non-three’ lines between the rhythm of three):

When the day is done, he closes his book, combs his beard and puts on his jacket.

He lifts the strand, takes one pearl from it, and closes the chest again. 

Can you hear the rhythm?

 

4. The Use of Trochiac:

Low vowel sounds evoke sadness. Use the ooh, o, um, and ah sounds.

Tell me not in mournful numbers  

Words such as  lost, roam, lunatics, olive, watching, rocking are examples of a trochee.

Lost Dog-gettyimages.com
Lost Dog-gettyimages.com

Ms. Sones gave us a prompt: “My dog is gone,” and gave us five minutes to write a few lines using trochee:

My dog is gone, lost, not loaned,
did he roam, lose his way home?
Does he groan somewhere, all alone?
A romp in the grass, and now he’s gone
Is he far from home?
No nuzzles, no cuddles, no paw raised high
Does he wait, watch for me, all alone?

 

It’s not the best 5 minute poem, but it does sound sad.  Using low vowel sounds is a useful and fairly easy way to express a  mournful or sad scene.

So there it is, four ways to enrich your writing.

Keep looking for courses you can afford, keep reading and happy writing.

 

 

 

Books, fiction, Writing, writing conferences

Writing Tips and Diversity Points at the SCBWI Winter Conference

There’s not enough time or money to go to all the writing conferences one wishes to attend, however getting a participant’s viewpoint is often valuable.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has been a worthwhile organization for me to belong to because of their newsletters, booklets, and free market guide to publishing for children.

Here are several tips for writing contemporary and middle grade fiction from the SCBWI Conference.

Latinxs in Kid Lit

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This year's SCBWI conference folder. Artwork by David Diaz, design by Sarah Baker This year’s SCBWI conference folder. Artwork by David Diaz, design by Sarah Baker

The Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in New York is kind of like a massive family reunion, with all 1,000+ people having a love of children’s literature in their  blood. It’s very cool for me to break away from my full-time day job as a middle school teacher and attend this annual gathering of creative people who all want to be published or work in some capacity with kid lit. While this love of children’s literature is the common denominator at the conference, the attendants are diverse people with myriad interests. Because of this, my ears naturally perk up when speakers address diversity in publishing.

The SCBWI did not have a specific panel or break-out session dedicated to diversity in children’s publishing, but speakers included Raul Colón, Shadra…

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