Dramaquill's All Things Writing

November 27, 2007

Critique Groups: Every writer should belong to at least one

Where I live, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to gather together with other writers.  There is a group that meets at our local library, however, due to the nature of my business, I cannot make the meetings. 

I used to think I was alone – isolated in a place geographically removed from the big city life of the publishing business. 

But with the internet, I’m only a click away from connecting with writers all over the world, in any genre, and at every level from raw beginner to professionally published.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re a writer.  Of course everything you write is good – you wrote it.  And yes, for the most part, we writers do realize our first drafts aren’t polished enough to sub out so we accept the task of revising.

But…we only have our own close relationship with our ideas, words, characters and scenerios from which to draw.  Every writer needs feedback from fresh eyes.

Relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers may want to read your prose, but often their feedback isn’t entirely honest.  Either they love everything you do (and who wouldn’t find that encouraging, right?) or they suggest, based on a complete lack of any knowledge of the writing world, what they think you should do to improve your manuscript.  Although at times their perspectives can be helpful, more often you need to connect with other writers.

So naturally, as a writer, you consider joining a critique group.  There are those groups that meet face to face and those that meet online.  I’m sure I could start a healthy debate on which of the two are the better scenerio but instead I think I’ll leave that up to the individual writer. 

Personally, I’ve gone the online route, out of necessity, and find it to be a wonderful forum.  I think it could be easier to be totally honest when critiquing the writing of a fellow critique group member when you aren’t sitting, looking into their disappointed face as you endeavour to offer your suggestions, changes and heaven forbid, criticisms.

I’ve been extremely lucky to find two very diverse critique groups, one for my kidlit rhyming PBs and the other for my novels. 

My rhyming group, originally posted on MSN, has gone private and contains 10 members, several of whom have belonged to the group now for many years.  Every single person in this rhyming crit group has seen at least one of their pieces published in a paying market.  A couple have broken into the PB market although most have had more success with shorter rhyming pieces published in magazines.  Nonetheless, the level of writing in each individual has grown and matured.  We’re friends on one level, co-workers on another, and brutally honest critiquers when necessary. 

My prose critique group formed through a now defunct writing site.  We migrated away from the site and the same six writers have been together for several years now.  We have developed close, online friendships.  One of our group has an MG novel coming out in 2008 and it’s an amazing fantasy that will easily compete with some of the most sold and read rivals in this genre.  Others in the group have been paid for articles and illustrations.  Several have had requests from agents for full manuscripts and are waiting for representation. 

Without them, my suspense thriller novel wouldn’t be where it is today. 

The writers in both of these groups represent a cross section of business knowledge, writing styles, and the opinions of those readers we hope to snag into buying our books for years to come.

If you want a shot at getting published, do these things:

1.   Familiarize yourself with the markets and the publishing biz.

2.   Write your best work and don’t be satisfied with anything less.

3.   Join a critique group and let them give your manuscript the
      onceover.

4.  Attend writing workshops whenever possible.

5.  Use the internet to network with other writers, editors, agents,
     and publishers on the many forums available.

6.  And most important of all…never ever give up!

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Now here’s a contest that could boost a new writer’s career

So far I’ve blogged mostly about my suspense novel in it’s final revisions and my Nanowrimo suspense novel.  But in fact, I’m also a kidlit writer.  I write about eight original playscripts every year for our studio’s drama department and I enjoy writing rhyme, inspired of course, by non other than the master of rhyme, Dr. Seuss.

I’ve had several poems published in both print and online kids’ magazines with two more coming out in 2009 with Hopscotch and Boys Quest magazines.  I love writing rhyme and also have several rhyming PBs making the rounds.

I was first made aware of the Delacorte contest when my critique group was helping me with the POV and other issues in my YA novel, “Thinkers”.   This prestigious contest is offered up to new writers of MG and YA novels who have not previously had a book published. 

But the competition is stiff and the judging tough.  Several years, the prize was not awarded, indicating that the level of the entrants manuscripts was not sufficiently worthy of the Delacorte stamp.

So a piece of advice to those who might be intrigued to enter:   Polish…polish…polish those manuscripts.  Join a critique group.  Revise and edit.  Check and double check spelling, typos, grammar and format.   Hone your skills at writing dialogue, developing characters that make us want to cheer for them and plots that keep the reader flipping to the next page.

If you’ve done all that and really believe in your manuscript, then it’s time to enter the Delacorte.

Although the MG category is closed for 2007, there’s still time to enter your YA this year.

http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/writingcontests/

Good luck!  Maybe one of you will be the next Delacorte winner.

November 26, 2007

What do you do when?

Drat!  As luck would have it, just when I was finding a real rhythm to surge ahead with my Nano novel, I got sick.  Having spent the past few days fighting a fever and eventually succumbing to much needed bed rest, I have missed three days of writing opportunity on my nano book.

I already knew the last week of November was going to be tough with a drama presentation to prepare for and some other writing projects, all with “end of November” deadlines.

It looks bleak that I’ll make the 50,000 now, but I’m not giving up.  Whatever happens, I’ve written a ton this month on a project I doubt would have ever gotten off the ground because something else always come up and gets in the way.

I’m inspired by those who managed the 50,000, whether for the first time or who continue to do so annually. 

I’m definitely doing nano next year.  In fact, I already have the novel picked out from my book of ideas and scribbles of inspiration that I keep on hand to jot down moments of creativity.

So next year I’ll be writing “Quick!  Pass the Chips.” 

But for now, cheer me on as I try to sprint ahead even a little more on my suspense novel, “Losing Charlotte.” 

I wish all the Nano participants great, long episodes of creativity this week and the stamina to write…write…write…

 Yay, Nanowrimo!

November 23, 2007

I may not finish but I’m giving it my all

Despite a couple of bumps in my Nanowrimo road, I’m back on track again and churning out a new section of my suspense novel.

At close to 30,000 words, I’m feeling pumped.  Has there ever been another month when I’ve written 30,000 words on the same project?  On multiple projects?  Until Nanowrimo, I never really thought about it but I suspect this is a record for my 3 week participation.

Will I finish the 50,000 goal?  

I hope to.

Will I be disappointed if I fall short?

Well, maybe a little bit.

But I can’t say enough how great the Nanowrimo PUSH feels.  And I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I would like to writing this book.  Imagine, if I can get to 30,000 words with an hour or two of writing time each day, what I could accomplish if I continue this disciplined focus on writing from now on.

I can’t wait to get back to revising my first suspense novel that’s getting ready to go out the door but now I have a new project to keep me busy once I’ve subbed it out.

So thank you Nanowrimo, for giving me the jumpstart to realize how many words I can get down on paper if I just believe I can do it.

Anybody finished yet?

Let’s hear from all those Nano hopefuls and those cruising through the final stretch.

November 19, 2007

You never know who might be watching

I just heard a fascinating story from an online writer friend who has a blog that I’d love to share with my readers.

There are a ton of blog spots online and blogs on everything from soup to nuts.  So do you ever wonder why you bother?  Do you ever questions whether or not anyone even cares to read what you write?

Well this might make you all get inspired to keep up with your blog and to remember that anyone, and I do mean anyone, could be reading…

An agent, in the same genre as my writer friend’s unpublished novel, contacted her with a request to read the manuscript – all based on reading her blog.

So remember as you post comments, entries and interact in blogdom, you never know who might be out there checking you out.

Anyone interested in a suspense novel?????

Hey, it was worth a shot.

At nearly 26,000 words, I think I finally have a story

So Nanowrimo is consuming all my free time this month, but that’s okay because I’ve never written so much in such a short time. 

For a time, I was concerned that my chosen book to do in this month long challenge was nothing more than wordage…a bunch of letters on paper and nothing salvagable. 

But I’ve hung in there and the story is really starting to take shape at last.  My characters are helping me weave my way through the plot and although the book’s not exactly what I pictured it to be, it is finally taking shape and resembling a book.

So now I’m inspired to keep going and to find out where it’s all leading. 

And best of all, I’ve stopped editing it.  It’s supposed to be a first draft and I’m at peace with that now. 

So if you’re struggling through your Nano project and wondering “What’s the point?”, don’t despair.  Just keep going. Keep putting words to page.  Keep following ideas, even if they lead you in different directions. 

But most of all…keep going.

November 16, 2007

It’s after midnight – do you know where your writer friends are?

Well for the fifth night in a row, it’s after midnight and here I sit, at my computer, looking for ways to get my muse to come for another late night visit.  Ain’t blogging a great distraction?

Actually, I’m pleased with my progress.  I’m well over 18,000 words and hope to be at 20,000 before I go to sleep tonight. 

 My book has its ups and downs right now.  Some chapters just fly onto the pages while others fight me a bit before revealing their purpose.  My main dilemma right now is that I have a lot of chapters with my two main characters and I’m running out of ways to introduce new people who would be necessary to the story.

So, I’m looking at pictures of people right now, trying to get inspired.

What are the rest of you nano writers doing to get to the 50,000 goal?

Hang in and keep at it.

November 15, 2007

Nanowrimo – it’s half time

November 15th – Nanowrimo has officially hit the mid point.  So how is everyone doing on their word count?  I’m over the 17,000 point, which makes me feel good, but at the same time, I know I should be at 25,000. 

I’m sure we’re all feeling the difficulty surrounding having to churn out 1667 words every day.  I know that some days I churned out less than 500, but other days my creative spurts took me well over 2000.

My strategy for the second leg of this race is not to concern myself with word count anymore.  Instead, I’m going to let my characters tell their story, no matter how good or bad it is, and see what happens.  If I make the 50,000 words, great.  If not, I’ve still written more this month than last month and hopefully, even with the holidays approaching, I’ll write more next month than my usual December output.

This first time Nanowrimo participant highly recommends this challenge and plans to enlist again next year.

November 9, 2007

Another way to get unstuck

Working on a full length novel can seem like a daunting project, especially when the creativity train stalls on the track mid point.  If you’re like me, it’s time to get away from the computer (or notebook, which I still prefer because when I write by hand my brain and my handwriting speed are usually about the same) and get some perspective.

Sometimes I walk away to get away from the story, the characters and the plot.  But avoidance has never been my favorite tactic when stuck on any task. 

Because I have a background in theatre and music, I have enjoyed performing in numerous plays and musicals and find that the most fun for me, even when singing a song, is asking myself “who is this character”?  What’s she like?  Why is she saying this?  How does she feel at the moment?

So I tried it with my Nanowrimo book and guess what?  Charlotte, my main character, had lots to say to me and through me.  Yesterday 3000 words poured out because I put myself in her shoes.  It wasn’t something I’d call fun, because Charlotte’s character faces challenges and events that are somewhat unnerving.  But I found my connection to her – the connection that made me want to go on.

In my suspense thriller novel that I’m revising, I had to figure out my villain.  My mentor, Marilyn Henderson http://www.mysterymentor.com/ said that my villain needed to be more nasty.

Now, because I’m not a stalker, I’m not crazy (at least I don’t think so) and I’m not a man, writing him was already presenting its share of challenges.  But back to my first way to get unstuck:  WHAT IF?

What if I was this person?  What would motivate me to act and what would the result be?  So, not one to shy away from a challenge, I jumped into his mind, body and soul with both feet.  I don’t know if I should be happy or worried telling you that he is now far scarier than ever before and a whole new, demented side of his personality has shown up. 

But shaking off the characters can be a difficult thing to do.  Sometimes my heroine gets inside my head and she won’t leave me alone until I address something in the book.  I’m a little better keeping my villain at bay until I’m ready for him, but once I get inside either of them, new plot twists and ideas seem to run rampant at times.

So even if you don’t have a theatrical background, try living in the shoes of one of your characters for 24 hours and see where it takes your writing.  It may surprise you.

When you’re stuck and you can’t get going

We’ve all been there, right?  Ideas pouring out so fast you struggle to get them down.  Projects too numerous to ever complete.  Chapter after chapter of electrifying prose oozing through your fingers and onto the computer screen.

Well, maybe not.

But don’t get discouraged.  Whether you’re trying to figure out a new project to begin or are stalled in the middle of that great novel you want to finish, we’ve all had those moments of feeling like we’re stuck in the mud and we can’t get going.

I like to play a little game with myself when this happens during an already started project. 

Ask yourself:  What if?

What if my heroine goes to meet her husband for lunch and he doesn’t show up?

What if my villain makes the worst mistake of his life, like kidnapping the wrong person?

What if I just write a bunch of boring dribble until my creative juices start flowing again?

Try it – you never know where it might take you.

Want a blog job?

Filed under: Creative writing,publishing,Writing,Writing jobs — dramaquill @ 5:41 AM
Tags: , , ,

Blogging isn’t just an addictive past time for those of us opinionated souls who always have something to say.  It’s actually becoming another great gig for writers well versed in a growing number of subjects. 

Looking for a blog job that pays?

You may want to check out this site I just stumbled across.  They update the jobs Mondays and Thursdays so there’s always something new popping up.  Have a peek and see for yourself.

http://blogjobs.blogdrive.com/

Nanowrimo continues

Okay so I finally got inspired and decided to stick with the first novel I started.  I’m at 6,773 words and finally getting into this second “woman in peril” type suspense novel. 

 But do I care if I make the 50,000 words in a month? 

Well…maybe just a little. It would be nice to be able to say I did accomplish that but Nanowrimo has fueled my writing and made me more productive and that was my main goal when I signed up.

Now if only someone could start a Subawrimo to get me back to sending out those children’s PBs completed. 

November 7, 2007

I’m not making excuses but…

Okay, so it’s been 6 days of Nanowrimo and I’m supposed to have written approx. 6000 words by now.  I’ve done half of that.  So why did I sign up for this arduous task of creating an entire novel in a month if I wasn’t going to put nose to grindstone????

 Whatever you think of my explanation (or excuse), Nanowrimo has made me write more than I would have if I hadn’t joined. 

Today I worked for 3 hours on a totally new chapter of my adult suspense revision and guess what????  That was another couple thousand words, so really, I’m only 1000 words behind if you count what I’ve actually written.

But wait…

What about the zillion emails I’ve answered, the correspondence I’ve written for work and of course, my blog posts.  If you add it all up, then I’m right on schedule with my Nanowrimo word count.

Too bad the words are spread around and not all on my novel.

And yes…I’m still thinking of switching to the other book.

What would you do?????????????

November 5, 2007

Nanowrimo – not for the faint of heart

Anyone wanting to write and complete a novel should check out Nanowrimo.  It’s the November novel writing challenge that’s free to join.  Participants write madly for 30 days in the hopes of completing a 50,000 word novel in that time.  Yep – it’s a first draft but it’s a finished book, right?

 So, I’m torn between 2 projects and finally chose an adult suspense novel called “Losing Charlotte” that I am working on.  But after nearly 2,000 words, I’m not sure this is the book I should have picked.  Hmmm…do I switch mid-stream and try my hand at the more comical manuscript also brewing in my mind:  “Quick!  Pass the Chips”? 

 What’s a writer to do????

Please comment if you’re doing Nanowrimo this year or even if you just want to know more about it.  It’s my first time but I can try to answer any questions you might have.

Check them out at:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

It’s still not too late to get in on all the fun, stress and best of all…writing.

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