Invitation & Contest: The Write-Brained Network & WordWatchers

Last week, I announced the emerging of The Write-Brained Network, my online writing organization (formerly Shenandoah Writers Online).

YOU ARE INVITED

I’d like to extend a formal invitation to anyone out there stumbling upon this blog post who is a writer and who has not yet checked us out.  I’d love to meet you—virtually or otherwise.:)

We are doing some cool things, and I’ve love to have you be a part of them:

  • We currently have four satellite chapters starting up throughout the country—soon to be six!
  • Three members have also started subgroups by genre—currently, for YA (YAwesome Writers), horror writers (The Dark Ones), and literary writers (Literary Lovers)
  • As well, we are in talks about putting on an IRL conference possibly as early as next year!

Like I said—cool things happening.  I could not be more of a proud mama bear.:)

Click here to check out The Write-Brained Network.

CONTEST

This is our third month doing WordWatchers, and while we’ve had participation every month, I’d like to up the ante a bit for September.

This month, we’re competing for a prize (well, I won’t be, since I’m the one offering the prize, but whatever!).

No, I'm not giving out Grammys, but that would be cool!

One winner will receive a 10-page manuscript critique from moi, and one will receive ONE of a number of SIGNED BOOKS (I finally got my box o’ plunder back from the RWA conference, and there’s a ton of great stuff available in there—details forthcoming)!

To be eligible, all you have to do is:

1) Be a member of the Write-Brained Network.

2) Participate in WordWatchers.  Click here for details on what that is, if you don’t know. The gist: set a weekly word goal and WRITE!
3) Log your progress on the WB group wall and/or in the September WordWatchers discussion in our WB forum.

Don't let this alien beat you!

Here’s how the entries will be handled:
+1 entry for setting a goal and participating (publicly)
+1 entry for every day you log your writing progress
+5 entries for every week you HIT your weekly writing goal
+3 entries for every person you invite to join the WB (who joins!) between now and the end of the month*
+2 entries if you Tweet or blog about the WB*

*You will have to let me know if you invited someone and they joined or if you’ve blogged/Tweeted about the WB—I’m not a mindreader!

At the end of the month, I’ll have you tally your entries, send them to me, and I’ll pick two winners.

Sound good?

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!

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: 6/21-7/2

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

BE CAREFUL

As Sarah Jane Freymann Literary’s Katharine Sands discussed at Southeastern Writers association last week, when pitching, it’s important to be ready.  Over at Self Editing Blog, John Robert Marlow discusses jumping the gun: suicide by submission.

Likewise, Nelson Literary Agency’s Kristin Nelson describes the dangers of starting your novel in the wrong place.

WORTHLESS WORDS

You know, I sort of think this is kind of a fabulous blog post.  Writer and part-time doctor Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster says: Stop apologizing! Chuck that qualifying language and strengthen your writing.

REALITY CHECK

Thinking of doing a little freelancing?  Down the Shore with Jen’s Jen A. Miller (@jerseyshorejen) explains four things you need in order to make it.  A must-read for all fledgling freelancers.

Aw, a baby freelancer.

QUERY STUFF

Here, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author JC Hutchins of Writer Unboxed discusses crafting killer pitches by offering and analyzing examples of good ones.

I’m a little behind with my Blogosphere posts—I saved this one two months ago!!—but it’s too good not to share.  Young adult fantasy author Jodi Meadows of the Query Project gave us a gift on her birthday: the query she wrote for Erin Incarnate that helped her snag fab agent Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.

GET WRITING!

Looking for a little motivation to get words written?  The Michelle Wolfson repped Tawna Feske details a recent Twitter writing sensation, #1k1hr, where one must turn off her self-editor and get words on the page—1,000 of them, to be exact—in an hour.

If you’re looking for something just as satisfying but a little more flexible and a little more long-term, check out my new writing SWO program, WordWatchers. Pick a weekly word count goal, and divvy up the words written per day in a way that fits your schedule!

OMG

In honor of Eclipse coming out this week . . . if you thought the people who stand in lines for twelve hours to see the Twilight movies were wonky, you weren’t wrong—but there are wonkier folks out there.  Here, Great White Snark gives us a dozen such psychopaths.

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.

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.