Good morning! We have a new course debuting at the Center for Writing Excellence in January! This course, Dialog – Breathing Life Into Writing, was developed by Dr. Luccia Rogers, one of the judges from our Genre Contest.
This course will give writers tools to help them write dialogue without over-writing it. Participants will learn to write dialogue that comes from the character, not from their own personal agendas for the story. They will also learn that writing dialogue is fun once they let themselves relax and exercise their freedom to expand their horizons through their characters’ voices.
I have attached a podcast about dialog that I created earlier this year as an introduction to a previous course on dialog. It is a great way to introduce Luccia’s new course. Click the link here to download, watch, and listen to the presentation: Creating Realistic Dialogue.
You can register for the 8-week, online course here: Dialog-Breathing Life Into Writing. The course starts on January 12 an runs through March 8. There are reading and writing assignments due each week, along with discussions in the course bulletin board.
What about the ending?
It is difficult to end a short story, and many writers struggle with this part of the writing. Don’t overwrite the ending, either. Make your point and end it. Sometimes a short story ends with the story up in the air – without really giving the reader the answer to the conflict presented in the story. If you do this, be careful that you are not just stopping the story because you came to the end of the word requirement.
Make your story unique, don’t write the same old story, same tired clichés.
- Stay away from melodramatic, overwritten stories with corny endings
- Make the story memorable – something the reader will not say “So what?” after reading.
Things that will kill the sale quicker than anything:
- Spelling, grammar mistakes
- Unnatural dialogue – make it real and natural
- Conflicting plots or themes – it’s a short story – keep it on track
- Too much history – again it’s a short story – keep the back-story to a minimum
Good morning everyone! It is Fall in Arizona, the temps are going to be delightful today. November in Arizona is weather bragging time!
I also have some great news for those of you who have a Kindle and did not get a chance to pick up the Third Annual Fiction Anthology yet. Starting Saturday morning, December 10, the Anthology is going on a special new promotion by Amazon called the Kindle Countdown Deal. Here is how it works: For the week starting November 10 at 8:00AM PST the Anthology will be offered at a deep discount, starting at $1.99 for the first 39 hours. Every 39 hours later the price goes up $1, until the price reaches $4.99 in the final 39 hours of the countdown week. The price goes back to the original $6.99 once the week is over. Get in early on this deal!
And now, for the feature story today: How to Create a Family Anthology.
A perfect Holiday gift for your family is a compilation of their work, whether it is poetry, painting, or writing. My family has poets, writers, and artists – and one year for Christmas, I compiled all their work into one bound anthology that they will treasure forever!
Start by contacting your family members and asking for copies of anything they wish to include in the anthology. I got photos, drawings, poetry, short stories, essays, school papers, letters, even a script for a play!
Do some Internet research on your family name. I found interesting facts about the origins of our name in Scotland, including images of the family crest.
Sort through all the artifacts sent by your family members and categorize them. Create an outline by category and author name. For example, I had four family members submit poetry so I started with the Poetry category, then listed each family member name and the poems he or she submitted.
Write the introduction, including the reasons for writing the anthology, and highlighting some of the pieces and photos to follow in the book. The introduction should encourage the reader to read the rest of the anthology through descriptive phrases about the works included.
Scan in the photos and artwork, keeping them in a folder that is easy to access when working on the book. Include the graphic pieces as stand-alone pieces or as illustrations for the written work. For example, on the page with my mother’s poem titled “My Past” I include a photo of mom as a young woman.
Enter all the written submissions, the poems, short stories, school papers, etc. As you type them in the Word processing document, keep in mind the order as already presented in the outline. Use the Styles in Word to create headings, which later will be used to insert the Table of Contents. Some of the pieces I received were so interesting in their original format (the poem my kids wrote the year I turned 30 for example) that I scanned them in and used the image instead of typing in the text.
Write the conclusion. This can be a wrap up of the content of the anthology or, in my case, this is where I wrote up the history of our family name. I used the Internet research, including web references so the family could look up more information if they so desired. I also included more graphic images that were related to the family name.
Insert the rest of the artwork at the appropriate places in the body of the anthology, with captions explaining what it is, who created it, and how it fits into the text, if it does. This step is important; it is the one that starts you working on the layout of the anthology.
Continue formatting, adding artwork, and editing the anthology. When you are finished with the body, go back and enter a footer with auto pagination and then insert the Table of Contents, using the Automatic Table of Contents feature in Word.
Choose a title and cover image for the anthology. I chose the title of my favorite poem by my mother, “Picking Dandelions” and added the sub-title “A Clan Johnston Anthology” to highlight our Scottish heritage. I asked the artist in my family to read the poem and create the image for the cover.
Choose an image for the back cover. In this case, I choose a recent photo of the family from a reunion. I also added a photo of the family crest.
This is the printing stage. You can take it to your local copy shop, which can turn out to be pretty expensive. An option is to have it self-published using Create Space or Lulu or any of the other Print on Demand self-publishing websites. If you would like to know more about Self-Publishing, you can attend my workshop on December 14. Self-Publishing, Are You Ready? The workshop is online for those of you outside of Phoenix. Locals can attend in person.
- My family members said they laughed and cried as they read the anthology. It was a huge success and I am thinking of doing it again, using recipes or travel as the theme.
Happy Writing, everyone!
Third person omniscient point of view is a technique frequently used by 19th Century Writers. Although this POV is not as common with today’s fiction writers, it is still a technique that can be employed effectively as long as the writer keeps some things in mind. As the word ‘omniscient’ implies, this POV means that the narrator can be in the heads of all the characters, not just one, as in close third person POV.
Victorian writers felt that they needed to explain in detail how the reader was to interpret the actions, view the characters, and understand the story. Sometimes the narrators (writers) even inserted themselves into the story by using the personal pronoun “I” to comment on the action.
Using omniscient POV will create a greater distance between the character and the reader, thus forcing the reader to look at a broader view of the story. The author also has more control of the story, and guiding its meaning.
There are some pitfalls to using omniscient POV, including:
- Fragmentation of the story because of writer commentary inserted throughout.
- The reader is further from the story than he or she would be with either first or third person.
If you choose to use omniscient POV, keep the following things in mind:
- Decide on the how much omniscient POV you want to use.
- Set up the omniscient POV early in the story.
If you are interested in learning more about POV, we do have a course at the Center for Writing Excellence called Characters, POV, and Emotion. This is an online course, eight weeks long, with a weekly commitment of a couple of hours whenever you can fit them in throughout the week. The next section is not until next June, but you can check out other courses in our catalog if you are interested.
Have a great week writing!
Alas, my stop in the blog tour is over. I had fun, and I hope you did, too. The next stop on the tour is Judy Beglau’s blog. Judy writes children’s books. She is also working on a YA novel with her daughter. You can see Judy’s responses to the interview questions starting next Monday at: Little Feathers.
Next week Janet Brantley will also be on tour, answering the interview questions at her blog site: Words Taking Flight, a blog featuring fiction works by Janet.
Judy and Janet will have their answers to the interview questions posted on Monday, October 28. Be sure to head on over to their blogs and see what they have been up to.
Now the Center for Writing Excellence will get back to its regularly scheduled programming. It has been a fairly quiet week over here. I am just about finished with the course manual for the now-running Plot and Structure class. Once it is finished all the participants in that class will receive their copy. The Dialogue class is coming along nicely. There will be an outline published in the next week or so for that class and a manual for the participants is in the works. The first class in the series, Character, POV, and Emotion, is ready to roll out again in the spring. I am also working with a C4WE contest participant and student in the first two classes on the development of a fourth class, which will be offered sometime in the first quarter next year. More information soon.
We are also offering a three-hour, face-to-face workshop on December 14 for all of you who have been thinking about self-publishing. You can self-publish family stories, anthologies, cook-books, that novel languishing in the drawer, even course materials for any classes you might want to offer. Get the details in this workshop: Self-Publishing – Are You Ready? If you don’t live in the Phoenix area, or cannot make the live session, there will be a course manual published and available for purchase (both Kindle and paperback – and yes, self-published).
Check out the new testimonial page on the Website!
Rhonda Jackson and I are waiting anxiously for the results of the first round of the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge. There are 15 points available in the first two rounds. The second round is November 1-3 and the stories with the highest cumulative points will move on to Round 3 in December. Results come out on October 30. Our story, Breakout, was written following these prompts:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: A psychiatric hospital
Object: A ship in a bottle
Here is a teaser: (first paragraph)
“Tell Miss Louisa to smash this bottle and stomp on the ship. What she desires will come to be.” The Voodooiene exchanged a burlap wrapped package for Benjamin’s small bag of silver coins. “This is a powerful spell, be careful with it.”
Watch this space to find out how many points we get in the first round. I hope all your writing projects are coming along. If you are going to be participating in NaNoWriMo in November, let me know. I won’t be there this year, but I will offer support and encouragement!
Have a great Halloween Week!
I’m on tour! The following interview is part of a blog tour. Last week I was tagged in a blog post by Carol Baldwin. You can read her responses to the questions by clicking on her name. At the end of this post I have tagged two more bloggers on the tour. Please enjoy the interview below and go on next week to the next stop in the blog tour. Have fun!
What are you working on right now?
I have two novel projects going right now. One is a collaborative work-in-progress with a working title of Alexis’ Aggravation. It is a murder mystery based on a short story I co-wrote with Rhonda Jackson for a contest. We did not win the contest, but liked the main character, Alexis Morton, so much we decided to expand on her story. Alexis is a detective-turned-bartender who returns to the police force when her former partner’s husband’s business partner is murdered.
The second novel I am working on is a combination of historical fiction/fantasy/YA fiction. It involves a murder that occurred in 1849 in London. The murderess is involved in black magic and casts a spell just before her hanging that will bring her back to life in 100 years. She is hanged on November 13, 1849 and on November 13, 1949; a baby girl is born in rural Montana. The story moves on to the girl at this point, focusing on her teen years and the strange dreams she keeps having of Victorian England. The London murder is based on a true story.
How do these two novels differ from other works in their genre?
The premise of the first one (strong female character working in another occupation playing detective) has been done before. What we are doing with this one is having our protagonist leave the police force because of an injury, then burnout plays a role and she decides she wants to do something else other than fight crime. She also has a family issue that forces her to take over her parent’s bar. Alexis goes back into her former law-enforcement role somewhat reluctantly because her partner needs her. The setting is current and we based the other characters on actual people here in Southwest Arizona. We drew police incidents and political commentary throughout the story from the local news.
The second story came about when I was researching Victorian England, a time in history that I am intrigued by, especially since I discovered that my great-great-great grandmother was born in London on the same day I was, exactly 100 years before me. I wanted to find a story that could somehow connect those 100 years. I was researching Victorian England when I came across the Bermondsey murder case. I added in the black magic element in order to make the connection work. It will be interesting to see where this story goes.
Why do you write what you do?
This is a good question. One that I have attempted to answer before, but the only answer I can come up with is because I can’t NOT write what I do. The characters are swirling around in my head, waiting for an opportunity to tell their stories. When an idea starts to percolate, the characters all audition for parts – some of them are successful and some are not. If I don’t get busy and write the stories, they will occupy my dreams (sometimes nightmares) and I need to get them out. Does that make sense?
How does your writing process work?
I try to write every day. I also have a full time job as a Corporate Trainer for Webucator, so this is something that doesn’t always work. However, my job duties end at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon so I do have time then to write. Mostly, though, I write on the weekends. When I am working on a story, I will sit down and write it as fast as I can get the words down on paper. It is as if I am trying to keep ahead of the characters so they don’t take over the story, but most of the time they are faster than I am. I tend to edit for grammar, spelling, etc. while writing. I review the story after finishing it looking for content, cohesion, accuracy, etc. I have been known to write the story in one sitting, and then send it off for a contest or other publication, only to regret my haste later. I like flash fiction contests that have a 24-hour deadline. This kind of pressure forces me to write fast, then edit and review slower.
Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?
Do you remember the tag line from the movie, Field of Dreams? “If you build it, they will come?” That might work when you are building a baseball diamond in a cornfield, but it does not work in writing. At least not in my experience. If you want people to read what you write, you need to put yourself out there. If you don’t already have blog, get one. Or two. (My book, Build a Blog is available on Kindle and at Amazon Create Space.) Post links to your blog in Facebook, on Twitter, and anywhere else you can think of. Develop a mailing list and use it, but don’t overload your reader’s email boxes. My next marketing project is to develop a YouTube channel with writing tips and examples.
This blog will be up all week. The next stop on the tour is Judy Beglau’s blog. Judy writes children’s books. She is also working on a YA novel with her daughter. You can see Judy’s responses to the interview questions starting next Monday at: Little Feathers.
Next week Janet Brantley will also be on tour, answering the interveiw questions at her blog site: Words Taking Flight, a blog featuring fiction works by Janet.
According to Wikepedia, The Grand Tour was a traditional trip undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The primary value of the Grand Tour, it was believed, lay in the exposure both to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music. A grand tour could last from several months to several years.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century and we have the Blog Tour. It can be said that the Blog Tour relates to the Grand Tour in the sense that it is an opportunity “to view specific works of art,” to whit: blog posts by various bloggers all posting in a specific content area. Although those embarking on blog tours do not experience “a pleasurable stay in Venice or a cautious residence in Rome,” they do have an opportunity to learn from other bloggers without the expense of European travel. A blog tour is also an excellent way to get your blog out there for your readers.
This blog is going on tour. Here is how it works: Someone starts the tour with a blog posting comprised of the answers to a series of interview questions about what the blogger is doing. The first blogger tags at least three other bloggers with similar content at the bottom of the post. Visitors to the first post can then go on to the other blogs and read their posts, follow links to other blogs, etc.
My blog was tagged last week on Carol Baldwin’s blog and tomorrow I will be posting my responses to the questions and tagging more bloggers for the tour. Come back tomorrow and see what I post. The bloggers I tag will have their tour posts up the following week.
Several of you have mentioned that you are interested in an online writer’s group. To that end, I have been exploring some online solutions for managing the group. After looking at several solutions, I decided to go with Wiggio. Funny name, but a very easy to use file sharing system that also allows for virtual meetings complete with screen sharing, conference calls, live chats, document storage, and email communications. There is also the ability to send text messages from Wiggio, along with email notifications of new activities, scheduled meetings and other information. The best part is: Wiggio is FREE!
This is the same program where I have the contest judges set up for file sharing.
Once we have a core group of members, we will discuss ground rules, expectations, and create a mission. Members will be able to upload their articles, stories, chapters, or other writing projects for review/critique by other members. The critiques can be done privately or as a group.
We can have regular meetings, or meet asynchronously, whatever works for the members. There will be no charge for membership and all members will have administrative control in the group.
If you are interested in joining the group, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an email invitation. I would like to hold the first official meeting sometime in late October, so be sure to get your request in for an invitation.
A couple of months ago I entered a contest sponsored by Intuit (the financial software company). It was a whim, and a contest I never thought I had a chance in, but I entered it anyhow. The top prize is a commercial for the small business to be aired during the SuperBowl. So, not being a football fan, I am actually surprised I entered in the first place, but I do like Intuit and have used their software (Quicken, TurboTax and QuickBooks) for years.
To make a long story short, the first phase of the contest was to write a short description of the company, post it on the Website, and get people to vote for me. You can see the profile here: Center for Writing Excellence. Apparently my little profile got a bunch of votes because I received an email today saying I had moved into Round 2.
Now, I have no expectations of getting past Round 2 into the semi-finals, but there is always a chance that it will happen and the process is going to be fun. In Round 2 I will be scored on a variety of activities. The 20 businesses with the highest scores will move into Round 3, which again involves a public vote, which will take place in November. The top four businesses from Round 3 will will a trip for 2 to New York to a SuperBowl viewing party, a meeting with a successful entrepreneur and some other nice perks, including a bit of cash. As I mentioned earlier, First prize includes the New York trip and the ad to be aired during the SuperBowl.
Here are the activities I need to complete by October 18 (and here is where I need your help).
Answer the following questions:
- What keeps customers coming back to your business? What do they say about your business.
- No two businesses are alike. What sets your business apart from the rest?
There are two other questions that I have to answer. Any help you can provide on these two would be helpful, but I do have some ideas for these.
- What has been your proudest moment?
- What one piece of advice would you give to another small business?
I also need to create a 90-second video showing a creative vision for my business or something about the business I want to share. I will work on that.
On the unlikely chance that I actually make it into the top 20, I will post the voting button on the website so you can vote. In the meantime, let’s have some fun with this. Do you have any creative ideas for the video? Or the questions listed above?
Thanks in advance for your support!
We have some winners to announce today! During the past couple of weeks we have run a couple of contests on the blog – scholarship and a free book giveaway. Winning is easy, just post a comment on the blog post. Both contests have ended and I am very excited to announce the following winners:
First, Carol Baldwin and Kellie Klocko have each won a scholarship for 60% off the tuition for the Plot and Structure class starting October 6. They will be working with Bethany Nuckolls, one of the judges from the Genre contest, on the course. It is an 8-week, online course, giving the participants the luxury of logging in at their convenience and participating in the activities and discussions from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Congratulations, Kellie and Carol! If anyone is interested in joining them in the class, just follow the link to the Online Workshops.
The other winner I would like to announce is Carol Clark, a long time friend of the Center for Writing Excellence. Carol won a copy of the Third Annual Fiction in Five Anthololgy. As a previous winner of the Fiction in Five contest, Carol was featured in the first anthology. I am sure she will enjoy reading this latest edition! Congratulations, Carol!
Today is the first day of fall – a good time to start planning your fall writing projects. There are classes to take, and workshops to attend. For those of you in the Phoenix area we are offering the Build a Blog workshop on October 12 in Gilbert, AZ. We are also creating a step-by-step tutorial for setting up a blog using WordPress. This guide will be used as the manual for the course and will be available for sale once the course is over. If you pre-order the manual, it is $10, after the workshop runs, the manual goes up to $15. For more information on the workshop, click the Live Workshops link.