Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – March update – Part 2

As I was saying…there was lots to talk about on Wednesday, so here’s part 2 of the update. Part 1 had the info for contests and submissions with deadlines coming up soon. This one starts with May deadlines…

ASJA – the American Society of Journalists and Authors has it’s conference scheduled for May 18-19 at the Sheraton Times Square. Conferences like this are not always so easily accessible, so it’s worth a look.

Creative NonFiction, the print and online journal, is looking for submissions on the topic of Home by May 21. They’re looking for true stories about finding a place in the world to call your own. Their next topic is Let’s Talk About Sex , with submissions due July 16. They want true stories about doing it—whether you’re straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all. They’re offering $1,000 Continue reading

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January update

What a great first-of-the-year meeting we had on Wednesday. I think everyone left with ideas for new goals to set and how to get them done. More on that later, but first:

If you have a book you’d like to pitch to an agent, take advantage of the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio’s Pitch Party in Westport on January 28th from 10-12. $25 to pitch, $15 to sit, sip mimosas and see how it’s done… For tips on how to write a query letter, Alex McNab suggests Jane Friedman’s site, and also taking a look at Query Shark, for info on how not to write one.

FCWS is offering a broad selection of classes, in addition to this unique event. Hit the link to find out what they have.

A number of writing classes are also available at various venues in Fairfield County and New York. In the City, Gotham Writers is offering what they describe as a ‘rush of classes’ both in classrooms and online. I’ve tried them and found them very useful when I first began as a way of finding an instant critique group led by an experienced published writer.

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The Westport Writers Workshop has classes starting in Westport, Avon and Ridgefield. Subjects include memoir, fiction, the journey of writing for women, and personal essay.

Kate Mayer, one of our members, published a great blog post on achieving one’s writing goals. her simple method produced great results, so take a look.

The Connecticut Book Awards are back. These awards recognize the best titles of 2016 written by authors who reside in Connecticut. Book award submissions will be accepted starting January 2017 and will close in April 2017. For more information, please visit the Connecticut Center for the Book website.

The Connecticut Press Club is still accepting entries for their Annual Communications Contest. The only criterion for submission is that you must be a Connecticut writer and that the submission should have been published/broadcast/launched etc in 2016. The submitting process is still  more complicated than it should be, but if you’re interested, don’t give up. They’re accepting entries until February 6.  To ensure you’re on their mailing list, email CTPressclub@gmail.com.   The deadline is February 6.

One of our members, Sheryl Kayne, is producing a book for which she’s seeking contributions: Grandmas and Grandpas by Many Other Names.   This is an opportunity to celebrate grandparents. She’s looking for stories and/or photos about your own grandparents or yourself as a grandparent to accompany stories about fictional grandparents including Little Red Riding Hood’s as well as Heidi’s and Willy Wonka’s Grandfathers. She’s accepting contributions through Valentine’s Day and the E-book and softcover will be launched mid-April in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents’ Day. Contributors receive a free E-book.  Contribute here.

Bernice Roque, one of our members, is offering a useful (and free) task managing tool  specifically aimed at writers. If you feel you can’t keep track of things, this might be a good solution for you. Contact her through her website.

Elizabeth Chatsworth, another member, has been having some success with the grammar-checking tool Grammarly. It claims to find mistakes which Spellcheck doesn’t, and there’s a free version which should be worth trying out.

Among writing conferences coming up in our neck of the woods this year are these:

Unicorn Writing Conference Manhattanville College, Westchester March 25

ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Writers) NYC May 5-6

Writers’ Digest Conference, NYC August 18-20

BookBub is a great resource for authors looking to reach new readers for a debut or a series, to boost books up on the best-seller list, and even drive sales for backlisted books. Authors see an average earning increase of almost 200% when their book is chosen as a Featured Deal. GoSpark Press is offering a webinar; How to Maximize BookBub is set for February 2, 2017 at 4 p.m. PST (register here), and will help you figure out how to make Bookbub work for you, if you’re already published. Plus, it’s only $10…

Larry Brooks is a Californian writer with a great website called Storyfix. He coaches writers and now has a new virtual classroom which provides, to quote, “Hardcore Training Videos For Serious Authors”. He’s offering one free training module, one of five currently available. Here’s the link to “Essential Craft for Emerging Novelists,” an 81-minute hardcore craft training experience. Worth a look.

Book Riot, an online site that sends me updates on all sorts of book-related topics, has a post to inspire anyone who’s having trouble writing: a list of books that will help to get you started.

At our monthly meetings we set ourselves a goal to be accomplished by the next meeting, I’ve vowed to submit more work for publication this year, so I’ll be signing up with Duotrope. Now that I’ve said it in writing, I’ll just have to do it!

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – December update

Our end-of-year meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous was a surprise and delight to me. A surprise, because there were 26 of us there, and I hadn’t expected so many with the holidays looming, and delight because we broke our own record. We held the meeting at the newly established Fairfield County Writers’ Studio, where Tessa MGovern and Carol Dannhauser made us feel very welcome. Check out the courses the offer here. They begin in January and there’s something for everyone.

Tessa sent me the link for a Scrivener video tutorial. I’ll post the class schedule for Gwen Hernandez’ Scrivener classes next month. They begin at the end of January.

!CBC+,Ig!mk~$(KGrHqN,!lsEz+6T,IzCBNG!mBJiE!~~_3Gotham Writers Workshop, the New York-based writing school, is now offering one-on-one classes online. You can get professional feedback on a particular project (book, short story, screenplay, poetry) or long-term mentorship. You can also take a private 3-hour class or a private 6 or 10-week course tailored to your interests and needs. There are private grammar sessions, help with applying for an MFA and help launching a blog, among other things. I imagine it’s fairly pricey, but if this is what you need, go for it.

Here are some websites which might be useful to you. I found them courtesy of Larry Brooks, who runs Storyfix, a website and critiquing website. He has a special offer on right now for critiquing your novel ($1300 – a great value, I think, especially if it helps you find plot holes or areas you need to work on). He’s not an editor per se, but he does have a good grasp of how a story should be put together.
This blog post came from Robert Morris, a guest blogger and freelance editor in NYC. You can follow him on Google+. I’m reproducing most of it here, since he wrote it so well.
1.OneLook Reverse Dictionary
You are torturing yourself to remember a word you have in the back of your mind, but you just can’t spit it out? You need this reverse dictionary. Just describe the concept of the word you’re looking for, and you’ll get an entire list to choose from. The word you’re looking for is definitely in there.
2. NinjaEssays
You would have to invest a lot of money to hire a long-term editor you would work exclusively with. These editors usually work with published writers and charge amounts that newbies are unable to spend. That’s why you have NinjaEssays on your side! This is an online editing service that evaluates your projects and assigns a perfectly suitable editor for an affordable price. Plus, you can collaborate with professional writers, who can help you improve some aspects of your content!
3. Reedsy
You are already determined to become a professional writer? Then you need to become part of Reedsy – an online community that connects authors with great editors, designers, and marketers for their books. You can create an author profile for free, upload a portfolio, and start building connections. If you still haven’t discovered a publisher for your first draft, Reedsy will direct you on the right way.
4. Plagiarism Checker
Think about the greatest sin a writer can commit. Of course it’s plagiarism! You want to produce absolutely unique content with no signs of copying, paraphrasing, rewriting, and other dishonest strategies. PlagTracker checks your content and provides a detailed report about any plagiarism involved in it. If you accidentally got too inspired by an online resource and you forgot to provide proper citations, PlagTracker will help you fix the damage before it’s too late.
5. Cliche Finder
Some writers just love clichés. They are not aware of their habit phrases; they use them intuitively and bore the readers with unnecessary fillers. This online tool will help you locate the clichés and overused phrases in seconds. That’s a certain way of making your content less annoying. (Have to say, I couldn’t actually see how to track cliches on this rather simple website. But you could try this website instead. GC)
6. Buffalo
Daily writing exercises are necessary for your progress. Buffalo enables you to write every day and publish your random thoughts online. It’s a supportive community that’s clean and extremely functional. All you need to do is join and start writing on any topics you have in mind.
7. Calmly Writer
You’ll see an almost blank page when you land at this website. Isn’t that all you need? You’ll access the options when you click on the lotus flower in the upper left angle of the page. You can insert pictures, change the font, download the document in different formats, or enter Focus Mode. You’ll also get character and word count, as well as an estimated reading time for your content. The distraction-free writing environment will make you a more focused writer. (I definitely need this one…GC)

A friend sent me this information about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ conference, which I thought might interest some of you: https://www.scbwi.org/events/17th-annual-scbwi-winter-conference-in-new-york-ny16/. It will be held in New York on February 12-14 next year, and includes participation from many agents and editors, as well as authors.

We ended the meeting as we always do, by telling each other what we planned to do before the next meeting (January 20th). With holidays interfering, we tried to keep the goals modest and achievable. Here’s to 2016!

Re-post from Larry Brooks at Storyfix – How to Position Your Book To Go Viral

Larry Brooks is  a published author and owner of a terrific, maybe essential, blog for writers: Storyfix. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. IN addition to his great how-to books on writing, he’s published several novels, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. When I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel in November, that’s what I wanted it to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

Now here’s his take on going viral:

It is the Holy Grail of instant success as an author.  The elusive grand slam home run of literary home runs.  It is better – beyond – getting published, or even making a bestseller list.

It is the dream.  Bigger than your highest vision of The Dream.

It is called “going viral.”

For in the Luddites among us… going viral means that word-of-mouth and the media, especially the internet – which in this case are simply responding to an initial word-of-mouth phenomena — conspire in a dance of co-dependent cause and effect to explode a book beyond the bestseller lists into a feeding frenzy of attention, demand, praise and bookstore waiting lists.

For most readers, this sudden attention is the first time they’ll hear about the title, or its author.

Think The DaVinci Code, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones, The Help, The Bridges of Madison County… books that seemingly appear out of nowhere and sell millions within a few weeks, and more millions afterward, almost always resulting in a movie and a sequel.

People who wouldn’t have been interested before are now clicking onto Amazon to pick up a copy, in some cases simply because they want to see what all the buzz is about.

How did they do that?  How can we do that?

Good news and bad news: we can enter the game, we can go for it, but once qualified and out there, it’s a total crap-shoot.  One over which you have, after meeting the criteria for viral consideration, absolutely no control.

It is beyond social media.  You can’t tweet or Facebook yourself into viral status. Your publisher can’t even make it happen.  It rarely happens to the common A-list author names – they became A-listers after their viral debut – it’s usually something fresh, from a fresh face.

And yet, going viral is a paradox.

It is something you can wish for, but once the book has been written, cannot create or execute.  The best you can do is write a book that is positioned – that delivers the right stuff – to be discovered, ignited and launched on a viral journey at the scale required to wear this name tag.

Many books qualify.  Few hear their name called.

The paradox is this:

The criteria for putting your book into a position to go viral is almost exactly that associated with getting published in the first place.  The book has to work.  Really, really well.

That said, viral books tend to do a couple of specific things really well:

They are often “high concept” (rather than character-driven, even though they introduce great characters), with exceptional execution across all of the Six Core Competencies.

They also deliver something else, almost without exception: they seize the inherent compelling power of underlying story physics in way that exceeds the competition.

These two realms of story – compelling concept, with exceptionally strong underlying essences, is what gets you into the viral game.

And if that sounds underwhelming, welcome to the paradox.  Doesn’t everybody try for a compelling concept and the blowing of their story physics out of the water?

Answer: not really. Mostly because they don’t address these as goals.  Some authors just write their story, write it well, let it unspool organically, and hope somebody out there gets it.  This may get them published, but it doesn’t usually get them on Good Morning America.

If you want to go viral, you should address high concept and the optimization of story physics in the story development process.  You should be aware of their inherent compelling power, or not.  And if the latter, jack it higher.

The Latest Example of the Viral Dream Come True

Just this morning Good Morning America did a feature on the latest viral sensation in the book world.  It described a mad frenzy of word-of-mouth obsession, and during the segment the GMA anchors were literally grabbing the book from each others’ hands to swoon over randomly selected sentences.

Not because the sentences were astoundingly eloquent.  Rather, because the sentences deliver more than one of the basic elements of story physics like a bullet to the brain.

The book is called “50 Shades of Grey,” dubbed an erotic novel (part of a trilogy) by a little known English author named E.L. James.  As I write this, a mere four hours after the GMA love fest, less than two weeks after initial release, it resides at #1 on the Amazon Kindle list, and #4 on the overall bestselling books list.

Almost all because of reader word-of-mouth.  And media that listens and jumps on board.

Interestingly, it isn’t yet registering on the New York Times bestseller list.  Why?  Because that’s an insider industry list based on wholesale distribution to bookstores and a lagging nod to digital books, and 50 Shades of Grey is barely in bookstores and is too new to crack the old boy network that the NYT represents.

But wait ‘til next week.  It’ll be there, and probably at #1.

Let me tell you why this book has gone viral.

And in doing so, identify the simple elements of story physics that this book delivers.  Read and learn, this is your ticket not only to the viral world, but to finding a publisher and a readership, as well.

The book is about a young woman who has an affair with a billionaire.  In one reader’s words, it is full of sex, money and clothes.  It is Sex in the City times ten.

One interviewed reader calls it “mommy porn.”  A guilty pleasure perfectly suited to the anonymity of a Kindle in a crowded mall.

High concept?  Not particularly.  But here’s what it does do well:

It is fueled by two things, both of them among the short list of essential story physics that capture readers:

The book is driven by hero empathy, while delivering a vicarious ride.

Read that again.  It isn’t the plot, and it isn’t character.  No, this is about the reader.  This strategy shoots for the result of what you’ve written, the impact on a reader that creates a reading experience beyond the intellectual curiosity of plot, the reward of laughter or any marveling at great art.

It’s about the reader transporting themselves into this world… going on this ride… feeling it… wanting to be the hero… wishing it was them… the reader completely engaging in this journey on a personal level.

You may enjoy the heck out of the latest detective thriller, but really, is this something you want to actually do?  To actually feel?  No, that’s a voyeuristic read.  50 Shades of Grey, while perhaps voyeuristic, is actually more masturbatory and vicarious in nature.  It delivers an emotional experience that taps into something deep and forbidden and unavailable.

It mines pure gold from the power of its underlying story physics.

That’s it.  Do this, and do it within a compelling premise with professional-level execution, and you are in a position to go viral.

And if you don’t happen to win that particular lottery, at least you’ll have increased your chances at publication or digital success exponentially.

For now, ask yourself what about your story delivers a vicarious ride, where your story takes the reader, and at what level your story makes the reader feel and actually become a part of the story in a vicarious and personally empathetic way… rather than sitting in the literary grandstands and watching it all go down.

You may congratulate me – I have given birth to a horrible first draft…

And so I did it. I wrote a perfectly horrible first draft of a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t even care that it’s horrible. Because a horrible first draft can become an OK second draft and then a pretty good third draft…you can see where I’m going with this.

I could only do it because I had no time to criticize myself as I went along. No time to ask anyone else what they thought. No time to put quotation marks round the dialogue, even. But I have it. It exists. And I have some people to thank who helped me to write it.

First my writing friends who come to our monthly Writers’ Café in Westport, CT. If it hadn’t been for me sitting there and urging them all to write a novel in November, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. There were pointed looks, as much as to say, ‘So you’ll be doing it, right?’ They shamed me into it.

Next there’s a great blog by Larry Brooks, at www.Storyfix.com. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. He’s published several, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. That’s what I wanted my novel to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

The next person is a Brit called Keith Blount who invented a software program called Scrivener  (http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I’ll write more about it in a future post. Suffice it to say that the man is a genius. I could never have counted all the words I’d written without it. (I did that every 15 minutes towards the end.)

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband. I started this novel on vacation in Indochina. This meant that instead of looking out of the bus window at the beautiful scenery flashing by, I sat in the back with my laptop on my knees and wrote. He didn’t complain. And he didn’t complain when we returned and there was a noticeable lack of interest in laundry, cooking and even going to the grocery store. Oh, I did do some of that, when the situation became desperate, but not as often as I used to. (I kind of like that, actually.) And my husband was unfailingly supportive in spite of being relegated to my second main interest for thirty days. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen. He didn’t ask me to watch movies with him. He even cooked. Yes, darling. Of course I will dedicate this first novel to you. You deserve it.

I’m back….

You may have been wondering where I’ve been for the last month. I was writing. I wrote a perfectly horrible first draft of a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t even care that it’s horrible. Because a horrible first draft can become an OK second draft and then a pretty good third draft…you can see where I’m going with this.

I could only do it because I had no time to criticize myself as I went along. No time to ask anyone else what they thought. No time to put quotation marks round the dialogue, even. But I have it. It exists. And I have some people to thank who helped me to write it.

First my writing friends who come to our monthly Writers’ Café in Westport, CT. If it hadn’t been for me sitting there and urging them all to write a novel in November, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. There were pointed looks, as much as to say, ‘So you’ll be doing it, right?’ They shamed me into it.

Next there’s a great blog by Larry Brooks, at www.Storyfix.com. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. He’s published several, to great acclaim. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

The next person is a Brit called Keith Blount who invented a software program called Scrivener  (http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I’ll write more about it on my writers’ blog (www.writeconnexion.wordpress.com). Suffice it to say that the man is a genius. I could never have counted all the words I’d written without it. (I did that every 15 minutes towards the end.)

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband. I started this novel on vacation in Indochina. This meant that instead of looking out of the bus window at the beautiful scenery flashing by, I sat in the back with my laptop on my knees and wrote. He didn’t complain. And he didn’t complain when we returned and there was a noticeable lack of interest in laundry, cooking and even going to the grocery store. Oh, I did do some of that, when the situation became desperate, but not as often as I used to. (I kind of like that, actually.) And Jay was unfailingly supportive in spite of being relegated to my second main interest for thirty days. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen. He didn’t ask me to watch movies with him. He even cooked. Yes, darling. Of course I will dedicate this first novel to you. You deserve it.