Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Do You Expect at Writing Retreats?

by Donna K. Weaver

If you've ever considered attending a writing retreat, there are a few things you'll want to consider. One of the most important ones is making sure that what you think a writing retreat is matches what the people hosting the writing retreat think one is. There are probably as many ways to do a retreat as there are people doing them.

Classes, Critique Sessions, Keynote Speaker
I've seen where some retreats take a very different focus, almost a conference approach. That's not a bad thing. However, if you sign up to attend and find there are a bunch of classes that interrupt you while you're writing, you might be a little miffed. So know what to expect.

Cranking out the Words
I've also attended a couple of writing retreats where the main focus was on writing. There might have been a few mini classes to help inspire everyone, but the goal was to crank out the words. They would have writing sprints and award prizes to the person who wrote the most new words.

iWN Retreat
I've attended three writing retreats so far, and I love them. The iWriteNetwork will be having its second retreat next month (September 11-14).

Our classes are optional, so if you're in a "crank out the words" frame of mind, don't worry. The house has lots of community areas, so you can be where it's quiet and keep working.

The class list:
  • Basic Editing by Tristi Pinkston
  • Betas vs. critique group (and how to give and take critiques) by iWN Directors
  • Brainstorming Session
  • Character Arcs by Cindy M. Hogan
  • Emotion by Donna K. Weaver
  • Plot Holes by Canda Mortensen and Deanna Henderson
  • Sentence Style by Canda Mortensen

We'll even watch a movie and identify the "beats". Great way to see Blake Snyder's techniques from Save the Cat in action.

Way cool digs too.

Ever been to a retreat? What was your favorite part?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guest Bloggers

We are looking for guest bloggers!!

The run down:

  • Chosen guest bloggers will submit their piece one month before it's scheduled to post.
  • Blog posts must be focused on writing, the basics are what we try to shoot for mainly. 
  • This is not a venue for self promotion--or for your friend. :) Though you will be able to link back to your own blog.
  • You will only be blogging once, this is not a reoccurring role.

If you are interested in blogging for iWriteNetwork send the topic you want to write about, a link to your blog and the month you prefer to have it post on to iwritenetwork@gmail.com by August 31st, 2014

The directors will look through the submissions and contact all applicants to notify which topic/date is accepted or declined. We are excited to hear what ideas you have!! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sympathetic to Characters

One of our beta readers, Taryn Taylor (hey, girl *waves*), made a small note on one scene in one of our stories that has the potential to revolutionize the way Deanna and I approach writing!
Sounds BIG, right? It is.

Here it is, and I quote,
"The reader only cares as much as the character cares."

Maybe the blog title of this post should be:
Sympathetic Character Reader

Our content editor made a similar comment:
"You tend to focus on a lot of show and not enough tell."
B-b-but, I thought we were supposed to show not tell!

Nope, just lots of show and very little tell. Here are a few examples what we are learning about. I'll use red to show you the tell part.

1.  From Jessica Rules the Dark Side (Beth Fantaskey)
"My heart had started pounding harder with each step I'd taken toward that chamber, and it was racing so hard by then that I was afraid it might explode. A vampire's heart shouldn't beat that fast. I wiped my mouth again, because I couldn't get rid of that bitter, sour taste, even though my tongue was dry as a bone."
*We have some great description of physical reaction, SHOWING us how nervous and afraid the character is. Then there was just that very tiny bit of TELL that amplifies the reason we care to watch this unfold.

2. From Matched (Ally Condie)
"Ky is not my Match, but he might have been. He's the one who taught me how to write my name, how to keep the poems, how to build a tower of rocks that look like it should fall but it doesn't. I have never kissed him and I don't know if I ever will, but I think it might be more than sweet."
*This passage does a great job SHOWING us the events that endear Ky to Cassia, but the tiny little TELL gives us a reason to care! That little bit of "tell" keeps the story from sounding clinical and engages the reader's heart.

So next time you hear SHOW V. TELL, think SHOW & TELL, instead.

Pull open a few books, read some paragraphs. Look for the Show & Tell. Seems like this is a well kept secret that you and I can exploit for better prose.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Make Free Picture Teaser Ads

We've all seen them-you know you want them. 
I'll show you how to make them for free.

And here's the secret....it's easy!!

#1 Go to picmonkey.com
     You can use this for free and have fewer features or pick to pay to play and have more features. I        use the free option

#2 Click on edit right there at the top.
 Now you can pick a picture to play with.

I chose this beauty.

#3 Go ahead and click on Crop  under basic edits (the first little icon on the far left) and take from the picture what you want-or keep it just how it is.

                                                This is what I ended up with- I love it

#4 Now you can manipulate the colors of the photo by clicking on Colors, Sharpen, and Exposure. Go ahead, play around. It previews your choices before you have to apply or cancel it. Nothing is permanent-you can cancel anything or apply it if you like it.

 I changed the color saturation on this one. It's a slight difference, but it may make you love your photo even more.

I changed the exposure in on this one...check it out.

#5 You can even choose to add a texture-it's the second icon down on the far left. Go down the column of choices and see what it does to your picture.

I chose to soften the picture and this is what I got.

#6 The little lipstick icon helps you do specific editing Touch up like taking out zits and stuff.  I won't give you an example of this

#7 the big Tt is for adding text 
It can be something one of your characters says in your book or what the narrator says or just something that will make people want to take a look at your book.

Make sure your add your book somewhere on the teaser

#8 There are a ton of overlays to use. Try them out. 

 I added a few for you to see- lips and hearts.

Don't stop there. You can also play with frames, textures and themes.  Have fun-try everything and you'll be amazed at what you can create.

Here's another one I made.

And one more...It's so fun!!
                                                        I used a texture on this one

When are you going to make your first picture teaser?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tips for the Writing Mommy

I wrote this blog post several years ago when my kids were younger, and many of the elements of my life have changed. I no longer have a two-year-old, and Blockbuster is, of course, out of business. But the information is still applicable today. Hopefully you'll find some ideas here that will work for you.

People ask me all the time how I manage to balance everything. Well, truth be told, I don’t always. You don’t want to drop by my house unexpectedly or you’ll never know what you’ll find. We live in organized chaos. I stay up too late at night and I admit there are days when I feel like I’m chasing my tail. But there are a few things I’ve learned that I’d like to share with you in hopes that it will help make your schedule a little more conducive to writing. Or for that matter, finding time to do any other thing you’d like.

1 – Meals and Snacks

You don’t need to prepare an all-out meal from scratch three times a day. You can do cold cereal for breakfast once in a while, you know. You can also do cheese, crackers and lunch meat for lunch. I do try to prepare “actual dinners,” as my daughter puts it, and I do make breakfast and lunch, but on days when I’m seriously writing, I let mealtimes become more casual. Some ideas:

a. Keep yogurt in your fridge for a quick snack for you or the kids. Yogurt and a banana make a great breakfast, too. 

b. Take a loaf of bread and make it into a whole stack of sandwiches. Then slide the sandwiches back into the bread sack. When someone needs a sandwich, they can just grab one out of the fridge.

c. Designate one crisper in your fridge to be a “snack drawer.” Fill it up with apples, cheese sticks, yogurt, etc. When your children want a snack, tell them to go get something out of the “snack drawer.” You can do the same thing in your cupboard. Make a basket with pretzels, crackers, etc. and have that be the special “snack basket.” You can take sandwich bags and break the boxes down into serving sizes and tell them they can have one, so they don’t run off with the whole box.

d. Make meals ahead of time and stick them in the freezer. 

e. When I buy a package of meat, I like to cook it all up and then freeze it, cooked. That way, when I go to use it, I just have to warm it through instead of defrosting and then cooking it.

f. Make tomorrow’s dinner while you’re making tonight’s. Especially if you’re using cooked meat, you can assemble tomorrow’s dinner, cover it and put it in the fridge. Then just throw it in the oven tomorrow night.

g. Teach your older children how to make sandwiches, warm up soup, etc. They get a sense of pride in their accomplishments when they are allowed to help make a meal.

h. If you have younger children, make some sippy cups with milk, juice and water in them. Then when the child gets thirsty, they can either grab one themselves or you can send your older child to get it for them. It’s a lot less expensive than juice boxes, that’s for sure.

These are all things you can either direct from your computer or will help you spend less time in the kitchen = more time at the computer.

2 – Entertaining the Troops

a. It’s not a sin to let your children watch TV. I don’t mean to stick them in front of it for hours on end and let them watch whatever comes on; there are definite dangers in allowing entire days in front of the TV, and with the programming that’s on, you never know what they might be subjected to. But there are some fabulous programs on that are fun and educational, as well as great DVDs. My kids have learned a lot from shows like CyberChase, Stanley, Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, The Magic School Bus, and the like. There’s nothing wrong with turning on the TV and letting your kids watch a show while you write. 

b. Get some paper and crayons and let your kids “write” a book of their own while you’re working.

c. Ask older children to read to the younger ones.

3 – Adjusting Your Sleep

This one’s hard. But consider getting up earlier than your kids or staying up late after they go to bed. It will do a number on your own sleep but you’ll have a sense of contentment that may help make up for some of that lack.

4 – Housework

a. I have to get up and walk around periodically. So while I’m doing that, I’ll change out the laundry and put in a load of dishes. Usually by the time I’m done doing that, I’ll be ready to get back to work.

b. It’s not a sin to teach your children to do chores. The happiest children are the ones who feel that they are valuable in their homes and who have a sense of purpose. When you teach your children to do chores, you are helping them to feel needed. Of course, keep the chores age-appropriate. My 10-year-old can vacuum, and my 8-year-old can wipe up the bathroom mirrors and counter top. My five-year-old can unload the dishwasher. I even have my older kids stand on chairs to get the laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer. They all love helping me make dinner. As they get older, I’ll teach them to do other things. This not only clears up five minutes of time for me here and there, but when we work together to turn a half-hour job into a ten-minute job (freeing up twenty minutes) we’re drawing closer together.

c. Reevaluate your thinking about housework. Mold is obviously not good. It’s important to have clean towels and clothes, and feeding your family is a good thing. But if you can give up something to give yourself time to write, think about doing it. Are there ways you could simplify your routines? Can you delegate more to your husbands? Can you put up with toys scattered across the floor for a little while so you can finish your chapter? Is it necessary to have all your dishes perfectly stacked all the time? When you’re on a roll with your book, it’s okay to let some things slide until you’re done. 

5 – Organizing Your Time

Yeah, this tip’s not a piece of cake either. When you’ve got other people in the house and they have needs, it’s sometimes impossible to create the chunks of time you need. 

a. One thing I do is to create Days. What I mean by that is, Wednesday, for instance, is Scout Day. After lunch I sit down and review what I need to do to prepare for the Scouts to come at 4:30. I’m not writing during this time, or grocery shopping, or anything else. It’s devoted to Scouts. I get ready for them to come, they come, and then after they leave, I look at next week’s meeting. I do any ahead-of-time prep work that needs doing, and if I need to buy something, I put it on my shopping list. I record what they got passed off and make notes on what they need to do next. Then, with the exception of getting whatever I might have put on the shopping list, I don’t think about it until the next Wednesday. Monday is the day I use to make the products for my business, unless I have an emergency order. When I was a Stampin’ Up! distributor, Tuesday was my prep day for that. Look at your life – are there certain tasks you can isolate to one day a week?

b. Create an errand day. I used to have the tendency to run out and do errands several times a week, and I found I was away from home a lot. Now what I do is designate an errand day. This usually coordinates with Pay Day. I’ll sit down and pay bills, and then I’ll go out and do all my grocery shopping, trip to the post office, to the bank (if needed) library, Blockbuster, etc, all at once. It makes for about a three-hour trip, but it’s better for me to get it done at once. Now, of course, in between times I still run to the library and Blockbuster (who could go for two weeks without books and movies?) and I do mail books and products as the orders come in. But I try to do it in chunks so that I’m home more often.

c. And again, with the sleep thing I already mentioned. I’m usually up until around 2 am, the main reason for this being that my husband works the night shift and so I like to stay up to see him off. But from 9:00 when all the kids are in bed (supposedly) until I wake my husband up to get ready for work, I can be at the computer, or reading a book, or watching a movie. With the book and movie reviews I write for Families.com, I need to make time for that in my schedule as well.

I think the main thing we need to do is find a way to create balance. You can write and take care of your children at the same time. I recently moved my computer into the living room (it was in my bedroom) so I could be in the thick of things. Right now, my two-year-old is five feet to my left, watching “Blue’s Clues.” I know he’s safe, I know he’s learning, and I’m writing. If you’re totally ignoring your kids in order to write, it won’t be as satisfactory to you. But if you totally ignore yourself and your own talents and ambitions, you won’t derive the kind of satisfaction from motherhood that you should. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writing Different Sexes

No, this isn't a kinky post.

What I'm talking about is when women write male characters or men write female characters. Sometimes it can be tough to get it right.

I love this article by Rob Preece, titled Women Are from Venus; Men Are Annoying. He raises some very important points, including:
I do think that a good writer, of whatever sex, must be able to create convincing characters of both sexes—characters who are recognizably male or female every time they open their mouths, every time the author dips into their internal dialog. Yet, if you read some romance, you’ll come across male characters who just aren’t convincing. Certainly in romance, we aren’t looking for completely realistic male characters (most readers are women who already have an all-too-realistic male in their lives).
Rob goes on to provide some things to watch out for when women are writing about men. It was certainly something I considered when I decided to write Torn Canvas, which is mostly from Jori's point of view. You can see what those cautions are by reading the entire post here. It's definitely worth the time.

The following video is also a very visual (and hilarious) presentation on how differently men's and women's brains work. When we understand that, I believe it makes it easier to keep this in mind as we write our characters. Seriously, there was one point where I almost wrote "Jori went to his nothing box." The video is a little long (13 min) but it's well worth it.

I especially like the section toward the end of the video where he talks about some of the things that can irritate us in our interactions with with close members of the opposite sex. So now, rather than being irritated at my husband when he offers suggestion to fix a problem I'm venting about (and not asking for suggestions to fix the problem), I realize he's trying to give me his very best solution for when he has challenges.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There are 12 1/2 Rules, or so I'm told.

I saw this poster the other day on Pinterest and thought I would share it here. I found it lovely that there are only 12 1/2 rules to being a writer. Sounds easy enough right? :)

But really when you break it down, it resembles more closely the daily ins and outs of writing. Here are the ones I need to work on to become a better author:
1- Writing every day, finding the time, chasing down the muse and pushing through the wall.
2-Stepping back and really being honest with myself about my writing. Did I just skip that paragraph? yeah, I did. My reader will to. Sharpen it or pull it out.
5-Widen my characters interests and looks. I don't fit perfectly in a social norm box, and neither should my characters, make them memorable and as unique as people really are!
8-Some stories are there to just be enjoyed, not necessarily to have a moral, don't stress if mine is on the enjoyment side.
9-Inspiration strikes when you can't find a paper or pen, I'm sure of it. I have many grocery receipts and eyeliner scrawled notes from moments I was caught unprepared without pen and paper.
12- I've personally found that if I'm stuck, I think of what the story would sound like written from another characters POV and I find I can break through my wall of worry and get back to the scene I have to finish.

And there you have it!

 What rules do you like best?