Posts Tagged writing advice

The One Story Workshops

IMG_1762Shortly after the WFWA workshop ended, I started the first of three One Story workshops. The first, Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti presented a method to write a complete short story in a few days. It was fun, although I think it might have worked better if you had characters or a situation in mind before you started. I did end up with a complete but short piece, although I’m not sure how much I really like it.

For me, the platform the class used  was a bit overwhelming. I have no idea how many people were taking this class. People  posted the new bits of their story and others commented, but this seemed to be a jumble, with so many storylines and so many people, it was hard to keep track whose character was in which story. Eventually I more or less randomly chose a few participants to focus on. If others were kind enough to  comment on my submissions, I returned the favor. This soon narrowed the number of people I was following to a more reasonable number, although it was still a jumble with no real flow that I could determine.

I did figure out a few other “tricks.” To get your submission to appear near the top of the list, it was good to comment on everyone’s comment, even if only to thank them. Eventually I also figure out there was a way to mark all the comments you had read so you could see what was new. And of course, the best way to get others to comment was to comment on their submissions.

The next class was Become Your Own Best Editor where the participants read an initial submission, subsequent editorial comments and the changes the author made to the piece up through the final printed version. There were probably fewer participants in this class and in this case it wasn’t quite as necessary to keep the continuity with who said what where. My personal take-away was I really don’t want to be an editor because I was bored rereading the same story over and over. Hannah Tinti and the other editor involved  both made insightful comments that apply to most any story rewrite. This workshop has been offered using a different story published in One Story  with a different editor so could be taken a second time.

From Character to Story:A Craft Intensive with Editor Patrick Ryan also offered some useful tips. By this time I was familiar with a number of the other participants and it was easy to look for them and read their comments.

The next offering from One Story starts on March 11, My Evil Twin is an Editor, or What the Soaps Taught Me About Writing.

These classes have varied in their helpfulness, but are good for connecting with other writers. Probably which class you’d find most insightful would depend on where you are in your writing career. It should be noted that many known names and people with much success enroll in these courses as well as people who have not written much.

I’m not wild about the platform and the number of participants, but if chaos doesn’t bother you or you don’t want to interact, these may work equally well for you. For some people the amount of work/number of lessons in a short period of time can be difficult, too.





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A Short Series on Various On-line Workshops

IMG_1759Since I stopped regularly blogging at the end of 2014, I’ve taken numerous online writing courses/workshops from a number of sources. Possibly my thoughts on some of the classes would be of interest or use to other writers. I will present each class in chronological order and follow up with a post on which I found most helpful and why.

Early in 2015 I did a workshop with Donald Maass through the Womens’ Fiction Writers Association. Improvements were made in the platform used for this workshop last year so it was a little easier to keep track of what you’d read by whom. Mr. Maass did manage to comment on most people’s assignments, too. Each year has a slightly different focus, so it is worth retaking each year.This is the information directly from the WFWA website:

Some manuscripts sparkle and gleam. What not only catches the eyes of agents and editors but holds them in thrall all the way through? What signals “commercial” to industry types? How can you give your project that radiance without compromising its integrity?

Topics will include:

High concept elements that don’t feel cheap.
Why readers really fall in love with protagonists.
Story worlds we don’t want to leave.
Entertaining versus illuminating.
Voices we hear versus voices we ignore.
This is a hands-on workshop with five writing assignments spread over two weeks. Presented by New York literary agent and teacher Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, The Fire in Fiction and Writing 21st Century Fiction.

Registration open from February 15 through March 10.

This year’s workshop runs from March 14-March 26. The cost is a reasonable $45 but you do have to first belong to the association. Dues for that are $48.

Here is the link to join:


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Short, Inexpensive Writing Course Starting Feb. 1

Once again I have an idea for a post or a series of posts, but I need to do more research and likely will not have that completed by the end of the day. My idea does involve an alternate method of learning about writing, so in the meantime I’m going to suggest another alternate that popped up in my inbox. Southeast Review runs a series of short online workshops for writers and the next one begins Feb 1. To sign up you can go to this page  and scroll down to the registration button. As of this moment, the page is not updated, but the up-to-date info is at the end of this post.

I participated in this low cost ($15) series a year or two ago, and although I didn’t utilize all the resources available, it was inspiring to have challenges, podcasts and other info arrive on a daily basis. It could have been an intensive short course packed with info. The beauty of it, though, is that you can pick and choose and just read or listen or write what you want. At the end of the month there is a writing challenge with the winner being published on the website. Although I didn’t win, I did write something out of my usual genre and have one more flash I can circulate.

Have you participated in this? What did you think?

As the link on Southeast Review does not appear to be updated, I am copying the information that was in the email below:

Don’t Miss the Adult Writer’s Regimen Launching FEB. 1st! 
Next start date: February 1st, 2014

The Southeast Review Writer’s Regimen (for adults) is a 30-day writing project for poets, essayists, and fiction writers who want to produce a body of work by introducing structure to their writing lives.
This winter, we once again invited our adult regimen participants to submit the work they produced during the program. Congratulations to Michelle Morouse, whose story “Everyone Is” is currently featured on our site. We will also publish at least one winner from this spring’s regimen online, so sign up by FEBRUARY 1st for your chance to be published on our website! 
Participants will receive 30 consecutive emails containing the following:
 + daily writing prompts, applicable for any genre. Use these to write a poem a day for 30 days, to create 30 short-short stories, or to give flesh to stories, essays, novels, and memoirs.
weekly messages from established and up-and-coming poets, writers, and teachers offering advice for staying at the peak of performance 
+ a FREE copy of Issue 32.1 of The Southeast Review
+ a Riff Word of the Day, a Podcast of the Day from an editor, writer, or poet, and a Quote of the Day from a famous writer
+ a daily reading-writing exercise, where we inspire you with a short passage from the books we’re reading and get you started writing something of your own+ Flashback Bonuses, where, as a little something extra, we repeat an earlier regimen’s craft talks from more writing heavyweights

All of this for just $15. That’s a mere 50 cents per day! Join us for a month and walk away with a new body of work! There’s still ONE week to get on board for our new regimen!

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Things Other People Posted

I’m half pretending not to be part of Facebook anymore, but one reason I don’t want to totally be off of it is that many of my friends find and post blogs and articles I’d never see otherwise. Here are some links that might be of interest to writers. Possibly they will result in longer posts when it isn’t almost Christmas and I still have lime-cardamon buns and apricot cookies to bake.

The poet and writer Claudia Putnam, author of Wild Thing In Our Known World, posted an article from another writer on the role of privilege and connections in the struggle to be published. And today, Dec 26, I found another article Claudia posted written by the artist and writer, Molly Crabapple, whose take is similar but slightly different than the first one.

She also recently posted this little bit by author Chris Orcutt about responding to rejection, while another online friend, Mitch E. Parker, editor of Camera Obscura, posted what might be called the Duotrope of Rejection Letters. It appears he actually posted this same link in the comments to the aforementioned blog. The Rejection Wiki contains the copy of various rejection letters sent out by numerous journals. It can be both interesting and somewhat informative to compare what you received against what is reported here.

Just this morning Nathan Bransford, past literary agent and current social media guru, posted about creative fatigue, something many of us may be facing as the new year steamrolls our way.

Any thoughts on any of these blogs/posts? I hope some of them provide you with something to mull over this holiday season.

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Is Attention the Primary Reason You Write?

This morning on Weekend Sunday Edition, Rachel Martin interviewed Daniel Menaker, writer and past fiction editor of The New Yorker and Editor in Chief at Random House, about his new memoir, My Mistake. Although I have since read the transcript of the interview, I originally missed the middle of it and returned to hear him say, “Yeah, I think we write for attention.” My immediate thought was, “That’s odd. I don’t think my main motive for writing is attention.”

Maybe “real” writers do want attention, but I want the story to get attention, not me. Sure, I wouldn’t mind answering some questions about the story or the writing of the story, but that doesn’t mean I want to do it face to face. For me one of the allures of writing is that I can do it behind the scenes and not have to be front and center. Yes, writers who are gracious and entertaining and informative the way Mary Doria Russell was at the recent Readcon event in Greeley are a delight, but it’s hard for me to believe that most writers want to be on the hot seat, being questioned and photographed. Most of the writers I know want to write and publish. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one of them talk about how they’re writing so they can go on tour or be featured on Oprah or interviewed on NPR. I don’t think one of us in any of the writing groups I’ve been part of have expressed a desire for fame. Publication, yes. The allure of money, occasionally, but most of us who have been in a group  long enough seem to give up on the big bucks and just aim and wish for publication.

My next thought was, maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong; I don’t want attention enough. Possibly that thought is related to another blog a writer-friend reposted the other day, The One Thing You Are Doing to Block Your Writing Success. In this blog the author talks about not calling yourself a writer and how that might be harmful to your career. In other posts on her blog she talks about Myers-Briggs type and relates that to writing and writers. I wonder if, in part, my response to her post and my not usually telling people I’m a writer is related to type? Or, in general, not liking attention being called to myself?

Of course, at some level I do desire attention, the attention of an agent, then an editor which will lead to the attention of readers. There is, also, the matter of the blog. Of course I want people to read my blog and comment and respond. I see that more as interaction than as attention-gathering, though. And yes, in the back of my mind I often have a specific person I want to read a particular work, but again, it’s mostly for the work that I desire attention, not me.

I’m wondering if others who write feel this way or if their primary motivation in writing so to gain attention to themselves?

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Grit and Writing leads to Success?

Tom HIlbert, the coach of the Colorado State University volleyball team, posted a Weekend Ted Talk. The talk, via The Huffington Post, was titled The Key to Success. The CSU Rams are currently one of two undefeated teams in D-1 volleyball in the nation and are ranked #10. I’m suspecting one of the reasons Tom found this talk interesting is its relation to the team and the fact that they keep finding ways to win when this year had been presented as a rebuilding year. Friday night’s game was played against Air Force, our instate conference foe. The Falcons are perennial bottom dwellers in the conference standings. CSU is 41-1 against them, having last lost in 1982. While watching the cadets battle us on Friday, I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “They play with grit.” Even though they had to know they were likely to lose, they kept playing without a hang-dog attitude. One very long rally earned the respect of the crowd and they were given a round of applause.

The aforementioned TED talk suggests that IQ isn’t a good measure of success but grit is. What does it mean to have grit? Merriam-Webster online defines it as “mental toughness and courage.” includes pluck, an indomitable spirit, and firmness of character. The lecturer, Angela Lee Ducksworth, defines grit as the passion and perseverance to accomplish long-term goals, or working hard to make dreams or goals a reality.

I never feel bad when CSU beats AF, mostly because I know these players have a chance to be successful in other areas of life, partly due to their grit, but obviously, grit in this instance does not guarantee success in volleyball. My question is, does it equal success in writing?

Ms Lee Ducksworth states many talented individuals do not meet with success, just as there are many smart people who are not successful. Submitting writing for publication is the one area of writing  that I would agree requires grit. When you are faced with a deluge of rejection, you have to be able to get back up and resubmit. One other quality of grit that is mentioned in the short lecture is that those who demonstrate it do not believe failure is a permanent condition. Definitely a necessary characteristic to have as a writer. Most published authors had to exhibit some amount of grit in order to obtain the state of publication. One of the few successful authors who comes to mind who did not have the grit to continue to seek publication is John Kennedy Toole. Confederacy of Dunces,

the 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner, would be considered successful by most criteria, although the same may not be said for the author since he committed suicide prior to the book’s acceptance. It was his mother who exhibited grit in her determination to get his book published.

What about other aspects of writing? Does it take grit to finish a novel? A short story or poem? Or is the grit in the editing and rewriting? And even if you have the grit, say, to finish Nanowrimo, we all know that 50,000 words does not equate with success in publication. Possibly we could use the mentality that those who are successful have the grit to revise and rewrite to the point that their work is accepted and published. Certainly that is one type of grit, the determination to be published no matter what, and by that definition, anyone who is unwilling to conform to the exacting demands of agents/publishers/genres may not have the grit necessary for publication. Of course it is necessary to be flexible enough to listen to the critiques of others, but to some degree it seems to me that saying that an author who has spent time and effort concocting the best piece of writing of which they are able who is still not able to find a route to publication lacks grit, is an example of blaming the victim. Often you hear that if you are good enough and have worked at perfecting your craft, you will find success. If that is true, then someone who doesn’t find success did not maintain grit long enough.

This unsuccessfully published individual might still have had the grit to finish a novel or other piece of writing, but does having a finished product equate with success?

If you are a talented author with the will to complete a piece of writing and the grit to seek publication, are you guaranteed success? I think there are plenty of us out there who would respond no. What other factors are involved in writing (as in publishing) success and do they require grit in some form?

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Words of Encouragement from the Beyond

Like many blog writers, I’ve started more than one. One of my writing group friends had a short-lived blog, which she recently wiped off the Internet. I’d posted one comment to something she asked, and she kindly sent it my way prior to eliminating that entry. I think she must have asked what was on our bulletin boards. My response was this:

I decided to see if I had a quote of any sort on my bulletin board. Usually I have some vocabulary words posted, but I didn’t even see them. The only writer-related thing on my board, which mostly had pictures from a calendar tacked to it and a check I needed to cash, was a letter my friend Celia wrote to me a few months before her death in 1991. It said in her large print, some words capitalized, others underlined with a inch of emphatic scribble:
Catherine, LISTEN UP: I don’t think you should ever quit writing. Even if you do it now and then as a hobby. Keep your hand in, for crying out loud. You write very well, and it would be a horrible waste if you quit. DON’T DO IT.

She might have been slightly biased, but who can give up when you have friends who believe in you?

What keeps you going in the face of rejection, finding out the response you’re waiting for is never going to come because the story you thought you’d sent never arrived, etc, etc?

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