Tag Archives: Writers’ Group

Writers’ Group: Writing Outlines

29 Oct

Writers’ group was interesting last week. I was one of two people who showed up! Thankfully, I had something prepared for once. I was looking into standard outlines in preparation for NaNoWriMo and I had some good notes to share. I’d like to think that the notes I shared were perfect for the one person who showed up but I think I’m a bit optimistic in that.

The purpose of an outline is to help writers write better first drafts. Some people won’t write outlines and will instead use there ‘zero draft’ as an outline to write a better second draft. I feel like NaNo ‘pantsers’ are putting this together. There are four major types of outlines. Synopsis Outlines are the type I prefer. You outline the whole book in a paragraph or series of bullets and know the steps the book will take from beginning to end. I like this roadmap as a way to guide myself through the book. An In-Depth Outline is usually much longer, up to 10,000 words. This gives the writer a lot of detail about where the book will go and provides a lot of direction for the writer to follow. The third method is the Snowflake method, which I won’t go through here because I’ve talked about it before and there’s a lot written about it elsewhere. The final outline method is the Bookend method where the writer has an idea of where the book will start and where it will end but doesn’t give any details about the middle. That allows them a lot of freedom while writing but gives them something to aim for in the end.

There are some tips for helping with an outline no matter the type the writer chooses. The first is to develop the premise, a one-sentence summary of the book, and keeping that in mind. I think this is helpful when writing the outline and also for a Bookend outliner. The second would be to pick your framework. This could be a flashback, multiple points of view, or present tense. There are a lot of different stylistic choices to make before the first sentence is formed. The final would be to define the characters. What motivates them, what makes them tick, and how their relationships are formed with other characters.

Well, that’s my contribution to writers’ group for the month. Next month is NaNo so there won’t be much to share. Maybe I’ve helped someone else.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: To NaNo or Not To NaNo?

7 Oct

As the writing community approaches November, talk always turns to NaNo. National Novel Writing Month (NaNo to the idiots who compete) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I’ve done it once and I’ve doing editing efforts in other months since. I’ve been saying I need to get started on another novel for a while now, so I’m thinking of doing it? I’m still unsure? I wonder if anyone here will try to talk me into it?

We talked briefly about blogs and I’ll mention here one thing that some found useful. When you’re blogging, recognize that you’re putting out content for free. If your writing is available for free, publishers have to have a really good reason to want to publish that same content and ask people to pay for it. Why buy when it’s free? Be wary of publishing anything on a blog that you want people to pay for later.

We spoke about signatures. If you’re publishing under your real name, you may want to change your handwriting or signature to sign books. It’s probably not a great idea to have your legal signature floating around on copies of your book! Practice changes for a signature repeatedly, practice handwriting changes by writing slowly and using pangrams to practice every letter.

Two writers brought forward writing contests that we should be aware of. The first was the Write Michigan Short Story Contest. The second, with some broader appeal, is the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Both have deadlines in November so there’s plenty of time to enter!

The last thing we touched on was a computer program, Outlining Your Novel Workbook. It’s based on a book by the same title and goes for $40. It follows a three-act structure recommendation. No one in our group has used it so I have no personal testimonials.

I’ll be missing this group in October but will be back at it in November so I guess I’ll have to decide if I’m NaNo-ing before then.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Writing Longhand and Book Promotion

22 Jul

My writers’ group met last week and we covered some very different topics. The first was software that takes written words and translates them to digital words in a word processing software. This is good for those that prefer to write longhand or who (like me) do not have power or an internet connection. (We lost power during a heatwave. I’m writing this from the air-conditioned library.)  This technology is called Optical Character Recognition. For those of us with MS Office, OneNote has this capability (more on how to do it here) so no need to buy new software! Another option for those without MS Office is an app called Pen to Print. To use this software, the written words must be on lined paper.

I’ve mentioned before that one of our writers recently self-published his book. I asked how it’s been going and got some good details I’ll keep in mind if I ever self publish. We talked about a Goodreads Giveaway Jason ran. The writer gets to select the amount of time the giveaway will run for and how many copies he or she wants to give away. When the time runs out, Goodreads gives you the names and addresses that you will be sending the copies to. It falls on the writer to pay to ship the copies. There’s an option to give away Kindle copies if the book is in that format and this avoids shipping costs. We had another writer at the meeting whose book was available through Barnes & Noble though it wasn’t carried in any store. It could be ordered to a store or ordered on their website. He said that he’d gone into a store and talked to an employee about this though I’m sure there’s a way to do it online. Another writer pointed out that the book would qualify for the Michigan Notable Books program that our state library runs. For those who are Michiganders, you can read more here. It’s worth looking into other states and countries to see if these opportunities exist in other areas.

It was a quick meeting so that’s all I’ve got this month. I’m sure I’ll have something to contribute once I start writing again. And that should be next week! Should be.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: Dummies and Publication

24 Jun

I’m always glad to share my writers’ group experiences and I’m even more excited because I shared this time. I had just finished reading Writing Fiction for Dummies and I’m excited to share it with you all (different from the review, I promise) as well as what I learned from some other books.

I knew Randy Ingermanson from the Snowflake Method, the guide he has for writing novels. I never liked that idea too much and I felt it was too rigid to help me create the first draft. But what he was able to convey in Writing Fiction for Dummies was how to use the Snowflake Method to turn the first draft into a second draft. The two biggest things for me were giving weak characters conflicting morals. I have a weak character that I’m struggling to add depth to and I’ve been brainstorming morals for her that could come into conflict through the story. The other piece of advice I loved was about creating a scene list. It’s a great exercise to take your existing work and make a list of the scenes. I’m looking at it now and trying to figure out where my ‘three disasters’ are and how I can pace them for the two leads to keep the tension going. I liked his wording of the ‘three disaster structure’ rather than a ‘three act structure.’ It helped me see how the novel was paced. Disaster 1 ends Act 1, Disaster 2 is the middle of Act 2, and Disaster 3 ends Act 2 and sets the stage for Act 3.

The other thing I shared was my adventures with the Writers’ Digest publications. I recently checked out Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It was a bit of overkill and I wanted to help my fellow writers avoid the repetition in the future. Novel & Short Story (N&SS) had literary agents, publishers, and magazines and I think this would have been enough for me. Literary Agents had agents and conferences, which is the one thing N&SS lacked. Writer’s Market had everything. It had more than I needed if I’m being honest. I didn’t really look at it because it came in last at the library. Which one you want is going to depend on what kind of writing you have, but I think N&SS is the best resource for anyone with fiction writing.

We had a very exciting announcement at our meeting. One of our writers, Jason Alpert, has self-published his first book! He brought a copy for us all to see and we are so excited for him. It’s called Liam & Heidi and there’s a Goodreads giveaway going on right now so rush on over! He used the Amazon platform for publishing and is excited to engage with Goodreads for marketing purposes. He told us about using UpWork and Fiverr for his formatting and cover design.

It’s always a pleasure to meet with this group and we’re so excited to celebrate each other’s successes. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Website Roundup

17 Jun

I’m glad someone in my group was ready to present last month because I sure wasn’t! One of our members had brought a list of helpful websites with him and we spent the hour reviewing those.

The first is Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland. Weiland is a big fan of the three-act structure and stresses it on her website, detailing how it could play out and be developed in stories.

The second is the website of E.A. Deverell. She posts worksheets on Wednesdays that help writers of multiple genres develop characters and plots. She has a page dedicated to the most common plot formulas and how to use them.

The final website is Go Teen Writers. While it’s aimed toward young writers, the advice is good for a writer of any age. Our member found the information here on characters the most helpful. We talked about character archetypes a lot: when you need to have them, how to combine them, etc. Another area we dove into was using the Myers-Briggs personality types to develop personalities for characters. There are a lot of fun tables about the 16 personality types and using characters from a book series to describe each one. Of course, the Harry Potter ones were my favorite.

Not much else this month. I hope I can use some of what I’m learning about writing to present next month so I’m not as much dead weight.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Traditional Publishing

8 Apr

My writers’ group got together recently! Jason spoke about his journey through traditional publishing and gave us some great insight into the process.

The first step in traditional publishing is to get an agent. Writers pitch to agents, agents pitch to publishers. Jason recommended a few places he was able to find agents listed. The first is a directory such as the Writers’ Market which can be found in print or online. He said he had success with the print version, available at our library. Other sources would include the acknowledgments section of a book similar to yours (where the writer thanks their agent) or referrals from other writers. When sending query letters, be sure you follow the submission guidelines to a T! Some agencies say a rejection from one agent is a rejection from the whole agency, others allow for multiple submissions. Most ask for no attachments in query emails so paste everything in the body of the email. If you do get an agent, this person is likely to take 15% of your royalties, so make sure it’s someone you like!

Gary shared some writing infographics and we spoke about topics for future meetings. We talked about dynamic characters and discussed the possibility that the main character doesn’t change. We recognize it’s possible but couldn’t think of a book we’d read where it happened.

It was a bit of a short meeting this month and I had to leave early, but I really appreciate this team and how much they convince me to keep writing as much as I can.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Short Stories and Metaphors

25 Feb

I almost skipped my writers’ group meeting, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t feeling great, I worked late, and I thought I needed a break. But I picked myself up and went and I’m so glad I did. And yes, having something to write about here was a part of my motivation. Blogging to stay honest with my writing goals. I counted this meeting as my hour of writing for the week, too. Double dipping?

We first talked about the differences between short stories and novels. Short stories are sometimes seen as a warm-up for a novel when they’re very different writing formats and success in one may not mean success in the other. Novels have a lot more room to explore a character or story. A novel is not a collection of short stories and a good short story should not read like part of a novel. Novels utilize the familiar three-act structure while a short story only has room for the third act. In a novel, the subplots often make the book enjoyable and added exciting depth. In a short story, they muddy the message so it’s recommended you have one or none. While a short story may not have the real estate to be deep, that doesn’t mean it lacks meaning. A short story can be very impactful and have a lot of meaning though it is often more implied than a novel on a similar topic may leave it. A short story is usually confined to one location while the majority of novels utilize many settings to tell their story.

The second focus was on metaphors. Metaphors are a great way to emphasize an important concept or object. While often done, not all metaphors are well done and writing a good one can be a big challenge. There are two parts to a metaphor, the tenor and the vehicle. To give an example, in Shakespeare’s famous metaphor “All the world’s a stage,” the tenor is world, the subject of the metaphor, and stage is the vehicle, the comparison. Metaphors are most impactful when they are simple, thematic, original, relevant, and important. Putting the focus on an important concept is, again, key. However, metaphors are most impactful when used sparingly. Consider if it’s a good time to add a metaphor each time and realize that the answer may sometimes be ‘no.’

We had some open discussion after these two topics. One of the items that stuck with me was when talking about introducing characters. It’s important to give a snapshot of the character when they’re introduced. It helps readers visualize your character, see them in the movie playing in their head. If you fail to give a brief snapshot of them, you may be fighting an image in their heads when you add more detail later. This struck a chord with me because I’m revising the beginning of my novel now and I can think of a few characters who aren’t described well in their opening scene.

That’s all for this month. I’m really glad to have learned so much from my fellow writers! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: Symbolism, Copyrights, and Research

28 Jan

My lovely writers’ group met again a few weeks ago. We had a number of new faces and I hope they were intrigued by our unusual format. We all prepare 5-10 minutes of material to share with the group over an aspect of writing that we are interested in or are working through at the moment. This month, we were able to go through three different topics in our time.

First, Rachel talked about symbolism. A symbol represents something other than what it is. Symbols are usually universal or can carry meaning for a smaller group. They are a concise way to communicate an idea. She gave the example of a national flag and all that the symbols on a flag represent about people and what they find important. There are two types of symbolism, figurative and literal. Literal symbolism isn’t exactly symbolism as I’ve described it. It’s something that only has one other meaning. For example, if I type the word ‘tree,’ those characters are symbols that represent a wooden plant with leaves. Writers more often focus on figurative symbolism, where one thing represents the idea of something else. Good symbolism is usually less obvious and takes a deeper read to find it. It avoids clichés and obvious symbols (a rose for love). Instead, it has a lighter touch and can be open to interpretation. A figurative symbol usually takes some building so that it’s clear to readers that there is symbolism. It must be repeated, given a position of importance, and emphasized so that the reader can gather that the symbol has a meaning different from itself.

Another writer, Jason, is pursuing self-publication and shared with us what he’d learned about copyrights while trying to get ready to publish. Copyright attaches the author’s name to the work in the public record. This allows you to defend your created work should someone try to lay claim to it later. This can be done via a form online with a small fee. Some writers warned against copyrighting your work if you plan to pursue traditional publication as many will not accept work that has been copyrighted. For self-publication, it’s a good move. We cautioned that posting writing on a blog can count as ‘published’ for some literary magazines and publishers, so to be careful what you share of your work. Jason shared a sample permission form that he’d used to try to obtain some permissions for statistics in his book. You can avoid using permission forms if you use work that is fair use or public domain, such as government publications.

Finally, Gary shared some of his research on research. Doing research on a topic or setting adds accuracy and credibility to a writer’s work. Doing research from books or articles that were published through a university of college press usually means that an academic wrote the work and is likely an expert in his or her field (not always true, though!). Doing research is harder the farther back in time a person reaches. Visiting the location where something happens can be very helpful as many times atmosphere is hard to gather through reading alone. Research should include the genre you are writing in which will help with publication ultimately. Also, consider the perspective of the character and if it could be different from your own, research differing opinions or views on that topic.

We’ll be back at it again next month! I’m glad I don’t have a conflicting class anymore. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Write-Ins When You’re Not Doing NaNo

27 Nov

I was so excited to be back to my monthly writers’ group. This month, the group merges with the local NaNo group and participates in a Write-In. As I’m not doing NaNo (and using grad school as an excuse one last time), I wasn’t exactly ‘on task’ at this one. I used the first half hour to write yesterday’s blog post. But once that was finished, I had to find another way to entertain myself.

A week before, I’d had a line come to me. I’m still unsure if it’s a novel or a short story, but I wrote it down either way. I decided to use a Word War to see where it took me.

I got about 2000 words into this story. The way it’s going now, it’s a short story. It could turn into something longer, but I think I’ll start here. It was really nice to write again. I missed feeling like I’m creating something out of thin air; like I’m meeting someone for the first time as I write from their mouth.

I want to get back into doing this. More on that later this week. For now, I just wanted to report on a successful one day of NaNo. I even won a Word War. I still got it.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Scenes

6 Sep

It’s finally time for the long-awaited follow-up to last week’s post about my writers’ group meeting. OK, maybe I was the only one anticipating it. A girl can dream.

The last person to present at our meeting talked about scenes. I loved that this came after the discussion of chapters because it helped me understand the difference between the two. There can be multiple scenes in one chapter or a scene can span several chapters. The two do not have to be linked in any way.

A scene requires three things that advance the plot: a goal, a conflict, and a resolution. Sometimes the resolution is a disaster but it should still advance the plot. A scene is followed by a sequel. These are always done together and shouldn’t be split. This involves a reaction (usually emotional), a dilemma, and a decision.

So, here’s an example that happened to me before writing this. My husband is on his way to work (goal) and realizes he doesn’t have his name tag (conflict). He calls me and we realize it’s still on his dirty work shirt from yesterday (resolution). He’s frustrated (reaction) but knows that his boss will be more upset if he’s late (dilemma) so decides to forgo the name tag and be on time for work (decision). Simple but real. You can see how it would work out in a novel. One writer recommended highlighting all of these points in different colors if a scene feels like it’s missing something. Also, she recommended putting the dilemma and reaction right next to each other. They can be odd when spaced out.

The decision should bring bout the next goal. In my example, I’m dropping off his name tag before heading to a friend’s house (goal) at which point I have to decide if I’ll have a drink from the bar before leaving (conflict). TBD how this will resolve!

Much less frequently used are incidents and happenings. Incidents are when a character attempts a goal and accomplishes it with no resistance. This doesn’t make for very good reading but can advance a complicated plot. If my husband had found a spare name tag in his car, his problem would have been solved. A happening is when people are brought together or something for a later time is set up. A scene last week of him having another name tag made wouldn’t have had an immediate effect on his life then than but would have built well to today’s scene.

Quick reactions can help keep pacing fast. There are several different kinds of reactions. All or one of these can be included but they need to be done in this order if more than one is included.

  1. Visceral
  2. Physical/involuntary
  3. Voluntary

If you think about it, any other order wouldn’t make sense. I’d never considered this before but now I keep thinking about it every time I do anything!

Thank you to everyone who stuck with this through the prolonged name tag example! I think I’ll have that drink after all.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!