A Boost Up!

By Jackie Houchin

Boost up2“A boost up”….when someone holds their clasped hands together next to a horse, and you put your foot in like a stirrup, and they propel you upward into the saddle.

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Sometimes a beginner (or lazy) writer needs a boost up into the writing saddle.  That’s where The Write Practice came into the picture for me. (I’m one of those lazy ones!)

The Write Practice

”If you want to become a better writer, you need to practice,” says Joe Bunting, creator of The Write Practice organization and blog. What’s involved? Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, practicing with fresh writing prompts, unique lessons on technique, and getting feedback from a supportive community.

There are over 1000 practice exercises and lessons on the blog in such categories as; better writing, genre & format, characterization, grammar, journalism, plot & story, writers block, inspirational writing, publishing, and blogging. And it’s free.  http://thewritepractice.com/about/

I’ve attempted two lessons so far in the Short Story category. The first lesson was to read at least six short stories from the many magazine links supplied. The second lesson was to free-write for at least 15 minutes, post what you wrote in the comments section, read three of what other people wrote, and give them brief feedback.  Simple as that; practice writing and give feedback. It’s really the basis for everything Bunting does.

I wrote a short ditty on ‘Pig, Porcupine & Pineapple.’  It was totally fun!  Now to see with my fellow writers say about it

The Becoming Writer Community & Challenge

 If you are ready to go to the next level and start writing finished pieces (and get published), then the Becoming Writer community is the next step. Bunting compares this with what the “Inklings were for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the expats in Paris were for Hemingway, and the Bloomsbury group was for Woolf.”

I discovered Becoming Writer because membership in it (yes, it does cost a little) was a requirement to submit to The Write Practice’s quarterly short story writing contest. But what you get with membership is a lot more than the contest.

Like the free practice lessons above, you share your writing with a community of writers to get and give feedback.  Actually giving feedback on another’s work helps you when it comes time to edit your own piece.

The Challenge is to write ONE piece EACH WEEK, submitted on Fridays.  It can be a short story, blog post, poem, essay, or a chapter in a book.  This is what us “lazy” writers call accountability.

And finally, besides actually finishing your pieces (Yay!), you get opportunities to submit to magazines like Short Fiction Break, Wordhaus and others.

The feedback on my first piece, an essay I wrote about Africa, brought a suggestion for submission to a specific online magazine. I submitted it and am waiting to hear.  http://thewritepractice.com/members/join

The Fall Contest

This is what caught my attention at first, a writing contest that promised cash prizes, free books, and publication. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love.” Stories had to contain the two elements FALL and LOVE and be no longer than 1,500 words.  I told myself, “I can do that.”

The name “Autumn Gold” sprang to my mind and I quizzed my writer friends on Facebook as to how a girl with that name might look. The first answer – a stripper – caused me to cringe because that’s not what I had in mind. But when another person confirmed what he said, it left no doubt.

The story I eventually wrote keeps the title “Autumn Gold,” but the girl’s name is Audrey Gould.  I wrote an outline of sorts, showed it to a friend for her opinion, and then pounded out a story about LOVE that takes place in AUTUMN. It was 1,948 words. Lots of cuts and edits later, I submitted it to the Becoming Writer Contest community.

For the contest (548 entrants) the community is divided into ten groups, A–J, with about 40-50 writers in each. I landed in Group D. There are 46 of us, and we’ve become a close-knit group.

I’ve gotten about nine feedbacks on “Autumn Gold,” and I’ve given at least many more on other stories.  Some are VERY good! Others will need some work.  Reading my story’s feedback and the feedback on the other stories has opened my eyes to what works and what doesn’t, and what readers “get” from what you write, even if it’s not what you intended.

Invaluable!

I’m considering rewriting the ending and running it past them one more time. The final deadline to submit the story to the judges is September 4.

Other Programs

The Write Practice offers other programs for writers and authors on building a platform, publishing & marketing, Twitter, and the 100 Day Book challenge.  http://thewritepractice.com/products

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Now I’m up in the saddle. I’m trotting around and loving it. I can’t wait to press my calves against my steed’s sides and rise into a canter.  I needed that boost up.  Do you?  Perhaps you should consider a writing community.

I suggest The Writing Practice. Take advantage of the discipline and the getting and giving of feedback.  Pick the lessons you are interested in and go for it. They are free! You might also consider Becoming Writer.

Or join a critique group and begin giving your work over to new eyes and opinions.

Get up there and get galloping!

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Currently the Becoming Writer and the 100 Day Book programs are closed until next semester.  Future contests in Becoming Writer will be on Flash Fiction, Essay writing, Novels, and Poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Three R’s for Writers and Those Who Love Them by Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of Petals in the Wind.  
She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon


FOR WRITERS AND THOSE WHO LOVE THEM
I plead guilty. Let me explain.
Writers may work alone, but we’re part of a community. In March I wrote a post about critique groups, which I consider a great way for writers to find the encouragement and support they need.  But there’s an even better way for us to help each other that is being virtually ignored. I call it THE THREE ‘R’s:

READ
REVIEW
RECOMMEND
READ: One of the best ways we can support our fellow writers is to purchase their books. Why not devote a bookshelf to their work. I put my colleagues’ books in a guestroom so visitors can be introduced to their writing and it’s worked brilliantly. If you worry about the cost or where you’ll put all those paperbacks, invest in an e-reader. A basic model is modestly priced and you’ll recoup the cost fairly quickly since electronic versions of books are often less expensive than print copies. You’ll also be able to buy books that are only available in electronic format. Then think of a clever way to get your friends to ‘sign’ your copy. If you’re in a writers group, suggest a book swap and trade a copy of your book for theirs. A signed copy of a book makes a great gift as well, so buy a few from the author for those last-minute occasions and offer to do the same for them.

REVIEW: “Readers always tell me they like my books, but why don’t they write a review?” Sound familiar? And it’s more baffling when the readers are other writers.
Reviews are the lifeblood of book sales and marketing. There is no better way for writers to support each other than by reading and reviewing each other’s work. We writers all know this, and yet…. How many reviews do you have from other writers, and have you posted reviews of their books?
Non-writers may not realize the importance of online reviews, perhaps more important than purchasing the book. Ask everyone you know who’s read your published work to leave a review on Amazon (also suggest Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Smashwords). Then check to make sure the review is posted; Amazon removes comments for reasons other than ‘inappropriate’.
Do tell your reviewers to be truthful; while anything less than three stars counts negatively on Amazon, their algorithms are based on an average score, so a few low ones won’t hurt if you get enough good reviews. The key is to get enoughreviews. No one cares if you get five star evaluations if you only get a few; they’re meaningless because readers assume it’s your mom and BFFs writing them. You must be honest as well. If you feel you can’t praise someone’s book, and that happens, then at least tell that to the author – I wouldn’t want to post anything less than three stars for a writer I know. And keep in mind the generation gap when it comes to technology. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this on Anne R. Allen’s blog –
One sweet woman in her seventies had been devastated to find out that giving a book “a gold star” wasn’t letting people know she liked the book. She thought one star was a good thing.
If Grandma is uncomfortable posting a review, have her express what she wants to say and let her ten-year-old grandkid post it for her.

RECOMMEND: We tend to recommend books we enjoy, but we don’t always include those by authors we personally know. Recommending is perfect for those who feel uncomfortable writing or posting reviews online, or who want to do more to help your writing career.
If they liked your book, ask your family and friends to recommend it to their family and friends, as well as their neighbors, fellow worshippers, volunteer groups, clubs, and co-workers (especially the ones who always ask them to buy the cards/wrapping paper/candy their kids have to sell for school!). If they have a blog or Facebook page, ask if they’d mention your book and include a link to your author home page. Suggest they buy additional copies, which you’ll graciously sign, for last-minute gifts. And advise them to recommend your book only to people who’d enjoy it – if cousin Flora’s idea of the great outdoors is a parking lot without lines, she probably won’t be interested in your camping memoir.
People outside our writing community who want to help need to be shown how.  And if we truly want to encourage and support each other, we all must make the effort to do it, in the most effective way. If we do, then ultimately we’ll all benefit. Isn’t that what a community is all about?
I confess to some failings – on how many counts do you plead ‘Guilty’?