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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P., Alameda Writers Group

R. I. P., AWG

The Alameda Writers Group, aka AWG, went dark this year after a long and productive run as one of the premier writers’ support groups in the Los Angeles area.

I was a member for many years, and only now that it’s gone do I fully appreciate the benefits I derived from AWG.
At the General Membership Meetings I heard speakers like acclaimed novelist Diana Wagman, as well as writers from TV series like “Rome” and “True Blood” and had a chance to tell them in person how much I enjoyed their work. Some speakers discussed their craft and others told encouraging stories about their long and winding roads to publication/production.
It was a priceless networking tool, and I owe many of my friendships—including those of ALL the Writers in Residence—to the AWG, either directly or indirectly.
The relationships I formed through AWG were instrumental in my producing a published novel, thanks to the critique groups I joined. In them, I experienced the “tough love” that only fellow writers can provide: honest but compassionate feedback on what worked in my writing, and what didn’t. I heeded their comments, went back to my novel-in-progress and reshaped it until it did (mostly) work.
One of my peak AWG experiences, in fact, came when I joined fellow novelist Heather Ames (whom I met in those critique groups, one of which she moderated) to address the membership and describe our paths to publication.
Why am I going on and on about a now-defunct organization? Partly it’s guilt. AWG began to founder, and I did nothing to prevent it, so this post is a big mea culpa. When new leadership made some missteps, and many of the members felt the organization began to drift off-course, all I did was gripe about how AWG had lost touch with fiction writers. Some of my colleagues did try to intervene, but they were rebuffed, and I used that as an excuse for inaction.
Membership dwindled. New leaders came on board and tried to redirect and re-energize the group, but the damage had been done. Finally, the meeting venue closed down for renovation, and it became obvious that it was time to turn off the lights. All good things must come to an end and all that.

But I think it’s important to recognize the value of AWG, and I know that if I ever find another group like it, I will try to do more to keep it going. Good old hindsight.
When I joined AWG, I’d left a career in the business world and had a vague notion that I would devote myself full-time to writing. However, I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to be a “real” writer. Over time, I began to believe that I did have the makings of novelist, if I was willing to work at my craft and be open to feedback, and the result of all that was, among other things, Mending Dreams. I wrote my novel, and I found a publisher, and I honestly don’t know if that would have happened if I hadn’t joined AWG all those years ago.
And so, with apologies to Lerner & Loewe, “don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot. . .” where writers of all kinds were welcomed, acknowledged, encouraged, and given a chance to improve their craft.
For that, AWG, I thank you.

Writing: A Solitary Profession?

Writing is generally a solitary act. But does it need to be? What do you think about writing groups? Are they beneficial or a waste of valuable time?

After you read the responses from the WinRs, let us know what you think!
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GB Pool

The Loneliest Profession

Writing is basically a one-man operation, unless you write for television or the movies, where a committee does it. But the traditional author sits in front of a computer, typewriter, or a piece of paper and writes all by himself.

Belonging to a writers’ group, above and beyond the constructive criticism and brainstorming sessions, gives you people to talk to about your work, this precious commodity that you have created, nurtured, and hopefully someday will send off into the world to entertain and enlighten other people.

Having “a second pair of eyes” is a perfect way to see things that you missed, hear things that you didn’t know were there, and point out things that aren’t working. And if you are in the right group, they will see the good things in your “baby” as well.

I originally belonged to a larger group of writers. Their styles ranged from Science Fiction to experimental to Women’s Fiction to Mystery. Good writing is good writing. I can read anything and enjoy it if most of the basic rules of English Grammar (and Common Sense) are adhered to.

There in lies the rub. When a portion of the group doesn’t recognize the basic Parts of Speech, proper syntax, and know how to use Spell Check or even a dictionary…Houston, we have a problem.

A few of us broke away from the herd and started our own group. Two more writers joined us and we have the group we have today. We have watched each other grow, improve, learn, and it has made us all better writers. We learn from our own and each other’s mistakes and achievements.

But of all the things a group, any group – sewing circles, car clubs, collectors’ groups – brings to their members, the best thing is it gives you a place where people who are doing the same thing you are doing can come and talk about their dreams, their learning experiences, their frustrations, and their successes. It lets you know you aren’t really alone in this wonderful world of writing.

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Bonnie Schroeder

I belong to the Alameda Writers Group (AWG), Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and the awesome WWW — which I think stands for Wednesday Women Writers, even though we sometimes meet on Thursdays.

Have I found these groups helpful? A big fat YES!! I have gotten honest, kind and insightful feedback that has (I hope) improved on my fiction immeasurably. Equally important, I’ve received encouragement and the immense comfort of knowing others share my Terror of the Blank Page.

From a craft standpoint, I believe it’s essential to have other writers read your work and give notes, and the people in my critique groups are serious readers as well as wonderful writers. They know what makes a piece work, and what brings it down, and when I’m too close to my work to see the most glaring errors, my fellow writers gently but honestly let me know where I went wrong. One of our wise members has remarked that she learns as much by reading others’ work as she does by getting feedback on her own, and that is so true.

When I see another writer struggling with an issue of plot, character development, or just trying to get those words in the most effective order, it teaches me something about my own process. My writing groups have supported and inspired me, and I can’t imagine life without them. Heck, I’d hang out with them even if I didn’t write.

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Jacqueline Vick

One of the best moves I ever made as a writer was when I accepted the invitation to join the WWW writing critique group.

The only writing feedback I had received prior was either paid for (I highly recommend Pilar Alessandra of On the Page for screenwriting) or anonymously delivered through contests, and sometimes the latter feedback was either vague or snarky.

I can’t stress how much my writing has improved from the perceptive comments of my group, all delivered in a caring way. If someone were to tell me that I was indulging myself in a certain passage, I could be confident that it was a valuable bit of information, not a personal criticism. And a writer needs people who will tell her when she’s amusing herself and not her audience!

On a broader scale, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. The speakers made available by both SinC and MWA provide great insights and tips. All three have Yahoo lists that offer discussions on almost any topic, and you can ask others to share their experiences, which is priceless. Add to that newsletters chock full of information–writing tips, research advice, market guidelines–and the price of admission is well worth it.

As with anything, the more involved you get, the more you get out of it. I’m the type that has to force myself to attend meetings, but when I do, I’m always glad I did. I talk to other writers about what they are up to, find out the latest happenings in the publishing arena, and just enjoy my fellow scribes.

Writers have to fight the urge to remain isolated, and a writing group can put you in touch with others who share your passion.

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