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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on my way to becoming organized …. by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgRosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

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What I was trying to do was organize my life. Organize my life better – as I had so much writing to do, as well as a life to live.  I had – still have – several books, short stories and some magazine articles I wanted to write. I actually managed to finish a couple of mystery novels and started another. I wrote a magazine article and revised and updated two of my published non fiction books, Hollywood Then & Now and Los Angeles Then & Now. But this was not enough. I decided I really must get properly organized, so that I can increase my literary output.

 But hey – this is me. Remember all my notes on little bits of paper? And my “…I know it was blue – and I was eating something when I last saw it..”?   What chance do I have?

chartThen someone told me about “Org. Charts”… Online Organizational Charts that are supposed to make your life easier. Some of the versions can be very expensive, I was told. I was excited. Perhaps this is the magical cure I had been seeking?

But when I went online and perused various Org Charts, I realized that – uh – this is kind of how I always map out my writing. I just didn’t have a name for it.

 I have a large notice board and cover it with post-its. Each post-it has a chapter number and a brief outline. On a different colored post-it, characters in that chapter are listed underneath. Another sticky note has specific plot details for that chapter. I add to this ‘organizational chart’ of sticky post-its as I finish each chapter.

Towards the end, I review the arc of the story and how I got to this point. Then I sometimes move the post-its around to an earlier or later chapter, as I realize what needs to be revealed at certain times. On a read-through of my first draft, I might decide to cut a whole scene or even a chapter. If it is sounding too busy, I may chose to cut a lesser character out.  So I go back to my board and remove the relevant sticky-note or two and put them at the very bottom of the board, so I can see what I have taken out. I might be able to use those pages elsewhere – or even in another book. I find this method very helpful.

 Now along the way I get many interruptions from my writing time.

A major interruption was when an elderly lady rang me a few years ago and, with a shaky voice, said “…they’ve taken our club, changed the locks – can you help us get it back?” So began my long journey into saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from a real-estate grab and  from being turned into a luxury condominium resort.

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Women’s Club of Hollywood;picture from their website

Founded in 1905, this club is where Mary Pickford attended events and handed-out award-cups for various flower shows. It is where Charlie Chaplin entertained and later on Gloria Swanson lectured on nutrition. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood legends attended fundraising luncheons. Big Bands used to play there. The property is on the site of the old Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joel McRae, (boys were allowed in kindergarten there) and daughters of the early film pioneers Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer and even David Selznick’s mom attended school. Oscar winning costume designer Edith Head was one of the teachers. Actor Charles Laughton came in to teach Shakespeare. The old 1903 school house still stands in the rear of the Spanish-style clubhouse. Property developers salivate at the thought of replacing this historic landmark with gleaming towers of condominiums and apartments.

But it’s not over yet. With huge legal fees accrued, there is a Federal judge and a Federal Trustee overseeing and scrutinizing how it is run. But at least we got the building back for the older ladies to do their charitable works and to save a piece of Hollywood history. Many younger women – and men – now enjoy the social hours and the philanthropic events at this historic club. And this is where I heard ‘The Org Chart’ again.  As a charitable, non-profit business I was told that an Org Chart is essential. Archive materials abound, historic documents, boxes of photos juxtaposed with legal documents, IRS papers and current documents.  So lately my head has been buried in setting up an Org Chart for the Woman’s Club, delegating committee work and assigning volunteers who offer to share the responsibility to keep this Hollywood legend flourishing. Those are the serious, grown-up Org Charts.

 But the Org charts of my own making, to do with my writing, are the real fun ones.  When I was revising and updating Hollywood Then & Now, my board was covered with thumbnail pictures of the various Hollywood landmarks I was writing about, as I attempted to weave the story of the origins of legendary places – and what they look like now.  Of course, throughout all of that writing, my desk, my floor and any other available surface was covered in sheets of paper and many hand-scribbled notes on scraps of envelopes and such. But I knew where everything was and could find the relevant note easily. I was organized. Honest!

 I think (I hope) there are other writers who  operate in this ‘organized chaos’ fashion.  I realize that I am perfectly, creatively organized when I am actually writing. I have to be – so much I write about has historical data and information in it. I can’t fudge that.

 It is my life that is not organized – and my time. Which is why I am often writing so late into the night… and I haven’t managed an Org Chart for that yet.

Any ideas?