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First Blog Award!

I am pleased to announce that The Weekend Writer blog has received its first award: the Kreativ Blogger Award. A special thanks to mjgriffor for the nomination, who also has an awesome blog. Be sure to check it out!

In order to accept this award, I must:

1) List 7 interesting things about myself

2) Nominate 7 other bloggers for the award.


Here are 7 Things That Readers (might) Find Interesting About Me:

1) I was a volunteer Firefighter/EMT for four years

2) Love playing acoustic, electric, and 12-string guitar (I also play keyboard)

3) I am the eldest of four boys. The youngest is 12 years my junior

4) Met my wife through a wrong number text message (long story)

5) I was one of the first kids ever to try a Drumstick Supreme Ice Cream (long story short, my mom had worked at the factory where they were first made)

6) Have never broken a bone (hope to keep this record!)

7) Have a collection of hundreds of movie ticket stubs (though our local cinema now issues tickets on receipt paper, of all things!)


7 Blogs I’ve Nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award:

1) Ryan M. Murphy

2) David Gaughran of Let’s Get Digital

3) Debbie Maxwell Allen of Writing While The Rice Boils

4) James Gill of The Tech Savvy Writer

5) K.M. Weiland of Wordplay

6) Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn

7) Larry Brooks of StoryFix

Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people
interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing
Community
.

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you
to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong
when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when
asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don’t they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet
our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf
Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I’m participating too!

I am randomly picking mjgriffor,
a fellow writer and blogger. For my ROAK gift, I’d like to offer assistance in critiquing your WIP, Voice of Reason, or other work as needed.

I really appreciate mjgriffor, who blogs at Novels From the Ground Up.

Do you know someone special that you’d like to randomly acknowledge?

Don’t be shy–come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your
appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. ūüôā

Becca and Angela have a special
RAOK gift waiting
for you as well
, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness?  Let me
know in the comments!

Top 5 Most Important Moments of Your Story

Class 92 hauled container-freight train on the...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In life, there are many important moments. Some, such as graduating, getting married, or having a child, are some of what many consider to be the most important.

Like life, our written works contain a few moments that are the most important. In my journey as a writer, I have found the following to be 5 of the most important moments of a story (sorted chronologically):

1. The Beginning

Uh, ya think? Not only does the beginning of your story have the job of getting the narrative train rolling down tens of thousands of words, but it is also host to the all-important hook. This is where you give your reader a reason to keep going. Will they board the story train, or not?

2. The Point of No Return

Believe it or not, this is the point where the reason for your telling the story actually begins. Everything before it has just served to “set-up” the story. It is at this juncture where the world as your protagonist knows it has changed, and he or she has a new need or quest (i.e. solving the story problem). The conductor has jumped off the train as it loses control, and our hero makes the decision to help stop it.

3. The Midpoint Shift

About halfway through your story is another shift. This is a point where it is easy to let your story sag, but you can use it to add a new element or twist to the story. It is also the point in which your protagonist will make a decision, usually to take down the story problem. The train has switched tracks, and the previous plan to stop it is ruined. The hero takes matters into his own hands.

4. Failure is Imminent

This is the lowest point for the protagonist. All of their efforts are in vein, allies have died, and the antagonist is on the brink of winning. Everything the protagonist has worked for since the story problem began is for granted. The hero has made it to the brake switch in the lead car, but it is jammed.

5. The Ending

This one is pretty much a no brainer. If this list was in order of importance, this might be listed first. Here, the protagonist is able to take all they’ve learned as the story’s progressed, and solve the story problem (usually at great risk to themselves). It is usually the icing on the cake for the reader, if you deliver an ending that justifies their spending hours reading your story. The hero climbs below the train and manually activates the train’s brakes, getting injured in the process but saving everyone on board.


For additional resources on story structure, by which this post was inspired, check out Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. For screenwriters (and authors, too), check out Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder.

What’s in a Name?: How to Develop Your Title

Choosing a title for your writing project can be a daunting task. It is, after all, a potential reader’s first look into the soul of your work. It is often just as important as your pitch, query letter, even the work itself. It is critical that your title shed some light on what your book is about, but also that it catches your potential reader’s attention. Here are some things to consider:

Identify Your Genre

First of all, you need to know what realm you’re working in. If the working title for your latest children’s book is The Zombie Queen of Hopscotch, you should probably reconsider. Your title should be reflective of the genre, or vague enough that it can fit anywhere.

Make it Attention-Grabbing

This doesn’t mean that your title has to jump off the page and slap someone in the face, but that it is enough to create a little spark in the mind of whomever comes across it. It should make your potential reader curious about what glorious wonders your work contains. The title can give a strong indication of what the story is about (Star Wars) or very little (1984). The fact that this spark exists is what is important.

Don’t Let it Limit You

When you’re writing with a working title, don’t get too attached to it. If the seed of your idea comes from a catchy title, or is an instructional guide or the like, this wouldn’t be as applicable. But if your idea is character or conceptually driven, be careful not to let your working title put you in a corner.

If you start your WIP with the title George the Lizard, but then your work evolves beyond that title as you write it, don’t get locked in. That’s why it’s called a¬†working title. You’re working on it!

Consider the following:

What would have happened to these books (and film) if they’d kept their original working titles? What thoughts, emotions, or ideas do the final titles elicit, versus the originals?

Have Fun!

This is something I strongly encourage in all aspects of your writing, including developing your title. You’ve spent (or are spending) a lot of time and effort on your creation, molding it and shaping it with a steady hand. Pick a name for it with the same care you used in writing it.

Try this: Pick out a couple of catchy phrases that reflect your work in some way, and choose one that you like best. Or, combine different parts of those phrases to make a whole new one. Can you use that as a title? Be sure to take the time to enjoy the creative process while you’re at, because that’s what being a writer is all about.

What is the title of your work in progress? If you’ve decided on one, what were some others you considered before?

Write Now and Revise Later, or Right Now, Revise?

“I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.”
– Dean Koontz

There are many ways to go about writing and revising a story, each of which is used by successful writers today. There is no single way, no magic formula, for this. It is something that is learned, experienced, and employed by each and every writer individually.

Some common methods are:

  • Write an entire first draft, then go back and revise. Don’t go back and read the sentence you just wrote, just get the story down.
  • Write some, revise some. This makes writing the first draft longer, but helps lessen the amount of revisions needed at the end.
  • What first draft? Some writers make writing and revising a simultaneous process. It is no easy feat to make this work, and takes years of writing experience.

I, like Mr. Koontz, am one that writes a little and revises a little, adjusting the trim on the story as I fly through it. I feel this process works for me because I like to ensure that I’m moving the story in the right direction as I write it. In part, it’s because I’m afraid the story might derail as I go along, if I don’t go back and check on it. Plotting ahead of time helps this, though.

The main question I find with this process, though, is how much does one write before going back to revise? That is a question best answered by the writer employing the process, as every writer will have a different preference.

Which method of revision do you use?

Be the Expert

As a writer, I’m often asked a question that is immensely difficult for me to answer:

What is your story about?

When I hear this question, my brain rifles through many answers, but can never settle on just one. I often find myself starting my answer with details about the story’s premise, but end up switching gears somewhere. It’s not because I’m a scatterbrain (though some might argue against this), but because I feel that I have so much to say.

Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)

Image via Wikipedia

It’s like asking Henry Ford, “tell me some things about an automobile.” Would he respond with “oh, well, it has an engine, some doors, and four wheels?” No! He’d likely go into laborious detail about it, because of his intimate knowledge on the subject. Much to the chagrin of the questioner, no doubt.

As writers, we are experts in the field of our stories. No one knows them better than we do. So, it’s only natural to have the urge to over answer on such a question. So what if your cousin obviously stops listening to you 20 seconds later, they asked!

But what happens when the question is posed by someone other than your cousin? An agent or editor, perhaps? Is it necessary (or appropriate) to give a long, drawn-out explanation of your story?

As soon as possible, a writer should develop a short hook about the story that can be delivered in 15 seconds or less. Think of it as the description that will go on the back of your book someday.

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post to help you do this that can be found here.

Remember, you’re the expert here, you’ve got plenty of material/ideas/thoughts to pull from to put your pitch together. It’s important that you give just the right amount of detail to grab your listener’s (or reader’s) attention, then end with a statement that will make them ask for more.

When has your pitch worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Making Your Revisions Count

My wife and I have a family friend staying over tomorrow evening and we decided to rearrange some things, put up some new shelves, and just generally tidy up the house. We went as far as switching our office and guest bedrooms, which took up a good chunk of the weekend.When we finished, the house had a fresh, new look. It was still the same familiar house, but was jazzed up a bit with the rearranged rooms and new shelves. And overall, we both agreed that it looked better than when we’d started.

This “revision” of our home is a lot like the revision process in writing. After completing a first draft, there are often one or many revisions that may be needed, whether it be of your own doing or that of your editor or critique group.

You may need to move whole sections of your work (rearrange rooms), add new elements (shelves), or just tidy up a bit. Whatever the revisions may be, your ultimately going for a fresh, improved story.

It may be that you have no issues with your work when you complete the first draft. You may be perfectly fine with how the chapters fit together, and thus don’t see a need for changes. Or, maybe you revise each chapter as you go along (this is why my first drafts always take me¬†forever to write) to lessen the blow for later revisions.

Whatever the case may be, if you want your writing to shine with the fresh coat of wax a revision can offer, you can’t be afraid of change. You should expect change at the onset of your writing, knowing that things will be different at the end of the road.

When I set out to tearing down my desk and prepping our home office for relocation, I wasn’t sure what the end result would be, or how I would like it. I was fine with the status quo. But it turns out that I prefer things the way they are now.

Here are a few things to consider when making revisions:

  • Begin with the end in mind – You are revising because you have the need to improve your last draft. Set goals around the changes you want to make, and stick to them.
  • When in doubt, throw it out – You’re the boss of your writing, so don’t be afraid to “fire” any part of your story that you feel is not a good fit. Even if that particular part is your favorite, be honest with yourself about what your story needs.
  • Say it loud and proud – As you revise, read your writing aloud to yourself. You may find parts that need rewording or don’t fit altogether. This will also help you actually hear your writing voice, which is an important part of what makes your writing unique.

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post on the revision process, which he wrote for those completing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWroMo). Larry’s blog is a great resource for writers, if you’re not already familiar with it.

So let me know…How do you revise? Do you blast through the first draft and make many changes at the end, or do you revise as you go?

The Goal-den Rule

Goal Setting

(Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

I’m the first to admit that I am a professional procrastinator. I’ve gotten better over the years, but there is just a part of me that often waits until the last-minute to do something. Whether it be cleaning the garage, writing an essay, or some other project, pushing a¬†nearby deadline has always been more motivating than working on something that’s not due for a month. Or worse yet, a project that has no inherent due date at all (see garage example, above).

When I set out to write my first novel (my background is in short story writing), I knew that I would have to be in it for the long haul if I wanted to finish. And being familiar with that part of me that is most motivated by a short-term deadline, I went about setting up a plan for myself.

Arguably, the most common way to measure writing progress is by means of word count. Time is another. Once I got down to putting pen to paper, I set a goal for myself to write 500 words per day, which I thought to be obtainable at the time. After some weeks, I had only met my goal a handful of times. Frustrated, I turned to my trusty assistant for advice¬†‚Äď the internet.

My assistant led me to a recommendation from James Scott Bell, who advocates a weekly word goal over a daily one. I loved it! For a weekend writer like myself, it is easier to get more writing in during certain parts of the week than others. And it’s typical for me to end some weekdays with a big, round, zero word count.

Along with Mr. Bell’s advice, I found information about SMART goal setting, an acronym that serves as a sort of goal setting template. It turned out that I had the SM down, but not the ART. My original goal wasn’t Achievable, Realistic (for me), nor Timed.

I added these elements, figuring out my weekly word count by working backwards from the time I wanted to have a certain amount of words done (i.e. complete the novel), and Blam!

Something happened.

I was doing it. Better yet, I wasn’t¬†waiting to do it (okay, maybe I am a little in taking the time to write this post, but you see my point). Fact is, there was an innate part of me that acted naturally, knowing that there was a deadline just around the corner, that incented me to act. I felt empowered, rejuvenated even, knowing that I had the tools at my disposable to set up a writing plan and complete my manuscript.

Setting a goal for yourself is very important, whether it be in your writing or any type of project you take on in life (that pesky garage comes to mind again). Mix that with a focus and determination, and the sky’s the limit.

What is one project, right now, that you need to set (or improve) a goal for?

Ready for Launch

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” -Benjamin Franklin


You are here for a reason. Plain and simple, the fact that you are reading this means there is some reason for which you’ve arrived upon these words. You might be saying “so what” or “who cares,” and I’d be happy to tell you.

It means that we already have a connection. A small connection, yes, but a connection nonetheless. Whether you’re a fellow writer, reader, or somewhere in between, it means that we have the chance to form a community.

And since we’re likely meeting for the first time, it only makes sense to tell you a little about myself. I’ve been an avid writer and reader since I can remember. I wrote my first slew of stories in 3rd grade, taking to the page with childish excitement when I found the power that one could wield with a pencil.

Yes, the stories were complete junk, but ignorance is bliss.

Using my wide ruled paper, I sat down with the goal of writing 20 pages for each story. In mymind, I knew I didn’t have enough content to generate 20 pages of story. And as a 3rd grader, I had no idea what plotting or outlining was (no one told me!).

But I sat down with my paper and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote until I reached that 20 page mark. And let me tell you, that was good feeling! Junk? Nonsense! To me it was a masterpiece. Sure, it contained probably 50 times more adverbs than it should have, but there it was.

20 pages.

You’re reading this now, almost two decades later, because of those 20 pages. It was the springboard into the creative literary pond for me, one that I’ve been swimming around in since. And now our paths have crossed. We are in that pond together, as readers and writers.

It is my hope to share experiences, information, and resources with you as we kick-off our new community. If you are a writer, I hope to network and share with you in the writing process, from the twinkle of an idea to the finished product. As a reader, we will discuss our latest reads, new and trending works, and resources available to readers.

I encourage comments and feedback from you, as I hope to make this a place for discussion and networking. I just ask that you respect each other’s opinions, have an open mind, and refrain from cursing or using derogatory language.

I am looking forward to forming a community with you as we make this swim together, regardless of what stage you are in your swim. Which begs the question:

Where are you in your journey as a reader or writer?

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