April Articles and May Events

I’ve collected enough articles that it’s time to share a few more, beginning with one that’s a little metaphysical in tone. The 5 Tips To Find Your Authentic Writing Voice start out sounding a bit vague and theoretical but end on a concrete note. They’re worth your time to read—especially, in my opinion, #4.

Next we have a brief, practical bit of advice that the folks at Camp NaNoWriMo put together when asked, “How can you be sure that your plot is actually compelling, and not just a pile of stuff that happens?”

That’s followed by one that’s more of a list than an article. Here are 25 Brain Lubricants For Generating Ideas. Two near the middle stuck out to me.

  • Get Fearless:  What if you could do, say or write anything? It’s just an exercise, so fear not. Step outside of your comfort zone. I think this is excellent advice. Sometimes I have an idea, but then I don’t run with it because I think other people will think it’s silly. I need to remind myself more often that it’s okay to write something that I don’t want to share with anyone else. Confidential writing isn’t limited to the arenas of diaries and classified military files; sometimes it’s okay to do creative writing for your eyes alone. And sometimes a creatively crazy idea becomes just the inspiration you need to get out of a rut. The major twist in the novel I’m writing was born out of an April Fool’s joke, of all things.
  • Get Unsatisfied: Look at a satisfactory solution all over again and challenge it. Dismiss it. Find another path that make take you even further. The good is the enemy of the best, right? If we think that we have found a good way to write a scene (or a character’s motivation, or a setting description, or…), we may never discover the best way to write it.

The fourth item is from Writers Write. They’re based in South Africa, and I always find it inspiring to think that writers half way around the world are using many of the same techniques we are here; good writing has very universally-applicable principles. This article teaches you how to Keep Calm and Kill Clichés. There’s not a whole lot to it, but I still recommend reading it because it comes to a strong conclusion: When we use jargon or clichés, we create fuzziness around the image or emotion we’re trying to get across. Be as specific as you can be and authentic as you can be. Every word must have your blood in it – anger, irony, admiration, etc. Don’t make it look like everyone else’s. I usually try to avoid clichés because I think they’re annoying and make writing sound amateur, but I hadn’t ever thought about that deeper reason to avoid them. As a bonus, here’s a link to a site where you can build your own keep calm and…whatever poster.

Another blogger at Writers Write shares What Watching Disney and Pixar Teaches About Writing Suspense. What single component do 10 of the most well-known Disney/Pixar movies have in common? You’ll have to read the article to find out! And read the article you should, because it’s something you clearly can apply to your writing too, if only you have it in mind.

That pretty much does it for April’s articles, but I promised info on May’s events as well. First, we have the GLVWG monthly Writers Cafe coming up next Thursday, the 8th. It’s at 7pm at the Palmer branch of the Easton library, and Nicole is organizing dinner beforehand at Wegmans (just down the road on 248) at 5:30 – thank you, Nicole! And later in the month, I’ll be hosting the next Writers’ Salon on Thursday the 29th. This time we’ll be focusing on setting (and anything else you’d like to discuss).

Lastly, for a bit of humor, check out this game that explains How to be a writer.


Moravian’s Writer’s Conference

Iʼm writing to make you aware of a new writersʼ conference, to be held June 6-8, 2014 in Bethlehem, PA: the Moravian Writersʼ Conference.

This will be a weekend filled with workshops, craft talks, panel discussions, readings, and more, all led by accomplished writers from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and beyond. At the center of the weekendʼs events will be readings by, and interviews with, the conferenceʼs two keynote speakers, Laurie Halse Anderson and Ursula Hegi.

You can learn more at http://home.moravian.edu/public/writersconference/.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Many of you know about National Novel Writing Month. Fondly nicknamed NaNoWriMo, this non-profit initiative challenges people every November to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel—and provides the camaraderie (via online communities and local meetups) that just might enable participants to succeed. If you missed the chance and don’t want to wait until Fall to try your hand at it—or if you think the concept sounds fun but there’s no way you can write that much that fast—you might want to check out Camp NaNoWriMo!

Camp NaNoWriMo is set up more loosely and is designed to provide a writing experience that you can tailor to your specific style and needs. Some people set smaller goals, like writing a 10,000-word short story, a script, or a collection of poetry. Camp NaNoWriMo will assign you to a 12-person “cabin” of like-minded writers who are working on similar projects. You can sign up now throug March 25th and write in the month of April. There will be an additional opportunity in July.

Writers Cafe Recap

Holly and I went to the GLVWG Writers Cafe tonight, and it was one of the best I’ve been to. I’m gradually getting to know the people there and enjoying hearing each month the stories they’re writing. One of the regular attendees just published his first book, and we got to see copies of it tonight. It’s fun to watch the process happen.

Here’s a piece of advice to share, which came up during the read-and-critique part of the evening: Never have one character say to another something which they both already know. It’s a good reminder not to use dialogue as a device to “info drop” to your reader. Like all rules, I think it has its exceptions, but its a helpful place to start.

Local Writing Classes and Another Local Writers’ Group

Northampton Community College has two new non-credit writing courses starting in March. They seem a little pricey for what you get (especially as compared to other courses I’ve taken there), but here’s the info in case anyone is interested:

Writing Your Life Story (WRITE111): After years of living, you have many memories. Some are faded, and some seem so different from who you are today they might as well have happened to someone else. There are many benefits to turning them into a written story: develop your writing skills, feel more connected to your past, share your past with family or friends, and reflect back on your life for stories worth writing. This class will guide you through the simple steps and techniques that will help you gather the material, write it in scenes, and then organize it so it can be read by others. ‘How to’ book is included.
Location: Fowler Family Center, South Side Bethlehem, Room 412
Date: Tuesdays, March 4 – 25, 2014
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Fee: $99.00
Instructor: Jerry Waxler, MS, is a speaker, teacher, therapist and writer and has written the book: “Learn to Write Your Memoir in 4 Weeks”

Writing Your First Novel Part I (WRITE103): For people who always thought they could write a novel if only they knew where to begin. In easy steps and simple exercises, we will explore plot, characters and dialogue. Includes subject selection, research, pacing, discipline, agents, contracts, and routes to publication. Our focus will be on the fiction novel.
Location: Main Campus, Alumni Hall, Room 127
Date: Tuesdays, Mar 11 – Apr 15, 2014
Time: 6:30 – 9:30 PM
Fee: $89.00
Instructor: Kathleen Coddington is a retired school librarian who has written 4 novels.

I noticed in the second instructor’s bio that she is a member of the Pocono-Lehigh Romance Writers. I had never heard of that group, but it turns out they are the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. They meet at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Library, same as the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. Even if you don’t write romance, you may want to check them out. Their schedule for 2014 lists many topics that are universal to all genres, such as Protagonist/Antagonist (April) and Editing Software (October). Besides, you just might get assigned to the Romance or Romantic Comedy genre in the next NYC Midnight contest!


February Events

I know of at least three writing events in February (NOTE: the 3rd one has been moved to March):

1. The NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (7th-15th)
There’s still time to get in on the competition; the deadline is this Friday, the 6th. If you decide to enter, be sure to take advantage of the $5 off deal for tweeting or posting to Facebook. You must do that *before* you register. John, Vicki, Nicole, and I are signed up!

2. The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group monthly Writer’s Cafe (13th – postponed due to snow; new date Feb. 20th)
Meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month, now at the Palmer branch of the Easton library. Vicki, Holly, and I have been known to make an appearance. The first half hour is typically a presentation about the writing craft. This month’s topic is “Social Media for Authors.” That will be followed by a read-and-critique time, where you can share a work-in-progress of up to 500 words and get feedback from the group. They will be hosting their annual conference, The Write Stuff, in March.

3. A Writing Workshop at the Northampton library – NEW DATE: March 8th
Information from the NAPL website: If you dream of making a living as a writer or photographer, turn that dream into a reality with a two-hour hands-on workshop on February 15th March 8th, at 1:00 PM at the library. The workshop will be presented by Johanna Billings, editor of the Northampton Press, Whitehall-Coplay Press and Catasauqua Press.  In addition to 15 years in the newspaper industry, presenter Ms. Billings spent 10 years earning a living as a freelance writer. Her presentation will cover how to increase your earnings, generating salable ideas, pitching those ideas to newspapers, magazines and book publishers, selling an idea to more than one market, securing assignments editors want, and need, to give out, how to best communicate with editors, format submissions and generally make editors’ jobs easier. This program is free and open to the public. Registration is preferred but not required; call or stop in to sign up!