Monday, June 8, 2015

The Rewrite!

“All Writing is Rewriting”
-John Green

“Rewriting is a pain in the…”
-Paul Heingarten

I don’t know about you, but of all the parts of the writing process there are, re-writing is a strong contender to be my least favorite.  The forming of ideas, characters, themes, plot elements and weaving them together… lots of fun.  But after everything it takes to put a story of any length together, isn’t it enough?

Isn’t it… done yet?

When I wrote my first manuscript, I had little to no knowledge of the writing process like I do now.  I was at least several months out from finding the Bayou Writers Club for one.  The school training I’d had for writing of any kind came from one creative writing class in grade school and the writing for TV/Newspaper/Radio in college.  I could write a sentence but the concept of editing was not really something I dealt with much.  Tweaks for news stories, OK.  But when I worked for the school newspaper I relied on others, the copy editors, for more in-depth editing.

Fast forward to now, and I’ve been establishing a method for writing.  I wouldn’t say I’ve embraced it, but I’ve found a way to at least get through it.

Last year, my wife Andrea and I went to Comicpalooza, an annual comic convention in Houston, TX.  There, we saw a presentation from Pamela Fagan Hutchins, an award winning author of several bestselling books (Her website is http://pamelahutchins.com).  This particular presentation dealt with rewriting.

I’ve incorporated much of what Pamela spoke about in her presentation.  Here’s a list of several items I use when I rewrite:
·       Start from the beginning of your manuscript and work your way forward page by page until the end.  Maybe this is redundant or obvious to most of you, but when I was just trying to rewrite something, I was hopping around the pages, trying to catch things.  No.  Front to back.
·       If you add things to your story: characters, plot elements, etc… do you follow through the entire manuscript with them?  Don’t let something major you added for resolving the plot go unexplained until the end like a Deus Ex Machina.
·       Have you met your story objective?  Has the plot been resolved satisfactorily?  Good or bad endings for characters aside, make sure things get wrapped up to some kind of resolution.
·       Does a scene matter?  Does it help move the story along?  If not, remove it.
Those are a few points I look for.  There are more but I think you’ll find as you start to rewrite, you will develop your own method for what you look for and change.  Like anything, practice makes perfect… or just better than before.

Another thing I do on my rewrites is to not try and get it done on a single rewrite.  Again, maybe this is redundant to some of you as well.  But I’ve been a “planner” writer more or less since I’ve started writing novels.  And as a planner, I always have some small feeling in the back of my head that when I’m done writing the story, it’s done.  And when I’m done on a rewrite, it’s done.

The way I got away from that mindset is to do my rewrites in passes.  In other words, when I start on a rewrite, I make up my mind to look for either one thing or a small collection of things in my manuscript.
Here’s how that might look:
·      Pass 1: Add scenes that I’ve come up with for beefing up the story.  Make sure the parts of the story the new scenes might affect are also adjusted so each new scene is now a needed part of the story, not just added fluff.
·      Pass 2: Check the dialogue for all characters.  Make the dialogue less formal.  Break up the lines of dialogue if necessary so each character doesn’t speak a soliloquy each time they say anything.
·      Pass 3: Make sure your characters each have a distinctive voice.  Perhaps you can give one of them a catchphrase they use a lot, or maybe an accent, etc.
I think you get the idea.  Of course, every story is different so I don’t use the exact same list of passes I mentioned each time.  But I think multiple passes is what finally got me to get through the tall (but necessary) task of rewriting my projects.

Happy rewriting!

Paul Heingarten

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Another Word on Writing your Bio

By Libby Prifogle 

A few weeks ago Dr. Kelley gave a wonderful class on bios and it made me realize how essential the "bio' is to all aspects of the publication process. I am picking up on a little resistance in writing bios from the group, so I wanted to share my experiences in writing bios for literary magazines/websites. 

As we all tackle submissions in literary magazines this year, you'll have to submit a bio and/or cover letter with each submission. If they don't ask for one with the submission, the editor will need one for the publication. While each publication will have different requirements, it is generally between 50-150 words (and if you are a few words off, it's probably going to be okay). I think it's understood, but just wanted to add - the bio needs to be written in 3rd person unless otherwise noted. If it seems daunting to sum up your life in 50-150 words - well, it is a challenge. I write and rewrite my bio and in my opinion it's never going to be a final draft (I gave mine a complete overhaul as I wrote this post). This is my current bio:

Lisbeth Prifogle served her country as a United States Marine officer and is working on a memoir about her experiences in a war zone. Lisbeth holds an MFA from Antioch University - Los Angeles. Her work was featured in Poem Memoir Story, The Splinter Generation, Citron Review, In the Know Travel, Hormones Matter, and the forthcoming veterans anthology, Homecoming. Lisbeth is an active member of the Bayou Writers Club where she gives presentations and writes articles on the craft and business of writing. She lives in Louisiana. 

All publications will have a bio or byline at the end of a story/essay/article. Generally speaking, most periodicals (commercial magazines and newspapers) use bylines and literary magazines use bios (each publication makes that determination). As Kelley brought up during her presentation, it's good to have a byline as well as a short, medium, and long bio prepared so when you're asked for it, you can promptly provide it. For ideas and examples, read other writers' bios in your favorite literary magazines or books, although I think you get a wider variety in literary magazines.

Quick tip: Go to the "Editors" page of any literary website for a quick list. For example, these editors have bios around 50 words: http://www.splintergeneration.com/category/editors/

Printed anthologies are also a great quick resource.

Don't have anything published yet? No worries. First, write something for the Bayou writers blog. I keep mentioning this at the meetings and I'm saying it again because it's a great way to get published and show you're a credible writer. Second, talk about what you are working on, and anything relative to writing (degrees, writing classes or retreats you regularly attend), what you like to write, where you live or like to read. For example (totally made this one up - working up the courage to try fiction again some day):

"Lisbeth Prifogle grew up in Manhattan and fled the states as soon as she turned 18. At the moment, she resides in Thailand. Lisbeth annually attends the ExPat Writing Association's writing and publishing conference and regularly attends online writing seminars. Currently, she is working on a dystopian novel that follows survivors of a global financial collapse. Lisbeth keeps a travel blog titled Unexpected Journeys, it can be found at www.unexpectedjourneys.com.

This bio tells readers that this parallel universe Lisbeth travels, treats her writing as a profession, and probably has some interesting stories that likely show up in her fiction. You want your bio to be interesting, but remember this is your introduction as a writer so focus on writing. 

To pick on an active member of the group for another example, Chris always participates in the clever prompts (that I find to be really challenging) and shares them at our meetings. Chris your bio could, and in my opinion should, include somewhere in it: "Chris is a master at golden shovel poetry form, zhongs, and micro-fiction."  

The members who present for The Business of Writing and/or Reading like a writer segment can include that in the bio. "Dennis is an active member of the Bayou Writers Club and gives regular presentations on the craft and business of writing at bi-monthly meetings." 

In closing, start working on your bios and bylines. Don't be intimidated if you don't have a degree/certificate in writing publications, you're a member of the fastest growing writing club in Southeast Louisiana so submit your work to be posted on the Bayou Writers blog and submit submit submit!

And because I haven't written my byline yet, here's a first draft: 

Lisbeth Prifogle is a graduate of the MFA program at Antioch University - Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Poem Memoir Story, Splinter Generation, Citron Review, In the Know Traveler, and the forthcoming veterans anthology, Homecoming. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Short Stories are HOT!


Hey, Bayou Writers!

Dennis here, and Im starting a semi-periodic post to our blog concentrating on the short story form, including flash and micro fiction, and, frankly, anything else that strikes my fancy.

A couple of meetings back, I highlighted the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Writers Digest, which had an guest column specifically aimed at short story writers: Anne R. Allens article in the Inkwell column entitled Short is the New Long. Ive been drawn to short stories for several reasons, chiefly: 1) They force you to be economical and precise in your writing, and 2) They allow for multiple experimentation in genre, style, voice, whatever, over a reasonable period of time. Even if youre writing a novel and its taking you years, taking time off to write a few short stories can restore your creative juices.

So writing short stories can be good for your craft, but what if you want to be a published, author whose work people actually read? And pay for? Allens article addresses just this issue. Here is the Readers Digestversion, but I urge you to check out the full column:

 

SHORT IS THE NEW LONG

[Many writers equate] short fiction with those finger exercises piano students do before they graduate to real music. If youre serious about a career in fiction, you write novels.right?

Wrong. Short stories are having a revival in the digital age.thanks to consumers who want quick bites of informationIt seems the short story is backon an iPhone near you.

Here are nine factors working in favor of a short story renaissance:

1. SMALL, PORTABLE SCREENS ARE CHANGING THE WAY WE READ. The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect art for for the digital ageStories are models of concision, can be read in one sitting, are infinitely downloadable and easily consumed on small screens,bestselling short-story writer Amber Dermont told The New York Times.

When Amazon in 2011 launched its Kindle Singles programwhich publishes works of fiction or creative nonfiction of 5,000 to 30,000 wordsit sold more than 2 million short titles in 14 months.Today, [Amazon is] further promoting short fiction with a Short Reads sectionand Day One magazine, which showcases short fiction from new authors. (Find submission guidelines at tinyurl.com/pwc2lrj.)

2. ANTHOLOGIES ARE HOT. Multi-author anthologies are a great sales tool, and theyve been reborn in the e-book space, where theyre inexpensive to put together and provide wide visibility.

3. PUBLICATION IDENTIFIES YOU AS A PROFESSIONAL. If youre on a career track, you need to show agents, publishers, and reviewers youre serious. Placing stories in respected literary journals will do that.

4. NETWORKING WITH SHORT FICTION EDITORS CAN FURTHER YOUR CAREER. Editors at small magazines often have connections in the publishing world.

5. FILMMAKERS BUY RIGHTS TO SHORT STORIES.

6. ONLINE RETAILERS FAVOR AUTHORS WITH MORE TITLES. The more titles you have in an online bookstore, the more visible you are.

7. SHORT FICTION CONTESTS CAN BUILD YOUR BIO. Contests are easy to find and enter in the Internet era.(fundsforwriters.com) and (winningwriters.com) are good free sources for vetted and free contests, and established publications (including WD) often sponsor competitions that provide opportunities for authors in all genres. A win or even honorable mention looks great in a query or bio. Some of the biggest awardsare still for short fiction, sometimes offering a prize as high as a standard novel advance, as do the Pushcart and O. Henry Prizes.

8. SHORTS KEEP FANS ENGAGED AND DRAW NEW ONES. Forward-looking agents encourage authors to self-publish short storiesespecially when writing a series. Shorts keep fans interested while theyre waiting for the next book, and a free story in between is a great marketing tool. a couple of shorts about your main charactermay get you through a tricky spot in the big work and give you a salable product for laters. (Also, many great novels started as shorts. A story about a minor character may expand into a novel of its own.)

9. TODAYS SHORTS STORIES MAKE MONEY AND HOLD THEIR VALUE. Per word, a story can make more money than a novel. Not only does it take less time to write, [it may sell for] the same price as a novel-length e-bookSome large magazines still publish short fiction, and such publications as Asimovs, Ellery Queen, and Womans World still pay top dollar for genre stories…”

Short storiescan keep your prose from getting flabby. Dont give up your magnum opus, but try a few ideas out in short stories. Youll be grateful you have inventory when opportunity comes knocking.

[Anne R. Allen is the author of seven comic mysteries and co-author of How to Be a Writer in the E-Age: A self-Help Guide, written with Catherine Ryan Hyde.]

The full article may be found on pages 10-11 in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Writers Digest or on WritersDigest.com at

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/9-ways-writing-short-stories-can-pay-off-for-writers

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oh How We’ve Grown

Figuratively and literally, The Bayou Writer’s Club has developed over the last year with several fun segments becoming member favorites if not a standard part of our meetings.  We are closing in on a hundred members and have about twenty regular participants each meeting with new faces all the time.  WOW! 
 
Finding a place to Meet-Up has been the challenge but for now we’ve settled into the large private room at Zea’s Restaurant in Covington, nicely.  When meeting on the south shore, La Madeleine’s Restaurant still works for now!  Finding room for all of us is a great problem to have and we look forward to meeting even more writers.

Some of our favorite discussions are Reading Like a Writer, show and tell (taken in part from Francine Prose’s book title) where members read a passage from a favorite author and discuss, or lead a discussion, about what makes the passage effective.  We've had some great examples of first lines, first pages, beat or pacing, writing style that affects tone and mood, and dialogue. 

Our reading time where members share either a short story written from our writing prompts or part of their own larger projects has become a standard.  It’s an honor when new writers share their work for the first time!  It’s also very special to hear from our novelists and non-fiction authors!  We have a talented group!

Writing Critiques are still going on, behind the scenes.  We haven’t had time to do this as a large group, lately, but many members ask to have something read by the group and four or five people always step up to take on the task!

Work continues on the Swan of the Seas.  Our book project, oh my!  This project is where the group completes a novel together.  We are up to chapter 11 and are looking to wrap the first draft up in approximately two months!!!  So if you want to get your voice in there, consider volunteering soon.  Next, our task will be to edit!  We started with brainstorming stories ideas and have learned a great deal together about the process of writing a novel.   Overall, the idea has been to have fun together and learn through the process! 

Helping each other with our Writing Goals is what the BWC is all about.  We continue to share our favorite resources and here are some of our latest recommendations.

  •  The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine

And a couple of BWC favorites you’ve already seen:

  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

If you haven’t made it out to a meeting yet, we are still waiting for you!  Keep up the hard work.

Happy Writing!

-L

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Few of Our Favorite Writing Tools!

A short while back I made a request for members to send in some of their favorite writing tools, such as websites, writing software, and books.  I put together a list of  our fav.'s and hope this is helpful for new and experienced writers!  

·         Scrivener- http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php Scrivener is a program for Macs or PC’s that helps writers structure and edit their work!  It’s only $40 but there is a free trial option that you can use for a while before committing.  Things that are most useful about scrivener are the note cards or storyboard, character sheets, full screen editing, the ability to scroll to the different parts of your manuscript quickly, and the screenshot mode but those are just a few of the features.
·         Writer’s Digest- http://www.writersdigest.com/ The magazine is full of useful information but the website is also spectacular.  There is everything from author interviews, Agent information, publishing news, grammar lessons, writing prompts to writing contests and conference information.
·         Twitter- https://twitter.com/ Twitter is a great (and quick) way to learn what is going on in the writing industry.  Definitely worth the few seconds to sign up and once you do, consider adding (or following) these accounts:  writer’s digest, writer unboxed, Jane Friedman, P. de hemricourt, Chuck Sambuchino, Brian Klems, and any agents that you might want to query!
·         Snowflake Pro Software- http://www.advancedficitonwriting.com/product/snowflake-pro-software/  Snowflake Pro has an advantage for those who want to get a concrete story outline together.  This software allows for capturing really specific details about your characters.  It costs $100, but the creator of the software has a deal where if you buy a copy of his book “Writing Fiction for Dummies” currently $12.95 on Amazon, you get Snowflake Pro for 50% off.  Just make sure you buy the “Writing Fiction for Dummies” book by Randy Ingermanson.
·         Wordpress:  http://www.wordpress.com  Similar to Blogger but Paul like the functionality of it better.  You can get all kinds of plug ins for things like auto-responding, building email lists, tracking links and the like.  This software is free, and you can have a blog hosted on wordpress.com or on your own server.
·         Author Sarah Selecky- http://www.sarahselecky.com/  Free…When you sign up, she sends a brief writing prompt consisting of a couple of things that you have to write a short scene around, you write for ten minutes in longhand!  Ten minutes is a small amount of time to dedicate to the practice.  Dennis’ thoughts on the process are that it’s very different when writing longhand instead of typing.  When he types, he tends to go back and correct typos which interrupts his creative process.
·         Books the group recommends:
  1. 2014 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
  2. Reading Like a Writer by Francis Prose
  3. How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman
  4. Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone
  5. Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
  6. Stephen King/On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft


 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sweet Spring!

We have been very busy at the BWC.

First, It's important to mention that we're still welcoming new members and are lucky to have a few join us at every meeting!  It’s amazing to have such a large amount of talent concentrated in one group, new and established writers learning from one another is an awesome thing.
The BWC members continue to bring in short works to share, some writings are from the writing prompts and some from a larger manuscript that they are working on.  It’s impressive to see someone share for the first time and this month we were very lucky to have new members, Lee A, Jill J, Amy C, and Craig M share their writing.  In addition to our new members, we also had a few of the veterans like Paul H, Andrea H, Dennis L and Vic H share pages, too.  I have not added anything to the creative writing submissions page in a while and I’ll work on getting some of these “shorts” posted soon! Feel free to email me your pages and I’ll post them ASAP.

We continue to advance our grammar skills by discussing various topics at each meeting.  We’ve covered using quotation marks along with how to write dialog this month which has led us to a new, fun segment called Reading like a Writer, Show and Tell (borrowed from Francine Prose’s book title).  Dennis led the charge with bringing in three separate books, with three different styles of writing dialog.  It was the most interesting grammar lesson to date.  I have to say that show and tell really works!
There has been a lot of buzz about our book project, currently titled, Swan of the Seas.  We’re now on chapter four and it’s getting very exciting!   We keep brainstorming ideas together, sharing current character bios with one another, critiquing the most recent chapter at the meetings and yet, when the next installment is written, it’s an incredible surprise!  There is still a lot to do, even if you cannot take on the task of writing a chapter at the moment.  Simply coming to the meeting is helpful as we brainstorm and sometimes debate the plot lines.  We’re moving pretty quickly and it’s captivating the group.  Members are emailing to ask for the latest chapters or discussing plot details on the Meet Up website and even via personal email.  Ooh it’s a lot of fun!!! 

Clearly, we’ve been hard at work this first quarter of the year.  How's your writing going?  Need some inspiration?  Come Meet-Up with us at the Bayou Writer’s Club and talk about your writing interests.
In the meantime, here are a few writing prompts for you to try! As usual, 1,000 word limit but other than that… No Rules!


Why You Were Late for the Meeting
By Brian A. Klems

You’re at lunch when your smartphone buzzes with an e-mail from your boss: “Don’t forget, we have a meeting in 10 minutes.” Of course you did forget, so you rush out of the restaurant and attempt to make it before it starts. But a crazy chain of events stops you from getting back in time for the meeting.

By Brian A. Klems

The plane lifted off the runway and into the air. The person next to you turns and quietly whispers in your ear, “I know I’m supposed to keep this a secret, but I absolutely must tell someone.”
Running For Class President (& a Bombshell Announcement Made by Your Opponent)
By Brian A. Klems

You decide to run for president of your high school class only to find that your opponent is running a smear campaign about you. Worse yet, your opponent has been telling everyone that he/she will drop a bombshell announcement in front of the entire school during your first debate. The debate is here. Write the scene where the bombshell is announced and describe how you react to it—remember the entire school is watching.
Happy Writing!

L

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BWC Book Project, Meeting Agenda, & Writing Prompts OH MY!


The BWC meetings in January were simply Coffee and Conversation themed.  We continued to welcome new members and discussed current writing projects as well as encouraged one another to get focused on success in 2014.
 
We seem to have found a home (for now) at La Madeleine's on the north shore as well as south shore because they are able to accommodate our interactive and growing group.  Truthfully they also hit all of our hot buttons like easy access, good food, and operating hours.  
 
You may have seen on the Meet Up website that we've been planning a writing project together and I'm happy to announce that we've ironed out the basics.  The story will be a BWC collaboration and together we'll brainstorm, write, edit, and publish the work together.  Our first meeting in February was our first brainstorming event!  Here are the deets (details): 
  • Fiction
  • Written one chapter at a time by a member unless we get to a point where we can do more.
  •  Loose plot:  A couple takes a cruise and endure relationship issues enfolding other vacationers into their situation.
  • Each meeting members will draw numbers to see who writes the next chapter. 
  • Once a member has written a chapter, they no longer can draw a number.
  • Chapters should be about 3,000 words. 
  • Members will only pull a number if they can commit to complete the assignment during that particular time period.  We will work on this for several months which should accommodate most of our personal schedules. 
  • The member chosen will have approximately a week and a half to iron out their chapter and send to the others for review.
  • Each meeting we will discuss the edited chapter, work on our outline, set deadlines, and basically chart progress.   
Overall, the idea is to have fun together and learn through the process!  As a whole, rules will be kept to a minimum so everyone will have creative license to write.  All members are encouraged (highly encouraged) to participate whenever and wherever they can.  This may be writing a chapter or simply helping brainstorm during the meetings.  I would like to remind everyone that the majority rules over editing.  Therefore, all of our writings are subject to revision.  Sometimes receiving criticism is painful, especially when some of our darlings may be sacrificed for the greater good.  Please keep this in mind as you give or receive feedback.
 
We will continue with our writing/teaching sessions at each meeting and spend about a half hour on sharing work (outside of the group project) which can include this month’s writing prompts (below) or anything else you may be writing.  When possible, please bring a few printed copies of your work as it is easier to follow along but also will allow you some written editing and feedback. 
 
I'm excited to post February writing prompts and hope to hear a lot of them at our next meeting.  As usual, there are three writing prompts to choose from and you have 1000 words or less to do it!
 
Please print at least one copy of your finished story for the meeting and we will exchange them when we get together next Thursday.  This will allow you a quick critique of your work thus some immediate feedback.  We will share as many as time allows. 


Please choose one of the following:
 
You receive a mysterious email and the subject line reads “Everything you know is a lie.” You open the email and read further: “Act calm as to not alert anyone, but everyone around you is not who they say they are. You need to quietly get out of there and meet me at the spot where you had your first kiss. You know the place. My name is Mark.”
 
You call an old flame from high school whom you still have feelings for and ask to meet up. The flame says, “Sure, how about noon at the pub by your house.” While waiting at the pub, your flame walks in—wearing a wedding dress (or tuxedo). The flame looks at you and says, “I’m supposed to be getting married today, but …” What happens? Write this scene
 
Walking to catch the bus, you see a young boy look both ways before entering an alley. When you follow him into the alley, he has disappeared. Instead, there is a neatly folded note lying on the pavement. What does it say and how do you react?
 
Happy Writing!
Lisa