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!


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- 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- 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- 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-  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:  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 or on your own server.
·         Author Sarah Selecky-  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!


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!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

December (Yes, I typed December!)

The following post was inadvertently saved as a draft instead of being posted appropriately in December.  Please accept my apologies as user error is the only explanation.  I would encourage everyone to enjoy the writing prompts below and please bring them to the next meeting to share or email them to me for posting. 

Happy reading and writing! 

Dennis passed out some slides at the last meeting at Puccino’s in Metairie summarizing what
he, Dawn, and Allen have learned at the Louisiana Writing Institute class they are taking at Loyola. If you weren’t at the meeting, you can e-mail him at for a pdf copy. 

We had a good critique of Allen’s amazing work and all urged him to get it out as soon as possible (so we can read the rest, if for no other reason!). We tested out a new way of timing the individual critiques so that everyone got a chance to speak, and it seemed to work out to everyone’s satisfaction.

We also discussed making a short, intensive critiquing session a regular or occasional part of the meetings. These would last about 30 minutes and involve a line-by-line examination of either a published work or one of our own short works. Dennis volunteered to have one of his short stories dissected the first time as an experiment. We’re looking at this as an on-going learning tool to sharpen writing skills and a way for our more experienced writers to mentor our newer ones.  

Because writing improves with practice, we are also continuing our writing prompts. These, of course, are completely voluntary, and they are strictly for fun, but we all enjoy writing, right? The last time, we read our pieces aloud, with minimal critiquing, and that seemed  to work out well. Let’s do it some more! If you don’t want to do the prompt, bring in a short piece or fragment of what you’re working on, plot idea, mood piece, poem, whatever moves you! Short is better, given the time constraints of reading each piece at the meeting, but if the muse moves you, go long by all means! And if you can’t keep to the conceptual limits of the prompt, write anyway!

Here are three prompts for our next meeting (February 6th):

1) Three one-pagers (300-400 words each)
a) Middle aged woman views a cabin where her son died. Describe what she sees and how she feels without mentioning the death directly (i.e., don’t write “Johnny blew himself up in an unfortunate chemistry kit experiment in the basement.”).
b) A 20-something man describes a cabin where he played as a child. Describe what he sees and how he feels without mentioning the fact that he played there directly.
c) Writer’s choice.

The exercise here is to paint a scene using 'important detail' instead of relying on lists of descriptors. An 'important detail' is one the observer registers, not merely sees (we all see tons of things when we look at a scene, but we only pick out details that are relevant to us). In a story, an important detail is a detail that advances the story in some way (plot, action, suspense, color, mood, emotion). E.g., you could say "He had a typical alcoholic's face." or "His bulbous nose had so many broken capillaries it rivaled that of Rudolf the famous reindeer." Note that the three scenes do not have to be linked (though they may be if you want) and they do not have to constitute a complete story (though they may if you want).