RoadWriter

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Archive for the category “Tools”

Greetings from the Trenches

magnetic-poetry-magnetsIt’s been a busy year for us Muselings, as we’ve mostly been entrenched in our own projects and life events. This month we come together again with one goal. To write new poems. Once again, Poetic Asides is prompting for November Poem a Day.

Differing from the April challenge, November has the goal of putting together poems for a chapbook. A poetry version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Michele, Margaret, Anne, and myself will be writing our poems based on the same prompts. Our hopes is to take these differening views, these “Four Sides of the Moon”, to create a new poetry anthology. 

I always enjoy seeing how different voices approach the same topic. One may take a prompt literally, another use it as a metaphor, or a stepping off point for another theme. To show an example of this, our day one prompt (taken from the Poetic Asides blog) was to write a “Game Over” poem. Michele wrote about football, Anne wrote about the end to a night out, Margaret about her father suffering through a night at the MET, and I wrote about a power outage forcing a game over to an unsaved video game. What does “Game Over” mean to you?

Margaret, Michele, and myself will be blogging this month. Poetry, writing, whatever we feel to share. So stick around. What are you working on this month? We’d love to hear from you.

Mary Butterfly Signature

 

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Muse Con Learning: Facebook Fan Page

facebook engancha

One of the things I took from Muse Con this year was how to make use of an Author Page on Facebook, presented by C.J. Ellisson. I had always thought it wasn’t worth having an author page until I had a book to promote. C.J. pointed out that she created her page 16 months before her book came out, and already had 1600 followers by the time her first book released. That is amazing. And it does make sense, to create a reader base before I have something to sell.

An Author Page isn’t all about selling a book, it’s about sharing an interest, growing a reader community. I can share not only about my book, but fun memes for the genre, questions for discussion. Currently I’m building up to Halloween by talking about different paranormal creatures. I’ve also started Fairy Fridays, something for my followers to expect on a weekly basis.

Another important thing I learned was that your friends list, your family and peers, is not your target audience. That’s another reason to have a separate author or fan page. Send out an initial invite or notice, and let them make that choice to follow or not. Don’t keep spamming them with invites or book news.

My goal for this next month is to find some fantasy groups to join, where I can interact as my Author persona. Start contributing, get people familiar with my name. I’m not ready to promote through Facebook ads, which would take money, so I get to take full advantage of other organic ways to connect with readers.

If you’d like to join me on my journey, you can follow me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MaryWJensenFanPage

Mary Butterfly Signature

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Sign up for the Muse Online Writers Conference Now!

Muse Online Writers Conference

We are just over a week away from the 2013 Muse Online Writers Conference. For those unfamiliar with the conference, it’s a free week-long event with workshops and chats. The workshops are forum-based, so you can jump in and participate any time of day. The chats are scheduled throughout the week at various times (times listed are all Eastern US). Workshops can vary from daily exercises to Q&A to more of a casual chat about a topic.

There is something offered for nearly everyone. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, genre or otherwise. Sadly, there are no poetry workshops listed in the schedule at this time.

If you have a finished manuscript, there are pitch sessions with both agents and publishers. These are live chats. If you’re not already signed up, however, your pitch needs to be submitted by TOMORROW, September 30.  Check the website for more details.

Registration

For details on how to register, visit: http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/muse_front/index.php/2013-registration. You do not have to register for individual classes. Just check in to the forums for anything that interests you.

The site is a new build, so returnees will want to ensure they have the most recent link, and test their log-in. All accounts should have been migrated from the old site. If you have problems, refer to this HELP page.

One note: The site says registration will be open until Oct 1, but I have it on good authority that you will be able to register up until the start of the conference on Oct 7. But don’t waste time, as you don’t want to hit a problem with registration by waiting until the last moment.

My Experiences with Muse Con

If you’re interested, you can read up on my experience from last year’s conference. I think this will be my sixth(!) conference.

I love Muse Con. It’s a great way for a writer like me, with limited budget, to network with my fellow writers and members of the industry, and work on my skills. I’ve pitched books, started new novels, strengthened existing writing, and generally had a lot of fun.

Our group emerged from this conference, we learned the tools to create our poetry collection LIFELINES. We pitched our book to publishers at a later Muse Conference, and it was during Muse Con that we got our acceptance letter. We owe the success of this group and our book to Muse Conference.

Some of the Workshops

One of the classes I’m interested about this year is Plotting With Scrivener. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with Scrivener. And even if you don’t own a copy, you can download the trial version to play with during the conference.

A few of the other 30+ workshops:

  • Breaking into the Homeschool Market
  • Horror and Paranormal Trends
  • Housekeeping for Writers
  • Introduction to ePublishing
  • Creating a Character
  • Plotting a Series

Hope to see you there!

Muse Online Writers Conference
October 7-13, 2013

Mary Butterfly Signature

 

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The Evolution of a Story pt 1

I have multiple novels in various stages. Sometimes I have a basic idea, but not enough for characters or plot. I always write these down anyways. If I’m bored, I’ll pull up my idea file and see if any of the bits and pieces will work together.

I want to share with you the notes and evolution of how my current project came together. All these notes came at completely different times and from unrelated places.

ideas

ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Idea 1

Someone who lives to their beliefs. Mental expectation defines our reality. Refusing to belief that flight is impossible. A person lives by their own set of rules. What others see as tricks and magic is reality for this person. Anything is possible if you believe.

Idea 2

two best friends from childhood, begin to grow apart. the guy stops writing. she continues, unaware that he is throwing her letters away without reading them. The guys roommate gets curious and opens them. he falls for her through the letters. when she writes about interest in a guy, he gets jealous, has to meet her.

Idea 3

Story about the Crazy Lady:

They call me crazy. I’m not crazy. Just different. I’m happy. I can’t help expressing it. They don’t understand me, because they have not experienced my happiness.

Story

It wasn’t until later that I came back to this notes and realized they could all be combined into one story. Each alone is only a concept, a character, a setting. But combined together we can begin to see a STORY. Suddenly I had three characters: a “crazy” woman who believes in magic and writes letters to her old friend, and the roommate who intercepts these letters.

I still wasn’t ready to write the story. It needed rules, conflict. But the combined ideas gave it a shape, popped it out of 2D and into 3D. So that’s my advice for today. Always write down your ideas, no matter how small. And if you cut a character from a story, or a line from a poem, save that as well. You never know where it might find a fit later.

If you don’t have anything in your idea file, or can’t find a way to make any of your ideas fit for a story, don’t be afraid to use prompts. There are plenty of prompt generators online. Feel free to use different ones, mix and match. Get a character here, a setting there. The more ideas you can combine, the more depth your story will have.

Resources

Here are a few places for free writing prompts

Seventh Sanctum: A personal favorite. In addition to story prompts, has a lot of other random generators.

Writers Digest Boot Camp has a download for two full weeks of prompts.

Hundreds of little prompts at Creative Writing Prompts

And if you’re more visual, try out Writing Picture Prompts

Next time on Mary’s Expression (March 19): Evolution of a Story continues

 

Mary Butterfly Signature

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2013: Looking Forward

Today begins a new year, a new Age. A time for re-evaluations, making new goals and adjusting old ones. I, for one, didn’t do very well on the goals I set in 2012. Rather than do a repeat, with likely similar results, I’m changing the way I make changes. I’m taking it from the verbal to the visual. I saw some pretty butterfly stickers at WalMart and snagged them as the basis of my reward sheet. I pulled out all my scrapbook and craft supplies, and came up with this:

IncentiveSheet

My main goals are to exercise and write more, and get the house in shape as well. Very vague and insubstantial.

Exercise

I’ve set a weight loss goal, but I know it takes time and the day to day can get discouraging. Solution? Celebrate both individual exercise sessions, to get in the habit and get healthy, as well as the weight loss milestones.

I’m going to add one butterfly sticker to the picture for each exercise session. For every ten butterflies, I give myself a mini-reward. Every 5 pounds lost (see the ladybug markers) earns me a bigger reward. If I lose the full 25 pounds, I get the BIG reward: a Steampunk corset.

 

Writing

StickersMy past experience with NaNoWriMo and writing in general has taught me that I’m not very good at focusing on one project all the way through. Rather than beat myself up for that fact, I’ll work with it. I don’t care what I work on, I just need to write! My major rule is: No new projects until I finish at least one of my FIVE Works in Progress (WIP’s).

For the sheet, one flower added for every 2500 words written. Every ten flowers gets rewarded. When I actually finish a WIP, I am taking a writers retreat. Probably something really small and local this year, like a night or two at a hotel. I think this big reward would be well earned, since I haven’t actually finished a novel since November 2007. That’s five years! No wonder I’m feeling unaccomplished.

Household

Zone CalendarThis past five months or so I’ve been trying FlyLady. There’s great ideas there, but I hate having my days so structured. I do need some sort of plan, as my house is more a mess than not most weeks. There are a few ideas from FlyLady that work well with my shotgun approach. My biggest lesson: You Can Do Anything in 15 Minutes. That goes for my writing, housework, exercise (a starting point until I get stamina for longer sessions. Everyone can fit in at least one 15 minute session a day.

The other thing I’m taking from FlyLady is Zones. I tweaked her list a bit to come up with my own personalized House Zones. 5 Zones to cover the entire house. One zone per week, so every five weeks I’ve given attention to each part of the house. If I do a minimum of one cleaning session (15 minutes!) each day, with one day off, that’s an hour and a half cleaning in each zone. Depending on the room, I could be spending that time decluttering, or deep cleaning, or organizing. I got a little calendar from BHG. I highlighted each week in a different color for different zones.

Zone 1 (yellow): Entrance, Front Porch, and Hall
Zone 2 (orange): Kitchen and Dining
Zone 3 (green): Bathrooms and Laundry Room
Zone 4 (blue): Bedrooms and Corner Room
Zone 5 (pink): Family Room and Front Room

Looking Forward

Hopefully taking this more visual approach will be a boon. I love stickers, and butterflies and pretty things, so adding to my flower garden chart will be a motivation in and of itself. I do, however, need to start brainstorming some reward ideas for those smaller milestones. Any ideas? What are your goals for the new year?

Mary Butterfly Signature

A Series of Limericks: tips included

Limericks are not my strength. Try as I might, I cannot spin them off the top of my head. It took me all day to get two decent ones. If you’re not familiar with the form, I found a good guide on About.com by Grace Fleming: How to Write a Limerick. Here are a few tricks I use to get through them:

  1. Do the first two lines (the setup) and the last line (the punchline) first. All these have the same rhyme, and gives you the frame to work with. Then fill in lines three and four (transition) which only have to rhyme with each other.
  2. Use a rhyming dictionary! I use The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary. Helps for getting out of tight corners when you use a word with not very many rhymes.
  3. Along the last lines, sometimes you have this idea you want, but can’t find workable rhymes. Like in my second limerick below, I wanted to do “Sang for her supper” but could NOT get a decent follow up. Solution: find a synonym. A thesaurus is a handy tool for poets.
  4. If you still struggle coming up with something, give yourself a theme. Write about a friend, or a book character, or spin off a fairy tale. Have fun with it!

Without further ado, here are my two Limericks.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood (Photo credit: lllllT)

There once was a red-hooded girl
Who through the dark woods did twirl
‘Til a sound made her scream
And fall in a stream
Turned out it was only a squirrel

There once was a girl from Cancun
Who couldn’t carry a tune
Her song for a meal
Made a werewolf reel
And now she howls at the moon

Editor's POV: How to Submit your Work

Lin Neiswender’s Post about Publication Leads was great. She reiterated that there ARE places to send our work, and that we writers and poets are a community; when we share resources, advice, ideas, and our hearts, we all benefit. We are the Poetic Muselings, with a published book of poetry, because others before us opened the doors, reached out to help us, and now we are continuing the process.

I’ve been Poetry Editor for Apollo’s Lyre e-zine for almost two years, having inherited a marvelous forum that I’ve made my own. We publish poets and poems from all over the world, from highly credentialed folks, and those who are courageously sending their work out for the first time — some of it decades old, but unseen by other eyes. I love this unpaid job, the discovery of a fresh voice, vivid imagery, the teasing of form. Our readers must love the publication, too, because they’ve commented about how particular poems inspired them to send their work for consideration.

We get LOTS of poems, and often the decision of what to publish is very difficult. When I first read the incoming items, I do a quick scan of the poem. Some grab me immediately, a huge “YES!!!” bounces in my head. I tag these stars, so they stand out. I don’t pay attention to the bio info yet — I just know I want to find a spot for these words in a future issue.

The next category are those where the poet didn’t follow any of the guidelines:

Soldiers at Yorktown (Graf, 2005)

— a maximum of FORTY (40) lines of poetry, excluding stanza breaks

— spread out in up to FOUR poems

— subject line: Poetry, YOUR NAME, # of poems, # of lines total

—  poem and bio  in the body of the email. No attachments

— at a minimum, the use of “//” to designate stanza breaks.

(I also ask for “/” at the end of each line of poetry, but that seems to confuse people.)

— People may send in their work whenever, so long as it doesn’t exceed 40 lines and four poems in any three month period. In the guidelines page of Apollo’s Lyre, I lay out this information, with examples.

Ignore these and your poems are likely to be returned or ignored, depending on the circumstances. Send something with a blank subject line, or an attachment (unless I’ve specifically requested it), and it will travel directly to “Trash”. Do yourself a favor and make it easier for the editor or publisher not to say “NO”.

I’ve received emails from some folks who send (I kid you not!):

— one long email, with over 250 lines of poetry, in multiple poems

— one long email with ONE poem of over 200 lines

— one poem per email, with over a dozen emails received in a short period of time.

— collections of poems (often a dozen or more, with around 100 lines or so)

These leave me with the feeling that I’m looking in someone’s closet, and it’s my job to decide what they should wear. Don’t send me “everything” — send me your very best poem(s).

The next part is trickier, and always amazes me, since it gives the impression that the person submitting didn’t care where or to whom, and assumed we’d figure it out:

— maybe because my name is so often misspelled, I triple-check the editor’s name, spelling, title, etc., before sending anything out. So, when I see my name spelled in any of a multitude of variations, it says someone didn’t proofread before mailing, or didn’t pay attention.

— recently, I got a spate of poems addressed to me as well as about a hundred of the poet’s nearest and dearest editors — with all of our names listed in the cc’s. This really tells me that someone was hunting with a shotgun, not a rifle, hoping to hit and slow down at least one of us without extra effort.

We’re talking about email, people! It’s not like they were worried about postage! What would an employer say to a letter like this? “To Whom It May Concern: I would really like to work for your company, but I don’t think I should have to do any research about what you do, or what you ask for. I don’t have to follow any of your rules, since I’m so incredible you’ll be in a bidding war for my services. Oh, yes, I don’t have much in the way of publishing credits, but that shouldn’t worry you.Please call me back tomorrow. Sincerely, Princess Poet OR Frog Prince.”

Believe me, every time you send your work out in the world, you are applying for a job, that of writer.

If you don’t follow general guidelines, you leave the impression you might be difficult to work with. This leads me to a third category of poems — those with potential, maybe some minor fixing or clarification to bring out their souls.

This pile is reviewed several times, under different circumstances. Some poems take more concentration to grasp, and are worth the effort. Some may need a bit of rearrangement of images, or a shift to present tense, reduction of “ing” words and unneeded articles. Poetry doesn’t have to have complete sentences, cover all gaps. I read these poems aloud for cadence, rhyme, awkwardness or smoothness of sounds.

Before you send anything in — even (in my opinion) novels or non-fiction, but especially poems — read it aloud. Hear what you’ve written, listen to how the sounds complement, contrast, enhance your intent. Where do you breathe? Is it clear from the poem? I know that my Mac desktop computer, and my Windows 7 laptop, have a text-to-voice program that will read your words to you. Usually this is part of “accessibility” options. Turn it on and try it.

There are two other general categories of poems that don’t make it into our publication:

— Those that aren’t quite the quality level yet, perhaps too cliche-driven, forced rhyme, or otherwise not appropriate for Apollo’s Lyre in subject matter. Not all poems are right for all publications. That’s where the search for publishers is important. Read back issues.

— Some incredibly wonderful poems may not be used simply because we don’t have room to publish everything we want, and/or we have other similar poems we’re using. Choosing is hard! Two poems about very similar subjects requires a decision about which one is “best” for us, at the time. I wish the poets success placing the ones I’ve passed on.

I’m as susceptible as anyone else when it comes to being treated fairly, with respect, understanding, and a willingness for a poet to work with me to edit a poem. Usually I’m right with my suggestions, since I’m approaching it with some distance; it isn’t my baby, but I care about it. Sometimes I’m wrong; I just didn’t “get it” about what was intended. When I’ve heard the background, I understand, and might suggest a few words be added to the bio, to help the reader understand, too.

I’m blown away at the talent out there, and here with our blog. I hope some of this helps you get ready for your next batch of outgoing angels. Help them fly to their destination, and not get eaten by the nasty gatekeeping trolls (like me!).

Let us know if you try this, and it works — we’ll spotlight your success. And, if you share other ideas of where to submit poems, we’ll keep an active spot here, giving you credit for it, of course.

Keep writing!

Michele

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