Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Single-Word Edits

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5. Give Yourself a Break

You’re awesome. You have awesome ideas. This is guaranteed to be true.

Thing is, sometimes our awesome ideas get onto the page in a format where we think it’s good, but that’s because we can read our own intentions rather than what we actually wrote.

To have a better chance at catching little mistakes, give yourself a break – two weeks is ok, a month is about perfect – and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s amazing how many sentences you’ll have forgotten about, and this will help you read reality.

Also, it feels really good to read something you wrote and enjoy it.

4. Look for Pretentious Words

I’m not saying to get rid of all big words. The words I’m talking about are the pretentious kind, those big words that don’t need to be big for any reason other than ego stroking.

Multi-syllable, uncommon words can cause many readers to stumble. Even you, with your writer’s vocabulary, sometimes come across words you don’t know. What happens when you’re reading in a place without a computer or dictionary (or, more common, when you just don’t feel like looking it up)? You skip that sentence and hope it didn’t matter. Words that could cause your readers to stumble may draw them out of the experience and weaken the overall effect of a passage.

This doesn’t always happen with big or archaic words, too. You can do it with something ordinary. For instance, look at this line from my favorite whipping boy, Eragon:

He tried to pull away, but her hand was like an iron talon around his ankle – he could not break her tenacious hold.

Besides the fact that the sentence isn’t even necessary in the passage it appears, focus on the phrase “like an iron talon.” Not only does it bring up no immediate images – unless you’re a DOTA player – and thus mean nothing, it’s full of harsh words that convey melodramatic concepts. It’s over the top despite only including well-known words. Look for things meant to make you look powerful or smart with no other purpose and give them the ax.

3. Search for Word Overusage

All of us have those little words we like to pepper into our writing but don’t realize it. I use “know” far too often. My boss FREAKING BETTER STOP overusing “utilize.” Sometimes, you can find words you overuse with a Word Frequency Counter.

I searched around and came upon this word frequency counter for browsers. The reason I like it is because I don’t have to use a certain program (like MS Word) and because, with a .org domain name, I feel like it’s not quite as suspicious as some of the other sites I saw out there.

But a word frequency counter doesn’t always cut it – there’s character limits on those apps, and at a point you’ll have such a long list of words that you won’t have a good idea of what’s too much or not enough. If you want to have a better idea of which words you overuse, get a beta reader.

2. Gnaw Away At Those Adverbs

I’m not one of those people who want to get rid of adverbs. I think, when used judiciously, adverbs can add to a sentence. However, they can also serve as filler. Words such as “quickly,” “suddenly,” or “immediately” tend to add very little to a sentence.

For instance: did you notice I used the word “very” in that last sentence? If I deleted it, the sentence’s meaning wouldn’t change. The impact wouldn’t change. All “very” accomplished was make it longer. If the word doesn’t add to the sentence or passage, why keep it? Why waste your reader’s time?

Rather than include unhelpful words, zoom in on your adverbs and delete them. Re-read the sentence, then decide if the adverb added enough to keep it.

1. Get Rid of Half-Hearted Verbs and Filler Words

This is the one I need to focus on.

Verbs are so various, rich, and distinct, that it’s a shame to use ‘is’ or ‘has’ when something better (but not pretentious!) could be used. Better verbs can reduce the use of adverbs or helping verbs. Helping verbs may also be a sign of passive voice which, while useful, reduces impact of sentences.

Several filler words clutter first-drafts. In most cases where “she started to” or “he began to,” you can get rid of those halfway verbs and just focus on the meatier verb. “That” is the plague of concise writing; when I edited one of my novels, I found over 500 instances of “that” which could be slashed from the pages. That’s 500 words which ended up going to good use as part of a new chapter exploring character growth.

Here’s a short list of words to keep an eye out for:

  • That
  • Start
  • Begin/began
  • The helping verbs
  • Know/knew
  • Said
  • Nod
  • Sigh
  • Uh, um, or other mumbling words
  • Like
  • For the love of all that is holy, just say “use,” not “utilize”

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

Looking for more things to consider as you write? Perhaps just want to listen to someone with more authority than me? Then enjoy these links. I’ve noticed that a lot of the same advice floats around, so definitely check out how many hints are shared between them!

Necessary Fiction’s “A Month of Revision” (Strongly recommended – lots of tips for novel writers)

The above-mentioned “Word Frequency Counter” app

My own “Think Before You Thesaurus

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed? Something you’d like to focus in on? Leave it in the comments! Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s first prompt!

5 Types of Research for Your Novel

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This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re looking at research! I’m hoping this is fun enough, and you can join in the prompt here. I’d love to see your participation!

5. Historical Research

This is a very fun type of research to do because you get to read stories about people who lived in the past. Long-time readers of my blog know my time period of choice, and you can expect that I’m fair at looking up information on it. That being said, I don’t have a degree in history, so take me with a grain of salt.

Something I like to do with historical research is look up historical sites and find recommended books from their website. Even better, you can visit – most of the time, historical sites have at least one historian working there who can help you really get into the way of things. I’ve been to the USS North Carolina battleship museum multiple times, and I love what I learn there.

If you are studying a period of history before the stupid “1924” public domain year (though, luckily, that cutoff is actually moving again), the Gutenberg Project is a trove of good info. I have found several 19th century books that help me with my research, and that’s fantastic!

Also, there’s video. I’ve mentioned the ration reviewer YouTube before, and that’s incredibly helpful if you’re doing a war-focused story (sorry, civilian rations aren’t as common on those channels). If you’re looking at 18th (and some 19th) century information, Townsends on YouTube is so good. For my focus, I’ve also loved the BBC series Lords and Ladles, which looks at how to make 19th-century feasts.

Do you have any advice on historical research? I’d love your comments!

4. Science Research

This is my day job, so I do this all the time. There’s a few things I find important about research for science fiction, and the main one is science communication is garbage.

Science writing is very different from literary writing in that many fields purposefully use convoluted language, esoteric buzzwords, and horrifyingly stupid organization. Beyond that, “peer-reviewed” science writing is often in journals behind ridiculously expensive paywalls (something like $40/article, in certain cases) if you’re not at a company or school with general access to journals. Beyond that, these articles require a reader to have a certain amount of background information and access to other information in order to understand any paper, even at a basic level.

A graduate student takes about 6 months of training to get up and running in one (1) field.

So what can a normal person do to get up on the new research?

Pop science articles can be helpful to find a subject to research further. Often, once you establish a subject to start with, you can go to a library or do further research on the internet. Sometimes, authors of a journal article will pay the publisher to have their article be open access, and you can read it. Seminal papers are also often free to access. For important science info that will help you build a sci-fi story, this should be adequate (and people who give unsolicited advice otherwise are probably just trying to show off). Accurate scientific knowledge is helpful, but most people do not have access to information and can’t refute you.

You can also try to find a scientist in the field willing to work with you. If you email professors, you can ask if there are graduate students willing to help. It’s probably better to email someone in the departmental office to ask their grad students in general, and even then you need someone special to happen to read that email.

Beyond that? Lobby your congressman to force scientific information be more readily available to everyone. The scientific publishing industry is a scam, and everyone knows it.

3. Etymology

Once you start researching etymology for your writing, you won’t stop.

If you’re doing historical fiction, etymology becomes essential to making your dialogue distinct and timely. One of my favorite old-timey words is “poltroon”, a 19th-century word for “coward”. Because it came from Italian to French and coward came from an older French, we can assume that “poltroon” carries out a very specific function in only a small time window. When the word came into English, the French were very powerful and culturally influential, which implies this word may have also had a haughty air to it.

The subject can help you determine how to regionalize your speech, how to add nuances that you might not have been aware of, and more.

2. Locations and Climates

It’s a pretty famous fact that Stephanie Meyer had never been to Forks, Oregon before writing Twilight, which takes place in that sleepy little town. Yet, you can tell there’s been a lot of research into the town because she does describe things that seem realistic (I’ve never been to Oregon, can’t confirm).

And now, with the internet being basically ubiquitous, you can look up info on almost anywhere.

  1. You can get basic info on almost any small town off Wikipedia.
  2. You can digitally walk through many towns (and rural areas) using Google Street View. This is one of my favorite ways to get inspiration about a town.
  3. The USDA gives a Plant Hardiness Map that’s pretty neat-o for American locations. The country you want to write about probably has a similar map available.
  4. Annual rainfall maps can be helpful to determine how wet it is. I swear, it doesn’t rain enough in books.

Beyond that, just read about your setting, read about inspiring settings, and think about how it will affect your book.

1. Diversity Based Research

Location and climate often go hand in hand with diversity based research, and there’s something we all need to realize while we’re doing it:

If we don’t live it, we probably will never get it perfect.

As a Southerner, I find books about the South written by non-Southerners always miss nuances. There’s something about being Southern that is impossible to put your finger on but absolutely necessary to make it feel right.

That doesn’t mean avoid the culture, gender, sexuality, age, ability, religion, etc. that other people may have a better handle on. It means realize your limitations and do your best to overcome them. Read forums, articles, books, whatever it is to help you get into the mindset as best you can.

I’ve found this type of research to be very difficult. When I’ve written about black characters (which one must when writing about the South), it’s been a struggle to get it right. Getting even the representation of hair right is difficult for white-bread me, but I do my absolute best to find advice (and, lucky for me, I did already know that hair is a difficult issue). Even little things are major elements of getting other people’s lives represented correctly.

So, for this category: do research diversity, and do include diverse characters. Be bold. Try not to make mistakes but forgive yourself for failure.

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Have you done book or story research recently? Tell me something you’ve found out – or, better yet, make a blog post about it join in the prompt here!

Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Making Stuff Funny

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This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on something quite silly – making humorous writing!  Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.

5. It’s Not Lying – It’s Hyperbole!

A great way to introduce just a dash of something funny is to exaggerate it. In what way could making something just a bit more extreme force it into the realm of hilarious?

One of my favorite examples of this is the title of the 1965 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; it includes 4 mads, which is just one past anything reasonable. To me this is funny, but to other people it’s frustrating. There is definitely a balance between taking things too far and not taking them far enough.

In a similar vein, you’ve got understatement. This is pretty popular in British comedy, which I think is why I love it so (there’s even a Wikipedia article about English understatement). Think Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, wherein eating babies and using their skins for gloves is spoken of as a nonchalant thing.

4. Political Jokes Are a Thing

Polandball is an old set of memes that are probably my favorite Reddit jokes of all time. In these poorly-drawn comics, different balls dressed in the flags of different countries interact and show national/international stereotypes. For instance, here’s my favorite one:

giphy

The joke is making fun of the American stereotype of intense patriotism. I post it somewhere every 4th of July.

The humor of political jokes is often tied to people’s perception of what is wrong with the world or a certain people group. Though you might not realize it, the “You might be a redneck if…” jokes are political because they make fun of a people group. They make fun of a socioeconomic status. Sometimes these jokes can elucidate important elements of change or things that you want to see improve.

Political jokes have a dark side, though: sometimes the joke will pry into the very tenderest corners of someone’s heart and cause them pain. I’m of the opinion that this isn’t really a good thing, and I try to not hurt people’s feelings with jokes. Even if I’m
“just joking,” hurting someone’s feelings still means I hurt them. So I try to be careful and am aware that I should own any failures in that department.

3. Puns

I’m a big fan of puns, but this section will serve more as a warning than anything else.

It’s an easy concept to understand – use one word cleverly in a sentence where another may be expected, or use a word to imply something else. They’re common in every language and culture, and many people enjoy the puzzle-like nature of these jokes.

There’s a lot of downside to puns though. Sometimes the puzzle is too hard to get, and it will pass over people’s heads. Sometimes it’s too common a pun, and people will find your joke poorly made. Other times, the pun may be in poor taste, even if unintended. Lastly, your audience may determine just how much you can get away with: an international audience won’t necessarily know enough about your language or cultural niceties to get every linguistic joke.

As a whole, use puns in writing sparingly. They cause too many groans, and too many people hate them. Readers may punish you for this sort of humor.

2. Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

An element of randomness can often bring a chuckle. The Spanish Inquisition sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (and the rest of Monty Python, really) are a great example of how random, incongruous things can add humor. In the full Inquisition sketch, the three cardinals show up at several random times and break into hilarious questioning of subjects. They even put a lady on the rack, which happens to be a dishrack they turn to tighten some strings ineffectively.

Pitfalls of this sort of humor are going to far and doing it too often. The tone of your passage will of course determine how much you can get away with, but there’s always a point of too much. In the Monty Python sketch, there’s always a lead in with a normal character saying “What is this? The Spanish Inquisition?” to another normal character. Spongebob lives in a pineapple under the sea, but it fits the show’s overall tropical themeHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy runs right along the edge of acceptability in my opinion, as do similar works like Space Opera.

So, use this most powerful weapon of funny with glee and caution!

1. Not Everyone Will Find it Funny

Humor is in the eye of the beholder. I know that I simply cannot appreciate a certain kind of humor (I’d tell you about it but I can’t explain it), but plenty of other people laugh hysterically at it. No matter how funny you are, no matter how many people tell you that you’re funny, others will say you’re a wet dishrag.

So, get some health insurance, find a therapist, write something to make other people laugh, and make use of that sweet, sweet healthcare.

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

This Writer’s Digest Article has some really cool hints that are rather detailed. For instance – did you know the “k” or hard “c” sound are considered the funniest in English? I sure didn’t!

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed?  Something you’d like to focus in on?  Leave it in the comments!  Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s prompt!

Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Rewriting Prose

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This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on a major editing skill – rewriting!  Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.

5.Critically Read The First Version You Made

I don’t mean just remember what you wrote last time.

Unless there’s a good reason to ignore what you’ve already done, look at what you’re trying to replace and figure out why. Write some of those things down if you want. Know where you are and where you have to go. I’ve rewritten the entirety of novels before, but I needed to understand what sorts of things went wrong the first time.

Another point of reading critically is to decide if you need to rewrite or if a passage just needs editing. It’s really great if you can have an alpha or beta reader, because they can give you another perspective. Rewriting is done when a scene in its entirety needs to change. This usually happens to me when the process to get from A to B doesn’t make enough sense.

Read it critically. Make notes about what you want. Then put it away as much as you can. If you use the old version too much, you’ll end up with the old version at the end.

4. Does It Need to Exist at All?

On major hurdle I have toward rewriting is getting rid of useless statements and passages. If I wrote it in the first place, it needs to be there, darn it!

But we all know that’s not necessarily true. When you read, you want the author to give you good stuff to read. A bunch of useless babble can slow down the book, make it confusing, or make readers focus on parts that aren’t important. This isn’t Victorian England, and you’re not Charles Dickens – in today’s market, you aren’t going to be promised payment per word before you show your chops.

Here’s some tips to  clean out unnecessary stuff:

  • Did you skip over it when you read the paragraph? People skip things when they read, and it’s for one two reasons: either the info isn’t worthwhile, or they’re looking for something different. If you skipped it when reading, consider if it needs to be moved or get the ax.
  • How many times do you say it? If you’ve given that piece of information before in a similar manner, you might not want to do it again. Give the statement a good think.
  • Do you feel bored? Don’t fool yourself that you’re bored because you’ve written/read it before – try to think critically about it. Get rid of boring.
  • Delete it. Read the paragraph/passage again. Did it flow? If so, you can probably keep it out.
  • Give yourself a break. Don’t work on that story for a while; when you come back, you might have a fresh enough outlook that you can read what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write.
  • Listen to your beta readers! If they’re bored with a passage, pay attention – even if you don’t need to delete it, figure out what kind of oomph the passage needs.

3. Remember, Rewriting Isn’t Editing

Part of why I suggest writing something brand new without using the old version as the skeleton is the temptation to change individual words or fix grammar and call it good enough. Changing words and grammar is important, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, you want to add a new feeling, change the logic of how the characters got to a certain plot point.

Put away the old version while you’re rewriting. Make something new, make what you think you want this time. Think about where you want to go and write it. If you use the old version, you’ll end up with something substantially like the old version. Remember, it’s fine to edit, but when you need to rewrite – i.e. when you need to do something substantially different – it can be helpful to get rid of what you don’t want.

2. Merge the Old and New Versions

It helps me, once I’m done, to re-read the old version and try to see if there were old parts that I forgot in the new version. I have to be really critical about this, though, because I didn’t think the element was important when I started the rewrite. Usually, I rewrite for a specific scene to get from point A to point B, and the things I add back in are hints or foreshadowing that I had left out.

Another reason to merge the two at this point – being selective with what you use from the old version – is you can examine who the characters are. If you’ve finished a book or story with dynamic characters, you may want to check afterwards to be certain you have the right stage of character. You will want to make sure they don’t know twists or secrets they learn later in the book.

1. Save The Old Version

I can’t stress this enough – SAVE OLD MANUSCRIPTS! You probably won’t come back to it after enough time has changed, but you never know. As well, just having that older version on your computer gives you more evidence of when you wrote it, gives you a record of your process, and may contain ideas that you’ll want to re-use later.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten a story then wished I could at least compare it with an older one and make sure it was the best it could be. Save it for peace of mind if nothing else.

When I write a book, I create a dated version. If I’m just adding a chapter to the end, I just keep the same file. When I need to edit or rewrite any portion of the file, I’ll create a new version with a new date. At the end, I’ll put all the versions except the final one into a folder, then zip them together. You can use 7zip to compress it further than you can with just a .zip file.

At some point, you’ll declare your work done. Be proud of where you’ve taken it.

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

Other people have a ton of advice about editing and rewriting.

Necessary Fiction’s “A Month of Revision” (Strongly recommended – lots of tips for novel writers)

7zip zipping software can help you store a lot of archival information in a small space. You’ll never have to feel bad about taking up too much memory on your laptop or desktop ever again!

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed?  Something you’d like to focus in on?  Leave it in the comments!  Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s prompt!

Witty Nib Writing Club #2 – Rewriting Your Prose

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The Witty Nib Writing Club seeks to provide an opportunity to engage in constructive writing activities online. Comments are key here at the writing club, and we’d love to have you join us!

For more information on the Club, follow this link to the club’s main page.

Quick Rules of the Club

To have your post included in the roundup, do the following:

  1. Make a post that follows the month’s theme. Using a pingback or a comment on this post, make it available to other club members.
  2. Comment on someone else’s post. Be constructive!
  3. Fill out the form below. Make sure you put good links – both to your post and the post you commented on.

Unless there’s a lot more responses than I expect, I’ll be checking those links! Even if you don’t want to comment, you can put your post in the comments and I’ll do my best to check it and comment myself. 🙂

This Month’s Theme

This month, we’re going to focus on something important in writing – heavy editing! Editing can include linguistic changes, character changes, or changes to the entire course of the passage.

  1. Choose a passage, 500 words or less. It can either be one of your own works, or it can be from a published work (make sure you cite it!).  I’m going to use my favorite whipping boy, Eragon, in my post next week. You can use that passage if you want!
  2. Rewrite the passage, improving it. At the end of the post, point out one thing you did that improved the passage. You can change whatever you want!
  3. Comment on at least one other person’s post. Be constructive if you can, supportive if you can’t!

This means linking to your post in the comments below.  I’ll approve pingbacks, but you might want to comment if you don’t see it show up soon. I’ll read your stuff if no one else does!

The Form

Leave a link in the comments for other people to participate with.  This form is for the end-of-the-month roundup.  If you want to be included in the roundup, you’ll need to use this form.  If the form doesn’t seem to work, I’ll see what I can do for the next post.

 

Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Memoir Writing

06092019 Writing Club

This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on memoir!  Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.

5. Tell the Truth

Sometimes you’ll want to embellish it.  Sometimes you’ll want to tone down some of the bad stuff.  In both cases, however, you’ll want to avoid it.

Telling the truth enriches your story and allows a human element to shine through.  When someone is reading a memoir, they’re looking for a story that draws them into the reality of someone else’s experience.  Stories from your life already come with a richness and detail that make them full of character and drive.  Tap into those feelings, share the themes and drive within your story.

Even if you’re able to create a convincing lie, a story that isn’t true isn’t doing service to a reader who believes it.  Respect the reader and give them something about you to chew on.

There are two instances where a lie may be necessary: the easy one is a lie of omission.  Since you won’t be telling your whole life story, either for this club or in any medium, sometimes you’ll need to cut things that might seem important.  The second is to change people or place names in order to protect the innocent.  If you don’t have permission to post a story with a real person in it as a character, change enough identifying information that they can’t be picked out. If you can’t protect others, consider telling a different part of your story.

4. Focus on a Single Story

I love reading biographies, but they’re not the same as a memoir.  A biography states the course of an entire life, focusing on how formative events in one era can shape the decisions in a later.  It is more factual, dry, and somewhat historical.  A memoir is a small story that focuses in on small, formative events.  These events are told in a narrative form and evoke emotions.  They entertain. 

When people publish their memoirs (plural), what they’re publishing is a collection of memories and small tales.  That’s why you often see memoir, singular, to describe a small story.

So get into small, gritty details.  Look for formative events and determine what messages they sent to you and will say to your audience.

3. Determine Your Audience

Memoir is often used in a therapeutic sense.  In this case, writing the memoir can help one work through a tough time, or help us remember a good event.  It can be peaceful and calming to recollect the past.  When writing with therapeutic purpose, however, the audience is the self – or the self and a loved one or therapist, at most.  When the self is the audience, the goals are to please yourself and follow the flow that helps you.

When writing for a larger audience or with the intent to publish (i.e. if you were writing a Chicken Soup for the Soul story), things change.  How do people other than you look at the story?  Are the same things important?  Is there an overarching feeling or message conveyed in the story?

When writing for self, the purpose is to get your emotions out.  When writing for others, you need to suck their emotions into your story.  This doesn’t mean you can’t write about the same events for either cause, it just means you may need to think about where the entertainment and enjoyment are coming from.

2. Don’t Worry About Having a “Boring” Life

I’ve read plenty of great memoirs in which nothing of real, plot-worthy note happened.  Sometimes it’s just a person sitting around, doing nothing, while the world seems to crash in on them.  It’s about the development of character and emotion.

As well, something to remember: your ‘boring’ life is someone else’s exciting.  When I was growing up, I thought nothing about my grandparents’ rug, but then in college my now spouse alerted me to the fact that normal people don’t put actual sawblades on their floor.  My spouse thought swimming was something normal people did, but I was very impressed and interested in how people could do competitive swimming.  You are never too boring.

1. Remember, Good Writing is Good Writing

Check your grammar, read over your writing, tag dialogue appropriately: these are things useful for any prose.  Just because you’re writing a true-to-life story doesn’t mean you’re safe from these elements.

One important element of memoir is voice.  You want your voice to come through when you write, and sometimes it can be tempting to do this as literally as possible.  As a redneck, I have plenty of relatives with speech patterns that don’t fit standard English.  However, standard English is what most people know how to read and interpret.  Find your balance between good sentence structure and your own dialect, and don’t underestimate the importance of being able to read something without much effort.

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

Looking for more things to consider as you write a memoir?  Perhaps just want to listen to someone with more authority than me?  Then enjoy these links.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the same advice floats around, so definitely check out how many hints are shared between them!

Reader’s Digest “Great Tips on How to Write Memoir

New York Publishers’ “How to Write a Memoir that People Care About

Standout Books’ “Six Tips for Writing Memoir

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed?  Something you’d like to focus in on?  Leave it in the comments!  Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s first prompt!

Introducing the Witty Nib Writing Club

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When I was involved with a writing club, I learned a ton of excellent strategies, styles, and other writing niceties.

Since then, I’ve found blogging, Twitter, and other social media to be great for meeting other writers and readers interested in the craft, but there’s something missing in the sphere: a low-risk, accessible outlet for creative growth.

That’s the niche Witty Nib Writing Club hopes to fit into.

Interactivity Centered

In the Witty Nib, one of the cornerstones of the club is comments.  In fact, the submission sheet requires you to give the URL of a post where you commented.

One of the great things about WordPress and Twitter is the encouragement you get from other writers.  99% of the time, that’s exactly what you want.

Sometimes, though, it can be useful to receive constructive input. When you comment on a Witty Nib post, remember to say something constructive.  Use techniques like compliment sandwiches, asking thoughtful questions, and using quotes or evidence from the original text to comment on.

Witty Nib Themes

Each month, Witty Nib participants can partake in a writing theme. These themes can be genres – like fantasy, drama, or historical fiction – or they can be techniques, like alliteration or onomotopoeia. I’ll post here some hints, tips, and thoughts to get you started, but it’s up to you to take that and make it into something awesome.

I’ll post a new theme on the first Wednesday of each month and do a roundup at the last Wednesday of the month.  Responses need to be given by the Saturday before the last Wednesday of the month in order to be included in the roundup.

Your Responses

There’s three parts to getting the most out of the club.  You can do parts and not all of the response, but I’ll only include complete responses in the roundup.

  1. Write a story, poem, or essay that fits the theme and can be critiqued by other people. Your story or poem responses should fit the theme and be less than 500 words long.
  2. In your post, point out 1 or more elements your response contained that could help improve others’ writing.  If you got the idea from someone else, mention that!
  3. Comment on at least one other person’s post. Be constructive if you can, supportive if you can’t!

This means linking to your post in the comments below.  I’ll approve pingbacks, but you might want to comment if you don’t see it show up soon. I’ll read your stuff if no one else does!

To go into the roundup, I’ll need you to fill out the form.  The reason I want this is because I think it’d be crazy for me to go through all the comments to make sure you commented – I could be searching for eons!

Witty Nib Month #1 – Memoir

Memoir is a great way to start so we can meet each other and practice writing flash fiction.  Write something fun, fresh, or frightening for others to enjoy.  Remember to put one hint or tip at the end of your post, leave a link to your post in the comments below, and comment on another person’s post!

Because this is the first month and I’ve expounded upon the rules in insane detail here, I’ll be making a follow up post with hints and tips for writing memoirs.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

The Form

Leave a link in the comments for other people to participate with.  This form is for the end-of-the-month roundup.  If you want to be included in the roundup, you’ll need to use this form.  If the form doesn’t seem to work, I’ll see what I can do for the next post.

 

Chemistry and Peace

Everyone who knows me probably sees my name and thinks, “Oh, it’s the prompt nut.”  You’re right.

One thing I’ve realized since curating a page detailing many prompts is that there are LOTS more prompts out there that you might not know about.  So, until I either get tired of it or run out of prompts to talk about, I’m going to start an effort to highlight some of those prompts which don’t get enough love.

Today, I’m showcasing Write Now, a prompt that hasn’t seemed to come across the radar of my corner of Writing Blogs.  The objective of Write Now is to encourage people to write something for 5 minutes or more in a stretch.  The prompt for February 19th was:

“The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.”

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1BNA

I made this picture using UCSF’s Chimera and PDB file 1BNA.

The award she received was unexpected and, some thought, undeserved.

The audience seemed unhappy at her receipt, but they clapped nonetheless, beamed with false smiles on false faces.  She took to the podium, received the golden statue, and bent the microphone to better receive her speech.

“Thank you,” she said, her harsh tones causing the speakers to crack and whine.  “I never expected to win an award for my work in biochemistry, even though my discoveries have really been effective.”

The audience knew what she’d done to receive the Nobel in chemistry.  And the old people didn’t like it, either.

“Since Global Castration efforts have gone into effect, my nanobots have systematically hidden from any attempt to destroy them.  They have killed any sex cell, foetus, or human with genes they find inadequate.  Because of this, all of humanity is stronger, and we can now face the effects of global warming without having to sustain the dregs of society.”

On her way back to the seating in the room, the Peace Prize winner came up the stairs.  “Bitch,” she said, then clocked the chemist and took the prize away.

5 Easy Ways to Get the Most out of Blog Writing Prompts

A lot of people enjoyed the resources on my post about writing prompts on blogs, so I decided to make this follow-up post in case you decide to take the plunge and join in any of those adventures.  Here’s a few hints and tips for making the most of prompts on your blog!

5. Follow the Prompt Rules

If you’re new, it’s understandable if you don’t get prompt rules, but to everyone else reading those entries can still feel like getting a CV when you asked for a resume.

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A lot of prompts have complicated rules (I think the Terrible Poetry Contest is probably one of the most complex), but most prompts have rules to do with 1) word counts and 2) word usage.

Following prompt rules can help other people know what to expect and not be disappointed when they click on your work.  Like I tell people: there’s nothing like drinking from a glass expecting Mountain Dew and getting milk.  It’s not fun to click on a link thinking you’re getting a nice, quick, 100-word story and finding a 1000-word story.

Moreover, some curators won’t post your contribution on their round-up if you didn’t follow the rules.  If you want your work to be showcased at the end of the submission period, it’s safest and best to fit in the expected form.

4. Leave a Comment on the Prompt Page

You can leave a pingback (let me know if you want a post on pingbacks).  You can also post a comment that is just a link to your posted story.  But I suggest a little more – comment on other people’s work, perhaps say something about the prompt or something encouraging.  Show sympathy when you should, excitement or praise when you think it right.

Comments show you’re interested.  Be interested.

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Even if you’re just in blogging for your own self-interest, this interest can get people looking at your own site.

3. Respond Quickly

This is the one I’m saddest to put up here, but it’s true.

Even if a prompt gives you a week to respond and be included in the roundup, the sad fact is that a lot of people will respond, look at the comments currently in play, and not use the roundup to see what they missed.  The earlier you comment, the more likely people will see it.

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If a prompt goes live on Sunday, you’ll probably have until Monday to get full effect and Tuesday for most effect.  Don’t feel afraid to respond if it’s later – it’s definitely worth it to post later rather than not at all – but you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck if you post and comment quickly.

2. Don’t Impress, Express

So, I just said to post quickly in order to drum up views.  There’s a little problem with that…

If you post too quickly, you may not post your best work.

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It’s the ol’ fiend of blogging – quantity vs. quality.   Blogging for the sake of blogging, for the sake of ‘impressing’ other people, might not keep people coming to your site.  If you aren’t able to come up with something good on a quick timeline, it’s probably still better to hold off.  If it’s not meaningful to you, your work probably won’t be meaningful to other people.

1. Ignore Most of My Advice

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Sometimes, it’s just hard to follow ALL this mess.  You’re tired, it’s been a crap day, and you just want to do something on your blog so you don’t fall off the edge of the earth.

On those days, you can do none of the above.

In some cases, you might not be able to come up with something meaningful, no matter how much effort you put in (for example, Tenderloin was a post I think was terrible on my part, but I wasn’t going to come up with a better response for ‘travel’ at the time).  In these cases, do something.  Just something.  Show your prompt-giver that you want to try, that you’re still there to support and encourage.

Sometimes, you might not want to read others’ posts or leave comments.  Don’t do it – don’t burn yourself out.  Let yourself have that leisure if you need it.

There are times when you read a prompt and get inspired to do something outside the confines of the contest rules.  Write that – let your inspiration guide you, and only fit in the rules if you can.

All these tips are so malleable, and meeting your goals, having fun, and meeting other people is truly the main goal.

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Are there any blogging questions you have?  Little tidbits you’ve learned from responding to prompts?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!