Invitation & Contest: The Write-Brained Network & WordWatchers

Last week, I announced the emerging of The Write-Brained Network, my online writing organization (formerly Shenandoah Writers Online).

YOU ARE INVITED

I’d like to extend a formal invitation to anyone out there stumbling upon this blog post who is a writer and who has not yet checked us out.  I’d love to meet you—virtually or otherwise. 🙂

We are doing some cool things, and I’ve love to have you be a part of them:

  • We currently have four satellite chapters starting up throughout the country—soon to be six!
  • Three members have also started subgroups by genre—currently, for YA (YAwesome Writers), horror writers (The Dark Ones), and literary writers (Literary Lovers)
  • As well, we are in talks about putting on an IRL conference possibly as early as next year!

Like I said—cool things happening.  I could not be more of a proud mama bear. 🙂

Click here to check out The Write-Brained Network.

CONTEST

This is our third month doing WordWatchers, and while we’ve had participation every month, I’d like to up the ante a bit for September.

This month, we’re competing for a prize (well, I won’t be, since I’m the one offering the prize, but whatever!).

No, I'm not giving out Grammys, but that would be cool!

One winner will receive a 10-page manuscript critique from moi, and one will receive ONE of a number of SIGNED BOOKS (I finally got my box o’ plunder back from the RWA conference, and there’s a ton of great stuff available in there—details forthcoming)!

To be eligible, all you have to do is:

1) Be a member of the Write-Brained Network.

2) Participate in WordWatchers.  Click here for details on what that is, if you don’t know. The gist: set a weekly word goal and WRITE!
3) Log your progress on the WB group wall and/or in the September WordWatchers discussion in our WB forum.

Don't let this alien beat you!

Here’s how the entries will be handled:
+1 entry for setting a goal and participating (publicly)
+1 entry for every day you log your writing progress
+5 entries for every week you HIT your weekly writing goal
+3 entries for every person you invite to join the WB (who joins!) between now and the end of the month*
+2 entries if you Tweet or blog about the WB*

*You will have to let me know if you invited someone and they joined or if you’ve blogged/Tweeted about the WB—I’m not a mindreader!

At the end of the month, I’ll have you tally your entries, send them to me, and I’ll pick two winners.

Sound good?

Metamorphosis: Shenandoah Writers Online Becomes The Write-Brained Network

A few weeks ago, one of the members of my online writing community [Shenandoah Writers Online] approached me about starting up a satellite chapter of our group.  I have SW(IRL) [Shenandoah Writers (In Real Life)], and she wanted to have something in her area of the country [the Pacific Northwest].

Introducing . . . the WB!

However, with the name of the online group being associated with the Shenandoah River Valley, said member suggested I change the name to be more inclusive.

I had two reactions:

1.) It’s an online group—and *most* SWOers aren’t from the Shenandoah Valley, so what does it matter what the name is?  If Marice can be one of us from Brisbane, Aus., then why do we need to change it?

2.) ZOMG.  What she’s asking me to do is start a writing organization.

The more I thought about that, however, the more I realized I *already had* started a writing organization.  And, while it seemed a bit scary to think of it in that way, my mind started going ping! ping! ping!, and it all sort of clicked into place.

When I started the online writing community, my goal was to bring writers together.  I wasn’t meeting a ton of writers in my area [I’d just moved to a new city and state], and I wanted to connect with other write-brained peeps and stay in touch with those I’d met at writers’ conferences.

As well, a big part of my love for writing is teaching people how to write and seeking advice from others who know more about it than I do.  I learn about my writing during both of those interactions—we all do.  Each connection we make enriches us that much more.

All that corniness [which I totally mean, actually] aside, I realized I have a “vision” for Shenandoah Writers Online.  That’s why, starting now, we will be known as “The Write-Brained Network” [or “the WB,” as I’ll nerdily be calling it].  We even have a new URL!

While we’re not going to be morphing into something completely different, we’re going to build our skyscraper on the great foundation we already have. 🙂  I’ve put a few things in place in order for that to happen—changing our name is just step one.

And, perhaps it’s a bit premature to state this, but I would like to have our own IRL conference sometime down the line.  That’s the five-year plan anyway.  Will it happen overnight?  Absolutely not.  But the wheels are turning, and I just happen to live in one of the most gorgeous, most peaceful spots in the country—in the Massanutten ski resort.  That has a conference center.  And a BAJILLION rental properties.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 😉

Anyway, that’s my vision for Shenandoah Writers Online—The Write-Brained Network—the WB.

We’re still going to be free to join, and we’re still going to offer all the same cool stuff as before—but now that our numbers are getting bigger, I think our scope should as well.  We have reached more people than I thought possible at our inception eight months ago, and I can’t wait to see where we’re going.

If you haven’t yet checked us out, please do.  We’d love to have you!

Live Chat, Lower Back Pain & Randomosity

Good Monday, kids!

I’ve been laid up all weekend with a bad headache and then crazy lower back pain (shoot me, please!), but I’ve still got something to report.

We’re having a Shenandoah Writers Online LIVE CHAT tomorrow night—Aug. 24—from 9-10PM EST.  We’ll be talking about our writerly problems.  Maybe someone will have the key to solving yours!

We’ve acquired quite a few more members since the last chat, so I’m hoping this will be a well-attended one.

You *do* need to be a member of SWO to get in on the chat, so if you haven’t joined yet, why not?  You don’t have to live in the Shenandoah area—we’re a community of writers from all over the country and one from Australia (we’re global, baby!), and we’d love to have you!

To join, click here or shoot me an e-mail.

MOVIES WATCHED THIS WEEKEND WHILE TRYING NOT TO MOVE BACK:

  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry—OK, not great
  • Failure to Launch—kinda meh, kinda OK
  • The Wedding Singer—awesome as always 🙂
  • Made of Honor—kinda meh, kinda meh

Housekeeping: RWA & SWO

I’m leaving for the Romance Writers of America national conference (in Orlando!) Wednesday, and I have—oh, I don’t know—a bajillion things to do between now and then.  So I’m not sure I’ll be as available as I’d like in terms of blogging and such, but I do plan to keep you posted throughout the week/weekend on my experiences.

Hey, Angela . . . I have a lot of crap to do this week!

For instance, I hope to regale you with tales of all the awesomesauce things I’m doing and learning—and all the faboo people I’m meeting.

I mean, I’ve already been invited to sing karaoke with my Twitter soulmate (or Twitsom, as we now call each other), Cambria Dillon and some other cool chicas.  So, that should be a decent story, right?

Um—did I mention Twitsom and I haven’t met yet?  But we share a love of all things YA, Sour Patch Watermelons, and triathlon-doing husbands, so I’m not worried.  We are going to rip on Tim Tebow and sing Lady Gaga, and all will be well with the world.

Unless, of course, we discover we are actually the same person . . . which could be the case?  There’s a SFF story just waiting to be written!  But I’ll let you know once I meet her Wednesday. 🙂

IN OTHER NEWS

HOLY CRAP—MEG CABOT IS GOING TO BE AT RWA!!!!  So, I’m basically dying.  And my flight gets in at almost the *end* of one of her author signings, so I’m dying in a different way over that.  <frownies>  But I’m hoping to stalk catch her another time during the conference.

M told me to wear my tiara when I meet Meg Cabot. Should I? SHOULD I?? Yeah, probably not. 🙂

ON TO OTHER BUSINESS . . .

Tonight—Monday, July 26—I’ll be hosting a live chat on Shenandoah Writers Online (from 9-10 P.M. EST.).  The topic is  writers’ conferences.  Bring any and all questions you have about conferences to the chat—and, if you’ve attended any such functions, we’d love to have you share your experiences!

To enter the chat, simply log into Shenandoah Writers Online and click “Group Chat” at the bottom right of the main screen.

You must be a member of Shenandoah Writers Online to participate in the chat, but we’d love to have you join.*

OK, that’s all for now.  Writing this blog post wasn’t even on my list—yeeks!

*Not an SWO member yet?  Click here to get started.

New WB Writing Program: WordWatchers

I was so impressed with the amount of participation we had in May with SheNoWriMo and I received so much positive feedback from SW(IRL) and Write-Brainiacs about the contest that I’d like to implement another, similar, writing program.

I drew my inspiration from weight-loss program WeightWatchers’s point system (in case that wasn’t obvious); however, instead of trying to reduce your mass, we’ll be bulking up—on words written, that is.

From what I gather, the WeightWatchers folks design a program—specific to each person—based on a number of factors: ideal body weight according to height, age, etc.

Hear me now, and understand me later. The WB is here to PUMP--your MANUSCRIPT up!

Participants are then given a number of “points” they are allowed to consume per day, per week, etc. (foods are assigned numeric values in the way of these points), and they can eat whatever foods they want to get to their allotted points—as long as they don’t exceed their daily/weekly goals.

THE PROGRAM

With SheNoWriMo, although participants picked reasonable daily word-count goals, sometimes life got in the way.  In that event, people usually caught up over the next few days.

That said, I’d like WordWatchers to be more like that.  Let’s stick to weekly writing goals.

The WB Network's (awesome) May contest (formerly Shenandoah Writers Online)

THE RULES

Set a weekly word-count goal.  Divvy up the daily writing however you want, but make sure you get to your WordWatcher word-count total by the end of each week.  Easy peasy.  This will allow you to take days off without the guilt—whatever fits your schedule.

For instance, if you think your schedule will only allow you to comfortably write 3500 words/week (that’s two pages a day), fine.  That’s your goal.  Post it on the WordWatchers discussion in the forum on The Write-Brained Network and on your WB “wall,” and have at it.

You can write one continuous piece or many of smaller pieces or—heck—even writing prompts (you CANNOT count blog posts, e-mails, status updates, or Tweets, however).

Just set a goal for yourself, and do the writing.  And keep us posted about it.  Ideally, I’d like all participants to keep a daily record (on their WB walls) of their progress, like last time—it was nice when we were all cheering each other on—but since WordWatchers is a little more flexible than SheNoWriMo, perhaps it’s more feasible for you to mark your weekly progress.  We can still root for the participants.

SOME WORDS ON WORD COUNT

"One . . . ah-ah-ah . . ."

As a general rule, 250 words = one page of writing.  That should help you gauge the amount of words to which you think you can commit every week.

Remember: Don’t be too aggressive.  Don’t make it impossible to reach your weekly goals, or you might get discouraged from continuing with the program.  However, don’t be wimpy with your goals, either; challenge yourself.

Essentially, tailor your WordWatchers program to your lifestyle as well as your writing tastes/purposes.

ON YOUR MARKS . . .

We’ll start July 1, so think about your ideal weekly word count, and keep your eyes peeled for the WordWatchers discussion on the WB forum.

As with SheNoWriMo, my ultimate goal here is to get folks writing.  Something.  Consistently.

I do hope a lot of peeps will consider taking part in it.*

*You must be a member of the Write-Brained Network to participate.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

This Week’s SWO Live Chat: Blogs & Blogging

As frequent readers of this blog may know, I am the coordinator of Shenandoah Writers—a “real-life” writing/critique group located in Harrisonburg, Va.—and Shenandoah Writers Online—a writing community open to writers of all genres and levels, currently with upwards of 50 members located all over the U.S. and one in Australia (we’re basically global 🙂 ).

This Tuesday, June 29, from 9-10 P.M. EST, I will be hosting our monthly SWO live chat on Shenandoah Writers Online.*  Our chats sometimes run over, if we feel so inclined, but the “official” time for this event is from 9-10 P.M.

This month’s topic: Blogs & Blogging

Come with your questions and/or expertise in this exploding area of social media.

Since last month’s chat, the Grou.ps network seems to have fixed some bugs and added some new features to the chat function—like chatting within the group, conducting private chats between yourself and another member & going “online” and “offline” in terms of chatting).  I’m hoping that means it won’t stick as much as it did last time.

Even if you can only stop by for a few minutes, it’d be good to have you poke your head in and say hello.**

*For more information about SWO, click on “Shenandoah Writers” in “Categories” in the right-hand side bar.

**You must be a member of SWO to participate in the chat.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

Thank-Yous, Shout-Outs & Gil Mantera’s Party Dream

I am extremely lucky.

First of all, my parents blow me a away.  Operation House Demo commenced over the weekend and, in the midst of all that craziness, as I said in my previous post, my husband’s grandmother passed away.  This prompted a 38-hour trip (19 of those hours, which were spent in the car) to Ohio and back for the wake and funeral.

While we were gone, my parents:

  • Took care of Molly (our beagle), so she wouldn’t have to endure unnecessary car travel (she gets very car sick)
  • Found plumbing issues in the bathroom and fixed them
  • Organized all the crap we bought for this project from The Home Depot that was piled all over our bedroom before we left
  • Cleaned pretty much our entire house (my mom was bored!)
  • Cut the grass
  • Bought us take-out for when we got home last night (What? Shouldn’t we have been buying them meals?)

Thanks a bunch!

And they did all this only to return home to Cleveland this afternoon to find that their entire basement floor (most of it brand-new hard wood my dad had just put in, like, a month ago) is ruined due to flooding that happened while they were gone.

I. Feel. Horrible.

The thanks I’d like to extend to them makes me also want to thank some writerly peeps for being so completely awesomesauce.

I’ve had three blog mentions (that I know of) in the past month, and I’d like to return the favor.  (If I am not mentioning you here and you’ve given me a shout-out, I swear I didn’t know!)

This faboo chica has made my life a lot easier over the past few months.  One of the most active members and always willing to help me out with wonderful content for Shenandoah Writers Online, Bridgid has been an absolute Godsend to me. And, as if that weren’t fantastic enough, she also provides me—as well as the rest of the SWO members—with motivation to keep going.

She and her co-contributors are doing some great things over at Inky Fresh Press, a group blog geared toward new writers, so please check them out.  She even mentioned this blog in her recent post, Great Blogs for Writers.  Thank you so much for everything, Bridgid!

Paulo is one of our newest SWO members.  Along with co-contributor Stephen Maher, Paulo runs yingleyangle, a writing blog which features (among a wealth of valuable posts on craft) a daily 10-minute writing prompt.

Paulo also mentioned this blog in his recent post, Recommended Blogs: Writing-Focused Blogs Worth Reading Regularly.  (Thanks, Paulo!)

yingleyangle definitely belongs on its own list, so make sure you stop by.

Martina, too, is a newer SWO member, and we are lucky to have her!

Along with co-contributor Marissa Graff, she offers one of the most comprehensive weekly industry round-ups I have come across to date.  Seriously—the first time I ran across their round-up, Best Articles This Week for Writers, I was floored; I don’t know how they have time to write any of the other amazing posts they do (not to mention, you know, how they go about their daily lives) after they’ve compiled this weekly behemoth of a blog post.

Also, I was extremely humbled to see that this blog made the cut last week.  Whether or not children’s publishing is your area, I’m sure you’ll find the blog useful.  Please check out them out!

ONE MORE SHOUT-OUT

  • GMPD

This has nothing to do with writing, but I’d like to thank Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, a kick-ass indie band from Youngstown, Ohio, for their albums (and, in particular, the following song, “Get Sirius”) which provided several hours of entertainment during our long drives the last few days.  The hubs gets to go see them in Philly this weekend, and I’m mega jealous!

This Week’s SWO LIVE CHAT & Story Openers

I’m hosting a live chat this Tuesday, May 25, from 9-10 P.M. EST on Shenandoah Writers Online.*

Our chats sometimes run over, if we feel so inclined, but the “official” time for this event is from 9-10 P.M.  Even if you can only stop by for a few minutes, it’d be good to have you poke your head in and say hello.**

TOPIC

We discussed story openers at the last Shenandoah Writers (IRL) meeting, and I’d like to further that conversation with the online group.

WHAT TO BRING

It would be great if you brought the opening line or lines of something you’ve written as well as the opening line or lines from one of your favorite books.

I would like to discuss what makes these openers successful (i.e., what hooks the reader, what we learn in the opening, etc.) as well as what we think are the elements of a successful opener.

This will also give participants a chance to workshop their own opening lines/paragraphs with the group and gain some feedback.

EXAMPLE

Here is one of the openings I’m bringing:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

What do we learn from this opening?

  • We gain some insight into the characters of the Dursleys:
    • J.K. Rowling (yes, this is the opening line to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) straight out tells us they are “normal” and happy to be so.  “Perfectly” in front of “normal” and the “thank you very much” shows that they are a bit snooty—it gives a sense of being uppity (a.k.a. we’re getting voice here).
    • Just from this first line, we learn the Dursleys are the type of people who don’t like their feathers ruffled—they like to maintain decorum.  They feel strange and mysterious things are nonsensical.
  • The first part of the second line (“They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious”) suggests to the reader that, although you wouldn’t expect them to be involved in something like that, they were involved in something like that.  Thus, the juxtaposition of these opposites—normal and strange—hooks the reader.  We want to know what it is they are involved in—and how these uppity people will deal with it/cover it up.

That’s just a taste.  I’ve posted some other novel openers—including my two novel openers—in “Files” on the SWO site, so please feel free to take a look.  If you’re not a member, see below to get started.

QUESTION

What do you think makes a good opening? 

If you can’t make it to the chat but would like to get in on the conversation, please leave your thoughts in the comments of this post.

*For more information about SWO, click on “Shenandoah Writers” in “Categories” in the right-hand side bar.

**You must be a member of SWO to participate in the chat.  Not a member yet?  E-mail me or click here to get started.

SWO Write-In Report

A few people asked how last week’s Shenandoah Writers (IRL) write-in went, so I wanted to share.  I thought it went very well!

Here's a pic of the coffee station--complete with three fancy creamers and E.L. Fudge Stripes. So fun!

All SW(IRL) members attended, and we each got a lot written.  Two members were actually handwriting—one was doing outlining and the other was working on a new short story, I believe.  Another focused on editing her current WIP, and I was, of course, soldiering on with Sheena.

The husband-and-wife duo writing upstairs did a combined 4000 words that day—very impressive—and we all went out for an early dinner to celebrate the beautiful weather and our writing success. 🙂

I’ll admit, it took me a while to get into the writing groove—I’m generally a shut-myself-up-in-my-office-and-write-in-complete-silence kind of a writer, but the words began to flow, once I buckled down.  I wrote about 1600 words that day, and once the clock struck five, I was actually sad we had to stop because I was really in “the zone” then!

A good day all around.  I’m sure we’ll do this again, and I suggest you try it with a group as well.  It’s an interesting and very different experience!

Shenandoah Writers: May 18 Meeting

Last night, at the May 18 Shenandoah Writers (IRL) meeting, we covered several topics.

SWO LIVE CHAT

  • May 25—9-10P.M. on Shenandoah Writers Online
  • I’m open to topic suggestions.  If you have any, please let me know ASAP.

CRITIQUING

  • Changes to the critiquing schedule
    • We are going to cover one person’s work at each of the next several meetings, instead of two. This is because we don’t want to short-change the second person being critiqued at a given meeting (by rushing it, etc.)—plus, we don’t want to spend the whole time critiquing, when I’m sure there will be other things to discuss.
  • Page limit for critiques
    • When you’re up for critique, submit the first two chapters, not to exceed 20 pages.  For essays or short stories, just send the whole thing.

Awesome cartoon by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, from Inkygirl.com

  • How to send
    • Person being critiqued must e-mail the group a copy of his/her critique submission no later than one week before the next meeting (so, you have up to a week to get your crit submission together and then the rest of us have a week to read it/comment)
    • When you send your crit piece, make sure you are sending a .doc file, so we are all able to open it.
    • E-mail being sent to all members with everyone’s email addresses
  • How to critique
    • Dave brought in some awesome handouts of not only constructive ways to critique but also areas in which to critique.  When he sends me the files, I will post them in the forum on the SWO network, so we can all access them.
    • We agreed that all critiquers need to have a hard copy of the critique submission printed out & brought with them to the meeting. This means each person will need to print out his/her own copy prior to coming to the meeting.
    • Ideally, you will have read and commented right on the submission before each meeting.

    • At the meetings, either the author or someone else (I don’t mind doing this for everyone) will read the submission out loud, so the author can hear how it sounds/catch awkward or unwieldy sentences and so everyone can have the piece fresh in his/her mind. This will also enable critiquers to write down more notes as the piece is being read.
    • Each critiquer will discuss positive comments and constructive criticism on how to improve/clarify/etc.
    • At the end of the critique session, each member will hand in his/her hard copy to the author so he/she has something concrete for reference when revising.
  • Openings assignment
    • After we hammered out the details, we spent some time going through various novel openers and what we learned about the book from them.
    • This was a little awkward to do with just three of us, but I think it went OK over all.
    • I will post my handout to SWO, for anyone who wants to take a look.
  • Next meeting
    • The next meeting is June 1 @ Barnes & Noble (7PM)
    • Dave is up for critique
    • I would also like to discuss journalistic writing & freelancing a bit after we critique because I will be putting together my class on that subject for the Southeastern Writers Association at the end of June.
      • Anything you think I should include, I’m all ears.
      • I would also like to know what writers unfamiliar with or new to how to approach journalistic writing & freelancing NEED TO KNOW—so bring any questions you have as well.