Get Ready for WriteOnCon!

WriteOnCon is near and dear to our hearts at the Winged Pen because it’s where a lot of us first connected. I’ll be attending this year and I hope you will be too! If you haven’t before, here’s some tips on making the most of it.

What is WriteOnCon?

WriteOnCon is an online writing conference. No pricey registration fees. No hotel rooms required. No extended time away from the family. All you need is $5 and Internet access.

And if you’re asking yourself if it’s worth $5, let me tell you, it’s worth a whole lot more! Not sure? You can check out a the keynote presentations for free. If you want access to everything, pay a few dollars more. Check this post for all the details.

The presentation schedule opens this Friday, the 9th, but the forums are open now. Check them out!

How Do You Do WriteOnCon?

First, Register and Create Your Profile

Register here. You can add as much or as little info as you like in your profile, but remember, what you get out of WriteOnCon depends on what you put in. Yes, you can be anonymous and just view/read the presentations. But we’re writers so it’s all about the words. Don’t you want to meet some writers in your favorite genre and/or category?

A quick bio is all you need to introduce yourself to other attendees. Don’t have a bio? Start with a simple one. Just give us a glimpse of what you write and a bit about your personality. Need an example? There’s one at the bottom of this post and every other Winged Pen post.

Don’t forget to include your social media accounts. You can keep up with new writer-friends more easily after WriteOnCon if you’ve followed each other on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Check Out the Schedule

There are three-days’ worth of presentations, some video and some written. The conference covers everything kidlit from picture books to young adult. And new this year — new adult! Craft topics include researching historical fiction, creating strong character voice, writing romance, outlining plot and character arc and more. Gain insight on the publishing industry by checking out talks by literary agents and the truth about being a New York Times best-seller from Beth Revis. You can even pitch agents your manuscripts! Whether you’re a newb or have been writing for years, there is something worthwhile!

The Forums: Get Feedback on Your Writing and Help Other Writers

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, it’s time to dig into the central part of WriteOnCon, the words. You can post your query, the first page of your story, and/or your first five pages for feedback by other conference attendees. You can also pay it forward by helping other writers hone their words. To do this, go to the forums. The forums are broken up by category, so head over to picture book, middle grade, young adult or new adult whichever is appropriate. Remember to be kind and use the critique sandwich – something you liked, something you think can be improved, and a last shot of encouragement.

If you get a great AH-HA! moment from comments you receive, revise real-time. Post revised queries or pages at the top of your entry so that new readers will see that, not point out the mistakes others have already noted. And remember, the best way to get help revising your own work is to reach out and help others.

Superheros

The WriteOnCon Superheroes are authors, agents and editors who will be visiting the forums and providing pro-level critiques. This is a great opportunity!  Because the early fund-raising campaign for WriteOnCon was so successful, the superheroes will be trying to provide feedback for everyone. I can’t image how they could make it through all the queries and pages. There were hundreds of posts last year. But that’s the plan. Look for superhero comments on your own posts and on others because you can a learn a lot from their critiques even if they aren’t on your writing.

Will I see you at WriteOnCon this week? I hope I do! Stop by and say hi! And remember amid the rush to hear all the presentations and to give and receive tons of feedback, to relax and enjoy the words and make sure you make a couple new writer-friends!

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on TheWingedPen.com.

What Can We Learn About Character Arc and Pacing from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II? (Spoiler free)

guardians of the galaxy
Photo courtesy of Marvel.com

Months ago, my fourteen-year-old son saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy II, and insisted we see it in the theater. We all liked the original movie and the trailer looked good, so on a cloudy, not-too-promising Saturday morning, we planned it as a family outing. By the time we arrived at the theater, my son, my daughter and I were still excited, but my husband looked up at the now-clear sky and said, “If I’d known, I’d have planned a hike.” This was prescient of further differences of opinion.

The movie started out strong, with well-loved characters fighting off an enormous and seemingly invincible alien. The plot moved swiftly, with all the dashing, diving and blasting you’d expect from a science fiction blockbuster. And then, after the first plot point in the story structure was hit, things slowed down for character development. This slowdown was the source of the diverging opinions.

The first movie in franchise, fans among you know, had five beloved characters: Peter, an adventurer who lost his mother to cancer when he was young and has never known his father, Gamora, raised to be the perfect weapon by the antagonist of the first movie, Drax, who lost his entire family to that antagonist, Rocket, a genetically engineered racoon who has never known any more family than Groot, the sentient tree who is his constant companion. To these characters, GOTG II adds Gamora’s sister, Nebula, and Yondu, bandit and father-figure to Peter.

If you are not a GOTG fan, you may have found yourself skimming through that long list of characters, so imagine what happens when the script writers slow down the sci fi special effects and bad-guy bashing to explore the wounds of each of these characters. All seven. In most cases, the characters are paired off so that their wounds could be explored in duos as opposed to seven separate scenes. Still, by the second of these scenes, I leaned over to my husband to whisper, “and now we will pause for character development so that at the end of the movie, we’re satisfied everyone’s issue has been resolved.”

Continue reading “What Can We Learn About Character Arc and Pacing from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II? (Spoiler free)”

Using Setting to Create a Three-Dimensional World for Your Story: THE URBAN SETTING THESAURUS

urban setting thesaurusWe received a free copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s The Urban Settings Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces in exchange for an honest review. Since we’re fans of their Emotion Thesaurus as well as their thesauri of positive and negative character trains, we were excited to dive in. (See our review of the other books here.)

The Urban Setting Thesaurus is a wonderful resource for a fiction writer! The bulk of this book and its sister craft book, The Rural Settings Thesaurus, is comprised of two-page entries describing dozens of settings that could pop up in any fiction genre — from a police car to an emergency room, the stands of a sporting event to an art gallery. Each entry provides a wealth of sensory words describing the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and even tastes that characterize that setting.

In the recording studio entry, you find sights like vocalists warming up, cords running from instruments to outlets and recording equipment, and the “recording” light to let you know to keep quiet. You hear humming or instruments being played, smell takeout Chinese food or coffee, and feel the snug fit of headphones over your ears. If your scene takes place in a setting you’ve never been to, this thesaurus can help you craft the experience your characters will encounter in a way that will make your story feel more real to your reader.

Continue reading “Using Setting to Create a Three-Dimensional World for Your Story: THE URBAN SETTING THESAURUS”

Write Believable Heroes, Villains, and Emotions with The Positive/Negative Trait Thesauri and The Emotion Thesaurus

RebeccaThe Emotion Thesaurus has had its own special place on my writing desk forso long, I had to look on Goodreads to see when I’d first read it. January 1, 2014. I’ve been using it for a while.emotional thesaurus

When I first started using the book, it opened my eyes to conveying emotions through actions. Well, okay, I used the easy ones all the time. The shrugs, nods and raised eyebrows. But the thesaurus helped me think about a more diverse range of actions humans use to convey emotion, and more subtle ones. I mean, you can only have characters’ brows furrow so many times in one story, right?

As I continued my writing journey, I started making notes on the pages. The thesaurus isn’t exhaustive; it only lists as many expressions as can fit on one page for each emotion. It also focuses on adult, mainstream characters. Where are the fist bumps for my middle graders? The face palms? I created my own mini-Emotion Thesaurus with the frequently used quirks of for my characters. I did this partly for character consistency throughout a story, but also to make sure that different characters’ expressions are distinct enough. I don’t want all my tweens biting their lip every time they get nervous.

Even with my personal Emotion Thesaurus, I still turn back to the original. When I’m stuck on how a character might convey their emotions in a scene, I like to push back from the keyboard for a second and visualize the action like a movie. What feels like the natural expression? When doing this, a scan through the appropriate page in The Emotion Thesaurus starts the ideas flowing.

Laurel: When coming up with a new story, writers can use The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus as:

  1. Paint chips. To “shop” for character flaws and strengths. Sometimes I have a feeling about what’s going wrong for a potential character, but I can’t quite figure out what flaw or strength it is. When I read through the table of contents in either of these thesauri, my characters can try on a trait for size. My imagination doesn’t always call these traits by the same names so having a list helps me tease out what kind of positive traitscharacter I’m writing about. Without the thesauri, you have to hold two things in your mind at once: what your character is like and what possibilities there are. I love tools that free up my imagination.
  2. A Story Trap. The Reverse Backstory Tool in the appendix of The Negative Trait Thesaurus is the perfect trap to catch core of your story on the page. Take ten minutes to try it out and see what I mean. (Download it here.) For more, see my blog post here.
  3. A Ratchet For Conflict. The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus include a section for each trait called: “Traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict.” Let that sink in for a moment.

Laurel and I want to send high-fives and a big “Thanks!” to Angela and Becca for these great resources. I’m sure you can imagine why we’re excited about the new tools coming out this week, The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus. Find out more about them here.

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

laurelLAUREL DECHER writes stories about all things Italian, vegetable, or musical. Beloved pets of the past include “Stretchy the Leech” and a guinea pig that unexpectedly produced twins. She’s famous for a nonexistent sense of direction, but carries maps because people always ask her for directions. When she’s not lost, she can be found on Twitterand on her blog, This Is An Overseas Post, where she writes about life with her family in Germany. She’s still a Vermonter and an epidemiologist at heart. PSA: Eat more kale! 🙂 Her short fiction for adults, UNFORESEEN TIMES,originally appeared in Windhover.

Fangirl Report: Catching Maggie Stiefvater on The Raven King Book Tour

maggie stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater. Photo by R.J. Allen.

I am an unabashed fangirl of great writing, and have the photos to prove it here. So when I heard that Maggie Stiefvater would be nearby on her book signing tour for The Raven King, the fourth and last book in The Raven Cycle, the date immediately went on my calendar. Luckily, someone cheered on Twitter about getting off the wait list for an earlier stop on Maggie’s tour because…what? Sold out seats on a book tour? I found out when the tickets would go “on sale” (they were free but registration was required.) Good thing. They were sold out the next morning.

Tickets in hand, next on my “to do” list was catching up on my Stiefvater “To Be Read” list. I’d finished Shiver and The Raven Boys. I’d read The Scorpio Races at least two and a half times. But The Raven King is the fourth book in The Raven Cycle. I had 848 pages of The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue to devour in two weeks. All I can say is: thank goodness for audio books!

IMG_3251An Unlikely Story, the book store hosting the event, has a huge room above the retail space which was filled to capacity with over a hundred and fifty fans. Maggie didn’t disappoint. She spoke for forty minutes without any notes, relating and sometimes acting out stories from the tour (she stayed in a luxury silo and a haunted house in Connecticut while traveling), on research for The Raven Cycle (She visited Welch castles and ley lines while deathly ill), and of racing John Green on a dirt track in Minnesota (John Green crashed his car and it caught fire. He’s fine now. Maggie won.)

Maggie also relayed some writerly advice that I was sure friends at The Winged Pen and subscribers would appreciate. When asked about her writing process, Maggie said she spends a lot of time on research. “I’m not a very good writer. I’m a better thief.”

Hmm. I’m going to go to work on my thieving skills.

She related the story of selecting her undergraduate major. Maggie got into her first-choice college and knew she wanted “an extraordinary life” that combined her love of music, art, and writing. She auditioned for the music department at the college. She was rejected. She could not be a music major or even take lessons. She submitted her portfolio to the art department and was rejected. Maggie had already written several books and submitted her best to the English department. Again, she was rejected. Maggie majored in history and was not allowed to take a single class in music, art or writing while at college.

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Maggie Stiefvater. Photo by R.J. Allen.

Maggie said she knew  the “no’s” from the professors weren’t personal. She considered them a “not yet” and a challenge to come back with something even more impressive. Hitting the New York Times’ bestsellers list qualifies!

Thanks to Maggie for so many great books and for her inspiring story of perseverance! Find out more about Maggie on Tumblr.

 

 

RA 2985
Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids.

Unlike many writers, Rebecca did not write her first story at age eight…at least not fiction. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and wrote for her college newspaper. But her first fiction course scared the bejeezus out of her! Having overcome her fear of fiction, Rebecca loves see how much trouble she can get her characters into, and sometimes back out of. She’s on Twitter and her website is here.