Three WEbooks Get the Green Light

Ever since WEbook’s
first voting cycle
ended on August 1, WEbookers have been waiting
patiently to find out which books would get the green light.  The
wait is over! But before I break the big
news, let’s take a moment to reflect on how we got here.

Starting July 4, WEbookers submitted over 200
books to the first voting cycle.  The community took a look, and
voted on which books they liked best. After voting closed, the WEbook team
carefully considered all the books which made the top 10%, and chose three books that we
believe represent the best of the best. We’ve contacted the authors, and we’ll be sending them publishing
contracts in the next few days. If all
goes as planned, you’ll be seeing these books in print by early 2009!

And now…the envelope, please…the winners of the first ever WEbook vote are:

Things Every Man Should Know How to Do

From fighting a bear to buying a used car, from cooking a
steak to stoking her fire, from the simple to the scandalous... this is the
"How-To" guide your father forgot to give you.

The Legend of
Vinny Whiskers

Zoo gone wrong.  Animals attacked in their own
cages.  One prairie dog to save them all.  A fantasy novel inspired
by real events.

Shirt for Dessert

Marley Barley sucks on her clothes. Why does she do it? No one knows! Nothing beats creative problem solving when attempting to balance the
scales of a child's diet.

What’s next?

You can get in on the editorial fun by leaving your feedback
for the chosen projects.

WEbook’s next voting
cycle will be accepting submissions beginning October 21. Voting begins November 4 – election day! Writers are invited to submit complete,
polished manuscripts. At this time, WEbook can’t consider single stories or
poems, unfinished books, or book proposals. You can also submit work to a group project – each Project Leader
decides when to submit the project for publication. If you’ve participated in a group project that
you believe is ready for publication, send the Project Leader a note
encouraging him or her to submit the project!

-- Melissa

WEbook Guide to Feedback, Part 2: The 5 Rules of Great Feedback

At last! The
much-anticipated second installment of WEbook’s
3-part blog covering the ins and outs of giving and receiving feedback on WEbook.  The first
in the series dealt with the golden rule of feedback: Give, and you shall receive. Today’s post teaches you how to give great
feedback. Part 3 will tackle the tricky business of how to respond to the
feedback you get.

The 5 Rules of Giving
Great Feedback

I took my first creative writing class in college, way back
in the 1990s. Since then, I’ve taken
more writing workshops than there are volumes in Proust’s epic novel Remembrance of
Things Past
(That’s seven
volumes, for anyone who forgot to major in English.) There were the Writing Salon classes in San
Francisco, the Natalie
Goldberg workshops
in Taos, two years of grad school in Columbia
University’s MFA program
(plus two more years finishing my thesis) – not to
mention the writing workshops I’ve taught over the years, and the thousands of
pages of writing I’ve read and critiqued here at WEbook.

All this study taught me something about writing, sure, but
it taught me even more about the value of feedback – and about what
distinguishes good feedback from bad. WEbook is all about community, and that means
reading and critiquing each other’s work. But how can we be sure that the comments we leave for our fellow WEbookers’ poems, stories,
articles, and novels are worth the (metaphorical) paper they’re printed on?

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way.

Rule #1: Identify the writer’s goals.

The fundamental point of giving feedback is to improve a
piece of writing – and that means helping the writer get closer to achieving what
he or she set out to do. You can assume
that Mr. Generic Writer wants his work to be enjoyable. He wants to draw his readers in, and make them
care about what he has to say. He wants
his writing to be understood.

Beyond that, different writers might want to achieve
different things. Mr. Generic Writer
might want to make you cry, whereas Ms. Universal Writer wants to make you
laugh. If you can’t tell what a writer
is trying to do, that’s a problem, and your feedback should focus on that. (“I can’t tell if I’m supposed to laugh or
cry when Jimmy’s dog drowns in the kiddie pool. It would help if I knew what Jimmy’s reaction is – maybe you could show
him burying the dog afterwards.”)

Once you think you know what Ms. Universal Writer is trying
to achieve with her work, your feedback should be designed to help her achieve that
goal. If you don’t care about what Ms.
Universal Writer is trying to do, don’t leave feedback. This rule is as much for your protection as
Ms. Universal Writer’s – with so much writing out there to care about, why
spend your time and effort on anything you don’t believe in?

Rule #2: It’s not about what you like. It’s about what works.

If I had my druthers, the words “I like” and “I don’t like”
would be eliminated from all writing feedback. (Unlike the word druthers.) Good feedbackers look for
things that work and things that don’t work. Once you’ve identified a writer’s goals, find
elements of the writing that work towards those goals, and elements that keep
the writing from being all that it can be. Maybe the dialogue effectively creates suspense, but the setting isn’t
fully realized enough to add atmosphere. Maybe Jimmy is intriguing, compelling, and realistic, but Jane could use
more development. Remember: If you care enough about the writing to spend
your time giving feedback, you should be able to find at least a few things
that work, even if there’s a lot that
doesn’t work so well.

(Note: There’s a
difference between feedback and praise. Dedicated writers need and deserve both. If
you want to praise a writer’s work by telling him or her how much you liked it,
by all means go ahead! But keep in mind
that, if praise is silver, feedback is gold. If you do have insights about what works in a piece and why, as well as
how to improve the parts that don’t work so well, don’t keep them to yourself!)

Rule #3: Be specific. Be specific. Be specific.

I’ll say it one more time: Be specific.

When you tell a writer what works and what doesn’t work, give
specific examples from the text. Instead
of saying, “The dialogue creates suspense,” say, “The dialogue is suspenseful
because Jimmy doesn’t know that his dog drowned in the kiddie pool yet, but
Jane does. Every time Jimmy says the dog’s
name, my heart leaps into my throat because I wonder if Jane’s going to tell
him, or if she’s going to wait for him to go around the back of the house.”

Instead of saying, “Jane isn’t believable,” say, “Jane doesn’t
ring true. She’s supposed to be a teenage
rebel, but in this chapter she’s shopping at Nordstrom while holding a
Starbucks latte, which makes her seem more like a yuppie.”

Rule #4: Give suggestions for improvement.

In an ideal feedback world, every time you identify
something that doesn’t work, you’ll give the writer one or more absolutely
brilliant suggestions for how to improve it. In the real world, sometimes we can tell that something’s wrong, but we
don’t know how to fix it. That’s fine –
maybe the writer, or another person giving feedback, will find an ingenious way
to address the problem once you’ve been kind enough to point it out. But to take your feedback from good to amazing, give the writer some ideas about
how to strengthen the weak parts of his or her work.

“Jane doesn’t ring true. Maybe, instead of shopping at Nordstrom while holding a Starbucks latte,
you could have her crash her mom’s car through the window of Nordstrom’s while
drinking Windex. Then I’d get a sense of
how angry and out of control she is, and it will be more believable when she
drowns Jimmy’s dog in the kiddie pool.”

Rule #5: Know the elements of the craft.

Rules 1-4 are pretty great rules, if I do say so
myself. But it’s awfully hard to
identify what works and what doesn’t, and give specific examples and
suggestions for improvement, if you’re not sure what elements make up a story,
poem, or non-fiction article.

The list of elements you might look at when critiquing a
piece of writing is far too long to cover exhaustively here. Luckily, there are a few universal starting
points for prose, both fiction and non-fiction. (Critiquing poetry is a different animal. Rules 1-4 will serve you well with poetry,
but the specific elements of craft that go into a poem are outside my area of
expertise, so this will have to be covered another time.)

Language and word
Does the writing make
sense? Is it grammatically sound? Is it pleasant to read, or awkward and difficult? Leaving the subject matter or storyline
aside, is the writing interesting or boring? Believe it or not, good feedbackers can identify exactly what makes
writing “boring” – often, the writer uses the same sentence structure over and
over, or sticks to very plain, literal language.

Characters. Whether the writing is fiction or
non-fiction, if it has people in it, it has characters. Characters should “come to life” on the
page. They should be people we want to
read about, people we can see and hear in our heads. This is accomplished through the judicious
use of dialogue, interior monologue (the character’s thoughts), physical
actions, and description. When
critiquing writing that has characters, take a look at how the elements of
characterization work together.

Setting. Setting includes all the physical details of
place included in a story – the sights, sounds, smells, and tactile feelings. Some settings may be too detailed, so that
the story gets bogged down in what color the walls are, or how many steps it
takes to get from the front porch to the car. Other settings might not have enough detail, robbing the reader of the
chance to fully experience the world of the story.

Story or plot. This is, quite simply, what happens in a
piece of writing. It may seem like the
easiest thing to critique, but it can be difficult to separate from other
elements of craft, especially structure. (See below.) Story or plot includes that all-important aspect of writing good prose
(especially fiction and creative non-fiction) – conflict. When giving feedback about story or plot, consider
whether the events that take place in the piece of writing are compelling,
believable, and interesting.

Structure. Whereas story
or plot
is what happens in a piece of writing, structure is how the writer presents those events. The structure of a story (even a true story)
is one of the most important  things to consider
when giving feedback. When you read a
story, consider how it’s told. Does it
start at the beginning, move to the middle, and end at the end? Or does it start at the end, jump back to the
beginning, and segue into the middle before circling back around to the
end? There are many valid ways to structure
a story – as a feedbacker, you are concerned with whether the structural
choices the author has made work or don’t work. Structure also includes things like pacing – does the author reveal events just
as they happen in real life – one after the other, after the other? (Real-life pacing can be surprisingly
boring.) Or does he or she slow things down
or speed them up at appropriate moments?

As you practice giving feedback, you’ll get better and
better at identifying how different elements of craft contribute to the reading
experience. You’ll be able to help a
writer improve his or her work by focusing on specific parts of the writing
that can be improved to meet the writer’s goals.

And the absolute number one coolest thing about learning how
to give good feedback?

If you can do all this for another writer, you can do it for
yourself. You’ll learn how to edit and
revise your own work, and your skills as a writer will improve

Still to come: Part
3: What to do with the feedback you

-- Melissa

"Mini-Lit" is a Hit with WEbookers

We’ve heard of the MINI Cooper, mini golf, Minnie Driver,
Minneapolis, and Mini Me. But what about

This week’s edition of TIME magazine offers an article on
the emerging popularity of "mini-lit:" Crisp, fresh, hard-hitting pieces
that say plenty without plenty of words. It seems that 12-word novels, six-word memoirs, and five-word (we prefer
) movie reviews are all the rage.

While “mini-lit” may be new territory for some writers and
readers, WEbook features a host of projects that prove WEbookers are on the cutting
edge of the Twitter meets literature trend. In fact, several of WEbook’s most active projects are filled with submissions of 10 words or less.

Along with The Pure Imagination Dictionary, WEbook minis include
Haiku Life Stories—a collection of 17-syllable memoirs; Six Word Stories
(and its sequel)—WEbookers tackle everything from love, war, family, and
friendship in just six words; and Briefness per Letter—another collection of
six-word stories, each about a letter of the alphabet. (Did you know “Q” is
) It might be, but WEbookers aren’t
when it comes to creating and contributing to creative “mini-lit” projects.

Sure, Mini Me is cool.  But we’ve got MiniWEs!

Featured WEbook Project: Pure Imagination Dictionary

Do you ever get the jeelys? Or perhaps you are frequently overcome with the urge to relard? Maybe you just need to engage in some insantics
before you get bonusfried,
and become an utter failboat.

If this sounds like you, you’ll want to check out The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
where WEbookers are coming together
to create new words out of the discarded parts of old words. The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
is so much fun, I contacted Project Leader Kaoru to find out where she got such
an incanidea. (That one’s my very own – bright idea, of course!)

explains it all:

is my coworker at a call center. We
sometimes have anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes between calls. It turns out
Rebecca_Grey and I both
like to write, and for entertainment during the dead times at work, we would
make up words for things that really have no adequate description. She started
us off with funsies.
Then I came up with obnoxicity
to describe one of our callers.

“After a while, it occurred to me – I bet the WEbookers
would love it
!  Before Volume One
was even finished, I was laughing so hard I cried. Rebecca_Grey and I are
pretty serious most of the time in our creativity, and this was a no-pressure
way to be creative and have a few laughs together.

“We are now fondly calling the project Prozac for the soul.  I can't
tell you how much fun we've all had, and I would absolutely love to have it
published – preferably with the comments included, so that readers can get the
full effect of the hilarity and fun behind this project.  If you can read The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
and still be depressed, you deserve to be!”

In order to deal with the huge amount of submissions she
gets, Kaoru creates new volumes
of The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
on a regular basis – right now, the dictionary is growing at a
rate of a new project every couple of days! Ultimately, she plans to take the best submissions from all the
projects, alphabetize them, and compile them into one gigantic imaginatory
reference book.  The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
is currently in its sixth
– Volumes One, Two,
and Five
are no longer accepting submissions, but be sure to check them out if you’re in
need of some cerebral

If you have the perfect imaginary word to contribute, visit
the most current volume of The
Pure Imagination Dictionary
word could be the entry that catapults Kaoru into utter spizziness.

WEbook Projects

Got a line on a great WEbook
project? Visit my profile and send me a message
with the subject “Featured WEbook Project,” and I’ll consider it for a spot in the blog!

-- Melissa

WEbooker of the WEek is a Sight for Sore Eyes

How’s this for radical: A WEbooker
of the WEek
who hasn’t written a single article, story, poem, or chapter on
WEbook. She hasn’t written any reviews,
either. And, as far as I know, she hasn’t
said a peep on the forums

So what the heck has she done? Janis contributed her considerable
talents to My First Year
with Mommy
, one of the books up for contention in WEbook’s most recent voting and publication cycle – not as a
writer, not as a reviewer, but as an illustrator. (Check out chapters 2, 4, and 7.)  Storytime
I liked Janis’s pictures so much, I asked
her to send along samples of her other work. As it turns out, she’s not only a fantastic children’s illustrator, she’s
also been a full-time freelance graphic artist and medical illustrator for the
past three years.

Says Janis, “While my career is deeply
rooted in these professional practices, my route to finding these professional
titles has been filled with interesting diversions, surprising paths,
spontaneity, and chance; most of all, though, it has been filled with hard work
and an unyielding love for art and its creation.”

As a child, Janis loved anything creative and
artistic, and she started studying the basics of art at the ripe old age of
five. Once she entered high school, she
switched gears, becoming interested in science and medicine. Bigmoon
She graduated from the University of Delaware
with a pre-med degree in biology – but something inside her was restless and
dissatisfied. After much contemplation, Janis decided she needed to be an
artist.  She enrolled in the medical illustration MFA
program at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York – “A
program,” she says, “which uniquely blended my two passions: Medicine and art.”

Currently, Janis is finishing her Master’s
thesis, a 7-minute cartoon about the pathology of addiction and mental
illness. She lives in Greensboro, North
Caroline with her husband and their three cats, and she spends her days working
on medical illustrations, artwork for children’s literature, and animation. Janis
may have found the perfect balance. In her own words, “I am still open to the glorious
possibilities that my artistic career path may yet provide, and enjoying
tremendously what I have already achieved.”

That’s all well and good, Janis, but inquiring WEbookers want to know…

Q: How do you spend a typical Saturday night? How about Tuesday?

A: My
favorite thing to do on a Saturday night is cook a good meal and share it with
friends. Along with this meal there should be some good wine, a game of Scrabble,
or a movie. Occasionally I like to have an adventure, like going out dancing or
to a play or a show involving a favorite band.

My favorite thing to do on Tuesday night
is get home at a decent hour from work and hang out with my husband, play some
wii, or read a book.

Q: What was your favorite book as a kid?

A: That’s a tough one. I loved
all the Golden Books.  And as an adolescent I was nuts about V.C. Andrews... so embarrassing. (Blogger’s
note: I used to have to hide V.C. Andrews
books from my mom, who was justifiably horrified by their trashiness.)

Q: Do you do your dishes right away, or do you leave them sitting in the

A: I
absolutely, without a doubt leave my dishes in the sink, rotting, for days on

Illustration_girl02WEbookers, if you’re looking
for an illustrator, drop Janis
a note. And if you know a great
illustrator, invite him or her to the site! We’ll soon be running competitions to find graphics for some of our next published WEbooks (to be announced
this Thursday) – the more the merrier!

of the WEek

Do you have a line on the wonderfullest writer
on WEbook? The fantastickest feedbacker? Or
anyone else who goes above and beyond to make WEbook
the best writing, reading, and publishing community on the internet? Visit my profile and send me a
message with the title “WEbooker
of the WEek
” to nominate your favorite WEbooker and he or she will
have a shot at joining the ranks of the immortals – and getting a free WEbook T-shirt to boot.

-- Melissa

WEbook + Level 4 Press = Five New Poetry Anthologies

Level 4 Press founder
and editor William Roetzheim is teaming
up with WEbook to gather submissions for a
series of poetry anthologies.  Level 4
is a small press with approximately thirty-five titles currently in
print, and several new titles coming out during 2009.  The press focuses on
high quality writing in general, with a particular interest in poetry.
Roughly 75% of Level 4 Press titles
are poetry related.  Level 4 Press
titles have garnered 9 gold medals and 28 finalist awards in various literary

WEbook poets are
invited to contribute their best work to these anthologies. William
will edit and select poems to be included in the books. For complete submission guidelines and information
about the terms of publication, please visit the project you’re interested in
submitting to.

Poems of Nature
Contribute poetry about nature. Submissions will be grouped by animals, insects,
Earth, wind and storms, landscape, and Trees.

of Ghosts, Evil, and Superstition:
A collection of spooky poems. Write about haunted buildings, ghosts, the supernatural, murder, and death.

of Inspiration and Faith:
inspirational and devotional poetry. Topics
include western religion, pagan religion, eastern religion, questioning
religion, and inspiration.

Poems of
This anthology collects
poems about courting, unrequited love, beauty, love, separation, redemption,
and commitment.

Nursery Rhymes:
Be the next
Mother Goose – updated for the modern world.

Happy writing, WEpoets!

-- Melissa

Guest Post: Top Ten Things to Love about WEbook

is so enamored with WEbook, she sent me
this list out of the blue, with no ulterior motive other than a burning thirst
for a WEbook T-shirt. (Which I promptly quenched – it’s in the
mail, GranisGrazin!) The list made me laugh out loud, and I
decided to share the mirth with my devoted readers. Enjoy, and happy Friday!

Top Ten Things I Love
about WEbook

10.  This place is open to everyone and anyone, any
time of the day or night, and has more places to play than a Carnival Cruise
ship on a sea day!  You can dine on any kind of fare at all hours.
Pick your poison!  Go to the Midnight Buffet, dive into prime rib, try a
burger Caribbean style, or slip down for an impromptu bowl of ice cream with
any topping you can imagine!  If that sounds like too much walking, check
your updates for Room Service.

9.  Someone is always telling you how wonderful you are, but before you
get too fat on the praise to get out of your cabin, someone will bite into you
with some well-deserved criticism and trim you right back down to size.
And isn't it nice to have cabins that can be FIVE stars, instead of just
four?  It is those danged threes, twos, and (gasp!) ones that I
hate!  But we can all strive harder for a balcony cabin, right?  Most
days, I will settle for ocean view.

Hey! Another way to look at this....they hand out free BOO-Z!!!!!  (Good
one...put that in The
Pure Imagination Dictionary

8.  Repeat customers get real deals on subsequent cruises!  Watch
your invites and friend requests!  You see?  This place really
appreciates that you chose them to cruise with, and wants to see more of you!

7.  You can always upgrade your cabin!   Just listen closely,
and it happens!  Doesn't cost a thing but listening, learning, and

6. They want customer comments!  Yup, willing to listen to your
suggestions on forums
and even answer when you email them!
(Shhhh!  Don't tell, but I think every week they have a drawing from the
customer comments and give away a free word or two!)

5.  Oh, the music!  Any tempo, any style.  Oldies, but
goodies?  You will find them here!  Pop, rock, hip hop.
Country, classical, and even cowboy ballads!  (I think I even found some
pirate music the other day, but I wasn't sure if the, “Yo, ho” was rap or not...
I was almost sure it was pirate though, because the words went: Yo ho
ho and a bottle of rap!

4.  Do you know they make your own bed for you here, and leave notes about
tomorrow's activities, and leave neat little mints to eat on your pillow? Yup.  I love my WEBook cabin!

3.  There are always some really good shows to see!
I am talking star quality here!  And the best part is, there is no price
of admission, and you actually can meet and talk to the stars, and more than
likely they will even sing karaoke with you!!!  What is more, a lot of
practice on the Amateur Nights will give you a chance to be in the BIG show
with them!

2.  The whole excursion is tax free!  But ....not duty
.  Somehow, believe it or not, I like that.  I think it is
appropriate and fair.

1.  You don't have to get off at the next port.  You can stay on this
cruise forever!

-- GranisGrazin

Jeff Howe's Crowdsourcing Book Now Available

You may (or may not) recall me gushing about Jeff Howe and the talk he gave about crowdsourcing at Book Expo America back in May.  Now his book is out!  Crowdsourcing:  Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business dissects the phenomenon of communities coming together to innovate, create, and build -- and often market and purchase -- products and ideas.  Sound familiar?  If you've been writing, reading, feedbacking, rating, or voting on WEbook, it should.  Check out Jeff's nifty video trailer to find out more.

-- Melissa

Featured WEbook Projects: Imagination Loves Company

“Fiction is the truth
inside the lie.”
– Stephen King

Today’s Featured
WEbook Projects
are dedicated to WEbookers everywhere who enjoy
telling truthful lies. These five
projects will give you a quick dip in the fiction pond – perfect training for your
next imaginary triathlon.

Fight the Laze

This project began as a challenge between two friends to
create short stories based on randomly generated lines. Example: “A retired bowler finds buried treasure at the bottom of Lake Michigan.” Your story should include a bowler, a treasure,
and Lake Michigan, though your bowler doesn’t have to find treasure in Lake
Michigan. Writers submit one story per
week. The project is open to new participants – if you would like to join, send
a message to SimonGloam
or fyrephlie.


I wrote about Collecting People
once before in this
, and it’s worth another mention. WEbookers are
creating a collection of portraits, written or visual. Portraits can be factual or fictional, poetry
or prose, pictures or words. This is a
great place to work on a character profile for a longer work – or to create a character
just for fun! Submit your portrait here.

Got a Minute?

A repository of short fiction for the time-starved writer
and reader. Got a Minute?
is a good home for general short fiction – and a great place to go for a quick read between all
your important meetings and online chess games.

Fresh Flash

Flash fiction (very, very short fiction – generally under
1000 words) is more and more popular these days – and Fresh Flash is
flash fiction with a WEbook twist. Project participants are invited to type
their bite-sized story into WEbook’s text
editor on the fly – no composing ahead of time. What a great way to build your creative muscles!

Coffee Break

Former WEbooker
of the WEek
gives fiction writers a helping hand with her prompts, ideas, exercises, and
tips. Coffee Break
provides a jolt of inspiration with structured guidance on creating characters,
plot, setting, and more.

WEbook Projects
is accepting nominations! Next week’s topic is “writing about place.” I’m interested in fresh, creative takes on
setting – think beyond the guidebook! If
you know of a great WEbook
focused on a specific geographical location, visit my profile and send me a
message with the topic “Featured WEbook Projects.”

-- Melissa

Creative Writing Advice #8: Make Your Poetry Concrete

Today’s WEbook Writing Secret comes from WEbooker Moot_Caroo. Mr. _Caroo is a senior at the University of Illinois, studying poetry and rhetoric. In his previous life, he served in the United States Navy; studied radio, television, and film at the University of North Texas; and worked as a journalist, photographer, and essayist.

Connect Your Poetry with an Audience: Make it Concrete

One of the most valuable things my poetry mentor ever told me has to do with one simple word. It is the most commonly used word in poetry, and it’s also a pitfall for new writers. Why? Two reasons:

1) Writers know the word intimately, yet they don’t know how to write about it.

2) By using the word, writers fail to connect with the reader, because the word automatically invokes the reader’s own associations, including associations from watching movies and TV, hearing songs, and reading other poems and books.

Do you know what the word is?


The next most commonly used word is soul. Love and soul are abstract concepts, along with denial, anger, fear, faith, and despair. Loneliness, depression, elation, and lust are others.

Suppose you have a feeling – an emotion that only you have experienced in your own particular way. Many readers out there have had similar experiences, but their experiences aren’t identical to yours. How can you connect?

Make your poem concrete. Fill it with facts, objects, sounds, and smells, instead of abstract concepts. Your abstract emotion will translate into something vivid and real, and your reader will relate to the actual experience you’re writing about, instead of imagining all the times he or she has experienced love, or even seen it on TV.

Here’s an example:

Poet “A” writes the line, “My love is envious.”  There are two abstracts here: love and envy. Of course the reader might relate to envious love, but only in an abstract, impersonal way.  How does the reader connect to the writer, instead of to his or her own understanding of envious love? Poet “A” has a personal relationship with envious love, but cannot convey that to the reader on an intimate level.

Poet “B” is also familiar with envious love, but decides to take this route instead: “My love is a sharp-eyed raven; it covets all things shiny and new.” There are several concrete, specific words in this line, such as raven and sharp eyes, as well as objects that are shiny and new.

Poet “C” takes things even further, eliminating the word love as well as envy: “I am a sharp-eyed raven, and I covet all that is shiny and new.”

Love is an overused, abstract word that writers have been attempting to describe for thousands of years.  If you want your reader to understand what you know about love, you’re going to have to make it concrete.  Otherwise, we’ll all write about love, and yet we will never learn about love from somebody else.  Just like real life.

WEbook Writing Secrets

WEbook Writing Secrets is a regular feature of the WEbook blog. WEbookers, readers of this blog, and other writers and writing teachers are encouraged to submit their tips on the craft by visiting my profile and sending me a message titled “WEbook Writing Secrets." Submissions should be no more than 500 words long, and should focus on practical elements of writing – the more nuts n’ boltsy, the better! The best submissions will be published here and in the WEbook Toolbox, and authors will receive credit, a bio, and links to their personal blogs or other writing. Good luck!

-- Melissa

WEbooker of the WEek Writes with Poisonous Passion

I never took Latin in school, but
when WEbook intern AndiJayne added Botanica Toxica to
the big list of cool projects we keep on the virtual wall at WEbook, I liked the sound of it right
away. Who doesn’t need a little Botanica in their lives? Not to mention a healthy dose of Toxica. Plus it had a cool picture of a bug for the
cover. After reading a few chapters, I checked
out the author’s profile and other writings on the site. Bingo! WEbooker
of the WEek time.

The most important thing about Danya (from a WEbook point of view) is that she has a great
imagination, and she knows how to create unique characters and settings on the
page. But there was a time not so long
ago when Danya couldn’t even
read, let alone write. She suffered a
stroke five years ago, and was left unable to use a spoon or read a book. Amazingly, her ability to write returned
first, and when she started work on Botanica Toxica a
few years ago, she couldn’t yet read what she was writing! She got others to read her work for her, and
the feedback was encouraging, so she kept at it. In the past two months she has regained the
ability to read and revise her own work, although the strain of reading
prevents her from getting involved in many other WEbook projects. (Sorry, WEbookers.)

To find out more about Danya, I asked her a few
pointless questions.

Q: What non-professional accomplishment would
you like to add to your resume?

A: Right after my stroke, I went on an art bender – wild stuff, now that my
fine motor skills were gone.  I created a
giant spider web out of one-hundred thirty feet of small, bright chain,
measuring eight feet wide by six feet tall.  I figured out in my head how much chain I'd
need – a guess that turned out to only be two feet short! – and linked and
unlinked the chain to make the web bits.  My husband, an engineer, helped
me with the linking and unlinking, but he couldn’t figure out how to put the
whole thing together. He was amazed when
my stroke brain figured it all out, savant-like, and told him how many links to
put here and there, until it was all done. I’m very proud of that one. It's
still one of the front pieces to our fence!  It’s gorgeous when it rains, or
when the sun shines on it. When it
freezes, it's amazing!

Q: What is your biggest flaw?

A:  I'm much too hard on myself, and I tend not to
rest when I need to. The brain goes, but
my fingers keep tapping!  Oof!

Q: What’s your greatest inspiration?

A: I e-mail with another stroke survivor in Zagreb, Dras. He writes haiku, as he's ‘locked in’ – his second
stroke left him totally paralyzed and unable to talk.  He writes with a fancy
new headstick with lasers, translating from his native tongue to English as he
goes. All that, and he's good, and
prolific to boot. Beyond
impressive! He was one of the first ones
to encourage me in my writing. I can
never thank him enough – it’s the greatest escape ever.

Danya traveled and lived in
Eastern Europe as a child in the 1970s and early ‘80s (“Communism, tanks, and
Russian soldiers – oh, my!”). She says
she packed in more than enough adventure in those years to sustain her now that
she’s permanently grounded. Her father
is a sociology professor and her mother has been both an English teacher and a
research assistant. Says Danya, “I thinks that’s as good a
background for writing as you could have: Travel; adventure (both good and bad); an early introduction to studying
people and their lives; and a thorough grounding in the technical aspects of
writing an research.”

Danya got the idea for Botanica Toxica from
her sixteen years as a garden designer. After
her stroke, sheBotanica_toxica
found the work and travel of garden designing too physically
demanding, so she told her husband she wanted to try to start a small nursery
of toxic plants.  According to Danya,
“He looked at me as if I'd gone totally mad and said No! He talked about all the dangers and complications
and legal problems – but I wanted to start one so badly! I started thinking about it all the time, and
before too long, a whole world was in my head. Without being able to open my own nursery, Botanica Toxica
came about.  Writing it gave me an outlet for all my pent-up knowledge,
as well as a wicked release for other stuff in my life.” One of Danya’s writing secrets is that,
as she writes, she often sketches her characters in pen, pencil, or charcoal.

Danya says that the most
important thing she’s learned from working on this book is that over-thinking
is useless, and being able to re-write is a gift. Besides Botanica Toxica, her
WEbook work includes
essays, poetry, and love letters. Be sure
to check it all out!

-- Melissa

WEbook and Ice Cube: And the Winner is...

Last Friday I asked readers to make up outlandish stories about how three members of the WEbook team

ended up in a photo with Ice Cube. 


WEbookers rose to the challenge.  One reader said we'd hatched a plan to embed tiny books in crystal cubes.  Another imagined that Ice Cube was trying to curry favor with us to get his book published.  Still another thought yours truly might be dating Mr.

Cube.  (Good guess, but clearly not outlandish enough.) 

It was a close race, but in the end I was forced to choose just one WEbooker. Cue the drumroll, please...

Congratulations, Nathan Darrow!  For bringing the scene to life with dialogue, and for poking (mostly) gentle fun at WEbook's expense, you shall receive the ultimate prize:  A brand spanking new WEbook T-shirt.  (Spanking not included.)

To read Nathan Darrow's submission, visit last week's post.  If you are Nathan Darrow, please contact me via my WEbook profile, so I can get that T-shirt out to you right away.

Finally, I'm sure you're all dying to know the real true truth behind this photo.  All I can tell you is that the life of a WEbook team member is pretty glamorous.  Sometimes we find ourselves in the same room with Ice Cube.  When this happens, we never pass up a photo op, for exactly the reason suspected by Nathan Darrow:  We figure it'll make us look cool.

-- Melissa

Reader’s Delight: Three Great Novels on WEbook

Let’s face it – even the world’s most prolific writers have
to take a break to read every once in a while. In fact, many accomplished writers will tell you that the number two
thing someone can do to improve his or her writing is to read. A lot. (The number one thing, of course, is to
write. A lot.)

Besides that, it turns out that plenty of folks on WEbook – wait for it – aren’t writers at all. Sure,
they might get a kick out of contributing to fun projects like Cinema 50, Illustrations for Bios, or Haiku Life Stories,
but really? They’re here to find
great stuff to read during their downtime at work. (Well-known fact: Reading a book on the internet looks a lot
more like doing work than watching a YouTube video…or reading a book made of
paper, for that matter.)

Today’s featured
WEbook project
post is dedicated to the readers amongst us. And because I love readers so much, I’ve
picked not just one, but three whole
to sink your teeth into. Enjoy!


This novel tells the
story of the author’s grandmother (fictionalized, of course), who lost her
family to famine in Russia under Stalin’s regime. According to the project overview, “During
the tragic events of the Russian famine in the 1920s, Anna finds herself
carried away from her dying father and brother by a group of strange men.  Hidden from civilization, Anna forms a bond
with one of the younger men as they struggle to survive from hunger and escape
the heavy hand of Stalin – and later, Hitler.”

The project is tense and engaging  – and best of all, it’s unfinished! You, the reader, can have a hand in guiding
author daylilie as she
writes her way through to the end. Visit
Valiance for a great
reading experience.


The cover of Think Insidiously depicts
what appears to be the wreckage of a disastrous picnic. Two hands lie palm-up on the grass, smeared
with either blood or raspberry jam. A flip-flop
stands discarded in the background. As
soon as you see this photo, you have to know: What happened here?

Think Insidiously
traces the history of an obsessive
friendship, jumping back and forth between the past, when the friends met and
formed their bond, and the present, with one friend mysteriously imprisoned in
a mental hospital.

What happened here? For the answer to that burning question, check
out Think Insidiously.

The Summer House

For young readers – and the young at heart – there’s The Summer House, WEbooker Ruchira’s fantasy novel for
young adults.  In The Summer House,
a lonely little girl named Alisha brings the world of her toys to
life. But this is no Winnie the Pooh. Alisha’s creations struggle with political
unrest, crop failure, oil shortages, and the existential dilemmas that come
from their realization that the deity they’ve put their trust in is no more
than a young girl living in the hills of North India.  To enjoy this whimsical tale, visit The Summer House.

Featured Projects

Every week, this blog features
at least one WEbook project
– and sometimes more! Next week, I’ll be featuring the best of WEbook’s group fiction projects. To qualify, projects must be open to all WEbook writers, and they must
be composed primarily of fiction – most likely short stories – though they can
also include poetry or non-fiction. I’m
especially interested in projects that are held together by original, intriguing
themes or ideas, rather than collections of general fiction.

featured in the WEbook blog
have gone on to win unparalleled fame and accolades. Many of the most active projects on the site were featured
in the blog
once upon a time. In
fact, having a project featured
in the blog
has been clinically proven to improve WEbookers’ chances of being
elected President of the United States by 85%.*  To nominate a project for inclusion in the
blog, please visit my profile
and send me a message with the title: Group Fiction.

-- Melissa

* Not even remotely true.

WEbook Guide to Feedback, Part 1: The Golden Rule

This is the first installment in a 3-part blog covering the
ins and outs of giving and receiving feedback on WEbook. (Say that 10 times fast!) Today’s post covers the basic principle of
reciprocation: It takes feedback to make
feedback. Part 2 will discuss how to
give great feedback. Part 3 will tackle the tricky business of how
to respond to the feedback you get. (Hint: Never, ever take it

It’s All about the
Golden Rule

I recently got a message from a new WEbooker. “I posted my project, and introduced myself
on the forums,” said WEbooker X. “And I
haven’t gotten any feedback yet. I’m really
excited about finding out what readers think about my work. What can I do to speed up the process?”

Good question!  I checked out WEbooker X’s profile. What did I find?

WEbooker X had not left a single review on the site

Here’s what I told WEbooker X:

Find some WEbook
you respect and leave them reviews!  Then invite them to read
your work.  The more thorough and constructive your reviews are, the more
likely other writers will be to reciprocate.

You can also look for great
, and send them messages asking them to check out your
stuff.  You will have more success if you personalize your message, and
let people know why you're asking them in particular. For example, if you find someone who's given
really helpful feedback on a novel about zombies, and YOU'RE writing a novel
about zombies, you can say, "Hey, you seem like the zombie expert on WEbook!  It would make my day if you’d
help me out with my novel about zombies."  Never send mass messages,
or messages asking for feedback with no context or explanation.

This advice applies to each and every one of us at WEbook. While I can’t guarantee that every review you write will result in a
review for your work, taking the time to thoughtfully review others’ work
results in a better experience for everyone. If every WEbooker
strives to help one or two other writers with their work, there is sure to be
enough help out there for all.

This story has a happy ending. WEbooker X decided to spend some time leaving
feedback for others. His review queue is
no longer empty – and his project has several new reviews from other WEbookers.


Stay tuned for Part 2: The 5 rules of giving great feedback.

-- Melissa

Creative Writing Advice # 7: Advice About Adverbs

of the WEek
emeritus Anowalk
has a great tip for writers looking to add power and specificity to their

If you find yourself using an excessive amount of adverbs, take
a look at your verbs.  Often, you can tighten your writing by dropping
adverbs and picking a more powerful verb. Adverbs have a time and a place, but they shouldn't shoulder work that could
be done by your verbs.

Need proof?

"Alex knocked loudly." vs. "Alex hammered his
fist against the door." Which sentence
packs more punch?

To learn more about why you should listen to Anowalk, click here.

Writing Secrets

Writing Secrets
practical tips on the craft. WEbookers
are invited to submit their writing secrets by visiting my profile. Send me a message with
the subject line: WEbook Writing Wisdom. I
will collect the best and brightest from my mailbox and publish them here and in the WEbook Toolbox. If
your words of wisdom are chosen, you’ll get credit, and a link to your profile,
blog, or other writing.

-- Melissa

WEbooker of the WEek LemonPez Can Dish it Out

WEbooker of the WEek: Special Community Edition

This WEek's WEbooker was chosen by staffer TsungChi in order to celebrate one of WEbook's top community members.  Enjoy!

-- Melissa

LemonPez: It's All About Community

If you’ve submitted your writing to WEbook, chances are LemonPez has reviewed it.  At last count, LemonPez (yes, she has an “insane” love of lemon-flavored Pez) had offered over 225 reviews, and we are not talking about the “I like this very much” variety.  Whether she is reviewing a novel, an anthology submission, or a poem, LemonPez’s feedback is concrete, specific, and most important—helpful.

LemonPez’s efforts have earned her “Top Reviewer” status, (check out her profile to see how she really feels about this), but she is the first to downplay such titles.  For her, offering feedback is a basic requirement of being a good WEbook community member.  I recently caught up with LemonPez and asked her what goes into a good review.  Here’s what she had to say: 

A helpful way of giving good feedback is to think about what type of feedback you would like to hear.  First, remember to be polite as well as constructive. While we would all love to hear wonderful things said about our work, we also realize that practice can make perfect. An example of a great review consists of the reader’s thoughts on the project, why the reader has these thoughts, any helpful and specific hints the reader may deem appropriate, any necessary praise, and questions the reader may have about the given piece.  We’d all love to become better writers—and this is definitely made easier with peer-reviews and constructive criticism. 

I also asked LemonPez to give us her top tip for WEbookers hoping to get their work reviewed.  Let’s face it: with so many projects popping up on WEbook each day, it’s easy for submissions to get lost in the mix.  “The best way to receive feedback is to give feedback,” she says. 

See, I told you: LemonPez offers feedback that is concrete, specific, and most important—helpful. 

When LemonPez isn’t reviewing projects she’s filling up the forums with advice, insight and humor—and working on her own projects.  From where I sit this makes her a WEbook triple-threat community All-Star. 

A poet at heart (“I’ve always felt it was my one true release”), LemonPez is particularly proud of “Philosophical Thoughts.”  (Of course, she credits the community with helping this project take off.)  Or, if you're into eating and want a glimpse at LemonPez's lighter side, check out her "An Edible Day in the Life of Tara" submission.  If LemonPez has offered you feedback, here's a chance to return the favor.

LemonPez is finishing up her Criminal Justice degree (she finds literary inspiration in Charles Manson) and enjoys spending time with her one-year old son.  She finds time to write and review when he isn’t attached to her calf.

-- TsungChi

WEbook and Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day

It's Friday, and what does WEbook like to do on Friday?

You guessed it!  Front like we're in
Ice Cube's posse.


From left to right, that's WEbook President Sue Heilbronner, Ice Cube, yours truly, and WEbook VP of Product Development Lark Dunham.

I'm offering one free WEbook T-shirt to the WEbooker who concocts the best story to explain why we were hanging out with Ice Cube. Enter your theories in the comments field of this blog.  Bonus points for outlandishness.

-- Melissa

Creative Writing Advice #6: Character Goals

Today’s Writing Secret comes from author Cynthia Harrison. Cynthia has been blogging daily at A Writer's Diary since 2002. She's a book critic and creative writing teacher. In 2007, Cindy published Your Words, Your Story, a self-help book for aspiring writers.

Character Goals

When revising a manuscript, one of the first things I do is make sure every important character has a clear goal. This is crucial because blocked goals generate conflict, jack up story tension and allow readers to walk in the world of the book. Readers love to see characters attain goals.

A goal can be anything. It can be a deep secret, disclosed only by actions, not by words, like when a married woman who wants to give up her lover stops answering the telephone. Or maybe it’s wide open and obvious, like the goal of a detective in a mystery to identify a murderer. Goals can change and expand over the course of a longer work. They can set up a story question that is only answered just before the story is over. Maybe the married woman is the detective and she thinks her lover is the killer. Is he? That’s the story question.

All stories, not just mysteries, can be beautifully supported by character goals. It’s particularly artful if, in longer works, each character’s goal is related thematically to the others. Maybe every important character in the story of the married woman detective and her possibly murderous lover wants to give something up. The married detective wants to quit having affairs. Her husband wants to stop being so suspicious. Her teenaged son is forced into nicotine withdrawal. Or whatever. The key is they’re all working on stopping some compelling, perhaps compulsive and destructive, behavior.

What about the alleged homicidal maniac? To do her job, the detective is going to need to stay in contact with him, a direct violation of her original goal. This creates conflict, which is good. It also creates a second, increasingly important, goal: To find out if he’s a murderer.

One neat trick is to give opposing characters the same goal. So, what if the suspect lover also wants to end the affair? We don’t have to know his reason. It could be that he senses she’s on to him. It could be that he wants to get married and settle down and stop all the intrigue and deception. Having the same goal, in this case with a twist, sets up barriers, especially if only one person can achieve the goal.

The married detective’s primary goal is to end the affair, but her goal changes when murder enters the picture. She’s forced to go against her own resolve. Her initial goal didn’t change, it just got trumped by work. She has to stay in friendly, even lover-like contact, no matter how disturbing the idea is to her. He also wants to end the affair, and so resists all her attempts at contact, making her even more suspicious.

Goals are not plots; they work in tandem with plots. They help structure a story and add depth to characters. They enmesh readers in the narrative, making them active participants. Goals deliciously string the reader along. And, as writers, isn’t that our goal?

WEbook Writing Secrets

WEbook Writing Secrets is a budding new feature of the blog, featuring practical tips on the craft. WEbookers are invited to submit their writing wisdom by visiting my profile. Send me a message with the subject line: WEbook Writing Secrets. I will collect the best and brightest from my mailbox and publish them here and in the WEbook Toolbox. If your words of wisdom are chosen, you’ll get credit, and a link to your profile, where fellow WEbookers will be encouraged to check out your work.

-- Melissa

WEbooker of the WEek Declares Punctuation His Kryptonite

I believe in the power of punctuation. I love commas, semi-colons, exclamation
points, hyphens, en-dashes, em-dashes, and apostrophes. I believe! In the power! Of punctuation! So, when I came across zygoncurry’s Punctuation
is my Kryptonite
my very first thought was, “WEbooker
of the WEek
? Never!”

WEbookers, I am prepared to eat my words.

As it turns out, there is much more to zygoncurry than lousy punctuation. To be precise, zygoncurry has started six projects,
including a collection of
funny poetry
, two oddball
, and a journal about
his impending fatherhood
. He has
also contributed to 16
other projects
. His writing may lack
the occasional comma or apostrophe, but it certainly doesn’t lack energy,
humor, or imagination.

of the WEek
? Naturally!

Of his six WEbook projects, zygoncurry lists the comic
novel Hammer Time as his
personal favorite, because of its Monty Python-esque humor. According to zygoncurry, “Let’s face it—if
you are writing a fantasy story about a talking hammer and its unwilling companion,
it can't really be anything but humorous.” (And, yes, I did add punctuation to that quote.) For those who have already read and commented
on Hammer Time, zygoncurry promises a new
chapter by the end of the week—and a finished product by October! He welcomes feedback from skilled editors.

To get to know zygoncurry, I subjected him
to a few pointless questions.

Q: What is the biggest mistake you ever made?

A: Falling in love with my best friend’s
ex-girlfriend and selling my massive comic book collection to impress her, as
she thought it was immature. Now I am happily married, and my wife, whilst not
a lover of the comic book medium, at least tolerates it—along with my insane love
of B-movies!

Q: What was the first apartment or house you lived in on your own?

A: When I first left my parents, I moved
into an old Victorian house that had been converted into five one-bedroom
flats.  I will always remember the wacky
neighbors, including an elderly  gentleman who kept locking himself out by
accident (I was always on the phone to the fire brigade), and the family who
cooked very strong-smelling fish curry every morning—so strong that if you
walked past their door you could taste it, and the smell often stuck to your
clothes as well!

Q: What makes you angry?

A: People who treat public transport as
if they are in their own homes, by smoking, playing their mobile phones too
loudly, or throwing their fast food wrappers on the floor.  I have written about this in the form of a
mock rap
, in my poetry collection Beer Froth.

In addition to providing feedback for Hammer Time,
poetically inclined WEbookers can contribute their own work to Funny Poems. To find out even more about zygoncurry, check out his
submission to Illustrations for Bios

(previously featured in this
blog entry

Happy writing!

-- Melissa

P.S. This WEbooker
of the WEek
entry by no means implies that I no longer care about
punctuation. Along with grammar, syntax,
and word choice, punctuation is a writer’s best friend. Proper punctuation can mean the difference
between someone reading your work three times before understanding it, and
understanding it the first time through. If you, too, care about punctuation, there are some good resources out
there, including Eats, Shoots & Leaves—though,
personally, I would never forego the use of serial commas.

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