WEbook Green Lights Next Published Books

Greenlight
The results from WEbook's second voting and publication cycle are in! WEbook users voted for over 500 submissions. We considered the top 10% of vote-getters, along with a select handful of books that got an overwhelmingly positive response from fewer readers. We narrowed the field to five finalists, and gave two of those finalists the green light for publication. WEbook will offer the authors of the green-lighted books a publication contract, and the two new books will be available in mid 2009.

The Winners

Colorcaster
The Colour Caster,
by Winterjazz
A 40-something divorcee fights for custody of her autistic son, who holds the key to unspeakable powers. Can she protect her son as forces converge to reveal his destiny?

Expat Ex-Pat Journal, by 23 WEbook writers
From a harrowing bus ride in Tanzania to the power of "hello" in a remote Chinese province, more than 30 essays capture the essence of what it's really like to be a stranger in a strange land.



Runners Up

God and the Other,
by KristinaMeister

Millie Gail Grundy, B.L.O.B.,
by GranisGrazin

Corona,
by MJ_Heiser

For more information about voting and publication at WEbook, please visit our FAQ.

Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today to write, read, vote, and get published.



-- Melissa



Jan 20 2009: Make History with WEbook and the Presidential Inauguration

Jan20
Where will you be on January 20, 2009?

Millions of Americans will flock to Washington, D.C., and countless others will mark the day in their own unique ways across the country. WEbook wants to hear about your experience of Barack Obama's inauguration as the United States' forty-fourth president. The best 50-75 stories will be collected and published as WEbook's first Community-Sourced History, a compilation of real people's voices, experiences, and memories.

Anticipation: How did you spend the days leading up to the inauguration? Share the planning and preparation that went into your inauguration experience.

Participation: What was it like to be there? WEbook is particularly interested in stories from people who will spend inauguration day in Washington, D.C., but you can also share your experiences from other inauguration events.

Reflection: Capture a moment when the true significance of inauguration day hit home.

Submit your essays to Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day. Essays must be submitted no later than midnight est on January 21, 2009. To get started early, send an email to jan20 <at> webook <dot> com. Share your full name, address, and email address, and we'll send you a limited edition, Jan 20, 2009, WEbook news notebook to record your
moment when you’re away from your computer screen and soaking up the
excitement.

Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
share your story.



-- Melissa



WEbooker of the WEek Follows his Dreams

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Jamesmcshane has wanted to be a writer since he was in his early teens. Instead, he studied hotel and catering management, and became a bartender. His writing ambitions "sat on the back burner for a very long time" -- until earlier this year, when he discovered WEbook. Says Jamesmcshane, "I got a kick-start and I've been motoring ever since." He now tends bar part time while studying journalism and working towards his dream of becoming a fulltime writer. Here at WEbook, he leads five projects, and has submissions in over three dozen collaborative projects led by other WEbookers.

The WEbook work he's most proud of is his novel-in-progress, The Dark Crusade of Robinson Stone. Says Jamesmcshane, "Some time ago, I was out in the pub car-park having a smoke when I saw a van plastered with an ad for a company that designed and built gravestones. The company was called 'Robinson Stone.' I thought it was a cool name for a fictional character, so I started writing about a man who goes on a fantastical journey through time and space. When I arrived at WEbook, I changed tack and decided instead to create a contemporary political thriller set in my hometown of Dublin. The book has garnered a fan base that looks forward to each installment. Some of these WEbookers message me with advice on structure, plot, and character development. I take this advice very seriously, and the story is all the better for it."

If Irish political thrillers aren't your cup of tea, check out Jamesmcshane's five-part story "The Doppelganger Project," written for WEbooker cindi_greene's Wee Books project. According to Jamesmcshane, this story is a post-modern take on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Jamesmcshane
Want to know more? Never fear -- WEbook plumbed the depths of the mystery that is Jamesmcshane with a few revealing questions.

Q: What non-writing accomplishment are you most proud of?

When I was in catering college, I was elected President of the student union. I'm no Barack Obama, but I like to think I did a good job. I had a group of friends around who made me look good -- just like on WEbook.

Q: What is your worst writing pet peeve?

Not having the time I need to devote myself fully to it. My job as a bartender takes up a lot of my time, as you would expect. So do my studies. But I'm a light sleeper, so I often write in the wee hours of the morning. I know a few American WEbookers on IM, and the time difference makes it possible for me to have real-time conversations with them in the middle of the night. I'm a night owl -- always have been.

Q: If you had an extra hour in every day, what would you do with it?

I'm sorry to say this, but I'd spend it in bed. Late night writing and instant messaging can take a toll on this man's body. I tend to sleep late on Saturdays. As much as I love to write and chat, Jimbo needs his zzzzzs every once in a while.

Q: If you could travel back in time to any one day, from the day you were born to yesterday, and give yourself some advice, what day would you choose, and what advice would you give yourself?

Ah, the old "Quantum Leap" question. This is personal, but it's one I'm willing to share: I would hug my dad on the day he died (I was at work when he passed away quite suddenly), and tell him I love him. I think he'd be happy with my progress to date. I've had a rocky few years, but I'm a better person now because of them. My mother says I remind her of him, so that can't be a bad thing.

Q: What is your favorite word?

Conflustered. It captures me when I'm in a manic mood. It happens quite a lot, actually. Conflustered is me all over. My second favorite word is serenity: That's what I aspire to...eventually.

WEbooker
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? Drop me an email, or 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.



Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, and feedbacking.



-- Melissa



Now on Facebook: One Line Life Stories for your Friends!

Lifeliners

Ah, Facebook. The perfect way to make sure your friends, acquaintances, and total strangers know where you went for vacation last summer, what your high score on Scrabble is, and what you ate for lunch. Now, with WEbook's new Facebook application, Lifeliners, you can tell more than just your own life story -- you can write the story of your friend's life, too, for all to see.

How does it work? Visit Lifeliners and add the app to your profile. Click "Write Lifeliners for your Friends" and get started! Your one line life story will appear on your friend's Lifeliners profile page. But be careful -- Lifeliners are contagious, and chances are good that you'll soon find out what your friends really think of your life.

If you're in need of some inspiration to get you started, click "Make it Random" to get a randomly generated life story.

Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, and feedbacking.



-- Melissa



Writing Your First Novel: Defeat the First Draft Blues, Part 4

Writingsecrets_c This is Part 4 of a series on revising the first draft of a novel. Read Part 1 to find out why it's important to take a break from your first draft before you revise it. Read Part 2 to discover why a messy first draft is a good thing. Part 3 teaches you how to take stock of what works (and what doesn't).


Step 4: Put the Vision back in Revision

"Strategic planning is worthless -- unless there is first a strategic vision." -- John Naisbitt, American writer and thinker


If you've followed steps 1-3 of the WEbook Guide to Revising a Novel, you should have a good handle on your book as it exists today -- warts and all. You may be tempted to get right in there and start applying liquid nitrogen to those warts. But then all you'll be left with is a toad with no warts. Why settle for that when you could have -- oh, I don't know -- a griffin, or a jackalope, or an animatronic space monkey?


In other words, they call it revision for a reason. Now that you know what your book is, it's time to create a vision for what your book could be.


There is no simple formula for discovering the greatest potential inherent in your first draft. You cannot plug in character A's strength rating, divide it by subplot B's development score, and multiply the whole thing by the square root of plot twist C. Instead, you must draw on the mysterious forces of inspiration and vision that led you to want to write a book in the first place. Luckily, there are a few signposts that can help you find your way in the dark.


Below, you will find eight questions that will guide you towards your greatest vision. Before you get started on the questions, establish some ground rules to help you get the most out of this process.


Forget what you think you know. Let go of any preconceptions you have about your book. Presumably, you started your first draft with some more or less definite ideas about plot, character, and/or premise. (Even if you started with nothing, you probably developed some ideas along the way.) Throw them all out the window. You may end up back where you started, concluding that yes, in fact, this is a realistic first-person narrative describing a lonely housewife's journey from depression to international pop stardom. But in order to find your vision, you must create space for the possibility that your book could in fact be a third-person narrative exploring the perspectives of twelve different roadies backstage before the once-lonely housewife's final arena concert.


So many possibilites, so few lifetimes. Once you open yourself up to the possibility that your book could be something other than what you originally imagined it to be, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the somethings other it could be. Don't despair. Focus on finding the most promising path for your novel, and leave the other possibilities for another day -- and another book.


Keep it positive. Remember when you read through your first draft and took stock of what worked well? Let those bright lights guide you to your vision. As you reflect on the questions below, think mainly about the elements of your draft that stand out as great, successful, and/or energetic.


Grab a pen. Carve out some time in your day to sit down with a pen and a notebook. Devote roughly ten minutes to each of the questions below. If you need to, you can come back to some of the questions again -- and again -- until you're satisfied. You can also jot down other questions that occur to you as you answer these. Remember, you should answer these questions not necessarily about your first draft as it is, but about your book as it could be and as you want it to be.


Document your vision. Spend as much time as you want brainstorming about the questions below. When you feel that you have a solid grasp of the greatest possibility for your story, take one piece of paper and collect the downpour from your brainstorm into a single bucket. Write 2-3 sentences summarizing each answer. (If an answer covers more than one character, it's okay to devote 2-3 sentences to each character.) Incorporate your favorite ideas from the final question ("What if...?") into your answer to question # 7.

The questions:



  1. Whose story is it? It's fine if the answer includes more than one person; however, it may be easier if you have one main person to focus on.

  2. Who tells the story? This may or may not be the same person as question # 1. It also may or may not be a person in the story at all -- the person telling the story might be you, the author.

  3. How does the story begin? Pinpoint the chronological beginning of your story -- not necessarily where you begin telling it, but where the story itself is set in motion.

  4. How does the story end? See above, substituting "end" for "begin." Look for the place where the strongest elements of your story resolve themselves.

  5. How do the book's characters change over the course of the story? What transformations occur -- or should occur -- to your characters between the story's beginning and its end?

  6. How does the reader change over the course of the story? In your vision for your book, imagine what you want your reader to think and feel at the beginning of the book, and chart the changes in their perspective that should take place along the way. You may be mainly concerned with your reader's thoughts about people or events within the book; or, you may want your book to have an effect on your reader's larger worldview.

  7. What events or elements of the story are crucial to the changes experienced by your characters and readers? Make a list of things that happen in the story that lead to character or reader transformations and shifts in perspective.

  8. What if...? Finally, take ten or twenty minutes to brainstorm on possible new story elements that could strengthen the transformations you envision for your characters and readers. Repeat as necessary.


Join the Conversation


Share your revision wisdom and woes with fellow WEbookers on the WEbook forums.


WEbook Writing Secrets


Got a secret I don’t know about? Share it with the world in WEbook Writing Secrets. To submit a secret, email me or visit my profile and send me a message with the subject line: Writing Secrets. The best secrets will be published here and in the WEbook Toolbox. Authors will be credited with a byline and a bio.


Get Feedback on your Novel at WEbook


Find readers for your work – sign up for WEbook today.


-- Melissa



WEbooker of the WEek Laughs, Cries, Laughs Until he Cries

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My fifth grade science teacher once told me that a smile uses something like fifty more muscles than a frown. "So if I see you sitting there smiling," he said, "I'll know you're not really happy; you're just lazy."

This WEek's WEbooker, McZero, makes me look very, very lazy. Just check out the "about me" section of his profile:

"I work at the post office. I hate working at the post office.
Unfortunately, I have no marketable job skills. So I feel trapped.
Right now, I am blinking in Morse Code, much like scared hostages do
when they go on television. "Help", I am blinking. "Somebody save me
from the post office." But this is the internet, and I have no webcam,
so nobody can see me. And my knowledge of Morse Code is terrible. I'm
probably blinking something like, "The chicken living in my trousers is
on fire." Maybe someday  I can quit the post office. And then, maybe I
can do something about that chicken."


You're smiling, right? Just wait until you read The Life and Times of McZero and Tales from the Post Office. But before you do, let's find out a little more about our WEbooker of the WEek.

McZero was born in Springfield, Missouri, and spent most of his life there. Much of his youth was spent reading comic books, and, because
of this, he was totally unprepared for real life. Since graduating from college, he has been employed as the worst salesman in Radio Shack history, a sports writer for the local newspaper, and, currently, an agent of the United States post office. He currently lives in Montana with his girlfriend, Carol. Carol used to feel that McZero wasted too much time watching television, so she
encouraged him to find a hobby, like working out in the gym or some kind
of exercising. Says McZero: "Well, THAT wasn't going to happen, so I decided to
start writing instead. Then I discovered WEbook, where I have had the
most awesome time, and where I have met lots of great people." The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: According to your profile, you went to the same elementary school as Bob Barker. Were you actually there at the same time as Mr. Barker?

A: Although I went
to the same elementary school as Bob Barker, if I had been there at the
same time I would probably be dead.  He's quite a bit older than I am.
But I did grow up in Springfield at the same time as Brad Pitt,
although we attended different schools. He went to the school with all
the rich kids who grew up to be lawyers and movie stars, whereas I was
on the other side of the tracks where all the hobos-in-training
attended. In fact, I consider myself the anti-Brad Pitt. If the two of
us were ever to shake hands, there would probably be an explosion that
would take out the entire western hemisphere.

Q: What is the funniest thing that's happened to you in the last week?

A: Last week,
Carol, her son Riley, and I went to pick up our dog, Maggie, at the
veterinarian. On the trip there, Riley and I were talking about
diarrhea and how funny the whole concept was. When we got there, Carol
went to pick up the dog while Riley and I waited in the lobby. The vet
came out and started explaining to us what was wrong with Maggie, and
how the medication he gave her triggered a bad case of diarrhea. We
weren't even able to reply intelligibly as we both totally lost it and
started laughing uncontrollably. We actually ended up on the floor
clutching our stomachs. The vet didn't know what to make of us, so he kept
talking, and kept mentioning diarrhea, and we kept laughing even
harder. Finally, Carol came to the lobby with Maggie and had to
apologize for our behavior.

Q: How often do you laugh? How often do you cry?

A: I don't laugh or cry much. Except when someone mentions diarrhea. Then I pretty much laugh until I cry.

Q: If you had an alter-ego, what would your name be, and what would you do?

A: I do have an alter-ego. It's McZero, of course. And my specialty is finding myself in hilarious situations.

WEbooker
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? Drop me an email, or 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.



Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, and feedbacking.



-- Melissa




Calling all Boston Writers

Boston
Are you a writer living in Boston? WEbook wants to hear from you!

WEbook Writer's Brew, an event that brings writers together in real life -- and loads them up with all the free coffee they can drink -- is coming to Boston. We're looking for Boston-area writers who are interested in writing, drinking free coffee, and talking to the press about their writing experiences. All you need is a WEbook account, a Boston zip code, and a dream.

Drop by my profile and send me a message with the subject line "Boston" if you're interested in participating.

Don't have a WEbook account yet?



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, feedbacking, and preparing for your 15 minutes of fame.

-- Melissa



New on WEbook: Writing Feedback Compliments

Brilliant

Brilliant! Elightening
Enlightening! Indepth
In-depth! Motivating
Motivating! Practical
Practical! Unique
Unique!

Does that describe any of the feedback you've gotten on your WEbook writing? Now you can let everyone know!

New writing feedback compliments let you tag feedback that's particularly helpful. The compliment will get saved on the feedbacker's profile, so everyone can see how great s/he is. Only the leader of a project and the author of a piece can compliment feedback -- everyone else will just have to applaud wildly in the privacy of their own homes.

Writer
Devilsadvocate
Also new on WEbook today: Check out your profile for nifty new badges letting everyone know if you're a writer, reader, editor, feedbacker, devil's advocate, idea person, researcher -- or all seven!

As always, we welcome your feedback -- drop us a note at info <at> webook <dot> com to let us know how we're doing.

Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, and feedbacking.



-- Melissa



Creative Writing Advice # 15: Defeat the First Draft Blues, Part 3

Writingsecrets_c This is Part 3 of a series on revising the first draft of a novel. Read Part 1 to find out why it's important to take a break from your first draft before you revise it. Read Part 2 to discover why a messy first draft is a good thing.


Step 3: Survey the Damage

So you've taken a nice, long break from your novel, and you've made peace with its imperfections. Now it's time to survey the damage -- but don't worry. You won't be making a list of all the things you did wrong. Instead, you'll be looking at what you did right, and asking yourself some very important questions.


Find What Works

When you come back to your novel after a break, the first thing you need to do is read it. That may seem obvious, but it's important that you set some guidelines for how you will read the first draft.



  • DON'T change a word. That's right, not a single word. Don't add a comma, don't remove a quotation mark. Don't make any changes at all to your manuscript.

  • DO read in big, uninterrupted chunks. If you can manage it, set aside a few consecutive days to get through the book. You may not be able to do it all in one sitting, but the last thing you want is a two-week break between page 100 and page 101.

  • DO print your manuscript. Working from a hard copy instead of a computer screen has many advantages. It will make it easier to resist the temptation to start "fixing" things. (See above.) And, you can scribble all over a piece of paper. (See below.) That doesn't work so well on a monitor.

  • DO break out the highlighters and colored markers. How you choose to mark up your manuscript is up to you, but it pays to get creative.

  • DO look for what works. Underline or highlight any passages that are particularly resonant, well-written, and effective. Write notes in the margin, pointing out sections of strong characterization, setting, action, etc. 

  • DO ask questions. As you read, leave yourself memos asking what, where, how, who, and, most importantly, why

  • DON'T get too focused on flaws. You could agonize over why a scene doesn't work, only to decide later that the entire sub-plot it belongs to needs to go. For now, think of yourself as a doctor treating a patient with an exotic, unknown disease. You can't make a diagnosis, much less prescribe a treatment, until you take the patient's history and make a list of all the symptoms. As you're reading, jot down a note if a scene moves too quickly or slowly; if dialogue is stilted; if a character does something implausible; or if something just plain doesn't make sense. Then let it go, and move on to the next page.


Ask for Help

Feedback can be a great help to a writer -- but it's important to get the right kind of feedback for whatever stage you're at with your novel. When you're planning a revision of a first draft, ask your readers to follow the above guidelines, with one modification: tell them not to focus on the flaws at all. Let your readers know that the manuscript is very rough, and you'll be working out the kinks soon. For now, you're interested in hearing what elements of the book your readers like the most.


Coming Soon: Defeat the First Draft Blues, Part 4: Find your Vision


Join the Conversation


Share your revision wisdom and woes with fellow WEbookers on the WEbook forums.


WEbook Writing Secrets


Got a secret I don’t know about? Share it with the world in WEbook Writing Secrets. To submit a secret, email me or visit my profile and send me a message with the subject line: Writing Secrets. The best secrets will be published here and in the WEbook Toolbox. Authors will be credited with a byline and a bio.


Get Feedback on your Novel at WEbook


Find readers for your work – sign up for WEbook today.


-- Melissa



WEbooker of the WEek Finds Inspiration in the Bathtub

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There are those of us who come to writing late in life, like John Milton, who published Paradise Lost at the age of 59 -- which, in the 17th century, was basically equivalent to 112. Then there are those who start early, like this WEek's WEbooker, Rebecca_Grey. Rebecca wrote her first poem when she was only six years old. According to her, "It came to me while I was in the bathtub, and I was so excited to get the words down that I waddled out of the bathroom naked and grabbed a pen from my Nana's purse, then wrote down the first few lines on a piece of toilet paper. The poem is still around somewhere, although no longer on toilet paper."

Following that auspicious start, Rebecca was encouraged to continue writing by her mother -- also a writer, and fellow WEbooker cindi_greene -- and by her grandmother, who Rebecca says, "was not a writer, but was a phenomenal cook, which is just as important."

Rebecca_Grey
Rebecca_Grey spent her childhood in a small resort town in South Carolina, moved to Sacramento, California as a teenager, and attended college in Kansas City, Missouri, where she now lives with her boyfriend, three cats, and a pair of twins expected to arrive any day now.

As WEbooker of the WEek, Rebecca exemplifies everything that is great about the WEbook community. She has started and led six projects, including the phenomonally successful Open Letters, a collaborative project that Rebecca says "seems to have taken on a life of its own." Open Letters was so popular, Rebecca started a sequel, Open Letters, Volume II. Rebecca has written for many other projects -- see the complete list here.

But Rebecca is perhaps most notable for the quality of her feedback. She loves giving feedback, and if you ask her to read and comment on your work, she says, "It's like asking your English professor to give you feedback. I'll compliment the good and take a red pen to the rest. No sugarcoating, no coddling -- I'm just as inclined to tell you I like something as I am to point out that which needs to be fixed, tewaked, or adjusted."

To find out more about this fantastic feedbacker, I asked a few probing questions:

Q: Do you owe anyone an apology? If so, what would you like to say to them?

A: I'm sure there are lots of people in the world who think I owe them an apology, but all the people I've wronged whom I should have apologized to...I have. My conscience is pretty clear.

Q: Does someone owe you an apology? If so, what would you like them to say to you?

A. An old friend of mine from college. It wouldn't even have to be a long, drawn out, emotional sort of thing. I don't do well with those kinds of scenes anyway. A simple, "Hey, you know how I wasn't such a good friend and blew you off with no explanation? I'm sorry. That wasn't cool," would do. And that would be that.


Q: What's the most important thing you've learned on WEbook?

A: It's okay to write something that sucks. Figure out why it sucks and try to filter out the suckage next time. None of us are perfect writers, despite what our delicate writer egos want to think. We're only trying to be perfect, and the fact that we're trying means we're already halfway there.

WEbooker
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? Drop me an email, or 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.



Join WEbook Today



Sign up for WEbook today and
start reading, writing, and feedbacking.



-- Melissa



Featured WEbook Project: Invitation to Eavesdrop

Eavesdrop "There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head." -- Thornton Wilder


A good writer is a ventriloquist, bringing to life people, places, and events that the reader has never experienced -- and which may never have existed at all. To prepare for this work, you need to learn to capture realities other than "the world inside your head."


Where to begin? Start by paying very close attention to the world around you. Open your eyes -- and, more importantly, your ears. Because a writer works with words the way a painter works with paint, become a connoisseur of other people's language. Many writers like to carry a notebook with them everywhere they go, to jot down interesting thoughts and ideas that occur to them throughout the day. Try using the same notebook to record snippets of interesting conversation you overhear at work, on the bus, or on line at the post office. In other words -- eavesdrop!


Here at WEbook, writers are putting their eavesdropping to good use. Contributors to The Snippet Collection are invited to write a scene focused on an overheard conversation. The conversations can be either a faithful transcript or just "inspired by" something you heard in real life -- or you can put your ventriloquism to the test and make up your own "overheard" dialogue from scratch.


Readers will get a kick out of such contributions as "A Pig Will Not Suffice," by Rebecca_Grey and "Red Leather Outfit" by Architectus. Writers will have a ball bringing an eavesdropping scene to life.


Eavesdropping -- it's not just for the government anymore.


Featured WEbook Projects


Know a really great project on WEbook? Want to spread the word? Send me an email or visit my profile and drop me a message to nominate it as a Featured WEbook Project!


Start Writing Now!


Today’s featured project is open to all writers! To get started, sign up for WEbook today.


-- Melissa



Creative Writing Advice # 15: Defeat the First Draft Blues, Part 2

Writingsecrets_c This is Part 2 of a series on revising the first draft of a novel, dedicated to all the NaNoWriMo winners out there. Read Part 1 here.


Step 2: Embrace the Mess

When I was a kid, my mom had a cross-stitched sign in our living room that said, "A messy house is the sign of a brilliant mind." If I knew how to cross-stitch, I'd hang a similar sign over my desk: "A messy first draft is the sign of a brilliant mind."


I know a few good writers who edit their work as they write it. Sentence 1 has to be just right before they can move onto Sentence 2. Chapter 1 has to be perfect before they write Chapter 2.  If they get to Chapter 13 and decide to make a change that affects Chapters 1, 2, 5, and 9, they go back and fix those chapters before they write Chapter 14.  Some of these writers even manage to finish books!


This guide to revision is not for those writers.


Let's assume that your first draft is a total mess. You wrote it (maybe in a single month); you left it alone long enough to get some perspective; and now you know for sure:  This book is a piece of junk.  No one in the history of time has ever written a book this bad.  At the beginning of the book, your main character's name is John; by the end, it's Jan.  You have no idea how or why Jan spent three chapters in Bangladesh shopping for a puppy -- she lives in Indiana, and she hates dogs.  Plus, you forgot to give Jan any friends, family, or source of income.  Whoops!


Good thing writers are so famously crazy.  You'll need at least two separate personalities to deal with this mess.


Personality #1: The Creator.  The Creator is great at coming up with cool ideas (like sending your main character to Bangladesh).  Flashes of insight and inspiration are the Creator's specialty.  Without the Creator, the world -- and your book -- would be very, very boring.  However, the Creator is lousy at logic and planning.  That's why you need...


Personality #2:  The Editor.  The Editor cleans up the messes the Creator leaves behind.  Editors are great at seeing the big picture, making outlines, setting deadlines, fixing details, and refining language.


If your first draft is a mess, that's a sign that your Creator has been hard at work -- which is a very good thing.  A mess means you've been thinking big, and you probably have some really great ideas buried under all the digressions and mistakes.  Now it's time for the Editor to take over for a while. 


In the steps to come, you will learn when to delegate responsibility to the Editor, and when to call on the Creator. For now, make a deal with yourself: The Creator and the Editor are not allowed in the same room without a chaperon.  


And stop worrying about the mess.  If you want to build the Sistine Chapel, you have to spill some paint.


Coming Soon: Step 3: Survey the Damage


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WEbook Writing Secrets


Got a secret I don’t know about? Share it with the world in WEbook Writing Secrets. To submit a secret, email me or visit my profile and send me a message with the subject line: Writing Secrets. The best secrets will be published here and in the WEbook Toolbox. Authors will be credited with a byline and a bio.


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-- Melissa



Creative Writing Advice # 14: Defeat the First Draft Blues, Part 1

http://www.webook.com/WritingTips/index National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo) ended November 30, but for the 21,683 writers who successfully completed a 50,000-word (or longer) draft of a novel, the work has just begun. If you're one of them -- or if you've ever stared at a first draft of a novel, wondering, "What's next?" -- WEbook Writing Secrets are here to help.


This is the first in a series of practical tips for writers facing the first draft blues.


It's Not Over!


Unless you're Jack Kerouac, chances are good that the work you create in a white-hot frenzy is nowhere near publishable quality. (Frankly, I've always had my doubts about old Jack, too.) Even if you're not sure you want to publish your novel, you can learn just as much -- and perhaps more -- about telling a story from editing and revision as you can from writing a first draft. Here's how it's done.


(Note: These tips come from my experience working with writers to get their first -- or second, or third, or fifteenth -- draft of a novel in shape for publication. None of these steps are compulsory. Plenty of people write, revise, and publish novels without following my advice. If you have work habits that work for you, keep working 'em!)


Step 1: Take Five


A first draft of a novel is a lot like a really, really dense forest. There may be a path in there, but if you're lost in the trees, you'll never find it. Get out of the forest. In fact, go far enough for long enough that you completely forget what the forest is like. Then, rent a helicopter and fly over the forest, making a map of what you see from a distance. When you get back into the trees, you'll be less likely to get lost.


What does this mean in non-metaphorical terms?  Quite simply: Take a break, then come back and read your entire first draft with fresh eyes, making notes before you start changing anything. Your break should be long enough that you forget a lot of the details of what you wrote. The length of this break will vary depending on how much your mind resembles a steel trap. There are a few things you can do to speed up the process. Choose one of these cross-training activities, or combine a few.


1) Read one great book. Pick something long and difficult that you've been meaning to tackle since high school. Anything written by a 19th-century Russian writer or an early modernist European should do the trick. Spend a week or two on War and Peace or The Magic Mountain, and you'll have no idea what you were working on before. Beware! Reading dense old books can infect your writing style. This is more of a danger during the composition process, but you should be on guard for accidental overdose nonetheless.


2) Read three silly books. The books should be reasonably well-written (you don't want to rot your writer's brain), but light and fast. It's best to steer clear of your novel's genre -- if you wrote a horror novel, don't read Stephen King. For all writers, I recommend anything by P.G. Wodehouse.


3) Complete a physical challenge. Train for a 5K, a 10K, a marathon, or a triathlon. Hike a segment of the Appalachian trail. Climb a literal mountain.


4) Become an art enthusiast. Take two weeks, and see as many plays, dance performances, concerts, and museum exhibits as your schedule and your town's cultural offerings will permit. Don't go to literary readings -- they lead to nothing but pointless, poisonous fantasies about what you'll wear to your first book signing.


5) Don't stop writing -- but don't work on your novel, and don't start anything that can't be finished in a day. Your goal is not to start new projects during this time -- you just need to keep the old writing muscles in decent shape. Think of yourself as an athlete in the off-season, or an opera singer between shows. You want to run drills and sing some light scales, but you also need to rest. Commit to a few weeks of free-writing for an hour or so a day, or write some 200-word short short stories. File the stories away for later. When you're done with your novel, you can pull them out and use them for inspiration for your next project.


Coming Soon: Step 2: Embrace the Mess


Join the Conversation


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WEbook Writing Secrets


Got a secret I don’t know about? Share it with the world in WEbook Writing Secrets. To submit a secret, email me or visit my profile and send me a message with the subject line: Writing Secrets. The best secrets will be published here and in the WEbook Toolbox. Authors will be credited with a byline and a bio.


Start Writing Now


Put your secrets to work – sign up for WEbook today.


-- Melissa



WEbooker of the WEek Writes a Novel in a Month

WoW_button_1 Every November for the past ten years, thousands of complete lunatics -- er, I mean writers -- have congregated online to write a novel in a month.  According to the NaNoWriMo website, 119,301 writers signed up for the challenge this year, and 21,683 met the 50,000-word quota -- that's the highest "win" rate of any NaNoWriMo yet! 


A hefty handful of this year's NaNoWriMo winners came from WEbook -- read all about them here.  This WEek's WEbooker, HorrorPunk, is one of those brave writers.


Nano_08_winner_100x100 Last week in this blog, HorrorPunk told WEbook's TsungChi about his book Agoraphobia, in which "a recovered agoraphobic tries to grow closer to his ex-therapist-cum-girlfriend by sharing her love of nature."  You can read Agoraphobia on WEbook, here. To get the story behind the story, I asked HorrorPunk a few probing questions.


Q:  What is the (brief) story of your life?


A: I'm a single father going to school, and I have always had a passion for the written word. I'm currently studying to be an RN.


Q:  Where and when did you get the idea for Agoraphobia?

A:  My novel was outlined on the back of an overdue bill, days before the challenge began.  Luckily, it remained pretty much untouched through the whole manic process.


Q:  What was the hardest thing about the NaNoWriMo challenge? What was the biggest lesson?

A:  Most definitely the hardest thing to learn from the NaNo was to stop editing. You just have to plow ahead, and ignore how bad you think your unedited work is.


Q:  What's next? Do you intend to keep working on this project, or are you on to something new?

A:  Despite finishing 50,000, the novel is not quite done yet. I need about another 11 chapters. Then it's off to edits-ville for a few months -- oh, joy!


Q:  How do you balance being a single dad with writing and your career as a student?

A:  Being a student helps, because I don't have a 9-5 job that keeps me away from home a lot. That way I have more leeway than most in jumping between roles of writer and dad.


Q:  If you could offer your son one life lesson, using only six words, what would it be?

A:  Don't do what I did, boy.


WEbooker 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? Drop me an email, or 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.


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Sign up for WEbook today and start reading, writing, and feedbacking.


-- Melissa



 



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