The Memory Challenge Results + New Challenge + Word Cloud Fun!

The results for "The Memory Challenge" are in! There were nearly 300 submissions this time around. We were very excited about the large turnout! 

Before going any further, I know what everyone simply cannot wait to see....

It makes sense that words like "time," "back," "years," and "remember" are some of the most prominent in the word cloud. I also wasn't surprised to see the word "box" in a larger font because a large number of submissions involved a character pulling (or packing) an item from an old box in an attic or garage.

The winners: 

Gasoline and Lavender by sarahreijone
Drowning in It by tanic17
When Paths Cross by Nik_Andrew

Congratulations to all the winners! You will receive your coupon codes shortly.

Honorable Mention:

A Memory by Lorelai  

We also wanted to mention another submission we really liked, but it went over the word limit.

Tomatoes by BJMil   

Once again, we will be doing a Reader's Choice Award, so vote for your favorite submission that isn't amongst the winners. It's more fun if everyone participates, so get involved! Again, please don't abuse this opportunity by voting for your own submission (the WEbook admin-gods are watching!). 

In case you haven't seen it, the next challenge is open and ready for your next submission. Go here to enter "The 'Dear John' E-Mail Challenge."

But before you go, take a minute to enjoy sarahreijone's bittersweet memory!   

Gasoline and Lavender

She weaved the pink paisley print through her hands. The fabric was thin, almost broken enough to poke her thumb through it. The day before her father left he was wearing that pink bandanna. She never understood how a man covered in grease, whose footsteps were always preceded by the snarl of a Harley, could wear pink. “Real men wear pink” is something a woman says when she wants her husband to sport a salmon-colored tie for a family portrait.

Her father was a real man. A war called from oceans away, and when he saw soldiers faltering he shed tears like a man, kissed her on the forehead and left tracks on her heart. She took a deep breath into the fabric – gasoline masked by lavender. She could feel the heat of her father's drenched forehead. She tasted the sorrow that led her to this dusty, oil-rich land.   

The Brand New WEbook Homepage

WEbook has a BRAND NEW HOME PAGE! Check it out! (If you want to see it live, log out and go to

Check out some of the new stuff:
Writers and Readers Wall of Fame: The PageToFame community is alive! And we wanted to show you. Now you can see all sorts of user activity! Wondering what's getting elevated? Or rated by a PageToFame Judge? It's right here! However, as is true with PageToFame in general, we don't connect the author to his/her writing until later rounds to ensure the integrity of the process. Note the locked photos.

'What Can Writers Do?" We have the reader in you covered, go rate! Now, we do a better job of outlining what's available for writers at WEbook. Including
PageToFame, AgentInbox, Community projects and of course to get unblocked: 911 Writers Block!

We're excited about the additions and improvements, but we want to hear from everyone. What do
you think of the new look?

A WEbook Weekend

It's been a busy summer here at WEbook, and we've made quite a few additions to the site recently. If you're contemplating a literary weekend, here are a few things to try:

Extra Feedback on PageToFame Submissions

FeedbackmachineWe've been allowing PageToFame raters to submit custom comments to 'Shorts" and "5-Page Challenge" submission. Authors are now able to see this comments, so check out your book pages to see what people have been saying. You can also check out a
highlight video or write your own comments as you rate more pages.

Add a Status Update to your Profile

If you're working on a new story, finally putting finishing touches on your epic novel, or just sipping lemonade on your deck, you can let your fellow WEbookers know by updating the status of your profile. Tell us what you're up to!  

The Memory Writing Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblogIn this challenge, authors must write a short scene where an object evokes a strong memory for a character. The entry deadline has been extended to Monday, July 26, so if you haven't had a chance to submit, you've got the entire weekend to think up good memory. Start a new chapter to
this project to get started.

In other writing challenge news, SPMount won the "Reader's Choice Award" for The Liar Writing Challenge. Congratulations, SP!

Have a great weekend, and post a link to whatever you're working on!


AgentInbox: A Free Way to Query Literary Agents Online


As many of you know, AgentInbox – WEbook’s author-to-agent query service – became a fee-based service in April.  At that time, there was quite a bit of debate around the decision within the WEbook community. And we were listening!

We realized that in order to clarify that the fee is NOT for access to the agents, but rather for the convenience and organizational benefits of the online tool, we needed to revise the AgentInbox pricing structure.

Starting on July 21, 2010, authors will be able to submit their synopses, queries, and manuscript samples to any participating agents interested in their genre for FREE!

So, what’s the new pricing structure?

What we now call “AgentInbox Tracking” will be available through a 6-month subscription for $9.95. The “Tracking” feature allows you to find out when agents have viewed your submissions, and which parts of those submissions—such as the synopsis, query, or sample—have been viewed. Tracking also provides a ‘Comments’ field so that you can easily organize queries and make notes.

Agents will be able to respond to your query whether you’re a Tracking subscriber or not—choosing to stick with the basic service will not prevent members from receiving responses from agents.

All WEbookers who have paid for the service since April will be refunded the full amount and can choose to purchase AgentInbox Tracking for $9.95. 

So, if you've been holding onto your query letter, let it go! Submit through AgentInbox. Good luck!

Beach Reading

6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970bI am in a rut. I haven’t read a book that I truly loved in too long. You know the kind I’m talking about—a book that won’t let you put it down, one that you recommend to everyone you meet, that you might not lend because you know you’re going to read it again. 

This is my fault, I think. Since deciding to write full-time years ago, I’ve gravitated towards high-brow literary novels. You know the kind I’m talking about—a book that makes you feel unworthy as a writer, one that you talk about with your more literary friends but don’t recommend, one that you’ll happily lend out because you didn’t even finish it and will never touch it again.

There are reasons why I torture myself with the likes of Updike, Roth, Pynchon et al. I wasn’t an English major in college and then came to the writing game late. As such, I feel like I have to compensate by flash frying my brain with writers of exceptional talent. Over this past weekend, I was at the beach with a large group of friends and more than half of them were reading one of the books from the Stieg Larsson trilogy (The Girl with/who…). If you haven’t read them (like me), they’re crime novels, good ones apparently. Good enough to sell 40+ million copies worldwide as of this spring. 

Because I haven’t read any of Larsson’s books, I was left out of the conversation all weekend. Currently, I’m reading Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon. It seems like it will be a good book but after 100 pages I still don’t know what’s going on. There’s a set of twins, one schizophrenic the other not, a guy with a severed hand, and a couple who moves to the Midwest for mysterious reasons. It’s very well written. But, with all due respect to the author, I’m quite sure it hasn’t sold 40 million copies worldwide.

Which reminded me of an important lesson for my own writing: plot is king. As writers, we all love literary acrobatics—a well-turned metaphor, one-word sentences, shifting POVs—but readers love story. And if you want to get published, you’ll learn sooner or later that the customer is always right. Ask any agent or editor and they will tell you that a good story can overcome bad writing (but rarely the opposite) any day.

I learned this lesson painfully. When I turned in an early draft of my most recent manuscript to my agent at the time, I was very impressed with the quality of my writing. I’d worked hard to make it flow. I played with sentence structure and variation. I felt like an artist. My then-agent read it in a week and called me to tell me that we were parting ways. I was devastated. When I asked why, she bluntly told me that she didn’t buy the plot; she didn’t believe that it was remotely conceivable and therefore couldn’t sell it.

It was a hard lesson, but one that I took to heart. I dedicated the next two drafts of my manuscript to re-working the plot, adding elements, turns and arcs that made it both believable and compelling. I added a murder. I stripped away characters that didn’t add to the story, cut scenes and dialogue that didn’t advance the plot. I simplified language and made the structure linear. 

The result, I hope, is a much cleaner and gripping story, one that serves the plot and not the prose. Because, as much as I’d like to write like Dan Chaon, I’d rather sell like Stieg Larsson.

The question this week is: How do you make—and keep—your story plot-driven?


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and, among others. To learn more about him, visit

Edits, Comments, and a Green Pen

Goodgodbird_publication As many of you know, I’ve completed the last round of edits and revisions on my debut novel, which is scheduled for a Spring 2011 launch. Working on the novel again was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world and the final product is, in my opinion, a much better work because of it. With my editor’s help, I was able to organize and adapt the novel into the form that told my story with the precise emotional, comedic, and dramatic effect that I had originally intended upon first writing it. 

WEbook thought it would be a great idea to show you all an actual edited page of my manuscript. The accompanying photo was taken of my original manuscript and the writing on it is from my editor at Atheneum Books, Nami Tripathi.  

You’ll notice that she used green ink, as I noted in a previous post, to make comments, suggestions, and ask questions.  

As nervous as I was as a first-time author to receive my editor’s notes, it was a great relief to be blessed with such an insightful and amazing editor. I would hope the same for any writer out there who fears his or her work being placed in a stranger’s hands. I am hoping that giving you all the rare opportunity to view part of a professionally edited manuscript will help to ease some of your nerves concerning the publishing process.

With Nami’s blessing, I'm happy to share a few notes she provided on one particular page of the manuscript. Note that this is from the earliest draft of the novel and additional changes may have been made to this actual page, etc.  

If you read the notes at the very top left of the page, you’ll see that Nami’s approach, overall, was less critical and more inquisitive. In order to make sure my future readers would fully understand things, Nami asked frequent questions concerning my intention with certain statements. In the top right, a positive comment about the main character and his brother let me know that this relationship was being understood as I intended. Further down the page, you’ll notice a couple of suggestions to reword a few sentences; these changes, each time, being asked, not forced upon me.  

Lastly, and this was why I chose to share this page, Nami shared her liking for my narrator’s profanity of choice: “ass-hat.”  Aside from making me laugh with her comment, this actually relieved some stress on my part, as I had worried, from the moment the editing process started, that she would hate the use of this word. I know it’s a silly thing to worry about, but it says a lot about my seventeen-year-old, slightly cynical narrator. 

Just remember that editing and revising isn’t something for writers to be afraid of. In fact, given the right editor, it can make all the difference in the world.


Corey Whaley hails from Shreveport, LA, where he works as an English teacher. He signed with Ken Wright, a literary agent at Writers House, last fall using WEbook's AgentInbox query service. His debut novel was purchased by Simon & Schuster early in 2010. Read more about Corey's amazing story.

The Liar Writing Challenge Results + New Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog WEbook has reviewed all of the entries to The Liar Writing Challenge, and we are ready to announce the winners. This was a difficult challenge because it forced writers to create compelling dialogue with no character set-up, which isn't easy. Many writers revealed a commendable amount of depth and complexity to their characters in a very small space.

The entries also varied greatly in tone, which we enjoyed. Characters lied about everything from report cards to pregnancies, and it was interesting to see how each situation was handled.

When choosing the winners, we looked for lies that revealed big chunks of a person's disposition and character within the small space of an untruth.

And the winners are...

Sunday School Story by Leo1
The Taste Test by AmyMB
Naughty Mommy by leahcowden

Congratulations to the winners! You will receive a coupon code to PageToFame in your WEbook inbox shortly.

We're also going to add a new category this week, "The Reader's Choice Award." If your favorite entry didn't win, post the title and author in the comments section of this blog. In one week (7/21) we will tally the votes and award the author a PageToFame coupon. The ball's in your court, so cast a vote for your favorite entry. Go here to read through them again. 

Note: We're going on the honor system here, please do not vote for your own entry or cast multiple votes. We hope to continue this award in the future, so be honest!

****Update: SPMount won "The Reader's Choice Award" with his submission, "'Series' Liar." Congratulations SP!  

Also, Paula's last round of Writers Block has been officially cured by ReeVera, thanks so much! You can see all of Paula's videos on our YouTube Channel. Since Paula is no longer blocked, we're looking for other people with idea problems to do something fun with YouTube. Message bnaslund with any ideas!

The Next Writing Adventure:  

Remember!The next writing challenge is The Memory Challenge and it's ready for your submissions. For this scene, authors must write a short scene where an object evokes a strong memory for a character. We looked forward to seeing what your objects and memories are!

Before you head off to vote and write (or do something else, if you must) check out Leo1's winning submission.

Sunday School Story

"What did you learn at Sunday School?" I asked my grandson.

"The story of the Exodus," he answered, hanging his coat on the hall hat stand. "After Moses left Egypt, Pharoh pursued him with a great army of chariots and men."

"Yes?" I said, leading him into the study. Sharing stories was best done there. "Go on."

"Moses was trapped against the sea. Pharoh had him and The Chosen People surrounded. Things looked bad until Moses called Sixth Fleet Headquarters and Navy SEALS Command. Carrier jets bombed the Pharoh's army while a nuclear submarine landed the SEALS, who built a pontoon bridge across the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape."

"Are you sure that's the way the story went," I asked with one half closed, skeptical eye.

My grandson lowered his head. "Well gram-pa," he answered reluctantly, "Not exactly, but you wouldn't believe the story the teacher told us."

Am I Worth A Damn, And How Do I Know?

The WEbook guest author series continues with Victor Gischler, former English professor and author of four hard-boiled crime novels. His debut novel Gun Monkeys was nominated for the Edgar Award, and his novel Shotgun Opera was an Anthony Award finalist. His latest crime novel, The Deputy, was released in April. To learn more about him, check out his blogpocalypse or follow him on twitter @VictorGischler.

Take it away, Victor!

TheDeputy As a writer, I’m often curious about my place in the universe. Am I accomplishing anything? Is anyone noticing? Is anyone actually going to read these words I’m writing in my own blood? I would not presume to read J.K. Rowling’s mind, but it’s hard to imagine she has this problem. Ditto James Patterson. There are authors so wildly successful in this world that they could probably publish their grocery lists if they wanted to. But for every BIG HUGE AUTHOR there are a hundred guys like me, bouncing around the midlist, wondering if his next book will see the light of day, sweating sales numbers. (I also write comics for Marvel. If just ten percent of my comic book readers would buy my novels, I’d have it made.)

So I find myself wondering if anyone has heard of me. Sometimes, if I’m traveling in a strange city, I’ll wander into the book store, curious if they have any of my books on the shelf. I mean, am I actually accomplishing anything?

Go-goI suppose these questions weigh most heavily when I walk into my local Barnes & Noble – keep in mind this is my HOME TOWN where I’ve been reviewed in the newspaper—only to find they have none of my books on the shelf. This was a mere week after the publication of my brand new crime novel The Deputy. I found a dead-eyed drone at the information counter and asked if it would be possible to order a few of my books since I was a local author. You’d of thought I was asking for a kidney. After a mumbled phone conversation, I was told they’d order a few copies. Well, I came back two weeks later and guess what. Still no books. I asked a different drone what the deal was. Did they order books? The answer: “Books?  Naw, we didn’t do that.”


The books eventually arrived, but should it really be that hard? You can maybe start to see what I mean. It’s like pedaling a stationary bicycle. Pedal your ass off and you still get nowhere fast.

Fast forward six weeks.

Gse_multipart47473 The Pistol Poets—long dead and buried here in the USA—debuts in Italy, and I’m invited all expenses paid to a literary festival. I’m interviewed in newspapers. I’m interviewed on the radio. Book stores have my books and I sign at standing-room only events.  (It helps that I was touring with Joe Lansdale—ha ha.) The point? Somebody somewhere gave a flying hoot. It was a good feeling. I had to travel halfway around the world for it to happen, but it was worth it.

A few days ago, a nice fellow on Twitter told me how much he liked Gun Monkeys, my first novel. The book is ten years old. You never know when a reader will find you or how it will happen. So here’s the deal. Every day you wake up is another chance. Maybe something good happens. Maybe somebody notices.

Keep pedaling.


The Shrinking 'Just' Challenge Results

After doing some heavy word cloud analyzing last week, I decided to pose a challenge: that all submitters cut, delete, and destroy all unnecessary usage of the word 'just' from their scenes. Well, the challenge is now closed, and the results are in. Here is the comparison: 

The cloud as of last week: 

The post-challenge cloud:



Do you need a closer look to be sure? No problem, I've got one:


The difference is downright palpable. Notice how the 'w' now towers over the 'j' like a tall person in front of a medium-height person. Excellent work everyone! Thanks for all of your hard work. I hope you have a newfound sense of authorial pride flowing through your bones. 

The winners of the Liar Writing Challenge will be announced on the blog next week. 

In the meantime, our next writing challenge is open and ready for submissions (and possibly more word cloud fun). Go
here to submit to The Memory Challenge. For this one, authors must write a short scene where an object induces a strong memory for a character.  

What will your memory be? 

Better Living in the Land of Digital Publishing

DMorrisThe WEbook guest author series continues with Daniel Morris. Daniel is the author of a noir horror novel called
The Canal, which is available as an e-book. 

Currently, he lives in Los Angeles and writes movie trailers for a living. He is also at work on a book about time travel. You can learn more about Daniel and his other books on his website.

These days, anyone with a pulse and a manuscript can publish an e-book. For authors in general, this can be a great thing. Personally, digital publishing has come to my own rescue on two occasions, and in ways that would have been practically impossible five years ago. 

Canal new cover button2After I finished my novel, The Canal, I was fortunate enough to land an agent. I was ready to pop the champagne and start celebrating—surely a book deal was just around the corner, right? Unfortunately, the publishing industry wasn’t in a very giving mood. My novel ended up being a tough sell, the general verdict being that the book just wasn’t commercial enough (whatever that means—feel free to check out the book and give me your own opinion).

So I decided to publish the book myself. This is where the beauty of digital publishing comes in—it gives authors the one thing that they feel they so often lack: control. You get to take destiny into your own hands (for very little cost) and have your book made available from almost all the major web booksellers (a service like Smashwords is a decent place to start). And if you sell enough copies, agents and editors will notice.

Of course, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Just because you have a book doesn’t mean that people want to read it. Which is where old fashioned networking comes into play. If you’re a natural at that sort of thing: I congratulate you. If you’re not (like myself), the road will be tougher, and you may find yourself where I did—with a book you believe in that’s available in a number of formats, but with rapidly dwindling sales.

Fortunately, my situation has a semi-happy ending. Digital publishing hasn’t just helped self-publishing authors; it has also helped independent publishers and literary agents. The agency that represents me recently created an independent spin-off, the digital publisher Diversion Books. Diversion picked me up, and the e-book version of my novel is now in their hands. An agency with a related publishing arm is unorthodox (and some might say controversial, although I’m guessing it will become much more common in the future), but it illustrates what happens when publishing is available to all—anyone can step into the game.

If publishing is available and affordable for everyone, then a publisher’s main responsibility will be to produce works of a certain quality or particular interest. Which is what a good literary agent does anyway.*

Safe to say, as the popularity of e-books continues to grow, more alternatives to the traditional publishing model will arise. Best of all, they’ll provide platforms and opportunities for a much wider diversity of voices than ever before. Which, for us writers, can only be a good thing.

* I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the following: when it comes to agents and any terms/services they may offer, ALWAYS research their reputation and legitimacy. You can always start here.

On Not Writing

6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b Happy belated 4th of July WEbook nation. I hope you all had a good long weekend (or, hopefully, are still on vacation reading this from a lounger somewhere). I spent the holiday on Cape Cod with family and friends as I do every year. It was a bit more special this time around because I hadn’t seen many of them in a while.

Still, I was conflicted. I’ve got about 100 pages left in the final proofread of my novel—the one I started nearly four years ago. To say that I’m close to the end would be the mother of all understatements. Throughout the weekend I debated getting up early, staying up late, or stealing an hour or two here and there to chip away at the last of my manuscript. Ultimately, I didn’t do any of these thigns, and I’m happier for it. I feel refreshed and energized and heard some amazing stories.

It got me thinking: when is it good to take a break from writing? When is it necessary?

I tend to work in sustained bursts. Schedule and budget permitting, I’ll hammer away eight- to ten-hours-a-day, six days a week for a couple months until a draft is done. Then I’ll take a break, return to paying work and generally scramble to pick up all the balls that fell to earth while I single-mindedly pursued my goal. When I finish a draft or a manuscript, I’m usually spent and need to do other things just to get my head back into life. Sometimes I won’t write for weeks afterwards, at least not creatively. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I need to read, re-charge, wait for new ideas to arrive.

My long-range plan is to transition to a more sane writing schedule. I’d like to write every day, but not with such a manic focus. I’d like to consistently produce without having to hurl myself at a particular project because I have only a small window (and savings) to do it that way. I’d like to be a bestselling author with time to burn on my next project. (I would also like to see the Cubs win the World Series, the oil spill in the Gulf to end, and Lady Gaga to chill out, but alas…) 

Every time I get a break from my writing—forced or otherwise—I don’t realize how much I need it until it happens. Even if it’s just for a few days, I feel like I come back stronger, and my writing is better for it. Also it’s summer here on the east coast and therefore weekends and holidays are no time to be cooped up inside absorbing the glow of a computer screen. (I say this while currently absorbing said glow, sadly.) And yet the guests are all gone and my family is doing other things today. So I’ll probably work. I have only 100 pages left to edit. I’m close, very close…

This week’s question: When do you take a break from your writing, why and how does it help?


JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and, among others. To learn more about him, visit

Word Clouds + Writing Challenges

20100216writingchallengeblog Word clouds are great writing tools. They offer a quick, visual representation of the most commonly used words in any text. The more common a word, the larger it is displayed in the cloud. By uploading a manuscript, a writer can get a larger sense of his or her habits and tendencies. 

As a little experiment, I uploaded a bunch of entries from the two most recent writing challenges and created corresponding word clouds. Check them out!

The Liar Challenge (currently open for submissions!)


Notice how the most common word is "know." Interesting, considering the challenge is centered around a person telling a lie.

Now for the Injury Scene word cloud:

This one was also useful. All of the larger words—blood, pain, head, back, eyes, face, body—make sense given the nature of the challenge. 

Another thing I noticed, the word "just" appeared prominently in both clouds. I think this reveals an overarching weakness in the submitters prose. I'm all about using "just" as an adjective (his cause was just, Judge Dredd is just, ect.) but when it's used an adverb (Joe was just sitting there, I was just about to call you) it often weakens the sentence.

Often, "just" has a way of slipping into an author's writing without them realizing—kind of like a verbal tic, but for writing.

So, I propose a challenge within a challenge: If you've submitted to The Liar Challenge already, go back through your entry and strike any unnecessary "just" usage. If you haven't submitted yet, do so with "just" conservation. When the challenge is over, I'll redo the word cloud, and we'll see if it's any smaller.

Let's call it the "Shrinking 'Just' Challenge!" Winners will receive a newfound sense of authorial pride, and a big congratulations on the blog.

Ok, get to it! And have a great 4th of July weekend! 


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