The High School Writing Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblogHigh school is a prime setting for all kinds of fiction—YA, literary, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. Some of major classics of these genres all take place in the halls of different high schools around the world. Why is this? Well, a lot goes on in these formative years. Children begin the long and slow process into becoming adults, a lot of “firsts” occur, romances blossom and die, and people struggle to pass calculus quizzes.


It’s a time rife with struggle, yearning, and new things. And this month’s challenge is about tapping into those feelings and themes.


Write a 300 word scene that takes place on the campus of a high school. The content of the scene is entirely up to you, but the best entries will evoke a larger theme about high school life. The theme, too, is up to you.


The deadline for this writing challenge is 10:00 PM, EST on December 31, 2011. WEbook will choose six winners and award them one free entry to PageToFame, our flagship writing contest. 


To enter the challenge, start a new chapter in this writing project. Enjoy!


And don't forget to check out the winners from last month's challenge.


 


 



Winners of the BBQ Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblogSo, uh, this is kinda awkward. We did the whole "something going on underneath the surface" theme for this BBQ challenge. And the contestants totally went with it. It's just that...well...there was a lot of cannibalism. Don't get us wrong, we're all for Cormac McCarthy and The Road, it's just that there were a lot of BBQ's where people got eaten. We're not judging, but we had to comment. 


Winners!


The Invited Stranger by ctalaman


Great atmosphere, descriptions, and underlying theme going on here. But what really won us over was the voice. It was sarcastic, dark, but not without some levity. Ctalaman had us at "reteller of unfunny things." We know of people who fit that description all too well. 


Dessert Storm by simonmabee


Very Brian Jaques-esque. We're all for legendary figures, especially when they're squirrels that have something worth dying for. 


Over Done by Jvd9


A couple no longer in love may not be the most original underlying theme in the world, but when it's described this well and you throw in a bit of a twist at the end, we're all for it!


The View from Spooner Hill by JulieDaniels


With kids these days, it seems like they carry on conversing in an invisible and digital world of texts, tweets, status updates, and emails. Thumbs can do an amazing amount of communication. But the real world is always there, lurking above the touchpads and mini screens. JulieDaniels gets that. 


Apocalyptic Tamarind by J_Hucke


Yeah this was a cannibalism one. But we liked it. Had a bit of that McCarthy spice in it to boot. Solid descriptions of the post-apocalyptic BBQ as well.


The Police Benefit Barbecue by ErikModi


This entry really evoked a larger world. A PI/demon hunter, werewolves, vampires, and a police BBQ that sounds like it's about to get serious, it's all fantastic. Well done.


Congratualtions to the winners. You shall recieve your PageToFame coupons shortly. 


The Revenge Challenge has just wrapped up, but stay tuned for the next writing challenge, coming soon.



Q & A with James Brogden - Part II

Last week, we posted Part I of James Brogden's Q&A with WEbook. James recently signed a book deal with award winning indie press, Snowbooks. Last week, James gave us a ton of great info about the writing process and development behind The Narrows. This week, James tells about what happened when the book was finished, and it was time to start looking for a publisher. 


Once you completed The Narrows, did you query traditional agents first? How did you choose the agents that you contacted? Did you receive any feedback?


I went through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook with a highlighter, picked every single UK-based agent who said that they considered fantasy, science fiction, or horror, and started sending out samples. To date the feedback has been universally ‘thanks but no thanks’, but I’m hopeful that with The Narrows being published, agents will look more favourably on my next project.


How did hear about WEbook? What was your experience with PageToFame?


I heard about WEbook purely by accident – I teach Media Studies and I was researching the concept of user-generated content and the different uses of social network sites for my students, and came across a newspaper article about the way writers are using the internet to collaborate and self-publish. I wasn’t interested in self-publishing, but I followed up the reference to webook.com and thought that if my submission was successful then it would be something else I could mention in a letter to agents. If Snowbooks hadn’t picked it up then that’s exactly what I’d be doing right now.


PageToFame’s greatest strength lies in the objectivity of readers’ feedback. There are other sites where writers engage in a lot of favour-trading, promoting work which in some cases is pretty dreadful, but there’s nothing in it for webookers except, I guess, trying to rate like a publishing pro, so that keeps it more honest, I think. It can be a frustratingly slow process at times, though.


How did you first hear about Snowbooks and what drew you to submit The Narrows for their consideration?


Just straightforward, cold research and a methodical approach to submitting samples. They were listed in Writers & Artists as being interested in genre fiction, and when I looked at their website I found that they are one of a very small minority of publishers who will consider unsolicited manuscripts. I was impressed by the amount of explanatory detail they went into about their submissions process, and even though I knew this meant it would take a long time for them to get through the slushpile to my MS I felt that they were the kind of people who would give it a fair read. In my original email I even used WEbook as a selling point, as the Narrows was at 92% in Round 2 at the time. Hopefully that made a difference.


What was the submission process to Snowbooks like? 


It took just over four months to hear back from them, which is not unusual (I just recently got a rejection letter from an agent I approached over a year ago, which was a lovely surprise, especially since I’d forgotten that I’d even written to them by that time), and by a weird coincidence I got their email on exactly the same day as the email from WEbook telling me that The Narrows had made it to the Agents’ Showcase.


Once they made the offer things went very quickly; I had a contract in my hands three days later. They were particularly helpful with this, recommending that I join the Society of Authors to take advantage of their free contract-reading service. They’ve produced a very detailed and helpful author pack explaining the timetable of their publication process and giving clear instructions as to what they need from me at each particular stage, and my editor Anna has been great at answering my questions and keeping my paranoia to a mostly manageable level.


What’s been your favorite part of working with Snowbooks so far?


Oh look, everything. The whole thing. This is all a completely new adventure for me, so even little things like going back through the MS to change all the double quotation marks to single ones is fun because it’s getting me one step closer to having my first novel published. I would say that if anything, their embrace of technology is the thing I value most; I don’t understand why in this day and age there are still publishers who won’t accept submissions by email, for example. Just from reading their blog you can tell that they’ve got a good handle on the directions that modern publishing is moving in.


When will The Narrows be published? We can’t wait to read it!


It’s available for pre-order from Amazon (released January 9th 2012), so save your Christmas book tokens. And watch out for the Winter Solstice in the meantime; that’s when the monsters come out of the Narrows


That's all from James for now. So keep your eyes peeled for The Narrows in 2012. Congratulations James!



Q & A with James Brogden - Published Author

WEbooker James Brogen recently locked in a publishing deal with award-winning indie press Snowbooks for this horror/high fantasy novel, The Narrows. We're always happy to share the success story of a writer who's found a home for their book, so we're doing a two part question and answer series with James so he can share some info on his path to publication. 


We'll kick things off with a bit about The Narrows and James' writing process. In parts two, James will talk more about how he connected with Snowbooks


Tell us a bit about your novel, The Narrows. What genre best describes it? What’s the basic premise?


The Narrows is an urban fantasy novel with elements of horror, high fantasy and even a touch of dubious science fiction thrown in. It’s a bit of a mongrel, basically, but that’s entirely in keeping with the subject matter. The basic premise is that the Narrows are strange shortcuts through a shadowy otherworld lurking behind the alleyways and wasteland areas of the city, which are used by a community of vagrants and scavengers – called Narrowfolk - to travel and trade.


In their own words, the Narrows are places where the skin of the world is thin. The problem is that someone or something is closing the Narrows and kidnapping the Narrowfolk for arcane sacrificial purposes, and the story follows a young man from the ‘ordinary’ world who finds himself involved in this when he accidentally saves a Narrowfolk girl from abduction.


What inspired you to write this story?


I once held a job as a sales assistant in a big shopping centre in Birmingham, where the long shifts often had me commuting home by train late in the evening, and having read far too many horror novels than was good for me I naturally wondered what sorts of creatures were sitting out there in the darkness besides the tracks, watching my nice, bright, sane carriage going past with their flat eyes. One night my imagination upped the stakes and made a young homeless girl haul open the door next to me and climb up into the carriage, and of course I needed to know: who was she? Where had she come from? What was she running from? Everything in The Narrows spooled out from there. That scene appears in Chapter 4, and is probably the only part of the novel which has survived the endless rewrites and revisions pretty much intact.


The core of the story is an idea I had about a ley-line being like a length of rope buried in the beach; a child yanks the end of the rope and the whole length of it thrupps out of the sand. What would that be like on a geological scale and what would it do to anybody whom it hit? It got hooked in my brain and gave me the mechanism for how the Narrows work.


Tell us about some of the characters. Do you have a favorite?


All of the characters for whom I have any sympathy are the ones who recognise that they are in some way incomplete  – Andy as the everyman character having to deal with being catapulted out of his normal world; Bex for arguing the toss with everybody about everything and never taking no for an answer; even Carling, the main antagonists’ psychotic henchman, for embracing the truth that being a monster doesn’t necessarily have to make him evil. The antagonist, a geomancer called Barber, is evil because he has no doubts about the righteousness of his cause. I have no time for fundamentalists, whatever they believe in. I like doubters.


There’s also a number of supporting characters including an ex-policeman, ‘Rosey’ Penrose, who I enjoyed sticking in a campervan with Bex on the motorway and just letting them bicker; a couple of young 50’s era lads who are an experiment in what would happen if you put the Famous Five in a John Wyndham novel; and a pseudo-Celtic warrior called Edris who is there for a bit of high-fantasy, demon-fighting hack and slay.


As I said, The Narrows is a bit of a mongrel, genre-wise.


What was your writing process like? How many drafts did you go through before you felt it was “done.”


This is quite embarrassing. It took me a hell of a long time. All I’ll say is that I completely ditched it and started again from scratch in 2006, after realising that the reason it was taking me so long was that when I worked on a computer all I did was go back over and over the same scenes tweaking little bits here and there and not actually getting on with the narrative. I heard somewhere that Neil Gaiman writes all his stories in notebooks, so I decided to give that a go, and I found that it worked a lot better. I physically couldn’t go back and change the ink on the page (beyond a certain amount of scribbling), and so I was forced to move forward.


Also, they’re a lot more portable and I’m not particularly disciplined so it’s good to have one to hand when the mood or idea strikes. I’ve had to fit writing around having a family and a busy teaching career, so that’s my excuse.


‘Semi-chaotic’ probably best describes the process. I have a rough idea in my head of ‘acts’, where I want the story to be at the end of a certain act, and maybe one or two set piece scenes based on a particularly striking line of dialogue or image, like the rope-in-the-sand, and I’ll often engineer events to fit that hook without any clear idea of where to go next. The best I can do after that is just try to imagine what a person would realistically do given the circumstances.


In this I’m helped tremendously by having spent years of my life playing role-playing games with my friends. There’s absolutely no greater tool for me as a writer to have come up with what I think is a lovely watertight plot and then have real-life people playing characters who walk straight through the holes I didn’t know were there.


Once I’d filled 4 big journalists’ spiral-bound notebooks I burned a month typing it all up, revised once for major plot points and added/deleted scenes, once again for typos and fine-tuning the language, and decided that was enough. I was happy with it, I’d written a story which pleased me, and figured that if somebody wanted to publish it then that would be a bonus.


Stay tuned for more about James' story in the next post later this week. In the meantime, check out more on The Narrows on Amazon and Facebook.


About James Brogden:


James Brogden is a teacher of English in Worcestershire, UK, where he liveswith his wife, two daughters, one cat and far too much lego. When he's not writing or trying to teach children how to, he gets out into the mountains whenever he can, exploring the remains of Britain's prehistoric past and hunting for standing stones. Fortunately they don't run very fast. 



The Picture + Sentence Challenge Winners!

We gave you a picture of a boat. Hanging out on some land. That's a little strange--you don't see a land-boat every day. And you writers, you craftpeople of words, did the rest. You turned it into a narrative. A story. Damn awesome job.


Here are the winners of the Picture Sentence Challenge!


Subject Zero by AmenziliaPoppy
This is one of the most engaging interior monologues we've read in a long time. We don't have details about who Ursa and Crow are, what they're doing, whether they're friends or enemies, but the parts we can see are interesting. And we wish we could read the rest of their story. 


MMORPG by Atrees
We'll be honest. There are those among the staff that have played some WoW. We're not going to say how much. But we'll put it this way, we've pwned some people in the arena. Pwned them hard. Anyway, what we're saying is we know what it's like to get sucked into an MMORPG and feel that blur between game and reality. This entry reminded us of that, and that was a good thing.


Depths by Thomnus
A lot of good things were happening in this entry. But a set of characters that are "looking for something that we could steal to pacify the silent screaming of the boredom in our hearts" is a badass line. There's ennui, recklessness, other rebellious stuff. Nice. 


Quest's End by DragonflyGray
This was a great interpretation of the photo. We get the feeling they've been on a LONG quest. Walking, fighting, getting lost in swamps, and all under the cryptic guidance of finding "the vessel that rides on a sea of grass." Quests rock. Here's a good motto to take home with you: "When in doubt, send everyone on a quest." Live by that. 


We Will Remember by NyteZ
Great writing going on here. Vivid descriptions, unspoken emotions, and painful memories. But the paragraph that won us over was nestled between all of this--as the narrator reflects on the old fantasies she used to play. Battles brought to life by wooden swords, chocolate melting in the sun, and negations with vanilla ice cream. We dig it.
 


Noah's Ark by tonydonell
This is a true story. We showed this to a dude on our dev team and he snotted coffee out of his nose and onto his keyboard because he was laughing so hard. It was funny, but his nose was burned pretty bad because he's one of those guys that drinks boiling hot coffee as if it's no big thing. Like, normal people would let his cup cool for 10 minutes but he just gulps it down like it's a big gulp slurpee. Totally true story.  


Honorable Mention


Sandbox by silverskull39
Kids totally do this. They're all mid-fantasy in the sandbox, and there are all kinds of crazy things going on (like midget murders), but the kids still build that bridge between what is real and what is fake. Crafty ole' silverskull39 knows this, and didn't forget it. 


Winners, you shall receive a coupon to PageToFame shortly. Use them responsibly. 


Even better, the next writing challenge is up and ready. Grab your pen, and your vengeful spirit



The Daily Deal Write-up Winners!

20100216writingchallengeblog At long last, the winners of the July challenge have been chosen. There's a bit of a WE-backup here with the challenges. But we've got the next one up and running as well


With the DD winners, a lot of the usual went into winning--creativity, prose prowess, unexpected angles--but a big part of what made the winners stand out was details. Those little extra snippets that made us smile, giggle, and at times laugh out loud. 


Winners!


Perspective Travel by DRenkeyCheap
Appendages! by  ZorianBar
Bar Flys by ShanaPupik
Life-Changing Fish Mate by Rstringerh24 
How To Succeed In Business Without Doing Anything! by burntstars
ZEP by Luna_Nyx 


Congratulations, you will recieve your PageToFame coupons in your WEbook message inbox.  


We'll announce the Picture/Sentence Challenge winners in a more time-sensitive fashion. Promise. 


In the meantime, there's a fresh new challenge that might benefit from some Labor Day Weekend BBQ memories. Dig in



The Picture/Sentence Writing Challenge

The August writing challenge pays homage to high school creative writng classes. You know that English teacher, the one who runs the school literary magazine, recites poetry on a whim while walking the halls, and wears a beret 40% of the time? This one’s for him:


The Picture/Sentence Challenge


Sentencepictureimage


Check out the picture on the left (bigger version here). Take a minute to study it. Absorb the story it evokes. Now read this sentence:


“We found the boat in late afternoon.”


For this challenge, writers are tasked with finishing the “scene” created by this picture and sentence. The first seven words of the scene must be “We found the boat in late afternoon.” The next 343 words are totally up to you (that was our clever way of laying down a 350 word limit).


Go in any direction you want—fantastical, dark, light, whimsical, gritty, funny, YA-ish,
Hemingway-esque, akin to Faulker. You could even go J.K. Rowling all up on this beast. 


The deadline for this challenge is 10 pm, August 31. To enter, start a new chapter in the Picture/Sentence writing challenge project.


WEbook will pick 6 winners and award them free entry to PageToFame, our flagship writing contest. We'll also highlight each deal on the blog and see if anyone tries to buy it. If they do, we'll tell them it's a pretend deal and that'll pretty much be the end of it.


Good luck. Enjoy!


—WEbook


 


 



The Alpha Omega Writing Challenge Winners!

20100216writingchallengeblog Lot of darkness out there this time. Lot of doom. Destruction. End-of-days type stuff. That’s cool, though—we pretty much forced the hand of darkness on this one. We knew what was coming. We were prepared.


The Alpha-Omega Challenge received 167 submissions!


 


That’s like, almost the record (The Flash Fiction Challenge pulled in 180, but who’s keeping track?).


There were some solid writing-skills brandished in this challenge. Strong myth-building. Superior world-destruction. We’ve never had so much fun reading about the end of the world over and over again. So, without further delay…


The winners of the Alpha Omega Writing Challenge!


An Old Man's Guilty Pleasure by DragonflyGray  


Why it won: Ok, some might say that the fairy in the glass orb is borderline on being a “world.” We’ve got two return volleys. 1.) Nobody ever writes about wizards doing quirky (and a little bit pervy) things with their magic. But you know they totally would. You know Saruman was doing the same damn thing up in Isengard right before Gandalf rode in all, “the One Ring is back.” You know he was! 2.) There was a world destroyed. The wizard’s private (semi-pervy) world he made for himself away from his wife and whatever wizard-responsibilities to which he was beholden.


Lastly, the grease smudge from his nose was a killer detail. It’s one of those tidbits that seems small, but really brings the scene to life, and keeps it alive. Well done. 


Starless by Aftab


Why it won: Talk about setting a scene with some vibrant imagery. The first paragraph of this entry put pictures in our minds. Clear, mostly cool toned pictures. There’s something at once unique, somber, and beautiful about a pair of lovers drifting down a river, creating a world as they go, and then slowly having it decay and die.  And there are some lines in this one that you just want to read over and over again, like this: “We’d been on this raft all our lives, Shauna and me, born on the briny deep.”


A Quiet Garden in Hiroshima by Kai_Valentine


Why it won: This entry caught our eye because of the perspective. Now, this certainly isn’t the first piece of fiction to go “Tree POV,” but man did KV follow through with some evocative images. Crisp runoff, waste from a castle, oil leaking from a vehicle. The steady progression of manmade pollutants culminates in the splitting of the atom—releasing untold energy and laying waste to the ancient and wonderful parts of the earth. Tragic, deep, good.


Dave's World by Dnall07


Why it won: The perspective was original and made for a quick read. But to be honest, we didn’t see this one as a winner until the last three lines. Leave them there to die?! That is cold-blooded sadism! But the thing is, when it’s just a game—a simulation that can be duplicated over and over again—why not leave two souls to die? What’s the difference to him? This really encapsulated the numbness and disconnection that world-destroying often involves.


But more than that, when we were done reading, we couldn’t help but think of those two survivors. What if it’s a man and a woman? What if they don’t give up? What if they endure? We wanted them to. We really did.  


Carl, Destroyer of Worlds by JulianAR


Why it won: There wasn’t a lot of humor in these entries (for obvious reasons) but this one made us laugh. Pretty hard. Even after a few reads we were chuckling. Ohhhhh, Carl. Always coming in at the last second with a (possible?) dinosaur-killing meteor and then coming up with the dynamite idea like giving people hands. Nice work, we use our hands constantly. Also, even before Carl’s entrance we were digging the names of the creators (Beast-Path was the personal WEbook fav) and the contrast to the “ - names” with Carl just made everything that much more hilarious.


A World Without Harmony by chomson


Why it won: First and foremost, this was just a great scene. Well established without being exposition-extreme, vibrant, and full of growth and movement. Each character changes with every sentence. They’re never static or neutral. That’s really key, both for micro-scenes like these and for longer works (maybe even more so for that old 700 page novel). Make stuff happen!


And we dig turtle creators. If we were gonna pick who would name the world, it’d be Turtle. Sorry if you were with Bear or Eagle, that’s just how we feel.


Honorable Mentions


These two entries both had tons of stuff working for them as well. Give them a read—you’ll see what we mean.


The Pond by OdinofAzgard 


Another extract from "The Mind-Boggling Space" by MTGradwell


Groupon-logo
Congratulations to the winners. You shall receive your PageToFame coupons in the mail shortly. Grab a digital tent next to your digital inbox. 


The next challenge is still open, but not for long. So the 100 of you who haven’t submitted yet should get on that. This one is funky and culturally relevant: The Daily Deal Writing Challenge



The Daily Deal Write-up Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog You know those daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, Woot? Do you also know how all those deals have that clever/ironic/pun-filled write-up? Ever wanted to write one of your own? Now is your chance! Your chance is right now! Take it.


You Create the Deal


It can be anything. It can fantastical like, “Half off semi-decent person’s soul,” or nonsensical like, “trade in a family heirloom for a bucket of golden nails,” or something totally normal like, “$10 for $20 worth of beer and nuts at Twisted Swifts Brewery.” Make it your own.


You Write the Write up


300 words. Make it a clever, funny, witty, pun-filled pie. Give some deal details and prices but tell a story, set a scene, throw some color up on your deal. Throw it loud. Unlike the writers of the actual deals, there are no content restriction and no reason to hold back your creative war-horse.


People Try to Buy Your Imaginary Deal


This probably won’t happen. In fact,  it definitely won’t. We just need a third headline because headlines always work better in 3’s.


That’s it. Deadline is 10 pm EST on July 31, 2011. If you need to do some field research, sign up for some of those daily deal sites and peruse away for a few days.


To submit, start a new chapter in the Daily Deal Write-up Challenge. It’s waiting for you.


WEbook will pick 6 winners and award them free entry to PageToFame, our flagship writing contest. We'll also highlight each deal on the blog and see if anyone tries to buy it. If they do, we'll tell them it's a pretend deal and that'll pretty much be the end of it.


—Webook 



The Twitter Story Writing Challenge Winners

This was a tough challenge, and probably the most restrictive while simultaneously abstract exercise we’ve had WEbook writers work on. Thanks to everyone who gave it a shot.


In the spirit of brevity and the interest of getting some three-day weekend sun-basking started. Here are the winners of the Twitter Story Challenge. 


Tweetie Pie by Inigo Rane


Timely Tweets by MassDaddy


Love on a Möbius Strip by JRVogt


Alice or Malice? by Sanger 


Death row tweets by Cesido 


On with the show by NickJ


Meanwhile, there was a massive participation to the Alpha Omega Writing Challenge, so we gotta read those. And there is a brand new challenge waiting to be entered:


The Daily Deal Write-up Challenge


Start a new chapter and get to it. What else are three day weekends for?


Enjoy,


-WEbook



The Alpha Omega Writing Challenge: Build a World, Break it

End of the world We’re going to keep the description of this challenge brief. We realized the last description was a little novel-esque, and you guys probably didn’t sign-up to read a novel during your writing challenge time. So here it is, short and sweet:


Create a world. Then destroy it. All in 300 words.


The recent rapture thing that was supposed to occur a few weeks ago, combined with the impending 2012 doom got us thinking about end-of-the-world stories. There are a lot of them. That got us thinking about creation myths. There are a lot of those, too.


So, we thought it’d be fun/useful to have everyone develop one of each. After all, every story has a beginning and an end, so this is, like, applicable to the greater craft of writing.


A few particulars:



  • The TOTAL word count limit is 300 words, but you don’t need to divide that count evenly between your creation and your destruction sections. Creation can be 200 words, destruction can be 100. Or, creation can be 5 words and destruction can be 295. It’s totally up to you.

  • You can create an Earth creation/destruction myth, but you don’t have to. You can do one for a puddle or an ant colony or Mars. Basically, you can define a “world” however you want, which is where a lot of the innovation in this challenge can be…innovated.


A suggestion:



  • If you’re considering an extremely violent/dark/morbid end of the world, ask yourself if doing so adds substance to your entry, or just shock value.


The deadline for the Alpha Omega challenge is 10 pm EST on June 30, 2011. As far as we know, there are no scheduled ends of the world between now and then, be we didn’t check all that carefully.


To enter the challenge, start a new chapter of The Alpha Omega Challenge. You can revise your entry anytime up until the deadline, so it never hurts to submit early and get some feedback from the WEbook writing community.


WEbook will pick six winners, award them free entry to PageToFame—our flagship writing contest—and give the ultimate winner a choice between end of world item #1 and end of world item #2


Good luck, 


—WEbook



The Steampunk Challenge Winners

Steampunk Thanks for your patience while we did the whole judgment thing. We have journeyed through lands of steamfull of airships, turbines, cogs, and robots. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for letting us tag along. No more dilly-dally, time to announce the winners.


Oh, quick dilly-dally. The Twitter Story Writing Challenge is still open and ready for your submission. Soon, another challenge will rise, but try the Twitter thing. You might like it.


WINNERS! IN BACKWARDS ORDER ENDING ON DOCTOR FANTASTIQUE'S CHOSEN ULTIMATE STEAM WINNER!


The Test by angelb35  


Why it Won: One word: movement. From the first sentence all way to the end, there’s a sense of things happening—whether it’s a noisy, bustling world of magic and steam, or the creation of a bot from the inside of Alice’s mind, this entry is on the move, and we liked where it's going. This may seem lofty, call us crazy, but you know the opening of Great Gatsby when what’s-her-face is laying on the sofa or whatever and her dress is billowing and everything in the room is alive, until someone-or-other closes the window and everything falls back to earth? This entry reminded us of that except the window never gets closed.  


The Frontier by krymsonkyng


Why it Won: Because writing good dialogue with a unique, believable voice is really hard. And krymsonkyng did it. Perfect timing, perfect rhythm. We felt like you get an actor, maybe the guy who played Mr. French in The Departed, and he could just tear this scene to pieces. Moreover, there’s a world here: a frontier, opposing forces, survival strategy, and brand-named steel horses. 


Secondary moreover (and this is a big S.M.) we don’t know if the narrator is telling the truth. Everything he’s saying might be a lie. He might be a total coward. He might have killed his friend in the frontier land. We just don’t know—but we dig that, the not knowing. 


Glittering Salvo by NyteZ


Why it Won: Mystery. There was a bigger plot going on here and we desperately wanted more details. A revolt in the city! Over what? People being partially eaten by construct monsters! Why? There seemed to be so much going on with these characters, and all of it affected them in a deep, serious way. We didn’t get all the information we wanted (500 word limit curse you!) but we got enough to fill in with our minds the rest of the story. And we liked it.


The End of Steam City by Narain


Why it Won: Because it boiled the essence of Steampunk down to the description of single man in an alley. Military discipline but no military experience, bulges that could be tools or weapons, darkness, grit, shadowy streets, and the smell of urine. But despite all this, we’re left with a sense of hope. The man is ominous but whatever he’s whispering, it seems like it might be the last bit of light in the dirty world that Narain created.


Jonah's Heart by Aftab


Why it Won: Because the writing is amazing, the story about this family was whimsical and yet touching at the same time, and because clockwork whales are awesome. It was like a Steampunk fairy tale with biblical undertones and—again—awesome clockwork whales. Great stuff. 


And, of course, the final winner, dubbed by the big DF himself


Aulus Fractus by eupolis


Congratualtions, eupolis, you are the honored winner of the Steampunk compass. Use it to navigate youself onward through life. Or as a paperweight.


Winners, you'll get your PageToFame coupons shortly. Everyone, don't forget about the Twitter Story Writing Challenge. It's out there waiting for you, just a click away.


See you next time....


WEbook



The Twitter Story Writing Challenge

Twitter-Logo For some, this challenge may seem like it's going to suck. But if you give it a shot, we're confident everyone can have a really good time, expand their literary minds, and help generate some awesome stories that we can share with the larger WEbook community. The world of possibilities is open and waiting for your submission. Some details: 


Nutshell: Write a story consisting of seven tweets.


Full Nut: Even if you hate, loath, or don't know what Twitter is, you can do this challenge. A single tweet is limited to 140 characters (including spaces). So all we're really asking you to do is write a story in seven segments of 140 characters each (or less). Why are we mixing the blue bird into the stew? Few reasons:



  • You can do cool things like add links to tweets. Links to photos or Wikipedia articles or anything else to complement the elements of your story. When you add links, it's helpful to use a shortening program like Bit.ly or tinyurl. Both of these are free to sign up for and easy to use. 

  • We can Tweet your stories and share them with all of the WEbook followers (if you didn't know, we have around 3,500 followers...kind of a big deal). This way everyone can get in on this story action, and we don't have to think of things to tweet for a while. 

  • As writers, Twitter can be a useful tool to connect with other writers, share your work, and in general open up a new section of the digital-world. So this could be a good way to dip your toe in the waters of Twitter River.


We realize this challenge might still be a little hard to understand. A little abstract. So the WEbook editorial team got together, decided to go out on a limb, and wrote our own Twitter story. This is that story. In memory of the Steampunk Challenge from last month we put a Giant Robot in it:


The Wizard and the Robot


#1


1878. The Mad Wizard of Greenwhich unleashed his Giant Robot upon London. Thousands died. More fled. We alone endure. http://bit.ly/jw9h4A


#2


The Wizard disappeared. Many searched for him. All lost. I must now leave the sheltered subway tunnels to find him. http://bit.ly/mJnR43


#3


Charred and broken buildings. Empty streets. The hollow metallic cry of the Giant Robot in the distance. I move north. http://bit.ly/kokt5E


#4


The Robot hunts me. But I am fast and smart and hard to catch. In the distance there is a tower. I am close. http://bit.ly/ig9b4s


#5


No guards, pits, or magic death-traps. Just stairs upwards. Then the Wizard. Sitting by the window and waiting. http://bit.ly/l5N11n


#6


"You're the tenth one to make it," he says. "But I can't help you kill the Robot. Go home. Forget me. Forget hope." http://bit.ly/jVrvyL


#7


This won't do. I won't give up. If the Wizard won't help then I'll find another way. A better way. The Robot must die. http://bit.ly/k05408


So there it is. That's your example. You can write about anything, though. It can be totally robot and wizard free. It can be about a girl picking out an ice-cream cone. Someone should do that one.


Word count wise, this one's a little tricky. Our word count editor will not avail you here. The best options are:


Create or use your own Twitter account, type your tweet in from there (they have a counter), and then paste it into your challenge/entry thing.Write the entry in Word, then highlight each individual "tweet," go to the Review tab, select Word Count, then align your word count so that Characters (with spaces) is equal to 140.


The deadline to enter this challenge is May 31, 2011 at 10 PM. We'll select winners and announce them on the blog as usual, but we'll also tweet a large portion (or even all) of the entries from our own Twitter account (3500+ followers) to share the literary love. Note: if you don't want us to tweet you, just write DNT (do not tweet) at the end of your entry.


To enter the challenge, head on over and start a new chapter of the Twitter Story Writing Challenge.


Feel free to tweet any questions you might have to us or write Bnaslund.


We hope you enjoy this one. Fly, you blue birds of written glory!


—WEbook



We Have Lift Off!

Wherethingscomebacklogo


I first learned that I would be a published author in January of 2010, just a few months after my first post on Webook and after the website helped me find my agent. Now, as I write this, I am just a few days away from seeing the realization of a lifelong dream come true. On May 3, 2011, my debut novel, Where Things Come Back, will hit bookstores all across the country. I pinch myself every morning when I wake up….and I also watch for falling anvils. This last year and a half has been incredible. Indescribable. Crazy. And amazing. Everything I’ve wanted to happen has happened and it seems like I’m living someone else’s life.


Just two weeks ago, the trade reviews started coming in for the novel and I’m happy to say that they are great! First was a wonderful, complimentary review from Kirkus and then was the best thing ever---a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Apparently, people like this book.


Where Things Come Back With only a few days left until the book is actually available for the public to read, and a few weeks until I officially start my book tour (visit www.johncoreywhaley.com for more information), I am so overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation that it’s getting hard to sleep!  I’ve made the important decision to take the next year or so to promote my book and focus on editing my second novel and getting it ready enough to hopefully land another book deal. I am happy to say that I am leaving my five years of public school teaching, effective June 1st. It is the right thing to do and the support and encouragement I’ve received over these past eighteen months, from friends and strangers, has assured me that writing is the career I should devote my life to.


 


I’m not going to keep going on about how lucky I am or how happy I am and all of that mess that you’re probably all rolling your eyes at. But I do want to extend an excessive amount of gratitude to all of the writers out there who are working late at night to finish that manuscript they’ve been obsessing over. I want to thank the people at Webook, who started a service that actually works for people like me, who have been rejected so many times in the past. And I want to tell all of my fans and readers and future readers and the like that you all have no idea how extremely grateful and honored I have been to share my story with you all. 



Corey Whaley hails from Shreveport, LA. He signed with Ken Wright, a literary agent at Writers House, last fall using WEbook's AgentInbox query service. His debut novel, Where Things Come Back, was purchased by Simon & Schuster early in 2010 and will be released on May 3, 2011.



Read more about Corey's amazing story.


 


 



Winners of the Dragon Slaying Writing Challenge

Dragon-Slaying-Logo Before going any further, we would like to have an HTML moment of silence for all of the dragons who met their doom during this challenge.


<moment of silence></moment of silence>


Thanks for that. Overall, that went pretty well...


...And now onto to the winning dragon slayers/writers!


This was an wonderful challenge to read. Did we wile away a large quantity of work hours reading our favorite entries aloud to each other across the cubicles? Yes. Did we act out the dialogue with funny dragon voices that were a mix of Brad Pitt in Troy and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek? Yes. Did one junior staff member come to work last Thursday in full dragon-garb, and at that point we all realized simultaneously that things had gone too far? Maybe.


Regardless of all that, we have chosen our winners. They are each mighty in their own way, but they were not the only ones. Many entries deserved recognition, but alas this world is filled with people and things that deserve recognition and do not get it. This is one of the things that makes the world a hard place to live in.


We're going to build our way towards the winner of the Dragon of Victory. Don't race ahead. Or do. We won't stop you.


Dragon How To: A Quick Reference Guide by OpheliaWrites


Why it won: Virtually everything about this entry was inventive and funny, from the larger format to the very smallest of details. And from all this abstract tomfoolery, a world was created with which we felt a meaningful connection. This mix of tongue-in-cheekery and world-buildingery is hard to pull off, but little 'ole Ophelia did it "write." (BAM!) In all of life, not just dragon slaying, we really believe this is helpful advice: "when all else fails, dodge and weave."


Victory is Not for the Weak by Michelle4Laughs


Why it won: Picture a dragon slayer. Probably a muscular guy, six-five, two-fifty. Killed his first man when he was eleven with a soup ladle. Not always, though. Sometimes all the physical strength in the world won't do you any good. Courage and conviction are bigger than those strengths—the confidence to do what you know to be right, even when it means you'll lose everything. Claire had that strength, and maybe that's what dragon slaying is all about. Courage and conviction.


Myrna of the Extinction Committee by Dikkenb


Why it won: Now, it isn't really WEbook's place to make a comment about whether animal rights activists can or cannot sometimes be a little bit of...well...a bummer. It is, however, our place to say that we like hardcore characters. Myrna is hardcore. She knows what she is, and what the world is, and she doesn't feel the least bit bad about it. That's fitting for a dragon slayer. That's the type of person you'd need to be, we think. Moreover, Dikkenb is a really good writer. Just listen to this:


"I swung the cross hairs onto the glinting devil out across the scalding shifting sands. Its back arched with rows of bristling scales like black onyx shards."


 Yes, that's the stuff.


"How to Slay Your Dragon" by TheUlminator


Why it won: Imagery, strong verbs, and visual adjectives. We like those three things, and TheUlminator brought them all to the table. Funny thing about this, it reminded us of a certain entry that won last time, when we checked back and realized why. The same person wrote it. Isn't that something? Tip of the cap to you, Ulminator. That's two. You gonna go for the hat trick? We dare you to.


The Last Dragon by Crusoe


Why it won: There was a lot we liked here. The dragon's perspective was extremely well done, the writing solid as always, and a roasted princess is always good to get into the mix. But we'll be honest, we didn't consider this a full-blown win until we neared the end and read this line:


"These humans don't remember what it's like to run in fear when a long shadow falls on their kingdom and fire rains from the sky."


That cut us deep. Because we all do that, don't we? When we feel safe we start to forget. Get comfortable, get complacent. Worry about inconsequential things that don't really matter. Let them rule over us. And then, one day, a day that starts out like any other, a long shadow falls on our kingdom. Oh Crusoe, you scoundrel. Lines like that are what make these writing challenges special to us.


[Victory Dragon Winner] The 531st Annual SquiggleSmudge Turnip Festival by Malekin


Why it won: So when the townspeople started "engaging in a figurative orgy of turnip-themed delights" we were pretty well sold on this being one of the winners. That's an awesome thing to have your townspeople do. But there is more here than just that, and that's why Malekin is getting the Dragon of Victory. There's narrative! Donkey derbies, turnip thieves, knights who can only combat turnip thieves (does that make them turnip knights?), slain mimes, and of course, the start of a heroic quest. Our minds raced to imagine the team young Derek would need to put together to finish off the rest of the dragon family (turnip knight, turnip thief, out-of-work mime apprentice). Damn, that's good!


This entry could be the start of an epic and hilarious journey for young Derek, and one we'd like to read more about. If you do decide to take Derek on this quest, we hope you bring the Dragon of Victory along for the ride. Maybe slip him into a scene somehow. Just a thought.


Well, there it is. Thanks again for all of your thoughtful, inventive, and generally brilliant submissions. It was an honor to read them. Victors, get ready to be P2F'ed, coupon style. Malekin, get ready for your dragon.


Steampunk If you haven't done so at this point (and at the time of writing this, that could be as many as 100 of you), it'd be cool if you entered the Steampunk Writing Challenge. We'd love to read what you come up with. And we're giving away a cool prize for this one, too. Submissions are open until April 30th. So break out your steam-pen and get to writing.


 Until the next time....


--WEbook



The Steampunk Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog The writing challenges continue to hum along. Last time, we had each author slay a dragon in a method of their choosing. This time, we're going down a different path. We're trading our reptile scales for iron gears, our wings for airship sails, and our cold-blooded hearts for boiling oil. Behold:


The Steampunk Challenge!


In short: Authors are to write a short scene (max 500 words) that incorporates one or more key elements of the Steampunk genre. 


In long:  We know what you're thinking, "What in the name of Mark Twain's ring finger is Steampunk, and how do I incorporate it into my scene?" Don't blow a gasket, we'll explain.


In its most basic sense, Steampunk fiction presents a world where technology has advanced based upon steam mechanics rather than electricity (read: gears and cogs, not wires and circuits). This is, however, a gross simplification of this rich and expanding sub-genre of speculative fiction. For a more in-depth exploration of Steampunk's definition, please read and absorb Matthew Delman's perspective at Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders. Seriously, go read it right now so we're all on the same page. Then hurry back.


Thanks, hope that sparked some steam-spiration in your writer's mind. We know it got us quite excited about the possibilities abound in this challenge. Now, a few quick suggestions (that you can ignore) from WEbook:


1.) Steampunk is massive, so don't try and pack everything into your short scene. Pick some metallic tidbits you find interesting and make them shine.


2.) Don't forget to create compelling characters. This challenge isn't all about cogs and airships, make us feel something for someone (yes, that someone can be a steam robot).


3.) We know it can be fun when whistles and valves are involved, but use onomatopoeia sparingly. Please.


WEbook will pick our six favorite submissions and award them free entry to PageToFame, our flagship writing contest/feedback steam-machine (see how we slipped "steam" in there? You're welcome). As in the last challenge, we will also highlight the aspects of each entry that lead them to victory.


Steampunk The mysterious Doctor Fantastique will choose his favorite submission from the pool of finalists and send him or her a steampunk compass. Moreover, the big DF will answer any Steampunk related questions you may have during the contest via twitter @docfantastique. Use him, he is both noble and wise in all things related to the 'punk.


The deadline to submit is 10pm on April 30, 2011. To submit your entry, start a new chapter in the Steampunk Challenge writing project. Read through the official description before starting your submission, as there is some extra information about the challenge. 


Lastly, we leave you with a Steampunk Alphabet. For inspiration, and for fun.


Airship, Buckle, Cog, Derringer, Engine, Factory, Goggles, Harpoon, Industry, Jules (Verne), Kinetic, Lordly, Mechanical, Nightmare, Oil, Pirates, Queen, Rivets, Smuggler, Turbine, Ultimate, Victorian, Whistle, Xenomorphic (yes we used a dictionary), Yearning, and Zebra...the mechanical kind.



Winners of the Monster Creation Writing Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog The WEbook editorial staff has read and considered each monster carefully—inspecting its appearance, considering its origin, questioning its motives—and we’re now ready to announce the winners. It was a great pleasure getting to know each of the monsters, so as always, thanks to everyone who submitted to this challenge.


Another huge thanks to everyone who offered their comments on a submission (or, in some cases, many submissions). We feel community feedback is one of the most valuable aspects of the challenges, and love seeing such a high level of engagement.


Without further adieu, here are the winners. As promised, we’re catapulting each of them into a world of fame by highlighting our favorite aspects of the submission. Remember us when you're rich beyond your wildest dreams.


Hungry Like the Wolf by TheUlminator


Why it was picked: The writing quality blew us away. TheUlminator took a generic premise and scene (teenager getting mauled by a monster) and pumped a stunning amount of life into a short space using unique descriptions and phrasings. Our two favorites: “the wolfish form battering-rammed Alice into the cement” and “…its prison-bar ribs surfacing then receding with each labored breath.” Of all the scenes, this one felt the most alive and clear to us. Bravo!


The Plague Doctor by krymsonkyng


Why it was picked: A lot of submissions described a human that behaved like a “monster.” We singled out krymsonkyng’s creation because he expertly blurred the monster/human line with the description in the fourth paragraph: “The oil-slicked robes that bound the creature in his own world, the pointed mask that hid his humanity away from the black death, from the back of his hood to the tip of his cane all were stretching and contracting with every step.” This made us step back and do some thinking—in a way, aren’t we all stretching and contracting with every step? Aren’t we all wearing some kind of mask as we walk through the dark alley of life? Crap, is everyone a monster?! Nooooooooooooo...


The McDonald's Monster by OdinofAzgard


Why it was picked: The image of a monster roaming from playpen to playpen is inventive, funny, and a bit, well, touching. We felt sympathy for the monster when we thought of him alone, forlornly sniffing the dissipating smell of French fries in the ball pit. We really did. Not so much when he was doing the whole child-eating thing. But we like having mixed feelings about monsters. Love/hate, for the win. We also felt this story might legitimately get a child to finish their Happy Meal in earnest, and that’s power you can’t buy.


A Dog And His Girl by SirKeystone


Why it was picked: In a scene of just under 400 words, SirKeystone offered an idea that could easily be turned into a novel. It has setting, back story, conflict, and a robot side-kick. This was one submission we desperately wished would continue for many more pages. So…turn it into a novel and send it to us. Please.


The Pulsing Tone Beetle by CT_Vincent


Why it was picked: Because it made us think seriously about sleeping with earmuffs on. One member of the WEbook staff might actually have made it a habit. Just to be safe, you know? In all seriousness, though, reading this one really gave us a visceral reaction and really left an unpleasant image in our brain. Hopefully nothing in our ears. 


it's true by maluspudor


Why it was picked: Stand-alone scenes of dialogue are always risky, but maluspudor pulled off this one with skill and grace. Not only was the dialogue believable, but the scene made us smile. Moreover, it really touched on the monster creation process in general—everything kind of escalates and gets bigger, crazier, and scarier. And then you have a real monster, whether it exists or not. Think on that.


Congratulations to all of the winners! You will receive your PageToFame coupon shortly via direct message.The next challenge has been up and running for a few weeks, but there’s plenty of time to enter if you have not yet done so. Head over to the Dragon Slaying Challenge to get started. There are a lot of dragons out there begging for a literary death.


So get to it.


—WEbook



The Dragon Slaying Writing Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog Last time around, we asked writers to create a monster. Now, we’re going to have you slay one—a dragon, to be specific. After this challenge, we’ll move away from mythical beasts (probably). 


The Dragon Slaying Challenge


If you’re currently thinking, “There aren’t that many ways to slay a dragon, this is going to be a boring challenge where all the entries are the same,” you're addressing this challenge in a closed-minded fashion. We hypothesize that there are well over a thousand original ways for a dragon to be slain, and that the entries in this challenge, while they will be exceptional, will only begin to scratch at the surface of possibilities. 


There is only one restriction: The scene must involve a human slaying a dragon.


Time period, type of dragon, type of human, situation, method, and motivation for the slaying are all factors left entirely up to the writer, and comprise the meat of the challenge. We want to see some world-building and some deep emotion here. Hate? Sorrow? Guilt? Joy? Guilt caused by Joy? Revenge? Greed? Pride? Sense of duty? These are a few examples you can incorporate into your slaying-scene, but don’t feel limited to just these. We trust you to recognize a deep emotion when you feel one.   


The Prizes


Dragon-Slaying-Logo The WEbook editorial staff will pick 6 winners and award them a coupon to PageToFame. We will feature the top three entries on the WEbook blog in successive installments and highlight the stuff we liked about these entries. The #1 dragon-slaying scene-writer will receive an actual dragon in the mail. No joke. We’ll mail you a dragon and probably a really nice note. 


To enter the Dragon Slaying Challenge, START A NEW CHAPTER in this project. Please read all of the project rules before writing and entering your challenge. 


Good luck, Dragon Slayers.


—WEbook



The Monster Creation Writing Challenge

20100216writingchallengeblog After a holiday/winter hiatus, the WEbook writing challenges have returned with an earth-shattering wave of vengeance! Hurrah! We're excited to be back, and look forward to the next round of submissions. Let's get down to the details: 

The Monster Creation Challenge

For this challenge, authors are to create and describe a monster in 400 words. Obviously, the definition of a monster is open to an array of interpretations, and we'll consider all of them. You might create an enigmatic water-beast that preys on seafaring travelers, a Frankenstein-esque creature of patchwork horrors, or perhaps a psychopath who torments his victims with grotesque mind games (Saw). 

IStock_000010044269XSmall The key to this challenge will be in the details rather than the broad strokes. Monster-related fiction has quite literally existed since the beginning of the written word (The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh) so it's fine to be derivative in the concept of your monster. However, your description should shine like a fresh button or plucked eyeball (yeah, they shine). 

The format of the description is also completely up to you. You could use a monologue, a Wikipedia-type article description, a third party description, or anything else. The format you pick will both restrict and open your options, so we suggest thinking carefully and even trying a few different possibilities to decide which one you find most effective to describe your creation. 

The WEbook editorial staff will pick our 6 favorite submissions and award the authors free entry to PageToFame. We will also catapult them into a world of fame and riches by highlighting each of them on the WEbook blog and writing about how awesome they are.


To submit, start a new chapter on the Monster Creation Challenge Project. The deadline to submit is February 28, 2011. A few more guidelines are noted on the actual challenge page. Take heed of them!

Best of luck to you all,

-The WEbook Challenge-Wardens 



WEbook Update

Hello WEbookers—

WEbook has undergone some important changes in the past few weeks, and we would like to update the community on what’s been happening and the motivation behind our decisions.
 
As many of you have no doubt noticed, we recently launched advertisements on certain areas of the WEbook site. We decided to implement these ads to help cover the costs of and maintaining the WEbook community. Like any business, we require revenue to keep our doors open, and advertisements will be a helpful source of capital as we move forward. 

We made considerable efforts to deliver advertisements that are highly relevant to the majority of our users, and so far believe that we have succeeded. We will intermittently refine and adjust the types of advertisements we serve on our site to ensure we are providing useful information to as many people as possible.
 
Some users may have also noticed a decrease in activity on WEbook—both from users and our blog contributors. A large part of this slow down was caused by the holiday season, when book publishing by and large shuts down, internet activity in general drops, and many people go on vacation. Our blog contributors were in the latter category, but we expect to have them back and plugging away at their keyboards soon. 

PageToFame is also humming along nicely. We’re getting ready to send out the Agent Showcase, featuring Round 3 winners to literary agents. We expect that the extra attention and the endorsement based of the PageToFame results will help authors find representation. There are no plans to build more parts of PageToFame beyond than those that already exist, but it still offers the same promise it did at the start—a large number of readers (100+) rating your first page, some more serious readers and comments in Round 2, and even more feedback in Round 3. 

As always, we encourage all of our users to share PageToFame and WEbook in general with their friends—both through social media and word-of-mouth—to help participation in PageToFame continue to grow. 

We believe that 2011 will be an exciting year for the writing and publishing world, and look forward to events that lay ahead.

—The WEbook Team 



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