The All Aboard Writing Contest Winners!

TitanicThe ships have set sail. The voyages have been made. The water has been cut. The journey has been completed. 

We noticed there was a lot of darkness aboard these entries. Don't worry, we're not squeamish, although we were a little surprised by the lack of first-half-of-Titanic-romance in the majority of the entries. No matter, they were a pleasure to read!


Silent Reminder of Our Places by Dana_Bulla - Grim, but interesting dystopian piece. We loved the inventive use of the cruise ship. Loved it so much, that we're sending you a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print!

Beneath the Bloody Sea by CrystalRose - There's that darkness we were talking about! Yet, also an engaging, heart-wrenching story.

Under the Sun by MyMorbidFantasy - The ending took us a bit by surprise, but everything leading up to that point was full of spot-on, creative descriptions and characterizations. 

Steel Pants by SC_Benjamin - Here's some levity! We're not so sure this is a believable scene, but weare sure that isn't the point. This one made us giggle, and we are not liberal with our giggles. Nice one.

More Than A Crusade by violet_Music - A fun sci-fi approach, well-executed and tells a lot of story in the short word limit.

The Grand Illusion by JRBeck - Well-written and great hook at the end. This one really left us wanting to read more. 

Congratulations to the winners! You will receive your PageToFame coupons in your WEbook inboxes shortly. 

In case you haven't already, the Back Story Writing Contest is running full-speed ahead (and there's a copy of Game of Thrones involved). So start writing some Back Story, and have a great weekend. 



Pulitzer 2012: Love Is All You Need

The Pulitzer Prize is kind of a big deal. Awarded yearly under the administration of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, it recognizes excellence in twenty-one categories of journalism andShutterstock_1230643 the arts, bringing deserved attention to a group of writers who spend much of their careers relatively unsung. (Ever strike you as odd that even the most highly acclaimed authors can go to Starbucks, the gym, their own book event, with no fanfare whatsoever, while the Disney channel person of the week can hardly go to the mailbox without a media frenzy? Think about it…)

So the publishing world was on the edge of its seat Monday afternoon, waiting for the 3:05 pm award announcement. Authors, agents, editors, and publicists all hoping for a career-making moment. The lists went up—and the internet exploded into anxious, wounded fury, because there was no prize awarded in fiction.

That’s right. No prize. The biggest award of the bunch, the one with the power to fuel book clubs for months, keep bookstores in the red, justify an editor’s next big buy…zip, zilch, nada.  Before an hour had passed, links were flying around naming the three judges, who nominate the three finalists, and the list of jury members, who stalemated the fiction prize for the first time since 1977. Tweeters and bloggers ran their fingers ragged expressing their disappointment and analyzing what this means about—and for—publishing, American fiction, and reading itself.

But one good thing is tiptoeing around the edges of the firestorm: everyone is remembering just how important it is to acknowledge writers for their talent and hard work. The first reaction of most outraged interneters was to name books from 2011 that would merit a Pulitzer. Bookstores and book blogs gave out their own faux Pulitzers (follow hashtag #TwitterPulitzer to contribute yours!). Anyone could sit by the internet with a pen and paper and their To-Be-Read list would write itself. Publishers congratulated their winning authors in the other categories, and the three finalists are receiving a waterfall of praise from booksellers and fans; they may well see a little jump in sales and word-of-mouth marketing, even if not as much as the prize itself would have brought.

A prize of national standing is a big deal, and can bring a lot of extra opportunities. But perhaps its most important gift is that of affirmation­­—Hey writer, you’re good at this, and the sacrifices you made to bring your story to the world were worth it. Writing is a long and lonely pursuit. Winning an award says that every time you traded sleep for typing; every tear you shed letting go of favorite scenes in revision; every time you scraped together your ego after a rejection, and sent out the next query; every conversation you had about your book in a nearly empty bookstore; every blog tour you went on till your bum was numb…it was worth it. Your story is alive in the world. Readers love your book. You’re a writer. You’re an author.

And the great thing is, that’s encouragement we can give each other year round, published or aspiring, famous or undiscovered. Writers thrive on encouragement of any kind, no judge or jury needed. (Though the $10,000 prize money sure is nice.)

Let us know in the commentswhat did YOU think of the Pulitzer kerfluffle ? What book do you remember most from 2011? What kind of motivation keeps you writing?

And if you want to give some encouragement RIGHT NOW, read and rate a few Page to Fame entries. Or just hug the next writer you see.

The Back Story Writing Contest

Back Story ChallengeLast week we ran a blog post that explored George R. R. Martin’s talent for conveying back story in his fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Good old George may have some serious skills in this department, but it’s not an easy ability to learn. 

So the WEbook writing contest this time around is all about back story. Your task: 

Write a scene (300 word maximum) with at least two characters that conveys information about a major event in the past. 

A major event can mean a lot of things: a divorce, a murder, fighting in a civil war, a really big argument that never got resolved. The list goes on. It’s really up to you how “major” the event is and how many people are involved (beyond the required two). 

It’s also up to you how much information you actually give about the event. It can be a gentle allusion or a detailed description or something in between. 

WEbook will pick our favorite 6 entries and award them free entry to PageToFame. The #1 back story master will receive a copy of Game of Thrones!

To enter, start a new chapter in this writing project. Go forth and tell your two stories!

The deadline for this contest is 10 pm on April 29, 2012.

Winners of the All Aboard Writing Contest coming soon!


Writers' Workout

Shutterstock_82313836Today's issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers included a mini-essay by famous zany journalist A.J. Jacobs, who has tried, and writen about, every outlandish life experiment, from trying to be a Mensa-level braniac to following George Washington's 110 Good Conduct rules. This time, A.J. typed away on his  manuscript while walking on a treadmill, claiming

"At first, I thought treadmill writing would be distracting. But it's actually easy (and believe me, I am far from coordinated). It's also strangely energizing: walking raises your brain's serotonin level, which helps with focus."

A.J. got us to thinking. Writing isn't exactly the most active of pursuits, but surely there are more ways to burn calories while hitting our daily word goals. We came up with a few ideas for mixing fitness into your writing regimen. Plenty of options here for techies and traditionalists hoping for a swimsuit-ready body...and maybe even a finished manuscript or two!

 Protagonist Push-Ups Every time you type your main character's name, drop to the ground beside your desk and do a push-up. 

WikiYoga Fact-checking dates for your historical novel? Reading up on the background of the Put your laptop on the ground and research in the downward-facing-dog position. For expert writers, stand on your head (all that blood flow will improve your memory for details).

Revision Reps If you still edit the old-fashioned way, red pen to paper, tie a 3-pound hand weight to the end of your Pilot Precise V-7. You'll feel the burn in your biceps and triceps with each sentence you strike through. Soon you'll see strong, uncluttered paragraphs, as well as well-developed upper arms.

Endurance Proofing More interested in tone than bulk? Print out your manuscript on really, really heavy paper stock, and pay careful attention to form while you turn each page. Breathe in, breathe out, semicolon in, comma out.

Query Zumba Right before you hit "Send" on your email to that agent you're eager to work with, put on some Latin music and sashay around for about 90 seconds. Then give your query letter a final read-through. You'll be confident and energized for whatever comes next, whether rejection or response.

Let us know if you give any of these a try, or if you have any more ideas for adding workouts to writing. Dictionary Detox? Master Criminal Crunches? Plot Twist Pilates?  Don't forget to hydrate and hyphenate, and get your sense of humor checked before beginning any new fitness routine.

Spoiler Alert! The Titanic Sinks

James Cameron

Historical fiction is a popular genre, and can be lots of fun for writers. But when you’re writing a story with a historical setting, you’re battling spoilers from the very first page. How do you keep readers invested in the story?

James Cameron faced this problem when he decided to make a movie about one of history’s most famous disasters.  And he succeeded—we all know the Titanic sinks and that only 700 of the 2200 passengers survived, yet Titanic is almost unbearably suspenseful! In fact, the movie’s dramatic appeal lasts for multiple viewings, making it the highest-grossing film of all time. And now it’s scooping in cash all over again thanks to its 3D re-release.

If only that narrative power could be bought for the price of a movie ticket and a small popcorn…wait a second, maybe it can! Here are a few of the tricks James Cameron and his writers used that you could apply to your writing.

Something’s Missing Titanic opens and closes with a present-day mystery: where is the Heart of the Ocean?  From the first scene of the submarine robots crawling through the eerie sunken ship, the story is built around a search. Why wasn’t the necklace in the safe? Where is it, who has it, how did it get there? Although not the movie’s central dramatic tension, new questions are introduced and unanswered throughout the movie, keeping the audience hooked until the final scenes. 

Young Love Poor Rose – so beautiful and privileged, and her fiancé is such a jerk! Then, she sails on the ship of the ages and meets a feisty young lad who won’t let his disadvantaged life get him down. Romance is a storyteller’s not-so-secret weapon. We love Jack before Rose does, and are deeply interested as their love blooms. Will Jack be embarrassed at dinner? Will Rose obey her mother’s command to stay away from him? Will they ever, ever kiss?? Even before the iceberg, Cameron has us clutching our throats.

Conflicting Hopes Clearly Jack and Rose are meant for each other, and obviously her fiancé is a nightmare. But because the strict social mores of the era are so vivid in the story, we’re also really worried that the stiff angry valet will catch the unlikely lovers in compromising circumstances. What will happen to Rose’s reputation? How will she and her mother avoid bankruptcy if Cal breaks the engagement? Drama!

Make the Spoiler Your Slave A good storyteller can make the how as gripping as a story with an unknown ending. The frame tale establishes Rose as a survivor, with the well-known historical facts feeding into the suspense. And she almost doesn’t make it about a thousand times during the movie. She’s trapped in steerage with Jack! She’s looking for an ax! She’s trapped in steerage again! There are no more lifeboats! Through each close call, the audience, fully engaged, is anxious to see how this one gets solved, and with each escape, the emotional investment grows.

Supporting Characters This one also works with the spoiler instead of fighting it. We all know the captain goes down with the ship, the band plays into the waves, and the Unsinkable Molly Brown, well, doesn’t sink. Cameron introduces us to other characters and makes us care about them—or at least care about what happens to them. You’re probably hoping Rose’s hateful fiancé Cal bites the ice, but do Jack’s friends Fabrizio and Tommy make it to safety? Odds are against them. And you feel a sad pang when you see the ship’s distinguished, kind, and heroic builder stand sadly in the elegant dining room of the ship he built during the final moments. Though we see Rose’s mother on a lifeboat early, most of these characters are fighting for survival until the very end.

If you’ve faced the spoiler challenge in your writing, tell us about it! How have you battled—or exploited—your story’s historical setting? Have you borrowed anything from Cameron’s tool box (and we don’t mean 3D glasses)? Leave a comment and tell us about it! 

And now that you’ve got what it takes to one-up Cameron, try your hand at our All Aboard! Writing contest (less than a week left!).


[Photo credit: Featureflash /]




Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Hidden Genius of George R. R. Martin’s Storytelling

GameofthronesWith the first episode of season two of Game of Thrones premiering on HBO last Sunday, the world of Westeros has been pretty hot recently. Water coolers across the US were overwhelmed with talk of dragons, Craster’s Keep, and how big Rob’s direwolf has gotten.

Beyond that, talk also strayed to the book series the show is based on—A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. I’ve noticed two camps, those who have read the books and watch the series, and those who have only done the latter. Both seem to enjoy the series in different ways, but comments like “Oh, but you have to read the books,” inevitably slip into conversation when the two groups cross paths. And inevitably, you hear the sales pitches for why the books are so good:

“He just fleshes out so many more characters in the books.”

“It’s fantasy, but it’s so realistic.”

“The perspective changes are amazing.”

“He’s not afraid to kill off characters. Nobody is safe.”

These are all great reasons to read the books (and in some cases, also to watch the series) but there’s one element of GRRM’s storytelling I’ve noticed usually gets left out of these “water-cooler” conversations:

Blending back story with action.

Anyone’s who’s ever tried to write something has struggled with back story. It’s a pain. You need the reader to know information that’s happened in the past—people who have been in love, wars that have been fought, feuds burning below the surface—but you don’t want to slow down the present action.

A Song of Ice and Fire has more back story in twenty pages than some novels have in their entirety, and GRRM juggles this information like the master storyteller he is. He melds back story with action through a variety of means. Characters remember scenes and moments that are similar or related to the situation they’re currently in, other times two characters talk about a third character candidly, and some characters even relive past events in their dreams.

But George’s most effective strategy—his bread-and-butter of back story, if you will—is tucked between lines of dialogue and small mannerisms. It’s the events characters allude to but don’t ever state outright, the tensions between them that they dance around, and the veiled insults that mean more to them than they do to the reader. For now.

To me, this is one of my favorite parts of reading A Song of Ice and Fire—experiencing a story that’s evolving from two directions and getting richer and more interesting with every page. I can’t wait for the next episode (or the next book!).  

But what about you? What’s your favorite part of A Song of Ice and Fire?

And just as a not so subtle heads-up, there might be a back-story element to the next WEbook writing contest coming on April 15th.

If you can’t wait that long, the All Aboard Writing Contest is still sailing strong!

Have a great weekend!


Popular Posts

The WEbook Store