5 Links Worth Following

Fellow lovers of words,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted some links to other cool places on the internet, and for that I apologize. There are many wonderful things out there, and I was selfishly trying to keep you here on my blog and on my blog alone. But I’ve realized the error of my ways and I’m excited to send you out to some of the places that I’ve been. If it isn’t too selfish to ask, I would love your thoughts on the pages linked below. So visit them, then come back here and share. And as always, thanks for reading.

shapes_of_storiesThe Shapes of Stories by Kurt Vonnegut | Writers Write

I just recently added the Writers Write blog to my list of noteworthy places, and I am glad that I found them. If you use Facebook, their pages is constantly updated with fun prompts, thoughts on writing, and author birthdays and facts. For word nerds like me, this site is pure bliss.

silver_blade_clichesGrand List of Fantasy Clichés | Silver Blade Magazine

I stumbled across this page while seeking a publisher for some of my flash fiction, and it is too good not to share. For anyone who reads or writes in the fantasy genre, you will appreciate this list of overused fantasy tropes. Enjoy!

flash_fiction_contestFlash Fiction Writing Contest | Literacy Center of West Michigan

I was referred to this contest by writing friend and Guild member, Cynthia Beach. If you have an interest in flash fiction, please consider this contest. The grand prize is $150 and submissions are being accepted May 15 – June 30. There is an entrance fee of $15.

flying_pigImagine a Flying Pig: How Words Take Shape in the Brain | NPR

This is an interesting article about how words and language affect the way our brain works. Scientists used to think that we had a separate module in our brains that made language possible, given that human language is so much more developed than any other creature. But what scientists actually found was quite shocking.

writingWords | Radiolab

The NPR Article above reminded me of a podcast from Radiolab, so I went back and listened. It was great all over again. If you are fascinated by words, you won’t be disappointed by this podcast!

3 Day Novel Memories

Normally, Labor Day Weekend brings about thoughts of family reunions, cookouts, and the beginning of school (not to mention the economic and social contributions of workers). But for the last few years, it has had very different associations for me. I think of long nights, early mornings, and typing until my fingers ache and my eyes dry out. You see, Labor Day Weekend is the official time-frame for the 3-Day Novel Contest.

It was shortly after the formation of the Weaklings, my writer’s group, that one of our members told us about the 3-Day Novel Contest.

“You write a novel in three days,” he said, as though that were something that could be done. Some of us had already been working on novels for three years at that point.

“What?” said the rest of us.

We looked up the information online. Sure enough. One novel, three days.

Of course, outlining and character development ahead of time were not against the rules. The only real rule was that you couldn’t start the “Once upon a time…” until midnight between Friday night and Saturday morning and you had to be done by midnight between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

And so I outlined. My story idea that first year was about a dystopian world where sound was illegal. The main character gets caught up in the underground movement to overthrow the government. Action ensues.

I remember that year fondly. Writing it was fun, but the best part for me was the outlining. When I explained the bones of the world and my storyline to my beautiful wife, she caught the vision right away and helped me think through a lot of the details.

“What about cars? How do people get around without making any noise?” she would ask.

“Electric cars, Maglev trains, and very quiet shoes. Besides, people aren’t really allowed to move around outside of their cities anymore,” I would say.

“What about babies?” she would say. “Babies can’t help but make noise.”

“When a woman reaches a certain point in her pregnancy, she has to go to a sound proof birthing facility where she will stay with her child for ten years, living in relative sound freedom while the kids are taught sign language and warned of the dangers of sound. This way, the father role can be assumed completely by the government.”

“How about pets? Do people have pets?”

“Sure, but they have to get them from government-approved pet shops after their vocal cords have been removed.”

“What about their claws on wood floors?” she would ask. “Click, click, click.”

“Booties,” I would say.

Issue after issue, we thought about how to create a silent world. And I must say that I really believe that many of our ideas would work. They would require a tyrannical government, but that was okay because my story had that too.

And then fellow Weakling, Andrew Rogers, contacted Ann Byle, a writer at the time for the Grand Rapids Press and got us a story in the newspaper (read it here). Suddenly, it was more than just a private thing my writer’s group was doing. Now it was a real thing. It was something that told the world that I was a writer, not just someone who dabbled in stringing sentences together.

And then the actual weekend came.

It was my first attempt at writing something longer than a short story. I was already more attached to my characters than I realized, because by the end of the novel when some bad things happen, I felt like a monster forcing my characters to deal with the evils I had designed for them. It was the first time that I felt bad about being mean to a fictional person.

During the weekend, the Weaklings all stayed under one roof. We woke at odd hours to start writing, we ate when someone was appointed to cook, and we shouted out word counts and save reminders often enough to spur each other on to longer and better novels.

And when it was done, we all had first drafts. They were terrible first drafts, but I remember thinking at the time that any of us could have won the contest. It wasn’t too far out there that one of us had written something amazing.

We’ve done the contest every year since.

Except for this year. This year, we are all taking a break from new novels. This year, we are honing our existing novels, prepping them for publication, and grooming our platforms.

But next year, we will all be famous published authors, and, if our book tours permit us, we will hole ourselves up again for another 3-day Novel Contest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Weaklings’ blogs below for their 3-day Novel Memories.

For all the times I’ve mentioned “3-day Novel” on my blog, click here.

50 Words, 1 Character | 4 Examples

The other day, I announced a new Flash Fiction Challenge, but I didn’t give you any examples. Consider this post the remedy for that wrong. Below you will find my 50 word character introductions to the main characters of my last three 3-Day Novel entries plus one that I will be writing soon.

If you haven’t done so already, check out the challenge and enter your own 50 word character description!

Daniel O’Ryan – Fathered by a demon, raised in an orphanage, and more powerful than he knows, Daniel O’Ryan is about to start his freshman year at a new school, the prestigious Blackwood Academy. But when his powers begin to manifest, Daniel must decide who he truly is, man, demon, or something more?

Ezra Stone – Ezra Stone blames the Union for his wife’s death in the birthing center. If only he could have been with her, he might have done something. But laws in the silent society dictated that she go alone to sound-proof facility. Soon, Ezra’s grief will make itself heard around the world.

Quentin Roosevelt – Youngest son of President Theodore Roosevelt, Quentin is eager to get into the Great War. But when his bi-plane is downed over France, Roosevelt is given the chance to fight an even greater war. Faking his death, Quentin sets out for the mysterious artifacts that grant mastery over time itself.

Connover Swofford – It seems that everything Connover Swofford wants, someone else gets. But when his depression hits a new low, and his successful co-worker commits suicide, Connover realizes that it isn’t just the good things that happen to those around him. Can he use his new-found powers to improve his own lot?

The Winner Is…

Before I forget (which I’ve been doing since last Friday) I’d like to announce that the winner of my last Flash Fiction contest is Jackie Slaughter.

Jackie won three books that are the first in their series. See her prize and winning one-sentence biography here.

I’ll be putting together another contest soon, as I have a number of good books that I’d like to give away.

Flash Fiction Challenge | Before, But After…

The last contest I did was fun for me, but it lacked in participation. Maybe my prize wasn’t good enough. Anyway, here’s the new contest:

Before, But After… – A One-Sentence Biography.

Craft a single sentence that provides a bit of depth on a character of your creation. Each biography should follow the format below.

Before he was arrested for tax evasion, but after his time as Lieutenant Governor  of Maryland, Jeff Small worked as the greeter for a major retail chain.

or

Before her body hit the bottom, but after she jumped from the heights of the Grand Canyon, 23-year-old Jennifer Bennington discovered that she was happiest when falling.

The one-sentence biography can be about an existing character or a completely original character to this contest. You also don’t have to be a writer to enter the contest, just willing to participate.

To enter, just leave your sentence in the comments of this post. A winner will be chosen at random from among the participants.

The prize: This set of books.

Set includes The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens.

What are you waiting for?

The contest ends July 20th, 2012. All comments must be in by then. And like usual, I can only ship within the continental US.

The 26 Word Story | Elementary Edition

A little while ago, I had a contest asking people to submit a 26-word story, each word of which progress alphabetically. Refer here to see my example.

When my sister-in-law, a teacher in North Carolina, saw the prompt, she decided to show it to her classroom. After posting my story on the board, she gave the students a few minutes to look it over before asking them what made it unique. After a few guesses, the kids discovered the secret and were tasked with creating a story of their own using the same restrictions.

Posted below are a couple of the stories that my sister-in-law got back. I was deeply impressed with their efforts, as it is quite difficult to come up with sentences (that make sense) out of the X, Y and Z.

Story 1 (courtesy of Marisol, age 9) – At baker’s cape, Dilan eats fifty gushy hotdogs. Italian juice killed Luis. Monkeys never out push. Quin ran steady traveling. Unicorns view white x-rays yelling Zebra

Story 2 (courtesy of Gabe, age 10) – Anthony bellowed carelessly down. Evil falcon gulped him inside. Jelly killed limping monkeys. Numb opened possums quivered. Reptiles stared terrified. Unusually, very worried xylophones yelped, zoomed.

On a related note, stay tuned this week for the next wordplay contest.

Duotrope, the Flashing Cop: A Hero’s Journey -or- Links

This week, I’ve been away from my keyboard more than I’d usually like. My work has stepped up the remodeling plan (demolition is coming next week or the week after) so we’ve all been coming in early or staying late in order to get things moved (roughly 80,000 used books, 90% of our music department, 90% of our gifts department, and our shipping/receiving department) before the bulldozers knock off the front half of our building. Anyway, as a result, I took one night and set up the blogs for this past week to post automatically.

That all being said, this week’s links are all good. I didn’t have as much time to poke around other people’s blogs, so I went with links that I am familiar with already. Here are some cool places online to check out:

Axe Cop – This is web-comic about a cop with an axe. The thing that makes this site great is the fact that all the stories are written by a 5 year old (although that was when the comic started, now he’s 7) and then drawn by his 30-something year old brother. Why is this great? Because many of us have forgotten how a child thinks, and if you want to relate, either as a parent or a writer or both, it’s a wonderful way to climb into the mind of a child for a few minutes.

Duotrope: This is a site for writers to find homes for things that they’ve written. You can do searches and submissions and contests and more. It’s quite a resource. As for the name, this is from the site:

“Duotrope” is a word we made up. Since “duo” is the Latin root for “two” and “trope” is from the Greek “to turn,” we think of a duotrope as two objects spinning in orbit around each other, such as a writer and an editor. That’s just our concept of what a “duotrope” is. Feel free to come up with your own. (“Duotrope” is the registered trademark of Duotrope, LLC.)

The Hero’s Journey: If you have ever wondered why some stories seem to get written over and over, there’s a reason. Think of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and even the story of Moses from the Bible. Joseph Campbell came up with something that he called Monomyth or The Hero’s Journey. If you are writing a tale of epic proportions and need an idea of where you are going, or if you are a reader and you’d like to be a better critical thinker while working through that book on your nightstand, check it out. Also, I’m not the only one to write about this theme, here’s a bonus link to another blog on the same topic.

10 Flash Fiction Writing Tips: This week, I’ve been a bit focused on flash fiction. If you want to try your hand at writing ridiculously short stories, here are some things to keep in mind. I should probably start using this advice myself.

So, there you go. Just when you thought you were tired of the internet, I give you all these reasons to go back online. Oh, one last plug for my contest and we’ll be all set. Check out yesterday’s post for full details, but it’d be great to get some entries.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!As far as a report card for this week, I made sure that something posted on the blog every day, so that’s good, but I didn’t spend everyday writing for it, so less good. I went out writing twice and last night I added about 700 words to my manuscript. I’ll give myself a solid B.

Okay, that’s it, now have a nice weekend.