Write Now Prompt for October 20, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He was surprised to open the newspaper and see his own picture in the Obituary section.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

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Write Now Prompt for October 17, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

No one knew how to handle the chaos that ensued when the truck overturned, releasing its contents on the highway.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: NaNoWriMo 2017

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

National Novel Writing Month begins again on November 1! Many members of the Today’s Author community are annual participants in NaNoWriMo or the Young Writer’s Program (for students in high school or younger), so today we’d like to see how many folks are planning to participate this year.  Some rule changes a few years ago opened the event up to works-in-progress as well, so if you haven’t participated due to the old requirement for a new work of fiction, you may want to take another look!

Please take a moment to let us know if you are participating and what you are considering writing for NaNoWriMo 2017. Additionally, if you have any questions about NaNoWriMo, please ask — some of our members are staff volunteers for the event and can help you get the answers you need.

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for October 13, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

Alarms blared as all of the display lights suddenly turned red.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Getting it All Wrong to Make It Write

or, Responding Graciously to Awful Critiques

I must apologize.

About 15 years ago I sat nervously on the hot seat of my first official writing critique session, having balanced on sword points for two weeks while my new-found group of reviewers read the first chapter of my book. Certainly they were about to skewer me because what else would they do to someone who dared enter the heady realm of Writer with no more credentials than a college degree in Creative Writing and years of doing everything but write? I deserved to be skewered, burned over hot coals, and served a la carte with freshly shaved horseradish.

I can’t even remember what those folks said about my first chapter. Can’t remember because though I tried to listen, I heard nothing. I sat through the crits and quaked, tried to smile but grimaced, to breathe evenly but choked. Should have listened better so I’d have something memorable to tell you, but I have nothing to show for that first critique except the edge of the chair imprinted on the backs of my thighs.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about critique groups, mostly by doing nearly everything wrong. I’ve been so arrogant that I actually thought I was qualified to tell someone else how to write. I mean, I read – lots. Didn’t that qualify me to tell other novice writers, many more veteran than myself, how to describe a character’s motives without a melodramatic voice, how to show and not tell? I’d read all those writers’ books and articles, dug up my old college notes, sat back on my sofa and trawled through my memory to unearth the pearls of my college professors’ wisdom – even remembered a few pithy points. Talk about arrogant, cynical, smarmy, and self righteous. I have been way too insensitive to the feelings of others.

It was no surprise I would get it back in kind, finally a long overdue rounding of my pointed little head. I was critiqued a few nights ago, and though many of the critters (shall we use that silly term, for brevity’s sake?) spoke fairly of my recent work while offering useful ideas to improve it, one person came at me with lance drawn. His critique infuriated me, right from the top. I’d submitted chapter 11 of what I’ve oft made clear is a 24 chapter book, nearly the half way point. Goodspeak (why not call him Goodspeak?) began by stating he was going to critique my work as if it was chapter one. Why? Because he hadn’t read the first ten chapters. I’d been saddled for the wrong rodeo and felt a bit put off by the horse poo. It’s fair to say, if you’ve been out of the reading loop of a particular book, that you wouldn’t quite get who a character is or why a scene occurs. It’s more than fair to request a synopsis be included to make it easier for new readers to cut into a well established story.  Note taken – synopsis will be provided next time.

But Goodspeak wanted to treat chapter 11 as if it were chapter one, along with concerns about what he just couldn’t understand. Like where did the cake come from (um, even if you didn’t read the first ten, it’s a book about a senior residence, and it doesn’t take a very long tape measure to realize that every birthday, every anniversary is celebrated with cake in an old folks’ home. You never know if it will be Granny’s last chocolate frosted nibble – please don’t tell me you never thought of that. Only a four-year-old hasn’t thought of that, but four-year-olds love cake and parties every half hour, so even they get it!)

Nobody writes a mid chapter and includes a detailed rewrite of all the stuff that happened in the first half. A book written that way would be a great new sleep aid. Goodspeak’s crit was bogus at that point, and I should have realized that little of worth would be stated. I should have done what I often did in boring college classes: slept with my eyes open. Still I continued my pasted if bogus smiling until the next comment threw me over the edge.

In the book, two teenage brothers jabber about their older brother and the young woman he’s just introduced to them. The younger brother “wiggles his rear” to communicate how sexy he found the woman. Goodspeak found my language archaic. Could be. His suggestion was that I update and use the word twerk.

I know what you just did. You guffawed as you saw in your mind’s eye a famous singer at a packed concert who jiggled her nearly bare butt cheeks into the crotch of a male performer while her tongue lolled all the way to the floor. Ain’t nobody in this whole wide world who didn’t see that girl’s keister quiver, ‘cept the poor deprived citizens of North Korea and the aborigines of New Guinea. Maybe even only the North Koreans. Bet Kim Jong-un saw it – probably downloaded it to his desktop – the first thing he sees every morning while playing with his nukes. Ahem.

If deciding to crit my story as if chapter 11 were chapter one wasn’t way off the appropriate target, then suggesting I “upgrade” a playful wiggle to a suggestive twerk absolutely missed any hope of a bull’s eye. My book has nothing to do with the awful behavior of a childish performer whose best talent resides in the Most Suggestive category. Anyone reading that word in my book would toss it immediately into the trash where all minimal performers ultimately end up. Wrong word, wrong image, wrong association.

Goodspeak’s patter dumped me square into the category of Total Outrage.

I had a right to stew.

I didn’t have a right to let everyone know how outraged I felt.

I dropped myself into the pit of Ungrateful Critique Group Member. I shouted out in the middle of his review (a rule we are never ever to break ever) that I would never use such a stupid and nasty word in anything I write. I told Goodspeak in front of everyone in the group what a dumb idea he’d made.

Shame on me for not being gracious that Goodspeak had even read my chapter and offered insight.

I had his comments coming. I’d earned his unflattering critique. He was not diminished in the sight of the other group members.

I was.

Because I’ve often made stupid and ill considered comments to other writers. Because I’ve been arrogant and thoughtless and damn stupid about my choice of nits to pick. Because I’ve read the work of others without truly considering their hard driven craftsmanship, their sleep deprived nights hunched over the computer, their pacing feet and drumming fingers as they worked out the best phrases and sharpest observations. Their hearts thwonked in their chests as they pounded out the best they had to give because nobody, but nobody, puts their work out into the critique community without having produced their very best at that moment, even as they realize there is more to do. I often forgot the sincerity of their oeuvre.

Writing is hard work. Writing well stands at a pinnacle higher than Mt. Everest. I haven’t gotten there yet. However far I may have trekked on my journey, however brilliant my occasional sentence, whatever the few accolades I’ve earned, this is the truth about me: I am not a published writer. Nothing I say to any other writer is any more significant or meritorious than anything that anyone else says about my writing.

This is my apology to Goodspeak:

It behooves me to be humble. Always very humble. You read my chapter and gave me the best of your thoughts with your critique. I was way off in my reaction and I’m truly sorry. Thank you for your effort on my behalf. You’ve made me a better writer.

 

Write Now Prompt for October 10, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

It had been the worst flight he had ever been on in his life.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

My book launch

Blood and Water CoverI’m a hybrid author with a traditionally published book, one I re-released on my own after  it was traditionally published, and a Kindle Scout winner. I’ve seen publishing from a few different angles and I’m planning to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the indie launch of my fourth novel, Blood & Water.

Planning a book launch on your own is a lot of work. The other day, I started writing it all down so it wouldn’t feel so jumbled in my head. When I was done, I looked at the list and said: “Oh, this is what a publisher is for.”

It’s daunting, but also exciting. I have complete control and I get to experiment as I like. I’ve read other how to guides, some with conflicting information, and I’m mapping my own course. Feel free to borrow.

It took about two years to write Blood & Water and I don’t believe a writer can edit themselves. That said, I also don’t believe in spending thousands of dollars on an editor. By the time Blood & Water comes out, it will have had over a dozen beta reads, mostly from other writers with varied editing specialties. I created the cover with help from Debbie at thecovercollection.com. She also did my covers for Finding Charlie and A Long Thaw, which I love.

My last book was in Kindle Unlimited, but this time I’ve decided to “go wide”, which means it’ll be available on Kobo, GooglePlay, Nook, Appleibook, and Amazon. I used pronoun.com to create an ebook and mobi from a Microsoft Word file. It’ll start out at 99 cents. I’m running a two-month pre-order phase.

These days, there are a lot of sites that support indie authors. It’s great, but can make it tricky when deciding which ones to spend time (and money) on. I signed up on booklife.com and applied for a free review and paid promotion via Publisher’s Weekly. I  made a page at booklaunch.com. I used my free bookcave.com account to send review copies and collect subscribers to my newsletter on  mailchimp.com.  I  use twitter and facebook. I have a writer friend who wrote me an amazing blurb to use on the book page and in promos. I plan to run ads with bargainbooksy.com, bookrebel.com, thebookbots and a Facebook boost.

As you can see, there’s a mix of free and paid promotions available for indie authors. I’m planning to spend just under $500 to launch this book. I’ll do Goodreads giveaway and keep my blog updated. On October 28th, I’ll be the author representing Authoberfest over at Bookies. There’s a different author every day this month.

I’ll write another post after the launch to let you know if any of this worked.

Write Now Prompt for October 6, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The librarian looked at them suspiciously before leading them into the dark, dusty, off-limits section of the library.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

How Great is MS Office Mix

office mixI first met Office Mix a few years ago, before I had the required Office 2013 or higher. I loved the demo I watched, cried a bit that it wouldn’t work for me, and then forgot about it. Now that I’ve upgraded to Office 365, I’m eager to use all the features that got me so excited back then.

Before I get into those, let me back up for those who have never heard of Office Mix. It’s a free PowerPoint add-on that turns your existing PowerPoint slideshow program into a fully-featured presentation tool. Using the traditional slide decks you love, you can now collect all the resources required for a presentation, webinar, or book launch into one place including video (book trailer), narration (book blurb), audio (author interview), form (sign up for the blog hop), screen captures, photo albums (images related to your book), and more. Just like with PowerPoint, you start with either a blank slide or a professional-looking template. Once the slide deck is completed, you share it via link or embed it as a slideshow or video on any device.

Because Mix uses audio and video tools to communicate ideas, users are eager to view the result making it a perfect addition to a book marketing program.

How to get started

To get started, download the add-on from the Mix website. When you open PowerPoint, Mix will appear on the toolbar, toward the right side. Click and you’ll find the features that have made Mix a new favorite digital tool with so many educators.  You can watch a collection of how-to videos, but if you’re in a hurry, Mix is intuitive enough to skip right to the “get started” step.

Pros

Because most people already use PowerPoint, this feels natural. There’s nothing tricky; in fact, it’s intuitive and easy.

I like that you can include a Discussion Board, encouraging readers to add their thoughts and react to those of others.

Mix videos can be downloaded as .mp4s making them easily used in a wide variety of places, including a YouTube channel.

Cons

Mix allows you to embed a web page into a slide, which is cool, but it only allows those with https — the designation for secure sites. I was surprised how many sites don’t include that and were, therefore, unable to be shared.

You have to have MS Office 2013 or above to run Mix. This isn’t really a “con”, more of a warning.

Writing applications

There are dozens of authentic uses for Mix in your writing. Let me share the top three mentioned to me by my community:

  1. Use the screen recording tool to capture just a portion of a longer video (from, say, YouTube) and embed that into a slide.
  2. Videos recorded using the screen recording tool can be saved as a stand-alone video and embedded wherever you need (keeping in mind appropriate copyright protections) such as your book’s website or blog.
  3. Rejuvenate slideshows you created in the past by uploading them to your 2013 or later PowerPoint and “Mix” them by adding video, screencasts, audio, whiteboards, and more.

Overall, Mix is one of the most exciting free tools from Microsoft in years. It’s one of many of the free add-ons now available through MS Office and reason enough to update to MS Office 2016.

More on Microsoft tools:

8 Ways to Use Minecraft in Your Classroom

OneNote–the all-in-one digital notetaking app

Tech Tips for Writers #100: Top Nine MS OfficeTips


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.

Write Now Prompt for October 3, 2017

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The house shook as the plane flew low overhead.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.