Creative Writing Institute Short Story Contest 2017

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This is the greatest opportunity for publication you will ever have.

Welcome to Creative Writing Institute’s annual short story contest. This is going to be our biggest and best contest yet. In a small fee-based contest like this, the competition is much less and your chances of winning are much greater. Our fee is the price of a Starbucks’s cup of coffee and it helps subsidize our nonprofit charity contest, so invest in us and at the same time invest in yourself.

Publication: we will publish the first, second and third place winners, two honorable mentions, and ten additional Judge’s Pick stories in our fifth annual anthology, along with best-selling guest authors and stories written by Creative Writing Institute’s staff. Enjoy the competition. Join the fun!

Judge’s Pick: you may be asking what a “Judge’s Pick” story is. That is a story that impressed a judge so much that he/she nominated it for publication, even though it was not a winning entry. A very high commendation for the author!

First place:

* $150 and Gold eMedal OR a free, privately tutored writing course valued at $260

Second place:

* $100 and Silver eMedal OR $200 applied toward a privately tutored writing course

Third place:

* $50 and Bronze eMedal OR $125 applied toward a privately tutored writing course

Fourth and Fifth place:

* Honorable Mention eMedal

In addition, we will publish ten Judge’s Pick stories.

For the First Time — the Lucky Draw!

We would like to express our gratitude to Microsoft and TechSoup for donating a Norton AntiVirus Package for five computers, valid for one year. *The Norton Package will only open in the USA, but that’s fine. You have 15 other opportunities to win!

eMedals: You will love the classy eMedals. Make them any size you want. Post them on your site and on social media!

Revealing our Cover: for the first time, we are revealing our cover for the next anthology, which will be titled LOST. (You can see the enlarged picture at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.)

The theme sentence is below the picture. Be sure to use it in your story.

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“I am completely and utterly lost.”

  • Open genre
  • One prize per person
  • Entry fee: $5 per submission
  • Submit each story individually
  • Word limit is 1,500 to 2,000 words.
  • Story may not have been published before.
  • No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
  • Your story must include this theme sentence: “I am completely and utterly lost.”
  • Winners agree to minor editing rights and will grant first, non-exclusive, electronic rights.
  • All Rights return to the author upon publication.
  • Accepting submissions until August 31, 2017, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
  • Apply the theme sentence to an emotional state, a physical location, fighting illness, or any other application that comes to mind.
  • Copy and paste your document into https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit.

Do NOT send your submission as an email attachment. We will not open it. Direct questions to head judge Jianna Higgins, at jianna.higgins@gmail.com.

 

A Simple Way to Tell Your Valentine, “I Love You”

by Mr. E. Lynn Carroll, Creative Writing Institute Tutor

My assignment was to write about unique ways to say “I Love You” on Valentine’s Day. I looked, I Googled, I read, and I researched and what I found sounded so off the wall that I decided to just tell you what I do. If your beloved isn’t satisfied with the traditional gifting, try my simple solution.

I used to give my wife flowers on her birthday and being the practical, sensible Asian she is, she said, “Why you spend money on something I cannot eat, spend, or wear? These will die in a few days. You have foolishly wasted your money.”

Devastated, I determined to do better for Christmas, so I spent a lot of money on a nice winter coat. When she opened the present, she seemed happy. She never wore the coat. When I asked her why, being the practical, sensible Asian she is, she said, “It’s nice, but not something I would have bought.”

Doubly devastated, I gave up buying her anything for holidays, and being a stoic Asian, she never mentioned it. Nevertheless, I love her and for years, instead of buying presents, I gave her money. Still, I was unhappy. How could I solve this problem?

Now, my mother, being the acquisitive, materialistic, loving Western woman she was, brought me up to put all women on a pedestal, which is why I ended up snagged on these horns of hell. I wanted to please my wife, but material things didn’t do the job.

One Valentine’s Day, years ago, I thought about a Valentine’s card and a heart-shaped box of chocolates, but I knew it wouldn’t do. Tormenting my brain, the only thing I could come up with harkened back to grade school where we passed little notes to the girls we had a crush on. Thus, a new idea.

I decided to leave little personal love notes all over the house. Simple stuff like, “I love you. How much? The whole wide world.” I posted notes inside the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, under her windshield wiper… everywhere I knew she would look.

She went to work before I did, but I knew she had seen them because they were gone. When I got home that night, she had my favorite dinner, candles lit, soft music, and the whole Shtick. Bingo!

Over the years, I’ve fancied the cards up a bit. I print and cut out pictures of cute animals, beautiful scenes gleaned from online pictures, pictures of ourselves in happy poses, and then glued them to green Christmas tree shapes or red Valentine’s hearts cut out from colored construction paper, accompanied by little messages from my heart. It seems like the cornier the better.  🙂

You’re a writer! Try adding a little old-fashioned ingenuity this Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t cost a lot, it’s fun, and the rewards are amazing!

*Check out http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com for all your writing needs. The school where every student receives a private tutor! We give free writing evaluations, too!

 

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How Writing Can Improve Your Well-being

by Melissa Hathaway

“Round and round he walked, and so learned a very valuable thing: that no emotion is the final one.”

Jeanette Winterson

For almost 20 years Dr James W Pennebaker has been extolling the virtues of creative writing as a route to healing. A professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, Pennebaker has written several books on the subject, and encourages everyone to use creative writing to improve both their physical and mental health. His research has shown that ‘short-term focused writing’ can have profoundly beneficial effects on anyone suffering from episodes as simple as a house move, to those facing cancer, divorce, or financial problems. Here’s what Dr Pennebaker’s research can teach us.

Powerful Secrets

Keeping secrets may tend to cause physical health problems. Dr. Pennebaker conducted an experiment to see if writing them out would help. The results were astounding. Patients who wrote their secrets down felt better, even if the secrets were never read and destroyed immediately. The patients’ immune systems improved and they visited the doctor less often.

Organizing Our Thoughts

Pennebaker’s theory is that any kind of upheaval makes minds work overtime, trying to organize and process what is happening. Pennebaker explains, “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable. Individuals may see improvements in what is called “working memory,” essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. They may also find they’re better able to sleep. Their social connections may improve, partly because they have a greater ability to focus on someone besides themselves.” So does this mean that as well as our creative writing, we should be keeping a daily diary of events? No, Pennebaker suggests that we should use the opportunity to stand back and evaluate our life’s course rather than document every day events. Rather, he asks patients to write for 20 minutes over four days about an emotionally troubling event in their lives, really exploring their issues and how they can be tied to past events in childhood, for example. He urges them to write for no one except themselves, in a quiet space, not worrying about punctuation or style.

Making A Narrative

Through linguistic analysis Pennebaker’s studies have shown that those people who are able to construct a narrative whilst writing about difficult topics seem to have the best outcomes. If they begin with an unstructured account of events initially, but manage to organize their ideas into a coherent narrative after a few days, they seem to benefit the most. Approaching analysis linguistically is a very powerful tool for researchers. They look for words that signify complex emotional processing, and for the increasing occurrence of such words as writing exercises progress. They observed that words such as the prepositional ‘except’, ‘exclude’ and ‘without’ increase in frequency, along with causal words such as  ‘rationale’ and ‘effect’. Pennebaker believes that these word frequency increases demonstrate that the traumatic events being written about are becoming more manageable for the patient to process.

Changing Viewpoints

Just as we find it useful to change the viewpoint in a piece of creative writing by changing the narrator, so changing the perspective in a piece of healing writing can change the writer’s feelings about an issue. Pennebaker analyzed shifts in pronoun use and found a correlation between this and improved outcomes. He explains, “…one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it, but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.” As creative writers, we know only too well the power of changing perspectives when exploring a storyline or demonstrating how others perceive a character. It is fascinating to hear that the same techniques can be used in therapeutic writing.

Looking Ahead

For some year, art therapy has been a central plank of the therapeutic tool kit. ‘Journaling’ is the new buzzword at present, pioneered by Elizabeth Warson, professor at George Washington University’s art therapy program. Many younger patients enjoy this form of therapy and have benefited from the meld of written and artistic self-expression. Those who are attending residential therapy to recover from substance addiction in Washington State have been particularly encouraged to use this technique, and results have been impressive. But perhaps it is time that focused writing came more to the fore as a therapeutic tool. Writers such as Sylvia Plath and Jeanette Winterson have used the ‘confessional’ style to create beautiful works, perhaps understanding instinctively the power of this technique to heal themselves. Winterson is emphatic in stating that her Whitbread prize-winning first book, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit was a ‘fictionalized’ account of her extraordinary early childhood. In her recently published Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, a parallel non-fictional account of the same period, she discusses this first important work, explicitly stating that fictionalizing her life in Oranges was the only way she managed to survive psychologically.

Pennebaker’s research over a number of years certainly shows the transformative power of writing, and not just for patients. Perhaps we can all make use of his exercises in our everyday life. As the description of Winterson’s book elegantly expresses, it shows “…how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking.”

Leonid Pasternak writing

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Sylvia Plath

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‘Journaling’ (Tumblr) unattributed

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Pen and script

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Why Be Happy…

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Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

How to Develop a Story

A Step-by-Step Rundown 

by Deborah Owen

There are many ways to form a story in your mind, but I have developed a unique approach that almost writes the story for you. Keeping in mind that every story must have plot, conflict, and resolution (not necessarily in that order) – I build the conflict first, then the resolution, and then the lead in. Notice I didn’t say the “plot”. The plot will develop by itself with this method.

Step 1

I’ll make up a story right now, as I type, to show you the process. I’m starting in the middle of my story because I’ll get into the action quicker, I’ll be able to identify most of the characters quickly, and the plot will develop more easily. FIRST, I’ll begin with the action scene that comes in the middle. I have no idea what it will be. I’ll think about high drama and tension and start there. (90 seconds of thinking.)

I will make this story about two abused children, a sister about aged 9 and her brother, aged 5. My mind begins with the action scene where an enraged stepfather chases them through a forest. They are hiding in a tiny washout in a bank that is covered by tree roots. They found it when the little boy sat down, leaned against the roots and fell into it.

The stepfather races through the forest, loudly calling their names. Gasping for air, he sits down and leans against the same tree, not three feet from where they are hiding. The children hold their breath in fear, lest he should fall into the hole and discover them.

Step 2

Okay. The anti-climax is done and my mind is thoroughly into the story. Next, I’ll create the ending. (Pause – thinking.) The children will come across a village they didn’t know existed. The people who live there dress in strange clothes, like a throwback in time.  They see a man who is a shoe cobbler, and a woman wearing wooden shoes that clack their way down the street.

The children run to the shoe cobbler and pant out their story to him. The cobbler alerts the townspeople that a huge, fierce man is coming and that he intends to harm the children. The townspeople hold a hurried meeting and decide to lay a trap to snare him.

The man walks into the trap, is caught, and put on trial. The people are merciless. In their eyes, there is no greater crime than abusing children. In such cases, they feel that ridding the earth of such a vile person is commendable – and they are commendable people. They hang him. The children live with the shoe cobbler and his wife, and they spend the rest of their natural lives with the townspeople.

Developing the lead will be easy now. What I want you to see is that jumping into a tragic scene mentally will naturally lead you to the number of characters you must have and who they are.

Step 3

Next, I have to answer some questions for the reader, such as, where is the mother all this time? My easy answer is that she’s dead. I can either state that or show it. Next, I have to tell my reader what happened to the natural father, and how the stepfather came into the picture. Or – I have a new idea. Maybe the real father is chasing them, but not to harm them. He’s trying to rescue them and their mother (who is no longer dead). Let’s suppose the mother married the stepfather because her first husband was supposedly killed in war, but now he’s back, trying to rescue her.

That puts the story into a happier mode, and it makes for a better plot. I’ll go with that. So the father is chasing them all this time, but the children think it is the stepfather, so they’re hiding in their little hole and waiting until he leaves. (Note the irony of having the father so near the children, and neither knows the other is there), and then they run to the village. The village people ensnare their father, thinking he is the stepfather who is trying to harm the children, but just before the hanging, the children see it is their father and he takes them home to their mother and they live happily ever after. Now I have to figure out what happened to the stepfather.

This is a very good way to build a story. I call it the DeBowen Story technique. Start writing in the middle of the climax scene, complete the story, and go back to write the introduction. Answer the questions of who, where, why, what, and how, and join it all together. It’s that simple.

The second ending I thought of at the last minute is better than the first because it has a twist, and because it has irony. Both of these are good writing tools.

There is something noteworthy here, and that is, you must always let the reader feel satisfied at the end of the story. That’s why you see very few stories with a sad ending. If you don’t satisfy your reader, they won’t want to read anything else you write.

This kind of story will run about 2,000 words. It will require two main characters (the real father and the oldest child). It will need at least three minor characters (the mother, little boy, and shoe cobbler). That’s an awful lot to cram into 2,000 words, but it can be done.

This DeBowen writing method will work for you every time. Try it. Let me know if you like the approach. And don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses! Don’t forget to “like” and rate us before you go, and thanks for stopping by! Deb

Punctuation Study

Understanding Punctuation

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers rarely study punctuation, but almost everyone needs a brush-up now and then. See if you know all of these variations.

Imperative and declarative sentences

Both imperative and declarative sentences require a normal period.

Imperative commands: Give me a hug. Tell me goodbye when you leave.

Declarative sentences state a fact, such as: She gave him a hug. She told her mother goodbye when she left.

But some declarative sentences contain a question. If the sentence as a whole states the question as a fact, it should end with a period. (Confusing, isn’t it?)

As a question:  Would you like to go to a party?

As a statement: I wonder if you would like to go to the party.

The latter sentence states that I am wondering if you would like to go to the party; therefore, it is not asking a direct question.

Abbreviated words ending in a period

Mr., Dr., Rev., etc., i.e., and Mrs. are examples of abbreviated words that have periods. If your declarative or imperative sentence have an abbreviated word at the end, don’t add an additional period.

(Correct) The movie starts at 8 p.m. (Incorrect) The movie starts at 8 p.m..

Question marks

A question mark is used at the end of a normal question, but it is also used to express doubt or the unknown. When the question mark is used on a gravestone, it is usually placed in parentheses, like this: (1960–?) In such a case, the engraver doesn’t know when the person died.

In the following sentence, the writer is not sure whether the pet mentioned is a cat or some other animal.

In her will, the eccentric woman left her pet cat (?) the entire estate.

(Writer’s hint: If you don’t know what kind of animal the pet is, just say “pet.”)

If there is a series of incomplete questions, place a question mark at the end of each question, as in:

Can you believe the man survived the gunshot? And the fall from the six-story building? And hitting the flagpole? (Neither can I.)

Exclamation marks

Sometimes called an exclamation point, this handy little punctuation is used to indicate surprise or a strong emotion or feeling, as in: Get out of my room!

To make that a much milder statement (command), I could have said, Get out of my room. (Notice that it ended with a period.) When a statement uses an exclamation point, it relates a sense of urgency or possible anger. Note how the exclamation mark changes the related emotion.

Get out. I said, get out. I said, get out!

Exclamation marks are rarely used in formal writing except in quotes or the citing of a title. You may also see them in article “teasers.” In informal writing, you should use an exclamation point at the end of a strong sentence or after relating particularly exciting information.

If the exclamation mark is used to punctuate exciting information within a sentence, it is placed in parentheses, as in: Mike won first place (!) in the spelling bee.

And last but certainly not least, don’t use the exclamation mark more than an average of once per page. You should be showing emotions by painting scenes with imagery, not telling the emotions with punctuation.

Fortunately, you can be somewhat creative in using punctuation! For more great writing tips, go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and sign up for our newsletter!

Twist that Ending and Twist it Again

The Art to Twisting an Ending

by Deborah Owen

We all know a surprise ending when we see one, but how do you write it? Read on to find out.

Wikipedia defines a twisted ending as an unexpected conclusion or climax to a work of fiction, which may contain a surprising irony, or cause the audience to review the story from a different perspective by revealing new information about the characters or plot.

In other words, a twisted ending is the conclusive form of plot twists. This literary device is also referred to as a surprise ending.

Alfred Hitchcock was the first master of twisted endings in film. In only 30 minutes, he could develop a plot and mislead the viewer. His technique was something akin to the game of “Clue,” allowing the viewers to draw their own faulty conclusions. This type of twisted ending is called a “red herring.”

In the movie Moby Dick, Captain Ahab spends his life searching for the white whale that bit his leg off. The twist comes when Ahab becomes ensnared in ropes attached to the great white and the whale drags him to his drowning death.

Examples: Let’s suppose a man has murdered a woman and her husband is out to catch the killer. Just as hubby catches the murderer, the police arrive and take the man into custody. How can you twist that ending? There are many ways and none are right or wrong. You have literary license to do as you please, but do follow one rule: satisfy your reader. Here are a few ideas:

1. The husband’s vendetta is to see the killer die, but when the murderer goes to trial, he begs for the death penalty. Now the husband wants him to live a miserable life in prison.

2. Suppose the killer became a Christian and begged the husband to forgive him? Think how that would change the parameters of this case.

3. Suppose the murderer was sentenced to life without parole? The husband of the dead woman is delighted with the verdict, but an inmate kills the murderer on the first day in prison. Oops.

4. Or… the killer could escape from the courtroom, dash into the street and be hit by a semi.

5. The judge sentences the man to death. The dead woman’s husband is happy, but his grief drives him to his knees and he becomes a Christian. He changes his mind about wanting the killer to die and instead, leads a campaign for a stay of execution.

The best ending is when you twist the ending, and then twist it again. For example, let’s make this murderer a really evil man. In prison, he killed two people but wasn’t caught in the act. Eventually, he gets paroled and is promptly hit by a car. The reader thinks justice has been served… but the man doesn’t die. He’s paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life.

The secret to twisting an ending is finding the point where you can veer off to an alternative resolution. Exactly what you do with it from that point is up to you.

Your turn. Think of a scene and how you can twist the ending and share it with us.

And don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and check out our privately tutored writing courses. Sign up for monthly writing tips at http://www.cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

How to Write Dialogue Tags

Advice for Setting Up Meaningful Story Dialogue

by Deborah Owen

Dialogue tags are the short insertions that identify the speakers in a written conversation. Without them, the reader would be lost.

Dialogue tags are quick signposts that keep the reader on the right path. When you change paths to another speaker, it is not always necessary to place a tag. Sometimes you can use characters’ speech patterns and the natural flow of conversation to identify a change in speakers.

Modern style dictates that all dialogue tags identify the speaker first, and then the action. In other words you should write, “Jason said” rather than “said Jason”. If you are selling your work, little things like this show you are up on the latest writing trends.

Don’t use tags such as, “Jack said mysteriously,” or “Crystal said wryly.” Avoid the use of adverbs that end in –ly. Stick to the same ole, same ole, mundane, “Jack said.” The reader’s subconscious mind will pass over this without realizing they have read it.

Readers expect to see tags. They flow with the story and don’t distract from the action.

When you introduce conversations into your stories, narration and exposition will become dialogue. And with that change will come an exchange of emotion, pace, conflict, and the actions of the characters as they progress through the theme.

Challenge yourself to give life and energy to speech. If you want to know what natural dialogue sounds like, quit talking and listen. Eavesdropping will become your best friend. Eavesdrop everywhere you go. Restaurant talk is fabulous. That is conversation at its best!

Can you hear what your character would say in your mind? If you can’t, you don’t know them well enough. Make a list of 50 things about your character, and you will know him/her inside out. When you can hear them speaking in your mind and can view them as real people, it will be easier to hear their normal conversation.

Always address the following questions:

  • Does the dialogue reflect the speech of real people?
  • Does it bring the reader into the emotion of the scene?
  • Does it flow naturally?

The most common failing of authors is to write meaningless, or too much dialogue. The reader’s mind requires frequent rests to absorb the action and for that reason, you need to break the dialogue into groups and sprinkle short scenes of settings throughout. You can do this with just about anything.

Avoid conversations that are one or two-liners, like this:

“How are you?” Jane asked.

“I’m doing good,” Jack said.

“So, what’s new?”

“Not much.”

This kind of conversation is boring and has no purpose. Dialogue should provide backstory, add to the character, reveal a clue, further the plot, or introduce new material. If your dialogue is there just to make conversation, edit it into something useful.

What is your favorite way to use dialogue? Let us know in the comments below!

Stop in for a visit at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and find even more writing tips in our newsletter, The Writer’s Choice.

Tips and Tricks to Writing Emotions

Are Emotions Absent in your Scenes? If they aren’t, don’t look now, but you just lost your readers.

by Deborah Owen

There are tips and tricks to writing emotions. As a creative writer, you must feel the mood you’re writing. This is imperative if you want to reach your audience. How can you do that? By experiencing the mood.

Let’s suppose you want to write a scene that displays anger. Maybe the story is about abuse, a mom and dad arguing, or sibling rivalry. Maybe it’s about a girl breaking up with her boyfriend because he was cheating on her. If the scene is intense, you have to get into the mood. I mean red, piping hot angry.

Remember the guy or gal that dumped you 30 years ago? Remember the time you had a bad dream about your pal and you wouldn’t speak to him/her all day? How about when you got steamed at the boss, or got into a heated argument over politics, world affairs, abortion, women’s rights, etc.? As a writer, you must recapture those emotions and write them into your scenes. It should be so real that you attend anger management classes to get over it.

Do you need to be happy? Then think of some happy occasions. Sing a crazy song as loud as you can. Laugh like an idiot! When you begin laughing at yourself, it’s time to write that joy into your scene.

Another way to develop absent emotions is to imagine yourself as the character and write entries in a diary from his/her point of view. Live the make-believe life. Do whatever it takes to crawl into your character’s skin. You can’t write effectively what you don’t know or aren’t in the mood for. (You can, however, write a draft for the scene and come back to build it in a more realistic way later.)

Remember that your protagonist (main character, hero) and antagonist (villain) must be three-dimensional characters. They must have a past and a future; they must have problems in their lives and they must work through those issues like real, live people. Your characters should be real enough to walk off the page and sit next to the reader. If your reader can’t identify with the characters, he or she will probably not continue reading.

When my daughter was 16 years old, it was not uncommon for her to sit cross-legged on the floor and bawl her eyes out over a dramatic TV show. One night I winked at my husband and said, “That actress is playing her part really well, isn’t she?” He picked up on it and we talked back and forth about the actress’ career and wondered out loud what movie she would be in next – although she just died in that scene.

Our daughter turned around, tears dripping off her cheeks, and said, “Quit it, you guys. You’re ruining the show!” But what she really meant was, “I’m into the character. I feel what she is feeling. Don’t move me out of the scene.”

If your characters aren’t three-dimensional, (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) you’ll lose your readers. Put yourself into the mood and into the groove. Live what you write.

How do you best write emotions? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses!

You can find me online at http://www.deborahowen.wordpress or deborahowen on Twitter. Don’t forget to “like” us before you leave! Click on the title to leave a comment. Thank you!

Should You Write for Free?

Is Free Writing Worth It in the End?

by Deborah Owen

Writing for Free Leads to Money

I can almost hear you say, “You want me to write free of charge? Are you nuts?” Bear with me. There’s a method to my madness. Write for free, so you can get paid.

This is a controversial subject, but the fact is, this is how most writers get their start. If it will help you break into the writing market, why wouldn’t you?

Question

Why do you want to be published? To fill a void in your life? To teach others from your experience? To leave your mark on the earth? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. You have important things to say—so say them, but first you have to break into the market so people can read your articles/stories.

An editor’s first question will be, “Where have you been published?” And you should have a list as long as your arm. So where do you get that experience? We’re back to writing for free.

Where to Begin

  • Write for ezines that pay in subscriptions (some will pay $5)
  • Write for your church bulletin
  • Write for newsletters at work
  • Volunteer work for a nonprofit charity
  • Ask your local newspaper if they need someone to cover sports and/or political     meetings. (These are hard jobs to fill, and almost every paper has such a position.)
  • Write an article on odd things you see in the community, and sell them to the local paper. (Always take a picture. You’ll get $10 for the article and $5 more for  a pic.)
  • Write for Associated Content or eHow

As your articles are printed, be sure to clip, date, and save them in a photo album. These are called “clippings”. (If you take writing courses and receive a Certificate of Completion, you may want to keep them in the same album.)

When you move up the ladder, editors will ask to see samples of your work. That’s when you copy your clippings and send them for inspection. When sending your first piece to a magazine don’t say, “My teacher liked this piece,” or “I’ve never been published before, but I work hard,” or “I belong to a writer’s club and this article was voted best of the month.” These are amateur remarks and editors will recognize them as such.

You may be asking, “But when I send clippings from bulletins, newsletters, and charities, won’t the editor know I’ve been writing for little or nothing?” Yes they will, but they won’t care. They’ll know you were learning the market, and you must have some talent or no one would’ve published your work.

If you don’t have publication credits, avoid the subject altogether, but send a short cover letter with your submission. Give a very short story on how you started writing and what your goals are. Don’t forget to thank the editor for his or her time.

In Conclusion

  • Writing for free is a great way to establish credentials
  • Keep dated clippings in a photo album
  • Present yourself professionally

You make your own chances in this business, and writing for free is part of the learning curve. What about you? Have you tried writing for free? Did you find it profitable? Click on the title to leave a comment, and don’t forget to “like” us! Thanks.

Go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to get a personal tutor in your writing course. How many schools offer that?

How to Develop a Hook Sentence

The Hows and Wherefores of Hook Sentences
by Deborah Owen

You and your readers are engaged in a game. Your duty is to keep them guessing. Their duty is to outguess you, properly decipher the clues, and predict the ending. Needless to say, you’d better win this contest if you want to keep your readers.

How long do you take to develop a hook sentence? Would you believe – it should take hours, days, or even weeks?

When I first started writing, I never gave the opening line a thought. I just sat down and wrote whatever came to mind. Of course, I didn’t sell anything – and that should have been a clue! So here’s what I learned.

1. It’s futile to worry about the opening line when you first write a story. Save that for later when you edit. For now, scribble something out and come back to it when it’s cold. About 95% of the time, you can ditch the first two or three paragraphs and actually begin on the third or fourth one anyway. Any details that you wanted to keep in those first few paragraphs can be worked in further down.

2. Your opening line should set the tone for the entire story. Is it a romance story? Then you might want to open in the middle of a love scene. (That could be very interesting.) Is it a horror story? You may want to start in the middle of a murder. Is it non-fiction drama? Start in the center of the drama. Whatever your genre, design that first line to fit your story.

3. It has to be snappy. Something that will reach out and grab the reader by the throat. You might want to use heavy alliteration. You might want to scare the daylights out of your reader and send them scampering for covers. You might want to stir their emotions. That first line must grab your readers and pull them in.

This is called “setting the hook.” Sounds like fishing, huh? In a way, it is. You’re fishing for readers and trying to keep them from trading your story for another.

Would you rather read a beginning that says, “Dad had to kill chickens that day so I ran away and cried.” Or “Dad entered the house with bloodshot eyes, carrying a bloody axe. I scrambled for the back door, screaming.”

This is misrepresenting a scene, but it works, and seasoned writers use this method all the time.

Here’s another hook sentence I used recently: “Both shuddered as the madman smashed bottles and cursed downstairs.” Now… who could stop reading before they found out what was going on?

Play on your readers’ curiosity, and use all the excitement you can muster to hold their attention.

For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Low Self Esteem Vs. Developing Confidence

Develop Self Esteem to Develop Confidence
By Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

Low self-esteem can make new challenges a daunting task, but developing confidence brings a new perspective. Have you ever accepted a new challenge and afterwards wondered if you had the ability to complete it? Such feelings are often due to low self-esteem.

Do you look at the negatives and compare yourself unfavorably with others despite evidence to the contrary?

How can you improve self-esteem and develop confidence?

You are a unique human being. Yes, you have faults but, more importantly, you also have strengths.

1. Tackle life one day at a time.
2. At the end of each day, list everything you accomplished.
3. Praise yourself for every victory.

In due time, you’ll find others reacting more positively toward you. That’s because your self-esteem is improving and you’re developing confidence.

Take this short self-esteem quiz. When someone compliments you on an achievement, do you:

1. Accept the compliment with delight because you feel you deserve it?
2. Think you could have done better and consider all the mistakes you made?
3. Wonder if the compliment was genuine or not?

Don’t doubt others or yourself. Work on developing confidence.

Don’t forget to “like” us and comment before you leave. Thanks! See Creative Writing Institute for all your writing needs. The only school that gives you a personal tutor with every writing course!

The Secret of Weaving Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions

Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions
by Deborah Owen, CEO Creative Writing Institute

Creative writing calls for all the talent you can muster. If you wonder what it takes to become a writer, think about whether you can write a decent informal letter. If so, you can learn to write. Writing is a learned skill. We have yet to see a baby born with a pen in its hand.

Theme

What is a theme? It is the one thing you want the reader to remember when they have finished reading. The theme is the undercurrent from the beginning to the end, but is never spoken outright. Gone With the Wind is a story of manipulation. Moby Dick centers on revenge. Pinocchio is a story of morals. The Ten Commandments is about choices and judgment. What is your story’s theme?

Every sentence must point to it. If you’re writing imagery or scenery, weave it into the theme. For example, if you’re writing a romance story and your opening scene has snow and Christmas lights, the scene should build to something that connects with romance. You could, for instance, use it to introduce a character or a situation that will tie into the deeper story.

But beware. If the snowfall adds nothing to the atmosphere, delete it. If you have a dog in the story and its purpose is to show a person’s loving kindness, (part of characterization), that’s fine, but if the pooch has no purpose for being there, delete it.

Build your story to a climax and let it unfold in a cataclysm. The dialogue must create the right mood. Some of the dialogue may seemingly relate to something else, but in the scheme of things, it should point to characterization, setting, or plot.

Using the romance theme, let’s suppose you have a scene where two neighbors are gossiping over the back fence. How could the gossiping scene relate to romance?

• It could introduce a new character
• It could build the characterization of an existing personality
• It could shift the scene to a closer part of the theme
• It could show “discovery” (something the reader doesn’t know)
• It could “foreshadow” an event (a precursor to the event)

What is Arcing?

Arcing is the rise and fall of the story. As you weave the theme, natural questions will emerge and you must answer them. Questions are little trails that lead to an unnamed destination. They wind upward, increase the reader’s interest, and elevate emotions to a fever pitch. The climax scene (sometimes called the plot scene) should fall between the half and two-thirds mark. This is the highest pitch of emotions, the turning point where you solve problems and show that good overcomes evil. The first part of a story is “flat.” The middle arcs (elevates to a high point). The conclusion resolves to a flat line again.

What is a Resolution?

Note that the end of the story ties up all the loose ends and stops at a higher plane than where the story began. That’s because the reader becomes one with the characters, and becomes involved in their motivation and desires.

Intertwine one piece of the puzzle with another until all the pieces mesh together to form the whole picture. This is called weaving. A writer is an artist that paints words on paper and waits for someone to open the cover and discover the picture within. As with all paintings, develop each picture methodically and with purpose.

Resolve the story by answering every question you have raised. Tie it up in a neat little bundle and in the end, the reader won’t have questions.

Please take a moment to “like” us and make a comment. Thanks! Find more great tips in The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, the only school that assigns a personal tutor to every student.

A Writer’s Cross to Bear

The Easter Story, as it Applies to Writers

We writers can draw comparisons and make applications on almost anything. With some difficulty, we can even compare our talents to the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Showing you how to do this is our unique way of wishing you a Happy Easter.

On March 29, Good Friday will remind us of Christ’s death and fulfilled prophecy. Tried, beaten, and condemned to death for righteousness, Jesus carried His cross and faced the end of human life.

Soldiers pressed his bloody body against the wood, and stretched bruised arms and legs to capacity. Christ’s palms turned out in supplication as they drove huge nails through both hands and feet. They raised the cross toward heaven and dropped it into place with a thud that dislocated His limbs.

By sunset, the Son of God took His last earthly breath, and it was finished. Joseph of Arimathaea begged to remove Christ’s body from the cross, and on Sunday, the Son of God arose while His followers mourned.

We can draw some great applications from that first Easter. For instance, crafting words into articles, stories, and books is a gift, but writing can be a hard cross to bear.

Think of the pressure. What if we fail? What if people laugh at us? What if we can’t meet our own expectations? Where are the right words? How can we nail them together with perfection?

After we finish that phase, we edit, rewrite, and polish which, in essence, equates to life or death for that piece. The last step comes in marketing. Over 50% of the writers who receive one rejection slip never submit again. Rejection can mean the end of a talent that didn’t push through to resurrection.

Paul the Apostle urged Christians to crucify themselves daily. What did he mean by that? Using our gifts is one way to bear our cross. Other ways are perseverance, dedication, and education. All are difficult.

Easter Sunday and its lessons happen more than once a year for us. It happens every time we say, “It is finished.” It happens every time an editor, agent, or publisher accepts our work. New life flows into our veins. We’re uplifted. Accepted. Refreshed. Reassured. It’s so real that you can smell it. Feel it. Inhale it. Bubble with it. Celebrate your resurrection. Now move on to the next challenge.

As the Lent season closes and Easter approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on what we’re doing with our lives. Let’s be thankful for our talent, develop it, and gift it back to God. Let’s make it a priority. Yes, it’s hard, but joy comes in the morning, and when it comes, we know it was worth the agony of last night’s sweat.

Happy Easter! Celebrate in the church of your choice.

For more great writing tips, get our newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

How to Edit – 15 Steps

15 Quick Editing Steps to Rewrite Success

by Deborah Owen

Editing is another name for rewriting, and rewriting can only come once you’ve finished. Once that’s done, each round of editing should accomplish a specific purpose.

Follow these 15 quick editing steps to find out how.

1. Do some warm-up writing for ten minutes before you begin editing. During this time, write about something that makes you mad… perhaps an old flame, something an old boyfriend or girlfriend did, a spanking you unjustly received—anything that will stir your emotions and creativity. When your creative juices are flowing, you can critique you own work better.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Refer back to the rough outline you used as the basis for your first draft. (What? You didn’t use an outline? No wonder you’re reading this article.) Be sure you’ve included all the initial points you wanted to make.

3. Check for linear flow (order of events). Don’t try flashbacks unless you know what you’re doing.

4. Don’t tell what your character is thinking. SHOW it with action, demonstration, or dialogue. Keep in mind that showing always takes three to five times more words than telling. That’s okay, as long as it’s meaty.

Example of Telling
: I’m so nervous, Jennifer thought as she saw the doctor approach. (Boo… hiss… bad writing)

Showing: Jennifer picked on her thumbnail as the doctor approached with furrowed brow. Noises in the room amplified. Did his strides grow longer? Was everyone looking at her? Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock chimed six and echoed in her head. A tiny drop of blood pushed to the thumb’s surface as she pulled the nail into the quick. The stabbing pain was a welcome diversion.

5. Edit for excessive wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Use only one adjective at a time. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene and leave only the most necessary. When you delete a favorite phrase, copy it and save it in a file for another day.

6. Delete all adverbs ending in -ly, such as sadly, hatefully, etc. The use of adverbs is a sure indicator that you aren’t engaging the technique called Show, Don’t Tell. (See #4)

7. Sentence tags: Don’t use “said she” or “said he.” Turn those words around to read “he said” and “she said.” Delete most tag endings, such as “she said with a snicker.” If you have sufficiently built your characters and the scene, the reader will know the attitudes on display.

8. Check the verbs and replace them with jazzier ones. Examples:

• He choked until he couldn’t breathe – He hawked until he couldn’t breathe.
• The little girl ran down the sidewalk – The little girl skipped down the sidewalk.
• The boy hit the ball out of the park – The boy whanged the ball out of the park.

Jazzing your verbs (choosing more active verbs) will make your work glow!

9. Douse as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible. That includes is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are dead verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had (use sparingly), I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many as possible because they weaken sentence structure. Likewise, using “could” and “would” will drop you into a trap that you’ll find hard to escape.

10. Watch for tense changes. If you begin in past tense, the entire story must be written in past tense, with two exceptions – one of which you should never use.

 The first exception is dialogue, and that’s because people speak in mixed tenses – present, past, and future.

 The second is internal dialogue (thoughts). That throws it into the omniscient voice and editors consider it a lazy writer’s way of telling what they should be showing. Don’t use it.

11. Follow the rules for prepositional phrases – no more than three to a sentence, and avoid using more than two in consecutive order. Prepositions are easy to identify. Some of the most common are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before, but there are hundreds. Find a partial list of them here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm.

Pick out the ones you use most and avoid them like the plague. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you IN the afterlife,” or “He told his daughter to go INTO the house.” Consecutive prepositional phrases make weak sentence construction. Note: If you begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, place a comma at the end of it (just as I did in this sentence.)

12. Punctuation:

 Space ONCE after a period.
 For writing in the USA, most punctuation (except the colon and sometimes the question mark) lies within the quote marks. Check to see that all of your quotes are closed.
 Don’t use a semi-colon unless it is before the words “however” or “therefore,” (in which case, use a comma immediately after those words).
 Don’t use colons except to list things: recipes, items of clothing, kinds of perfume, etc.
 Use commas to separate two clauses into a compound sentence, between city and state, and to offset introductory prepositional phrases.
 Don’t use more than one exclamation mark per every 2,000 words!!!
 Learn to use the ellipsis (three dots) properly. Remember, the ellipsis represents a pause or interruption in the sentence. It’s easy to overuse these little devils. If you find yourself falling into that trap, use a dash instead and insert a space on each side of it.

Rules for using the ellipsis:

a. When used at the beginning of a sentence: “(space)…And that’s all he said.”
b. In the middle of a sentence: “I hated to tell you that…(space) I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
c. At the end of a sentence, use four dots: “I didn’t want to tell you….” (Some people speak partial phrases and don’t intend to complete them. In such cases, use four dots. The fourth dot acts as a period at the end of the sentence… or some the period is the first dot and the ellipsis follows. It makes a nice theological debate.)

13. Use the spellchecker, but don’t totally rely on it. If you use homophones such as “right” when you meant “write,” or “blew” instead of “blue,” it won’t catch the error. To be safe, scan for mistakes after you use the spellchecker.

14. Check your formatting. Most places request a double-spaced body and indented paragraphs. When the dialogue changes from one speaker to the next, start a new paragraph.

15. Lastly, ask a friend to read your article aloud while you note places you want to change. This is the best way to get clear perspective on what you’ve written. If you don’t have someone to read it aloud, YOU read it aloud—but be careful to read exactly what’s written and not what your mind wants to insert. Hint: Stumbling over a sentence usually indicates awkward wording. Rewrite it.

Of course, the main rule is to follow the publisher’s guidelines, but when those are lacking, these 15 steps will produce crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

Don’t forget to click “like” before you leave! Happy day! Deb

Learn more at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

The Writer’s Bucket List

A Bucket List for Writers
by Deborah Blake, Volunteer Coordinator at Creative Writing Institute

Benjamin Franklin is believed to have said, ‘If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.’

He may not have been talking about a bucket list, but he does seem to be encouraging writers to make the most of life and, in turn, get the most out of their writing.

A bucket list is a list of all the things you’d like to achieve. It may be something that you’ve always wanted to do but perhaps don’t have the confidence. If it’s on your list, you can work toward each goal, instead of saying, ‘Oh, I’d never be able to do that’.

What Should Be on My Bucket List?

• Do something exciting. Knowing you can write about it may give you the push you need. Don’t let apathy rob you of a good story.

• Start a blog to encourage aspiring writers. Share your experiences so that others can learn from them.

• Write something in a genre that’s out of your comfort zone, e.g. poetry, comedy, a song – stretch yourself.

• Write an article that will make a difference to you, an organization, your local community, or the world.

• Enter a writing competition. It’s a brilliant way to stay motivated and focused. There’s nothing like a bit of competitive spirit to get those creative juices flowing.

• Take a writing course. It’s always fun to learn something new and sharpen your writing skills.

• What’s on your bucket list? (Doesn’t have to be related to writing.)

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave! Visit http://www.Creative WritingInstitute.com and receive a private writing tutor. Your tuition dollars will help sponsor cancer patients.

Writers – Enter Contests! Join the Excitement!

Contest and Writers Go Hand in Hand

OUR ANTHOLOGY CONTEST ENDS 2/28/13 AT MIDNIGHT, EST. HURRY! See details at the bottom.

My first competition was the Writer’s Digest contest. You would think a beginner would know better than to enter a huge contest, but I was naïve. I proved that ignorance can truly be bliss. Truth be known, I wouldn’t have expected to win if there had been only 100 entries. Most writers have these kinds of insecurities, so I’ve concluded that such humility (or some may call it fear) is a self-defense mechanism, a balm for the disappointment of not winning.

Thus, my entry was an act of futility – a dash for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a quest for the Irish shamrock. I entered for the fun of it because I had a very unique story that I told from a very cool angle.

Months later, I received a large manila envelope from Writer’s Digest. Inside was a certificate for Honorable Mention. I stared at it in shock, and then read the accompanying letter that congratulated me for surpassing 16,000 entries. I sat dumbfounded, and stared at the Honor Award with newfound respect.

I learned a lot that day. I learned that it’s worth investing a few bucks to take a chance, and that taking chances can lead to new and exciting adventures. I learned that no matter how the deck is stacked, I still have a chance of winning. I learned that I would have never had that wonderful moment in my life if I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and invested $15. And I have since learned that investing in myself increases my faith in my own writing abilities.

I also learned that it takes a unique story, told from a unique angle, to win a prize. Entering that one contest gave me the courage to enter others.

As a writer, you will know when you hit upon a unique idea or angle, and when you do, don’t waste it on a magazine submission. Save it for a contest. (As contestants can only enter unpublished material.)

If you have not entered contests, you’re missing a lot of fun. There are multiplied dozens of writer’s groups online, and most if not all of them have writing contests. Or you can search the word “writing contests” and come up with zillions to enter.

Look for these three things:

• Reading fees
• Entry fees
• Deadline

Fees generally total from $20 to $35 (although most of Creative Writing Institute’s contests are free). Contests that award huge prizes will cost more, as the entry fees subsidize the awards.

Don’t be hasty. Choose your contests wisely and enter at least twice a year. Placing in one contest will fire you up for months to come. Dig out the best story you have, render a few edits, and see for yourself what entering contests will do for you.

You’re worth it. Go ahead. Take a chance. Jump into adventure! TWENTY-FOUR HOURS BEFORE OUR ANTHOLOGY CONTEST ENDS on 2/28/13. HURRY! TEN WINNERS. NO FEE. CASH PRIZES. Check it out at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. And thanks for “liking” us before you leave!

Anthology Contest Closes 2/28/13

WRITING CONTEST

TEN WINNERS! IT ISN’T TOO LATE!

Stories must be 1,000 – 1,750 words and may be any genre, but the following sentence must appear in the story: “Tonight we re-write the rules… ”

CASH PRIZES! NO FEES. Three cash winners and seven additional Judge’s Choice stories will receive publication in our first anthology and Ebook, entitled “OVERRULED!”

Accepting submissions until 2/28/13, USA EST.

Learn more at https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit. Hurry! There’s still time. See your story in print!

Sponsored by Creative Writing Institute, the only school that gives you a private tutor.

Enter a Writing Contest! Get Brave!

The Pros and Cons of Entering a Writing Contest

by Ariel Pakizer, Volunteer Staff

Should you enter a writing contest? Most writers would like to, but stifle that desire by convincing themselves they aren’t good enough. It’s one thing to analyze your writing and know that you aren’t a Thoreau or Stephen King, but it’s another to think so little of your talent that you won’t enter a contest.

Rejection is a fearsome thing – particularly when you’re not used to it. Writing clubs can help prepare you for contesting. Check out writing.com and mywriterscircle.com. The former is a larger site and the latter is much smaller. Both are good. Both will give you opportunities to post your work and receive comments. You should reciprocate by doing the same, but now you may be thinking you’re not good enough to enter a contest AND you aren’t good enough to critique someone else’s work.

These are low self-esteem feelings. Recognize them as such, push them out of the way, and get on with life. Like everybody else, you’ll learn as you go.

Writing groups hold various kinds of contests. The prizes are small, but the point is, this is a good place to learn. If you’re ready to venture forth into contesting, GOOD FOR YOU! Search “writing contests” on the net and you’ll find all you want. The trick becomes, how do you sort through them? Which ones should you enter? Use this as a guide:

• Watch out for contest scams. Some places will ask for a $50 entry fee, and virtually all of the entrants will receive a letter telling them they have won. When the “winner” replies, the scammer will want another $20 for a biography, and later on you can pay a little more then win the grand-prize. The “winners” are told their work will appear in an anthology (collection of short stories or poetry), but of course, you have to buy it and do your best to sell them to friends and neighbors. If they sell for .99 cents, no problem, but some anthologies are quite expensive. Use common sense.
• Follow directions to a tee – or be disqualified.
• Enter smaller contests for a better chance at winning. Larger contests, such as Writer’s Digest, may have over 16,000 entries.
• What you should expect to pay: your entry and reading fee should be all you have to pay. These fees are what subsidize the awards, and are therefore necessary. Contest fees range from free to $100 per entry. A lot depends on the value of the prizes
• Winning the lottery is much akin to winning a writing contest. Against all odds, even when you think you don’t deserve to win – you may. Winning a contest is better than selling a story. Don’t cheat yourself out of this great learning experience.

Choose the contest that best suits you and your pocketbook and go for it! Contests usually come out in the spring and fall, so plan to gamble on yourself twice a year, if for nothing more than the fun of it. You’re worth it!

And by the way, Creative Writing Institute is holding its first Anthology Contest. NO FEE. CASH PRIZES! TEN WINNERS! This is one contest you don’t want to miss! Follow guidelines at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. Hey… don’t forget to click on the title and “like” us before you leave. Thanks!

5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Writing Course

Writing Courses Motivate, Stimulate, and Imitate Life
by Deborah Owen

ANTHOLOGY CONTEST NOW IN SESSION- No fee – Cash prizes
See Creative Writing Institute for details.

We creative writers are an odd bunch. Sometimes we can write. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we need inspiration. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we really feel like a writer. Other times we feel like we’re playing at writing.

For all you wannabe writers, if you can sit down and write about a picnic, a family function you attend, or a dream you have – you can be a writer! You just have to learn to channel your abilities in the right direction. The writing trade isn’t that hard to learn. No one is born with a pen in their hand. Writing is a learned trade.

• Do you want to be something more than you are? Look inside and what do you see? A new self trying to morph? How would you really like to evolve into that person? There is no better way to do it than through a writing course. As you learn to create characters and look at the world through their eyes, you will drift into a new dimension. Every piece of research, every piece of creativity will broaden your horizons and open your mind to new challenges. Become something you aren’t. Dare to see what you can be.

• Are your writing skills gathering rust? Wouldn’t you like the muse to stir until it compels you to write? Sometimes it takes a writing course to overcome the tediousness of daily life and help set a new routine. Do yourself a favor. March out the rhythm of your life to the beat of a writing course drum.

• Or perhaps you are an advanced writer. Maybe you think you would be bored in a class, and that you might not learn anything new. If that is the case, a wordsmithing course would be perfect for you. Learn to dissect the work of the masters so you can apply their secrets! Or perhaps you should branch out into a new field, if only for the experience of producing new zeal. Stretch yourself. If you have always written romance, change to writing for children, horror, sci-fi, or fantasy – there is so much to learn! The point is, don’t stagnate where you are. Grow by taking a writing course.

• Do you dangle your participles like worms? Do you split infinitives like wood? Do you even know what dangling participles and split infinitives are? Do you need a refresher course in punctuation? We have that, too.

• And there is one more good reason to take a writing course – to prove everyone wrong who doesn’t believe in you. Gain new stability in your life by believing in yourself. Sometimes you have to encourage yourself when no one else will. Take a writing course and put lift in your life.

Any way you look at it, a writing course is a good choice. It will motivate you, stir you, teach you, and expand your horizons. Learn how to create your own world, do it properly, and get paid for it. This is the best time of year to catch great writing course specials. Don’t see a special at Creative Writing Institute? Ask for one! Write to deborahowen@cwinst.com.

How to Win a Contest

Inside Contest Tips and Tricks You May Not Know
by Hugh Wilson, Volunteer Staff Writer for Creative Writing Institute

If you want to win a writing contest, the first thing you must do is study the rules, which are called guidelines. Many entries are disqualified because the story has not met every requirement, e.g. if the rules state a maximum of 1000 words, an 1150-word story, however brilliant, will be disqualified.

Assuming you’ve done that bit right, the judges will be looking at four elements:

• Originality
• Creativity
• Style
• Technique

Let’s look at each and see what they mean to us as writers.

Originality

Winning stories come from second, third, tenth thoughts. Some contests give you a theme – “Wedding Day” for instance. What’s the first thought that comes to mind? Forget it. You can bet your last dollar that everyone else will have thought it, too. Angle is what makes a good story. Make your angle different, and the judges will love you.

Creativity

Don’t “wrack your brains” to get ideas. Relax. Get your conscious, critical mind out of the way, and allow ideas to bubble up. In other words, daydream.

Ask yourself who, what, where, when, how, and “what if?” Let the trains of thought go where they will. Before long, you’ll have an idea for a story that is different. For example: what if the bride’s dog got in the church and jumped all over her as she marched down the aisle? Torn wedding dress. Tears. People scrambling to catch the dog. Mayhem. And what would be the outcome?

Or suppose a shy looking woman entered and sat at the back? At the reception, she avoids conversations, eats and drinks, then leaves.

Back in her lonel one-room apartment, she scans the Forthcoming Marriages column in the local paper, to see where her next free food and wine is coming from.

Style

You won’t go far wrong if you remember three little words: keep it simple.

Don’t try to impress the judges with long, obscure words and “writerly” language. Like any other readers, they want a story that is easy to read.

A short story doesn’t have much room for scenery. Every sentence must move the plotline forward. The reader doesn’t want flowery descriptions of a rose garden in the moonlight. She wants to know what the girl is doing there at two in the morning, and what happens next.

Technique

A story has three distinct parts: beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning introduces the main character and what the story is about. This is the background scene, and yet that first sentence must be a catchy one. That’s your hook.

The middle develops the theme and keeps the reader hooked.

The ending must be believable and leave the reader satisfied. Too many otherwise good contest entries simply stop when they reach the maximum word count, without a good resolution.

And finally…

Always write specifically for that contest. Don’t be tempted to re-cycle an old story in the hope it just might fit the contest’s requirements. It won’t.

Above all, enjoy writing your short story entry, and the chances are the judges will like it.

Creative Writing Institute has a Spring Fling Anthology Contest going right now. It ends Feb. 28, 2013. No fee, cash prizes, and the best ten entries go into the anthology. Learn more at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.