Join the NaNoWriMo Train – It Isn’t too Late!

Breaking Free to Write by Deborah Owen

I’ve been wanting to join NaNo for years but never had the time, so why did I wait for the hardest year of all to do it? Which of the reasons listed below is the answer? Guess.

  1. Not too smart
  2. In a weak moment, I decided to give it a try.
  3. I had no idea what I was getting into.
  4. No coffee to awaken my brain on the day of that dreaded decision.
  5. I wanted to help encourage others through Creative Writing Institute next year.

Which one did you guess? Actually, all of these reasons led me into National Novel Writing Month. In a way, I severely underestimated the daily challenge, but in another sense of the word, writing 1666 words a day doesn’t take all that long. You aren’t supposed to edit as you go – which I always do – so not doing that makes the writing fast.

When I first started writing (back when dinosaurs were first laying their eggs), I determined that I would not start a second story until I finished the first and ditto with novels. It took me ten years to write my first novel and I can’t go against my own rules, so I decided to use NaNo to REwrite the novel.

NaNo doesn’t care what you do as long as you write. You can write 50,000 words in a series of short stories, write a novel, or just make a feeble, puny attempt. They only ask that you WRITE.

I am as guilty as the next writer in putting the muse off until it doesn’t come courting any more. Think of your dating days. What did you do to prepare for courting? You got your act together! You put your life in order and you laid time aside to go courting and be courted. Do that again. Court the muse.

I don’t have a clue about the NaNo site and all the things they offer, but I’m making an effort and enjoying it in spite of myself. If you haven’t started with NaNo this year, it isn’t too late. You have until the last day of November to sign up at http://www.http://nanowrimo.org. It doesn’t matter if you don’t meet your goal, but it DOES matter if you don’t even try.

Let’s make a deal. Try it for one week. Will you at least do that much? I have nothing whatever to gain by your joining NaNo. I’m just trying to help you get the same new vision that I have. It’s exciting! (Did I really say that? Um… I believe I did. I think I’m actually starting to enjoy this. Yeah!!!) Join me!

Huh? You insist on paying me back for this great favor? Okay. Drop in for a ten-second peek at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and we’ll call it even. Happy NaNoWriMo!

I Haven’t Been Writing Because ________

You’re probably wondering what happened to my blog since we posted regularly for years and then suddenly vanished for months. I’s been one very sick puppy.  😦    After four surgeries and two bouts with bronchitis, I’m rearing to go, so this blog is aimed at the procrastinator in all of us.

I Haven’t Been Writing Because ________

by Deborah Owen

CEO, Creative Writing Institute

Do you feel unfulfilled? Like you’re barely surviving life, and not really living it? Like things “are getting done,” but you aren’t enjoying the journey of life? When a writer doesn’t let the words out, life gets very sour.

Are you ready to face the truth? Seriously. Are you ready? No lie? I can’t tell which way your head is bobbing. You’re really sure? Okay. If you insist. You haven’t been writing because you don’t make writing a priority. You don’t look impressed.

If you want to state it in kick-butt style, you might say: “Writing was less important to me in the past _____ weeks than everything else.”  *ouch 

Life is too short to coast from one week’s heart attack to the next, to the next, to the… before long, your kids will be gone and you’ll be studying dandelion roots from the south end. For however long your body stays in the grave, you’ll stare at the tombstone that should have read, “Here lies the greatest wannabe writer ever born,” but your loved ones will be too kind to write that.

Writing is a learned skill. No one is born knowing how to write, but there are varying grades of writing aptitude. If you don’t commit to at least three writing courses to learn the basics, how will you know if you could have succeeded?

It’s time to quit playing games and get serious.

Where to Begin

  1. Organize your life. For instance, my list might look like this:

Worship, family, job, WRITING, clean underwear, food, sleep… see? Put the unnecessary things last.  🙂

  1. Establish the best time of day to write. Maybe you can only write 15 minutes on your lunch hour. Fine! Do what you can. At least you’re trying.

3. Commit to a writing education so you’ll know what you’re doing.

I Confess…

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, yours truly had the attitude that she didn’t need writing courses so she wasted ten years writing a heart-wrenching novel. There I was with a finished manuscript in my hand, thinking, “Where do I sell it? How do I pitch it? Where do I even find an address to send it? Well, maybe I should take just one course.” [You would think these things would have crossed my mind earlier, but no one can teach a know-it-all anything.]

So I plunged into advanced marketing on my first course! No lie. And by the end of that course, I learned I didn’t know diddly-squat about marketing, writing or even how to break into the writing industry. Today I have a copy of that unprinted novel in every room of my house to remind me how a beginning writer thinks.

Are you ready to get serious about this craft? If not, I promise, you will regret every day you procrastinate.

Choosing the Right Course

Begin with nonfiction writing, even if you hate the very thought of it. Next, take Creative Writing 101, followed by Short Story. At Creative Writing Institute, real people will really care about you. Our courses are written by published professionals and you will have your own private tutor.

Sign up today and start tomorrow. Make your writing dreams come true at Creative Writing Institute, a nonprofit charity that sponsors cancer patients in writing courses.

Choosing the Right Writing Course

Course Selection Advice

by Deborah Owen

Writing is a quickly learned skill for those who approach it properly. Within a year or two, most writing students are ready to charge into the future fully prepared.

But which writing courses should you choose and where should you begin? Take it from one who has tried all the shortcuts and found none – you’ll save yourself time and grief if you start at the beginning. This is an investment, and you’re worth the time and money it takes to reach your goal.

The writing course you should choose does not depend on what talents you have, what experience you have, what education you have, but on your level of knowledge and your goals. The chances are good that you already have some foundation, but you probably have holes in it. That is to say, you will know some things, and not others. In such a case, determine your lowest point, or “hole,” if you will, and begin there.

If you have problems with punctuation, start with a Basic Punctuation Review class. You’ll learn when and how to use proper punctuation, as well as some of the most common rules in grammar. This is an excellent refresher course for older students.

Dynamic Nonfiction is the base class that will provide you with the best writing foundation. It will teach you how to write for magazines and newspapers, develop creative thinking, develop articles, and cite properly with MLA and APA. Even if you hate nonfiction, this course is valuable beyond your wildest dreams. The values of learning nonfiction:

  • This genre is the easiest to break into
  • It is the easiest to write
  • It pays the most
  • Has the least amount of rules
  • It writes more quickly
  • 95% of all writers break into publication with nonfiction

Creative Writing 101 builds directly on Dynamic Nonfiction. Think of this class as the framework for a house. It teaches basic structure, foundational writing rules, and how to avoid pitfalls. It’s a great class for those who are interested in cross-writing (that is, writing for more than one genre instead of finding a niche and staying in it). This is the only course that includes both fiction and nonfiction, and thus provides you with the opportunity to try both.

Short Story Safari builds on the Creative Writing 101 class. This course will put the roof on your house. It will teach you methods, techniques, tips and tricks of the trade, Show, Don’t Tell, and much more. You should know the rules of English, have good sentence structure, and practice the basic rules of writing before you attempt this course.

If you like to write children’s stories, you would love Writing for Children, but this is an intermediate class. Writing for children is no easier than writing for teens or adults. It can, in fact, be harder, so be sure you have a good foundation before attempting this class. Be prepared with proper English and the basic rules of writing.

If you are into fantasy writing, you will love Fantasy World. Have you wondered how to invent those far away places you see in your mind? This is the class for you. It is an intermediate class, so be sure you get your foundational courses first.

If you are an advanced student, Wordsmithing is the class for you. There you will learn writing skills that no other class teaches. This class will explain how other authors can string words together in an artistic style. It will teach you to recognize things like assonance, consonance, asyndeton, and many more little known techniques so you can apply it to your own writing. This is the final stop on how to jazz and edit your writing with snappy styles and techniques. Wordsmithing is a unique class because you can take it at the beginning of your career, or the end. For me, it was the technique that put me over the top.

If you’re unsure whether you need a certain class to advance to a higher level of learning, the chances are, you DO. Your subconscious is telling you that your foundation isn’t complete. Don’t challenge yourself with more advanced classes. You need all the rules of writing in order to succeed. Skipping ahead usually means having to return to a lower class at a later time to pick up on what you missed.

When you have your foundation and pass through the various stages in order, the advanced classes will blend and mesh all your learning experiences into one vision. I can’t reiterate this strongly enough – get your foundation first. Start at the bottom and learn every single rule. You’ll save yourself grief in the future.

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Getting Started in Writing

Writing… Is it Right for You?

The Beginning of a Life-long Journey

By Deborah Owen

What would you give to be a good writer? Would you be willing to study hard, to start at the bottom, to invest in yourself? That’s what learning the writing trade is all about, and you can learn it in two years or less.

Writing will fulfill you.
Writing will be worth the sacrifice.
Writing will make you more than you are.

Perhaps the following syllabi from Creative Writing Institute will help you judge your present level of writing.

Punctuation Review: Learn basic comma rules, dependent and independent clauses, the use of semicolons, parentheses, dashes, apostrophes, hyphens, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks, and slashes. This is an awesome brush-up course for those who are weak in this area.

Mechanics of Writing is another brush-up course that deals with dialogue, comma splices, subject and verb agreement, coordinated vs. subordinated conjunction, double negatives, disruptive and misplaced modifiers, unclear antecedents, overuse of prepositions, fragmented and run-on sentences, prepositional phrases, query letters, and how to coordinate ideas. This is the course where most students should begin because it lays a great foundation.

Short Story Safari is an intermediate course that covers themes, choosing points of view, and targeting the audience. Students will learn to build and properly cast characters, create good dialogue, use word imagery, build conflict, cut verbiage in long sentences like this, and perhaps most importantly, the art of Show, Don’t Tell. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

Some people think it’s easier to write for children than to write for adults. Wrong. The Writing for Children course presents outlining, fleshing out characters, studying market techniques, building points of view, good dialogue, and Show, Don’t Tell. In addition, you will learn how to edit drafts, polish your final draft, and create fantastic queries and cover letters. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

Those who take the Fantasy Writing Class will study the difference between fantasy, horror, and sci-fi writing. The course also covers the history of fantasy writing, finding inspiration, creating fantasy characters, worlds, and battles. Additionally, students will study outlining, creating spells, mixing magic potions, and the necessary elements to transport your readers into a believable atmosphere. Students will complete the course with a finished story.

In Dynamic Nonfiction writers will find ideas for articles, contact editors for guidelines, do research, learn to notate properly, and learn critical thinking vs. argumentation. They will study topics and sub-topics, titles, description, cause and effect, and analogy. They will prepare a query letter and complete the course with a finished article.

Building Blocks of Poetry teaches students about perfect rhyme, near rhyme, lines and stanzas, repetition, consonance, assonance, rhythm, meter, and alliteration. They will also learn enjambment, caesura, scansion, imagery, metaphor, pathos, personification, and other techniques.

There are many more classes, but these represent some of the more popular ones. Two poetry courses are also available, teaching meter, rhyme, free verse, and various types of poetry.

Students who begin above their level are apt to become overwhelmed, discouraged, and disenchanted with learning. If you aren’t sure where you would fit into the learning scale, write to deborahowen@cwinst.com for information on how you can receive a free writing evaluation without obligation.

NOTE: Other schools may have identical class names but might teach different subjects within their courses. Always read the syllabus, and don’t forget to visit www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com for all your writing needs. Take a course and get your own personal tutor. On sale now!

Basic Story Structure

Story Structure 101

by Deborah Owen

All creative writers are bound to an invisible law of journalism. From the beginning of time, the same structure has been used. All of the great writers use it. But after this lesson, you will see that story structure is far more than the initial breakdown:

  • Exposition – the beginning, what the story is about
  • Conflict –  man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. internal conflict
  • Climax – releases the main plot
  • Resolution – resolve all situations

If you google “story structure,” you will find many variations. You might find plot, conflict, conclusion – or theme, climax, and conclusion. No matter how you word it, the basic answer is the same. Without any one of these elements, the story will flounder.

But you must expound on the following things, no matter what kind of story you are writing:

  • Point of View (POV)
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Characterization
  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Writing style
  • Genre

If you want to transfer your reader from their sofa or chair to the scene in your mind, you must use settings. This can be anything from an open window with a curtain blowing in the breeze to a murder scene in progress. The best idea is to open midway through an action scene. This will grab your audience quicker and keep them longer, as they read to find the outcome.

There is a difference between plot and theme. Plot is the event (or series of events) that occurs in the story. Plot is the central heart of what the story is about. Theme, on the other hand, is the underlying motivation that drives the story.

The open window with the curtains blowing in the breeze is part of a setting, which in turn is part of the larger picture, the plot. Every time there is an event in the story, you must ask yourself these questions: “Why is the window open? How did the window get opened? Obviously, someone opened it. But why?” These questions move you into the theme of the story. Always ask yourself, who, what, when, where, why and how. The answer to these questions is the theme that drives the story, the underlying motivation of the story – if you will, the reason why the story is there.

Point of view is how the reader sees the story. If you tell it in first person point of view (I went to the store…), the reader will see the story through your eyes. If you tell it in third person point of view, (he went to the store…), the reader will see the story through the character’s eyes. New writers usually like to write in first person, but the majority of editors are now mostly buying third person. This new trend makes a huge difference in choosing your POV.

A few brief words on some of the above: Characterization – make your characters real to the reader by concentrating on descriptions, attitudes, failures, and quirks. Dialogue – it’s okay to use accents, but preferably not on the main character. And for settings – use anything that describes where a person is, or will be in conjunction to plot or theme.

What problems do you have in story structure? Let us know in the comments below! For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice newsletter at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com!