Monday, April 30, 2007

Writing the Breakout Novel

"Writing the Breakout Novel" summary
submitted by Tom Cannon

Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency taught a workshop this weekend at the 18th Annual Writer’s Institute in Madison. His goal was to teach attendees how to write a breakout novel--a novel that propels an author to be a leader in the industry. His presentation was interactive, entertaining, and powerful. He described how nothing is more important to selling books than word-of-mouth and that this comes from providing a powerful story. As he autographed in his books, “Tension on every page.”

But how do you do this? Mr. Maass put the audience through exercises that taught strategies such as: add heroic qualities right away, build inner conflict, add quirks, and raise the stakes for the characters. All of these and many more skills are explored further in his book "Writing the Breakout Novel," and his workbook of the same name.

Mr. Mass leads weeklong workshops on writing and is leading one the third week of June Nashville, Indiana (information can be found at If you are looking for a weeklong workshop, this writer would recommend one of Mr. Maas’. It sounds like a lot of work with workshops, 1:1 meetings, evening programs, and homework, but it also sounds like a tool to take your writing to the next level.

However, you may want to be prepared that Mr. Maass will be honest. He was polite and positive, but did not shy away from being honest. One of his suggestions to improve writers groups was to ask the people to critique your work and identify any passages where they did not feel tension. That would be hard to listen to, but it is tension that makes people turn the page.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is our anthology"published"?

I sent an email to Miss Snark (an agent in NY who has a blog). Here is my question and her reply. I guess if I enter something I will explain the situation to the contest.

Question: Previously published and contests
Our writing club is self publishing an anthology this summer. It does not have an ISBN number. Are these short stories considered published? Some of us would like to submit our stories to contests that say “no previously published” stories. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Answer: Contests that say "no previously published" stories pretty much mean no stories that have seen the light of day: no blogs, no websites, no ezines, and no anthologies published on Lulu.The industry standards on this are not exact, they're in flux. You may be confused because I've previously said that publishing things on the web or at Lulu doesn't count as "published" as far as book publishers are concerned. That still holds.The answer to "is this published" really depends on who's making the rules. In this instance the contest is writing the rules for material they will consider and yours doesn't qualify.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

AlphaSmart Word Processors

At a recent meeting, we were discussing the inexpensive laptop options sold by AlphaSmart of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. One member brought in an slightly older model he purchased on E-bay for less than $50; new models start at $249.

The word processor capabilities vary by model but they all offer instant on/off power (no waiting for it to boot up), autosave, file storage, spell check, and easy uploading to your PC or Mac. Of the newer models, the Neo can run for 700 hours on alkaline batteries; the Dana comes with a wireless option. Both can hold hundreds of files and weigh less than two pounds.

AlphaSmart products have gotten great reviews from school teachers, writers and numerous computer magazines. Durable and light, they're a great way to write anywhere, anytime.

Author Spotlight Schedule

The upcoming Author Spotlight schedule:

May 5 - Dixie
May 16 - Anthology workshop
June 2 - Mike N.
June 16 - Bob B.
July 7 - Dixie
July 21 - Hope

Write for the Daily Prophet

Do you want to write for the Oshkosh Daily Prophet? One edition of the newspaper is being printed in conjunction with Harry Potter's Oshkosh Main Street Magic, Oshkosh's two-day celebration, July 20-21, of the release of the last Harry Potter Book.

You can be part of it by:

1. Contributing a letter to the editor on "What Harry Potter means to me/The impact of Harry Potter in my life.

2. Submitting a classified ad appropriate to The Daily Prophet.

3. Writing a feature article.

Click here for ideas!

To make a submission or for more information, please call Sandy at 312-0191 or e-mail

Monday, April 16, 2007

Talk the Talk

Writing about a punk rocker, tattoo artist, trucker or gambler? Then you need "Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures" by Luc Reid. Written in an organized, concise manner with examples of word usage, Reid gives you the jargon you need to make your writing more authentic. A fun read, the book is available from the Oshkosh Public Library.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Oshkosh Area Writers Club is 10 a.m. Saturday, April 21.

Guest speaker is creative consultant Jeanne Williams who speak on Mindmapping for Writers. The presentation will last about an hour and then we'll have open reading. There is no author spotlight scheduled for this meeting.

Meetings are free and open to anyone age 17 and older. For more information, please e-mail

Thursday, April 12, 2007

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut

Science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut passed away April 11 at the age of 84 at his home in Manhattan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Polk Library 3rd annual Book Sale

Forest R. Polk Library on the UW-Oshkosh campus is holding their 3rd annual book sale.

Used books priced at 50 cents each or three for $1, including fiction as well as non-fiction subjects of nursing, political science, social science, economics, general reference and more. There will also be specially priced videos and book sets. Tuesday’s sale will include surplus desks, chairs and other items.

Book sale hours:
Monday April 16 from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tuesday, April 17, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The sale will be held on the first floor of Polk Library across from the Circulation Desk.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Power of the Pen

The third annual "The Power of the Pen: Writer’s Conference" will be held April 20 – April 21, at Fox Valley Technical College Neenah Regional Center 2320 Industrial Drive, Neenah, WI. The workshops are only $13.20 each - hard to beat!

Workshops include:

The Fire Within, with Ellen Kort
Showing vs. Telling: The Lively Art of Writing, with Judy Bridges
Memoir Writing: Getting Started, with Joanne Flemming
Developing & Presenting Powerful Poetry, with John Lehman
Building Characters in Fiction & Plays and Writing Dialogue, with Robert Vaughan

The fee for each class is $13.20; $4.50 for those 62 & older. For more information or to register, click here or contact Lisa Bell – or (920) 720-6820

David Sedaris in Appleton

Tickets are still available for best-seller author writer David Sedaris's appearance at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 at the Appleton Performing Arts Center.

Annual Writer's Digest Competition

The deadline of May 15 is fast-approaching for writers interested in the Writer’s Digest annual contest. There are 10 categories, each offering cash prizes and other honors.

The categories are:
• Inspirational Writing (Spiritual/Religious)
• Memoirs/Personal Essay
• Magazine Feature Article
• Genre Short Story (Mystery, Romance, etc.)
• Mainstream/Literary Short Story
• Rhyming Poetry
• Non-rhyming Poetry
• Stage Play (* submission by mail only)
• Television/Movie Script (* submission by mail only)
• Children's/Young Adult Fiction

For complete rules and submission guidelines, click here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the OAWC is 10 a.m. Saturday, April 7, in the lower level meeting room of the Oshkosh Public Library. This will be a two-hour proofreading session of pages for the upcoming club anthology.

Club meetings are free and open to anyone age 17 or older. For more information, e-mail

Don't Murder Your Mystery Contest

Deadline: April 25, 2007

Type: Name a forthcoming nonfiction book

Theme: Companion volume to DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY, this one for all genres.

Eligibility: United States resident, 18 or over

Prizes: A professional edit worth over $800 by Chris Roerden, an editor in niche publishing for more than 40 years and the author of DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY, of the first 200 pages of a novel-in-progress or one or more complete short stories, plus credit in the forthcoming book for the winning title.

Entry Fee: none

Description: Entries will be evaluated for creativity and ability to interest intended readers of the forthcoming book, the purpose of which is the same as for DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY, though more inclusive. Contest details; reviews of original book.

Wake Up Writing

If you're looking for writing ideas or want to take a break from a long-term writing project, check out Wake Up Writing, a website that offers daily writing exercises.