Friday, March 25, 2016

Obsessions Lead to Unfinished Projects

I have been a bit obsessed with writing prompts. Probably because I'm planning to write a collection of short stories for a combined Camp NaNo/Blogging from A to Z project. I searched Pinterest and found a lot of really great prompts, but was thinking I would like to try my hand at creating them. Instead of just making a few I decided that it would be way more fun, and by fun I mean probably lots of unnecessary work that I enjoy anyway, to make a collection of writing prompt categories and then lots of loosely related prompts. of course I HAD to color code them for easy visual discernment. I would say everyone needs a hobby, but theoretically writing IS my hobby. Perhaps my actual hobby is procrastination and collecting unfinished projects. So onto sharing my newest project.

Prompt Type:

Situation Drop-in Prompt - Red
Still Need a Gimmick - Orange
Write a Story About - Yellow
Include These Things Challenge Prompt - Green
Dialog Prompt - Blue
Place Prompt - Indigo
Character Prompt - Violet

Today I have a yellow prompt just for Lake Writers. The photo is from Pixabay and I used Picmonkey to add a yellow overlay. I have always thought ideas would be yellow if you could see them. Probably related to the iconic incandescent light bulb coming on over your head having a yellow glow. This prompt came to be because I was discussing Baldar Blunts and SCA archery with a friend.

I am sure you noticed that poor orange has been left out and my neurotic friend Roy G. Biv won't just let me skip orange so I need your help. I must be honest and tell you all the reason there is no orange is because my brain just went on strike. Over at Ink Dipped Moon I'm running a contest to try and find an idea for the orange category and the prize is a $20 Amazon gift card. Go check out the rules, but hurry entry ends 11:45pm on March 31st. Be sure to check back on April 1st when voting begins and April 5th when the winner is announced. Good luck.

Do you ever use writing prompts to get started or break through writers block? Where do you find the best ones? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, March 18, 2016

All About Beta Readers

     A while ago I was privileged enough to have two writing friends send me their manuscripts to read. At the time I had no idea what a Beta Reader was or how I should proceed. Instead I got bogged down in line edits and I was afraid to tell them how I felt for fear of offending them. Sadly, I ended up not sending anything back to them and I felt horrible about it. I was a BAD Beta Reader. Don’t be like me! Here is what I have learned since then about the benefits of having a GOOD beta reader and how to be one. 

     First let's talk about the benefits. You’ve written your novel, gone through a few drafts, and you feel pretty comfortable with your manuscript. Now you may think that it’s time to ship it off to an editor. But sending it to a few Beta Readers first can be a better option. In contrast to an editor, a Beta Reader will give you more of the big picture. If you end up making lots of changes it would be better to make those changes before you send it off to an editor. It could save you the time and money of having it edited twice. A second, third, fourth opinion is always a good plan especially with something you've put so much work into. You want to make sure it's the best it can be before an agent/publisher sees it. This is even more true for those self-publishing. With an agent or publisher you will automatically be getting more opinions as it goes through the process of publication. With self-publishing you are the only judge of your manuscripts readiness...unless you utilize your Beta Readers. 

What a Beta Reader will tell you: 
-If there are inconsistencies in your timeline 
-If a character comes off differently than you intended 
-If something wasn’t explained enough 
-If something was overly explained
-If they connected (or didn’t) with the story on a personal level and how 
-If the use of third person works or if it might sound better in first person 
-If there are areas where the story lags 
-If you set up an expectation in the beginning that didn't deliver on 
-If your descriptions are evocative enough 
-If vital plot points are missing 
-If the research behind something is inaccurate 
-If they love it so much they want to tell all their friends 
...And much more 

What a Beta Reader will not tell you: 
-If you used too many commas 
-If you spelled something wrong 
-If you repeated words 
-If your paragraphs are too long 
-If your grammar is wrong/confusing 
...Basically, a Beta Reader is not a line editor. 

What makes a good Beta Reader: 
     A good Beta Reader will be in your audience of intended readers. If you’re writing YA, try to find teens and young women as these are the main readers of this genre. If you are writing a mystery find people who are mystery readers. It’s also good to have a reader outside of the intended audience to get an idea of whether your novel has a broader appeal. If you can find a Beta in the publishing field that would be extremely helpful as well.
     A good Beta Reader is also a fellow writer and cheerleader. Someone who you can exchange work with for honest feedback. Most importantly they are thorough and prompt with their feedback.  
     They may not your best friend, mom, dad, or spouse. Unless, of course, you have the kinds of friends/family who are going to be completely honest with you. Do not choose Beta Readers that will be afraid to tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Remember you need authentic feedback so that you can make your manuscript better. Pandering is not going to help you improve. However, a good Beta Reader knows that delivering criticism mixed with compliments is a more productive method of giving feedback. 

How to find a Beta Reader: 
     There are many ways to find Beta Readers. A mixture of these will help you find the right people. Remember not all of your Betas will work out. People have lives that sometimes interfere. Don't be surprised if you get back less manuscripts than you send out. That being said, here are some ideas for finding Beta Readers. 
     If you're part of a regular critique group or have a friend you exchange work with you can ask them to read your manuscript. This is a great option as you will already have a comfortable dialogue with this person. The one drawback may be that this person has already seen previous drafts. If they know what your manuscript used to be like, that might color their reaction to the updated version. You want fresh feedback.
     Try online writing communities like Wattpad, Scribophile, Worthy of Publishing and Figment. These are great places to post your work and get feedback from other writers as well as readers. An additional benefit on these sites it that your work is automatically protected. Sending your work out to strangers always has its risks. 
     Networking. This is a simplified answer, obviously, but networking is always a great place to meet other writers. Follow other writers on Twitter. Comment on their blog posts. Go to workshops. Meet other writers and exchange manuscripts and feedback. The benefit of networking is friendship and camaraderie. Don't connect with a writer just to get them to be your Beta Reader. You risk making them feel like you're using them. Make connections, feel it out. If it feels right, then ask. Be prepared to do the same for them in return.
     Friends of friends. Remember when I said not to let your BFF be your Beta? I stand by that, but your BFF's daughters friends uncle who reads a lot of middle grade fiction because he's a middle grade teacher might be interested in giving you feedback for an opportunity to read new work. Ask friends if they know anybody who reads your genre and might like to read your book and give you feedback. These people can be anywhere in the country or even the world. Think big! Also remember to ask your writer friends if they have any Beta Readers they use who might be looking for more. 
     Some people do charge a fee to be Beta Readers. If you find you've plumbed your resources and come up short you might want to give that a try. Or you might just prefer a professional so you know what you're getting. If you do a search for "Manuscript Critique" you will come up with lots of options. Like editors, these people are pros with websites that tell you what to expect from them and testimonials from other writers. 

How to deliver your manuscript:  
     You can give your Beta the entire manuscript physically or email it to them. You can also give it out to them a chapter or act at a time. In the case of websites like Wattpad they work best released in installments. Just make sure to put it out on specific days so people know when to expect it. It's a good idea to talk to your Betas about when you'd like to receive your manuscript back. Make sure to give them plenty of time to read and reflect. If you aren't sure about a new Beta Reader you can always send them one or two chapters and see what happens. If it works out, then send them the rest.  

What you get back: 
     In return you should expect at least a page but often several pages of feedback. If your Beta is a pro you'll likely get back something very organized whereas a friend of a friend might just come back with stream of consciousness impressions. Both can be equally helpful. You can even send the manuscript out with a list of questions. If you search "Beta Reader questions" you will find some great examples. 
    You might get back something you disagree with, or nothing at all. Don't pester your Betas, especially if they are helping you out of the kindness of their hearts. Give them space, maybe a friendly reminder or two. If you still aren't hearing from them and it's been quite a while you can ask for your manuscript back and let them know you've already moved on with your edits. Then never ask them to be a Beta Reader for you again. It might take a while to find the right people but you'll know when you have. Keep your readers to a minimum, perhaps 3-6, and if one drops out you can try a new one. You don't want to be too overwhelmed with feedback. More is not necessarily better in this case. 
     You will get conflicting or disagreeable feedback. It will be up to you to decide what to use and what to leave. Take note of any patterns. If multiple people tell you one of your characters is unlikable and they're supposed to be the main love interest, you might want to pay attention to that. 

Taking the next step with your manuscript, releasing your baby into the world (at least a few people in it) is going to be scary, but also incredibly rewarding. You'll end up with revisions to do but you will also know that your manuscript is being honed, polished and prepped for publication. Walking up to that threshold will be one of the best feelings in the world.

Katerina Dennison lives in Mount Dora, FL with her three annoyingly adorable cats, and husband. She is currently finishing the first novel in a seven book paranormal YA series Moose Cove Coven, which will be posted on Wattpad in May 2016. When she's not writing fiction she's blogging or instagraming about her favorite things; Disney, cats, veganism, photography, writing, nail polish and tarot. You can find her blogs on WordPress.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Flowers are blooming and writers are plotting

Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, writers are plotting… Yes, plotting is a year-round activity for us but most especially right now! There are two fantastic writing challenges open for sign-up and both run from April 1st thru 30th.

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNo is a light version of the November NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month) The chief difference between the two, besides a different month, is the ability to choose your word count goal.

You can set your goal for a minimum of 10,000 words on up to multiple hundreds of words. You also have the option of joining a Cabin. The cabin consists of fellow writers based on the criteria you choose in cabin preferences. Maybe a like genre, age, word count or choose random. It’s a great way to meet new wordsmiths and encourage each other on through the month like we do in our regional forums.

There is another option, you may choose to host a private cabin and invite all your friends doing camp to join it. Lake Writers has a private cabin so we can all push each other to that finish line.
Camp usually doesn’t have regional write-ins and such like the hard core November session but many do participate in some way so be sure to check your regional forums or local writer’s group to find out.

Lake Writers uses our regular meetings on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of April as our write-in nights for Camp. This year we have a bonus, Astor County Library, in Astor, Florida will be sponsoring Tuesday night write-ins.

So get on over to and sign-up for this writing adventure. Plus you won’t have to worry about mosquitos or poison ivy at this camp.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge
If you are a blogger this one is right up your alley! Starting April 1st bloggers will create a post that on the A to Z calendar but it’s okay to post on them if you like)
begins with the letter A. The following day’s post begins with B and so on through the alphabet. (Sundays aren’t counted

You can write something random every day or choose a theme. For example, each day is a post about a mythical creature, writing tips, themed flash fiction, historical facts, types of something, places that begin with that letter, and so many more.

There are literally over a thousand bloggers who sign-up for this challenge. Which makes it even more awesome, especially if you have a young blog or a blog that needs a bit of growth.  Participants are not only encouraged but it’s required that you visit at least a few of your fellows on the list. Which leads to activity boost on your blog. Not only will you get more comments and views, you’ll gain followers and find other fantastic blogs to follow too. It brings our blogging community closer together and is also pretty damn fun to participate in.

Visit their website for more information and to sign-up Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Both of these April challenges are free to join and participate in. There are no “prizes”, but you get some cool badges to sport on your site and social media. Not to mention bragging rights!
So take the challenge and sign-up for one… or both like me! J April is going to be one wordtastic month!

Do you live in or near Lake County Florida? Join our writing group on FB and meet up with us! For more info just click on the Lake Writers tab at the top of this blog! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pulling Our Weight and Flashing the People

This blog is looking a little dusty and I am pretty sure I just walked through a Skulltula web getting over here to say hello. Lake Writers started as a NaNoWriMo regional group in 2009, but evolved into much more than a group that gets together during the month of November for mutual insanity. Oh yes, we long ago decided to extend the party by meeting twice a month on the second and fourth Wednesdays in the Eustis Denny's at 6:30. Our fearless leader Elise has been taking care of this blog along with our other social media and event organizing stuffs alone for so long, but it is time we come in and help out. The plan is to rotate posting here around the group so we can all share our expertise and practice on you. *Insert evil laughter here* I am not sure exactly what each member has planned for you, but I'm going to flash you.

I'm sure this is the pink fairy girl I'm looking for because of the double sets of butterfly wings, one blue and one green. Even when they have four wings it's unusual for the sets to be different colors. They told me it would be a telltale sign I was tracking the right fairy. Always on the move from festival to festival she gave me the slip more often than any quarry has in longer than memory serves, but I still hadn't seen her pet.

It wasn't my idea to destroy it, but it was my job to get it done. A pack of food on her back and her bright blue eyes wide with ecstasy, I'm quite sure she's heading to find her beast. The caravan stayed in the bigger cities longer than a village giving me a better chance of shadowing her during her evening disappearance act. She has been moving swiftly for an hour or so into the heart of the Tangle Oak Forest. She must be getting close because her wings began to flap in agitation causing sparkle dust to shed. She stopped flying to her beloved beast a while back when a few close calls made her realize I had ways of tracking a flying fairy.

She practically ran the last few feet into a clearing. She wasn't being remotely cautious now as she flung her burden to the ground and spun on the spot searching the tree line. I readied a cold iron-tipped arrow. It shouldn't be necessary to slay the beast, but would offer me an insurance against her rage. Though she is little and fair, she has proven mighty. My instructions were to spare her if possible, but I can't collect a bounty if I don't make my way back to Fendale.

It's entrance was so silent I would have missed it if an invisible force hadn't drawn all my awareness to the beast. A huge grey wolf stood to the left side of the circle. I heard the pink fairy girl make a sharp inhale as she bounded into my field of view. I didn't look at her, I couldn't look at her, my gaze and mind were lost in the wolf's eyes. There was so much depth, like centuries of anguish stuffed into this poor creature. It was beautiful, terrible and wild.

The fairy girl slammed into the wolf and embraced it fiercely. Her expression was of someone who had just been dying of thirst taking the first drink from a secret oasis. She was quenched, she was home while holding this creature. I felt a fire or a dry ache build in me. Something asleep and long thought dead stirred painfully.

She pulled back with a smile and expectation etched on her face. No, don't do that! How could you let go? It needs touch, I have to hold it. I took a step forward, but froze as the wolf jumped up. It's not attacking, the eyes looked weary and sad not angry. The wolf's body shifted, changed and contorted. Where the wolf had been reared on its hind legs a moment ago a man with long dark hair and tribal markings now towered. He was appealing in a primal way, something about the wolf remained in his stance.

He moved to his fairy girl and enveloped her again, as his face split into a contented smile something ripped inside me. My fingers remembered my bow was knocked, but now I trained it on the fairy girl and prepared to eliminate her. He bent down and kissed her with such primal passion anyone watching would have recognized they were a voyeuristic intruder, but like bystanders during a disaster I couldn't force myself to look away. I lowered my bow sticking my arrow back in it's quiver, this was not a bounty I could collect and my reputation would suffer for it.

A sigh of longing escaped me as I turned to leave and that was quite enough. Before I could draw my next breath the feral man had released his beloved and prowled full tilt to face me. I was prey and should have been terrified, but was drawn to him. He turned his fierce eyes upon me and the painful thing stirring in me began clawing at my chest to escape. He leaned in studying me with an intensity that should have burned through flesh, I had his full attention. Suddenly, I felt that the center of this man's attention was a bad place to be.

Photos from Pixabay.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Trials and joys of writing by Rhonda Walker

Hello readers! It’s great you could join us today. Today’s feature is a guest post by children’s and inspirational author Rhonda Walker. She’ll be talking about her upcoming release Wesley Out West and her reading and writing journey.

So pour a cuppa and prop up your feet to enjoy the read. Make sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of the post for your chance to win a personalized autographed copy of Wesley Out West and a cute Wesley plushie!

Trials and joys of writing by Rhonda Walker

Willie Out West (2013, WestBow Press) was my first published children’s story. It was so well received that I am re-launching an updated version, Wesley Out West (2015, JLB Creatives Publishing) is in a smaller size and contains an educational supplement for parents and teachers. If you read Willie I know you will enjoy Wesley even more. The “Fun Facts” and photos of the real sea mammals are educational and enjoyable for children and adults alike. The book size is more comfortable for young children to hold and carry, and the response thus far is widely encouraging. Enjoy.

I always loved books. In seventh grade I walked every day to my little New Mexico town’s library, checking out the maximum number of books. I returned within a day, replacing those books with more. I also used my allowance to purchase every juvenile book of interest: the Hardy Boys and other popular series. I found Nancy Drew boring. During my eighth grade summer, Mother took me on a weekly trek (30-miles one way) from our mobile home in a New Mexico desert mining community into the town of Grants. There, I devoured all of the town library’s westerns (Kit Carson, etc.), mysteries (Ellery Queen, Perry Mason), and stories about Geronimo and other Native Americans.

I carried my love for reading to college and majored in English and elementary education. These classes opened a door to children’s literature that will never close.  I read almost 300 children’s books in one semester. I thank God for blessing me with a passion for children’s literature, the desire to write children’s stories (there were so many bad books, I just knew I could write better), and the desire to develop whatever ability I possessed.

In 1976, I wrote two grammar stories which, amazingly, found their way into a textbook for first graders. However, I had little faith in my ability and gave up after one failed attempt to publish. I published two women’s inspirational articles and edited several women’s church newsletters during the succeeding years, but nothing else. 

Years later I set out to discover why certain women of faith remained strong in spite of unbearable and continual trials in their lives. For two years, I interviewed women; thus was born my first book, “Beyond the Shadow is Tomorrow: Stories of Women of Faith,” published by WestBow Press in 2013. I encourage all Christian women looking for strength and encouragement to read this book. The book still brings great reviews from those seeking answers and encouragement while going through rough times, and it is still for sale through my web site or e-mail.

“Icing, Locusts & Life” is about to be released by JLB Creatives Publishing, and I am so excited. The reviews are already coming in on this inspirational book for men and women.  I encourage readers to reach out and embrace the world and its wonders. Every day is icing on the cake of our lives, no matter how bad our circumstances or how hard it is raining. Every day I have a choice to make when I get out of bed (or even if I cannot get out of bed). It is how we choose the icing of our days, light or dark, which determines how we meet the locusts that visit the beautiful fields and gardens of life.

My life is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends mixed with my own success and failure. In spite of everything a long life can deliver, I find reason every day to be grateful that God provides abundant blessings. Even with the traumas of illness, embarrassing personal failures, and sadness beyond words, there is one thing that is good: I am still alive to see it dawn a better day.

I have more children’s stories on my desk, and my first novel is begun. No one knows tomorrow’s outcome, but today has been good. Tomorrow will be white icing, no matter what the day brings.

Be blessed. What color is your icing?

About Rhonda Walker
EVERY DAY IS ICING ON THE CAKE OF MY LIFE. It is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends, successes, and failure. I live daily in grateful awareness for a God who provides abundant blessings, especially during times of embarrassing failures.

I discovered my passion for reading early in life (right after the ark anchored on a mountain top.) In 1979, when my daughters were young, I returned to college. There, English and education professors taught me some needed writing basics and opened the door to children’s thinking. In truth, though, I began writing for myself in 1975, and my style was already developed. God blessed me with a passion for reading, the love of writing, and whatever ability I possess.

With training, skills, and God’s help, I fulfilled a long-held dream of writing stories for young readers. Several years ago, two of my grammar stories were published in a Scott Foresman textbook for first graders, and plans are under way to put those stories and others into a grammar series book. I write stories to encourage enjoyment and learning through reading.

Follow Rhonda around the web
Blog: The Word Asylum

Stop by for more about Wesley Out West and great reads for ages 1 to 100!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 is coming!

Below is the first Lake County Region NaNoMail sent out. I will be posting them here to make sure everyone gets the news about what's happening in Lake County for NaNoWrimo 2015! 
Hello Lake Wrimos!
 It’s October! Time for cooler temps, carving pumpkins and prepping for NaNoWriMo! I just wanted to make sure to send you some important information about our Lake County Region and NaNoWriMo 2015.
 The theme for 2015 is The NaNoWriMo Library! Graphics to style your Facebook and other social media will be available to download after the site wipe. Speaking of, the site wipe will take place on Monday, October 5th.
 If there are any threads or information you want to write down or copy/paste from the forums do so within the next couple of days. Don’t forget to stop by our Region Forums. I have our region set with a few starter threads for us until after the wipe. Those threads are all marked with sticky notes and will not be erased. So, go ahead and introduce yourself and your novel, share your social media links, and more.
 For those new to NaNo, the site wipe is when our marvelous NaNo Techs go in and reset the site and wipe the forums clean to make space for all the awesomeness to happen in 2015. Don’t worry, your profile and author info will be unaffected. Only a space to create your 2015 novel will be added.
Be sure to visit your Lake County Region forums and introduce yourself and your novel! 
 Dates to Remember
There are a few dates to mark down on your calendar. One very important one!
 October 13th Lake Writers Critique GroupThe new sister group to Lake Writers will be meeting on the 13th at the Hampton Inn in Mt. Dora, FL at 6:30pm. This group is a place to bring your work in progress for honest but gentle feedback.
October 14th Lake Writers Meet UpBring your writing gear to Crispers, in Eustis, FL at 6:30pm and join us in a NaNo Novel Planning Session!  We’ll chat about our projects and ideas as we help each other get ready for the big event.
October 28th NaNoWriMo 2015 Kick-off Party!Join us for a fun gathering of fellow wrimos as we enjoy our last few days of sanity before the writing begins! The party will take place at Crispers in Eustis starting at 6:30pm. Since it’s close to Halloween come dressed in costume. (optional: you don’t have to if it’s not your thing, but it sure is a lot of fun!) This is where you’ll get your official 2015 NaNoWriMo Sticker and information packet for November.
November 2015 is going to be Noveltastic with all of you participating. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at our write-ins this year!
Just a quick sum up of all the important stuff until next NaNoMail!
October 5th Site Wipe
October 13th Lake Writers Critique Group
October 14th Lake Writers Meet Up and NaNo Novel Planning Session
October 28th NaNoWriMo 2015 Kick-off Party!
That’s all the news fit to print...this week. Happy Scribbles Wrimos!