Cliffhanger Castle – Contest Launch!

cliffhanger Secret Special Project 2_edited-3
Secret Special Project: Cliffhanger Castle

This is a writing experiment with its heart in community. Expect chills, thrills, and breathtaking plot twists…

Do you love chapters that end on a cliffhanger? One part contest, one part serial anthology, one part battle of writerly of wits; talented writers compete for the chance to captivate your attention. This story is inspired by a real abandoned hotel and artist’s colony, overlooking lakeside cliffs.

 

Set around modern day Lake Ontario, Austen and Tiffany are two teens thrown into a nail-biting search for Austen's little sister, Rhea, and her pet dog Ciggaro. The trail leadsto a condemned hotel in the beautiful but perilous grounds of Cliff Park, an old estate with a chequered past and it's fair share of ghost stories.

-- Joanne Weaver

 

Chapters are are posted as they are accepted on Wattpad. If you aren’t yet on Wattpad, you can read Chapter One here. You can also follow the project for email updates, and to enter the contest.

I’m editing this project, but even I don’t know what will happen next. Maybe the next chapter will be yours…

*** Update: Cliffhanger Castle is on hold until after the publication of Feeding Frenzy *** 

For updates, sign up for the newsletter: [wysija_form id=”3″]

 

What is a Serial Thriller Anthology?

Cliffhanger Castle, an innovative serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz
Cliffhanger Castle. A paranormal serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz

Is this Wattpad’s First Serial Anthology?

This project is a paranormal thriller with a twist – author collaboration in a serial anthology. If you have ever wanted to read a suspense novel that combines mystery with lots of surprises, this innovative novel, the first of its kind on Wattpad.

Exciting writers compete to display their unique style, in conjunction with other talented authors. The idea is to combine a gentle game of writerly one-upmanship, with a chance for like-minded writers (and readers) to find each other. Only the most talented contributors will have their chapters included in the story.

Is a Serial Anthology Right for You?

Written by various authors in styles ranging from sweet to suspenseful, there is a lot of variety for the reader. If you don’t want to miss out, consider following the project on Wattpad. Here is the link to my Wattpad Profile: @MaajaWentz (on Wattpad)

There you will also find my Watty-Award-Winning mystery/thriller, Feeding Frenzy,as well as virtual shelves of reading recommendations in different genres. There is a lot of free fiction available every day on Wattpad. As a platform, Wattpad has a monthly audience of 45 million to whom it is committed to provide all its stories for free.

Note: Wattpad is for members only but all you need is an email address. Join Wattpad for full access, or get Cliffhanger Castle updates outside Wattpad by joining the Loon Lake Reading Club.

 

*** Update ***

 

After putting Cliffhanger Castle on hiatus while I concentrated on editing Feeding Frenzy for publication, Cliffhanger Castle is relaunched and looking for contributors. If you are on Wattpad and you would like to contribute, feel free to pitch me with a chapter idea. If I like your idea, and the samples of your work posted on Wattpad, you may just be our newest featured author.

Dragon Dictation: for Creative Writing

Should you use Dragon Dictation for your Creative Writing?

Many people say that the main benefit of Dragon Dictation for creative writing is speed. While it’s true that dictation fans rave about the increased productivity using dictation software, I have a much more serious reason to prefer dictating my stories and novels.

Typing at a laptop is worse than Dragon Dictation for repetitive strain injuries.
Laptops hurt me but Dragon Dictation helps my wrists heal.

Typing can cause wrist pain and repetitive strain injuries

This blog has slowed down for a while, partly because I have been putting my efforts into writing a serial novel on Wattpad, but also because I have been resting my overworked wrists. Since April 2014, I have drafted two novels from scratch, written short stories and a grant application, critiqued chapters for my writing partners, and blogged. Since Halloween, I have also edited and posted weekly chapters of Feeding FrenzyOf these, drafting a novel in the month of November (for NaNoWriMo) was probably hardest on my wrists. This alone might be enough to convince me to use Dragon Dictate for my creative writing, but that isn’t all the typing I do.

At school, I do a lot of keyboarding as a teacher librarian, in addition to demonstrating various applications to students using a digital projector. Some of this work involves typing standing up. If you have ever done any significant writing in a short period of time, such as participating in writing marathons, you may feel my pain. Years ago, when I got my first librarian job, it was up to me and a a few volunteers to automate an entire school library. This was data entry pure and simple, and by the end my wrists burned and ached. With the rest, the problem resolved itself, but these days I want to write more with less pain.

Dragon Dictation to reduce wrist pain

Have you heard of Dragon 13? This software allows you to dictate your writing instead of typing it. I purchased an earlier version years ago and realized the time necessary to train it to recognize speech in a Canadian accent, wasn’t worth the bother. This new version of Dragon works straight out of the box. Users can choose between British, American, Canadian, and specific regional accents. I am dictating this blog post without touching the keyboard to do more than make corrections.

The program is not cheap, and there are limitations. For example, I was not allowed to install the software on a laptop as well as my desktop computer, and my Surface Pro didn’t have enough memory to run it. On the upside, the premium edition transcribes recordings, so I could take a digital recorder with me on a walk, and let Dragon transcribe notes for me later. Maybe I’ll use it on the stationary bike.

Dragon 13 should suit those who don’t type, or who need to reduce their typing. Although I still find myself using the keyboard for unusual words, or to correct punctuation, it is possible to train the program to recognize just about any word. For most people dictating, even with the inevitable corrections that must still be made with the keyboard, is still quicker than typing. The training which launches with the program encourages users to choose the mouse and keyboard over the microphone where this saves time.

Compatibility with Dragon Dictation

Dragon works with many programs, including Gmail, although I wish it worked with the PC version of Scrivener. When Dragon encounters an incompatible program, it automatically opens a text box. Once you’re satisfied with what you have typed, you insert the dictated text with one click.

Another excellent Dragon feature allows you to highlight text and let the program read it back to you. When editing a piece, reading it aloud is one of the best ways to perceive errors. Having a program read it back saves your voice, and prevents you from skimming over extra words, or missed words. On Wattpad, where I am posting chapters no other person has proofread, I like to use every tool available. Reading aloud, spell check, and having Dragon read aloud, is a helpful combination.

Perhaps the biggest drawback, is that working with Dragon feels so easy and conversational, it could lead to chatty blog posts that go on too long.

 

Richard Scrimger Interview

I was lucky enough to interview the witty, award-winning Canadian author, Richard Scrimger. Versatile, he writes for small children, middle grade, young adult, and adult categories. My current favorite is his YA novel Zomboy, in which a new student turns out to be undead, and unwanted, by unenlightened members of his community. Zomboy provokes thought but still delivers suspense and laughs. It has been nominated for a Red Maple award by the Ontario Library Association.

This year I am running a Silver Birch book club and a Red Maple book club. I’m looking forward to what my grade seven and eight club members have to say about Zomboy.

Enjoy the interview:

 

 

Feeding Frenzy

I celebrated the New Year by posting chapter 11 of my serial thriller, Feeding Frenzy.

Click here for the direct link…

Slide1Join me on Wattpad to read it for free on all digital platforms.

 

Shared Writing and the Classroom Novel

The popularity of fantasy adventure novels hasn’t dwindled since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Teachers capitalizing on this popularity can inspire student writing, without marking more pages than Lord of the Rings. Today, I’m going to talk about shared-world ‘novel’ writing. This is something I did with a class of gifted grade four students, but the format easily adapts to older students, all the way up to high school.

Design the architecture of the story a bit like a video game or a treasure hunt. The protagonists are searching for a special item, or group of special items that are keys to solve a puzzle, or which give magical powers to defeat an opponent. Each chapter depicts the protagonists’ search through a different world.

In the case of our student novel, World Pool, it began when a magic rock and a runaway science experiment tumbled our heroes into a series of water portals. The protagonists, a boy and a girl invented by the class in a chalkboard brainstorming session, moved from world to world having adventures. Don’t ask me how it worked scientifically. It was magic, and as long as the rules of magic are consistent in the story, your students can do just about anything.

Our intrepid heroes visited the soccer world, the stone age, the bronze age, the land of hockey, Formula 1 racing world, the magical jungle, a planet with heart-shaped people, and finished off by visiting the Wonderful Lizard of Paws…

When the chapters were edited, we collated them, photocopied, added a student-designed cover, and bound and distributed the finished product. If I were to do it again today, I would produce an ebook on Smashwords, and give the families a coupon code for unlimited free copies. That way there could be a colour cover, and the young authors’ families and friends could access their book worldwide, at no cost to the school.

If this idea inspires you, try holding a few shared-writing brainstorm sessions with your students. This is a fruitful process but it can’t be rushed. Every student needs to feel implicated in the planning, writing, and peer-editing. The process is as important as the final product, and helps create team spirit.

Suggested procedure:

  • Set aside a daily time for work on this intense project
  • Set behaviour guidelines which allow only constructive criticism, and limit brainstorming to positive comments
  • Discuss the format, story genre, and types of characters students want for their story
  • Collaborate on a story architecture that will allow each chapter to be written by a pair of writers, inspired by a topic of personal interest to them
  • Dividing into pairs also keeps the number of chapters down to 15 or so
  • set chapter length limits (word count or page limits)
  • The class will need to collectively map out the book’s outline, including how it ends before writing begins (I like to use chart paper to keep and display our decisions)
  • One pair will write the first chapter, in which the protagonists are drawn into the first portal
  • One pair will write the final chapter where the protagonists return, victorious!
  • Make it fun! Creativity can ‘turn turtle’ under pressure
  • You may want to discuss writing characters of the opposite sex in a realistic way, and use mixed writing pairs, to avoid sexist clichés
  • Have groups ‘sign up’ for topics to avoid repeats (ex. there shouldn’t be two candy world or vampire world chapters in the same book)
  • Pairs should be given plenty of class time to write, peer-edit, and revise their chapters before the teacher edits them
  • Good copies need to be typed by each pair and submitted to the teacher as a digital file (for printing or ebook conversion)

For more information on formatting ebooks for distribution on a variety of devices, you might like to look at the Smashwords website, or the Kobo Writing Life website. Kindle Direct Publishing sets limits on what you are allowed to publish for free. If creating an ebook for Kindle interests you, check out Amazon’s fine print, or produce your .mobi (Kindle) files via Smashwords.

 

Linda Poitevin Interview

Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitvin on Wattpad.
Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitevin on Wattpad.

Could Wattpad be for you?

Are you a traditionally published author, looking to open up new markets? Do you have an idea for a book that would make good serial fiction? This interview with Linda Poitevin is partly about writing, partly about marketing, but mostly about how Wattpad can help you find new fans.

Since doing this interview in December 2014, many things have changed for me. I have completed my first Wattpad novel, Feeding Frenzy, which went on to be featured and then win a Watty award. Unlike Poitevin’s novel, mine is going to be independently published after its world debut on Wattpad but I did benefit from her advice. One of her biggest suggestions was to post regularly and following this tip my story went to #11 in Mystery/Thriller. I’m certain it never would have done so well if I hadn’t been disciplined about posting every week.

Wattpad works for Linda Poitevin

Wattpad is a fast-growing platform for reading free serial fiction. I interviewed dark urban fantasy and contemporary romance author, Linda Poitevin about using Wattpad to reach a wider audience. She has a lovely personality and a good grip on the business of writing. It’s clear that she and her fans enjoy falling in love with her romantic lead characters, but there are takeaways here for all kinds of writers.

Art versus Commerce?

I recently checked out Linda’s Twitter page @lindapoitevin with its new tagline: Evocative Romance/Unexpected Evil. It’s a good way to express the different genres she writes in. I think this is a challenge many creative people face. How do you write your truth, or write the stories you would most want to read, without confusing potential readers? When I sit down to write, I never know if I’m going to come up with a poetic serial killer story or a play, or a quirky kid’s book. It probably comes from working as a teacher-librarian. Where once I was almost a literary snob in my twenties (a hazard of doing an M.A. in comparative literature), now I read a lot of kid’s books, Y.A., and genre fiction of all kinds. None of this will make my writing easy to market or clear a straight path to a writing career, but I’ve never needed writing to pay the bills. Working full time allows me to indulge in art for art’s sake, for which I am grateful.

That said, I am still fascinated by the business of writing and the breakout indie authors. Success stories like The Martian or Wool, come easily to mind. While I honestly think few writers get into this business for the money, writing is only rewarding with an audience. Let’s hope that Poitevin’s insights and encouraging experiences will help you find an audience for your work on Wattpad and beyond. 

If you are looking for content that is actionable and focused on converting Wattpad readers to book buyers, Poitevin’s advice is as relevant as ever.

Video Interview with Linda Poitevin

Click on the link to enjoy the full interview: Linda Poitevin Interview

NaNoWriMo Wattpad Experiment

October 31, I posted the teaser for a writing experiment on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy is a Supernatural Thriller, and a great big narrative sandbox for me to play in. The nature of the Wattpad community is friendly, so it’s a good place to find readers who appreciate humour and creative fun in their fiction.

Over the course of 30 days, the goal of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), is to write 50 000 words. Rough draft writing, random plot elements, and writing by the seat of one’s pants are encouraged. Anything to get up to the word count. Since I have done NaNoWriMo before, I added the new challenge of editing and posting at least one chapter to Wattpad weekly.

The experiment yielded some interesting results, including encouraging listings on Wattpad: #53 in Thriller/ Mystery and #69 in Paranormal. Not too bad for a book that isn’t finished yet. Of course the rankings in Wattpad change almost daily so from #53 the story fell out of the listing (out of the top 1000 novels), bounced back to 600-something when I posted chapter six, then dropped out of the top thousand again.

That’s not the important thing. This is:

NaNo Win

Last weekend I was so behind on my word count, making quota seemed impossible. I wrote most of the day for two days, producing 12 000 words to catch up. With December here, it’s time to relax with the 50 000 word goal reached. The finished novel will be quite a bit longer. I’m spending a chunk of today sketching out the ending so I can keep putting my 5:00 a.m. writing sessions towards finishing the novel, as well as editing and posting to Wattpad.

The only way to upload something of quality, in my experience, is to make sure the writing of first draft stays well ahead of my Wattpad postings. That means I can go back and forth editing and changing the manuscript for readability and continuity.

Thanks to those of you on Wattpad, Twitter, FaceBook etc. who have encouraged me to keep going. I hope you will be inspired to take on your own fun creative projects, and that you will enjoy reading Feeding Frenzy. Here’s the link to read it for free on Wattpad.

NaNoWriMo Statistics

Will it be possible to write 50 000 words of Feeding Frenzy in one month, while still posting a chapter to Wattpad at least once a week? This goal seemed a little impossible after getting so far behind on my word count last weekend. This weekend I tried to make up for it by writing 6000 words per day. Here are the new statistics.

Nov. 23, 2014
Nov. 23, 2014

Feeding Frenzy Wins Best Blurb Award

Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller with humour and magic.
Feeding Frenzy hits #53 in Mytery/ Thriller and Update: #69 in Paranormal rankings on Wattpad: Update:

 

I recently won a fan-run Best Blurb Award on Wattpad. This may be a big reason why Feeding Frenzy is climbing the rankings. I can’t believe it has risen to #53 in Mystery/ Thriller and #69 in Paranormal. That’s a lot of progress in a short time. I’m going to use it as motivation to keep adding chapters.

The clock is set for 5:00 a.m. Monday morning so I can get right back onto my write-teach-write schedule. Watch for chapter updates weekly on Fridays or twice weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Join in the fun here: