Live Reading of Second Coming plus speculative fiction stories and poems
If you would like to see me read this and other poems and stories on video, watch this clip of my reading at Can-Con, one of my favorite annual events. Beware, may contain horror, and Dionysus.
Can-Con is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, a literary and scientifically-minded science fiction and fantasy convention in Ottawa held annually by The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.
WCDR hosts Words of the Season, a quarterly evening of author readings and music. This Tuesday, it will be my privilege to emcee for the third time. The format of the evening is two sessions of reading and musical entertainment, divided by an intermission. To start the break, I set up a game for the audience who are primarily writers. This makes my job very easy. They write all the best material! One of the funniest parts of the evening is reading their contributions out loud. Let’s hope this quarter’s topic, procrastination, stimulates their imaginations.
Words of the Season for June 20, 2017
True story: For weeks, I was cracking my head over trying to think of something to say tonight until… eureka! I got an idea. I could use writing this intro to avoid editing my novel. Suddenly the words started flowing.
Have you ever written a nice piece or got applause for a performance, but afterwards felt like it was a fluke? Then, the next time you had to write or perform, instead of feeling more confident, you felt like expectations were raised and this time you’d fall on your face? It happens to me all the time when I get recognition for a piece – or when Lesley graciously invited me back to emcee tonight. – By the way, thanks Lesley! 😊
And where do writers go when they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed? They don’t even have to hop on a plane. They just blink and suddenly open their eyes smack in the middle of the Procrasti-nation. It’s a Nation like no other, full of people who should be getting things done but who are too blocked or stressed to move forward. I’ve spent entire weekends there, haven’t you?
When I’m stuck on a project or fearful I can’t meet a high standard, suddenly there are a million other things to do. I’m working through the second pass edit on Feeding Frenzy now. Since I’m self-publishing, whatever I hand back to the editor is getting proofread and uploaded to Amazon. You can’t imagine how terrifying it is to realize there’s no one to tell me “No, this novel isn’t good enough.”
I blocked out all last weekend to edit but guess what I did? I researched flowering shade plants and ordered seeds online, I ate ice cream sandwiches, started drafting a kids’ chapter book, watched instructional videos, and read writing craft books that made me feel even more inadequate. By the evening, I was so worn out from procrastinating that I gave up and watched Netflix.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is artistic resistance (that irresistible force that sends me hunting for chocolate) so hard to overcome?
I’m hoping tonight’s performers can enlighten us. Each and every one of them had to overcome artistic blocks and procrastination to get here. Let’s applaud their determination…
[Author readings, musical interlude, etc.]
[Start of the Intermission]
Intermission Game: Procrastination Station
As an icebreaker tonight, tables will receive slips of paper. The game is simple. Think of your funniest or most touching procrastination story or technique. It can be about anything: giving a performance, writing an essay, speaking at a wedding, revising a story, studying for an exam… Write down the most outrageous things you’ve done to avoid hard work — or your favourite last-minute deadline hijinks.
(By the way, last time your ‘bad advice for writers’ ideas were so wonderful, I was dying to share them on my blog. If you want to receive credit this time, print your name on your entry.)
After the break, we’ll read out your anecdotes. No pressure now. 😊
Update: As expected the audience did not disappoint. Here is their procrastination advice.
How to procrastinate when you should be writing:
Bake! Four dozen cookies, eight lemon loaves and 48 cranberry muffins later, I’m finally ready to write! (But not read… My mouth is full…) (Ann Rocchi)
ways to procrastinate:
• drink some more
Ways of procrastinating? I will write my ideas later, when I have more time.
Listen to music or write some verse (Faisal Azeem)
check mindless email ads on the computer
My husband entered a seven-day mountain bike race in C but wanted to go four days early to train with his buddies. Afraid of flying, instead of a five hour flight I chose a five-day drive. Not only did he think I’m crazy, two different border crossing agents found my story very hard to believe (Jenny)
My friend Charlotte was supposed to be studying for a Masters degree in social work. One day she suddenly realized she was dusting the beams in the ceiling of her basement. “I don’t even dust my living room,” she said to herself “what am I doing down here?”
My house gets the cleanest when I have a class set of badly-written essays to mark
Sleep, who need sleep? I can do it later. For now – tonight! — We live… Or at least we keep busy enough that we can tell ourselves we’re living.
Ways to procrastinate: Read War and Peace
I was supposed to read a chapter on the Spanish Inquisition… I wrote gay M/slash fan fiction instead… No one expects the gay Inquisition! (N Aaltonen)
Someone on the Internet is wrong and must be corrected!
I prefer to fly thousands of miles away under the pretenses of finding a new place to write and then choose a myriad of ways to avoid looking at my keyboard. (Kevin)
I procrastinate when I have to do research. Every answer leads to another question and so on and so on. I flip over to Facebook, feel guilty, go back and forth back and forth. I look in the fridge, feel guilty about eating when I’m not hungry, so look up dogs available for adoption. Walking dogs burns calories… I feel less guilty about looking in the fridge. (Lesley Cadham)
I wanted to do some timed writing exercises… But everything had to be just right so I spent a full 30 minutes choosing which alarm tone to use on my phone. (Janet)
Watch 112 episodes of once upon a time
watch 340 episodes of Dallas
Went in the backyard to do poop patrol wearing heels which sank into the soil still damp from an overnight rain, then decided to aerate the entire lawn with my shoes
You could win 10 Kindle bestsellers just by entering this free giveaway.
I like YA fantasy and science fiction so much I’m running a contest. Enter as many times as you like and earn extra entries by sharing this giveaway with your friends. Here are the details: Whether you call it a sweepstakes, a giveaway, or a contest, scroll to the bottom for your chance to win. One lucky winner will walk away with $150.00 CDN in YA fantasy and Science Fiction Kindle books.
Explore new worlds with these top-ranking YA Kindle books. From paranormal thrillers and fantasy to cutting edge science fiction, these stories will grab you by the imagination and take you for a thrill ride. Spend time with compelling characters in unique worlds which will appeal to teen and adult readers of YAfantasy and science fiction.
Win 10 Kindle bestsellers:
Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Book 1 in the celebrated Disk World series.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
#1 New York Times bestselling series.
Zeus is Dead by Michel G. Munz
A murder mystery and a cosmic showdown. For fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Percy Jackson.
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
An extraordinarily dark and whimsical adventure.
Ancient Magic by Linsey Hall
FireSouls, dragon magic, and shifters caught up in a life-and-death adventure.
Configured by Jenetta Penner
In the future, love will make you a traitor. Join the rebellion.
Grave Mistake by Izzy Shows
Paranormal noir with a kickass heroine.
Darkness Brutal by Rachel A Marks
Demons, ghosts, and passionate energy in an all-out battle of light versus darkness.
Elementals by Michelle Madow
A new series for fans of Percy Jackson and the Secret Circle.
The Gender Game by Bella Forrest
For fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent
Sharing = more chances to win
Don’t forget to share this contest with your friends and on social media to increase your chances of winning. For more information and for free fiction, don’t forget to visit maajawentz.com.
Have you thought about writing serial fiction on Wattpad? I have used Wattpad to conquer writer’s block and overcome my ongoing fear of rejection. Before I started posting stories on this platform, I had multiple drawers full of short stories and novels which I had not submitted anywhere. Wattpad was the perfect place for me to get my work in front of an audience without facing rejection.
The Wattpad Effect
Since posting my supernatural mystery/thriller Feeding Frenzy, I have had my story “featured,” won a Watty award, and I have been asked to do readings and to speak on panels at conventions. Knowing there is an audience for writing like mine encourages me to write and submit more pieces for paying markets. As a result, I currently have poems accepted for publication and short stories submitted and awaiting acceptance or rejection. Editors can accept or reject them but Wattpad experience has melted the hard frost that immobilized me. Sending off a story doesn’t freeze me in my tracks me anymore. This change in attitude could not have happened if I didn’t dare myself to post one novel chapter per week on Wattpad. Once you can do that, submitting a short story seems easy. Posting a novel as you write it is like a tightrope walk without a net. The secret is knowing which circus to join and where to lay your rope.
Posting a novel as you write it is like a tightrope walk without a net.
Join the Right Circus
There is no more positive platform on the Internet for writers at any stage of their career, but especially for those just getting started. If you know a teen who wants to be a writer, direct them to Wattpad. Learning to write live, in front of an appreciative audience, is a fast and motivating teacher. That said, Wattpad works for adults as well. Here are ten reasons why Wattpad might work for you.
10 Reasons to Write Serial Fiction on Wattpad
For writers in the early stages of their careers, Wattpad is a great sandbox to experiment in and find new readers. The platform divides stories into genres and categories and uses similar search dynamics to Amazon or Google so story creation has readership and discoverability baked into the platform.
Readers far outnumber writers on Wattpad which has over 45 million members worldwide. This community spends a collective 15 billion minutes per month reading and interacting on the Wattpad platform. My story, Feeding Frenzy, has over 110 000 reads as of today’s date (2016-12-18) and this number rises every week. Writers in the most popular genres, like romance, can reach multiple millions of reads.
Wattpad readers are part of a social network. They love to interact with their favorite writers, vote for stories, and add them to their libraries. Readers also make comments about individual chapters. If readers choose to follow a writer, they receive email alerts in their inbox about book updates and any messages the writer posts to his/her Wattpad author page.
Wattpad provides precise analytics about who is reading your story (sex, age, country of origin) in the form of attractive, easy to interpret graphics. For example, I know that my new dystopian science fiction novel, Girl Cyborg, is being read by men as well as women, while my zany supernatural mystery thriller, Feeding Frenzy, attracts a mostly female audience.
Having readers who expect regular updates is the perfect kick in the pants to keep project momentum. Writing on speculation without a deadline can be both lonely and frustrating. Writing for Wattpad readers is the opposite. Not only do your followers and readers on Wattpad look forward to your story, but they also make positive comments which help keep you going.
Everything you post on Wattpad is done for free. Although the platform is interested in finding ways to monetize readership and give some of that money back to authors, there is a certain allure to writing something purely to entertain other people without commercial pressures. You can write under a pen name if you want to remain anonymous, as many people do.
Wattpad is a digital medium popular with millennials who are less materialistic and more idealistic, with a desire to be part of something important. Writing stories on Wattpad is akin to the maker movement on an international scale. On Wattpad, you can express your creativity without needing to please publishing gatekeepers like agents and editors. This free platform allows you to instantly publish story chapters as they are written. Other members of the community may offer to provide related graphics, a cover, or even a book trailer if they love your work.
Published authors can use Wattpad to increase sales. One proven tactic is to take a book which is already available for purchase on the e-book stores, and then begin releasing one chapter per week on Wattpad. Avid readers who want to get to the end of the book faster can click on a buy link posted by the author. For more on this strategy, watch my interview with romance and fantasy author, Linda Poitevin.
Rankings, awards, and the opportunity to get your story “featured,” are exciting incentives to work harder and reach new readers. They are also incentives to hone your craft, polish your stories, and make them more engaging. On Wattpad, the most compelling and compulsive read wins. Whether you write literary fiction or genre fiction, or something more experimental, adding page-turner techniques to your toolkit can make you a better writer.
Writing is an interactive art and Wattpad provides an audience from day one. It’s very romantic to imagine the tortured artist in a garret writing pure art based on Platonic ideals. Sometimes this is how writers are depicted in movies. For me, writing just for myself would be like acting in an empty theatre. Creating art without sharing is rehearsal, an essential part of writing that comes before sharing your work with others. Only an audience can say if your work is having the effect you intended.
Writing for Wattpad is not for Everybody
Despite these reasons to write for Wattpad, there will be many skeptics who think it’s a bad idea. They’re not wrong. Wattpad is not for everybody, particularly established writers who do not need to look for new readers or who do not write YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, or romance. If your novels are already literary successes or popular bestsellers, there may be no commercial reason for you to join the ranks of authors who have posted fiction on Wattpad such as Margaret Atwood, Scott Westerfield, and RL Stein. That said, there may be artistic and social reasons.
For me, Wattpad works best when you think of it as one part artistic experiment, one part social media platform. It is a wonderful place to meet writers working in the same genre as you, as well as to interact with readers of your work. For those who prefer working alone without reader feedback, Wattpad won’t improve the writing experience. Wattpad also lacks snob appeal. Many of the readers on Wattpad are teens still developing their literary tastes. Writers who seek traditional acclaim and literary awards might hesitate to associate themselves with a platform known for publishing fanfiction and unedited first drafts. To such writers, I can only say à chacun son goût. I have had nothing but positive experiences so far. Wattpad isn’t for everybody but it might be for you.
Girl Cyborg: My latest YA novel is launched on Wattpad
October was such an exciting month for me with my visit to World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio — but that didn’t mean I forgot to plan Girl Cyborg: A Science Fiction Action Adventure. This year for NaNoWriMo I will be running a repeat of the experiment that saw Feeding Frenzy become a featured story on Wattpad. It later went on to win a Watty HQ love award and garner over 107 000 reads on Wattpad. What is unique about this approach is that the first chapter was posted on Halloween , and the rest of the book will be posted a chapter at a time each Friday (just like Feeding Frenzy was). So far not so unusual, except that I will also be writing the first draft at the same time in daily 2000 word bursts during the month of November. It’s kind of like writing as performance art — with no safety net.
While I’m perfectly aware that awards and high rankings might not happen for this project the way they did for Feeding Frenzy, I’m hoping the experience of writing page-turning suspense for Wattpad has made me a better writer. So far people are starting to find the story and initial comments have been positive, but only time will tell if readers like it as much as Feeding Frenzy. This story is not a supernatural thriller but a survival tale set in the near future.
Girl Cyborg is the story of Bess, a genetically and cybernetically enhanced search and rescue specialist at the Academy, an elite training school. While not strictly considered military, the grads and undergrads of the Academy carry out missions to protect citizens of the allied country they have been supporting — not occupying — during an armed conflict that has been going on for ten years.
Bess’s super strength and augmented senses could just as easily make her a super assassin as a rescue worker but when peace is declared, her greatest wish is to become a firefighter and continue saving lives. The book opens on the day Bess commands her very first mission as an Academy grad, rescuing civilians from a bombed building.
Cyborgs aren’t made to last…
Eighteen-year-old Bess is a search-and-rescue specialist that the government wants to search-and-destroy. Created to pull survivors from bombed buildings, her superhuman strength, sight, and hearing make her a high-value target. The military wants to contain her. Organized crime bosses want to enslave her. Helping her is almost as big a crime as being her.
To escape detection, she must go dark, cut off from the signal that tells her body to heal. If the bounty hunters don’t get her, cellular degeneration will. Out of options and out of time, she teams up with a young rebel who rekindles her humanity. While searching for the mysterious doctor who can restore her body, she tries to unite a baby with its family against Academy protocol. The child will grow up an orphan like Bess and be transformed into a cyborg if Bess doesn’t intervene.
I recently wrote a letter to the Writers’ Circle of Durham Region, thanking them for a grant they awarded to me last year to help fund the professional editing of Feeding Frenzy. As a supportive writing community and dynamic volunteer organization, I can’t thank them enough for the encouragement and the opportunities they provide for writers at all stages of their careers. Here is the letter:
I would like to express my gratitude to the WCDR for its generous grant. Recognition in the form of a grant is not just monetary assistance to achieve the goal, but a of reflection of confidence in a writer’s work. Deciding to self-publish my novel, Feeding Frenzy, was not easy. The novel started in the form of chapters posted weekly to Wattpad, a free online reading platform with over 40 million members.
When Wattpad chose to feature Feeding Frenzy, and then later when it won a Watty award, it became clear that the story was of interest to readers. That said, spending the money to properly edit it for publication in e-book and paperback forms was a different matter. When the WCDR decided to provide a grant to help pay for editing, this vote of confidence made it seem both feasible and sensible.
Thank you once again for your confidence in my work, and for your financial support to help bring it to publication. Feeding Frenzy received editorial input from award-winning Canadian writer Richard Srimger, and the manuscript is currently in the hands of award-winning editor Sandra Kasturi. I will be sure to let you know when the publication date is set.
Please feel free to forward this letter to any of your sponsors. I am indebted to the WCDR for the many opportunities it has given me to network with other writers, attend workshops, enjoy guest speakers, read in public, participate in competitions, publish newsletter articles, and attend special events like Bookapaloosa. The local writing scene would be much poorer without the WCDR and its many generous volunteers.
Writers: Experiment with 1, 2, 4, 6, and Increase Productivity
This article is inspired by Scott Meyer’s blog post about writing success for screenwriters. In it he advocates “1, 2, 7, 14,” as a structure for becoming a more productive writer. Under his plan you would read one screenplay per week, watch two movies per week, write seven pages per week, and work fourteen hours per week preparing story ideas for new projects. The payoff is that in a year’s time you would have read fifty-two screenplays, viewed 104 movies, and written two feature-length screenplays.
How do you measure writing success. Publication may be difficult but there are many ways to measure progress in writing craft. Here’s my twist on Meyer’s productivity experiment for fiction writers: 1, 2, 4, 6. Make it a routine to:
1: Read one novel or collection of short stories per week
If you are spending less time reading than fooling around on social media and watching TV, writing might not be your calling. Reading a book per week should be the easiest item on the list.
2: Read an average of two book reviews or writing craft articles per week
Scan book reviews to inspire future reading and keep up with the zeitgeist, and study craft articles to explore new techniques and forms you haven’t tried. Personally, I find reading writing craft books addictive. The challenge is to prevent writing advice from becoming a distraction in itself. Publishing trade magazines and websites provide marketing information and inspiration in article-sized bites.
4: Write four pages per day (1200 words)
Many authors average from 1500 to 5000 words per day, although figures vary wildly. That means it should be easy to write an average of 1200 words a day, even taking off two days a week. If this goal is too high to meet regularly, set your goal at two pages. An easier goal that can be made consistently helps build a steady writing habit. Binge writing has its rewards but can’t compete with a steady, regular writing habit for productivity.
6: Edit six pages per day (1800 words)
Many writers are perfectionists with drawer novels, abandoned short stories, and ideas for articles and editorial pieces they never get around to revising. By giving yourself an editing quota, you will be forced to look at your best abandoned pieces and decide what to revise and send out.
That sounded very authoritative, didn’t it? But my writing buddies will recognize this as advice directed squarely at myself. I have a filing cabinet stuffed with abandoned stories, and there are at least five drawer novels with my name on them. Are any of them salvageable? Perhaps. My skills have improved over the years. If I can force myself to look at abandoned pieces, instead of always chasing the next new idea, maybe some of those discarded premises will prove worth developing …
The Payoff: Writing Success
If you follow this system, at the end of the year you will have:
read fifty-two novels
read a combination of 104 book reviews and writing craft articles
written 1460 pages (438 000 words) of rough draft – a number which could represent 3-7 novels, 88-400 short stories, or 10 novellas, or some combination thereof
you will have edited those pages and made them ready for submission to editors
Will anybody run this creative experiment? I hope so. When I am writing well, the routine is to get up at 5:00 a.m., shower and dress, then write while I eat breakfast until 7:30 when I leave for work. Maintaining that pace, I have written a novel in a month more than once. Naturally, not everything written so quickly is going to be good, unless you put the time into thoroughly developing the ideas, plot, themes, characters and setting first.
A large part of Scott Meyer’s proposition is weekly idea development. For me, when an idea takes hold, I don’t need to schedule thinking about it. Researching, developing characters and setting, and then planning story beats are things I prefer to do in big blocks of time. All other writing comes to a stop as I mull over ideas, think about plot points, and anticipate creating dramatic scenes. I can’t imagine making the conceptualization stage into something methodical that could be divided into bite-sized chunks, but Myers asserts working on multiple projects simultaneously is necessary for working screenwriters.
If you are a screenwriter, or you are interested in reading the original article, find Scott Meyer’s brilliant advice here, on the Go into the Story blog.
Happy reading and here’s to your writing success….
Exclusive Report for Loon Lake Readers
The latest edition of the Loon Lake Reading Club newsletter is out. Access is for members only. This time content includes personal perspectives on travelling in Peru, photos, a recipe for Valentine’s Day, Feeding Frenzy novel updates and more. Don’t miss out. Sign up below….
I can hardly believe my supernatural thriller won an HQ Love Award in The Wattys. This award is given to the handful of stories most read and recommended by the Wattpad staff. Wattpad holds the largest online writing competition in the world with a community of 40 million. Feeding Frenzy was selected from among 75,000 entries. It appears on the Wattys list and just got a ‘Wattys’ badge added to the cover.
“Each year with The Wattys, we celebrate our community and recognize the stories that have captured the hearts of millions of people around the world,” said Allen Lau, Wattpad CEO and co-founder. “We launched The Wattys in 2010 as a small writing contest. Today, it has grown into the world’s largest online writing contest, and it brings the entire Wattpad community together in celebration.”
Founded in 2006, Wattpad is a free app that lets people discover and share serialized stories. More than 40 million people use Wattpad in over 50 languages. The company is based in Toronto.
Feeding Frenzy to be Published in Paperback and Ebook
It may have won a Watty but I consider the free Wattpad version of my novel to be a draft. Sunday I sent off a newly revised version of Feeding Frenzy for professional editing in advance of its upcoming publication in ebook and paperback forms. I am delighted to announce that multiple award-winning editor, Sandra Kasturi, has agreed to take on the project. Sandra writes brilliant poetry, appreciates quirky fiction, and has a wicked sense of humour. The manuscript couldn’t be in better hands.
It’s been a week since this Durham book fair. Standing behind my table all day, my only regret is missing some of the readings. The organizers at WCDR encouraged us to take time before doors to the Bookapalooza book fair opened to the public so we could visit other vendors. I also took time out during the day to buy autographed books by WCDR members, and to join the Toronto branch of Sisters in Crime. I felt like it was a successful day, despite my having nothing for sale.
Giving Away Free Books is Part of the Fun.
Many people visited the Feeding Frenzy booth and turned the spinning wheel to win free paperbacks, or free ebooks of Feeding Frenzy to be delivered once it is released. The wheel drew a lot of interest, as did the treasure hunt card implemented by Heather O’Conner. To fill the card and be eligible to win a basket of books, visitors had to visit booths, collecting signatures from the vendors. If I return next year to sell Feeding Frenzy in paperback, I’ll be sure to run another spinning wheel game because people really seemed to enjoy it. Better yet, I can only hope to be placed next to Heather again. Her upbeat manner made for a fun day.
Giving Away Free Books at the Book Fair
I’m not going to release the names of winners without their permission but here are some stats from my spinning wheel experiment:
15 people specifically signed up for the Loon Lake Readers’ Club
22 in total gave their email addresses (some in order to receive their free ebook without checking either yes or no in the Readers’ Club opt-in box.)
11 people won the ebook version of Feeding Frenzy
Mostly women stopped at my booth and only women spun the wheel, which fits perfectly with the majority of my readers on Wattpad
Everyone who didn’t win a prize was given a ‘quick access card,’ with a Q-code and a short URL for the free, Wattpad version of Feeding Frenzy
Reading at the Bookapalooza Book Fair
In addition to the booth, I was also granted a space during the readings. This was an interesting opportunity by itself as reading to a live audience is a great way to see if your chapter is working. An interested audience is a still audience and I am happy to report that listeners seemed very attentive during my chapter. One of my friends, David Talon, turned up to hear the readings, sporting a fabulous ‘Movember’ moustache. What a lovely surprise!
Thursday morning I head off to Saratoga Springs, New York, with Rebecca Simkin, Gemma Files and Steve Barringer. It will be my first US literary convention. For months I’ve been looking forward to these four days of books, discussions about books, launches, author readings, autograph sessions, workshops and, of course, parties. Fantasy fiction covers a lot of ground. My hope is to come away with a new appreciation for authors I’ve never read before, and for genres within fantasy I don’t usually read. Memberships are sold out for this year but the website is still worth a look if you are considering going next year: World Fantasy Convention.
Lately, editing Feeding Frenzy has taken up so much writing time that I haven’t posted many book reviews. Let’s hope that returning from World Fantasy I will have a bundle of new books to read and write about.