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:
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.
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.
I Wish My Teacher Knew, the non-fiction online book I made to collect first-person stories about education and creativity, has received over 1050 reads on Wattpad. This is exciting because the more people read it, the more will contribute. The hope is that these stories will inform Creative Teacher Librarian with fresh ideas for renewing education. Find out more about it by clicking on the story below. Drop me a line if you have a story of your own to add. It would be great to hear from you.
Creative Writing Update
As of October 31, the new serial novel, Feeding Frenzy, is underway. Over a hundred readers have perused the first three chapters. As it grows, the hope is many more people will read it. Serial fiction is a great motivator and antidote for writers’ block. Since making a promise to update weekly, there is real pressure to follow through. Last week I posted chapters on Wednesday and Friday. Reader comments have been encouraging. Writing Feeding Frenzy is a nostalgia rush too, as it forces me to reflect on my first year of university, although mythical Loon Lake University is nothing like my alma mater, University of Toronto. If you like fiction with a little humour, mystery and paranormal suspense, this one may be for you.
The Wattpad experience has been stimulating in a lot of ways. I attended a second Toronto meetup at the Wattpad offices in October, which resulted in a new Halloween Story compilation. This platform makes it easy to engage online with writers and readers in their late teens and twenties. Who better to discuss creativity and new ideas in fiction?
My schedule for http://sfcontario.ca/ has firmed up. If you are in Toronto next weekend, and you are interested in speculative fiction, attending a convention is worth doing. I’m moderating three discussion panels and I’ll be running a flash fiction contest, open to attendees. If you are at the convention, be sure to say hello. Here is my schedule:
Reviews and Critiques – Saturday 11 AM
Tricorders in the Classroom – Saturday 12PM
Flash Fiction Slam – Saturday 7PM
Sherlock vs Elementary – Sunday 1pm
In case you are wondering what a Flash Fiction Slam is, I admit I made it up. The idea is to have writers perform their own 500-1000 word stories, and have the audience choose the winners. In a traditional poetry slam, a couple of volunteers are chosen from the crowd who give each slammer a score of 0-10 for his or her performance. No props or costumes are allowed, and only 20% of the offering may be sung. Beyond that, there are few rules. Whatever the reader does to make the performance exciting is allowed. My idea is to take this format and apply it to flash fiction, all in aide of engaging entertainment.
Starting October 31, I will be combining my love of experiment with Wattpad and NaNoWrimo to do something new. As a result I will not be blogging much about creativity. I’ll be too busy getting up at 5:00 am every day to write fiction. If we want students to experiment and create, we mustn’t be afraid to do the same.
Feeding Frenzy is my newest project and a creative sandbox to explore Wattpad and serial writing. Mexican telenovelas, Ugly Betty, Being Human, Sherlock and The Vampire Diaries are inspiring my approach to serial fiction, since I’m trying to teach this medium to myself.
Feeding Frenzy will be posted online, chapter-by-chapter as I write it. The germ for this idea as a science fiction story came to me a few years ago, but finding the right approach has been difficult. This problem fell away recently when I realized I already invented just the right setting for my last novel.
Loon Lake is a mythical, woodsy Canadian anytown which attracts the supernatural like a hockey net attracts the puck. Now, while I’m gathering reader feedback on the first Loon Lake novel, is the ideal time to explore Loon Lake University on the opposite shore. Here’s the blurb:
Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller which explores our obsession with thinness. Imagine a supernatural mash-up between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stephanie Meyer’s The Host.
Sweet but chubby Tonya never gets the guy, the grades or the glory. When Loon Lake is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, years of dieting allow her to resist a mysterious mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the source of this evil before she too succumbs?
Follow this blog or, better yet, follow me on Wattpad to read it. It takes moments to set up a Wattpad account which gives you access to 75 million free stories, including novels by well-known authors.
It’s uncertain how long it will take to write and post a novel at the rate of one or two chapters per week, but my goal is to draft most of it during the month of November. So far I have character sketches, a few funny-looking diagrams on rolls of paper, and sets of plot cards written, discarded and done over. Outlines are hard to write from since story often veers from the original plan. My newest idea is to plot out the main points using sticky notes on a tri-fold science fair board. (Think table top cardboard study carrel.) Normally I’d just write the thing and edit later, but knowing I can’t go back and make changes is a unique challenge, and planning is my secret weapon.
The month of November means a lot of things for different people. For Americans it means Thanksgiving. For Canadians it means colder weather. For writing enthusiasts all over the globe it means NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic kick in the pants for those of us who have always thought we had a novel in us, but never found the time. Why wait until the kids are grown, until you retire, or until your jobs stops being so crazy? Do it now, in one month. Write that novel and bask in the glow of accomplishment.
I have done NaNoWrimo a couple of times now. Writing 50 000 words in a month is something I would normally only do during the summer, but in November there is the extra incentive of knowing ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Feeding Frenzy is going to be my NaNo novel for 2014. What about yours?
If you are interested in NaNo for yourself or as inspiration for young people, here are some useful links:
I will be doing a reading of short fiction and poetry at Can-Con in Ottawa, Saturday October 4, 2014. My co-reader will be novelist S.M. Carriere. One of the best things about conventions is meeting and discovering new authors and making new friends. Conventions are magnets for creative people in the arts and multimedia.
Can-Con is an Ottawa convention which brings together Canadian authors and content creators in science fiction, fantasy and horror. I attended last year for the first time and was impressed by the warmth and welcoming atmosphere. I spoke on the NaNoWriMo panel which brought together a variety of writers. The highlight for me was going out to lunch together and trading stories.
According to their website:
CAN-CON is Ottawa’s premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy gathering celebrating the written word. This yearly event brings together readers, writers, artists, scientists, and publishing professionals for panel discussions, workshops, presentations, readings, book launches, networking opportunities and to have fun. CAN-CON is a function of The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.
The 2014 Can-Con guest of honour is author Jo Walton, winner of the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Fantasy Award. The editor guest of honour is Gabrielle Harbowy of Dragon Moon Press. Also check out the panelists.
Why Attend a Convention?
Conventions are fun if you like science fiction and fantasy novels, and/or speculative movies and shows. There are even conventions dedicated to comic books.
Much more casual than conferences, ‘cons’ run on volunteer power. Organized by and for fans, at a convention it’s easy to meet a favorite author. He or she will probably attend the same parties as you.
If half the convention action is at the parties, the rest is split between concerts, award ceremonies, panel discussions and special events. At some cons there are workshops and fashion shows for fans who build and wear costumes inspired by anime, books and movies. There might be an improv show, fire works or even a star gazing workshop. It depends on what the organizers and participants decide.
The panelists at conventions discuss topics as far-ranging as politics, art, science, technology, genre conventions, cultural diversity in literature, and music. My favorite panels are about writing, including workshops, publishing panels, flash fiction contests, author readings and small reader-author meetups called “coffee klatches.”
Conventions for Creativity
My very first convention was AD Astra, in Toronto. The experience was so creatively stimulating, I went home afterward and wrote my first (unpublished) novel in a six-week streak. If you are into speculative fiction and appreciate geek culture, attending a local convention might be your ideal creativity boost.
The first week of school is over. Routines are starting to gel, kids are on their best behaviour and starting to make friends. Teachers are breathing a sigh of relief. It’s the honeymoon period for elementary teachers. This glistening doorway of opportunity, lit by September magic, will not stay open long.
Invite all the kids in, before that dull ‘day-to-day feeling’ arrives. Hook them with creativity. Kids love to be stimulated and challenged to imagine. They want your teaching to take them places they could never go on their own. Surprise them and help them stretch their minds, and they will know you are on their side when things get harder.
With this goal in mind, here are a few book suggestions for September:
Steal Like an Artist. Long books on creativity can be counterproductive. This short book by Austen Kleon is full of art, poetry ideas and inspiration for teacher-artists, or anyone who wants to live more creatively. I recently reread it and find it excellent for visual, material, dramatic and literary artists.
Kleon suggests that you take whatever artistic thing you do to procrastinate and do more of it. He gives practical advice for artists like ‘learn about money,’ and describes ethical ways to draw inspiration from the work of others. One of his big projects is Newspaper Blackout, a website which begat a bestselling poetry book.
You could have a lot of fun doing newspaper blackout poetry with your students. How? Students take fat markers and strike out words on a newspaper page, until the remaining words form a poem. The result might be a simple message like “Eat your vegetables!” More sophisticated students could juxtapose the title of the original article against their ‘secret’ message. For example, they could take an article about war and block out words to reveal “give peace a chance,” or “support our troops.”
Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends appeals to boys and girls. It’s not new material but his poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” is a guaranteed giggle. I introduce it by telling kids how my Dad used to recite it to me when I was little. “Sylvia Stout,” is a good model for student ‘chore’ poems or poems about garbage. With Green Philosophy paramount in modern schools, it’s time for young Silversteins-in-the-making to write recycling poems. If you like his style, there are videos of many of his poems and songs available on YouTube. “I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor,” is fun to sing with young children. Just be careful, not all Silverstein material is safe for school. Ever heard “Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh?”
Make your own crazy character mix and match flip book. Have you ever played this game? Fold over a small stack of paper and staple to make a booklet. Make two scissor cuts to divide the book in three, top-to-bottom. Students draw the head of a character or creature in the top box, the body in the middle and the feet at the bottom. Students open the booklet to the next page and pass it to the next student. This student continues by drawing another monster, athlete, animal or character, aligning the head, body and legs in the correct box. This process continues until all pages are filled and the books are returned for sharing, flipping and discussing. This little art and creativity project can be a jumping off point for writing “What if” stories or just a fun get-to-know you activity. Enjoy!
‘What if’ story starters:
What if you woke up with the legs of an Olympic runner?
What if you had the chest of a fish and could breathe under water?
What if you had the body of a bird and could fly?
What if your head was an octopus, legs and all?
What if you woke up with a hairy gorilla body?
What if you woke up with the pitching arm of a pro baseball player?
This one is just for writers. As a writing book junkie, I procrastinate by reading about writing. What better way to goof off and still feel productive? In my home office, I have a bookshelf of reference and writing advice books. Other titles I’ve purchased as ebooks or borrowed from the library. I’m not proud of my addiction, but it puts this next statement in context.
Elizabeth Lyon’sManuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, is the best book on fiction editing I have ever read. Reading it feels like having an editor at my side, pointing out potential flaws and providing techniques for reworking and deepening the second draft of my novel-in-progress. The chapters on polish and proofreading are short compared to those on style, craft and characterization. This is no grammar book for beginners.
If you want to do more substantive editing before you submit your work to a professional, this book is an excellent reference to read, and reread. The checklists at the end of each chapter help diagnose weak points and prioritize the complex processes of rewriting: adding, subtracting and re-imagining to enrich voice, style and emotion.
Takatsu wrote the first North American cell phone novel. I met with him to speak about creativity, multimedia art, writing, and education reform. His current project, Espresso Love, is a Wattpad novel. You can look at the video trailer, which he produced himself using Animoto to add mysterious signs to the urban landscape. His multimedia productions include songwriting, stories, video and graphic arts.
Takatsu praised the rigour of the Japanese school system and the close relationships and teamwork inherent in Japanese culture. Paradoxically, the strictness and high expectations bring out students’ talents and develop their abilities. Takatsu says that by working inside such a strong box, students learn to think outside it.
The same students who work together on a rigorous curriculum during school, and then clean their classrooms together, must participate in one club after school. These clubs involve many hours of daily practice in one area chosen by the student according to interest and talent. Choices include music, sports, visual arts and drama. The creative or athletic skills developed last a lifetime. Takatsu laments that in North America, although many people have a passion for the arts, many forget their talents once they enter the workforce.
There is a place for teachers on platforms like Wattpad, according to Takatsu. Educators are needed for collaboration, to teach net etiquette and also to mentor and teach writing skills.
I hope you enjoy this interview in which Takatsu speaks passionately about art and education. You can find his multimedia projects at Takatsu.tk.
I just made the deadline to submit a story to The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. Wish me luck as this anthology, edited by Claude Lalumiere and David Nickle is sure to attract a lot of submissions.
My other news is that I have started editing my latest novel, Hot Old Ladies Club. I hope to have a good draft, ready for beta readers by August. It will be real a challenge as this month I am entertaining my son’s exchange partner until July 24.
I don’t often talk about my family in this blog out of an almost superstitious fear that something bad will happen to my son if I mention him on the Internet. He’s fourteen now so it’s time to relax a bit. Heck, I’m letting him go to France and live with another family for a month. This is no time to be a helicopter mom.
The topic of exchanges is so interesting to me, both through personal experience and as a parent and educator, that I’m thinking of writing some non-fiction on the topic. More about that in a later post.
I completed the first draft of my work-in-progress “Ark of the Convenient,” on Monday this week. This was a great new experience for me, completing a novel manuscript in less than two months, without rushing it because of a deadline.
Since then I have been letting it ‘rest’ while I clean out the office, work on the scenario for a new one-act play and gear up to edit my last manuscripts. I have a backlog of two since I find writing the draft of a new novel more fun than editing. The difficulty is prioritizing as my summer holidays dwindle.
I reached page 90 today. It’s take stock time and, although I can see myself making progress, I am simultaneously discouraged. My writing will never be brilliantly scientific and philosophical in the way that Douglas Adams’ novels are.
Instead of getting blocked, I spent a few hours on Mars research, which helped the flow of ideas. Reading Princess of Mars at the same time as researching Martian Rover missions and theories of terraforming yields strange combinations of ideas…
Progress Update 7/26/2012
32000 / 80000 (40.00%)
Progress today brings me to page 83 of my manuscript-in-progress “Ark of the Convenient.”
Progress Update 7/24/2012
29000 / 80000 (36.25%)
This progress bar represents 75 pages of my new manuscript-in-progress “Ark of the Convenient.”
Yesterday I also took the current draft of “Marmalade Cat Detective,” and created a new outline for rewriting it using cards. I’m taking it in a slightly different direction, closer to my original vision for this piece which was always intended to be satirical and written for adults. It’s an experiment…
Progress Update 7/18/2012
18408 / 80000 (23.01%)
Progress Update 7/16/2012
I took some time to put my outline onto cards and I’ve written a little more.
15162 / 80000 (18.95%)
Progress Update 7/12/2012
11229 / 80000 (14.04%)
Are you a compulsive writer? I’m one of those people who always believe their newest project is their best. On summer mornings, whether or not I have guests, I like to get up early and do some free writing. The result this July is the first chapter and outline for a brand new novel called “Ark of the Convenient.” You could accuse me of procrastination. I already have Marmalade Cat Detective to edit for submissions and I did write the 50 000 word draft of a novel tentatively called “Wild Caving,” which got positive feedback at an agent pitch session at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. Both are worthy projects, but they can’t compete with writing something new and funny over the summer.
Inspired by my love of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Red Dwarf and Doctor Who, my story is about a failed grant writer, embroiled in civil war between humans, cyborgs and Martian Rovers ‘gone wild.’
Rob Nohap is shanghaied aboard a colony ship where he is expected to promote Mars via social marketing campaigns. This Science Fiction romp involves a pet psychologist with fossil Martian DNA, a ship’s computer who thinks she is Pipi Longstocking and the Wyms, an ancient dragon-like race who control wormholes through space. Can Rob can save an Ark of kidnapped humans and survive to impress the woman who was his high school obsession? I’m writing to find out…
Follow me for updates on my newest project. I still intend to podcast “Marmalade Cat Detective,” but not until I have this hot new idea down as a first draft.