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:

 

 

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.

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:

November Creative Updates

Creative Teaching Update

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?

Convention Update

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.

 

 

 

SFContario Wattpad and Feeding Frenzy Serial

SFContario is a convention which offers over 50 panelists, covering science fiction, fantasy, science, costuming, art, writing, genre television, and movies, as well as other topics of interest to fans. It runs from the evening of November 14 to Sunday November 16, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis St, Toronto. I have been invited to moderate a few panels, including a couple that are education-related. The plan is for me to run a flash fiction contest as well. For more information or to join in the fun, check out SFContario.

Sunday I attended a meetup at Wattpad in Toronto, arranged by Takatsu. It was an opportunity to meet readers and writers who are eager converts to this new medium. We toured the Wattpad offices which feature magic marker signatures on the walls, top flight tech, commissioned Graffiti, a vault, the employee ping-pong ladder, a giant light fixture bedecked in Wattpad novel covers, and a tree-sized, tree-shaped bookcase. After the tour, and a brief-but-shocking game of Cards Against Humanity, we headed to C’est What? for dinner. My great pleasure was in meeting Gavin (‘The Orangutan’ on Wattpad) who was in town from the UK. We talked Science Fiction, family life and culture. Takatsu emphasizes philosophy, and there was plenty of that too. I also met a brilliant teen who talked Romanian history and politics.

Feeding Frenzy launches on Wattpad tomorrow. For more about this serial writing experiment, check out the previous blog post. The status report, as of tonight, is that half the novel is planned, a provisional ending is decided, and chapter one is written in draft. Tomorrow I get up at 5:00 am and proofread before I post it and leave for work. Terrifying as it is to post as I write, Wattpad provides an opportunity to interact with readers I can’t pass up. Who knows, maybe the second half of the story will surprise me as much as them.

I Wish My Teacher Knew, a non-fiction book I started to collect testimony from teens and adults about their school experiences, has surpassed 1000 reads on Wattpad. I’m very happy about this as the more people read it, the more will be likely to let me add their stories. There is nothing like first-person testimony to help define a problem, or measure success as I continue gathering information on creative teaching.

Enough! It’s time to lay out the Halloween costume (mine is a lady bug – complete with feelers, wings, and pearls for the visual pun).

Best wishes for a creepy, crawly, creative Halloween!

Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!
Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!

 

Feeding Frenzy – Serial Novel Experiment

Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014
Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014

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 HumanSherlock 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.

 

NaNoWriMo

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:

http://nanowrimo.org/

Inspiration

Young Writers Program

For Educators

Me on the NaNoWriMo site (Feel free to friend me and message me there. You may need to create an account.)

The Snowflake Method (Novel planning.)

Coffitivity (This one might help you write your report cards.)

Feeding Frenzy on Wattpad (Read the story or leave a comment. If you’re new let me show you around.)

 

Happy writing!