Feb 13

1, 2, 4, 6: A System for Writing Success

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.

Mad Scientist

Writers: experiment on yourselves for maximum productivity and creativity.

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

Writing success is reading, writing and studying the works of others.

Imagine how many books, articles and short stories you could write in a year. Publication isn’t guaranteed but I measure writing success by output and improvement

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….

 

Loon Lake Reading Club

Loon Lake Reading Club

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….

 

Dec 09

Feeding Frenzy Wins a Watty Award

Feeding Frenzy Wins a Watty Award

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.

Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.

Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.

“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.

Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi celebrate with their World Fantasy Awards.

Nov 29

Bookapalooza Book Fair

Bookapalooza Book Fair

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.

Maaja Wentz, posing with free book prizes for the Bookapalooza book fair

Posing with prizes for the Bookapalooza book fair in Durham Region. This book fair, run by the WCDR is an annual fair for book lovers with sales and readings.

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
Maaja Wentz gives away free book prizes at Bookapalooza book fair.

Feeding Frenzy previews at Bookapalooza. Maaja Wentz standing in her vendor’s booth at Bookapalooza book fair, run by the WCDR.

 

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!

Cthulhu spotted at Bookapalooza!

Cthulhu spotted at Bookapalooza!

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Readers visit Bookapalooza book fair

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Nov 19

Free Book Giveaway

Visit Bookaplaooza Book Fair & Readings:

Saturday Nov. 21, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Durham College,  Centre for Food/ Bistro 67, 1604 Champlain Ave., Whitby.

Book Fair & Readings

Book Fair & Readings: Saturday Nov. 21, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Durham College,  Centre for Food/ Bistro 67, 1604 Champlain Ave., Whitby.

This weekend I will be at Bookapalooza in order to test the waters with my upcoming book, Feeding Frenzy. This will be my first visit to this Durham book fair which promises to be an exciting venue to hear author’s speak, buy books in time for holiday gift giving, and to meet interested readers.

My booth will feature free book giveaways that have something to do with Feeding Frenzy. That means many Jane Evanavitch novels, as I am a fan of her thriller-style pacing and humour. There will be fantasy novels with magic and also books with humour. People who visit my booth will be invited to join my mailing list and win a prize. Everyone who spins the wheel will receive either one of the books on display, or a copy of my upcoming ebook, or a quick access card to read the original version of the novel on Wattpad.

If you are in the area, you might like to check it out. I will also be doing a brief reading from the novel as part of a larger reading by the various exhibitors. This is a great way for people to get a foretaste of the books on display. Hope to see you there!

Nov 03

World Fantasy Convention 2015

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.

Stone_Marcus_The_End_Of_The_Story

 

In other news:

  • Feeding Frenzy exceeded 49 000 reads on Wattpad
  • Over the weekend I submitted three short stories in two days to anthology calls and a contest (fingers crossed)
  • Bookapalooza did a ‘spotlight’ article about me on their website. Click the link to read about the various exhibitors in the Spotlight.

Oct 31

Top 5 Favorite Halloween Costumes

Do you love costumes?

I love Halloween parties and dressing in creative costumes when I go to school (as a teacher-librarian). Here are five of my favorite costumes:

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables is a historical, literary costume.

Animal Costumes

  • Panda. When pandas came from China to the Toronto Zoo, I wanted to dress up in their honour. The fun part of this costume is suggesting a panda face with elegant makeup, rather than making it too literal. I found glittery black sequined panda ears and decided to go with a sleek top and heels rather than stuff my belly with pillows. Who can dance with a pillow on their stomach?
  • Lady Bug. This costume idea was inspired the year biting ladybugs came to Toronto. The costume version doesn’t bite, unless you want it to. You can buy red wings and antennae at any costume shop. The fun part is dressing up like a ‘lady’ in heels, black lace and your choice of exciting decollete.

Character Costumes

  • Tooth Fairy. For this I wore fairy wings, a blue checkered lumberjack shirt, work boots, jeans, and carried a big set of pliers for pulling teeth. Who says the Tooth Fairy can’t be baddass? The ghoulish detail to this costume was a string of teeth I wore around my neck: large molars with red roots still attached that I made out of white and blood-red modeling material.
  • Conan the Librarian is the disguise my co-workers remember best. I wrapped fake fur around my shins and body, donned a horned helmet and made myself a shield and war hammer covered with book posters. There’s a primitive warrior trapped in the heart of every meek-mannered librarian, and when you let it out the kids bring back their books on time!
Conan the Librarian

Conan the Librarian

  • Showgirl. I had just outfitted 8 Klondike can-can girls for a school play in pink bridesmaid’s dresses with big crinolines and headpieces. Why should the students have all the fun? The headpiece is carboard, mounted on a headband and then covered in black velvet and decorated with a fan of feathers. I wore a puffy crinoline under a metallic blue underskirt that just peeped out from the lacy yellow overskirt. Accessories included heels, fishnet stockings, and a gold-trimmed black velvet bustier from a lingerie shop.
Bat Girl versus Poison Ivy! Two great Halloween costumes

Bat Girl versus Poison Ivy! Two great comic book Halloween costumes that go better together.

  • Poison Ivy. I spray-dyed my hair comic book red, added extensions in the same colour and festooned myself with leafy boas and garlands. The makeup was dramatic too. I felt a bit like a drag queen until my brother said: “You look really good in makeup.” His costume was even better at that party. He showed up as a zombie pizza delivery guy, with a pizza in a box he baked himself!
Poison Ivy, Hockey Hooligan and a terrifying loans officer.

Poison Ivy, Hockey Hooligan and a tiny but terrifying loans officer.

Halloween ‘Frenzy’ Update:

What a nice Halloween present! Feeding Frenzy is listed #46 in Mystery/Thriller with over 48 000 Wattpad reads. The question now is how to celebrate when it hits 50 000 reads?

Feeding Frenzy nears 50K

 

Oct 29

Bookapalooza Draw for Mystery Thriller Books

I’m going to participate in Bookapalooza, a book sale/launch/reading taking place Nov 21, 2015.
Book Fair & Readings
Book Fair & Readings
Since my novel, Feeding Frenzy, won’t be launched until the spring, I’m going to run a giveaway for published books in the supernatural thriller & comic mystery genres. Visitors to my table will also get a Q-code card which takes them directly to the Wattpad version of Feeding Frenzy online, and a chance to win a copy of the published version. By the way, readers of this website have free access to Feeding Frenzy on Wattpad by clicking the “Maaja’s Writing,” tab on this website. It isn’t the final version but it was chosen by Wattpad as a “featured story,” with 48 000+ reads. You may find interacting with the book-loving Wattpad community interesting.
Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

This coming-of-age romp combines thriller, mystery, horror and comic elements:

Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller which explores our obsession with food. Sweet but chubby Tonya isn’t privy to deep family secrets, but when campus is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, only she can resist a hidden mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the mystery of its power before it’s too late?

It’s a witch’s brew of intrigue with a dollop of comedy, a teaspoon of romance, and a pinch of horror.

—  # 11 in Mystery/ Thriller on Wattpad.

“This is such an awesome story, and it’ll be a crime if it doesn’t win a Watty award this year.”
— Watty award winner @JoanneWeaver

Sep 23

Reading this Friday for Culture Days

Culture-Days-Reading

I will be one of many readers this Friday for Culture Days with the WCDR. If you happen to be in Toronto, you might like to check it out.

Aug 11

Feeding Frenzy Featured on Wattpad

Feeding Frenzy named a 'featured story,' on Wattpad.

Feeding Frenzy named a ‘featured story,’ on Wattpad.

 

#11 in Mystery/Thriller Sept. 7, 2015 with 25 000 reads on Wattpad

Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller about our obsession with food. It was inspired by the madcap pacing of Jan Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum mysteries and the over-the-top imagination of Christopher Moore’s comic fantasy novels.

— Maaja

Featured on Wattpad

Wattpad has officially chosen Feeding Frenzy as a ‘featured story.’ You can read it on Wattpad for free anytime. Wattpad members access an almost unlimited supply of stories, in many popular genres. Wattpad is a social network as much as a reading site, and half the fun is connecting with people all over the world.

Those who do not wish to join Wattpad can wait for the definitive paper and ebook versions of Feeding Frenzy, slated for publication late fall/ early winter. The release date will depend on the availability of editors. It’s too soon to name names but I am very excited about the industry professionals I have spoken to so far.

At the moment, the story is in the hands of an award-winning author with a fantastic sense of humour. His notes will help me do a rewrite which I will then hand over to an experienced editor for further feedback. Readers deserve nothing less than professional work.

After Feeding Frenzy is fully edited and covers are made, the book will be ready to launch. Join the Loon Lake reading club to receive notification of publication, pre-order deals, and time-sensitive discounts.

Blasted Bloomers: a new story in the works!

Discover Helene's mysterious past in this Feeding Frenzy prequel.

Discover Helene’s mysterious past in this Feeding Frenzy prequel.

In Feeding Frenzy, Tonya must pay the price for her Aunt Helene’s past mistakes among the magical families of Loon Lake.

Young Helene is an ambitious teen who charms animals and people without trying. In Blasted Bloomers, she tries to ‘be good’ until she meets Jack Waldock, the devilish rebel who tempts her with a seemingly unlimited source of power.

This prequel to Feeding Frenzy will be free for members of the Loon Lake reading club when it’s completed. Join today and be first to receive your Blasted Bloomers ebook.

08/20/2015 Note: I am currently editing Feeding Frenzy with professional input. Blasted Bloomers is a new project which will not be finished until edits on Feeding Frenzy are complete.

Jun 07

Future Library: Message to the future

What will humanity be reading in a century? Will paper books still be read? Visionary author Margaret Atwood is the first to contribute a secret story to Future Library, a unique 100-year artwork.

Designed by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, Future Library is a real place, created for Oslo, Norway. Part of this project is a forest of 1000 trees, planted in Nordmarka, near Oslo, which will mature in 100 years to provide paper on which to print this unique anthology. A room in Oslo’s new library, made from trees from the same forest, will store these future books. Until 2114, visitors to this room can wonder at what kinds of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and stories the library will encompass, and create these potential works in their minds. Imagine growing a book over a hundred years!

A different author contributor will be honoured each year. When asked, Atwood declined to reveal anything about her story, because secrecy is “part of the deal.”

 

“I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

Margaret Atwood

 

In this video, Margaret Atwood calls any book “a communication across space and time.” As a longtime fan and admirer of Atwood’s writing, I just wish I could live to read her story.

Margaret Atwood – the first writer for Future Library from Katie Paterson on Vimeo.

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