Would you click on this book cover?

Should a writer create her own book cover?

Most artists would recommend leaving cover creation to the professionals and I will. The cover to my self-published ebook, Feeding Frenzy, will be professionally designed. It’s my most popular work yet, garnering a Watty award on Wattpad and ranking #11 in mystery/thriller. Currently, I’m working with an exceptionally talented editor to take the book to the next level. It would be foolish to put the finished book out under a bad cover. Nobody would want to read it. My hope is that the finished cover will include the best elements of the cover I had made for Wattpad, but with professional graphic design.

Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.
Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.

What about free books?

That said, there is the question of freebies. I would like to reward visitors to this blog with free stories. So far I only have one freebie readymade. The Fiendish Plot of Doctor Cyclone is a screenplay based on my middle grade novel of the same name. I adapted the story for media club because I love putting on a show with kids. A drama club is nothing like the dreaded classroom play in which stage-shy students must force themselves to perform.

The movie includes ‘green screen’ key effects which allowed me to place my actors on a space station and inside a mine on the moon. Although I’m proud of the project — proud enough to create a souvenir ebook and give it to the participants — I know most people don’t read screenplays. Cyclone should make fun reading for kids, parents, or educators, but it lampoons science fiction cliches — not everybody’s cup of plasma. I need a better freebie to offer readers.

Do you have an extra $1000.00 lying around?

You can spend pots of money on a good cover but I choose not to spend $1000.00 on the book cover for a thank-you gift. “Wild Caving,” appeared in a print anthology. I am reserving the ebook version as a gift for members of the Loon Lake Reading Club. I’d rather save the cover money and spend it on lavishly editing and producing my next Loon Lake novel. Right now it’s sitting in a drawer, waiting patiently for Feeding Frenzy to come out first, but in some ways I think it’s the better novel.

Have your say

With Photoshop, I made a book cover for my literary suspense story “Wild Caving.” It’s a creepy tale that was short listed for a contest and has been published in the Amprosia anthology.

Since it is not available as an ebook I thought I’d make it available for free to anybody who signs up for the Loon Lake Reading Club. Everybody likes to receive a free book, right?

What I am less sure of are my skills as a cover designer. Please take a look at the test covers below and tell me what you think. Wild Caving, unlike most of my writing, displays no sense of humour. It’s creepy and more literary, written in the voice of a uniquely nasty narrator. Judging by audience feedback at readings, I think people will like it, but they won’t ever read it if the cover stinks.

Please look at the covers below and, even better, share them on social media. I need your help! 🙂

Book Cover Feedback

If you have a moment, I’d love to hear your opinions.

  • Which cover is best?
  • Is either cover good enough to catch your attention and make you want to click?

Cover A versus cover B versus cover C…

Wild Caving Test Cover
In a Mediterranean cave, a man’s prehistoric obsession turns deadly.

 

Wild Caving Test Cover
Ley lines and primitive desires.

 

Wild Caving Cover
In the hills overlooking Cassis, spindly pines form a forest of matches.

 

Thank you for your input!

Today should be WCDR gratitude day!

WCDR LOGO

 

Phoenix Short Story Contest

The finalists in the WCDR Phoenix short story contest have been announced and I’m on the list! Congratulations to all finalists.

 

After School Steve Lloyd
Birds of a Feather Derek Mascarenhas
Bittergreen My Life Sarah Van Goethem
Burnout Linda Kingston
Constellations Bill Zaget
Eternity Elizabeth Girard
Full Time Steve Lloyd
How Merrill Got Her Groove Back Maaja Wentz
Mahkenuk Maureen Curry
Out of the Ashes Lynda Allison
Phoenix Elaine Jackson
Salvage Ken McBeath
Seven Ravens Jessica Moore
Summer Apples Sally Moore
The Fortunate Man Ann Rocchi
The High Way Sally Moore
The House from Turk’s Cove Alison Dyer
The Steps You Take Vera Constantineau
U-Bahn Sylvia Chiang
You Lift Me Up Margaret Alexander

Gratitude

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.

With gratitude,​

Maaja ​Wentz​

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….

 

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.

 

 

 

Make a Chapbook or Booklet – DIY Video

Getting Started with Chapbooks and Brochures

Give your students recognition for their excellent creative writing by publishing a short story anthology, or connect school and home with a booklet of favorite family recipes, or a homework guide for parents. From poetry chapbooks to collections of cartoons, publishing little books helps generate excitement for literacy. When you arrange a book launch for student authors and their families, their pride is palpable. I will never forget when one of my student’s poems was accepted into a school board anthology. It was gratifying to see her get recognized for her originality. You can create the same kind of emotion in your school, library or classroom.

Chapbooks are a well-respected form among poets, including professionals. Making a chapbook can be as easy as printing out a manuscript and photocopying. A simple chapbook can be formatted using software such as Word or Publisher. Once you have printed out the booklet, fold the paper in half to make your book. For added panache, add a separate cover using heavy stock before you staple it together.

To find simple instructions for designing a booklet, I searched the internet for templates. Unfortunately, a lot of the available templates are for tri-fold brochures or one-page flyers. In the spirit of DIY, here is a quick instructional video to get you started making chapbooks using Word for Windows 8. My version has a cover, an automatically generated table of contents, and odd and even page numbers. Click the link to watch the video: DIY Chapbook Video

I also found online instructions for making a chapbook using Windows 2002 as well as a YouTube video for using previous versions of Windows to make a booklet.

 

 

Skiing Le Massif De Charlevoix

Following my adventures in Peru, I spent a week in Quebec with a four French tourists. My friend, the parent of my high school exchange partner, is a remarkable woman who skis in the Pyrenees and who enjoys travelling all over the world. I spent an athletic week with them, hiking through snow on snow shoe trails, investigating fishing shacks on the St. Lawrence river and even skiing on something called “Le Massif,” of Charlevoix. I’m no downhill skier. I’m afraid of heights! I had no right to even consider skiing on anything called “Le Massif.” My ears popped as we drove up to the top.

Previously I have only skied a few times with school groups on tame, short, Ontario runs. I’m too restless to sit around in the chalet all day, though, so when it turned out the cross-country skiing was in another location (duh we were on top of a mountain) I decided to take a lesson and face the beginner run with death-defying bravery. Brave for me, anyway.

It was a fantastic experience and I only fell three times. Once when I kind of saw I was heading off course towards the trees below and forgot all about breaking and steering and just kind of threw my limbs around until my fall made me stop. After that I got a remedial lesson in emergency braking and things went better.

If this was one of those inspirational business blogs or one of those blogs about writing, I’d probably be making all sorts of facile comparisons between the slopes and other goals. What a relief that it’s not. Let’s just say I don’t regret it. I’m glad I tried it and, despite having a little extra knee pain in the following weeks, it was absolutely worth it.

In other news, I never visit La Belle Province without buying a book. If you read French I highly recommend my latest acquisition. It’s a book of short stories by Samuel Archibald called Arvida. Such varied stories and so revealing of the author and his society.

I bought the book and went to a cafe to start reading while I waited for my friends to finish shopping. When I returned to the book shop to show them about an hour later, the store had already sold another copy. It doesn’t hurt that my edition had a large red paper band, labelling it the winner of the “Prix des libraires.” (The book store prize)

Eclectic, personal and intense, I highly recommend it, but not for the squeamish.

Happy reading.

Ages of Wonder — Czerneda & St. Martin

Now reading: Ages of Wonder , edited by Julie Czerneda and Rob St. Martin. This is one of a pile of books I brought back from Ad Astra. It will take me months to get through my stack of new SF novels, especially since I’m supposed to be writing.

So far I’m really enjoying this book of short stories. I think one reason some people avoid Fantasy stories, even before they read them, is Fantasy’s reputation for vague pseudo-medieval English settings. Stories like that are no longer in fashion, but if you say Fantasy to me, I still visualize long-haired maidens leading unicorns.

I prefer well-defined, researched settings. If they do it right, I like it when Fantasy writers take liberties with old cultural icons, like Neil Gaiman’s Anansi-inspired novels or Christopher Moore’s Grim Reaper baby.

This collection, organized into The Age of Antiquity, The Age of Sail, The Colonial Age, The Age of Pioneers, The Pre-Modern Age and The Age Ahead, promises Fantasy with an authentic feel.

Novel Progress Report: Now working on Chapter 10.