February’s Fine Writing Finds

valentines-daySo we’re coming down to the end of the February stretch and I thought I’d share the best of the month’s finds.

(I had planned to make that a regular feature last year, since I started the Monthly Writing Notes System. Somehow, that part of the system never got off the ground. Until now! Wheee!)

  1. The James Cross Giblin Scholarship Fund through the Highlights Foundation: If you have a passion for juvenile nonfiction and a strong talent for it as well, you are in luck. With this scholarship, you could find the support you need to attend one of the fine nonfiction writing programs offered at Highlights this year. I know a couple of the people giving these workshops and they’re just amazing, so please give yourself and your nonfiction a chance. Check out the James Cross Giblin Scholarship today!
  2. The Write Now, Make Books for kids of all ages: Maya Gonzalez is a children’s book author and artist who has set up a site to help kids write their own books. And no, it’s not for adults who will read all the amazing information and then guide the kids through the process. It’s for kids, to do themselves. How cool is that? I’m afraid I have no Junior Halls to test drive this program, but it looks swell, and I’d love to hear from any of you mom or teacher writers if your kids/students use this program.
  3. Hiveword, an online fiction organizer (and Writer’s Knowledge Base): If you have trouble with organizing, Hiveword is the tool for you. It won’t help you with the mess in the kitchen or the stacks of papers in a chair in your office (more’s the pity on that one!) but it will help you get those notes in order on that novel you’ve vowed to finish this year.And it’s free! So far, I’ve just played around a bit as I’m not exactly in the middle of a novel. Or at the start of a novel, for that matter. But it looks easily accessible and that’s a big plus in my book. And if you have time to fall into a delightful writing rabbit hole, then check out Writer’s Knowledge Base. (But you might want to leave a trail of crumbs to find your way out again…)

So write on, friends, and I’ll share more with you come the end of March! (She said earnestly but knowing that she might not get around to it. And yet she knew her readers would understand.)

Friday’s Fun Find: Part Two (I Write Like…)

So maybe you didn’t win the book today. But I’ve found a swell consolation prize for you!Image

I’ll bet you have a favorite writer–maybe a handful of favorite writers. And deep down (or maybe not so deep down), you’ve always wanted to write just like her (or him). Maybe, if you’re anything like me, you savor every word from your favorite writers’ novels, and when you are done, you sigh contentedly. But then, almost immediately, you are struck by an urge to slam your head on the desk, whilst crying piteously, “I’ll never write as good well as that. Never. Never. Never.”

But maybe you will, dear writer. Maybe, unbeknownst to you, your writing craft is improving every day. And maybe, if you were able to compare your writing from, say, your latest Nano manuscript, you would find that you write like…MARGARET ATWOOD!!!

And maybe you wouldn’t go around, adding “st” to words because you got swept up into the la-ti-da writing moment.

Anyway, when I plopped a block of text into the site, I Write Like…, up came Margaret Atwood. And so I stuck the handy little widget on my blog to inspire me as I continue my Nano journey. Because honestly, I’ve loved Margaret Atwood since I read The Handmaid’s Tale, lo those many years ago. It’s nice to think that a little of her has perhaps rubbed off on me.

So I’m not sticking anything else in the analyzer. I’m perfectly happy to quit while I’m Margaret Atwood.

P.S. Please leave me a comment if you try it. I’d love to know who YOU write like!

How Good Reading Makes For Good Writing

So I was thinking that the Beneficent Mr. Hall would really enjoy Harlan Coben’s The Woods–plus, it was free, so I brought it home. (I can be beneficent, too, you know.) And wouldn’t you know it? The man had already read it.

So there lay the book on my table…waiting.

Now, of course I’d heard of Harlan Coben, and read a couple writing articles by Harlan Coben, and knew he was all that and a bag of chips. But I’d quit reading mysteries years ago. I love a good mystery, but after years of reading tons of mysteries, one gets halfway into the first chapter and says, “He’s the guy. (Or girl, as the case may be.)” Which sort of defeats the purpose of a mystery, right?

Still, it was New York Times best-seller Harlan Coben and I thought, okay, fine. I’ll read one more mystery. But it better be good.

Oh, it was good. It was real good. It was why-must-you-torture-me-with-your-excellent-writing good.

So. I’m thoroughly chastened. And not just because I’d pooh-poohed mystery reading. I read The Woods through the eyes of a wannabe published author and learned SO much about writing that works… great pacing, authentic character development, just the right mix of description and narrative, true dialogue. And the way he wove so many stories together so effortlessly and organically  was brilliant. (And how in the world can he do that without outlining???).

It was way more than reading. It was an education. And it was there, all along, just waiting for me.

So, how about you? Got a book like that? ‘Cause I’d sure love to read it. (Perhaps the Beneficent Mr. Hall would, too. But he’ll have to wait till I’ve finished it first. I’m not that beneficent. )

P.S. I came across this list of Six Page Turners You’ll Tear Through from Oprah’s book picks. Since I tore through The Woods, I thought I might try one of these, maybe learn a little more. Holy moly, I hope my brain doesn’t explode this summer!