Monday, March 19, 2018

What I Learned About Writing From Bad Movies

Admit it – you’ve sat through your fair share of really bad movies. You’ve moaned and groaned and wondered why on earth you were sitting through such meaningless drivel.

But all is not lost! Those awful films were a gold mine of research. Why? Because they can teach us valuable writing lessons.

Here’s a list of truly horrible movies (made less horrible by the fact I watched them via RiffTrax because I can only take so much torture) and the valuable lesson I learned from each one.

Grizzly – A grizzly terrorizes and kills campers but they don’t want to close the park. Basically, it’s Jaws on land. Lesson – make your plot original.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny – Santa’s reindeer abandon Santa and at the end the Ice Cream Bunny drives his truck to rescue Santa. However, Santa could’ve at any point in time simply got out of the sled on his own and walked off the beach. Lesson – fill in those plot holes.

Roller Gator – A miniature talking gator entices a roller skating girl to hide him from bad guys. Endless insults from gator, pointless scenes and chatter, and lots of meandering. Lesson – don’t make up for a lack of plot with empty padding.

Jack Frost – Death row inmate is transformed into obviously plastic snowman and goes on killing spree. Lesson – make the villain believable.

ROTOR – Futuristic robot cop goes on killing spree in science fiction thriller. In reality, very boring and the only thing more cardboard than the acting are the sets. Lesson – don’t dress up a story as one genre and then deliver something completely different.

The Little Unicorn – A girl and her unicorn avoid detection in this star-filled film. However, most of the stars are wasted and look really bored. Lesson – give your characters something interesting to do.

Birdemic – Vanity project about killer birds with one dimensional acting and no dimensional special effects. Possibly one of the worst films in the world. Lesson – just because you think it’s brilliant doesn’t mean it is–get a second (or third or fourth) opinion.

Zindy the Swamp Boy – Drama about boy living in swamp with grandfather and eventually on his own. He dies at the end. Lesson – if your story is aimed at children, make sure it won’t scar them for life.

Sharknado 2 – Category seven hurricane spawns sharknados in New York City. (Need I say more?) Lesson – readers must buy the story concept.

The Apple – A musical about a couple entering the music industry who find weirdness, drugs, and aliens. Featuring fourteen songs in ninety minutes, it’s a failed Rocky Horror Picture Show copycat. Lesson – fancy and colorful words won’t make up for a story that makes no sense and goes nowhere.

Cool as Ice – Featuring flash in the pan rap star Vanilla Ice. 1991 never looked so bad. Lesson – don’t use elements, terms, or slang that will date your work in less than five years.

Night of the Lepus – Giant, blood-thirsty killer bunnies. (Not making this up!) Lesson – threats in your story must be believable.

The Last Shark – Giant shark terrorizes coastal town. At one point, he jumps out of the water and takes down a helicopter. Lesson – make sure your thrills and scares work and don’t cause readers to roll their eyes or laugh.

And finally…

The Star Wars Holiday Special – Chewbacca’s family waits for him to come home to celebrate Life Day. Poorly acted, heavily padded, and featuring ninety minutes of mostly Wookie cries. Lesson – never rush a story (or sequel) and toss it out there just to please others.

There you have it! Next time a terrible movie crosses your screen, sit back and learn from it. If you can stomach the awfulness and can’t find it on RiffTrax, of course.

What lessons have you learned from bad movies?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Writers’ Conference Secrets for Success

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the multi award-winning
HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

L Diane Wolfe, one of the forces behind The Insecure Writers Group asked me to share my enthusiasm for writer’s conferences with this video made at one my recent presentations at Bookbaby’s first ever conference in Philadelphia.

So, now you are convinced how much fun they can be—for both attendees and presenters!—I want to share some information on how to make conference more successful by planning in advance. You want to treat it like a garden and bring home all the ripe stuff that suits your palate. That means you have to organize. This partial excerpt from the chapter on writers’ conferences in The Frugal Book Promoter will help you do that.

Your notebook—either the old-fashioned paper kind or the one you set up on your laptop—is key to getting the most from a conference. These ideas come from the old fashioned way of doing it, but most can be adapted to your iPad or laptop.
  • Bring a seven-subject notebook (or seven files in your computer). Divide the notebook into sections that match your goals. These might include: Agents, Publishers, Promotion, Writing, and Other Contacts. Leave one section open for a category that crops up after you arrive.
  • On each separator page tape a number ten envelope in which you slip business cards, bookmarks, mini notes to yourself, and small brochures. When you arrive home, part of your filing and sorting will be done.
  • Take blank mailing labels to make custom index tabs that stick out from the edge of your notebook.
  • On the first night of the conference, clip and paste separate parts of the conference handouts and programs into corresponding segments of your notebook.
  • At the back of your conference notebook, make a directory section. Use the label index markers to delineate each one.

The first page is a name and address list for publishers. They should be listed in conference handouts but you may glean more from seminars. Star the publishers you spoke to personally. Make notes. What have they published that is similar to your book? Jot down anything that will help them remember you when you write to them and mention your encounter. Query letters work best when you indicate you are familiar with the person or company being queried.

Big Hint: When you talk to publishers always ask them what they do to promote their authors’ books. Pin them down to specifics.

The second directory page is for fellow authors. Jot notes on them, too. It’s no fun to arrive home with a useless business card.

Ditto for agents and for conference planners. You may be surprised at how often you’ll refer to this page and the good it will do you when you start to shop your next (or first) book.

A page for “Other Resources” includes information on anything from other conferences to books fellow attendees and presenters recommended to you—including the books you bought at the conference. This is the continuing education aspect of a writers’ conference.

Designate a few pages for writing ideas.

The final pages are for new promotion ideas.

Hint: Bring a small pouch of tools—I use one I received with an Estée Lauder gift-with-purchase. Toss into it color-coded pens, snub-nosed scissors (sharp ones may not get you through airport security), a small roll of cellophane tape, your index labels, paperclips, strong see-through packing tape, hammer, tacks, razor, ChapStick, hole puncher, breath mints, elastic bands, Band-Aids, and your personal medication. Don’t unpack this when you get home. You’ll need it in the future for other conferences, book signings, book fairs, and other promotional events you attend and eventually may become a presenter or key note speaker!

You can use a conference to promote, too.
  • Some conferences offer tables where participants can leave promotional handouts for their books or services. Before you leave home, ask your conference coordinator how you might utilize this opportunity and print and pack anything you might need.
  • Ask the conference coordinator if they publish a newsletter or journal. If so, send the editor media releases as your career moves along.
  • Take your business cards to the conference. Give them out liberally. They won’t do you any good in your pocket.
  • If you have already published a book, take your bookmarks to give to others. And a few books, as well. Authors tend to forget to give their books to people who are in a position to recommend it.
  • If you have an area of expertise that would interest the conference director or programmer, introduce yourself. She may be busy, so keep your pitch very short and follow up later.
  • Think in terms of gathering endorsements for your book to use in the future. You are always building a network but you’ll find influencers—maybe some with name recognition—at conferences.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers. Learn more about them at How to do it Frugally. She also invites you to subscribe to her writers’ resources blog, Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites pick Sharing with Writers. Follow her tweets at @FrugalBookPromo And that new edition of The Frugal Book Promoter? It won a USA Book News award, its second—one for the first edition, one for the second--and the e-book edition was honored at Dan Poynter's Global EBook Awards. As an aside, please leave a comment and a like on YouTube; it’s part of “pass it forward” and “sharingwithwriters” concept for marketing success.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The 100words100days Challenge and IWSG Day

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the March 7 posting of the IWSG are Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

Some important things I’ve learned on day 66 of my #100words100days challenge

Consistency is king. When you show up, the words also show up. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

Accountability is a key factor in getting those words on paper. Having a partner or group where you can post/share a daily/weekly word count really helps.

Prompt writing in small bursts works for me. Find out what works for you and then use it to your advantage.

You are capable of much more. Push yourself beyond that comfort zone because that’s how we grow!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

March 07th optional question:  How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/finish a story?

I’m on day 66 of my #100words100days challenge. Any ideas how I should celebrate at the end?

 Don't forget to check out #theiwsg writing Wednesday posts on Instagram.
Join as you can.
Share and Encourage.
Spread the word.

In case you missed it. The next IWSG Anthology has a cover and release date.
                                                             Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is   revenge possible in just 48 minutes?
Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?

Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda Renée, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting…

Release date - May 1, 2018
Mystery & Detective/Crime/Thrillers
Print ISBN 9781939844545 eBook ISBN 9781939844552

And it is now up for Pre-order. Get your copy today!

 Have you written for 30 plus days or more… non-stop? Do one-word writing prompts or picture prompts work for you? Have you succeeded with your January and February writing goals? Have you signed up for our Instagram challenge? Any interesting celebratory stories to share?