Two NEW Workshops Coming in 2018!

Take a Workshop by Victoria M. Johnson

 

Jan 8, 2018 to Feb 5, 2018

Sustain Your Creative Writing Habit

Could you use encouragement to cultivate your writing practice? For beginners and pros alike this fun and encouraging class will motivate you and set you on a path for developing and sustaining your writing habit. Every week students will receive inspiring in-class writing exercises and optional homework. Filled with tips and feedback (for those who want feedback) this class is perfect for writers eager to ignite their creative writing and those ready to learn the next steps. You’ll learn techniques of craft and tips for editing and polishing. We’ll explore submission strategies and a variety of publishing options. You’ll end with plenty of new material, inspiration to keep your creative practice on fire, and knowledge of publishing opportunities for your work.

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  5 Mondays.

Any writers in the Santa Cruz, CA area will be interested in both of these workshops.


* One Day Only *  Jan 20, 2018

How to Write Your Novel in Two Weeks!

Discover techniques to write fast and get your first draft written in two weeks. Learn how to prepare for the two-week event, how to execute during the two weeks, and how to fine-tune your masterpiece. For beginners or pros, this is an exciting and motivating workshop that will help you improve your storytelling skills. Don’t waste years trying to get your novel written. Learn secrets to avoiding writer’s block and write your novel once and for all!

For more information or to register, click here.

Held at Capitola Community Center from 9:30am to 2:30pm.  One Saturday.

Instructor Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. Her published works include The Doctors Dilemma (Avalon Books), the nonfiction work Grant Writing 101: Everything You Need To Start Raising Funds Today (McGraw-Hill), and four other books. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies. Victoria is both writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.  She has presented workshops on writing in the Bay Area; Chicago; Washington, DC; Vancouver, Canada; and New York.

 

Workshop: How To Write Your Novel In Two Weeks

Any writers living in the Bay Area will be interested in this workshop

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How To Write Your Novel In Two Weeks

LGSR WorkshopDiscover techniques to write fast and get your first draft written in two weeks.  Learn how to prepare for the two-week event, how to execute during the two weeks, and how to fine-tune your masterpiece.

For beginners or pros, this is an exciting and motivating workshop that will help you improve your storytelling skills.  Don’t waste years trying to get your novel written.  Learn secrets to avoiding writer’s block and write your novel once and for all!

For more information or to register, click here.

Instructor: Victoria M. Johnson is a published author and filmmaker. She is the writer and director of four short films and two micro-documentaries. Avalon Books published Victoria’s fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, in 2011 (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist). McGraw-Hill and General Publishing Group published her in non-fiction. In 2012 Victoria entered the indie publishing arena with a collection of romance short stories and in 2014 a how-to book on fiction writing techniques. Her poetry appears in online literary journals and print anthologies.

Reach Writing Goals in 15 Minutes or Less

Did you set New Year’s resolutions this year? Are they the same as your unmet resolutions for last year? If so, please don’t get uncomfortable. I’m not pointing fingers. In fact, I too, have unresolved goals carried over from last year and the year before. While I write goals for each area of my life, the one we’ll delve into here concerns writing goals. And to be more specific, writing productivity.

Productivity is the amount of ‘product’ we produce each year. In our case, the product is the number of pages we write. It’s apparent that the more pages you write, the more productive you are. And so when we set goals to write a book in one year, write 10 short stories, or create a chapbook of poems; we are making a resolution to a big picture goal that taunts and eludes many of us all year long. Rather than feeling like we’re reaching our goal when we write one page or a line in a poem, we end up feeling like we’ll never get anywhere close to accomplishing that big goal. That kind of unproductive thinking leads to troubles like writers block and, well… unproductivity.

I’m proposing that you break down that big picture goal into doable steps.

Instead of resolving to write that big thriller novel, how about resolving to write two pages a day, five days a week. That kind of productivity would add up to 520 pages of draft material. But let’s be honest, we all know writers need days off for vacations, family matters, holidays, sick time, and so on. Here’s the thing, even allowing for all these life interruptions, you can still write a draft of a 400 page novel (and edit it too) in one year at the measly page count of two pages a day. Do the math. (two pages a day, five days a week, for 40 weeks equals 400 pages and allows for twelve weeks worth of interruptions throughout the year, and if you occasionally write three pages, you can make up for it). You don’t even have to sit at your desk for several hours to get those two pages.

Reach Writing Goals in 15 Minutes or Less

If page count scares you off, try time increments.

Try really small time increments like 15 minutes. Surely even on your busiest days you can allot 15 minutes to writing. Those 15 minutes really can help you finish a sizable project. Before you scoff, let me say that many of my newsletter articles were written in 15-minute increments. I obviously may need three or four such sessions to complete the draft but I get it written. In 15 minutes I can also write an outline for one of my Blog Talk Radio show episodes, generate bullet points for a chapter of a non-fiction book, create scene notes for a fiction story, or plot a dialogue scene between two characters. If I waited until I had an hour to sit and write I would never produce any work to submit.

I’m like you. I have a dozen commitments. I don’t have time to write either. But I can get thoughts down, a few sentences, flesh out an idea, etc. At the end of a day or two I have a draft I can work with. Another cool thing is that sometimes when I intend to write for just ten minutes to scribble down an idea I’ll look up and discover that 30 or 40 minutes have passed and I didn’t notice because the writing was flowing effortlessly.

And I’m not the only writer who confesses to squeezing in my writing to whatever minutes I have available.

Romantic suspense author, Stephanie Bond, consistently writes several novels a year and teaches writers about page production. She says she’ll write on her Alpha Smart keyboard throughout the day whenever she has a few minutes. At the end of the year she’ll have an extra book done that she wouldn’t have produced if she didn’t write during those small blocks of 10 to 15 minutes.

Award-winning romance author April Kilhstrom, the first author I heard talk about the ‘Book In A Week’ method of writing, insists she writes whenever she gets a moment and that those ten minute and fifteen minute bursts throughout the day (in addition to the few hours she spends daily at the computer) result in a completed draft of a book in about a week. She uses every available free moment to continue writing and at the end of the day she types those notes into her computer. Once she has that draft, she’ll take a few weeks to edit it before submitting the manuscript to her editor.

Bill Belew, the former editor of WritersTalk, says he writes a blog post in about 15 minutes. He does this everyday, for several blogs. And look at his annual accomplishments, not only in posts written but his increasing readership. In one year he produced something like 5,000 posts and had 20 million views of his blog posts!

Of these three writers above, how many of them would you guess reached their writing goals last year? If you said all three, that’s my guess too. Of the writing goals I accomplished last year, I achieved them by being willing to write in small chunks of time rather than waiting until I had the afternoon to write. Of course I relished those afternoons too, but I’ve found that writing steadily—even 15 minutes at a time—leads to increased productivity. And a productive writer produces pages written. That’s the product we’re trying to sell right? No pages, no product. At some point we do need time for deeper thought but that’s no reason to let minutes go by that could have added to your productivity. See if this practice helps you reach your writing goals. I believe every minute you spend towards pursuing your dreams is a minute well spent.

Is Your Idea a Novel or a Short Story?

You’ve come up with a brilliant idea. How do you decide whether the idea is suitable for a novel or a short story? While sometimes you just instinctively know, other times you may be stumped. Let me offer a few points to consider that may save you days, weeks, or months of writing only to discover that you’re heading in an unpromising direction.

There are two other reasons to identify your project’s structure early. First, if you’ve experienced writer’s block with a story that initially had high promise, it’s possible that your case of writer’s block stems from not choosing the best format. Second, it’s also possible that comments from editors’ rejection letters such as “not enough conflict” or “pacing too slow” may be signs that you’re telling too little story for a long form, and comments such as “too many characters to keep track of” or “plot too confusing” may indicate that you’re telling too much story for a short form.

There are a few essential elements that both short stories and novels have in common: a compelling premise, a compelling character with a compelling goal, and compelling conflict. They both have a beginning, middle, and end. Did I mention compelling?

What is a short story?

In short stories everything is condensed. There’s no time for subplots, and there’s a limited number of characters. Short stories capture a significant moment in time—often a snippet of time in the character’s life.

What is a novel?

Obviously novels are longer. What fills these extra pages? More characters, more complex plots, and a longer time span. The added length allows for a deeper exploration of main characters, however shorter lengths are no excuse for cardboard characters.

Is Your Idea a Novel or a Short Story? by Victoria M. Johnson

How to decide

Start with your end in mind.

What does your character have to confront or overcome to achieve his goal? If that path can be shown to the reader in a compelling way without too many characters, without a subplot, and without a lot of layers of revelation, perhaps you have a short story. If your character has to undergo much trial and tribulation to achieve his growth and change; if his actions affect many others and the reader needs to see those other characters and the impact on them; if subplots add more significance to the goal, theme, or resolution, then perhaps you have a novel.

Theme

What do you want to say with your piece?

Whatever message you hope your reader gets, ask yourself if you can convey that message with the form you’ve selected. Of course, you never want to hit readers over the head with the moral of your story; rather, you want all the elements of the story to lead the reader to that “hidden” message.

Michael Crichton’s novel Next tells a riveting tale that leads readers to his theme of the real-world catastrophic mess concerning gene patents. The novel is as fascinating and fast-paced as any of his books, and I was convinced by the end of it that gene patent procedures in this country needed a drastic overhaul. I don’t believe he could have conveyed this theme so convincingly in a short story.

On the other hand, Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” uses a relationship between two gay men in a time and place where homosexuality is unacceptable to draw the reader in. Proulx skillfully provides insight into a theme of intolerance with strong characters and gripping conflict all in about 15,000 words.

Conflict

Does your idea have enough conflict to sustain a novel?

If it doesn’t, you have a short story. Going back to comments from editors about the lack of conflict, don’t try to add conflict with arguments and petty bickering. Editors can spot weak conflict a mile away. Successful novelists prolong conflict throughout their books by altering, twisting, and elevating it. Static conflict causes all sorts of problems (which is an article by itself). No matter what length your project becomes, when the conflict’s resolved, the story is over. Tie up all the loose ends and finish it.

Once you decide where you want to take your idea, dive in. Whether your project ends up as a short story or as a novel, make it compelling. Say what you want to say with confidence, and have fun. Enjoy the burst of creativity a new idea brings.