Writerspark Moves to Google Groups

After more that 15 years at Yahoo Groups, Writerspark has made the move to its new Google Groups home. There are many reasons for the move, chief among them the multitude of unresolved problems suffered by members following some of the so-called improvements to the Yahoo Groups system. It’s difficult to participate in an online email discussion group when mail goes missing or images associated with the mail don’t appear.

The possibility of integrating some of Google’s other services into our group experience, such as Google Docs and Google Plus, also makes this move an important one for Writerspark.

You can join Writerspark at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/writerspark, by cliking the  Join Writerspark link above, or by clicking the Join button at our Writerspark Web site: http://writerspark.org/index.html . But keep in mind, Writerspark is a participation-based group, not a place for lurkers. so if you join, you’ll be expected to participate. get ready to write!

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All Four ’1,000 Days in Writerspark’ eBooks Revised and Published

Just wanted to alert everyone that all four 1,000 Days in Writerspark creative writing exercise ebooks have finally been updated and re-published at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and through various venues on Smashwords.

The Nook and Kindle and PDF versions can be purchased via our own Writerspark ebook Store at http://writerspark.org/blog/ebooks/

Thanks to all who have already purchased the books.

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Hard at Work on Ebooks

Been hard at work doing some formatting work on the 1,000 Days ebooks. Seems some devices play better with certain nuanced formatting elements, so I am doing what Smashwords calls the “nuclear option” on all four books.

What the nuclear approach entails is pasting each 1,000 exercise manuscript into Notepad, thus stripping all formatting and all images from the document; then copying and pasting the raw text into a clean document to which I have pre-created the necessary Styles that I want applied to my text. Then, I go through the entire 1,000-plus pages and apply each style to every element for which it was created–and re-import all images.

To call this tedious is a monumental understatement.

“Ugh!” seems a far more appropriate indicator of the work involved.

I hope to bring a more pleasant user experience to these books going forward. Even added a nifty clickable Contents page, to get readers to each segment of 100 exercises. Added a none-too-shabby photo of yours truly to an About the Author page, too.

getting close to finished.

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We’re Cooking at Smashwords

I have formatted and uploaded Your First 1,000 Days in Writerspark to the Smashwords online publishing engine. It whirred and whirred and whirred, then accepted my upload for publication. We await final approval before we are released to the likes of Apple iTunes and other download venues. I have opted to retain direct control of our publications for Kindle and Nook.

If you would like to purchase the Nook, Kindle or PDF version, they can be found right here in our Writerspark Book Store.

I’ll have more on Smashwords and independent publishing in general in a future installment, but you can learn about Smashwords at by visiting the Smashwords site at: https://www.smashwords.com/.

I will announce when things are finalized at Smashwords so those of you who prefer downloading from iTunes and other venues other than Barnes & Noble and Amazon will have that option.

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Volume Four Goes Live!

The long awaited Fourth e-book in our 1,000 Days in Writerspark series has finally gone live!

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, they are e-books each if which is crammed with 1,000 unique writing exercises (or prompts) which originated over the past 15-plus years in our online Writerspark creative writing group.  For more than 15 years, our writing exercises have helped writers to kick writer’s block and find entirely unexpected ideas for new stories, poems and even novels.  Our fourth volume continues in that tradition.

We trust you will find as much inspiration through these e-books as our Writerspark group has found over the years.

Versions for Nook, Kindle or PDFs can be downloaded via our online store: Writersblog e-Book Store

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Lots Happening

Feedback is a good thing, and read/writer comments have alerted me to the handful of typos and other glitches missed during the editing process of the first three e-books helped to clean things up.  The initial three have now been tweeted, re-compiled and will be uploaded in place of the earlier versions.

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to point out the errors.

Your Fourth 1,000 Days in Writerspark has officially been edited, compiled and converted for Kindle, Nook and PDF. Publication for these and other platforms will happen within the next few days. It will be available at our Writerspark e-book store or at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other outlets.

Beyond our books of exercise seeds are a few projects I’m currently working. First, I am compiling, revising and editing a short story collection I will publish within the next three months. More accurately, it is a Flash Fiction collection, although I may seed in a few longer stories. So stay tuned…

There’s also the NANOWRIMO novel I wrote in 2011.  I had written this 60k word seat-of-the-pants book with absolutely zero idea what I wanted to write. November 1, 2011, at precisely 12:01 a.m. Central time U.S., I simply started typing. By midnight November 30th I had 60k-plus words that I never looked back on. Seriously thought that 60k pantsed words couldn’t possibly be any good. Then, this past January, a discussion of NANOWRIMO with my live writing group spurred me to revisit the work. I started reading, and even though it was I who had written it I couldn’t stop reading!

So now I’m revising the very first full-length novel I had ever attempted. I will expand on this and keep you up to date as I progress through to completion.  Again, stay tuned.

There’re are also two longer stories in the works which haven’t revealed their final form. I have the basic stories written, but one could stand as a longer short story, or be expanded to novella or novel length. Need to make that decision.

The second story will almost certainly be a novel, although being a tight writing fanatic I may opt for novella.

Of course we are once again posting daily exercises at our Writerspark group at Yahoo. These will eventually become Writerspark book number five.

My live group meets bi-weekly, and my focus there has been flash fiction. I will have something for you on flash fiction in the weeks ahead.

And that’s a peek at what I’m currently doing.

Updates on these and other projects will be shared over the days, weeks and months ahead.

Meanwhile, I urge all of you to write something every day.

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Nope, it’s not a new snack cracker. A Drabble is a very short story: 100 words exactly, no more, no fewer.

The gang at Drabblecast.org challenge writers to crunch words into the fine powder that reveals the essence of story, and the results will leave you wondering how so much can be shoved into so tight a package.

I gave it a try, and my initial efforts left me growling–literally–with word counts at 99, 101, 98, 102…and no apparent way to add or delete that one or two words that blocked my way to victory. Grrrr…

I stayed red with it, and soon I was dribbling with the big kids. Here are some of my efforts: Bill’s Drabbles. Feel free to give them a read, and please do comment if you feel the urge. You may need to sign up to the Forum in order to access these pieces or comment, but don’t worry; it’s not a spam or newsletter thing. It’s simply to obtain a screen name so you can post or comment.

Once you’ve checked out these pieces, we challenge you to give Drabbles a try. They are addicting.

The goal, however, is not simply to spend your days and nights drabbling; it is to exercise your ability to write as tight as possible by finding the essence of a story. You can always expand these exercises into longer works, if you hit something worthwhile.

Happy drabbling!

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Sidetracked by Life

No matter how stoked we are about our craft, there are times when life throws the switch and sidetracks our creative pursuits. Such was the case for me.

I won’t take up your time elaborating on my personal bangs and bruises, except to say that divorce, depression, near loss of the house and other unexpected events have battered my for some time. This resulted in my getting lost in a great many alternate pursuits (many of which involved other forms of writing) to keep myself from focusing on my problems. Although I wish I could have channeled that energy into my creative writing projects, it seems that part of my brain stepped out for a while and left only my less inspired side—a kind of auto-protect mode that kicked in.

Now here I am.

I tell you that both to let you know why I have been so long absent, but more importantly so that you know that, should such moments touch your life, you are not alone. We all go through it, to one degree or another. Although it is a good idea to sit down and write and lose yourself in your work when difficulties come, it’s just not that simple. If your mind shuts down, it shuts down. The best you can do at that point is at least try to surround yourself with people who care about you. That’s what I did.

I owe a big debt of thanks to all those who stood by me through my trials, even those who had no idea I was struggling.

If you are struggling, keep friends and family close. Seek professional help. You are not alone. If you can write, write. If not, be around people.

I look forward to sharing more on the craft of writing and what’s going on with my many projects.

Back to writing…

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Solid Research = Solid Framework

I’m going to mention Steampunk a lot in this piece. Bear with me, even if you’ve no interest whatsoever in Steampunk…

If you’re considering writing a novel or even a longer work of short fiction, you are no doubt aware that at least some level of research will be necessary – more for a novel, less for a short story. There are a great many books on the subject of story and novel creation, but few that actually address the issue of research. However, I have just discovered a title that, although its target Genre, Steampunk, might not be your cup of tea, does an excellent job of highlighting the various aspects of research necessary to not only select a good timeline for your work but infuse it with a healthy dose of reality. The book I refer to is titled Writing Steampunk by Beth Daniels.

Don’t let the fact that this book focuses on Steampunk steer you away. Although the various research resources recommended aim specifically at the Steampunk genre, it’s the kinds of resources and why they should be considered that are key here.

For example, since the Steampunk genre generally takes place between the late 18th and late 19th centuries (sometimes even the early 20th century), the book mentions such invaluable resources as The Timetables of History: A Historical Linkage of People and Events and The Illustrated History of the 19th Century. With these resources you’re able to see at a glance what inventions and people existed in the time period you’re considering, so that you can add actual people ad things to your story to make it seem more real. Although Steampunk, by its very nature, usually stretches and skews history well out of proportion, inventions are often hopped across decades to achieve certain objectives; the people, however, usually remain roughly where they belong in history.

In addition to explaining how to explore timetables for useful tidbits, Writing Steampunk also explores how to select your target age group, how to make sure the clothing you select for your characters are correct to the period, what modes of transportation were most common, various forms of weaponry they might have carried; Daniels even covers what kinds of adult and children’s games and sports were common during various years and decades.

Stringing together any number of the elements touched upon in this book will give your fiction far greater dimension and believability than you ever imagined possible. Not only will your characters be properly dressed, ride the correct mode of transportation, use just the right slang, carry the right newspaper under their arm and right firearm in their coat or handbag, but they’ll also notice the crowd of children playing just the right game and singing the right songs for the period.

Writing Steampunk isn’t a research resource; what it is, however, is a resource that explains what resources you should consider for the work you plan to do. And whether you’re planning a Steampunk adventure, a romance, a war epic, a vampire yarn or a science fiction yarn, the resources mentioned in this title will either directly aid your setting and characters or they will give you some idea about similar resources more specific to your time period.

Remember, solid research means a more solid framework for your story.


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Borders Books Closes

About two months ago I was saddened when my most local Borders Books closed. This week I was saddened again to learn that all Borders stores are closing.

To be honest, since the advent of the book superstores I have always preferred Barnes & Noble. Fore one thing, I like the way they organize their titles better, and the staff generally seemed more friendly and helpful. Or maybe it’s just my perception.

When the big boys of books first hit my area I was none too pleased. I loved the local booksellers that had become like second homes to me. Virtually every weekend I’d browse new additions, the closeout shelves or just plain browse. These visits warmed me somehow. Almost overnight all the small, mom-and-pop shops shuttered in the shadows of bargain-price superstores.

At first, I boycotted these places, believing them to be the “Evil Empire,” capitalism run amok in the world of publication. Eventually, though, I wandered in to a Barnes & Noble, and later a Borders and grew used to a new level of comfort. Although the warmth of a flesh-and-blood owner with an intense love of books would forever be missing, at least we had a place to experience new releases in a relatively comfortable atmosphere.

Today, however, the tables have turned and the Internet has devoured one of the biggest discount booksellers on the planet: Borders. Can Barnes & Noble be far behind?

If you love books, if the feel and smell of a new work of fiction or non-fiction gives you a rush, I urge you to frequent your local booksellers and buy from them and not via the Internet. Our failure to support local businesses will not only rob us all of convenient places to shop, it will kill the jobs of untold friends and neighbors, affecting our communities in darkly profound ways.

Thanks for so many great years of reading. Borders will be missed.


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