Your goal for 2018? | It’s Time to Start Your Novel

Back by popular demand, Cathy Day’s MWW Ongoing course, “It’s Time To Start Your Novel,” will be offered in January. If your New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is to start writing, then this course is for you!

The registration for our MWW Ongoing course IT’S TIME TO START YOUR NOVEL begins December 18, 2017 and the course starts Monday, January 8, 2018. REGISTER NOW!

Cathy was also interviewed by John Strauss for Indiana Weekend on Indiana Public Radio. Listen as she discusses what her course offers to those interested in starting a novel.

Students registered for the course become a community through the private Facebook Group (which you can join after you register!). Here are a few comments from the students in last year’s course: (Note the exclamation points.)

  • This class is like an instruction manual, which I love! 
  • I am loving this class! I’m learning so much! 
  • I’ve loved Cathy’s challenges to choose characters, POV, clocks, etc. because it has forced me to make decisions.
  • I LOVED this unit!!! I am so excited about this course! I’m learning so much! I have always wanted to write a novel but had no idea how to go about it. Now I actually feel like it is within reach! Thank you so much for teaching this course, Cathy!
  • I have found Ms. Day’s course to be most excellent. I particularly appreciate her discussions of 1) preparation(s), and 2) character. These are exceedingly helpful.

This course is for everyone who ever thought, “I think I might have a novel inside me.” Understand though: you will not “write a novel” in this course–you will prepare yourself to start (or re-start) one. Think of it as a cooking course in which you spend the first class cleaning the kitchen and prepping the ingredients. Think of it as a marathon-running course in which you spend the first class buying a good pair of shoes. Your chances of drafting an entire novel increase exponentially when you spend some time preparing yourself for the journey ahead.

You’ll learn a great deal about your process without having to fret about the quality of your work. You’ll generate a lot of writing about the novel you want to write, get to know your characters, learn to think in terms of scenes not sentences, and make some crucial early decisions about point of view and structure that will save you a lot of time down the road.

At the end of the course, you’ll be ready and excited and poised to start writing your novel.

What This Course Specifically Teaches

  • intense focus on the writing process and on developing a writing regimen
  • writing assignments which will help you gather material, develop your plot, and get to know your characters
  • practice creating an outline or storyboard of your book
  • analysis of a novel that will serve as a model

The course is broken down into four big-picture units, further described below. Each unit offers a series of mini-lessons (about 5 to 10 minutes each) that build on each other. It will take you about four full hours to go through all of the instruction. You can pause to write when inspired and review the material on your own. Lessons are presented as audio-visual lectures that you can watch on any device (video/screencast).

Read how Cathy’s course changed the life of one writer!

Top 3 Ways To Keep Yourself Writing

It’s hard to believe Midwest Writers Workshop happened about two months ago.

Which means, it’s that time of year when . . .

Some of us on the committee ask this burning question:

What are some ways writers keep themselves motivated in between conferences?

This is an excellent question, and we don’t think we’re alone with it. We consider ourselves very enthusiastic when it comes to writing. But, so many things can happen to take down our enthusiasm. We might have come home from MWW, sent out the requested material, and waited. Maybe we are still waiting.

Or we didn’t get a request at all.

Maybe we got cold feet once we got home, and told ourselves we needed to revise before we sent the requested material–and we’re still revising. Quite possibly, we didn’t end up sending the material at all.

Did you know? A large number of writers don’t send in the material that was requested at conferences at all? Nada. Zip.

And truth be told, some people who do send in their requested material never hear back from the person who requested it at conference.

But shake all of that off.

On a happy note, others may have book contracts by now (waving at Annie Sullivan.) Or they’ve gotten an agent.

The truth is, no matter what has happened–or not happened since conference, our enthusiasm for writing might be lagging a bit.

Probably the biggest reason is that we’re not spending enough time with other writers, like we did when we were in our MWW conference bubble.

So, we’ve created a list of the Top 3 Ways to Keep Yourself Writing

1. Stay engaged with other writerly people in RL (Real Life) any way you can.

Do a search and find out what’s going on around you. Go to that book signing that is an hour away (and put on your extroverted expression and talk to some people). Go to a lecture at a college, because all thoughts on any topic can stimulate your writing. Join a book club, if just for one session. Coordinate a writers lunch get-together, even if the people don’t write in your genre, or are earlier in their journeys than you are (even if you secretly think everything they write is weird). Just do something. You’ll feel better and write with more enthusiasm. We call this being a good literary citizen.

2. Sign up for an online course.

Let’s face it. Some of us live in outlying areas. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse lives in what was literally a cornfield. Some nights, the coyotes are “talking” with her dogs. So she’s learned that a good, interactive online course is just what she needs to keep focused on her writing goals. She likes to be in a virtual class with writers. (Note: MWW has a program called MWW Ongoing that offers exceptional, unique, interactive online courses. See details below).

3. Develop your online presence (which also secretly builds your platform).

Reach out to publishing people on social media. If you read a blog, leave a comment, even if it is as simple as “I enjoyed this. Good job!” Follow authors you like on Facebook. If they ask a question, join in and respond to it. When you have a following on FB, you can ask people questions–and they may actually answer.

BONUS: Renew your writing enthusiasm by watching the MWW17 highlights video below, created by Matt Shouse.

Just over 3 minutes long, use the video to play a game. First, see if you can find yourself.

Next, see if you can find these publishing all-stars in the footage, because it was a Who’s Who of publishing this summer. Some of them are named, but many go by too quickly for that. So whether you can spot them or not, go visit their websites. Check out the free samples of their books. Follow them on Facebook, send out a Tweet, or even drop them a fan letter (“charming note”) email.

The following are some names to look for: Angie Thomas, Becky Albertalli, Annie Sullivan, Jessica Strawser, Amy Reichert, Summer Heacock, Nina Sadowsky, John Gilstrap, Agent/author Eric Smith, and the list goes on, and on.

To see what course we’re currently offering online, here’s the link to MWW Ongoing. (Good News: you can still register and catch up on the lessons!) Email Director Jama at midwestwriters@yahoo.com if you have questions about the classes or if you want to join. AND get ready for October because Dianne Drake’s new course “The Building Blocks of a Great Novel” is coming down the track. Details coming soon.

Now, if this message and material has helped you, would you do us a favor? Please forward this message to a writer friend who might enjoy it. If you feel like it, suggest that they subscribe to our MWW e-newsletter.

And we would love for you to say who you spotted in the video that made you smile. Please tell us on our Facebook page.

Thanks!

Let’s all get back to writing.

5 tips for pitching to agents: Jessica Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, shares 5 tips for meeting agents.

SinsheimerJessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Now an agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s known for #MSWL, ManuscriptWishList.com, #PubTalkTV-and for drinking far too much tea. Always on the lookout for new writers, she is most excited about finding picture books, YA, MG, upmarket genre fiction (especially women’s fiction, romance, and erotica, as well as thrillers and mysteries) and-on the nonfiction side-psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century. She especially likes highbrow sentences with lowbrow content, smart/nerdy protagonists, vivid descriptions of food, picture books with non-human characters, and justified acts of bravery. You can follow her on Twitter at @JSinsheim.

Jessica had a great time as a member of our 2011 faculty and said, “I’ll return any time!” So, welcome back, Jessica, to MWW17!  We asked her for tips for pitching to her . (Hint: She said the tips apply to all agents.)

5 Tips: 

Remember, agents are not robots.

I always appreciate when people acknowledge that I’m a person. Usually an undercaffeinated person who’s happy to meet lovely writing people, but a person, nonetheless, and an introvert at that. A simple “Hi, how are you? Hey, you’ve got five cups of tea there–my daughter loves English Breakfast” will go a long way toward making me like you and set you apart from the last meeting. It takes about 20 seconds and keeps me comfortable, present, and open to your work. Keep in mind that I interact with thousands of writers a year. I want each interaction to be as human, pleasant, and present as possible.

 

Think conversation, not monologue. 

Here are the things I’m most likely to ask, so you can prepare: 1) Where did you get the idea? 2) What experience do you have with the topic? 3) Who is the ideal reader for your book? 4) How is this different from other works in your genre? 5) What are your favorite books? 6) What do you do in your spare time?

 

Do your homework.

Research, research, research. It will not only ensure that you’re prepared, but calm your fears of awkward silence. Find out not only what’s on my  ManuscriptWishList.com  profile and #MSWL feed, but also some of my recent projects, especially the ones similar to yours. Read one, if you can–or, if you must, 🙂 read the free samples online. Find interviews I’ve done (just Google “Jessica Sinsheimer interview”). Visit the agency website. And knowing things like my favorite caffeinated beverage (coffee, tea, or coffee in tea–thank you, dirty chai latte), weekend activity (yoga, kayaking, and reading), and fluffy animal (I’m partial to orange cats and samoyeds) can help, too. These are all things you can use to fill any silence, so you don’t have to worry.

 

The agent and writer can be friends. 

Remember that we want to help you. Agents need writers, too. Don’t go in feeling like you’re pitching investors. Instead, think of it as a conversation about great books with a friend–it just happens to be your book, and an agent.

 

Be calm and pitch on.

Don’t be nervous. I know it’s scary, but I’m seriously 5’2″ and like to keep people around me feeling good. You can listen to the   Manuscript Academy podcast   to hear how I interact with writers and agents–that’s on iTunes and Soundcloud, and totally free. You’ll probably be less scared when you hear how peppy I am. If you want to practice, you can get plenty of one-on-one feedback on your query and first page with the new Manuscript Academy Ten Minutes With An Expert program–starting April 12, you can have ten-minute conversations one-on-one with agents and editors from home. See ManuscriptAcademy.com/ten

*** Exciting news! 

Jessica is bringing her popular the  PubTalk TV  to MWW17. On Saturday, July 22, 2017, from 3:45-4:45, she’s live streaming a session on-site with Summer Heacock (MWW planning member extraordinaire and debut author of The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky), Roseanne Wells (agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency), and Monica Odom (agent with Bradford Literary Agency).

What? Win money at MWW?

Forget Emmy, Oscar, Tony, and even Grammy

At Midwest Writers Workshop, it’s all about Manny. That’s what we call our annual manuscript contest, and it’s open-free of charge-to anyone registered for Part 2 of MWW17. We’ve taken a real-world approach to our competition. Editors tell us that they know if a manuscript shows promise after reading the opening 1,000 words. So, we ask contest entrants to submit only the first 1,000 words (or about five pages) of a work in progress. We have four categories: Long fiction (think novels), short fiction (think magazine stories), nonfiction (not fake news), and poetry. We only award one winner in each category because in the competitive world of publishing, sorry, there are no runners-up.

The rules are simple and the payoff is in cash. You’re competing for a $50 prize per category. The four winners then compete for our overall R. Karl Largent Writer of the Year Award and the $150 check that goes with it. Here’s what you need to do:
  • Enter only one manuscript.
  • Mark whether your submission is long fiction, short fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
  • Mail the opening 1,000 words or 5 pages: hard copy, double spaced, 12-point type (about four pages).
  • Plan to attend the closing banquet (required) to learn if you are one of our lucky winners.
  • Deadline for entries: June 17.

7 Tips for a Great Conference by Annie Sullivan

We welcome MWW alum Annie Sullivan as our guest who shares her  7 Tips to Getting the Most Out of Any Writing Conference.

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels, and her novel, Goldilocks, won the Luminis Books Award at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles.

You can follow Annie’s adventures on Twitter (@annsulliva) or on her blog: https://anniesullivanauthor.wordpress.com/

I attended my first writing conference back in 2013, the 40th annual MWW, and I went in with one goal: to get a literary agent. Every decision I made was calculated on how best to accomplish that goal. Did I leave that conference with a literary agent? No. But I did leave with the knowledge and connections that helped me land one within the next four months. So here are my secrets to how you can get the most out of a writing conference.

 

Treat it like a job.

If you want to actually make money writing, then you have to treat it like a business. Invest in business cards. Start author pages on Facebook and/or create a blog or Twitter account. Make sure people can find/contact you after they leave the conference.

[MWW Director note: if you need help, MWW17 offers free social media tutoring for Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.]

 

Define your brand.

Since you need to treat writing like a job, you need to figure out what your brand is and make sure you’re consistent. This means, if you’re writing picture books and an agent goes to your Twitter and sees nothing but tweets full of profanity, they may be turned off (unless that’s what your picture book is about, of course.) You need to encompass what you’re trying to sell. This means dressing the part, too. If you’re pitching an agent face-to-face, look presentable. However, if your brand is all about goth vampires, don’t be afraid to let that show in your clothing and makeup choices. You have to be the best representative of what you’re pitching them. This also stands true with alcohol consumption. While some people may need some liquid courage before facing agents during a conference’s cocktail hour, you can leave a bad impression if you consume too much. Keep in mind your brand encompasses all that you do and say.

 

Strategically plan your agent interactions.

Many conferences offer a chance to pitch agents. Take advantage of this. Of course, do thorough research ahead of time to see which agent is the best fit. (Go to an agent’s website to see what types of books they are looking for.) At some conferences, they also offer everything from query critiques to first 10 pages critiques, often by editors and agents. If that’s the case, it could be worth the money to do both, especially if there were two or three agents who might be a good fit for your story. By doing a pitch with one agent, a query critique with another, and 10 page critique with a third, you can successfully get feedback from all three and see if they’re interested. If nothing else, when you do query them, you can include that you met them at that specific conference, which always helps.

**Bonus Tip** Sign-up for the conference early for the best chance of getting to pitch/have a query critique with the agent or editor you want. Slots often fill up fast!

 

Find your people.

Conferences are one of the best places to meet critique partners. Talk with as many people as you can to find other writers who write in your genre or age group. Take advantage of activities like “Find Your Tribe” to meet people who write what you do. Even if you leave without making any headway with agents, you might just leave with a new critique partner who can help you polish your next work in progress so it catches an agent’s eye. Or, a new writer friend might have an agent already and be willing to put in a good word for you.

 

Don’t be a wallflower.

If you’re shy or introverted, it can be hard to put yourself out there. But if there are opportunities to read your work aloud or have your first sentence critiqued during a session, speak up. You never know what agent has sneaked into a session and is listening. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get in return.

 

Make the most of every opportunity.

Having lunch and there’s an empty seat next to that literary agent you know would love your book? Take it! Did an author give a great session on world building? Stop them in the hallway and let them know. You never know what interaction could open a door for you. Be kind and sincere, and don’t be afraid to take chances. (Note: DO NOT approach literary professionals in the bathroom, and do not blind pitch them when you’re standing in the lunch line. Only tell them about your story if they ask, and generally, they will ask because they’re just as eager to find good stories as you are to get published.)

 

Don’t be afraid to attend different sessions.

Are you a fantasy writer? Don’t be afraid to attend a session on writing mysteries. You never know what tips you might pick up about adding suspense and writing about villains. The biggest thing is to go in with an open mind so that you can absorb all the information being thrown at you, and then, when you get back in front of your manuscript, you can sort out how to implement it.

Above all, have fun and make friends. Being a writer can be tough and isolating, but going to conferences is one of the best ways to break out of those ruts. Take chances, and maybe in a year or two, you could be that author giving a session on voice or point of view. Good luck, and I hope to see you at Midwest Writers Workshop this year!

For a detailed listing of the 2017 MWW schedule, and to find out the writing instructors, agents and editors who make up this year’s amazing faculty, click on the link below.

Register now !

NYT Bestselling coming to MWW17 | Angie Thomas

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a debut novelist who started on the bestseller lists right out of the gate, come to Midwest Writers Workshop in July!

Since The Hate U Give released in February, Angie Thomas has been super busy! It turns out an extensive book tour and giving tons of interviews will do that to a person’s schedule.

But recently, we caught up with her in London and she gave us a quick email interview.

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and was published on February 28, 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg attached to star. Follow Angie on social media:  Twitter: @acthomasbooks / Website:  AngieThomas.com

MWW: Your debut novel, The Hate U Give, was sold at auction with 13 publishers competing for the highest bid, and interest worldwide. Did that prepare you for the success you’ve had since its release? How are you feeling and what are you thinking after 6 weeks at #1 on the New York Times Bestselling list?

AT: I was totally not prepared for this. It’s surreal and a dream come true.

MWW: You’ve said that you thought about this story for a few years and I know you were in a creative writing program at college. What helped you the most in writing a compelling story?

AT: The thing that helped me the absolute most was to decide to write it for myself and no one else.

MWW: When you come to Midwest Writers Workshop this summer, you’ll talk about your debut and also about diversity in books. Do you have a few tips for writing a diverse book that resonates?

AT: (1) Remember that not every story is your story to tell, and that’s okay. (2)  Diversity is not a trend. Approaching it this way dehumanizes marginalized people. (3)  If you’re writing an identity outside of your own, sensitivity readers are a must.

MWW: Your agent, Brooks Sherman, is returning to MWW. What’s an insider secret on how to impress him? Or what is a no-no?

AT: He doesn’t like issue books, but great books with issues. Also, he’s the coolest Slytherin you will ever meet.

MWW: How do you know Becky Albertalli, who is also coming to MWW17?

AT: Becky and I consider ourselves soul mates – we share the same agent, same editor, same publishing house, same film producers, and sometimes the same thoughts despite our different opinions on Oreos.

How about some quick thoughts:

MAC or PC?

PC though a MAC may be in my future

Pantser or plotter?

A bit of both fortunately and unfortunately.

Early bird or night owl?

Night owl for sure

Scrivener or Word software?

Just got Scrivener and love it!

**** 

Speaking of Scrivener, MWW17 has you covered this summer. Dee Romito is returning to present “Getting to Know Scrivener” Part I Intensive Session – a full day’s instruction on the amazing writing software everyone’s talking about.

The Scrivener software is inexpensive (under $50), although there is a steep learning curve. Many people agree with Angie that the software is well worth the effort to learn. Let MWW help you speed up the process with our one day intensive session.

4 Ways to Love Scrivener, by Dee

Get organized.

Keep all your chapters, scenes, research, and links right at your fingertips. It’s all in one place!

Move around quickly.

With a simple click, go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 20 to plotting notes to research. No more scrolling or opening multiple files.

Multiple ways to work.

Write in the editor, or switch over to corkboard or outline view quickly and easily.

Go for your goals.

Set a word count goal for your manuscript and current session. You’ll see it keep track and change color as you get closer to your goal. 🙂
Come and meet Angie, Dee, and the rest of our fantastic faculty this summer!

Register now !

MWW Ongoing course | Word Play with Liz Whiteacre

You spoke. We listened. So many of our MWW16 attendees commented on Liz Whiteacre’s sessions and pleaded for us to offer more opportunities for her brilliant and helpful writing instruction.

Now’s your chance! Word Play is a 4-unit course, starting Monday, May 1st. Registration is now open!

 

 

Word Play is a short, low-stakes course designed to help you take a break from bigger projects and take some time to play with language. It presents focused writing exercises that explore diction and figurative language choices, which help us develop voice in our stories, essays, and poems.

Writers of all levels and intentions are encouraged to join these focused word-based exercises, honing language skills and developing new ones that will support the writing they do in any genre. Many prompts may become prewriting for new projects or help you revise projects already in the works.

About the Instructor

Liz Whiteacre has been teaching writing since 2000. She’s worked with writers of all ages and abilities at places like University of Indianapolis, Ball State University, College of DuPage, the Indiana Writers Center, and the Indianapolis Chinese Community Center. In 2015, she won an Excellence in Teaching Award from Ball State University. She was poetry faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop in 2016. Whiteacre’s poems have appeared in Kaleidoscope, Wordgathering, Disability Studies Quarterly, Disabled World , and other magazines. She is the author of Hit the Ground and co-editor of Monday Coffee & Other Stories of Mothering Children with Special Needs.

What this Course Includes

You will receive weekly video lectures, writing exercises and recommended readings, and access to the private Word Play Facebook community where you might share questions, excerpts of your writing, your responses to reflection questions, etc.

Each week you will receive a new unit with three language-based exercises, so you may tailor your experience to your needs and schedule.  Each lesson also offers suggestions for further reading on related topics, which you can chose to do while you work on exercises during the class or chose to save for the future.

And a bonus: You’ll have access to these four units and lessons indefinitely.

We’re so very pleased that MWW Ongoing is offering this opportunity to help you develop your writing muscles and stretch your creativity. At just $50, it’s a bargain.

 

Let’s play!

REGISTER HERE!

Novel to TV series | Screenwriter Nina Sadowsky | MWW17

Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 is offering a NEW Part I Intensive Session on “Screenwiriting,” and we’re pleased to welcome screenwriter and novelist Nina Sadowsky.

This class will provide an in-depth overview of writing for film and television. A mixture of lecture, in-class exercises and screenings will give the participants an understanding of how material is pitched, developed and produced in Hollywood as well as tips for successful screenwriting.

Spots to Nina’s intensive session are limited and we expect this one to fill up fast.

Register now!

A New York City native, Nina R. Sadowsky is an entertainment lawyer (in recovery) who has worked as a film and television producer and writer for most of her career.  Just Fall, published by Ballantine in March 2016 is her first novel, and is now in development as an original series for STARZ. She has written numerous original screenplays and adaptations and done rewrites for such companies as The Walt Disney Company, Working Title Films, and Lifetime Television.

She served as President of Production for Signpost Films, a film financier and foreign distributor, where she worked on such projects as the Academy Award nominated “The House of Sand and Fog,” starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. Prior to joining Signpost, she served as President of Meg Ryan’s Prufrock Pictures for over five years. During her tenure, Prufrock landed first look feature deals with Fox 2000 and Castle Rock Entertainment and an overall long-form television deal with Polygram/Universal Television.

Sadowsky served as executive producer for the hit film “The Wedding Planner,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey for Intermedia and Sony, produced “Desert Saints,” an independent film starring Kiefer Sutherland which premiered on Cinemax, and has served as executive director for numerous other films.

She is also currently serving as adjunct faculty at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts program, teaching both writing and producing. Her students have been the recipients of many awards and accolades including best scripted series at the College Television Awards and inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival Shorts Corner. Sadowsky is also currently serving as a mentor for the Humanitas Prize’s New Voices Program, and is a member of Humanitas’ Woolfpack, an organization of women writers, directors and showrunners.

MWW: What’s it feel like to have your debut novel being adapted for a television series?

NS: It’s thrilling that we sold Just Fall to STARZ, particularly as premium cable allows creators to push the limits. I’m especially excited that the network wanted me to write the pilot as they felt the work was so particular to my voice. As far as I know, the title will remain the same. And I wish I had a timetable, but I don’t!

MWW: You’ve said the opening scene of your psychological thriller was inspired in real life when your husband was lying in bed with one arm flung over his head. You imagined him dead, just for a moment. Why do you think people like yourself, a happily married woman and a mother, write and read dark, crime-filled stories?

NS: Actually, I am a mother of a 21 year old daughter and a 18 year old son and stepmother to other kids (one girl, one boy) now 22 and 20 years old. And the incident you correctly describe happened shortly after we blended the two families (the kids were all teenagers then).  Blending the family created all kinds of tensions between my husband and I that we never anticipated.  We believed “love will beget love” and were gobsmacked when our rosy predictions weren’t fulfilled. It got me thinking about all the couples who throw themselves into love and marriage and then have to get past the romantic idealism and slog through whatever real life throws at them.  In writing Just Fall, I wanted to take those very ordinary, universal feelings and inflate them to a thriller level.  As to why I like to write or read about crime, it comes from my desire to understand human nature.  Why we connect with other people. Why we don’t. Why societies create norms of behavior and what it means to an individual to step out of those norms. When is it right to do the wrong thing? Wrong to do the right thing? I’m trying to make sense of the confusing moral world that surrounds us and I think readers are too.

MWW: What are some ways your work as a film and television producer have influenced your novels? Might novelists benefit from learning screenwriting techniques in your course at MWW as well?

NS: I’d say the biggest influence is in the way I start any scene. I close my eyes and I think about what each production department would need to do in order to bring a scene to life. What are people wearing? What’s the quality of the light? What does the location look like and how do its details reveal something about the characters in the production design? These questions help me envision any scene for a book or a screenplay in a way that serves the narrative.  It’s my philosophy as a film maker that every inch of the frame should contribute to the story, so I think similarly about writing a scene in a book. Every element should be meaningful to furthering character, plot, theme and/or story. And I definitely think novelists can learn from screenwriting techniques. While film and television have highly codified and specific structures, good storytelling is good storytelling!

MWW: Just Fall seemed to be about taking risks as a writer, from the overall structure, to the sentence structure, to setting description, to characters that behave in unexpected ways. Do you have a tip or five on why authors wanting to break in or break out should take risks?

NS: Truth be told, when I started Just Fall, my sole hope was to finish it. It was a personal exercise borne out of the personal marital tension I was wrestling with as well as some frustration with the film and TV business. Because my expectations were so minimal, I felt very free. I played with structure partly because I wanted to shuck off the highly rigid structures of film and TV. I also wanted to play with structure as a way of revealing character, as opposed to solely using it to advance plot.  I subverted the stereotypes common to the thriller genre like the “damsel in distress.” I describe the writing of the novel as sort of a “howl,” one that came from a very deep place. No one was more shocked than I was when I exposed the book and very quickly found myself selling it to Ballantine/Random House!  I think one must always take risks.  Writing for the “perceived market” or writing something to which one doesn’t feel authentically connected is in my mind a mistake. Be bold or go home!

MWW: Tell us something distinctive about your writing process?

NS: I create an index card for every scene or chapter with a one line description about the scene. This reminds me to keep the main thing the main thing when I go to write.

MWW: As an adjunct professor in screenwriting at UCLA, what mistakes do students make? Besides reading Just Fall, is there a craft book you recommend your MWW students read in preparation for your course?

NS: I love SAVE THE CAT, which is a great primer on structure. Also when writing for film and TV one must adhere to proper format (if no other reason than improper formatting pegs you as an amateur). And if my students can read Just Fall before the course, I will be able to discuss how we approached its adaptation for TV.

MWW: Anything you would like to add?

NS: I’m looking forward to the MWW!

Quick hits:

1) Plotter or pantser (no pre-planning)?

A bit of both. I start usually with a theme and a visual and then begin to work up characters. I rewrite myself constantly, rewriting the last day’s work before I start on the new day’s work. And outline only once I’m deep into the first draft.

2) Critique group/hired editor or go it alone?

I have a couple of trusted readers, but my brilliant editor at PRH is the one I rely on the most.

3) Scrivener writing software, Microsoft Word or other?

Microsoft Word

4) Early bird or night owl?

Best in the morning, but can write all day and night if on a deadline!

5) Fast, messy drafter or slow and methodical?

Fast. Gut it out. Don’t obsess on every word. Writing is rewriting!

 

NOW AVAILABLE from Ballantine/Random House
Just Fall

COMING SOON also from Ballantine/Random House

The Burial Society

www.ninarsadowsky.com

https://www.facebook.com/nina.sadowsky

https://twitter.com/sadowsky_nina

Build a Better Plot with Shirley Jump | MWW Ongoing | Starts March 27

Our aim at MWW Ongoing is to bring you the highest quality of online courses. Shirley Jump’s 2-week course, BUILD A BETTER PLOT, is next up and sure to benefit all fiction writers, no matter your genre or writing experience. Registration is open now and the class starts MONDAY, MARCH 27th. 

 

About the Instructor
New York Times and  USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance so she can avoid the towering stack of dirty dishes, eat copious amounts of chocolate and reward herself with trips to the mall. She’s published more than 60 books in 24 countries. Look for her all-new novella in the anthology ASK ME WHY (with Marie Force, Virginia Kantra and Jodi Thomas), as well as her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, and her Fortune’s Island series, starting with AND THEN FOREVER. Visit her website at www.ShirleyJump.com for author news and a booklist, and follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/shirleyjump.author for giveaways and deep discussions about important things like chocolate and shoes.

Here’s our Top 10 List about Shirley:
From 2006 to 2012, Shirley taught a monthly Real Life writing group at Barnes & Noble, and she has taught dozens of online courses since. She has extensive information to share.

 
If high energy and positivity, combined with a down-to-earth approach, is your thing, you will really appreciate Shirley!

 

Some writers just ask more questions than others and Shirley is one of the most open writers with sharing her secrets with her students.

 

If you like structured lessons to review later, Shirley is the handout queen and each one is like a mini lesson.

 

Plus, she loves rescue animals, and has also honed herself into an athlete who competes in triathlons.

 

A journalist from the age of 11, Shirley learned to write full-length fiction through writing and it didn’t come easy. So she has developed techniques and resources to help others do the same. Just call her the “novel whisperer.”

 

She’s read about every writing craft book there is and brings all that knowledge to her classes, which means you may learn of more resources to delve into after this class.

 

In 2010, her keynote speech, “The Quitting Story” kicked off Midwest Writers Workshop Part 2 and she developed an immediate following there. She has known struggles, and seen triumph. (Ten manuscripts were rejected before that first sale.)

 

Along with the instructional sessions, Shirley will actively engage through our private Facebook page specifically for this class.

 

With 67+ books published for multiple publishers in her career, Shirley’s help in nailing the concept of GMC in this course, (Goal, Motivation and Conflict,) will not only positively impact your current story but all your future stories as well!

 

We’re so very pleased that MWW Ongoing is offering the opportunity to learn online from Shirley. At just $75, it’s a bargain. This will be interactive with the chance to see clear cut examples. Shirley sometimes invites students to provide ideas from their works in progress. With a short amount of the student’s information, Shirley is able to shed light on what isn’t working in a story–or simply knows ways to make the writing stronger.

* * * If you’ve ever wished for a brainstorming session with a published author with a talent for turning stories into publishing contracts, you owe it to yourself to register for Shirley’s class!

REGISTER HERE!

MWW17 welcomes back thriller author John Gilstrap

Midwest Writers is delighted that John Gilstrap is returning to teach at MWW17!

John is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jonathan Grave thriller series. Two of the first three in the series were nominated for ITW’s prestigious Thriller Award, and for Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award. His novels include Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom.  Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen.  In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris.  He will co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom, which should begin filming in 2017.

During  MWW17, John will teach a Part I Intensive Session “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller,” a day-long seminar on the construction of intelligent commercial fiction. What makes for a strong plot? How do you take cardboard characters and give them life on the page? Through lively lectures and writing exercises, students get a peek at the skeleton that gives structure to the stories that keep us reading long into the night.

We caught up with John recently and asked him about what he’s teaching for MWW17.

Tell us “Three Things You Should Know” related to your intensive, “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller”:

You’ll look at writing a different way at the end of the class than you did at the beginning

 

You should come prepared to do some writing exercises.

 

You should let me know if there’s one particular topic that you’d be disappointed if we didn’t explore.

 

Do you have a tip for writers who are feeling stuck on a manuscript? How do you get yourself unstuck?

Don’t walk away from it until you’ve written your way out of the corner.

 

Try switching over to pen and paper. That’s what I do and it always gets me unstuck.

 

And what are your answers for some just-for-fun questions?

Mac or PC? PC

Early-bird or night-owl? Night owl

Scrivener or a different writing software or plain old Word? Plain old Word

Coffee or tea? Coffee!! (I hate tea. It always reminds me of the times I was sick as a kid.)

What are your Part II sessions?

  • Worst Advice Ever: Write What You Know – The real trick is to write what interests you.  This session presents strategies for getting in touch with experts who can help you, and where to find answers to your most perplexing questions.  Hint: Knowing a little bit is fine. The rest is about faking it.  We’ll talk about that, too.
  • Bangs and Booms 101: What Writers Need to Know About Firearms and Explosives
  • Buttonhole Topic – Presentation Skills for Authors

Register for mww17 today!

***

Praise for John Gilstrap and the Jonathan Grave Series:

“Gilstrap is one of the finest thriller writers on the planet.”  – Tess Gerritsen
“Gilstrap is a master of action and drama.”  – Gayle Lynds
“Rocket-paced suspense.”  – Jeffery Deaver
“A great hero, a really exciting series.”  – Joseph Finder
Read more about John and his writing in this article in Publisher’s Weekly. 

***

Check out John on social media!

Facebook: johngilstrapauthor

Twitter: @JohnGilstrap

Website