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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!

Building Blocks of a Great Novel with Dianne Drake

MWW announces its the newest MWW Ongoing course, “The Building Blocks of a Great Novel,” taught by the bestselling author Dianne Drake.  This 6-unit course also includes a manuscript evaluation. Registration is now available!

Dianne says, “The goal of this course is not to teach you HOW to write your novel, but to help you discover all the key elements common to every great novel — elements that will make your novel great, too!”

  • Choosing Your Genre
  • Goal, Motivation & Conflict
  • Defining Your Point of View
  • Finding Your Voice
  • Creating Your Characters
  • Dialogue, Narrative & Exposition

What the Course Includes

  • Instructional sections that you can read on your own time, at your own convenience. This Prezi format is not a live presentation, and new lessons will not “drip” at various intervals during the course. Once you have registered, the entire course will be available to you, to access at any time you wish.
  • Assignments for completion at your own pace–designed to help you put what you learn into action.
  • Q&A time through a private Facebook forum designed especially for this course, plus discussions and handouts
  • AND each student will receive A FREE MANUSCRIPT EVALUATION AT THE END OF THE COURSE. Translated to mean 10 pages of a manuscript critique along with one deep editing pass.

CHOOSE YOUR GENRE: a discussion of what genre is; how to find the genre that works best for you, a reader’s expectation of genre, and much more.

GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT: the backbone of all great novels. What is GMC? How do you use it? Define it? Why developing your GMC will give you a head start on your novel that many writers skip. Also, how to apply GMC in your work for the best results.

DEFINING A POINT OF VIEW. Every book has one, so do most major characters. POV gives you a perspective of your story that no one else has. It also defines you, as writer, in your story.

FINDING YOUR VOICE. It’s unique. It’s you on the page-the way you present your story and yourself. It’s what your readers will relate to more than anything else, and what your editors expect to be so “you” your work will stand out in the pile. And, it’s what brings readers back to you and your books.

CREATING CHARACTERS. Good stories have good characters, great stories have great characters. This lesson will teach you everything you need to know about your characters, from naming them, to giving them the perfect backstory, to scripting them in a manner that your readers want more of them.

DIALOGUE, NARRATIVE & EXPOSITION. In other words, the whole ball of wax. How your story goes down on paper. Word choices. What resonates with readers and what doesn’t. This is the nitty-gritty about your writing and how to make the most of it so your next book contract will come knocking on your door almost before you’ve completed the current WIP (work in progress).

Looking to prepare for NaNoWriMo?

This six-unit series is for you!

The cost: $149 (includes manuscript critique!) Register HERE.

Join the course’s private Facebook community!

When you register for this course, you will be invited to a private Facebook group created for live interactions and questions.

Says Dianne:

I encourage lots and lots of questions and comments, anything you wish to address. I will also drop several handouts into the files — things I like to share with my students that may not necessarily have a proper place in the class. In addition, I will check in on the Facebook group several times a day, to answer questions, participate in discussions or to simply see how it’s going. If Facebook isn’t your thing, or you wish to discuss something privately, I’ll be happy to keep you caught up on my private email. 

About the Instructor

There wasn’t a time in her life when Dianne wasn’t writing something. The first real try she remembers came when she was aged 6, with a poem titled, “If I Had a Pony.” It was a lame attempt at getting her parents to buy her a pony, which didn’t work, but in that poem Dianne discovered she loved to write. So, she did…through grade school, high school, college school, music school, nursing school, grad school…It was always there. In Dianne’s life, there was always something to write about. Funny thing was, she wasn’t taking the hint. Not even when articles she was writing for professional medical journals were being published.

One day, though, Dianne’s mother died. She was too young. And she also died unfulfilled…full of hopes and dreams she never went after. This was at a time when Dianne was facing a disability that would eventually leave her with some very difficult physical challenges. Still, she didn’t want to end up like her mother, wasting a life of dreams that never had a chance. But, what to do? This is when, what Dianne calls, “The Post Card from God,” arrived. It was an ad for a writing workshop being held in Muncie, Indiana. Midwest Writers Workshop (1993) as it turned out. So, in her hand she had the opportunity to fulfill a dream she’d never really latched on to, but one that had always latched onto her. But, could she write for real? She’d always written, but to be a real writer?

Dianne did go to Muncie that year, totally nervous, but hopeful. And to shorten the story, 6 months later, her first-ever consumer article appeared in  Woman’s Day. From there came hundreds more articles, 9 nonfiction books and the true dream of her heart — 57 (soon to be 61) romance novels for Harlequin Books. Yes, her true writing dream was to be a romance writer.  Was the journey simple? Never. Was it worth it? Always. “The dream was always there. I just had to wake it up. It makes me sad knowing my mother was contented letting her dreams slip away because she missed a life that might have changed many things for her. But in watching her let her dreams pass her by, I discovered my own dream. I always wanted to write because I always wrote. No matter what happened in my life, I wrote about it. Big things, little things…none of it mattered. What did matter, though, was that my dream was always there with me and I was, and am blessed, to have it every day of my life. I was meant to be a writer. It was my dream, and it was my destiny.”

Dianne’s next two books from Harlequin Mills & Boon Medicals will be released simultaneously in January, 2018. Be on the lookout for  Reunited with Her Army Doc and  Healing Her Boss’s Heart — two connected stories about the healing powers of love, home and friendship. Also, keep up with Dianne’s new releases and news on her website at  www.Dianne-Drake.com and her Facebook page DianneDrakeAuthor.

Create intricate plots & unforgettable characters with Shirley Jump

MWW Ongoing

If you’ve ever wished for a way to continue growing with your writing all year long, from the comfort of your home, now you can! MWW Ongoing is a series of courses taught by award-winning writing instructors, and everything happens online. From the convenience of your computer, on your own time schedule, you can participate in classes to take your writing to the next level.

Check out our newest MWW Ongoing course taught by New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump.

The Brainmap: A way to create intricate plots and compelling, unforgettable characters

Shirley Jump’s The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. This 4-week course starts Monday, Sept. 4, with each unit available on the following Mondays (Sept 11, 18, 25). Cost: $75.

Who This Course Will Help

This course is for writers who are looking for a way to plot a unique, character-driven novel. This course will cover all the pre-work needed to develop a compelling, layered character with a full history. From that, the plot will develop, thus building an intriguing novel with a strong emotional hook for the reader.

Editors love books that are character driven and have layered plots. The Brainmap Technique develops fully formed characters before a single word is written, resulting in a stronger, more powerful–and more emotional story. If you’re stuck in your writing, needing inspiration or just want to learn more about developing characters and developing a multi-layered plot, you’ll get the boost you need for this class with this technique. By the end of this workshop, participants will have everything they need to write a character-based plot that has emotional depth, character-driven conflict, and memorable page-turning twists.

What you will learn

  • How to develop a character’s past, family relationships and motivations
  • Use this to develop a character-based plot
  • An in-depth analysis of your character’s behavior and choices
  • A richer, more emotionally based book

The course is broken down into four units. Each unit is accompanied by several handouts that build on the one before. You can start using the information immediately for your current work. But you can start when you are ready. The material will be available to you until October 31. Questions about the material and how it applies to your story will be answered within the private Facebook group.

Unit One will be about getting the basics down. We will start with the basics of who your character is, based on their dominant impression, then why they are in that career. How their education impacted that choice and where it has brought them to at the start of your novel.

  1. Basics of the Brainmap
  2. Brainmap Center
  3. Brainmap Spoke One

Unit Two will take the Brainmap to a deeper level. We will discuss the multiple layers of family relationships and look at how those have impacted your character. This particular section of the brainmap is vital in shaping your character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Two
  2. Brainmap Spoke Three
  3. Brainmap Example

Unit Three will explore past relationships and their impact on your character. What type of person they choose, how it impacted their life, and where that has brought them now. For those writing novels with a romance thread, this section will form the basis of the romantic conflict. We will also discuss the last two spokes of the brainmap to create a fully-fleshed out character.

  1. Brainmap Spoke Four
  2. Brainmap Spoke Five and Six

Unit Four will pull all those spokes together, developing a plot based on the character, one that derives from their weaknesses, strengths and greatest nightmare. This will allow the student to write a richer novel at the completion of the course.

  1. Weaknesses and Strengths
  2. Worst Nightmare

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.

Register Today!

Click HERE to register.

And be part of the community in the private Facebook Group!

The Course That Helped Me Write My First Novel

by Gail Werner

gail-werner-photoThree years ago this month, I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post from my friend Cathy Day, an English professor at Ball State. It detailed her decision to offer her novel writing class online to anyone wanting to follow along.

Reading this news, I felt my pulse quicken. This is it, Gail, I told myself. This is your sign.

Except, it couldn’t be. Not when I had a 11-month-old son at home, a job at Ball State keeping me busy, and a photography business that was going strong.

I didn’t have time for signs, and yet something in my gut re-enforced what I knew was true: If I let the moment pass, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.

With shaking fingers, I signed up, not knowing it was a move that would forever tilt my creative compass true north.

Over the weeks that followed, I read through the half-dozen books Cathy assigned on her syllabus. I dove into each with a zeal I hadn’t experienced since journalism school. It was intoxicating learning something new again, especially something I was so passionate about—learning how to write a book!

Using the skills I picked up that semester, I went on to finish my first novel. Ever since, I’ve kept going: reading more, writing more, learning more. Today I’ve reached the point where I’ve completed my second novel and am now querying agents, hoping one of them wants to help me publish my work.

Often times when I tell people I’ve written a book, they get a dreamy look in their eyes and admit they want to write one, too. What I always want to say (but haven’t until now) is writing a novel is almost impossible without learning a bit of craft first.

Which is why I’m elated to announce, in partnership with Midwest Writers Workshop and its new MWW Ongoing online courses and webinars, Cathy is offering another introductory novel-writing class this fall!

“It’s Time to Start Your Novel” will span four weeks beginning October 1 and is meant for anyone who’s ever thought, “I think I have a novel inside me.” (Newsflash: If you’re thinking this, it probably means you do.)

The cost is $150 and I promise (from the very bottom of my heart), it’s worth every penny.

What you’re about to learn from Cathy is what’s true of any goal worth pursuing—you’re gonna need time and preparation to tackle it. Consider this class your first step.

Or, as Cathy describes it:

“Think of ‘It’s Time to Start Your Novel’ 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 (maybe for National Novel Writing Month?) increase exponentially when you spend some time preparing yourself for the journey ahead.”

All of that makes sense, right? So I’m wrapping up this post hoping this opportunity finds a few brave souls yearning for the same creative challenge I was that afternoon I found Cathy’s Facebook post. I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how all of the work and second-guessing would be worth it to chase the creative high I’d experience as a result.

If you have specific questions about the course—which will cover topics like how to develop a writing regimen, along with how to create characters and scenes for your future novel—send them my way. You can also ask about signing up for Midwest Writers Workshop 2017 or, better yet, find out how to become a member of our new MWW Plus to get a 10-percent discount on Cathy’s class along with future webinars and workshops MWW has to offer!

So come on then … take this chance on yourself.

Learn how to fit writing into your life.

If you do, then someday (2017 resolution, anyone?) you can know the joy of holding your first finished novel in your hands the same way I did.

 

Q&A with Julie Hyzy

MWW is delighted that popular, award-winning mystery author Julie Hyzy is returning to this year’s conference. Julie was last a featured MWW faculty member in 2012.

HyzyShe is a New York Times bestselling mystery author and winner of the Anthony, Barry, and Derringer awards. An incredibly busy writer, Julie produces a book a year for two cozy-mystery series — the White House Chef (featuring Olivia Paras) and Manor House (featuring Grace Wheaton) — both for Berkley Prime Crime.

During this year’s Part I, Thursday intensive sessions, Julie will share what she’s learned as a novelist. Her workshop is, “Your Novel and How to Write It.” Her Part II sessions are “The Voices in Your Head” on Friday afternoon and “Friends Indeed” on Saturday morning.

Julie makes her home with her family in Chicago. Visit www.juliehyzy.com for more information about her books.

This week, MWW committee member Janis Thornton caught up with Julie for a Q&A.

*  *  *

 MWW: What led you … or perhaps you were driven … to write cozy mysteries? When did you know you had found your niche?

 JH: Believe it or not, I never set out to write cozy mysteries. Although my first novel was a light romantic suspense, my next two (the start of my Alex St. James series) were a little edgier and my short stories have always been dark. But back in about 2006 or so, Marty Greenberg (then head of Tekno Books — now, sadly, deceased), asked me if I had any interest in writing a series involving the first female White House executive chef. Of course I was interested! Oddly enough, until he shared a couple of titles his team had dreamed up for the books, I didn’t know they were expecting a cozy. That definitely changed my approach.

Since then, I’ve come to embrace the genre and I truly enjoy writing Ollie’s adventures. In fact, I had so much fun with them that I created a series of my own with Grace and the Manor House gang. I do, however, hope to return to my darker roots (and I’m not talking about my hair <grin>) one of these days.

MWW: As you’re preparing to start a new book project, how much of the story do you plan, such as outlining, and how much of it is simply organic?

JH: I always have a plan of attack, but it’s never set in stone. I outline, but the actual method changes from book to book as I explore new techniques and adopt new habits. When I begin a new manuscript, I generally have most, if not all, of the key scenes jotted down. That said, if an unplanned character shows up and says “You need me,” or my protagonist tells me that she’d prefer to follow a different path, I listen. The final manuscript rarely matches the original outline.

MWW: One of the difficulties with writing a series is keeping the characters, situations, and mysteries from getting stale. You clearly don’t have that problem… so what advice do you give authors looking for ways to keep their series fresh?

JH: That’s so nice of you to say. Thank you! I have to give Ollie and Grace the credit here. They lead interesting lives and I simply follow along and write it down. That sounds like a non-answer, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth. I try very hard not to get in my characters’ way when I’m writing. I place them where they need to be, but then I let them take over. They constantly surprise me with ideas and actions I could never have imagined on my own.

MWW: Your stories are also realistic. For example, you obviously have spent a great deal of time in the White House kitchen <smile>. But seriously, how do approach the research for your books so the settings and situations seem so real?

JH: Again, thank you! I research like crazy. I read everything I can about the White House so that I can portray life there as realistically as possible. (Within reason, that is. In real life, they’re WAY more detailed than my characters are. But that could get boring for readers, so I pare it down.) When I’m writing for Grace, I refer back to photos and books I’ve collected from mansion-tourist museums in the U.S. Plus, I visit as many key locations as possible — as often as I can. In fact, I’m traveling to Quebec City later this year because I have some scenes in mind I’d like to set there (for an entirely new story). Although there’s a lot of information online about locations, there’s no substitute for actually visiting a place in person. How else to experience the sounds, the smells, the people?

MWW: What do you enjoy most about being a full-time writer? And what about it, if anything, continues to challenge you?

JH: I love the fact that I can make a living (albeit a small one) following my passion. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I really feel as though I’m living the dream. I enjoy being my own boss and setting my own schedule. Hilariously, that’s also what I struggle with most. Hitting deadlines on time, every time, takes discipline; and while I’m usually pretty good at sitting my butt in the chair and keeping my fingers on the keyboard, I’m also very easily distracted. Our youngest daughter, Biz, and I enjoy watching BBC dramas while we drink tea. Using our tea time together as a carrot (er, in this case, crumpet) often gets me to complete my daily word count.

MWW: What project are you working on currently?

JH: I’m writing the seventh book in my Grace (Manor House) series right now. The sixth book (Grace Cries Uncle) saw some major changes in Grace’s life so I’m using this one to kind of re-settle things before her world gets upended again in Book #8. I’m also jotting notes for something altogether new.

MWW: You are teaching a Part I intensive session called, “Your Novel and How to Write It.” What’s the best way for your participants to prepare for your class, and what is the best new writing tip you want them to take home?

JH: The best thing a participant can do is simple: be prepared for a fresh approach. I was impressed with the level of professionalism at MWW when I was there in 2012. These writers aren’t looking for someone to parrot old rules like “Write what you know,” or “Avoid talking heads.” They’ve been there, done that. We’ll definitely cover some basics (it’s impossible not to) but I hope to encourage these writers to dig deeper. No one has all the answers, of course, but I’m eager to share what’s worked for me.

MWW: Thank you, Julie!

REGISTER TODAY!