Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

October 1, 2010

Are You Up For NaNoWriMo?

Filed under: Motivations,Resources,Writing — K. @ 10:55 pm

Who’s with me? I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which starts November 1st. Thirty days, 50k words. My fingers will be flying. I think it will be the breakthrough I need, to get out of my monkey mind which immediately criticizes every word I set down. No time for critiquing, just get it down and collect the prize (the right to post a NaNoWriMo Winner badge on your blog).

I don’t know what I’ll be writing. I might pull out an abandoned WIP and rewrite from scratch. Or maybe a brand new idea will pop into my head and I’ll go with that. Just need to go with something.

~~~ Kathie

more blogging here


September 9, 2010

Free: The Most Effective Word in Advertising

Filed under: Free Lance,Writing — Barb @ 6:14 am
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Are Your Resources limited?

Check out this blog to see the 252 Free Resources for Writers



August 6, 2010

Pitching With the Pros

Filed under: Critiques,Technique,Writing — K. @ 9:50 pm

Hi, I’m Kathie and this is my first blog post for Chrysalis. Glad to be here.

This weekend I’m attending my first Willamette Writers Conference. It’s right here in Portland so hard to pass up. I was fortunate to get a tip a couple of months ago (thanks Lisa!) about working as a volunteer and getting in for just the cost of meals. Yeah, I’ll miss a few workshops due to my volunteer assignments, but that’s better than deciding I can’t justify the whole price of admission and not going at all.

Thursday evening was the Open Pitch Practice, free to anyone who showed up. Literature pitches in two big rooms, screenplay pitches over in another area. I sat in on the lit pitches just to see how it all works. I don’t have anything nearly ready to pitch, just barely started, but it sounded like an interesting event and I thought I could pick up some tips from the agents.

The room I was in had three NYC agents on the panel: Paul Levine, Laurie McLean, and Gordon Warnock; and Kristin Sevick, an editor for Tor. Sometimes they all had similar comments on a particular pitch, but each brought their own flavor to the event. Each writer stood up as her name was called and went through the pitch. Then the agents reviewed the pitch itself: what was said, how it was said, what wasn’t said.

Here are my scribbled notes, to keep in mind the next time you find yourself standing around with an agent:

  1. State the title, the genre and word count first off, and say it’s complete. They don’t want to hear that you’re halfway through it or even that you’re making final edits.
  2. Don’t be tentative – have confidence in your work.
  3. Cite similar authors or similar novels.
  4. Don’t give too many details (character names, places, minor subplots) or the agent will get lost.
  5. Have your log line ready. What’s a log line? A simple one sentence summary of your whole novel. One of the agents explained it something like this: Take your synopsis and cut it in half. Take that and cut it in half. Keep doing that until you’re left with one sentence that explains it all. Here’s some info and examples.
  6. Develop various pitches and practice them all. You should have a log line, a 1-minute pitch, a 2-minute pitch and a 3-minute pitch.
  7. You can start with, “It the story of … “
  8. Hit the high points – Act 1, Act 2, Act 3
  9. Don’t read the pitch, and don’t recite from rote. Talk about it. Your pitch should tell about your project but not be a memorized speech.
  10. They know you’re nervous and excited and will excuse most of that, but you need to speak coherently enough so they can follow your plot.
  11. If it’s a memoir, it can’t just be your life story, if you want to sell it. It needs to have overarching themes that everyone can relate to.
  12. Know where your book would fit in the bookstore – where would it be shelved? This was asked repeatedly by one of the agents. “Where would I find your book? Tell me your genre.”
  13. For a first-time author of adult fiction, 80-100k words tops, for reasons of publishing economics. The publisher will want to keep the price point low for a new author. A long manuscript means the publishing would be too expensive and so they will have you cut your MS down a lot.
  14. Be agreeable – the agent is not only considering your work, but also *you.* Does the agent want to work with you?
  15. Don’t query until the work is ready to go – agents only want to see your best stuff, complete and polished.
  16. Tell the agent about your background and any writing/publishing credits you have. Especially if you’re writing a non-fiction book and you have a degree or career in that subject.
  17. If you have to explain your story too much, then it’s not right. Fix it.

Wow, that was a lot of info packed in the two-hour period, and it was really helpful to hear the pitches and then the agents’ responses. The agents were polite and respectful but also to the point, which is the only way to truly give good advice.

So my goal now is to have something to pitch next year. Better get started!

June 1, 2010

Will the Writer Sign Her Real Name?

By Ben Fredricson

I used a pen name on the very first piece I brought to Chrysalis to be critiqued.

“Why are you doing that?” one of the ladies asked.

“I just feel better writing under a pen name,” I said.

“We’ll help you get over that really quick,” she said.

I shrugged.  I hadn’t told her the truth.  No way.  The truth was too full of stars and fireworks.  But folks probably laughed, too,  when a ten-year-old Walt Disney told them he wanted to grow up and build a real fairytale.  Noooo, it was better to keep quiet.

You see, I just knew my words were so magnificent and overwhelming that I’d soon have to wear sunglasses to Fred Meyer because fans would bug me as I pinched peaches and filled my shopping cart with those expensive cocktail crackers and brie.

I wanted a pen name, so I could live my life in anonymity away from the paparazzi that plagued J.K. Rowling and me .

And then, I actually got a few lines published in the Oregonian.  It was a thrill to see my words in print for the first time. But…No one believed it was me. “That’s not your name,” one of the critique peers said.

“But it is me.  I used a pen name,” I tried to convince her.  She just looked at me as though I was off my meds.

So…should you use a pen name?

Well, if your name is  a real tongue-twister, you may want to try on a different moniker.

Or if you think it gives you better branding: Try Marketta Twain

Or if you’re published under hot & heavy  romance pulp and want to submit to children’s or Christian magazines, then you might consider a different name.

I soon learned the hard way that I wouldn’t have to worry about throngs of fans digging through my trash to find discarded drafts of my latest novel. I also learned how hard it was to build a portfolio of clips around my name if I kept changing it.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. There’s nothing wrong with using a pen name. Just make it clear to your editor which is your pen name and which is your real name.  I asked one of my editors if I could publish a newspaper article  under a pen.   I simply wanted some clips under that name in case I ever wanted to use it.   I had to have it approved by the managing editor and then it threw the payroll lady for a loop.  NOTE:  You may also have to explain to your bank why you’re trying to cash checks with your alias. You’re laughing again, aren’t you?

So go ahead.  Be Brit Goodwitch or Brandi Golucky, there are lots of reasons to pick a pen name…but I can assure you that fear of fame isn’t one of them.


Barb   a.k.a.  Angelina Jolly

January 19, 2010

The Tao of Creativity

I posted this on my personal blog about two weeks ago and had such great feedback from other writers that I thought I’d share it with the Chrysalis crowd.

From The Tao of Webfoot, January 7, 2010

As I peruse blogs and read other people’s books, I struggle daily with a list of shoulds. I should strike every “was” and adverb from my prose. I should add a bunch of controversial subject matter to my stories. I should enter every writing contest that I can. I should build a huge web presence. I should come up with some brilliant ploy to drive rush-hour volume traffic to my blog.

Or should I? Let’s face it—my voice wants to come out more conversational than literary. Edginess is not something that feels natural to my stories, and I don’t think my target audience would like it. I’m not a contest person; words don’t immediately drip from my fingers. In fact, for me, initial ideas are the hardest part of being creative. I am not a daily blogger. Marketing doesn’t come as naturally to me as breathing, the way it does for Shelli Johannes-Wells, and I haven’t been blindsided by any genius inspirations, like Casey McCormick’s Agent Spotlight.

I don’t think I can change these things. Not easily. And the fact is, I shouldn’t. While the writing process takes dedication and hard work, it should also be organic to who you are. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, the creativity will flow. The work won’t seem like work, because your passion and talent will carry you. All these people who I envy and admire aren’t finding their success because they’re trying to be something they’re not. They’re finding it because they’re following their true nature.

The philosophy of Taoism has a name for this: Wei wu wei, “doing without doing”. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, think of water, which is soft and weak, yet can wear away stone. A second concept goes hand in hand with this: P’u, the Uncarved Block. P’u, is a person’s natural state, their innate self, free of prejudices and misconceptions. The idea is that things are most perfect in this state. When you put these concepts together you come up with the following philosophy: By being true to ourselves, rather than striving to be something we’re not, things will come with less effort, and we will be happier.

The uncarved block

A lot of envy and self-doubt comes with writing. Not just for the un-published crowd, but for established, award-winning authors. These feelings are a fallacy. A time sink that robs our creativity and distracts us from our work.  We all have our unique strengths, and that’s how it should be. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your path by the glitter of someone else’s gifts. Your own are just as dazzling.

January 12, 2010

The First Step of a Novel: Get ‘Er Down

Filed under: Technique,Uncategorized,Writing — Barb @ 11:50 pm
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Welcome to the new writers who have joined our group.

A frequent question that has come up is: How should I start writing a novel? We’ll answer that question, but first, raise your hand and repeat after me:

My basic goal is to get the story down on paper.

Now for the different approaches:

Let ‘er Rip:

Sit down, tell the editor in your brain to shut up and write. Now is not the time to fuss over the intro hook, a cliff hanger for every scene, and punctuation. Simply tell your story. Yes, it probably isn’t Pulitzer worthy. Then edit it.  Go through it a couple of times, at least. You’ll find the beginning is usually weaker than the ending because you’ve become a better writer by the time you reached the end.  Edit the beginning several times.

You’ll want to make it the best you can before bringing it to critique. Why would you want folks to tell you things you already know how to do? Use the critique time to gain new insights and info into technique.

Let ‘er Flow(chart)

A story proceeds across my wall in sticky notes.  Different characters’ storylines are in colors, while the main story flows down the center. So, I know the plot, character development, and pacing before I start.  I also know how it begins, ends and where the turning point falls in between. Armed with this information, I’ll follow the Let-er-Rip technique and get the story on paper.  Miss editor-in-my-mind will come by later and make snarky comments.

Let ‘er Be Plotted

This includes not only a visual chart of the characters’ development and story events, but notecards.

*Character notecards (color coded) Contain description, fears, relationships, history, family, nicknames, etc.

*Chapter notecards: Goals for each chapter, Action within chapter; notes about foreshadowing;

YOu may even break chapters into scene notecards.

*Pacing Chart. The action of each chapter or scene can be graphed to give you  visual evidence that your story is not flat-lining.

This technique requires a lot more prep, but the benefit is that you’ll have developed your characters so throughly and the story so deeply that writing will go much more quickly (and usually the editing will too.)

When I first started, I just wanted to write. Phooey on all that planning stuff. There are some very accomplished writers who use this technique successfully.  For me, I  ended up editing the manuscript at least 15 times.  It could probably STILL use some work.

That’s okay. I’ve accomplished my basic goal. Little steps.

Get ‘er Down on Paper.

December 24, 2009

Chrysalis Holiday Party

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Nowak @ 8:19 am

Did you miss the festivities? Hurry on over to Rose’s blog. She posted a review and lots of great photos.

If you have  a holiday post on your blog let us know in the comments so we can come visit.

Happy holidays, everyone!


December 5, 2009

From the IN Box

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barb @ 9:11 pm

*****Congratulations to Roxie.  I read all the hook entries to a room full of Thanksgiving pre-guests without showing them the picture.  Many of the entries had votes and brought a lot of comments. Roxie’s hook had the most people wanting to keep reading and find out what happens next.

True, the results might have been different if I’d shown the picture, but like a book, I wanted the listeners to be influenced only by the words.

Thanks to everyone for playing, we’ll have more contests. So stay tuned.

By MykReeve

NanoWriMo is finished.

6 Chrysalis writers participated.

Here are some great thoughts from Ruth R. about the experience.

Once I set my mind to begin, the Nanowrimo discipline kicked in and I made a chose to write so many words a day until I completed. That was only a goal. As I met myself each day to write, discipline reinforced my attitude, attitude reinforced my discipline… and I was on a writing roll. Another plus of writing a story is that visiting there each day is like going on a vacation (an escape). I enjoyed going there each day to see what would happen, and reveled in the license I had as a writer to say and do what I wanted! (Sometimes a character told me different.

As I wrote I noted pieces I would revise.  In fact, my story was sandwiched between musings about starting nanawrimo and self analysis at the end. I have left it (anticlimatic) and will come back to it later. As for continuing writing I have set the goal of writing, revising, and accomplishing some stage of the writing process for poems and prose… each day.
I thank Chrysalis,again, for information about opportunities and encouragement.
Funny thing…after I hit 51,350 at 9:20PM on the 29th I decided NOT to send it to nanowrimo. I wrote my piece, set next steps and told my writing pals about it (I did it!)..what more did I need for gratification!
The cheering sound you hear, Ruth  comes from your fellow writers, applauding and saying, “Well done.”
Anyone else want to share their experience?

November 21, 2009

Winner Announced Next Chrysalis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barb @ 5:38 pm

Thanks everyone who posted.  We had some very clever hooks.

Some of you got hung up in the “pending file”, but you’re posted now and your entries are in the hopper.

Visit Chrysalis on Wednesday, (Thanksgiving Eve) to hear who the winner of the hook contest is.


You didn’t think I’d tell you, did you?  right now?  You knew I’d keep you on the HOOK.

Everyone had their humor and brilliance shining. It was fun and we’ll have more contests.

November 11, 2009

From the Beginning…

Filed under: Contests,Motivations,Technique,Writing — Barb @ 12:43 am
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Okay,  Put your thinking caps on.

Your job is to come up with a simple sentence. The beginning hook for a story. It must be based off the picture below. Funny, sad…whatever.

Post your one sentence hooks in the comments. Enter as often as you wish.

We’ll announce the winner in a couple of weeks. I’m not sure what the prize is yet, but you’ll have to come to Chrysalis to get it.

Have fun. Get Creative.

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