The 39th Annual Writers Week

Writers Week is the longest-running, free literary event in California and regularly attracts seasoned authors and those just beginning their careers.

Venue: CHASS Interdisciplinary Building, South

Admission: Free and open to the public.

Parking: Complimentary permits available at the Kiosk.

Information: (951) 827-3245, performingarts@ucr.edu  | www.creativewriting.ucr.edu

Schedule

Feb 2 Tuesday
10:00 am Opening Keynote: Cory Doctorow
Poetry, curated by Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of the United States
12:30 pm Alumni Reading:
David Campos
Angela Peñaredondo
Kenji Liu
2:00-3:30 pm Brenda Cárdenas
Matt Lippmann
Harmony Holiday
4:00-5:30 pm Amy Uyematsu
Willie Perdomo
Gabrielle Calvocoressi
5:30-7:00 pm Reception
7:00-8:30 pm Li-Young Lee
Barbara Jane Reyes
Juan Felipe Herrera

Feb 3
Wednesday
10:00 am Workshop: Dinah Lenney
12:30 pm Stephen Minot Reading: Dinah Lenney
1:30 pm Colin Dickey
2:30 pm Carolina De Robertis
3:30 pm Darryl Pinckney
5:00 pm Daniel José Older
7:30 pm Keynote: Walter Mosley

Feb 4
Thursday
12:30 pm Stephanie Hammer
1:30 pm Piotr Florczyk
2:30 pm Karolina Waclawiak
3:30 pm Parnaz Foroutan
4:30 pm Viet Thanh Nguyen
6:30 pm Lifetime Achievement Award: John Rechy
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LitLandia Out Loud

Feb. Inlandia 1

Inlandia’s quarterly reading series of emerging and established authors brings you two outstanding poets followed by an open mic.

Sunday February 7, 2016

Canyon Crest Winery 5225 Canyon Crest Drive Suite 7A Riverside, CA 92507

The event is free and open to the public but there is a one-drink minimum (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) Light snacks will be provided. Book sales & signing to follow the reading.

Conversations at the Culver

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Bringing authors and readers together, join the Inlandia Institute every other month as we present an acclaimed author in an intimate reading & conversation.

January 29, 2016 7pm-8:30

UCR Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts

3634 Main St. Riverside, CA 92501

Admission is Free

How to Hack your Writing Method

Own your Writing Style

A writer writes, but how do you conceive an idea and make it come to life? Do you daydream for hours on end and develop scenes in your head before you ever write a word, or do you sit in front of your computer and wait for inspiration to strike?

Your writing can get carried away. By spending to much time plotting and outlining, you might find it hard to gather all of the information into one compelling narrative. On the other hand if you’re a pantser you might end up with a narrative that dances around beautifully sculpted details, convoluted to the point you lose track of the story arc.

In this article we will discuss how to keep track of creative ideas. We will cover how to organize ideas into a well scripted piece of writing. That way a story can be written effectively that readers will enjoy effortlessly.

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Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

If you are a pantser then and you sit down at the computer each day, waiting to be surprised, writing your book literally by the seat of your pants. If you are a plotter then you craft detailed outlines before you put pen to page. Whatever style you write you should have a vague idea of where the story is headed before you begin.

For more information visit Cindi Myers Article: Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds

Stephen King claims that his story ideas come form a “what if” question. What if a classic car hunts people down? (Christine) What if a man on death row has a gift to heal the sick? (The Green Mile) What if an outcast teenage girl develops telepathic powers during puberty and burns down her high school?(Carrie) Stephen King answers these questions by typing out a narrative scene by scene. He claims it is like digging for dinosaur bones. The story is there. He simply finds it and digs it up. Stephen King is a pantser style writer.

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For more information about Stephen King and his advice on writing I highly recommend his book: Amazon: Stephen King, On Writing

Avoid the Premise Novel

A lot of pantsers and first time novelists fall into the habit of writing a premise novel. A premise novel is a story built around an idea. Premise novels typically have no solid protagonist, no narrative drive, and no personal stakes. These stories are usually told from multiple points of view because the writer wants to show all aspects of the idea. The stakes feel high but none of the characters have anything at stake.

For more information visit Janice Hardy’s article: Look! It’s an Idea Going form Premise to Plot

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The Snowflake Method:

Fiction by Design

Whether you consider yourself a pantser or a plotter, it is a good idea to sit down and plan a few things in the beginning. If you don’t get somewhat of a grasp on your theme you might end up spending 500 or more hours on a rambling first draft. One method that seems to work well is the snowflake method.

This method is useful and necessary if you are writing a mystery or a historical narrative so you can keep your plot points accurate.

Step 1) Write a one sentence summary of your story. This is also good to remember for when you are sending out agent or publishing queries.

Step 2) Expand your sentence to a full paragraph that includes story setup, major conflicts, and the ending.

Step 3) Write a one page summary sheet about each of your characters. Include: names, one sentence summary of character’s storyline, the character’s motivation, the character’s goals, the character’s conflict, the character’s epiphany. After you do this for each character expand the one sentence summary or your character into a paragraph summary?

Step 4) Expand each sentence in your summary paragraph into a paragraph unto itself.

Step 5) Write a one page description about each major character and a half page description about each minor character.

Step 6) Expand your story synopsis. If you wrote one page then expand it to four.

Step 7) Expand your character descriptions into fully realized character charts.

Step 8) Make a list or a spread sheet of all the scenes you’ll need to turn into a novel.

Step 9) Take each line of the scene list and expand it into a paragraph summary.

Step 10) Start the first draft.

For more information visit: The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson

Outlining and Brainstorming Tools

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Scrivener: a writing program designed for novelists and screenwriters. I use Scrivener software to help me outline and keep track of character notes and research. Learn more about Scrivener from my previous Scrivener Editorial

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Evernote: an organization tool for all aspects of your life. It is good for jotting down a plot point if you are in the supermarket. You can save voice messages, pictures, webpages and many types of information and organize it however you want using notebooks. I have lists of books to read, quotes, jokes, research topics and much more.

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Trello: a multi-tasking project managing platform. I use Trello to keep my unwritten story lines organized for when I do get around to writing them. With moveable cards it is easy to shift scenes and notes around to organize what you have written and what you need to work on.

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bubbl.us: a simple free brainstorming website you can use in your browser to let ideas branch out and take shape.

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xmind.net: another free website for more comprehensive brainstorming. (There is a premium package that comes with more tools for presentation and export capabilities). New features with xmind include an option to save to Evernote.

Conclusion

In conclusion, you should have a vague idea of the story’s theme and be able to write a one sentence summary of your story before you write a word of your first draft.

Find a method that works for you. Hone your skills and develop your own unique process so it comes natural. I am reminded of an inspirational message I once heard: amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

Use tools to help you organize your thoughts and develop your ideas into a working cohesive artfully crafted piece of writing. This will save time and headaches.

Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a little of both? Does your method work for you? Would you be willing to try a different method and test yourself to develop your creative process?

Try it out and see. That is why it is called the writing process.

Oh, I Remember Now! How to use Flashbacks

Flashbacks Done Right

Flashbacks can play pivotal roles in any story, whether it be fiction, nonfiction or a script. So what is flashback in a story? Some folks confuse it with backstory, but the time constraints of a flashback don’t allow us to share too many details. They just allow us to reveal tidbits.

A flashback is a sudden, brief relocation to a previous time and then, just as suddenly, a return to the present story. Flashbacks can hint at backstories, but they aren’t backstories themselves.

Flashbacks are quick. Backstories, because they drag in the baggage of a character or a situation, are longer.

Backstory refers to the characters’ history and other story elements that underlie the situation at the start of the book. Backstory helps to establish the setting and makes the reader care about what happens to the characters.

But be careful: Backstory by definition takes the story backward. Whether you employ flashbacks, character musings and recollections, or passages of exposition to reveal what came before, every instance of backstory stops the novel’s forward momentum, and risks leaving the story dead in the water.

Backstory, when layered effectively, can be a good way to establish setting and provide description. Diverting the readers’ attention away from the here and now allows you to focus on times and places that give deeper insight into a character or a situation.

Do time travel right. A flashback should follow a strong scene. This means that the flashback is never the first scene. It’s not even the second scene following a brief, sketchy, introductory “scene”

Orient us at the start of the flashback in time and space.

Conventions have evolved about using verb tenses to signal both the start and end of flashbacks. “Now we’ve moved back in time” and “Now we’ve left the flashback to rejoin story time,” is the best way to keep your reader from flashback confusion.

Use verb tense conventions to guide your reader in and out of the flashback.

If the story is being told in the past tense, then write the first few verbs of the flashback in the past perfect and the rest in simple past.

If you tell the story-time events in the past tense you’d say “he came back,” “he knew,” “he scanned.” To signal the start of the flashback, you can put the first few verbs in past perfect like “had done,” “had dressed,” “had bought,” “had come. After that tell the rest of the flashback in past tense (“eyes were shut,” “they passed,” etc.). The reason for this is that an entire flashback in past perfect would be cumbersome, especially if it’s very long. When you’re ready to end the flashback, revert to past perfect for the last few verbs. Then use past tense to resume story time.

Framing the Story

A “frame story,” which may be any length from a few thousand words to a long novel, is one which begins after all the action is over. Someone, announces that he is going to tell a story. He may even give the entire outcome of the story ahead of time.

Romeo and Juliet: Prologue

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Consider this structure carefully before using it for a story. Is there an interesting contrast between a young narrator and their later self? Interesting enough to sacrifice having your reader feel she is experiencing the story as it happens, instead of being told about it after it’s over? If so, try a frame. If not, save your flashbacks for use in the body of the work

Flashbacks Done Wrong

Flashbacks offer many pitfalls. This is because even the best-written flashback carries a built-in disadvantage: It is, by definition, already over. The scene you are detailing in your flashback isn’t happening in story time. It happened sometime earlier, and so we are being given old information. Like old bread, old information is never as fresh or tasty as new bread. The flashback lacks immediacy.

But offsetting this inherent disadvantage are the several advantages a good flashback can bring to a story. It can make plausible a character’s motives, by showing what events in his past compel him to act the way he is now. It can fill in events that show how the story situation reached the exciting state it’s in now. And it can present crucial information that happened so long ago,—years, or even decades, earlier—that there is simply no other way to include it.

Too much, too soon: the line between flashbacks and backstory in the opening pages

Including backstory in the opening pages is the same as saying to the reader, “Wait a minute—hold on. Before I tell you the story, first there’s something about these characters and this situation that you need to know.”

Timing is everything

Managing backstory in a novel is a matter of control. If backstory in a novel’s opening pages is a problem, why do you need to include it? You might not realize that as you begin your novel, you’re not actually writing the story—not yet. Those early pages might look like a novel, but they’re really prep work.

Writing backstory might feel like storytelling, but it isn’t. It’s regurgitating facts, or dolling up aspects of world-building and plugging in what that you already know, in the hopes that it will entertain and enlighten the reader but instead it might have the opposite effect. Less is more. Backstory is like creating a ‘connect-the-dots’ picture—you just need the dots. The reader will draw the lines.”

Ask: does the reader really need to know this fact about the character? Or is this detail something that you find interesting, but isn’t crucial to the story? Will the story fall apart if you withhold this information?

A good opening sets the scene, introduces the characters, and sets the story in motion. What it never does is answer the question, “Why?” Why the characters behave and think as they do, and how they came to this point in the opening are questions that will be answered throughout the book.

If you’ve inadvertently loaded the beginning of your novel with backstory, cut it from the beginning and weave it into the narrative. Fight those backstory battles and use flashbacks like a dash of salt and pepper for flavor— not a dicey chopped onion.

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Contents of this article were pulled directly from some of the best writers advice columns to be found at http://www.writersdigest.com/. If you would like to read the articles in their entirety please follow the links and enjoy.

How to Weave Backstory Into Your Novel Seamlessly, by Brian Klems of, The Writers Dig

3 Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks, by Nancy Kress

Mistake 24: Misusing Flashbacks and Memories, by Scott Francis

Also, special thanks to dearphotograph.com for the beautiful pictures featured in this article.