August 2017 Newsletter

From the HSW President

Happy August,

Well, unfortunately, August is the month that New York editors and agents go on vacation and the publishing industry takes a deep breath and rests. If you have a place in the Hamptons, you might run into them, but barring that, it’s best to hunker down, polish your manuscript, and get ready for the post-Labor Day return to business.

Last month, I started a blog dedicated to providing writers with information about editing, publishing, and links to articles that I find informative for the writing craft. Just go to my web site ( and click on the top menu item that says, BLOG ME. I post something every few days, so check back often.

At our last meeting, one of our members asked me how I carve out time to write. The member was having difficulty because of other priorities that had recently come up.

I don’t know an easy answer for how to get time to write. I’m a bad example because I go against the widely held idea that you need to write every day. The member who raised this question, I’m sure, feels guilty not to be writing every day. Personally, I don’t think feeling guilty about this is productive.

I DON’T WRITE EVERY DAY. Sometimes I don’t write anything for a month. I see no point in sitting in front of a keyboard and trying to pull something out of my head until I have something to commit to the page. Instead I use tiny unplanned moments to load the imagination gun.Imagination at work

What are these tiny unplanned moments? Let’s say I’m driving. Instead of listening to the radio, I think about a character or several characters and let them start talking. Yes, I talk to myself while driving. People used to think I was nuts, but now because of speaker phones, I blend right in. Still crazy after all these years, but not as noticeably so.

What do these characters say? I might be thinking about a scene and have several directions in which I can take it. I’ll have the characters talk it out. If I don’t like the direction, I’ll stop, reboot, and try a different approach. This conversation may last the ten minutes it takes me to get to Costco, or the five it takes to get to the bank. This doesn’t require hours of work. But it may span several days with me using numerous tiny moments to work out the scene.

All writing isn’t in front of a keyboard or behind a pen. Thinking is writing. If I spend several days thinking about a scene or a story arc, my brain is organizing. Isn’t that what writing is? Organizing events into a logical order to tell a story? When I finally do get in front of that keyboard, my imagination gun is loaded and when it fires, I’ll blast out 1,000, or 2,000, or maybe 5,000 words in a day. And this might go on for several days.

When our kids were little, I found it best to write at night after everyone else went to bed. Find what works for you. And stop feeling guilty. Guilt makes humans NOT want to do something because we naturally avoid the cause of guilt.

Maybe that’s what writer’s block is. Too much guilt about something we really should be enjoying more.



At the next HSW Meeting, our program will be:Agent Jen Hunt from the Booker Albert Agency

When do you know your manuscript is ready for the next big step? How can you tell if it sounds like a newbie wrote it?

Please join agent Jen Hunt for a discussion and Q&A on what can be some of a novelist’s biggest worries. She’ll share her professional insight on determining when it’s time to stop editing and move on to start the query process or on to self-publishing if that’s your path. She’ll also point out mistakes she sees that writers make that scream, “hey, I’m a newbie!”

Saturday, August 12th at 10 A.M. at the South Valleys Library (15650 Wedge Pkwy, Reno, NV 89511)

As time allows, first pages brought to the meeting will also be read. If you’d like to participate in this month’s first pages critique with Jen and Matt,  please send them in advance to 
About Jen Hunt:
Jen Hunt graduated from the University of Reno, Nevada with an English Literature degree and a minor in European history. She became a literary agent at the Booker Albert Agency in 2015 where she reps: Historical (Nothing post the 1940s), Science Fiction/Space Opera, Military Sci-Fi *Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Steampunk/Gaslight/Diesel-punk/Cyberpunk. In all these genres, she likes a hint of romance. Her first sale, Not Quite Snow White, by Ashley Franklin, will be published by Harper Collins Children’s in 2018.
Critique Group Happenings
Do you write short stories?  Do you write non-fiction?  We have a growing need for new critique groups for both categories, in addition to a few people waiting for full novel groups. So if you’re waiting for a good time to jump  in and join a group – now is it!  Contact Wrangler Nicole ( to get hooked up with the perfect group for you. 
Dennis Stoddard has been in touch with the Veterans Home in Las Vegas and the Veterans Hospital Guest House in Reno, both of which have libraries of a sort. Dennis is taking book donations on their behalf.
Please bring book donations to the August meeting. These can be books you’ve written as well as books you’ve read.

Writing and Editing Tools

By Rene Averett
I often read and edit for other writers and the problems I see often are that many writers just don’t know how to spell, use proper grammar, or good sentence structure. What surprises me most is that they also don’t know what tools are built into their word processor or available on the internet to help correct these errors before they send their work to a beta reader or an editor. Some of these programs are valuable aids to improve writing. Most focus on clarity and business writing where extraneous words are in the way of communicating the information. Nonetheless, they can be very helpful to the creative writer in looking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

I’ve listed a few of the ones available on the web for you to consider. This list comes from the NY Book Editors website. You can view the full list and information about each by clicking here. I’ve listed the ones I find most appealing and I use two of them on a regular basis.


          Analysis screen of the first chapter of my book shows the paragraph lengths
and slow-paced paragraphs as a chart.

This is a subscription service costing almost $30 per month to use but it is designed specifically for Fiction Writers.  (When the NY Book Editors article was written, the author quoted $5, which would have been a bargain, but this higher price tag makes it harder for struggling writers to afford.) With the focus on pacing and momentum, dialogue, word choice, repetition, and strong writing, it can be a valuable tool worth the cost. It also finds instances of passive voice, adverbs, clichés, and filler words. Designed to help you tighten up your story, it makes strong suggestions for change, but the option to accept is always up to you. Just from what I saw, this looks like it might have a pretty steep learning curve.


Same chapter analyzed in editMinion. This shows the number of times I used certain words
and helps me to see where I have problems. Plus it also shows a graph of sentence length.

A FREE, easy to use, and quick tool, this program gives you a comprehensive overview. It shows the most often used words, average sentence length, and the longest sentence by words. It also highlights adverbs, weak words, passive phrases, and clichés. While it may not be the best editor on their list, it does a good job of isolating grammar errors and it is free.


               A typical information box from Grammarly to help you decide correct
               use of the word.
I use this program all the time. It is a comprehensive grammar, spelling, and punctuation checker. It makes suggestions for changes and displays the rules behind the suggested change. The program isolates hundreds of error types that are missed by word processors. It also offers synonym suggestions to improve your writing. The free version is available on line and you can also purchase a more robust version. The features in that include over 400 checks and features to improve your writing, plus 30 specific document types. You can purchase monthly or at a big discount on an annual payment.
Grammarly offers a downloadable app for Chrome, Office, and Windows that works with your word processor program, email, or other online writing programs as you are typing. For my purposes, I use the free one. Given that it is a general editor, I believe some of the advanced errors it finds might relate more to business writing than creative writing.


Another program I use, this one addresses readability. Based on the concept that Hemingway wrote to a sixth-grade reading level, the application analyzes your writing and provides statistics on reading time, the number of paragraphs, and the word count. Using color coding in your text, it highlights problem areas, such as passive voice, adverbs, and difficulty to read. While I enjoy the analysis, I do find it contradictory when it tells me I write at grade 4 level but my sentences are too long and complex. For the other features in it, I think it is a useful program. You can use it online or pay $19.99 to download the desktop application.

Left: A sample of Hemmingway’s analysis of the chapter.

Word Processor Tools

Don’t forget your word processor has a built-in spell checker and grammar checker. Turn it on when you’re writing. If you misspell a word or make a grammatical error, the program will put a red line under it. Right click on your mouse and it will display spelling or grammar options for what it thinks you are trying to type. With WORD, this is a reasonably good, but not as robust as some of the editing programs offered on line.

Are you at a loss for alternate words? Chances are your word processing program has a thesaurus in it. Highlight the word you want to replace and click on the thesaurus and a list of additional words will display. If you’re not quite sure if the word you want to select has the same meaning, then look it up in a dictionary. Many are online. Not all synonyms have the same definition.

Analyze the Corrections

With all programs, you need to be able to evaluate the suggested changes and make them based on how the word or phrase is used. No program is able to analyze the context of your sentence, but it will suggest a change based on the words around what it perceives as an error. If you write a complex sentence, it may be grammatically correct, but the program cannot necessarily find the subject, verb, and attached modifiers accurately. That is where you need to apply your brain and analyze the sentence. If you can’t identify it either, you may need to revise it.
Are you writing your short story?

Don’t forget the High Sierra Writers Short Story contest submission date is coming up in November. If you haven’t got it plotted or a draft written, now is the time to really get on it. If you need a refresher on the details, go to the HSW web site at

Layouts and edits for the HSW Newsletter are done by Rene Averett. All written content is the property of the authors and HSW. Graphics licensed from Graphics Factory or are public domain.
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July 2017 Newsletter

From the HSW President:

Traditional Publishing Versus Self-Publishing

Since I’ve done both, Donna suggested I talk about the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. A lot depends on your resources, both physical and financial, your stamina, and why you want to get published in the first place.

Traditional starts with an agent…

Traditional publishing requires that you first get an agent. Small publishers don’t require agents, but they don’t pay much of an advance, if any. From my own experience, I’ll cut through a lot of discussion and say that you should be prepared to spend a year finding a good agent. You should be prepared to send out at least 100 queries. You need to screen agent directories and lists to weed out those who would not be interested in your work. For instance, don’t send an adult mystery query to an agent who is looking for young adult urban fantasy.
You also don’t want to send out all your queries at once. Send out maybe ten over a week or two and give a little time for responses. You might get a personalized comment that alerts you to something you should change in your query letter, your blurb, or the book itself.
Even if you sign with an agent, it’s no guarantee the agent can sell your work. I had a manuscript that a topnotch agent “loved.” After 18 months of her beating up over 36 editors, she couldn’t sell it.

Plan B… self-publishing

You spent a year looking for an agent (and you spent that year polishing your manuscript, maybe getting professional editing) and you just can’t go on. You’re not going to live forever, so you decide to self-publish.
        I describe traditional publishing as pushing one very big boulder up a mountain. Once you get there, you get an advance, your book will get exposure and support, and it will appear in bookstores nationwide. I describe self-publishing as herding cats up that same mountain. One big effort vs. a jillion smaller efforts.

In self-publishing you have to do everything a publisher does.
You write the book, design the layout and the typeface, design and produce cover art, put it on Amazon, then mount a sales campaign that includes social media, blogging, guerrilla marketing; you name it. Anything that costs money comes out of your pocket, not the Big-Daddy publishing house. You can pay people to do all of the above, but prepare to spend thousands or tens of thousands.
Is your book an eBook only or do you want to launch a paperback?
You can save money by setting up print-on-demand instead of buying boxes of books from a printer and having that money tied up in your garage. Also, if you find typos or decide to make minor changes to the book that’s posted on Amazon, you can go back into the cover and text and make the changes and re-upload the book.
        If you hire a printer to produce hard copies, you’ll have to live with those mistakes until your next printing. Then you’ll also have new set-up fees because the book has changed. Also, expect to print a minimum of 500 books or it’s not worth it. So, until they’re gone, your typos live on.
Tired yet?

The benefit of self-publishing
…particularly with Amazon, is they give you many tools to prepare your book. They have excellent cover design software which works unless you want something complex or exotic. For a super-customized cover, you’ll need to hire a graphics designer; prepare to pay anywhere from $200 on up. You can proofread every page of the formatted book online to check for spacing errors, blank pages, etc. Plus, you can get a 70% royalty on Amazon vs. a traditional publisher’s royalty of maybe 15%.
Marketing via both has common points
The big issue becomes how many books can you sell? If a traditional publisher gives you a $50,000 advance, it doesn’t matter if you only sell 5 books. The money’s in your pocket (though good luck trying to get them to publish a second book). However, publishers today expect their authors to market themselves, to show an effort to make a book successful.
        If you self-publish, yes, you can get 70% royalty, but 70% of zero is zero. You have to work for every sale and success won’t be overnight. If you actually want to make money on a book, you have no choice: you must attack as many marketing venues as you can handle. That means a killer web site, Facebook, Twitter, and others, plus getting the word out to alumni organizations, clubs, or other professional groups. It means blogging and guesting on blogs. It means Google ads. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you will have to spend a lot of time. Are you up for it?
        Referring above to what I said about traditional publishers, they expect you to do all the same: blogging, Facebook, website, Twitter, etc.
        One strategy you might employ is to set a timeframe within which you’ll bust ass sending queries to agents. At the end of that period, if you don’t sign with an agent, you self-publish.
        A lot of would-be authors have dreams of quitting their day jobs and writing in their PJs until noon. Unless you become a mega-hit, it just ain’t so, whether you go traditional or self-publish.

Bottom line: Whether you intend to publish traditionally or self-publish, you’ll have to do the same amount of work. In the former, you swing for the fence, spend a lot of time biting your nails, and pray you get the big break. In reality, the odds against it are about 50,000 to 1.
        In self-publishing, you get the instant gratification of having your book “out there” much sooner.

What are your goals?

Are you writing a book just to be able to tell family and friends you did it or do you want a serious writing career? Are you looking for big bucks? Is this a hobby or what you want to do to make a living? How much time do you have? How can you squeeze writing into your daily life and, more importantly, how will you squeeze at least as much time for marketing as for writing?
Only you know what you want and what you can handle. If the distance between the two is large, prepare for pain. I measure pain as the difference between what we want and what we have. Accomplishing anything in life is measured by how much pain we’re willing to endure to achieve it.

Happy summer!
Matt Bayan

At our last meeting, I asked how many of you used a pre-set playlist for writing; I can’t tell you how shocked I was when only one person raised their hand.

Allow me to introduce the writer’s playlist concept to all of you-
A playlist is a grouping of songs you’ve handpicked and stored on a phone, iPod, Pandora, etc. These songs mentally set the mood for the book you’re writing.

Writers don’t sit down and type out 80,000 words in one sitting, we have a life to live at the same time, ripping us from our mental zone each and every time. But listening to our playlist can dump us right back into a scene after the dinner dishes are washed.

Music evokes emotion- joy, excitement, sadness, triumph, love, regret… And emotion drives dialogue. A song can represent a portrait of a character or give you a mental image of a setting in your book instantly. Some big authors say they’re able to avoid most writer’s block, keep motivated, and jump back on scene with the help of a carefully planned out playlist playing softly (or not so softly) in the background of their writing space.

Think how dull a movie would be without a soundtrack, now imagine your story is a movie, what would the soundtrack be for each scene? Find songs that speak to you and tap into the emotions that song conjures up for you. It may take a while to produce a good working playlist of 10-20 songs, so start a small list on a piece of paper. Once you prime the pump with 3 or 4 songs that speak to you, the rest will come.

Try it, you’ll thank me for it.

Donna Stegman

September 9 HSW Meeting Program

Building Your Characters from the Ground Up 

Join Harlequin authors, Anna J. Steward and Melinda Curtis, on September 9th for an all-day workshop which will help you to flesh out fresh, dynamic, and realistic characters. Doors open at 10 a.m. and Anna will take the morning session for an archaeological dig into discovering what your character wants and why. As always, the morning meeting is free and open to the public. After lunch, at 1:30 p.m., Melinda will delve deeper into your character’s flaws and wounds.
     This afternoon session will cost $10 for HSW members and $15 for non-members.


USA Today and Amazon Bestselling Author, Melinda Curtis is the award-winning author of contemporary romance that spans the sexy scale – from sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming to sweet romantic comedy. To date, she’s published more than 30 novels and novellas, stories that NY Times bestselling author Jayne Anne Krentz calls “wonderfully entertaining.” Visit her online at

Since selling her first novella, A Christmas Wish, to Harlequin Heartwarming in 2014, former Golden Heart finalist and USA Today bestselling author Anna J Stewart has published more than a dozen contemporary romance novels and novellas ranging from sweet to spicy. RT Book reviews says Anna’s romances are “refreshingly unique, quietly humorous, and profoundly moving.” You can find her online at

Bring your dish to share. We will split into groups and play “Literary PIctionary”. The meeting is Saturday, July 8 at the South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway from 10 a.m. to noon. See you there!

Have you plotted your short story yet?


A reminder that you now have 5 months and 10 days to November 11th and the deadline to enter the HSW Short Story Writing Contest. Don’t remember the details? Didn’t get a handout at the last meeting? All the information is in the June HSW newsletter or you can scope it out on the High Sierra Writers blog.

If you’re like me, you might have three possible ideas and no plot outlined yet. It may be only 3000 to 4000 words, but they have to be good, meet the criteria set for the story, and be completely original. Those words don’t write themselves, so get to work. And use your critique groups to help you with this.

Here’s a little tip from me: Create a cover for your story that helps you visualize your theme and characters. I do it for my novels and I look at it every time I start to write. I usually move it into my screen background so it’s there when I turn my computer on. The folks at NaNoWriMo say that authors who have created a cover for their books and short stories are more likely to finish them.

Coincidentally, Camp NaNoWriMo starts July 1st and it’s not too late to sign up for it if you’d like to set your short story project for July. Check it out at

Rene Averett

Congratulations to these High Sierra Writers who recently published books:

FindingHomeCoverPatti Dotti published her book, Finding Home. Now available in eBook and paperback on







TimeJumperCoverMatthew Bayan released his latest novel, a time travel tale, Time Jumper. It’s available n Kindle and paperback on






BrokenTrustCoverLinda A. Hill is releasing the first book in her Silicon Valley Secrets series, Broken Trust, and it is available at






From your Treasurer, aka “Off Shore”.
Please remember we take cash…
I mean, please send in your 2017 dues.

Note: Now that we have reached the middle of the year, HSW dues for the balance of the year are reduced to $12.50.

Jay Leavitt

Critique Group Happenings

Are you in need of a group of fellow writers who are willing to read and critique your writing? Are you willing to do the same for them? Then you need to be in a critique group! Contact Nicole for more information on how to connect with one.


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June 2017 Newsletter

From the President

Happy June! I can’t attend the June meeting, but I’d like to share recent experiences that relate to this month’s topic.

Kindle Scout

You can go to their website for all the details, but essentially this is Amazon’s toe in the water to see if they can bypass agents and publishers and buy content directly from writers. It’s an experiment in crowd-sourcing. People vote on whether a book should be published. If published, the author gets a $1500 advance, 50% commission, and most importantly, Amazon’s marketing muscle.

So, here’s what I experienced. I filled out a questionnaire, then uploaded a complete manuscript titled, TIME JUMPER, along with a complete cover. It took Kindle a couple days to decide that the book was acceptable to put on their site.

How they screen manuscripts is the first mystery in a series of mysteries. I seriously doubt they read the submissions. I suspect they run the manuscript through software to check for profanity because one of the items in the questionnaire was whether the book was acceptable to younger readers.

30-Day Campaign

Then the book started a 30-day campaign where it was featured on the Kindle Scout website. Here’s where a well-written blurb is important because that’s what appears along with the cover of the book and a short tag-line. People who visit the page can hit a button to “nominate” the book for publication.

Kindle provides daily reports showing how many people visit the book’s page and where they come from (Facebook, websites, etc.). One drawback is that you have to wait until the next day to see the previous day’s results. The data is general and really doesn’t give much in the way of knowing what your efforts are yielding.

The site is broken into major categories: romance, mystery, fantasy, etc. Each day, two or three books are added in each category. You get a good pop in visitors on the first and second day because the listings are chronological. When someone looks at the postings, they automatically see today’s releases first. Each day, your posting drops further down and requires more digging to be seen by visitors.

The book gets another big pop on the last couple days because it’s featured in the category, “Ending Soon.” The rest of the time, the writer is responsible for using social networking to drive readers to the book’s page. Each hour, the books getting the most traffic appear in the category, “Hot and Trending.

It’s essential to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to get traffic to a book.

How Are Books Chosen?

How does Kindle choose what books to publish? More mystery. I researched other writers who have and have not been published by Kindle Scout. One fellow’s book stayed in Hot and Trending every single day, in all days well over 12 hours, and in many days for 24 hours. His book was not selected.

My own perusal of other entries showed a wide variation of quality. My guess is that crowd-sourcing winnows down to the most popular entries, then somebody actually reads the entries.

What were my results? Kindle did not select TIME JUMPER. I posted numerous times to social media. (I have over 1,934 Twitter followers and over 600 friends on Facebook.) Did I see any correlation between postings and results? Only once. My biggest day followed a massive Facebook and Twitter campaign. I also paid for Google AdWords and I paid for Facebook boosts of postings. Other days, I saw no correlation between my efforts and the limited result information Kindle provided. Being in the category of Ending Soon seemed to show better results than almost anything else.

After the campaign, I immediately loaded TIME JUMPER to Amazon as a Kindle book and a paperback. I notified Kindle Scout and they sent out an email to all the people who nominated my book. This free marketing is a very beneficial feature of participating in Kindle Scout. For the next couple weeks, TIME JUMPER sold well on Amazon.

 Is This Worthwhile?

It doesn’t cost anything to participate. If you have a good online social presence, take a shot. But don’t invest a lot of money in marketing because even if you get traffic to your book, the selection process after that point is a mystery. I’ll discuss this further at the July meeting and answer your questions.
Have a great June meeting,



High Sierra Writers is proud to announce the 2017 writing contest. Our chosen format this year is Short Story.  After much consideration, we thought this would allow more members to participate.

You may submit a maximum of 2 entries and the cost is $10.00 per entry. HSW is providing $100 seed money to start the pot, and ALL entry monies collected will be added to the pot. So, the more entries, the larger the pot will grow!

There will only be one winner and that winner will receive the entire cash pot!

June Meeting Program


A killer blurb convinces readers to buy your book, editors to read your book, and agents to buy into you.

Please join Donna Stegman for a discussion, workshop and Q&A on Blurbs and Social Media. This is an expanded version of the regular monthly blurb session.

Saturday, June 10th at 10 A.M. at the South Valleys Library
15650 Wedge Pkwy Reno, NV 89511

Donna will give tips and do a Q&A on how to condense your manuscript into a powerful blurb for your book cover and query letter. She will also give you examples to condense into blurbs. And be forewarned; we will have a pop quiz at the end with the winner receiving a prize!

Come prepared with your own blurb to work on in breakout groups.


The last half hour of our June meeting, will be dedicated to the importance of Social Media. It’s a new world for publishing and, like it or not, you just got promoted to head publicist. Let’s learn the trade with tips and a flowchart.

Donna will provide a handout and do a Q&A session, so come with your questions.

Elections are Coming!!

Mark your calendar…July 1st is the beginning of election season for HSW board members. If you want to serve, or have any questions about the process, please email HSW secretary, Linda Enos at

Critique Group Happenings

No matter what genre you write in, or where in the process of writing/editing you are, you need your work critiqued!  And we’ve got just the thing you need – critique groups!  Whether you’re looking to join or start a new group, give Critique Group Wrangler Nicole a shout and get plugged in. New groups, both on-going and finished novel groups are starting regularly.

On Saturday, July 8th, HSW will host a potluck luncheon in lieu of a regular meeting. The time and place are the same, so no need to stress about going anywhere different.

  • If your last name starts with A-L, please bring a salad of your choosing – remember a serving utensil.
  • If your last name starts with M-Z, please bring a dessert of your choosing – remember a serving utensil.

HSW will provide:  deli sandwiches, plates, cups, eating utensils, ice and garage bags for cleanup.

Also bring your own beverage to drink – NO alcohol.

Please RSVP to secretary, Linda Enos, no later than June 30th. You can also contact Linda with any questions.

 Oh…and the HSW may even entertain you with a game or two… 😉

A Few Conventions and Conferences For 2017

Some are smaller, more intimate affairs, offering up workshops with opportunity for some face time. Some are huge cons that allow you to see the publishing world roll out all their tricks.
But if you’re a serious writer, I recommend you attend at least one for perspective on the business end of writing.

In no specific order-
BOUCHER CON– World Mystery Convention Oct 12-15th, 2017 – Toronto, Ontario
This is HUGE and has everything any mystery/thriller writer could ever ask for. * This convention moves around every year, I believe it’s scheduled to be in Sacramento Ca. in 2020.

DRAGON CON– Multi Genre Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Convention Sep 1-4th, 2017- Atlanta Ga.
This con is massive, too. Only Comic-Con can beats its numbers. Don’t forget your costume for the parade.

RWA CONFERENCE– July 26-29th, 2017 – Orlando Fl.
Romance Writers of America is the Holy Grail for romance and HEA writers. This con moves also; in 2020, it’s scheduled for San Francisco.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WRITERS’ CON– Sep 22-24th, 2017 – Irvine Ca.
This is more a workshop/educational conference, but agents abound. A great place for one-on-one advice.

Next HSW Meeting is Saturday, June 10, 2017 at the South Valley Library.
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HSW 2017 Writers Contest Poker Pot Style-Winner Takes All

High Sierra Writers is proud to announce, the 2017 writing contest. Our chosen format this year is Short Story.  After much consideration, we thought this would allow more members to participate.

You may submit a maximum of 2 entries and the cost is $10.00 per entry. HSW is providing $100 seed money to start the pot, and ALL entry monies collected will be added to the pot. So, the more entries, the larger the pot will grow!

The Rules-

  1. Your story must be 3,000-4,000 words. (Not one word under 3,000, not one word over 4,000)
  2. All work must be original, no fan fiction.
  3. This contest is only open to paid members.
  4. Entries must be turned in at the November 11th
  5. A winner will be announced, and money awarded, at the December meeting.
  6. Your story must contain-
  7. A romantic element
  8. A fight scene
  9. A plot twist
  10. And my favorite, the 1st sentence of your story must be dialogue.
  11. Your story must have a cover page with-Name, title, genre and contact info.

There will only be one winner and that winner will receive the entire cash pot!

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HSW May Newsletter

From the HSW President 

Howdy, Members,

This month’s focus will be on Dialogue: what’s good and what’s bad. We’ll have hands-on working sessions followed by analysis of the dialogue we write in the sessions. Since our recent survey showed your #1 interest is craft, we’ll be focusing more on that this month and in the future. You’ll have more breakout sessions to develop skills in the areas we discuss each month.

At May’s meeting, we’ll also have a regular First Pages session, so bring in your first pages.

If anyone has blurbs, bring those in as well. Donna will have time to provide feedback.

See you there,

Election Time is Coming!!


On July 1st, the Election Committee will receive written requests for nominations for board positions. Any member can serve on the board, so if you’re interested, or if you have any questions about the process, please contact our secretary, Linda Enos…

New and Improved HSW Contest for 2017!!


Unlike the past contests, this one will have a cash prize! It’s also a short story contest. Donna Stegman will have a handout at the May meeting with all the exciting details.

 Good news for those waiting in the wings to jump into a critique group – there’s more of you now! Which means we’re DANGEROUSLY (oh, no, an evil adverb!) close to having enough to start another group or two. Specifically, if I had, say, one more person with a full novel, ready for a finish group, we could do that right away! Let me know if you’d like to join this group – you just read a novel a month, critique, move on to someone else’s novel. It’s that easy. Still working on your masterpiece? Great! Join one of our weekly or monthly groups and get that puppy moving along and polished! I have a few different genre writers hoping to step in to such a group, but we need a few more to make them happen. So shoot me an email at, or come see me, Nicole, at our next meeting, and let’s get you set up!

Upcoming Monthly Meeting Topics

June 10th – Donna Stegman will lead an in-depth mini-workshop on writing blurbs.
July 8th  – or thereabout – The board is considering hosting a potluck picnic at a city park in lieu of a monthly meeting. Please contact Linda Enos (if you haven’t already) about your thoughts/opinions on this topic… More details to follow!
August 12th – TBA

Next Meeting – Saturday, May 13 at 10:00 am – South Valleys Library on Wedge Parkway

Say What?

“If we pull our characters up from inside of us instead of approaching them from the outside, writing dialogue becomes an organic process.” Gloria Kempton, Dialogue, ©2004Well-written dialogue is often the key to a great story. It can engage the reader, reveal conflict, and move your story forward, or perhaps move it in a different direction. Here are a few tips for building a good conversation between your characters:

  1. Get out of the way and let your characters talk. Try jotting down the conversation – just the talking part – as quickly as it comes into your head. Don’t edit it too much at this point.
  2. Add the setup and setting. Where’s this conversation taking place? What are your characters doing during it? Concentrate on hands and props; on your characters’ facial expressions and body language; use movements and actions to begin showing the emotion.
  3. Check your dialogue tags. Don’t use tags like *said* and *asked* unless it’s absolutely necessary. Show who’s talking through the use of movement/ action or a character’s introspection.
  4. Check for continuity. Read through your dialogue – out loud – to catch any discrepancies. Do you have them picking up something but not putting it back down? Did they sit or stand – twice?
  5. Last but not least, punch up the emotion. Make sure to clarify your character’s motivations and reactions. Why did he say that and how did it make her feel? Some introspection is good (and necessary) but avoid telling the reader how your characters feel.

Terry McLaughlin, Layering in Dialogue, Emerald City Writers’ Conference. ©2006

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