Learn how to master your genre!


Have you asked yourself any of these questions?

“How do I know my manuscript/script/poem/short fiction is done?”

“Is my manuscript ready to be sent to agents?”

“Why haven’t I heard back from the places I queried?”

“Why am I receiving all of these rejections?

If you have, then join Laurie Scheer for a week-long study of how to improve your writing AND your material at the Write By The Lake retreat June 13-17 in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin.  Laurie will be holding a seminar on how to prep your work so it’s exactly where you want it to be—whether you’re beginning a new project, you’re in the middle of writing, or near finishing your work, even if you’ve been receiving rejection after rejection—you can use this course of study to assure your future success. Here’s a link to the syllabus and more information: http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/conferences/write-by-the-lake/sessions-speakers.html

 Learn how to master your genre—seats are limited so sign up now! We hope to see you at the lake this summer!


Angeline Haen sells her nonfiction book!


Selling a book is a great way to follow up attendance at our annual writer’s retreat and that’s just what Angeline Haen did. The Wisconsin author sold her creative nonfiction anthology book, Sweet Wisdoms, to Shanti Arts this spring, publication date to be announced.

Angeline participated in the creative nonfiction book section led by Julie Tallard Johnson at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in June 2014. There’s still time to register for this year’s retreat and get your book ready for publication.

Are your first 10 pages ready for an agent?


Are your first 10 pages ready for an agent or other reader? Here are 10 Tips from Christine DeSmet

I help a lot of writers fix their opening pages. I witness many writers revise and then go on to feeling great about their progress, or they secure agent representation, do well in a contest, or publish and get reviewed well.

These pointers for the first 10 pages might help you move forward faster, too.

  1. Avoid opening with clichés such as a weather report, a character waking in the morning, dialogue from an unknown character, or a flowery description. Avoid having characters fall asleep or black out at the ends of scenes. (Yes, famous writers do this stuff. Yes, there are exceptions. And yup, you can do this in the middle of your book, but please don’t do it in the opening 10 or even first 50 pages. Just don’t, okay?)
  1. Start with TENSION or a PROBLEM at any level that helps us recognize we’re in for a ride. On Line 1. That means Line 1!
  1. Protagonists should worry. What are they worried about from Line 1 onward? Put worry into their thoughts, dialogue, actions and reactions.
  1. Good 3-part scene design saves a writer’s butt every time; it raises your novel/screenplay to the next level in an instant. Start a character in the middle of trouble with a scene GOAL, then have them immediately face obstacles and conflict, and then leave us with some form of cliffhanger (surprise or shock or new decision). Keep the character on track. No meandering.
  1. If often helps a new writer to have the character EXPRESS the scene goal in either his/her thoughts or in dialogue on page 1, such as: He needed to get…what? And by when? Or what consequences might happen?
  1. Create real action. New writers too often allow characters to descend into tiny body actions: coughing, breathing/breath references, sighing, nodding, turning, sipping, sitting/standing up and down. —Ach! Stop that lame stuff! Find real action. (You may need to learn more about their plot, hobbies, skills.)
  1. Stop the constant smiles, smiling, half-smiling, chuckling, laughing, and giggling of dialogue. Stories are about trouble. Work toward a special moment pages later when that smile will startle or reward both the character and the reader.
  1. Go over your punctuation. Punctuation help is a very good reason to get a critique from a pro. Editors and agents expect correct punctuation. They will forgive a couple of small mistakes, but not several within those 10 pages.
  1. Vagueness is not artful. Is the action clear? Is the information clear? Do we know where we are? Should we get the characters full name sooner? Age sooner? It’s okay to tuck in a phrase or even a sentence that explains the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of things. Readers don’t find that clunky. If readers aren’t grounded, they can’t engage in your story.
  1. Get rid of clutter. That includes “telling” words such as “noticed, heard, saw, glanced, watched, looked, turned, walked slowly.” Get rid of unnecessary adverbs. Do a search for “ly”; what do you find? Also get rid of the substitutes for “said” at least 90 percent of the time. Stop the dialogue with a period. Use action before or after the dialogue to signal who’s talking. Keep the action and dialogue belonging to the same character in their own paragraph.

I hope those tips help speed you onward to good results in the coming months!

Christine DeSmet is a short story writer, novel series author, screenwriter, teacher, and writing coach at UW-Madison Continuing Studies. She recently met with writers in advanced critique meetings at the annual Writers’ Institute held in Madison, Wis. Christine will be leading a new advanced critique lab in Fall 2016. She is the director of the June 13-17 Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. Christine can be emailed at christine.desmet@wisc.edu.