Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Interesting Topics as Guest Blogger

My first experience as a guest blogger at Polka Dot Banner (www.polkadotbanner) provided an interesting array of topics: beginning a story with a short flashback, ending a story narrated in first person, how to avoid the overuse of too many "she" pronouns, a "confessional" scene that needed to avoid overusing dialogue, and the overuse of the word "was" in a manuscript. This is also an amazing site for books and book authors. It was a pleasure to guest blog for the day.


Sunday, December 6, 2009


I'll be guest blogging at Polka Dot Banner on Tuesday, December 8. The topic is the FOREST FOR THE TREES SYNDROME--spotting common problems in a manuscript. I'll be open to questions on any aspect of writing fiction, from craft elements to techniques and devices. Also included would be better ways to self-edit (tips and tricks); discussing what constitutes "a good read" in any fictional story (knowing story structure); how to spot Freudian slips, repetitions, and other aspects that subliminally turn a reader--or editor--off (listening with your inner ear); the value of critique groups and one-on-one partnerships (taking control of the feedback you get); and online versus hard-copy feedback (giving feedback). Anyone can participate by going to (www.polkadotbanner.com) and clicking on the menu tab.

Successful November Online Course

The November 2009 online course "Cause & Effect Sequences" has ended. It was a great group of intermediate and advanced writers to work with. Yet, what surprised me, but perhaps shouldn't have, was how far away some of the students lived: Australia, Canada, Texas, Utah, and California. Living in rural Pennsylvania has it's merits, but the Internet opens doors to others like none other. I also have to say that what brightened my days after the course ended were the kudos sent to me after the class. Not only did this course receive outstanding high marks on the Pennwriters' evaluation forms, but I received individual thank-you e-mails. One student went so far as to say: "I am so glad I took your course . . . You are too good a secret to keep!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

A 2010 Workshop

I may be giving another workshop for Pennwriters in 2010 (no date set yet) on the topic of Bloopers & Blunders--what every writer needs to know before submitting to editors and agents.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Announcing a 2011 workshop for FF&P

January 2011 may seem a long way off, but I've been asked to do a month-long, online workshop for FF&P (Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal)--a chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). I'll be doing "Cause-Effect Sequences for Action Scenes." This is not the same comprehensive workshop I'm doing next month for Pennwriters (www.pennwriters.com). The one for the FF&P will be strictly about to look for and how to emply cause-effect to best advantage for action scenes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

November 2009-online workshop

Here are the details for my November online course:

CAUSE & EFFECT SEQUENCES: Intensive Online Writing Course

INSTRUCTOR: Catherine E. McLean
DATE: November 2-23, 2009 (4 weeks, 1 session per week)
COST: $30 Pennwriters members; $35 non-members

Interesting stories that grab a reader's attention and keep them turning pages don't happen by accident. Those stories employ techniques and devices of Cause & Effect Sequences that you can learn. This intensive online course will teach you how to use Cause & Effect Sequences to:

* Add urgency, suspense, conflict, and drama to your scenes and plots
* Seamlessly enter or depart flashbacks or remembrances
* Enhance the flow of your story with ease
* Suspend reader disbelief
* Validate motivations for character's behavior, thinking, reactions, and decisions
* Develop characters & validate motivations for their behavior, thinking, reactions, and decisions
* Produce cleaner, more marketable copy

Participants will be required to submit the first 500 words from the opening of one of their stories. Excerpts from your story will be privately critiqued by the instructor for use of Cause & Effect Sequences; however, with your permission, some may be used as examples for the group. There will be weekly assignments.

(NOTE: This course is for writers familiar with story structure, writing and story terms, and who have completed fictional short stories and novels.)

FREE bonus with this course: "Bloopers & Blunders"--a list of 46 common mistakes made in writing fiction.

Discover how to write engaging stories readers and publishers love.

Enroll Now. REGISTER: http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse200911
- OR -

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Guest Blogging at Polka Dot Banner

Just a quick announcement: I'll be guest blogging at the Polka Dot Banner (www.polkadotbanner.com) on December 8.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Announcing November Workshop

***ANNOUNCING***November 2, 2009 I'm giving a month-long online workshop for "Cause & Effect Sequences." The cost is $30 for Pennwriters members, $35 for non-members. For information and details, go to--http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse200911

Monday, August 10, 2009

Comment on comments

I received a couple comments to my blog entry on "Where did the time go?" regarding there didn't seem to be a place to reply or add comments to something I wrote. Well, I'm not a computer person. I assumed, and rightly so, that there was a way for folks to reply to something I said. Turns out it's that little word "comments" at the very end of my post. Clicking on it brings up a screen with a reply box. Of course, to post also means filling out that "membership" stuff if not already a member with Google. Whether or not I see those comments depends on time, which tends to flee me regularly--and being regular at checking posts or posting to my blog is, well, hit or miss despite my best intentions. Actually, I'd rather write novels and short stories than blog--and currently I'm drafting a 100,000 sci-fi, so time for it trumps blogging.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August and fair time

How do I know summer is waning? Because it's fair time. I've been competing for ribbons and prize money at my local fair' s home show for 24 years. That's a long time as evidenced by the collection of ribbons hanging on my sewing room wall like a trophy pelt. Some years there are lots of projects that get entered and others, like this year, that I have very few to enter. Sometimes there are rare surprises--like winning a grand championship of a division. My first fair ribbons were as a 4-Her in a sewing club. As an adult, I competed in open divisions with my sewing. Then I branched out into crafts, floral, and finally baking. I'm a cook--baking isn't easy. This year I entered my cranberry-almond scones, bacon-biscuits, and chocolate chip cookies--and all three took first place ribbons! Writing is like baking, you start simple and work up to complex recipes (more complex stories). Publishing is like entering a fair with a "project"--there's competition, the judging is subjective, and you may not end up with a ribbon even if you have tried your very best. But you learn by doing, by baking (or writing) and striving to, as the 4-H motto says, "to make the best better."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where did the time go?

When I checked my blog tonight, I realized the last posting was in March. I sat back in my task chair, staring at the computer screen asking myself, "where did the time go?" Okay, April was my first online course for writers ("The Project Bible"). I spent the days in front of my computer turning a workshop speech into understandable text, sometimes for eight to ten hours a day. It was an exhausting experience but rewarding helping 27 writers understand how to create a guide that would enable them to produce better stories in less time. Then it was May and 14 hectic days preparing for the Pennwriters' conference in Pittsburgh PA, where I gave a workshop, "The Character Onion." Some 45 people crowded into the room to get the nitty-gritty on characterization. June had family obligations, planting flowers, volunteering to tend the Walker's Garden at nearby Lake Wilhem, and 4-H meetings (I have a cooking 4-H club). At our last baking session, I ended up with an egg facial and a watermelon bath :)) Now I'm making preparations to go on vacation. Which means, I won't be sending out the June edition for the Writers Cheat Sheet "Sampler." Hmm. Looks like my time has been well spent so I think I shall relax and enjoy my holiday. After all, I've got a full summer schedule ahead!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fear of pushing buttons

It's 12 days until my first online course for writers, "The Project Bible," starts. So, I decide to test that feature on my Web site, the one where I can send an e-mail to those who signed onto the site. I found the "form," wrote my e-mail, moved the cursor to the "send" button, and paused, finger on hold as, flashing before my eyes were all the times I hit the button and glitches sprang up. The warning menues. The bleeps-- and -- anxiety squeezed my throat with a death grip. How can a person like me allow me, who began computing with a Commodore 64, be cowed by a modern computer? Easy. Fear of the unknown. Does it every time. Okay, add to that the fact that my computer guru, who has the answer to just about everything when it comes to websites, is on vacation until mid-April. If something does go haywire, I've got no help to fix it.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I took a deep breath and with a trembling index finger hit the send button.

Nothing happened. No warnings. No bleeps. Then the words scrolled into view: "Email sent."

Whew! I can breathe again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Honored Again

To my surprize, I have again been honored by being selected for the Pennwriters Meritorius Service Award. The first time I was selected was in 2008. Of course there are three other candidates with impressive records of service to the organization. But, as I said last year, win or lose, it truly is an honor to be considered for this award.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Project Bible Online Course

I am excited to announce that I will be giving my very first online course for writers, "The Project Bible," hosted by Pennwriters Inc.

What is a Project Bible? It is an individualized and customized guide for developing and creating short stories, novellas, and novels from start to finish, regardless of genre. It allows a writer to be more creative, generate cleaner copy, and stay on track to consistently complete marketable fiction. It does not require outlining or following a method or system. Having and using a Project Bible means:

* no more false starts
* no more going off on tangents
* no more losing control of the plot
* no more dead-ending half way through the project
* no more mistakes or confusion that result in endless revisions and rewrites

This eight-session course is based on the workshop I have done at writers' conferences. The course runs April 1 through April 29, 2009 and the cost is $25 for Pennwriters members and $30 for non-members. As an added bonus, those taking the course receive three FREE "Cheat Sheets."

Details of the course and how to sign up for it can be found at:

Catherine McLean

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Online Courses for 2009

I'm giving the following online courses in 2009:

April 1 through 29 - "The Project Bible" Creating a unique-to-the-writer reference and resources to enhance creativity and provide essential information for generating any type of fiction (short story, novella, novels--even creative nonfiction).

September 2009 "Cause & Effect Sequences" deals with action and motivational sequences needed to keep the plot flowing and the story believable for the reader.

Both are hosted by Pennwriters and open to the public (there is a reduced fee for Pennwriters members). To register go to www.pennwriters.com, choose "Courses" then choose "online courses."

Friday, February 13, 2009

It was supposed to work--yeah, right

I have just spent another long day tinkering with, experimenting with, and cussing out the Edit This Forum at my Web site. It took me a while (like months) to realize that no one could reply to them and that something was amiss. I love my computer but I sure don't understand Web sites, particularly my own. So, I contact my computer guru. I get instructions, which are simple. However, they make no sense because I have to change a yes to a no to get the desired results. And since I don't trust technology, I only opened four of the forums to replies to test what happens. And what do I discover? Why that three of those four forums now have both a padlock and a people icon on them. The fourth has only the people icon. What does that mean? I have no clue. ARGH!!!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


January has been nothing but snow, snow, snow, ice, snow, rain, freezing rain, slushy snow, ice, sleet, show, snow, and more snow. If that isn't bad enough, the month is ending with me down with the flu. I hate being sick. Punxsutawney Phil--you had better see your shadow!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pennwriters Workshop

I'll be giving a workshop for writers, "The Character Onion," at this year's May 15-17 Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh PA. More information on the conference is available at www.pennwriters.com