December R&R Session Offers Extraordinary Resources

By Steve Oetting

Rants and Ramblings is a wonderful forum in which writers can acquire advice from other writers on all kinds of questions. Our recent session on December 7 was a perfect example of the types of questions that are posed by participants and the plethora of suggestions and answers that are offered by the rest of the group. Our R&R groups always include some beginning writers (such as myself) and some more experienced writers so that the exchange of information is both bountiful and valuable.

Here are the topics discussed at our recent meeting:

Question: How did you learn to write?  

  • YouTube videos and podcasts were recommended for learning writing techniques:
  • Another suggestion was to use a plotting tool to assist with timelines, plot progression and character development. Two specific recommendations included:
    • Plottr can help you outline and organize your story. This plotting service come with an annual subscription fee but there is a free one-month trial period provided for you to decide if it serves your purposes.
    • Scrivener was described as a popular tool for assisting writers.
  • For assistance with writing issues such as grammar, sentence structure, and even the expression of your ideas, Pro Writing Aid was suggested. This site offers special events such as Crime Writers’ Week (last year it was April 24 to 27) and Fantasy Writers’ Week (February 17 to March 2 last year). On Boxing Day they have a half-price lifetime membership. You can find it here: . They also offer a Facebook site where they advertise their free online workshops, which you can find here: .
  • Workshops were also recommended as a way of improving your writing. Two workshops MWG presented in the past were Den Valdron’s World Building and Creating Compelling Characters, and we are hopeful we can convince him to present them both again. One site that offers a free online self-guided writing course is The Writers of the Future. You can find it here:
  • One other writing aid that was suggested after the R&R session was free online courses. Reedsy offers a bucket-list of free online courses, you can find it here:

Question: What process do you use to write?

  • The Snowflake Method for Writing website was recommended for learning how to organize your writing and create your story, you can find it here:
  • Assigning a specific period during the day was also suggested as a way to provide continuity to your writing schedule. The Writer’s Hour was recommended where numerous writers connect via Zoom for one hour to write and encourage others to write, with four sessions offered each day. You can find it here:

Question: Where do you get ideas for writing?

  • Several ideas were presented on how you can acquire new ideas for stories. Dreams and even daydreams can often provide an unexpected concept. What is important is to write them down so you can consider them for development later. One participant suggested keeping a notebook of new ideas with coloured tabs to separate the various genres to which they apply.
  • It was suggested that if you are into science fiction, fantasy or horror, the Critters Writers Workshop permits writers to critique other writers’ materials in exchange for a critique of their own work, providing invaluable ways to improve your writing. You can find it here:
  • Horror writing came up and the Colorado chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association was recommended where you can see other writers’ examples of horror stories. This site has free online zoom panels and events that do not always require being a member. Content warning: It’s horror, so discussions can take a dark and morbid turn. You can find it here:

Question: Where do you prefer to write? 

  • Some participants preferred just to write at home in front of their computer, but others suggested finding an environment that was conducive to eliciting the mood and content of your story. For someone that is into writing horror stories, writing outside or in the dark might be helpful. Others just liked to use their writing as an excuse to get out of the house, perhaps to a restaurant or a coffee shop, assuming you can afford the refills.
  • One participant recommended trying a writing retreat, such as the Falcon Trails Resort where an annual writing retreat for women is offered called “Wild Writing in the Boreal”. You can find it here:
  • It was also suggested that background music can help to motivate you in your specific writing genre. 
    • Ambience music websites were recommended for setting the mood for writing, including thunderstorms, seasides and even pirate music. 
    • Spotify was suggested as a website that is free where you can search for various playlists using phrases such as “ambient mood for writing dark fiction”, “writing mood music” or “movie soundtracks”. You can search for almost anything and the offering of playlists is endless. You can even design your own playlists on Spotify, including adding in ambient sound effects. Spotify also offers podcasts and audiobooks. You can find Spotify here:

Here are a few playlists that were suggested, including a pirate ambient playlist that one participant thought was quite humorous:

Steve Oetting, Beginning Writer and Recent Member of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

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