First, thank you everyone for following along and for the flurry of activity on this blog lately. It's been great to be able to do this on a (sort of) regular basis now.
Second, I wanted to talk about things you as writers might be interested in to keep that pen, or those fingers, moving during the summer. There are an assortment of writing-related activities that you can do during the summer, and I just want to touch on a few of them for those who might not be aware of them or who might be a little stuck.
I'm also going to go with a C theme here, since there are lots of C's in summer: cookouts, clambakes, camping, (World) Cups... you get the idea.
CHALLENGES AND CONTESTS
Yes, there are a bunch of writing contests going on, even during the summer. Contests are a great way to kick start your creativity. Many of them are themed, so they may force you to write something new or out of your comfort zone. Also, a little direction can keep you focused as you write.
Doing a search on Google will produce lots of results on writing contests. Here's one site I found when I searched recently that has a list of many contests you can get involved in:
When you are considering writing contests, always remember to go with the ones with no entry fee if you can. If you have to choose one with an entry fee, make sure the amount for the fee is a good proportion to what you'd win. I wouldn't be entering a writing contest if the entry fee is $50 and you're only going to win $100 maximum, for example. Also, prizes are nice to win, but you also want your story published. Look for contests that give you and your writing lots of exposure as well.
Maybe you want to work on something more challenging or ambitious during the summer. Most contests are focused on writing shorter stories, but you've always wanted to write a book. In that case, I'd look for novel writing month events, events that challenge you to write an entire novel in a month. The most common event is called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but that one is in November, which is a long way away. However, another that's affiliated with them is called Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a fun summer variation on the idea where you get to join up with other "campers", who will be your support team while you work on your novel during the month of July. (Wait, it IS July... go sign up NOW and get in on the fun!)
Most people don't like taking courses during the summer. I definitely get that. Who wants to sit in a hot, stuffy classroom all summer listening to instructors drone on and on while you fight off sleep and dream about lounging at the beach? But these days you don't even have to leave the comforts of your own house to take a writing course. You don't even need to get out of your PJs. There are plenty of online or correspondence writing course options available to you.
The two I've been involved with are the Gotham Writers Workshop and the Institute of Children's Literature (or the Long Ridge Writers' Group if you're a writer for adults). Both work very differently from each other, so it depends on what type of environment you're looking for.
If you're looking for more one-on-one instruction, then Institute of Children's Literature or Long Ridge Writers' Group courses may be more your style. You work on assignments at your own pace, submit them to your instructor, and the instructor returns the assignments to you with plenty of comments, suggestions, and helpful hints related to how you may be able to submit your work for publication. Most instructors correspond with you via email. You may also be able to receive continuing education credits for the course.
If you're looking for something a little closer to an actual classroom environment, then the Gotham Writers' Workshop courses might be better suited for you. Once a week, you log into a "virtual classroom", where the instructor will lecture and you can ask questions and get assistance. There are also other students taking the course at the same time as you. Your coursework not only involves you submitting your own writing for instructor critique, but you are required to critique the work of the other students taking the course with you. It functions very much like a critique group (which I'll get into momentarily), with the added bonus of having a writing professional overseeing everything and providing valuable insight. Again, as with the Institute of Children's Literature and Long Ridge Writers' Group, your courses may count as continuing education credits.
I don't know about you, but many times when I'm writing I feel like I'm working in a vacuum. It can be a very lonely profession. Plus, sometimes you just can't seem to find the resources or support you need to know how you're doing with your writing.
That's where critique groups come in. They're groups of people with one thing in common - they love to writing. They're your support group. Your cheerleaders. They can also knock you off your high horse with some much-needed realistic commentary on your work. For all these reasons, they are a valuable resource I feel no writer should be without.
Now that you have some free time during those lazy days of summer, maybe now is a good time to start looking around for a critique group. To get started looking for one, you can hit Google again and search for some. Your best bet is to narrow your search if possible. If you like to write only sci-fi and fantasy, look for a group that has similar interests. If you can't travel to participate in a critique group or you don't feel comfortable meeting people face-to-face, then maybe an online critique group is best for you.
In closing, I'll leave you with one more C word: CONTINUE.
Continue to write throughout the summer. Keep up your momentum. Writing during the summer can be a fun time, especially because it's a more relaxed time for most people. If you do find you're having a tough time keeping up with it, try some of my suggestions above. Enter some contests, take a course, or join a critique group.
Let me know what your plans are to keep writing this summer in the comments. I'll check back with everyone near the end of the summer to see if anyone's tried any of my suggestions. Feel free to write about those experiences as well.