Thursday, January 29, 2015

Better Late Than Never

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I know that there will be days like this. Such is life. At least I remembered before tomorrow morning right?

The discussion I have had lately with several writer friends is one of burn out. Often times disguised as writers block. Honestly I wish I had a magical cure and no one ever needed to suffer from this horrible disease. Because it is horrible.

That said. There are treatments. I will list some that work for me.

Change your location. Tired of the table? Move to the couch or sit at the window.
Change your mode of writing. Use a pen and paper, change the font, change the color, dictate.
Work on a different project.
Take a walk, play at the park, go for a drive do something besides staring at that blastid cursor.
Listen to music, change the type of music, watch a movie, read a book.
Call a friend, go to lunch, get ice cream, talk about book or talk about everything but book.
Last but not least. Open the manuscript and commit yourself to write ten words. That's all. Just ten words. maybe just maybe it'll turn into twenty, and twenty will turn into forty. You get my drift.

We all have those days, whether its just block, burn out or complete meltdown. There's always something that can help.

Write away!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Art & Business - J. Scott Savage


Today's post courtesy of J. Scott Savage, author of the Farworld Series.

When most authors started writing, they didn't have dollar signs floating around in their heads. Sure there are a few people who start writing because they want to make a living from it, but most of them realize pretty quickly that starting a novel is not a replacement for a day job. Usually you start writing because there is a story in your head that needs to get out. The process of taking what is in your brain and capturing it on paper is much harder than you imagine it to be, but so incredibly fulfilling when it comes together.

That’s art. It’s hard, frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting, and a total blast.

Then something odd happens. You don’t mean any harm, but one day you figure you should probably understand a little bit about the business side of things. You read about agents, editors, queries, traditional vs indie, sales numbers, rankings, marketing plans, platforms. It’s kind of exciting to imagine a big advance, people lining up to buy your books, a launch party, foreign rights, movie rights. You don’t realize it, but you have just started down a very dangerous path.

Don’t get me wrong. All that stuff is cool. You need to know about it if you want to do anything in the book publishing world. And frankly, it’s impossible not to learn about it if you attend any writing conference or read writing blogs. It’s the business side of the publishing business.

The problem is that at some point, a little switch clicks in your brain. That switch connects the art and joy of writing with the business side of selling books, and if you’re not careful you start to think that your value as a writer is tied to the success of your book’s sales numbers. You begin to think that if you haven’t signed a big contract, you’re not a “real” writer. You think that if your indie or traditionally published book doesn't sell as well as you’d hoped, that it’s your fault. You equate sales with quality.

STOP. RIGHT NOW. THIS VERY MINUTE.

I’m serious. You. Must. Keep. Art. And. Business. Separate.

Here’s the thing. Some of the most brilliant writers I know have sold a boat-load of books. That’s true. And they absolutely deserve all the success they have. But . . . some of the most brilliant writers I know have not sold a lot of books, or any books. That does not diminish them or their writing in any way. It does not make their brilliant art any less brilliant. But that is so incredibly hard to see when you are in the middle of it.

Trust me, I know from first-hand experience. There is nothing more devastating than having a book you love not sell. Rejections hurt like poisoned daggers. And there is no guarantee you will get over it. You think when you finish a book, you will be on cloud 9 forever. You think if only you can sign with an agent, you will never be depressed. When you sell a book to a publisher you think you have finally made it. There’s always some award, some number, some milestone that will finally get rid of the stress for good.

But here is a truth that every author has to live with. For every success, there are at least ten failures. Every time you reach a mountain peak, you discover there is a valley on the other side. No matter how much you accomplish, you will never completely stop doubting yourself.

Wait, come back. Don’t run away. Take your thumb out of your mouth and come out of the corner. That’s the bad news. And yes, it is bad. But there is good news too. You know how I said that every time you reach a mountain top there is a valley on the other side? Well every time you find yourself in the middle of the deepest darkest valley, you don’t realize that in reality, you are almost to the top of another peak. You just don’t know it, yet, because you have your business hat pulled down so low over your eyes that you can’t see clearly.

Remember back when you were writing for the fun of it? Remember when you used to laugh at the funny things you wrote and cry over the sad things? Remember when someone got completely lost in one of your stories and told you how they loved one of your characters. Remember the art?
That’s who you are: an artist. You aren't a book salesperson or a marketing guru or an accountant. (Okay, maybe you actually are, but stay with me.) Great artists create art because it is a part of them. 

I used to have people come up to me at signings and say, “I don’t know how you people come up with stories like these.” I always thought they were just saying that to compliment me. Who couldn't come up with stories? Don’t they float around in everyone’s head like goldfish in a bowl?

As it turns out, no they don’t. Most people can’t see worlds and characters the way you do. They don’t have conversations with imaginary friends and laugh at dialogue they made up. Most people will never write a book, and whether you sell a million copies or no copies, you have accomplished an amazing thing.

So how do you keep the numbers from destroying the creativity? Go get yourself two hats. Whatever kind you want: baseball caps, derbies, fedoras, top hats. Grab a couple of sticky labels and designate one hat ART and the other hat BUSINESS. When you sit down to write, the art hat goes on. You aren't allowed to think about whether this book will sell or how your last book did. You can’t look up your Amazon rating or check for responses to your latest queries. You can’t worry that what you are writing isn't what agent X or publisher Y is looking for. You sit your butt in your chair and you write the most amazing book you know how. You remind yourself that you are freaking incredible. You make yourself laugh and cry, and even breathe funny when you get to an exciting part. You write what you love, because you love to write.

Then, when, and only when, you are done writing for the day, you can put on your business hat. That’s when you can check your sales numbers, send out queries, check your blog stats, look at your bank account. Stress away to your heart’s content. It’s okay, because you are wearing your business hat. The business person is allowed to crunch numbers, because they aren't going to get their spirit crushed by low sales. They are going to open spreadsheets, brainstorm marketing ideas, concoct ways to hit the best seller lists. The person in the business hat tells the artist, “Don’t worry about numbers. I've got this covered. You just keep making great art.” And any time the artist looks like he or she might be edging toward putting on the business hat, the businessperson smacks the artist’s hand away and yells, “No touchy!”


I know I've kind of made light of this, but it is a real problem. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have lost the will to write because of something that has nothing to do with writing. They get so caught up in this elusive thing called “success” that they completely psych themselves out. Don’t do that. Remember how much you love writing and why you love it. The numbers may or may not come, but you never need to stop making great art.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreaming of Walden



replica of the inside of Thoreau's cabin
By Keith N Fisher

As a writer, you should know what Walden is, or was. In one source I read, the property on the pond was part of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s estate. Henry David Thoreau was a struggling writer who hadn’t really found his voice. In my source, Emerson, a transcendentalist, took Thoreau under his wing and suggested he go camping on the property.

Thoreau built a cabin on the shores and wrote his popular book, Walden. He said,
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Those were the days before computers, and the Internet. Writers put their words on paper with a pen or pencil. Typesetters put those words into print. It was a time when telephones were an oddity. Yet Thoreau needed to get away. He needed a writer’s retreat. Of course he went on to become one of the great trancendentalists and he wrote about nature, so going to the woods was research for him.

Today, writers live in the rat race. A lot of research is done with Google and Wikipedia. Most of us write on a computer and we never leave the wheel in our cages. Some of us have discovered writer’s retreats. Along with conferences, the event is used to network with other writers, but a good retreat will also provide an opportunity to do nothing but write. It’s a chance to get off the wheel, and out of our cages for a while.

Thoreau opted for solitude. Perhaps it was the right idea, since there is a lot to be said for being alone. He got away from the distractions we all face. Some of us, however, need to fraternize. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it both ways?

I’m not talking about coal oil lamps and outhouses, but to get away from phones and the Internet, to let nature recharge you, and get some writing done. Can you imagine twenty minutes under the shade of tall trees, writing or listening to a successful writer expound the finer points of the craft?

In our little daydream, we could take a walk in nature to clear the cobwebs for inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, Writer’s conferences, and retreats with WIFI have their place, but think of the benefits of getting away.

When I become rich and famous, (a state that becomes more abstract with each passing year). When I am rich and famous, I want a place in the woods like the one I found at icetrend. The pictures below show the perfect writing place. Can you imagine the screened porch as a glassed in area with a writing desk in the center? Set the cabin on the banks of a deep blue lake, or a tropical beach, and you understand my dream.

Now, I realize, nobody is fancy free. Not really anyway. Our lives are interconnected with others who depend on us. We must remain available to them. May I suggest a retreat in a campground somewhere? We could camp or rent a cabin. WIFI and phone service would be available. Hot showers and even a Dutch oven meal or two. It would be cheaper than other retreats. Are you in?

Recently, I asked this question in several places on Facebook and got a few responses. I took names, preferences, and needs. I’m considering campgrounds and looking into sponsoring an event like this. I will ask a few special guests to come and make brief presentations it should be wonderful.

I’ll keep you in the loop, but plan on summer.

Until then, good luck with your writing—see you next week.


    

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The use of the Senses

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I was proof reading a short novelette type book about setting, description and voice for a friend yesterday, and she mentioned something that I think most of us authors take for granted in our own writing.

The senses.

We are a nation of TV watchers. and when watching TV we are limited to mostly the visual experience. We tend to forget the other senses because of this. Pretty much every beginning writer sticks to an almost exclusive visual experience in their stories. While seeing things isn't forbidden, it lessens the readers experience and makes the characters and scenes flat.

Using the five senses broadens the realm of our characters experience, and deepens the resonance between the reader and the story.

Why?

The sense of smell is more powerful in bringing up memories than any of the other senses. What do you think of when you smell the scent of sugar cookies? Baking for Christmas? Or charcoal briquettes? A summertime barbecue?  Did you know that tasting sugar has a similar effect on your brain as taking a hit of cocaine? How can you use that in deepening your character? Don't forget hearing an touch as well.  Touch also includes how a character reacts to temperature and the physical effects such as a shudder or goose bumps.

Do yourself a favor, whether you are a beginning writer or a seasoned author. Take the time to go through your stories and do a five senses sweep in your editing process. I promise you that it will make your writing better.

Enjoy those cookies

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

AND THE WINNER IS.....

The winner of last week's comments drawing is:

KAREN JONES GOWEN!!

Congratulations!
You have won a copy of The Complete Novel Plotting Workbook

Please email your mailing address to Weston ( westonelliott.wendword *at* gmail *dot* com) to claim your prize!


WRITING PROMPT WEDNESDAY


Write a scene that begins with the line, "I have no regrets…"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Deplorable Word



Several years ago I went to college. I didn't get the chance to go as a young adult. My father passed away when I was 18, and I went to work to help support my mother. So, when my husband went back to school a few years ago to finish his degree, I went with him.

I lasted for one semester.

Not because I wasn't willing to work, or because it was too hard. I quit because my grown-up self who grew up in the most liberal place in the country, couldn't hack sitting in class with a bunch of teenagers who had never lived outside the state of Utah, who thought they knew everything about the world. I was already aware, and had made my peace with, three separate truths - the world is an unjust place, but we do what we can where we can; America is privileged and the rest of the world thinks we're arrogant (well, yeah. Duh. We have reason to be, obviously everyone else want to live here, too, or we wouldn't have the immigration problems we do!); and third, there are a wide variety of lifestyles in this world, and it's okay if they don't all agree, as long as they are courteous and respectful to each other.

When the teacher brought in a transvestite as a guest, I was done. It was too much like a freak show: "Look class, here's a wild gay person in their natural habitat. Let's take a closer look!" I may not like that particular lifestyle, but there's really no need to parade someone around in front of a bunch of sheltered teenage know-it-alls in the name of expanding their horizons.

The final straw was a class reading assignment of a book titled, "The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why". It may have been the most painful thing I have ever read. Not because it was badly written, or incorrect. It was the topic itself that was far too excruciating.

(For those of you lucky enough to not know what 'the N word' is -  it's a racial insult, a slang term based off the Spanish word for 'black'. This book is an in-depth study of the origin, use, and real meaning behind the word.)

In class one afternoon, a discussion took place regarding a movement to have the word removed from the dictionary. When I dared to voice that I saw no need for it to be there in the first place, I became the enemy of all enlightenment - the old fogey prude who promotes censorship akin to Big Brother. When one of the young men at the next table piped up, "well, why is the F word IN the dictionary?" to prove his point, I could honestly say I remember when it wasn't because it was considered to vulgar for decent speech.

All this makes me wonder.


In C. S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, a world was destroyed because one person spoke a word so heinous and awful that the fabric of the universe could not stand it's utter depravity. It was called The Deplorable Word. When the hero stepped into that world, many years later, it remained a scene of complete devastation and ruin.

"Look well on that which no eyes will ever see again," said the Queen. "Such was Charn, that great city..., the wonder of the world, perhaps of all worlds.... I have stood here when the roar of battle went up from every street and the river of Charn ran red," She paused and added, "All in one moment one woman blotted it out forever."

"Who?" said Digory in a faint voice; but he had already guessed the answer. 

"I," said the Queen. "I, Jadis, the last Queen, but the Queen of the World... I spoke the Deplorale Word. A momen later I was the only living thing beneath the sun."


I'm afraid for us. How close are we when the worst of words, with the foulest of meanings, is in every day use all over the internet, in schools, in movies, and in the song lyrics on the most popular songs on the radio.

If we allow filthy words with heinous meanings to be freely used, tolerated and considered mainstream, how long before we find our own Deplorable Word?

I may not be Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandella, or Thomas S. Monson, but my heart is good, my will is strong, and God has given me a way with words. That talent may make a difference, even a small one, for the better.  As it says in the scriptures, those with a desire to serve are called to the work. We as LDS and Christian writers all have more than enough desire, so consider yourself called.

Fight the Deplorable Words of this world! Flood the world with words of goodness, words of value, words of worth - valiant in their meaning, uplifting to those that read them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

3 Things I Do to Help My Writing - Kathi Oram Peterson


Today's post is courtesy Kathi Oram Peterson,
author of The Forgotten Warrior, Wanted and Decieved.

Many people have asked what my daily writing routine is like. I think they are looking for some secret that will help their writing. I believe that secret is different for every person, but if it will help someone I’ll share three things that I do in general to help my writing: treat writing like a business, take productive criticism, and make time for family and church.

1)      Treat writing like a business . . .
Many would-be writers nod their heads and say, yeah I do that. But do they? Do they get up every morning, shower, put on makeup or for guys shave, and go to work? Okay some of the perks of being a writer is working in your jammies with pillow hair. I hear you. And yes, I have done that especially when I’m up against a deadline. However, I must admit my most productive days are when I show up at my keyboard ready to work. For me, that means showered, dressed, and makeup on.

Also, you need to put the hours in, you know, clock in so to speak. Working more than just eight hours a day is pretty much the norm when a writer has a deadline, edits, and promotion all at the same time on several different books. It happens.

So treat your writing like a business, because that’s what it is for a writer.

2)      Take productive criticism . . .
This is very important. Your writing will become much stronger if you learn how to take productive criticism. At first criticism feels like a personal attack, and sometimes, it can turn out that way. Some critics can become mean-spirited and have personal vendettas that have nothing to do with you or your writing, but everything do to with making themselves feel superior. Don’t listen to those people.

Find a group who has your best interests at heart, and also, who are better writers. The reason I say that is, better writers will make you grow. I’ve been part of a writers/critique group for many years. And yes, most of them are better writers than I am. Still I try my best to learn from them. There have been days when I have come home from group wondering why I wanted to become a writer because I felt pretty bruised by their critiques. But then I sleep on it, and when I feel ready, I look at their comments again and many times they are right. However, sometimes when I need something crucial to happen in my story that they disagree with, I’ll tell my group, “Help me find a way to make this happen.” And then the ideas start flowing which usually sparks a solution to my dilemma.

So learn to take productive criticism and use what your story needs.

3)      Make time for family and church . . .
I’ve always tried to make time for my family and have written with an open door policy, but then life happens, deadlines loom, and pretty soon your family starts to feel left out. I try hard to make my writing schedule coordinate with family events. It can be difficult especially when unexpected health problems crop up just before a deadline, but being able to stop writing to help someone is one of the perks of being a writer. (This is a good reason to work with a story outline and jot down notes as you write so when you have to stop, you can start again without losing too much time.) Being there for those you love is important, as is serving in your church.

I remember when I first published and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I thought of resigning my church calling because between writing and my family there wasn’t much time left. A wise person advised me to always make time for family and service to others. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been well worth it. I’ve learned compassion and understanding through church service and my family, and both have helped my writing immensely.

So make time for family and church because in the long run you’ll never regret it.

There you have it, the three things I do to help my writing. They aren’t iron clad and I’m always looking for ways to improve. What do you do to help your writing?   

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Specters of the Past



By Keith N Fisher
The LDS Writer's Block Honor Roll

With the recent Blogck reboot, I took a moment to review. Of course (moment) is not the right word. In almost nine years, the LDS Writer’s Blogck has accumulated a vast library of blog posts as you might well imagine.

We are approaching nine years on the web and as the anniversary approaches, it’s good to reflect. The Blogck was the brainchild of several Authors Incognito Members and the first post was by Cindy (CL) Beck, on 21 April 2006. The link is, in this place but here is a part of that post,

You wouldn’t think it would be hard for eight writers to pick a name for a blogging group, would you?

We thought of Writers’ Block, and Authors at Large . . .

Authors with Bushy Eyebrows and Hairy Ears, or Writers That Right Butt Can’t Spel.

After spending several days pondering the options—okay, maybe it was really only hours—our editor/moderator/wiz guy (Darvel) came up with an idea. He suggested we call ourselves Seven LDS Writers and a Dog.

. . . we found out the title was a play on words from another blogging page, and our wiz guy was just poking fun.


For me, the anniversary won’t be until June. I came later, and as I rediscovered, so did many others. I had forgotten all of the bloggers who’ve graced our pages with their great words.

Many of our regulars have gone forward to reach wonderful heights. We’ve had more guest bloggers than my limited mind can remember. I included a list that I call the honor roll. As you can see in the side bar, many of the first bloggers are coming back for a guest post spot.

While reading the wisdom from the past, I realized we repeated many of the titles. Even though the subjects were different. Many times one of us posted a title and later, another posted the same title. Some of those titles came back many times.

Also, as in my case, we sometimes revisited a subject with new insight. Even though themes were repeated by our fellow bloggers, there was always a fresh approach. A lot of us were obviously inspired by our fellow laborers.

I miss the insights of so many bloggers. Some were deep others were not. The extremely funny posts by CL Beck, and James Duckett. I miss the wisdom from the heart, by Nichole Giles, and others.

I’ve missed the gospel truths by C LeRene Hall. Others came later and followed in her footsteps when the posted on Sunday. Connie also posted about her vacations and made us all wish we were there. Since there were so many regulars, I shouldn’t try to list all the exploits. Some bloggers came, shared jewels of wisdom, and left like a shadow.

Some of us did book reviews and interviews. Others quoted conference presenters. I think one of those incurred the wrath of conference promoters when they published the notes verbatim, but I was never sure.

I don’t remember who replaced whom, but it really doesn’t matter. Everyone played a part so it makes no difference how long any writer was on the Blogck. 

The guest bloggers always had welcome insights. I am a better writer because of the advice shared on these pages, and I an honored to have been part of it. All in all, I think it has been worthwhile. Many a reader posted comments, thanking us for helping them on their journey.

As I said in the re-launch, when we started, we weren’t alone posting about writing, but we were in an exclusive minority. With blogs like Six LDS Writer’s and A Frog, and LDS Publisher, we were in good company. My old person’s memory won’t allow me to list them all, but some blogs were about book reviews, and some were national market heroes. Like the others did for us, I hope we helped show other writers how to blog.

In those days, the blog was new and necessary in order to promote your writing, but as all fads do, the blog as a promotion tool, went by the wayside. Many, perhaps, most writers now have a blog. With social media and other pursuits, blogs go unread, and I suppose that’s as it should be.

When I pour through our archives, I see how writers, (myself included), improved their craft. That is perhaps the best lesson you could glean from our pages. Take a minute or many hours and read those archives. You might find treasures.

When you meet a former Blogck writer at writer’s conferences and book launches, take a moment to thank them. Like the pioneers of LDS fiction, they are the specters of the past. They were paying it forward, trying to help others in the writer’s quest.

In a coming day, I too, will be gone from these pages. With Wendy’s return, and her fervor, the Blogck will continue. I will move on, but until then, I will keep offering my tainted wisdom.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finding Your Balance

By C. Michelle Jefferies

I'm an author, I am also a student of yoga.

In my crazy world, the hour I spend on my mat is my sanity. You'll probably see a lot of parallels drawn between the two from me in the future.

This post is a prime example.

Balance is essential in yoga just as it is in life. Especially when the mass majority of authors do not write as a daytime job. I have seven kids, five of them still at home, I have a high needs four year old that I call destructo boy if that gives you any clue to what my day looks like. I have a husband that works out of state, and a house that is supposed to be on the market to sell. I'm also driven by the need to be creative in more than just needing to write. I dye fabric and clothes, bind books, do leather work, make jewelry and run a manuscript consult business.

Balance is essential in Yoga so I don't fall on my face, balance in life is essential so I don't burn out.

How do you achieve balance?

Scheduling, prioritizing, switching between projects, moderation in time spent and devotion to projects, maintain your non writers life and most important, self care. You can't write all day long and then expect the rest of your life to just not fall apart in the meantime.

Make an effort to achieve balance in your life, and you will be rewarded in the quality of the moments. 

Namaste