Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I recently read some advice. “Dream what you want to dream; go where you want to go; be what you want to be, because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do.”
For a writer it’s all about dreams. Most of them occur while we are awake. We all take journeys wherever our mind wanders. I do disagree with the advice because as a writer I get many chances. They come every time I write about another adventure. In every story, I want to be someone different, do original things, and reach new heights. I’m not content to do the same thing all the time.
The human mind has the ability to generate and conjure up many images. Most of us share common fears. We worry about the same things, have similar hopes, and everyone has conflicts in their lives. Having someone chase you during a dream is a common occurrence. Nightmares are frequent, and recurring dreams happen to all of us.
I did a little research about dreams and was surprised to learn that an average person spends a total of six years of their life (at least two hours a night) dreaming. Your senses are the basis of many dreams. Five minutes after your dream is complete, you forget half the content. Ten minutes after you wake up you have lost 90% of what you dreamed.
Have you ever had a vivid dream that seemed to take most the night, but you refused to wake up to write it down, and by morning, the entire episode was gone? Erasing it forever from your memory is sad. The chance of a recurring dream might happen, but probably not.
This happened to me recently when I was studying how to write a good mystery. As I dreamed, I knew it would be a good story, but I didn’t want to stop dreaming. Now all I know is I dreamed a good mystery, and it will never enter my head again. I hope I will never again refuse to wake up. I, like all writers, know that when you think it, you have to write it immediately. Next time I dream a perfect story I’m going to wake up.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
What is one thing that almost everybody on earth has experienced in the last twenty-four hours, but none of us will ever experience again?
Let me get back to you shortly on the answer to this riddle.
Writing is composed of little tidbits of life. My best attempts at telling stories have been when I told the truth by means of a fictional story—telling the what could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve happened—if such-and-such had been slightly different.
I believe that good observation skills are one of the best tools in a writer’s toolbox. Life experiences make great fuel for interesting stories.
In Stephen King’s book On Writing, about half of the book is an autobiography of King’s life. Why does he do that in a book about writing?
Because we write what we experience. John Grisham was a lawyer, so it’s no surprise that he writes stories about lawyers. Willard Boyd Gardner has experience in law enforcement, so it’s no surprise that he writes about cops. J. K. Rowling is a . . . um, well, okay, maybe she’s not a witch, but I hope you see what I mean.
So, returning to my riddle: What is one thing that almost everybody on earth has experienced in the last twenty-four hours, but none of us will ever experience again?
If you missed noticing something from yesterday that would have made a great story, it is probably gone forever. Try not to miss something from today before it becomes yesterday and thus lost forever.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
“If you were an actor, in what movies would you have starred?” Shirley Bahlmann, our writing group moderator, adjusted her tiara as she posed the question. Anyone who’s met Shirley knows she’s a kid at heart. She said she wore the plastic crown because she’d been involved in something at the elementary school, but I’m guessing she really wanted to be princess for a day.
“Write your list of movies for next week’s assignment,” Shirley continued. She’s a lot of fun, but if she keeps giving homework where we have to write about ourselves, I’m going to insist that she turn in her crown.
I could hear my husband, Russ, groan under his breath. Was it because he felt the same way about the homework or was it the burrito he had before class? I’m voting on the burrito. They do it to him every time.
It’s early in the morning now. I haven’t had breakfast, much less a burrito, and I’m sitting here groaning, too. Is it because I hate writing about myself or is it because of the six Twinkies and chili-cheese dip I ate at midnight?
I’ll never tell.
But just in case you’re interested, here are the movies I came up with and the parts I would have played.
• Night of the Living Dead: I’ve heard I’m a dead (no pun intended) ringer for a zombie.
• Grapes of Wrath: It’s with the greatest humility that I say I could have easily won the part of a grape.
• The Muppets Take Manhattan: Hey, everybody wants to be a Muppet. I would have been Big Bird. Or Animal. Or Kermie. Or … ooo, ooo, me, me. Put me in as Miss Piggy. (I probably deserve the part after last night’s snacking episode.)
• The Sons of Katie Elder: Well, pilgrim. Let me get my boots and ten-gallon hat and I’ll play the Duke. Ok, wait, I realize there’s a gender issue here. How about if I play Maureen O’Hara? Aye, 'tis true, there’ll be none fairer than she in all the land of Ireland.
• The Old Man and the Sea: The way I’m floundering around with this, I’m sure I could have played a fish.
• Moby Dick: After that midnight snack last night, it would seem I’m perfect for the role of a very big fish. Now, now, let’s be nice. I never said I wanted to be the whale.
• One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:
You’ll notice I left the reasons off on that final one. Why? Because they make a great last line. According to Russ, I should have starred in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" because no one he’s ever met is more cuckoo.
(Give this exercise a try and see what you come up with. If you’d like, post your “movies” as comments so we can all enjoy them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the exercise really does stretch your imagination as a writer.)
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Have you ever wondered how the human race survived in a world without microcomputers, credit card numbers, and cell phones?
I have heard of a time when we were all people, before the George Orwellian society reduced us to a series of numbers. We should have seen it coming when the phone company gave out phone numbers that would ring eight or so houses in an attempt to reach the one person who wasn’t home. Perhaps we should’ve resisted the government when they issued nine digit social security numbers.
Recently, I was the butt of a joke. I choose to call it a joke. Otherwise I would run screaming into the night because of the loss of my mental faculties. Do you know how to dance to the digital Loonie Tunes?
The company I work for switched health insurance carriers at the first of the year, coinciding with my wife’s visit to a doctor. She gave them our health insurance card and they billed it to the old insurance. Without the correct insurance card they sent me the bill.
I couldn’t ask the insurance specialists at work to help because I now work Graveyard shift and they go home before I wake, so I called the insurance company.
I had to find their phone number and was put on hold. I had to give my SS number, my address, birth dates, and my company’s new name, (because they changed the name). They gave me an insurance card number and promised to send a new card to my address. (Wasn’t that nice?)
Armed with an insurance card number, I called the billing department for the doctor’s office and had to leave my phone number because the whole department had gone home early. I called back and got an operator and had to give her all my wife’s information, they also wanted MY information and discovered the records show that I still work at my old job. I corrected it and they wanted to know the name of the insurance (not just the company name).
It reminded me of the time I tried to convince a credit card company that the number they called was my private cell phone number. And no, I wasn’t the person who was on their records. And no, I don’t have a capital one card. And no, I don’t want one.
Small wonder that in this day and age, we all stress out. With all the numbers and passwords we must keep in order to function today, it’s a miracle we can remember the difference between a noun and verb. Let alone diagram sentences.
So if I use a password in my writing instead of an adjective please forgive and remember there are no periods in an email address. Uh . . . “I” before “E” except after uh . . . In order to verify your Identity, please tell me your mother’s maiden. You need a minimum of five characters for a pass . . . go or collect $200.00 . . . please enter the last four digits of your social security . . . In order to assist us in serving you, please enter your account number followed by the pound sign.
Do you remember the Porky Pig cartoon character? Bbbbb that’s all folks.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The world has gone mad. People shoot other people in shopping malls and schools. Suicidal maniacs threaten to blow themselves to oblivion with homemade explosive devices. Groups of extremists kill themselves and others in attempts to make a violent statement of political protest.
People aren’t even allowed to bring bottled water on an airplane anymore.
Day to day we live, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, making the best of our personal circumstances. But sometimes the crazy world becomes too much, and we find ourselves utterly distracted, our bodies become completely still; we stare at nothing while we wonder what will happen next.
Then we shake free of our musings and force ourselves to move forward again, one second at a time. We find ourselves longing for an escape from reality as we know it. Some people spend hours and hours and lots of money sitting in dark, sticky-floored movie theaters, one hand in a bucket of popcorn and another on a sweating paper cup, while giant images flash across an enormous screen.
Others prefer a more solitary escape. We pick up a book, one by our favorite, trusted author, and jump into a completely different day. For a little while, we become someone else, worry about something else, and live a different life. Perhaps our book sends us to a tropical island, solving a murder while we struggle to survive. Or maybe we are starting a new life in a new city after a major tragedy. We might even have the opportunity to save the world. Or, we might jump into a whole new world, and meet another species. Friend or foe? We must read on to find out.
Whatever road the plot follows, we jump in headfirst and submerge ourselves in the problems of a fictional character. Is this the only escape from the world we live in right now? The one in which children are no longer allowed to walk home from school because something terrible happened to someone down the street?
For some of us, it is the greatest escape. It is the break from life we use to help us catch our breath. The little nap during a hailstorm of gunfire. The charger that refills our batteries.
Religion helps us cope. It gives us the courage to take whatever comes at us. But fiction is the thing that takes us away and allows us to forget, for just a little while. And when we finish the book, we feel a hint of sadness mixed with satisfaction, like coming home after a great vacation. So, we pick up another book and start another journey. While we read, the world around us keeps on turning. But we emerge recharged, ready to face life in this century.
That, dear readers, is the priceless gift an author gives to readers. And if our author is really generous, kind and giving, maybe we will be able to face turning on the news.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I recently read an article by Shakti Gawain that suggests you create a treasure map for every single goal in your life. It will help your mind focus on your objective more clearly. The article also recommends that after you finish your map you need to look at it each day, which will cause your mind to think about your target.
Creating a visual picture of what you want to accomplish sounds like a good idea to me. Since most of you are probably more artistic than I am you would have fun with this idea. The next suggestion was that you draw yourself into the picture.
Since our group is focusing on writing this means you would make a colorful map with pictures showing you working on your novel, mailing off your completed manuscript, and it even advises you show yourself as the proud author of your new book.
As for me, if I drew a picture I would burst out in laughter every time I saw it, and I would never get any writing done. Instead of a treasure map, I have a few notes attached above where I spend most of my time writing. Make sure the slogans you choose are inspirational and uplifting, and help energize your goals. The verses could also be exciting, playful, or humorous, as long as it reminds you how important writing is to you.
Here are a few suggestions I borrowed, but since you are a writer you could make up your own:
“I can fix a bad page, but I can’t fix a blank one.”
"Everyday begins as a clean new slate I am free to choose what gets written there."
“Listen to the demands of your characters, who, as they begin to come to life, may insist upon a different fate than the one you planned.”
“The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.”
“Grab your reader by the throat from your very first sentence.”
“Cut out anything that doesn’t help the story complete itself.”
“If anybody can stop you from being a writer, then don’t be one.”
“You don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle to make yours glow brighter.”
The recommendation I liked best was that you don’t show anything negative. I suggest that whether you draw a picture or write a slogan to place above your computer that you make it as positive as possible. Do whatever it takes to keep motivated.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Do you remember when Valentines Day used to be an event? We spent the week before planning, pasting, cutting and marking our way into someone’s heart. Now we go to the store to buy pre-made little ditties that are usually based off some recently released movie for kids. And cards for adults? They cost over a $1 a card…and then they don’t usually come across with the message you want.
Enter the e-card world. I spent half the day today trying to find the right card to send to my husband. Something that was animated as well as fun and cute. Romance is nice, and I like romantic cards as much as the next woman. But my husband likes fun and something that makes him chuckle. Men can be romantic, but let’s face it; if we make them laugh, they’re going to be much more willing to put up with the romance we want.
There appears to be a lot of room out there for good greeting-card writers. I don’t think half of the existing ones are using imagination or creativity. I mean, just take a look at the selection I picked up for my son’s valentines for school. Taken from the Over The Hedge movie, they are cutesy little pictures of the Over The Hedge gang with dippy little phrases like: "I’m Hedge over Heels for you!" or "Have a Nutty Day" or "You’re Crazily Fun!" How about, "Have a Turtlelicious day!" Turtlelicious isn’t even a word!
Okay, I realize I’m coming down a little hard on a multi-million dollar industry that ranks third behind Christmas and Halloween in the amount of money spent on it…but it just rankles the writer’s heart. I know lots of people who could come up with better wishes than these.
I was going to have a contest for this, but we already have one going. Since we're also planning a couple for March, I’ll desist and wait to see if you leave samples in your comments. Anyway, for grins, here are some little verses I think would work for Valentine’s Day cards.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Since we both hate candy
Let’s go buy some shoes
The balloons may pop
The flowers may die
In three days
But the love that I have
In my heart
Will last for you always
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Writing can be a lot like baseball—at least for me. In baseball, the pitcher spits on his hand, wraps his fingers in some weird way around the ball, cranks back, and throws like heck. Who knows what’s going to come across the plate? It could be a slider, sinker, or a curve ball.
In writing, I don’t spit on my hand—that would make the keyboard all slimy. But I do wrap my mind in some weird way around an idea, crank back, and write like heck. Who knows what’s going to show up on the computer? It could be a mystery, a romance, or fantasy.
Or it could be a cross between a sinker and a slider, which I like to call … a stinker. I’ve run across several authors who’ve had great success getting those published, so if you think you’ve written a stinker, don’t throw it away. When you’re rich and famous, the reading public will want anything you’ve written, including your note to remember to buy new underwear. (If you were smart, you didn't write down the size. After all, what writer wants the whole world to know he wears a 52½ in undershorts?)
Most of us have heard stories of authors who’ve written their award winning novel on a napkin, in two hours, and with a quill pen. Doesn’t that amaze you? You’d have to have one mighty big napkin for a whole novel to fit on it. But wait … I’ve heard of people copying the Bible onto the head of a straight pin, so technically speaking, I guess it can be done.
I suppose the moral of the story is to write, regardless of where you are and what writing tools are available. You never know which is going to be ‘the one’ that will catapult you into fame. And don’t worry about the rejections. One way to guarantee you’ll never get a rejection is to write nothing. That, however, is counterproductive to winning awards and making millions off a book you wrote on the back of your napkin while at Wendy’s.
And now that I’ve made these suggestions, I really must go. A plethora of ideas have floated into my mind, and I need to go find my business card. No, not so I can send it to an agent. So I can write my next stinker on it.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The other day, I struggled with a novel I found lying around the house. I say struggled because it was hard to read. The concept of the plot appeared to be heading in an intriguing way so I battled to keep reading it.
"What was so hard about the book?" you ask. I’ll tell you, but first, let me tell you a story.
About ten years ago I submitted a novel. It was a labor of love. It was a book everyone needed to read. It told the story of a family’s experiences in a way that would touch hearts and change lives. It was a good story.
Of course I got a rejection letter. But it was a nice rejection letter. I was told that it WAS a good story but perhaps I would benefit by attending a writer’s workshop somewhere.
Ten years later I look back on that experience and realize that the publisher was right. The story was told not shown, there were point of view problems, and the characters were flat. In short, my book wasn’t ready to be published.
At the same time, the other novel, (the one I struggled with), was submitted to the same publisher. I doubt it sold very well, at least I hope not, because it would explain why LDS fiction got a bad rap. If this sounds like "sour grapes" I suppose it is. But I’ve had time to learn about my mistakes and will eventually be a better writer when my book gets published.
It might be interesting to note however, a published non-fiction author wrote the hard book I mentioned.
While reading the book, I was reminded of everything I’ve read about not telling but showing, point of view mistakes and "head-hopping". The big problem was the author let the protagonist’s mind wander all over the place. Normally this can give depth to a character but I found myself skipping whole pages because the subject had nothing to do with the story and it went on and on. When a writer dedicates page after page to a character’s ramblings it becomes narration (not unlike non-fiction).
I read once that some non-fiction writers have a hard time crossing over to fiction because of the tendency to tell.
So what can we learn from all this? One lessen is, that it helps to know someone in the publishing business, but most important for me is to remember to get it right before it gets published. As much as I want to see my work in print, I also want to give my readers a wonderful experience, to help them come away with the realization that they have been reading for hours and didn’t notice time passing. I want them to buy my second book because they had a great experience with the first one.
Here are 2 writing tips I am learning. The first is about showing and telling from Sol Stein (a writer, editor, and publisher).
He was nervous. tells.
He tapped his fingers on the tabletop. shows.
As for point of view, if you’re writing about what’s in the head of a character and in the next sentence, you switch characters, it’s called head hopping and it’s confusing because the reader isn’t sure who’s head they are in.
May all your creative writing, always prove to be perfect prose. As for the book in question, I finished it and the author never answered the story question that kept me reading. I might dig a deep hole and deposit it in the bottom. (Just kidding).
Thursday, February 15, 2007
“His wife is dying,” she said. “He cannot find the words to speak, so he writes them to us in beautiful, poetic emails.”
In a recent conversation with a dear friend of mine, I had a revelation. In times of great emotion, people often have a difficult time voicing their feelings. Sometimes, these people bottle them up inside, until they explode in unpredictable ways. But other times, writing about your experiences can be the balm for all of life’s worst hurts.
This same piece of writing can be key in coming back to that emotion—that moment of anxiety, fear, pain, anguish, joy, excitement or love—days, weeks, or months after it has passed. Readers love emotion, as long as it is believable. And what better way can a writer make it believable than going back through his or her own life and feeling that genuine emotion?
Be warned, however, I’ve heard that writing these things—however you fictionalize them—can be draining on the writer. Almost like living through that emotional phase of his or her life all over again.
Award winning author, Sue Monk Kidd, speaks of the importance of journaling. She mentions writing through all emotions, happy, sad, or otherwise. She writes all her life questions, and all her thoughts into notebooks. These notebooks never get thrown away, and she fills them frequently. By doing this, she is able to look back at her life, and see her own shortcomings and flaws, as well as accomplishments, as a person, a woman, and a writer.
I hope I can take her advice. I think I’m going to add one more goal to my list of resolutions this year. I’m going to start journaling my emotions. Or maybe, like the man whose best outlet of expression was through the internet, I could just print and save all my emails.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
A while back, there was a comment on my blog asking, “Do you also fiddle, or just do the serious stuff?” Sorry, I didn’t give an answer. It seems time got away from me.
If you are talking about the violin, because of the lack of practice the music I play is pathetic. It probably doesn’t sound serious or like a fiddle, just a bunch of squeaks-the type of sound a beginner makes. But, if you were referring to my life, I guess I do sound serious most of the time, but in reality, I’m not.
I take my writing, and life, seriously, but I live it to the fullest. Many people tell me I’m too busy, but I prefer it that way. I’m not letting my age slow me down.
Being busy gives me plenty of ideas to write about. I spent last weekend with a couple of grandsons sleeping under the belly of a bunch of dinosaur bones. It reminded me of the new movie, “A Night At The Museum”. Nothing came to life, but the shadows were a bit spooky, and I’m sure every child there had some interesting dreams, that is, if they slept. Even though they called the activity ‘DinoSnorzzz’, I didn’t hear many snores.
Of course, I took my trusty notebook, and many pens and pencils. I won’t say much about the hard, uncomfortable floor because I did have fun. Since I write mostly for children the ideas I collected on this adventure will come in handy.
I guess my advice this week is: keep busy. The ideas you collect along the way will benefit you in your writing. If you are always home nothing new will ever happen to you. The things you write about will always be the same. I love creative, original, and exciting adventures, and they do help with the ideas.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
The first review of any of my published writing has been posted on the blog: A Motley Vision: Mormon Arts and Culture. (http://www.motleyvision.org/?p=315).
My short story, Fatal Broken Heart, appears in the current issue of Irreantum, the official publication of the Association for Mormon Letters. While the mention on A Motley Vision was more of a short description of my story rather than a review, being mentioned at all when others were not was certainly encouraging.
I do know, at least, that somebody actually read what I wrote. After all, if you write a story and nobody reads it, is it really a story at all? (Sorry, I guess that’s a bad stretch of the tree-falling-in-the-forest-with-nobody-to-hear-it cliché.) I’m just happy that they didn’t tell everybody that my story stinks.
So now I will cautiously allow this tiny tidbit of fame to inflate my writer’s ego—which I mentioned in my last blog entry—so that I may have a little fuel in my sputtering engine as I write in my secluded lonely basement office.
Ah, the life of an overworked, under-appreciated writer—ain’t it wondrous and great?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Since good writers should be multi-faceted, I’ve momentarily turned to writing children’s stories. Believe me when I say it’s not easy.
Let me give you an example:
First, imagine you have this great murder mystery in mind. Oops, you’re already off to a bad start. Unless you want parents calling at two in the morning because you gave little Zu-Zu nightmares, “murder” is a four-letter word. Well, ok, not really. It’s a six- letter word that’s the equivalent of a four-letter word.
Throw out the murder, but you can keep the mystery. Next pick a setting. Let’s have it take place in … oh, I don’t know … how about an office?
Every great story has to have a protagonist (that’s the good guy), and an antagonist (that’s the bad guy). So, let’s make the protagonist a mouse, and the antagonist an unknown being.
Throw those all together, with the antagonist moving around the mouse's most prized possession and what have you got? Voila! A story about a mouse who’s mad because someone moved his cheese.
If you’d come up with that idea 20 years ago, you’ve be rolling in the dough because you would have authored “Who Moved My Cheese”, an adult self-help book that is loved by corporate executives. You’d be rich and famous … with everybody but the kids.
I’m sure you can now see my frustration. Like I said, it’s not easy to write children’s literature. And just think, I’m doing it in hopes of making $25 a story. I must have rocks in my bats. Or belfries in my head. Or whatever.
But I’m not going to give up. I’m going to try until I get it right—at five cents a word, for 500 words.
I know. What if I create an adventure story, on the high seas . . . with a captain . . . and a great white whale?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
According to Wikipedia, in about 496 BC, Pope Gelasius I proclaimed a feast to be celebrated every year on February 14. This was to honor three martyred saints of ancient Rome. One of them was allegedly Saint Valentinus. The feast was slated to replace an old Pagan holiday of Lupercalia that had been celebrated for many years on February 15.
In the Middle Ages, the legends and the feast became associated with romantic love.
William Shakespeare (or was it Marlow?) gave us Friar Lawrence who in his compassion married the star crossed lovers and set into motion events of woe that young girls swoon over.
Ah love, at this time of year we (husbands) are once again, brought to the brink of insanity by the uncertainty of the moods of our dear sweethearts.
What type of bribery, trinket, or dead flower will please our true love? What kind of maniacal, sadistic punishment will we be forced to endure if we (heaven forbid) forget?
But what about receiving? Is it harder to find the perfect offering, or graciously accept a gift that you would never buy for yourself? In fact if you received it from anyone, (other than your true love), you would hide it in the dark recesses of the downstairs closet, never to be seen again?
Is this the kind of behavior inspired by true love? Well, if we use the example of Romeo and Juliet, then yes it is. What causes this behavior and leaves men sleepless, wallowing in a cold sweat, well into the night?
Ah love. I have heard it said that it is "a many splendored thing". (Try that word on your spell checker) It’s what causes mouths to go dry, dinner to go uneaten, and teenagers to plot their imaginary suicides, knowing they will never be allowed to show their faces in public again.
You may have guessed I am not a romantic fiction writer. If I were, I would write pages about the beauty and wonder of the day we have set aside for expression of the evidence of that knot in the pit of our stomach.
I implore you, in the interest of sanity, let’s go back to having a feast on February 14. Of course it means that we (husbands) will have to remember to express our love, everyday, in everything we do. We will have to start courting our wives again and go back to the time when we, as teenagers . . .
Uh, Never mind. It’s Saturday dear reader, barring Sunday you now have three days to get something for your true love. Try to avoid the last minute rush when white-faced husbands invade the local department store, settling for the last teddy bear and a chocolate bar.
If the unavoidable happens, try to repress the anger that rises because of the chuckles of the female store clerks who just know their sweetheart has already purchased a valentine that will knock their socks off.
Don’t tell them you saw their sweetheart at the other store, the one that was sold out of everything.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
A good time to look at your present vital signs is the beginning of every year. Reflecting on your accomplishments will help you know what direction you must head. Decide the goals that are important to your writing pursuits.
Studying and staying on top of current market requests is very important in being able to have your works published. My vital signs have been a bit sluggish the past couple of months. I’m still studying and watching the world’s trend in books. I’ve even sent for a couple of new books to help in my studying because I think I need to learn a few new techniques.
Two weekends ago, I went on a writing retreat. This was just the ticket to get me back on track. I actually completed six short stories. Some I had been working on for months. Since Nichole has done a lot of prodding, I don’t dare put them in a drawer. With her encouragement, each one found its way into the mailbox.
I’ve never tried to write a mystery, but I’m going to enter the Highlight Mystery Writing Contest this month. Since it’s only 800 words, I should be able to whip out a good story. My chances are slim since I’ve never seriously tried to write mystery, but since I love to read them, I think I should learn to write a fun whodunit book. Another thing in my favor is I love to write for children.
To me trying something new is always a challenge, but I love new things. This should be just the obsession to get me back on track. Maybe my vital signs will be normal again. That is if anything can be normal for a writer.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I have a favorite movie that my family likes to quote: Princess Bride. One of our favorite parts is when Inigo Montoya says, "I hate waiting." I would guess that's probably a common complaint, especially with mothers.
On the other hand, a writer will tell you that 'waiting' is an opportunity 'waiting' to happen. Those moments of time spent waiting, can be filled with writing. I've decided, as one of my determinations this year (I don't believe in resolutions), I'm going to follow that adage. In fact, that's what I'm doing right now – waiting for my daughter at the doctor's office.
Normally I would use this time to read; catch up on all the magazines I don't get at home, read all the latest gossip about Hollywood that I don't allow in my home, and look through all the recipes that I can't wait to try. I take the chance to read every time the opportunity presents itself, especially when I've been too busy to read.
But today I had to remind myself that I'm a writer–trying to be a serious as well as freelance one–and that means I need to write in any spare time I have, not waste it. While playing Bejeweled on my cell phone is sometimes more entertaining, (and at times more fun) than researching how to make rubber stamps for a current article, I have to remember that playing on my phone won't get me what I want; namely, being more productive and earning an income as a writer, which writing while waiting will.
My daughter's finished, and amazingly enough, so am I. I just hope I have time to get this transferred to the computer before I lose the notes...
Have you ever read a book that was so well written that you became emotionally involved in the outcome?
Have you ever found a plot written so intricately, so completely simple, yet unpredictable, that the outcome not only shocked you, but made you slap your forehead in amazement and say, “Of course! It had to be him.”?
Have you ever admired a character so much you felt connected to them? Whose actions were so enviable, that when you came upon difficult situations in your own life, you searched your memory asking, “What would that person do?”
Have you ever been so completely entertained by a simple sentence, that you laughed until you cried?
Have you ever been so affected by a work of fiction that you had an insane urge to share the story with everyone you know?
Have you ever read something that gave you a profound desire to do something good?
Have you ever waited in line for hours, fighting hordes of fanatical fans, to buy the newest installment of a popular series that you love?
Have you ever become so engrossed in a story that you read 1,500 pages in three days or less? (In which case, you probably put real life on hold to see what happens next.)
I don’t have to tell you that this is the kind of author I want to be. I want to stand and say proudly to the world, “Look, I created that! It came from my heart, but go ahead and gaze upon its beauty.”
I know I’m not alone in this desire. This is the desire of all writers, but it takes a great deal of work. A lot of people can write; some degree of writing is required in almost every aspect of life. But an author puts a great deal of time and thought into every word, wrestles with every sentence as an individual, yet critical element of the whole story.
Authors have the ability to create from nothing the stories that push us forward in life, the stories that shore us up and give us courage in times of fright, comfort in times of trial, and laughter in dismal weather. And when we feel as though hope has deserted us and our own situation becomes too much for us to bear, we beg our favorite authors for respite and lose ourselves in the worlds of their creation.
This is what we strive for, what we work toward, and for some of us, the deepest desires of our hearts. Someday, I will be the author of someone’s favorite story. And every second I spent writing that story will be worth it.
Have you ever written something that really mattered?
Sunday, February 04, 2007
If you want to see how important writing is, just take a look around. Words are everywhere. For example, there are tee shirts with all kinds of sayings. One of my favorites (in light of having reached the ripe old age of plenty-nine) is “I’d rather be over the hill than under it”. Appliances all have instructions on the boxes. Steam iron manufacturers now list the caution, “Do not use while wearing clothes”. I find that advice to be a little ambiguous. I can't decide if it means you should iron naked, or you shouldn’t iron the clothes while on your body.
Luckily for writers, the written word is in our mail, on our televisions (oh, yes, you know you’ve been reading that little ticker tape at the bottom of CNN), as well as imprinted on our sunglasses and license plates frames. Hey, it’s even in our underwear! For the moment, though, I’d like to ignore the underwear (not wearing it, just writing about it) and concentrate on the advice given on the rear of vehicles.
The other day, my husband, Russ, and I were driving along reading the license plate frames of passing cars, and we came up with our own list of original slogans:
If you don’t like my driving … get off my windshield.
This vehicle powered by 350 horses … watch out for exhaust.
Mountain Heights Hospital … your link to eternity.
My lawyer’s smarter than your lawyer … go ahead and hit me.
My grandkids … are kinda homely. Can I have one of yours?
Pass with caution … blind driver.
He who dies with the most toys … has toddlers at home.
My child is a proud graduate … of the Utah State Correctional Facility Cooking School.
How do you expect me to soar like an eagle … when I’m a big chicken.
Friends don’t let friends drive … over other people.
(And my personal favorite, which only women would understand.) You toucha my car, I breaka you … fingernail.
I’m sure all these slogans have inspired at least one for you, so I’m running a contest. Submit your own, original slogan(s) as a comment on this blog. The best entry—as determined by me; my husband, Russ; my dog, Corky Porky Pie; and whomever else I designate—wins a genuine, almost two inches tall, never-before-used-in-a-bathtub, RUBBER DUCKY!
Please note that, despite the photo shown above, your ducky will not have been sitting in a mud puddle. The ducky shown is a professional model/actor who has been hired for this photo shoot.
Contest is subject to rules and regulations as governed by the great State of Utah … blah, blah, blah ... contest ends February 28, 2007.
(I’m sorry I won’t be able to respond to every entry personally, but be assured that in my heart, I’m laughing at yours.)
Saturday, February 03, 2007
I put in my paperwork. I’m planning to attend the LDStorymakers Writers Conference again this year. Even after forced changes in occupation, I have been scrimping and saving to make this possible.
You might ask why I would take a vacation day, spend all my money, and go to all the trouble of attending the conference. I’ll tell you:
I am not the writer I want to be. I know you’re shocked, you thought I was perfect. The truth is, I manage to put words together on these electronic pages every week and I fake my way into believing I can write, but the reality is; I have more to learn than most, and who better to learn from, than published authors.
If I were wealthy, I’d attend every writer’s conference there is and perhaps come away with great improvements in my craft. It couldn’t hurt to network with great writers and publishers either. Yes, if I were wealthy, I would perhaps attend so many conferences that I wouldn’t have time for writing.
So why LDStorymakers? I can explain it with the words of the late Ben Bracken. I have mentioned this story before in this blog but I think we can still learn from it; last year, I attended the class taught by Tristi Pinkston titled: Using Believable Inspiration in Fiction. I heard someone ask Ben about the class and he said with a tear in his eye, "It was like attending church."
For those of us who have chosen to write LDS Fiction it’s like a breath of fresh air to hobnob with other writers who have the same beliefs. To be with those who have the same struggle with appropriate words for a story, those who endeavor to write the spark of inspiration that we know will touch the heart of someone seeking guidance from Deity.
This Year I will attend the writer’s boot camp again. I love the smell of red ink in the morning. It’s quite an eye opener to have someone critique your wonderful manuscript and realize how much editing you must do. I once read about the concept of the boot camp in a book on writing and wished I could afford to travel back east and attend one. Last year I was thrilled to be part of one and this year I get to do it again.
That’s what makes this conference so special for me. Hope to see you there.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Somewhere in the vague recesses of my mind lay fragments of several different conversations about writing books. I am not talking about the writing of books, by us, the authors, but instead the reading of books about writing by other people…also authors.
Everyone has a favorite—one certain book—containing pertinent information that we believe is going to help us write the next bestseller. Or, failing that, this book will at least give us pointers, tips, and secrets that will surely send us straight to publication.
The truth is, even if our favorite writing book cannot catapult us into fame and fortune, or even publication, it can steer us in the right direction. One thing all of these books have in common is that they are all written by published authors, editors, or agents—lets face it, if we are buying it, they are published—so whatever they have to tell, whatever information they may impart, will be useful to us…as readers and as writers. After reading several writing books, I asked other people about their favorites. The following is a list of favorite writing books, and the people who recommend them.
Recommended by myself, Nichole Giles:
Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
Recommended by Connie Hall:
Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood
American Dialects by Herman and Herman
You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts
Recommended by Keith Fisher:
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Publishing Secrets by the LDS Storymakers
Recommended by author BJ Rowley:
Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print
by Renni Browne and Dave King
Recommended by author Martine Leavitt:
Story by Robert McKee
Recommended by Darvell Hunt:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Recommended by C.L. Beck (and nearly everyone else on this list, including myself):
Writing Secrets: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Fiction & Nonfiction in the LDS Market by LDS Storymakers
If just one person learns just one something great from only one of these books, then my work for today is done.