I asked if he was writing and he referred me back to the earlier part of our conversation when he mentioned he’s going to learn how.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I asked if he was writing and he referred me back to the earlier part of our conversation when he mentioned he’s going to learn how.
Friday, September 28, 2007
When I was a kid, we used to watch the HeeHaw show. (I realize that dates me, but oh well.) A part of the show used to be these two hill billies singing this song, and then comparing notes to how miserable their lives were. I loved it -- the comedic part of it, of course.
Now I realize that my life goes in stages. Last week I commented on when I felt at peace, and quoted While You Were Sleeping. What I have come to realize is that our lives are more of a cycle -- we have the good that cycles through with the bad. It's like President Hinkley said in one of his talks -- life is a train ride. You have the long bone numbing darkness of tunnels and night sky, and then brief moments of glorious vistas. (That's not verbatim, but the general idea.)
This past month has been one up and down bit of the cycle. Things have been wonderful one day, and then miserable the next. I realize that everyone has these cycles, and that everyone experiences these same things -- it just seems more important when it's you.
Writing is much like this. Books, or stories also contain the same flow. Most people don't like to read the 'sappy' books where everyone and everything is happy and wonderful, with perhaps one major problem that is over come by the end and everyone walks off into eternity.
While I don't like tragic endings, I don't like sappy books. I like books that have meat to them, a little suspense, a little difficulty, a character that has flaws -- in other words, something that is close to my own life, but just a little better. The little better part gives me hope. It makes me think that my life can get better.
These are also the kind of books I like to write. I try to make my characters real and believable. I try to make the plot a little thicker than Aunt May coming to town and matchmaking Jenna with her best friend's son who just came home from a mission and all the comic interactions. While that may be funny, and sometimes just what the doctor ordered, that's not what I want to write. There is lots of that kind of stuff out there.
And, while my life cycles around, so does my writing. I have found that my writing has changed dramatically from when I was a teenager. It has changed a great deal since I've formally announced to the world I'm a writer. While it has mostly gotten better and more interesting, it has also taken on valleys of murkiness that make the plot harder to find and the characters less fulfilling. I find myself asking the question -- am I writing to make money or to find my true voice? It's not the simple question you would think.
While most of us don't expect to become best selling authors over night, we do want to be published. That's one of the reasons we're doing this blog. We want to be noticed. When we publish something, we want the world to know and take notice and BUY that book. We didn't plan on dying in obscurity -- although you will find that most authors are NOT extroverts. We are content to write in private, with our little computers screens blinding us while the world carries on. We just want our work to be noticed. It would be great if I could continue on in relative obscurity, but it doesn't work like that for the rich and famous of the literary market.
What I'm rambling on about is how everything seems to tie together. The seasons change, we feel up and down about them. Our lives change, they have up days and down days, tragic times and glorious times. Our writing changes, growing, weaving, maturing.
Life is an amazing gift that we have been given. We need to treasure each moment we have to do what we have chosen to do. I'm so very thankful that I've been given this gift -- I just wish it would progress faster!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
For any of you who are keeping track of my progress in the 30-day challenge, today is September 27, 2007 and my word count—by the end of the night—will top 47,000 and my story is in it’s last scenes. (I believe that deserves a cheer!)
My friend Rachelle has so kindly included me in another game of tag. This one is much different than some of the others I’ve participated in, and it actually required some thought. It pertains to books and reading, two of my favorite things. So here are my answers to her questions. Happy reading.
My Reading: Okay, so this is a wide, broad, open topic and one of those questions—if left to the devices of a writer—that could take pages and pages to describe. I love to read anything gripping, anything heart warming or heart wrenching, and anything so fantastical that I am amazed someone thought to write it. Since this pretty much describes the majority of the books I’ve read in my life, I’ll whittle it down to my favorites. Romance is a big favorite of mine because, well, I’m a girl and girls love romance. I also love fantasy. Magical elements and otherworldly things fascinate me. The work of Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling are good examples of this, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Foul series is also a great fantasy series. And though I shouldn’t admit to it, Nora Roberts and Judith McNaught are romance-writing favorites. (Just skip the bad stuff.)
Total number of books owned: Yeah, right. As if I could figure that one out. I just got a new bookshelf in my office, (I had to clean out my bathroom closet because the books had crowded the towels right out) and it is completely full. So, I’m guessing somewhere in the several hundreds, not counting the books in my kids bedrooms and the ones in boxes in my basement.
Last Book I Bought: Um, well, I buy books fairly frequently. My first instinct to this question is the entire Stephanie Meyer series, but that is not actually the correct answer. Last week at the League of Utah Writers roundup I bought a stack of books, including Brotherhood of the Wolf, by David Farland, Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, and Wet Desert by Gary Hansen. Then on Saturday, a box arrived on my doorstep (books I had ordered over a month ago) containing Story Structure Architect, On Romance Writing, First Draft in 30 Days, and Character Naming Sourcebook. I have not actually finished any of these books, but intend to get started asap. Oh, and also I let my kids order some things from their school book orders. Wow, that’s a lot of books in one month.
Last Book I Read: I am currently reading Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, but during my long drive to the conference last week I audio-read Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught. Also, I have been reading No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty in preparation for my 30-day writing challenge. (I am 26 days in, and my word count as of last night is above 46,000. 4 days and 4000 words left.)
5 Meaningful Books: Oh, that’s a tough one. Can I choose series? I choose the Harry Potter series because JK Rowling pushed all the boundaries and rules and came out on top, ahead, and swimming in success. The Stephenie Meyer series because not only has she chosen Vampires and Werewolves as the good guys in the story, but also because she is a prime example of an LDS writer who has successfully stuck to her beliefs and swept the national market at the same time. The Children of the Promise series because I used to listen to the CD’s while I nursed and rocked my babies, and it kept me happy during all those sleepless nights. Tom Finder and The Dollmage by Martine Leavitt, because her amazing poetic style shines in these books, inspiring me to write something equally as touching. (I am still searching for Katura and Lord Death, but haven’t read it yet.) And last, but not least, I pick the Junie B. Jones series, because Barbara Park has given such a strong and personal voice to those books, that even my pre-teen children love to read them again. (They are written for first graders.) Okay, with two separate books by Martine, I guess that’s six. Guess you get a bonus answer.
Now for the fun part. I tag Gaynell Parker, Rhonda Gibb Hinrichson, and Karen Mittan. Have fun girls!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Many times as I write, I find myself trying to create a specific mood. When trying to do a fantasy story I love to turn on my fairy fountain, and sit listening to the sound of the running water. My imagination runs wild as I look at the many fairies I have flying around the room, and immediately I’m far away in fairyland.
When writing a mystery I bet it would be best if it is a stormy night, and I can hear the trees branches scratch at the windowpane as I scribbled down my notes. Maybe some spooky Halloween music would add to the atmosphere.
I went to a conference earlier this year where Tristi Pinkston convinced me to live and breathe the era I was researching. For three full weeks, I didn’t read anything else. I only watched movies about the War of 1812, which is the current setting for my story. In doing this, I put myself in the scene. I then put my story away to complete later because I knew that this week while you are reading this, I’m in North Carolina walking the same path my characters walked. This is the final part of my research. When I return I’ll be ready to continue writing my story because I’ve created the perfect mood.
If you are like me, you may be having difficulty placing yourself in the setting of your story. If so, you should take time to place yourself in the world in which you wish to write. It helps turn your mind in the right direction.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Rachelle Christensen has tagged me in a game of book tag. I’ve found it fun to read how others feel about books and reading. I hope you’ll enjoy my part in the game.
My reading: This has me baffled. My reading what? My reading genre? My reading speed? My reading method? Okay, I’ll address that one. I read by opening the book cover and turning to the first page. Then my mind mystically makes sense of all those squiggles there. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get to drink hot chocolate while I’m doing it!
Total number of books owned: I’m not sure I can answer this. I have shelves full of books, cupboards full of books, books stacked in my bedroom that I keep saying I’m going to go through and give to the library. Not to mention all the children’s books that were my son’s as a young boy … and he’s been married ten years. And then there are the books, packed in a box in the basement, that were mine as a child. I can’t bear to part with them, and yet I’m running out of space for books.
But hey, isn’t this how everyone lives?
Last book I bought: 2008 Writer’s Market Companion. Okay, technically speaking, I didn’t buy it, my husband, Russ, did. I’m getting it for my birthday, but since I’m supposed to forget that I requested it, I won’t mention it again. But, I also got three freebies when I ordered the book-that-I’m-not-mentioning-again: 2008 Writer’s Market, You Can Write for Children (with workbook) and Find Your Voice.
Last book I read: Page after Page by Heather Sellers. It’s a book on writing by an author with good common sense. It had a few swear words, which I could have done without, but overall the book spoke to me and I found myself saying, “Yup, that’s exactly what it’s like when you’re a writer.”
Five meaningful books (to me at least): Only five, huh? I’ll exclude those that are already listed on my profile but if you want, you can go check those out as well. I'm also going to exclude the scriptures (because we’re all going to want to include those). So, here are five books that I find meaningful: Return from Tomorrow by George G. Ritchie; Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott, The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum; Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie; The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
As for tagging others so they can enjoy the fun, I tag Danyelle Ferguson. Go for it, Danyelle!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I’ve heard it said that the LDS market is mostly female. At a workshop, I heard Willard Boyd Gardner say he discovered he was writing books for men to be purchased by women. I’ve also heard other male writers say they write for women.
I was told one of my books was written for women and I thought I wrote it for everyone. My editor suggested women want to see the feelings of my characters. Since then, I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my male mind around the idea of being motivated by feelings, but then again, I always thought I had a sensitive nature. (Don’t laugh guys, you should try it sometime).
Anyway I started doing a little research and discovered the people who buy and read fiction are predominately women. Not just LDS fiction, but national market too. I don’t actually have any numbers, but let me ask you, how many men do you know that read fiction?
While you think about that, let me remind you of another fact: There are more women on Planet Earth, than there are men. I heard the statistics came in around three to one.
With a market like that, perhaps we all should write stories for women to read. I’m not just talking about romance, but all genres. On the other hand if more men wrote for men in the LDS market perhaps we could persuade more men to read. (If you write it, they will read.)
I’m still going to try and write for universal audiences. Hopefully we can persuade more men to read, but I’m going to put on my analyst’s suit, get my characters on the couch and ask them how they feel.
By the way, I have written about 10,000 words in the BIAM challenge. I know others have larger numbers but I started late.
Friday, September 21, 2007
The other day we had the chance to go up into the mountains and see some of the fall colors. While we were driving, I experienced a feeling that I’ve had many times in my life, but it stands out because it’s such a wonderful feeling.
I felt totally content.
I was with my family, we were all healthy and happy, it was a gorgeous fall day, the leaves were gorgeous and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Period.
It reminded me of the movie While You Were Sleeping. There is a scene where the father is talking to the son about life. He tells him that there is this one moment where everyone is happy, everyone is healthy and everything is going right. “For just that one moment, you have peace.”
That is the feeling of contentment to me.
It occurred to me that writing is somewhat like that. With writing, that feeling most generally comes when I’ve finished the book. When I’ve written “The End” at the bottom of the last page and I feel that I’ve accomplished something worth while.
In reviewing this process and my feelings regarding it, I realized that I’ve never felt this way while writing. During the writing process I’m usually too caught up in the whole idea – is the plot going to work like I want, are the characters real enough, do I have all the elements I want – to feel at peace with it. When things are going well and the thoughts are turning almost faster than I can type (which is pretty fast by the way), then the feeling is anxious – almost desperate, i.e., I’ve got to get this written down before the muse leaves me and the idea fades...
While that may not be your difficulty, I ask you: What do you feel while you’re writing? What do you feel when you are not?
When I’m not writing and I know I should be, that’s nerves. I twist my hands together and end up pacing around the house doing the random things that I need to do, but still feeling that I’m not accomplishing my true goal. I sit down at the computer and try to write, but other things are still in the way and I end up running again. I’m not able to fully relax and write unless I know other things are out of the way and I can concentrate. Perhaps that is a fleeting moment of peace, but it’s not lasting.
The lasting kind comes with a great big “The End” at the bottom of a printed page. I find contentment there.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
By right of thirty-day novelists everywhere, I have managed to lose track of the days of the week. Somehow, Thursday has come and gone, and here I sit, in the last hours of the night only now just realizing that I have neglected my weekly deadline.
So, I have decided to enlighten you with something I have discovered this month during my adventure.
One particular Saturday, during my first week of feverish writing, I was holed up in my home office with my laptop while my children played in the next room. The noise level became distracting and unbearable, and so, in desperation, I found a few of my most soothing (and mostly instrumental) CD’s and created a soundtrack for my novel.
After procuring a pair of headphones, I was set.
In this I discovered an interesting thing. The mood and tone of my writing was so altered for the better, that I have continued playing and replaying this soundtrack as I write, and my creative mind has improved because of it.
If you have never tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Everyone could use a creative boost, and mine came in the form of music.
Also, in case you were wondering, today is day 20—and my word count will top 35,000 by the end of the night. Just thought you’d want to know.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I’ve been getting ready for a vacation, and have discovered that you use the same steps in preparing for a trip as you do in writing. Here are some ideas to show you what I mean.
1. You have to have a launching off time, getting ready. I have my airplane reservations, and soon I’ll be packing my bags. You need to start writing your story with a plan in mind.
2. I have maps leading me from one hotel to the next. I do think I know where I’m going. Knowing where you are going with your story is important.
3. Decide where to start and end. It costs more to fly into one place and leave from another than it does to use the same airport both times, but the time you save is worth every dollar. Your story needs a good beginning, as well as a great ending.
4. You need to have places to visit along the way. You have to save time for breaks as you travel. Every story needs distractions, the same as every vacation.
5. Some days you feel like traveling for longer periods than you do on other days. Some interruptions are long and some are short. It should be the same with your writing.
6. My mother is traveling with me and I know she needs extra time to rest, and it’ll take longer on some days than other days. Leave room for unexpected delays. Throw in something unexpected as you write.
7. We have a destination planned, and know what we want to do each day. Have a firm plan in place as you write, but leave it free for changes.
8. The final part of our trip is a family reunion. We are saving this for the last in hopes it’ll be the best. As you write, keep the finish line in sight. The end should always be the best.
9. After more than two weeks we’ll be glad to finally be done and on our way home. Don’t give up writing your story until it’s done.
10. We will be glad to be home and delight in being with our family again. Celebrate the ending. KEEP WRITING!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Part III: Why would LDS writers submit to Zarahemla Books?
Today I’m posting Part III of my series exploring the newest LDS publisher on the block, Zarahemla Books. You can find the previous two episodes by going to here and here.
In this third and final installment, I would like to ask (and attempt to answer) one last question: Why would I, as an LDS writer, want to submit my writing to Zarahemla Books to be considered for publication?
This, I think, is the most important question in this whole discussion. Why would I want to do this indeed?
First, why wouldn’t I want to submit to them? That’s a much easier question to answer. Zarahemla is small. They haven’t been around for very long. Who knows if this little publisher is going to survive in the LDS market? If something I wish to submit to them really were outside of the “normal scope” of what LDS publishers will publish, wouldn’t a national publisher possibly be a better choice for submission?
Suppose I could take my “edgy, but not apostate” LDS novel that was aimed toward the LDS audience and rewrite it enough so that it could be targeted toward the national audience. Would that be a good idea? More sales, bigger advances (the LDS market doesn’t really have advances), and generally, more publicity. That sounds like a good idea.
Or, should I submit it to Zarahemla Books, with hopes that it will sell enough to make the time spent doing the writing, publishing, and marketing, all worth it—or, at the least, to possibly break even? Does that sound like a better idea?
What, you say? Why?
Because the LDS market needs growth. We need more books like what Zarahemla wants to publish. If I can help grow Zarahemla Books by submitting something they don’t already have, yet still fits within their range of interest, then I believe I should do that to further their cause—because I believe in what they are doing.
Stupid? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Worth the risk? I certainly hope so. I like reading LDS books. Yes, many of them seem shallow, even sappy, to me, as I mentioned before, but I still like reading them. (Sadly, sometimes I like the idea of reading LDS books more than I like actually reading them, but that’s what I’m trying to help fix, right?)
Like many LDS readers, I do read more mainstream fiction than LDS fiction. I’d like to see that change. If at all possible, I would like to shift the ratio of the books I read to be more heavily weighted with LDS works. I would also like to do that for other LDS readers out there. Submitting to Zarahemla can help do that.
If my “edgy” material gets accepted by a national publisher, I might become a “small fish in a big pond.” I might also end up having to “spice it up” to make it acceptable to the national market, however. On the other hand, if Zarahemla were to accept it, I might become a “big fish in a small pond.” The income made and the copies sold would likely be considerably less, but—I would be making a difference.
Would making a difference be enough reason to submit to Zarahemla Books? I say YES.
As such, I am very interested in making a big splash in that little pond called Zarahemla Books. I also hope there are other LDS writers out there who would be willing to join me on that rock outcropping over this little pond, look down at the cool surface below, and prepare themselves to cannonball off into uncharted waters. Hopefully, we won’t hit the bottom on our way down.
You can find more about Zarahemla Books at http://www.zarahemlabooks.com/.
(See here for Part I. See here for Part II.)
Monday, September 17, 2007
While searching the internet not long ago, I discovered a tabloid article about a man who kept snakes, termites and poisonous arachnids as pets. It turns out one of his black widow spiders thought he would make a tasty treat and tried him for lunch. Then the other creatures finished him for dessert.
It’s my firm opinion that pets should have certain qualifications. Fur is always nice. So are feathers. And two or four legs are a good idea.
House pets should definitely have two eyes with a single lens in each. Any critter that you’re tempted to name “Compound-Eyed Igor” doesn't belong in a ventilated Mason jar under your bed.
My choices for pets are cats, dogs and rabbits. They’re affectionate without being overbearing. More importantly, none of them have ever wrapped a web around me and saved me for a snack.
Not long ago, I was outside enjoying the hummingbirds. Although they fit my qualifications for a pet, I don’t think of them as such. They’re more like teenage children. I feed them and clean up after them—in return, they buzz past me on their way to something more important.
The hummies were feeding heavily and it seemed like the right moment to put my finger on their perch. When they’re in a feeding frenzy, they’ll ignore you—also like teenagers—and land on your finger while sucking nectar.
I pulled a chair under the feeder and climbed up. Standing on tippy-toe, I stretched up as far as possible. My finger just barely touched the perch and my weight was off-balance, but I used the feeder to steady me.
Then the thing tilted. Sugar syrup ran out the little holes and onto my hand.
It was a matter of small consequence. I was determined to have a hummingbird land on my finger.
KitKat showed up. He’s a wonderful pet—furry, fat, four-legged and loving. Too loving. At that very moment he wasn’t content with me murmuring, “Nice kitty. Sweet KitKat.”
He wanted to be petted. He wanted to assure me of his love. I wanted to assure him he was headed for that great litter box in the sky if he came any closer.
In one bound, his round, orange body was on the chair. “Shoo! Go away!” I nudged him with one foot. The chair wobbled and syrup ran to my elbow as the feeder leaned at a precarious angle. Just then, 15 hummingbirds decided they wanted to eat … but not with me. They darted at my head using their beaks as swords in an attempt to give me multiple nose and eyebrow piercings—and to chase me off. I bobbed and weaved, the chair rocked, and sticky syrup dripped to my armpit.
Then KitKat took a flying leap up my pant leg, purring like a chainsaw. “Cat, get off me!” I yelled, wibble-wobbling back and forth, and shaking my leg wildly.
The hummers took off as if they’d been blitzed. KitKat, on the other hand, was oblivious to the catastrophe and continued to rumble his affection as he whipped around in every direction, still attached to my leg.
By now the feeder was empty—syrup had dripped to my waist. My jeans were shredded from cat claws. I disentangled the still purring feline, dropped him to the ground, and climbed off the chair.
KitKat entwined around my ankles as I made my way to the door. Tripping over him, I fell inside. Safe at last.
So much for affectionate pets; that cat practically killed me with love. But then again, I figure I can count myself lucky … at least he didn’t eat me for lunch.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I don’t know how you do it, but my writing largely consists of what many call free writing. I sit down and start typing sentences, knowing where I want the story to go. It’s tremendously gratifying when I get into the zone and ideas flow faster than words. Lest you think it’s like that everyday I should mention, I have days when I know where I want the story to go, but I have no idea how to get it there. When it happens I usually put the story aside and work on one of my other projects.
It’s because of all those projects, and the need to edit them, that I resisted the BIAM (Book in a month) challenge issued by Nichole Giles from this group, and by Tristi Pinkston. I felt I needed to finish editing.
With the myriad ideas for other projects and three books that need to be finished, the call of the zone was haunting me. Editing is the most important job we can do as a writer. Good editing can make or break a book, but it’s drudgery. I’ve never been in the zone while editing, and as I said, the promise of flowing words was sitting there, alone on the shelf . . . Well, I couldn’t just leave it there, now could I?
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I escaped to the joy of the open range of writing. I put my edits aside, and began to climb the mountain.
I remember when, as a kid, I put my chores aside in favor of going camping, riding horses or playing make believe. "I promise, Mom, I’ll get it done later," I said.
In like manner, I promise I’ll get the edits done too . . . later. I’m going mountain climbing with my friends. I’m a little late getting started and I haven’t set my goals yet, but I’ll keep you informed if you’re interested.
Friday, September 14, 2007
As you may remember from my last blog entry, I posted a brief interview with Chris Bigelow of Zarahemla Books. See here.
Now that you’ve heard from Chris, I want to tell you what I think, specifically concentrating one of the questions that I asked Chris, which was: “Why do we need another LDS publisher?”
Now, before I continue, keep in mind that these are my own observations, and what I’m saying may or may not be representative of what the guys at Zarahemla Books believe. It seems to me, though, that there are more LDS readers who read mainstream fiction than LDS readers who read LDS-specific fiction, or novels published by LDS publishers.
Why is that, do you think? Why don’t LDS readers read LDS books? I believe there are two reasons for this. First, there are more mainstream books available than LDS books, and secondly, that many LDS readers believe that books published by LDS publishers are shallow, sappy, or just too much like attending sacrament meeting.
That’s not to say that material that could be read from the pulpit in sacrament meeting is not good material. The “big LDS publishers” are, in fact, producing some very good books nowadays. The quality of LDS books, particularly fiction, has been increasing over the past few years, and I think that’s great.
Even so, there are some books that the common LDS publishers will not publish—books that I think should be published. If more LDS readers are reading mainstream fiction than LDS fiction, there must be room for LDS material that is not currently being published. Books that fit into that category, I believe, are what Zarahemla Books wants to publish.
To be fair, I should also ask: “Why are people reading LDS fiction?” Again, I think there are two main reasons. First, LDS readers want to read “safe fiction.” Take, for example, my wife, who likes to read quality mainstream romance. Some of the stuff she reads from the mainstream market offends her, so it’s natural for her to look to the LDS market for books that she considers “safe.” Secondly, LDS people like to read about LDS people and their experiences. LDS fiction seems “closer to home” than mainstream fiction.
The problem is, as I see it, that there is plenty of material that LDS readers want to read, that is not necessarily appropriate to be read from the pulpit, but yet deals with issues many LDS people see every day, or at least issues they want to read about. Nobody has been publishing these types of stories.
Think about some of your favorite mainstream fiction books. Could Deseret Book publish them? Why or not why? If Deseret Book could not publish them, does that mean that you shouldn’t be reading them? In some cases, yes, perhaps, but certainly not in all cases.
If there is demand for something that is not currently available, a window of opportunity is created. Zarahemla Books has seen that opportunity and is trying to fill that void with good quality books that LDS people want to read. And, in my opinion, they are doing an excellent job doing just that.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Last week I told you that I am taking a 30-day writing challenge. This week I thought I’d update you on my progress. As a recap, this is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30-days. This challenge is otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, (see http://www.nanowrimo.org/) and usually held in the month of November. I started the challenge on September 1st, knowing that November is a really busy month for me, and also having an idea in my head that I just couldn’t wait to get started writing.
Today is September 13, and I have officially written more than 23,700 words.
I have learned something in the last 13 days. In the past I have made vague outlines, researched ideas, and always done lots of pre-writing. This time, I started with two characters and one scene I could see in my head. And I have never been able to so freely allow the characters to lead me through the story. It’s an amazing feeling, and completely liberating. If you have any inclination for attempting this challenge, I highly recommend joining NaNoWriMo this coming November.
I recognize that I haven’t yet won this challenge, but I am confident in my abilities and determined that I will. And having announced this to all my readers, I expect you all to hold me to it!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Many times while hiking, I’ve run across a sign that said Stay on the Path. As I continued down the path, it became clear that this was excellent advice. I’m not an expert, but some of the hills had steep drop-offs, and the turns were sharp. Some of the ground looked unstable. To someone with better eyes than I or with some experience there may be other reasons for the cautious sign.
Sometimes when walking life's paths, some of us want to linger in dangerous places, thinking that it is fun and thrilling and that we are in control. The only place I feel in complete control is when I’m writing. I can make my character do whatever I want them to do. I can make them live on the edge, but that is a path I shouldn’t take.
When climbing the mountains of life, I know I should stay on the right path. There is only one path that leads to happiness in this life, and it’s following the directions of Christ. Although writing has taught me to stay on the path, I have found that my characters need to stray sometimes, or the story gets too boring. Conflict is necessary, but as my story concludes, I hope to show my readers a good course to follow in reaching happiness.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Last week I told you about the mixed-up, goofball things that always seem to happen because it’s a Monday. In particular, there were gargantuan weeds, a weed-whacker that wouldn’t work, thorny roses that needed to be trimmed and a sprinkler valve box that flooded. I never even told you that my bad, bad dog, Corky Porky Pie, ran away in the midst of all of it. At the end of my tale of woe, I promised you an analogy to writing.
Actually, I promised you a pithy, Pulitzer Prize worthy analogy, but I’m hoping you forgot the pithy, prize-winning part and will just settle for an analogy.
G. Parker, a member of our blogging team, always signs her emails with the phrase, “Writing is life!” And if you think about it, the converse is true as well. Life is writing. A writer’s day is full of events that could become a sonnet, short story or a novel.
This leads me back to my pithy analogy—minus the pith.
If I choose, I could write about the roses from last week and compare the pain of trimming them to the pricks to our heart when we receive rejections. On a less personal theme, I could talk about how a story unfolds with the beauty of a rosebud in the morning sun.
Then there’s always the weed-whacker. How easy to compare trimming weeds to trimming the dead weight out of our writing. Or to give a reminder that those weed-eaters can get out of control and obliterate everything in their path. The analogy to writing? Always save your work so when you whack something you hadn’t intended, you can bring it back to life again. Unfortunately, I can't do that for my poor roses.
I could go on and compare the flooded valve box or the run away mutt to writing, but why not let you say a few words? Tell me the analogies that come to mind from last week’s blog, or an analogy that you thought of today. I’m sure that many have run through your mind. After all—writing is life and life is writing.
Books C.L. has enjoyed:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King
The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill with photographs by Art Wolfe
View C.L.’s other work:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann (Story on pg. 70)
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Recently, in another blog, there was a discussion going on started by Julie Coulter Bellon. It was about the mysterious disappearance of socks when they go through the cleaning process. After careful deliberation, I believe I have the answer to the mystery.
Unfortunately, the solution doesn't solve the problem. There is an unseen force in the dryer, something that is performing a sock makeover.
I had a pair of matched argyles, the only one I owned. One of them came up missing until I discovered it had magically changed color. It still looked like the original, but was a different shade, therefore unusable together. Since then, I have discovered more socks that have met the fate of the rogue sock plastic surgeon.
I have heard that some identical twins spend their whole life trying to distance themselves from their twins. Maybe it's a psychological sock problem. It couldn’t have anything to do with washing them with whites.
Now with that solved, we can move on to other things. I started reading False Pretenses by Carole Thayne this week and I love it. I met the author at the LDStorymakers conference and I was ashamed to admit I’d never read her work.
I found a copy, and I’m in awe of the masterful way the author brings the reader into the lives of the characters. I began to care about these people from the moment I met them. Don’t tell me how it ends I’m looking forward to savoring the story.
Now about me, I followed the link in Tristi Pinkston’s blog and found that in the year I was born,
- Dwight Eisenhower is president of the US.
- The First civil rights bill to protect ‘Blacks’ voting rights since reconstruction is approved by Congress.
- Hurricane "Audrey" destroys Cameron, Louisiana killing 390 people.
- National Guardsmen bar nine black students from entering a previously all white Central High School in Little Rock.
- Russians launch Sputnik I, first earth orbiting satellite.
- The FBI arrests Jimmy Hoffa and charges him with bribery.
- Vanna White, Osama bin Laden, Sid Vicious, and Melanie Griffith are born.
- The Milwaukee Brewers win the World Series.
- The Detroit Lions win the NFL championship.
- The Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac is published.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is published.
I hope you have a great Saturday. Perhaps I’ll see you at the Utah State Fair. Look for the Dutch oven cooking.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Well, I wasn't going to post today, since I've been sick all week and didn't have anything prepared. But while perusing other blogs, I came across this silly test that actually proved I do have some writing - as related to grammar - skills. I figured it was appropriate for this blog, as that is what we are about, right? So why don't you take the test and see what you get?
|You Scored an A|
You got 10/10 questions correct.
It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Remember that great idea you had last year? The one that came to you in the middle of the night and was so brilliant you were certain it would become a bestseller as soon as you wrote it? What happened to that story?
If you’re me, that story is still sitting—in the prewriting stage—on the pages of a notebook. You may have taken the time to enter all the ideas to a document on your computer, but there it stays, still waiting for you to find the time to write it.
I have a lot of great ideas, but no matter how hard I try, it seems like I never have quite enough time to get them all written. The life of a mother is always busy, but a lot of authors are mothers who somehow find the time to make their deadlines.
Last week I was pondering the why of this. Why, for instance, is it possible for a mother of six to crank out four books a year—all while her baby drinks a bottle on her lap? And why am I barely able to finish two full rough drafts in that same amount of time while my kids are all in school?
I don’t know for sure, but I’m thinking the answer comes down to one word. Deadline. The mother with the baby has a deadline, and I don’t. Or didn’t. The solution is simple. I need a deadline too.
As I pondered all this, I happened to pick up a copy of Chris Baty’s “No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.” His solution sounded not only simple, but also challenging and fun. Chris Baty is the founder of the National Novel Writing Month—which commences every November, and challenges participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The problem is, November is a rotten month for me. So, as I read it, I decided to take the challenge in September.
I picked an idea and ran with it. The good news is, over the weekend I was able to pass up the 10,000-word mark. The bad news—well, I’m too busy to worry about that. I’ll let you know at the end of the month.
Anyone else up for a challenge?
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I’m a member of the League of Utah Writer’s, the Oquirrh Chapter. In our August newsletter, the editor issued a challenge for us to think of our own personal methods of procrastination and share them. Why did he ask us to do this? Because someone posted an article, 31 Reasons Why Writers Don’t Write.
Before I read the above reasons, I hadn’t thought that I was procrastinating when I didn’t write. I hate procrastination. Why would I do it? He is right, some days I do put off the task of writing.
I don’t want to avoid writing today, so I’m not going to spend more than 10 minutes coming up with some things I’ve found myself doing. Maybe you would also like to take the Challenge:
1. I have to read all my emails.
2. I play Solitaire.
3. I think, “I’ll just Google it!”
4. I write articles like this.
5. My desk is too dirty.
6. I need to start dinner.
7. I’d rather do research.
8. I forgot to call a friend.
9. I need to finish planning my next trip.
10. Maybe I need to go see my mom.
If I’m not in the mood to write, I know I can think of many more reasons to postpone what I know I should do. If I dawdle and skip a day of writing, it’s harder the next day to become motivated. I think I need to be more positive and think of reasons why I need to write. If you have some good reasons to write maybe you should pass them on to me to keep me motivated.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Part I: Who is Zarahemla Books?
I wanted to find out more about Zarahemla Books, so I purchased their entire catalog of available books. That maybe seem like an expensive endeavor, but it cost me less than $75 to do (see http://www.zarahemlabooks.com/). I’m looking forward to reading all six of them.
What is Zarahemla Books? Well, if you look at a list of LDS publishers, it’s probably going to be the last one on the list—and that’s not just because it starts with a Z.
Zarahemla Books is one of the most recent additions to the LDS publishing world. This week’s blog is part one of my coverage of this new LDS publishing company, in my quest to find out more about who they are and what they plan to do.
I recently conducted a short interview with Chris Bigelow, the founder of Zarahemla Books, and here's what he had to say:
Q: Why did you start Zarahemla Books?
Chris: Several reasons. One, I sensed that there's room for other Mormon publishing approaches between the extremes of Deseret and Signature. Two, the new technologies of digital printing and distribution make it doable on a smaller scale, in terms of money and effort required. Three, I was aware of several good manuscripts floating around that I wanted to publish. Four, I'm in a career midlife crisis and have been looking for more interesting, meaningful things to do.
Zarahemla Books focuses on edgy-but-not-apostate Mormon novels and memoirs for adult readers; we don't do historical, doctrinal, or children's books. We started about a year ago, and we've published six books so far; you can learn about them at www.zarahemlabooks.com/main.sc.
Authors are welcome to query us at email@example.com. We respond fast on queries, and if we're interested we'll request that you e-mail part or all of the manuscript; we accept no submissions of any kind on paper. It will be a few months before we decide what to publish next year.
Q: Why do we need another LDS publisher?
Chris: Deseret and its clones don't take enough risks—if anything, they have gotten more conservative and limited in the past several years, as far as what stories they're willing to publish. On the other hand, Signature publishes some good stories, but they do only one or two novels a year, and they're known mostly as a skeptical academic press that focuses on history and doctrine, not as a source of faith-compatible entertainment.
I believe there's a middle ground of more adventurous, open-minded Mormon readers who might be willing to read franker, riskier, earthier stories that still leave room for faith. It would be healthy for our culture if publishers and bookstores started serving these readers more and helping this alternative market to grow, because a sizable minority of Mormons don't relate with the Deseret outlook on entertainment. I think we could do well with some well-written adult Mormon mysteries, science fiction, and horror, stuff that's fun to read and not so squeaky-clean and unrealistic.
Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals for Zarahemla Books?
Chris: Short term, I'm trying to sell enough books to replenish the checking account enough to keep publishing more books. I just came out with my three new books for 2007, and so far it looks like commercial prospects are better for this crop than for last year's crop, so that's encouraging.
I would like to continue doing at least three books a year, as long as my resources of time and money allow. I'd like to recoup my start-up investment and maybe even begin earning a little, which would help justify spending so much time and energy on it. Another goal is to sell over 1,000 copies of a single title—that would be a real accomplishment, in my book.
Look for next week's continuation of my exploration of Zarahemla Books, which is a commentary on why I think Zarahemla Books is a good idea.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Monday is misnamed. It should be called Moan-day. Why? Because if anything’s going to go wrong, you can bet it’ll happen on that day.
On this particular Moan-day, it all started with gargantuan weeds in the driveway, near our front sidewalk. Knowing you should use the right tool for the right job, I dusted the cobwebs off the old weed-eater. I plead with it to start and begged it to run long enough to whack everything ... including the grass in the rose bed.
It started. Thirty seconds later, the line disappeared. I spent 45 minutes—with the hot sun beating on my head and sweat dripping down my neck—trying to figure out how to pop the spool out to put in new line.
Finally, I realized it wasn’t going to happen and decided to trim the deadwood in the rose bushes—then tackle the grass and weeds by hand.
The roses kept poking me. The sun blazed in the sky, my hair plastered itself to my head and my eyes stung from sweat trickling into them. Walking around the rose bed to try getting pierced from another angle, I noticed something suspicious—the sprinkler valve box was overflowing with water.
A leak. No wonder the lawn had dry spots and the weeds in the driveway were thriving. I schlepped to the garage, got the sprinkling system key and turned the water off.
By now I had a wheelbarrow with dead branches at one end of the sidewalk, a weed-whacker and 100 foot extension cord at the other end, two valve box lids laying on the lawn, and the sprinkler key sticking straight up out of the ground. My yard looked like I was recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
I realized I hadn’t gotten much of anything done. My stomach growled for breakfast. I was ready for a shower. Or maybe a nap. I figured I could make it easy on myself and nap while I showered. But then the weeding wouldn't get done.
I moved to the valve box and started bailing water. The sun rose higher in the sky. It was 11:00 a.m. and all I’d accomplished was to get hot and sweaty.
After looking the situation over, I decided to give the weed-eater one more try. Into the house I went to call the weed-whacker people. The gal there didn’t have a clue how to get the spool out. My weed-eater was older than her mother.
I finally saw a little doo-hickey on the weed-whacker’s cover. One push and ta-da, the housing popped free.
The spool had 18 inches of tangled line. I fed some through, put it back together and started it whirring. Thirty seconds later, the line disappeared. I took it apart, pulled more line and started it up. Thirty seconds later? No line again … that weed-eater hated me.
With all the stopping and starting, the machine ran for a total of five minutes. During that time I managed to weed-whack my bare ankles, chop off the heads of the roses and cut three weeds.
By then it was noon. The heat had sizzled what was left of my brain.
Putting everything away, I decided I was finished with weeding for the year—maybe for the century. I headed inside. Forget that longed-for shower of hours ago; I was taking a nap—and sleeping straight through the rest of Moan-day.
And what does this blog have to do with writing? Check back next week, when I plan to post a pithy analogy worthy of a Pulitzer prize—or at the very least an Academy Award!
What C.L.’s been reading recently:
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King
The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill with photographs by Art Wolfe
View C.L.’s other work:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann (Story on pg. 70)
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Do you remember the old cliché of the mechanic who assessed the damage on your car and said, "I’ve got some good news and some bad news . . ."
I went to court the other day. Before you start worrying about me, I was there to give moral support to my friend who was being charged.
The bad news is he didn’t show up, the judge issued a bench warrant and set bail. The good news is I stayed for awhile and watched the human drama unfold for longer than I had intended to be there.
I work nights and the session was cutting into my valuable sleep time, but I watched as ordinary people dealt with some of the more difficult circumstances in their lives.
I found myself wishing I’d brought a notebook because the stories unfolding before my eyes were rich with conflict and reality more than I could ever dream up. The characters standing before me were as diverse as they were complicated.
I stayed until I absolutely had to leave or suffer from sleep deprivation, but I’ve got material for many stories to come. I have ideas for plots that I may never be able to write.
I also gained insight into how court is conducted these days. I sat in on court sessions before, but things have changed. For one thing, they show a DVD before they begin. It tells the accused about their rights and explains the procedure. Another is the addition in the state of Utah of an interpreter.
I watched a police officer and the bailiff stand up and approach the clerk in an effort (I assume) to protect the court from the more volatile of the accused. Others may have missed the drama in that moment, but I wrote whole stories about it in my head.
The point, if you missed it, is take notice of simple moments. Glean something from every event. Get out and experience life. It will help in your writing.