Thursday, January 31, 2008

So it Seems...

By Nichole Giles

Have you ever known a person who was adamantly positive that things in a certain situation were exactly the way they look to that person? This person might stand on the sidewalk observing a family through a window watching a father pat his son on the head as they bow their heads to give thanks for a bountiful feast. The mother unties her apron while a daughter carries a pie into the room and sets it in the middle of a table laden with food. From the back yard, a dog can be heard yipping happily.

What that person doesn’t see, and can’t possibly know from the window view, is the trouble and pain behind the smiles. This is what we—the writers—must provide.

Perhaps that father has been laid off from his job, or the daughter might be about to announce some disappointing and life changing news to her parents. Maybe the feast on the table is the family’s last meal together before the mother is sent off to war in a far away country. The dog might be yipping happily because it is finally being fed for the first time in many days.

Those problems, the emotion behind the one dimensional picture window, give those characters depth and change the dynamic of the scene and within that family. That is our role. It is a writer’s job to not only see the story behind the scene, but to then show the story between the lines for our readers to see. It is only then that our story becomes a story rather than a picture through a one-dimensional window.

This is crucial and necessary because though there are people in the world who would believe it, the majority of us know that things are not always as they seem, a fact for which I am eternally grateful.

Real life is a mystery, and I think that’s grand.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stepping Stones

By C. LaRene Hall

Life is a grindstone whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us. --Thomas Holdcroft

When I read this, I came to a fast stop. It has certainly been hard for me to pick up and get going this year. I don’t want anything to grind me down. Instead, I want the grindstone to shape and smooth me a bit.

I guess that means it needs to polish me, and I need to do something since it won’t do it just because I ask. A long time ago, I learned anything of value is worth working for. To me writing is valuable.

I’m going to take the leap, and uncover a few stepping stones to help me on my way. I’ve already taken the first step by signing up for the upcoming LDStorymakers Writer Conference. Their workshops always give me a giant boost.

I’ve also started the next step and that is deciding what I’m sending out this month. Now I just need to finish it and send it on its way. I guess I should follow the advice of President Kimball, “Do it now!”

I’ve been dragging my feet with a story that needs some work on the dialogue. Maybe that’s something I need to fix. I think about it every day, but I dread doing it because I don’t know how to tell when I have enough dialect. I know a little goes a long way.

The next stepping-stone that I need to take is working on my next novel. I started it and I’ve done enough research since I visited the setting of the area. I honestly don’t know why I can’t go any farther. I just sit and stare into space.

I finished most of the other loose ends before the new year so now I just need to let my head and heart join together and take one small step at a time in finding new ideas. Once I set my mind to it, I usually can do what I need to do.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Prodigal Story

By Darvell Hunt

Stories that have unexpected U-turns can be a good thing. Readers hate predictable plots and they don’t sell well. We generally always like surprise turns in a good story.

Unfortunately, writers have a different type of U-turn that can be annoying and not at all enjoyable.

I’m working to write a novel this month, according to Tristi Pinkston’s “Novel in a Month Challenge.” Much to my disappointment, I found that I didn’t like where my story was taking me and I began looking for another direction to go. Frankly, I think I missed a hidden left turn a few miles back.

As such, I’m probably not going to reach my goal of completing a novel this month. I feel that it’s better sometimes that we, as writers, take a few steps backwards, or maybe even make a U-turn if it’s necessary, to make sure our story ends up where we think it should.

As most writers know, stories can and do take on a life of their own. Most of the time, that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s not. All my stories seem like my babies to me. Sometimes when they grow up, they begin to go down wayward paths and become lost. When that happens to my stories, I often find myself asking, “What on earth happened?”

In these cases, I try to take steps to correct the wayward story and, sometimes, I just have to let it go and forget about it.

I’m hoping to find that my current project becomes “the prodigal story,” or a story that will return to the right path once I figure out what went wrong. When it’s back on track, I plan to celebrate by killing the fatted calf and having a satisfying feast.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Up in the Night

C.L. Beck
© 2008

A few nights ago, after the usual tossing, turning, and fluffing of pillows, I nodded off into that dream where you’re rich, intelligent and able to fly. I’d just gathered riches when a loud, “Wham! Thump, thump!” echoed through the house.

My husband, Russ, and I bolted upright. “What was that?” I whispered.

“I don’t know,” he whispered back.

I’m not sure why we whispered. Whatever was downstairs made enough racket to cover the roar of a jet engine.

We sat there, our ears pricked like barn cats listening for mice. Finally I said, “Why don’t you go see what made that noise?”

“Why don’t you?” Russ replied.

“Because that’s your job. There’s an unwritten law dating back to the Garden of Eden. Husbands must warm their wives’ cold feet and they are responsible for checking out things that go bump in the night.”

Russ reluctantly slid out of bed, mumbling his opinion of unwritten laws, and headed toward the bedroom door. “Wait. Aren’t you going to take a weapon?” I asked.

“What would you suggest?” he said, looking around a room filled with books and knickknacks.

Remembering the recent news of the shooting death of a professional football player who kept a machete for self-defense, I didn’t bother to drag out the sword from under the bed. “How about that book on body language,” I said, pointing at it.

“Oh, that’ll be a big help.”

“At least you’ll know—by his subtle signals—when he plans to whap you over the head,” I replied.

Opening the bedroom door, Russ started downstairs. I intended to follow, in case he needed help, but the moonlight reflecting on the snow distracted me.

Russ called from the T.V. room, “Come and look at this.”

I figured he’d conked a burglar over the head and wanted praise, so it was safe to go down. As I walked into the room, Russ cracked open the curtains. On the outside windowsill sat a stunned, befuddled dove.

“She must have flown into the window by accident. That’s what made all the noise,” Russ said.

We stood there, hesitant, wondering what we should do to help the poor bird. “You could catch her and bring her in to warm up,” I said.

Russ pulled on a sweatshirt and stepped out into the frigid night. The person driving by craned his neck at the sight of a hooded figure wearing pajama bottoms and slippers with no socks, carrying a shoebox and creeping along the sidewalk. I fully expected the guy to steer into a snow bank. I’m certain it was enough to scare the bird into consciousness, because she took off like a shot.

With the dilemma solved, we traipsed back to bed. Just as the cold in my feet transferred over to Russ’s, the noise happened again.

“It’s that bird,” Russ explained in a sleep-filled voice.

I relaxed in the blanket’s fluffy warmth and while slipping into dreamland mumbled, “But birds don’t fly at night.”

Wham! Thump, thump.

We trudged back downstairs and Russ looked out the window—ice had formed on the sill. “I don’t see anything,” he said, “It must be so cold that the birds are falling out of the trees. I’m going out to see if they’re lying on the sidewalk. Maybe I can rescue them.”

It was after midnight. The same man who didn’t want to go downstairs in the cold and dark to check for burglars now wanted to step out into five below temperatures in his pajamas—again—and rescue birds?

Wanting to do my part, I stayed inside where it was warm and watched from the window. Russ stepped to the edge of the sidewalk, looking perplexed—no birds. His eyes scanned the pine tree, searching for frozen doves falling from the sky when ….

A large, dark shape dived from the boughs, buzzed Russ, and hooted as it flew over to an elm. Giving Russ a cranky look, it sat there, waiting for its chance to return to the pine.

Mystery solved, Russ stepped back inside and said, “The doves weren’t falling out of the trees in a frozen stupor. A predator was chasing them.”

“Well, owl be,” I said.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Crossing Over

By Keith Fisher

I was challenged by a friend this week, to read a book by a certain LDS fiction author. I won’t mention the writer’s name to save myself the anger of the fans that love her work. Suffice it to say you would know who it is.

I was reluctant to read the book because it’s Romantic fiction, but it’s also Chick Lit. What is Chick Lit you ask? Its literature written for woman, about women, with situations only a woman can appreciate.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to think I’m a sensitive guy, but I’m a man, and I often think like one. My friend wanted a legitimate reason that I had never cracked open one of her favorite author’s books and I couldn’t think of an answer that wouldn’t insult the entire female population of the planet. (Well that’s probably not true. I’m sure the monkeys in Africa haven’t heard of the author.) I was between books anyway, so I said I’d read.

My friend not only lent me the book she brought the sequel. I guess she figured I needed some intense training, at any rate, I opened the book. After about fifty pages I began to worry about my testosterone levels. After a hundred, I decided it was a good story. I overlooked the exclusively feminine undertones and discovered a story with a moral that teaches people to never take anyone for granted.

Of course the story is like a big soap opera, but so is the bulk of what I’ve been reading lately, not to mention my life. The only difference is the emphasis placed on love and human relationships. With all the sappy, gooey, pathetic tear jerking prose I read this week, I discovered a couple of interesting things. I liked the story and I found a new genre.

As I mentioned before in this blog, the majority of readers who buy LDS fiction are female and for some reason, women love sappy romances. At this point a light bulb appears over my head and I decide it might be profitable to become a romance writer.

Can you see it now? Me at the Super Bowl party in a room full of manly men, someone says, "I didn’t know you were an author, what kind of books do you write?"
I look him in the eye, and with a straight face, say, "Romance novels."

You laugh, but the last time I visited the bookstore I noticed the number of romance novels exceeded most other genres. Closely followed by mysteries and suspense. So I might rethink my genre. Maybe I’ll add horror and re-write an old television show. I could call it Love Transylvanian Style.

Thanks to my friend--I really did like the book. And to all the rest of you, Good luck with your writing, I’ll see you next week.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Write, Practice, Write, Practice...

by G.Parker

Last week I mentioned that using online resources will help with your writing. This week I want to bring up another idea – writing for money or recognition. In your quest to be a great writer, you need to get recognition so that your writing becomes known. Let’s face it, the only reason many people write is because they want someone to READ their work. If no one ever sees it, it will never get noticed.

There are many ways to do this. One is blogging, which we’ve covered and which you are reading. There, see? You can get noticed! Another is writing articles for newspapers, magazines, etc. There are online sites as well that hire writers and blogger and pay for the articles. Some of them don’t pay very much, but your name gets out there and you’re getting paid for something you would want to do anyway!

Another way is finding sites that pay. One such site that is actually legit, is called Helium. I myself am a member of this writing community. They have several ways to write. There is a list of subjects and sub-subjects and you are able to see what is already written and what you can chose to write about. You can always create a new title, but I’ve found that’s more difficult – I usually pick something that’s already been written about.

They have what’s called the Marketplace which has actual online magazines that list articles they want written and how much they will pay for such an article. They specify what subject they want the article to cover and then leave it to you to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve already had one of these types of articles accepted and got paid for it. I was so excited!

So, if you feel the need for exposure and some deadlines to get your writing flowing, check out your neighborhood newspaper, magazines and online opportunities. There’s bound to be something that will get you noticed!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Following the Rules

By Nichole Giles

Whenever I go to a conference or read writing tips from editors, there is one piece of advice I hear consistently over and over again. The editors always suggest reading back issues—for magazine’s you’re submitting to—or books on the publisher’s list. This advice is always followed by an admonition to read and strictly follow submission guidelines.

Submission guidelines are instructions for writers. Sometimes they even offer topic ideas and editor wish lists. Sometimes guidelines are hard to find, or when we do find them we don’t understand why we have to use a certain font, or double space, or submit by mail rather than online. I used to wonder why magazines were so strict with their word counts. But I have learned that there are reasons for all of these things and that a great majority of editors won’t look at submissions that don’t follow their simple, but strict guidelines.

Every editor I’ve heard speak has touched on the subject of following guidelines. Why? Because, let’s face it, if an author can’t follow the written instructions on the publisher’s website, how will they ever be able to follow editing instructions? Or promotional instructions?

So I ask, my dear friends, how can we writers not heed and acknowledge this advice? From word count restrictions to page format, and even to sending your work to the correct editor—we cannot minimize the importance of following directions.

After all, if you were an editor, would you look at submissions by an author who believed himself above the rules?

Luckily, these guidelines are readily available for all of us, if we just know where to look. Most publishing companies have a website that offers guidelines at the stroke of a few keys. Another excellent way to find out what a publisher expects is by writing a short note requesting guidelines and then sending it to the company with a self addressed stamped envelope. That way, all they have to do is stuff your envelope and send it back to you. Easy as pie.

Whatever your genre, and wherever you submit, don’t forget to check the guidelines. It could mean the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Breaking Into The Big League

By C. LaRene Hall

Most baseball players dream of the time they can play in the majors. They know it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of many years of hard work, difficult competition, good timing and of course, a winning record. If a player makes it, he knows he played his best.

Writers are much like baseball player, if they make it, it isn’t accidental. It’s the result of a clear vision, a creative well-planned story, and lots of hard work. You don’t just one day say, “I want to be a writer.”

It’s more difficult than some people imagine. If it weren’t for the encouragement of friends and fellow bloggers, it would be a lonely road. It’s something you do by polishing the skills you have. You study all the books you can find. Then you research the facts you aren’t sure are correct. Reading many books helps your writing improve. Next, you practice the things you have learned by writing and writing some more. Most important don’t ever give up.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What’s in a Name?

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

For some unknown reason, a lot of my writing inspiration comes while I’m doing the dishes. There I stand, soap and bubbles up to my elbows, pots and pans stacked haphazardly while waiting for a good scrub and I get an idea for a blog. Is it possible my muse has a twisted side and just waits for me to start the water running before she’ll arrive?

I suppose I should be grateful she shows up at all, but it is inconvenient to try to remember ideas until all the dishes are washed. The only other alternative is to stop what I’m doing, dry my hands, and head to the computer … leaving the dishes for someone else to finish.

Wait. What’s wrong with me? Leaving the dishes for someone else to finish? Well, bless that sweet, little muse’s heart!

My dishsoap-y idea today revolved around book titles. What if the books we know and love had been born with different titles. Would we have read them anyway?

Take a gander at these:

What if The Old Man and the Sea was titled Geezer on the Big Pond?
The Scarlet Letter was titled The Big Red A. (Sounds like something from Sesame Street!)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was titled Out of the Closet—Tales of Big Cat and the Old Hag.
The Lord of the Rings was titled Lord of the Flies. (Oh wait, there’s already a Lord of the Flies.)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was titled 60,000 Miles of Salt Water—Straight Down.
The Work and the Glory was titled Trials of the Mormons—In 532 Easy-to-Read Volumes.

Those are just a few that came to mind. And I’m sure I could come up with hundreds more, but … well … those dishes are still waiting for me and the water is getting cold.

(I found this quote long after writing the above and thought you would enjoy it. "The best time for planning a book is while doing the dishes."— Agatha Christie)

What books C.L. recommends:
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

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Visiting an Old Friend

By Keith Fisher

Reading is life’s blood for a writer. There are a few who claim reading other people’s work stifles their own creativity, but most writers will agree that reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer.

To this end, I have an ever-growing list of books to read; books I’ve heard about, books written by people I know personally, books written in my chosen genre. There are reference books, non-fiction books, and research, not to mention the magazines.

With so many things to read, and limited time to do it, I’m selective. I read the first lines, perhaps the first chapter of something and if it doesn’t grab my attention, I move on, vowing to come back and finish reading the rejected work, but somehow I never get back.

The pile of rejected books in my library caught my attention the other day. In the pile, there were great books, some by neglected writer friends. Some were manuscripts I promised to edit, others were books that should be thrown out (I can never bring myself to destroy the printed word). Anyway, I think I need to follow the example of Bill Gates. I’ve heard that he makes a stack of things he wants to read then he takes a couple weeks in retreat and does nothing but read from the stack.

Since I don’t have a retreat in Seattle, or the time to take off, I better stop adding to the pile. I need to read everything and help edit the works of those who have helped me by reading my stuff. I can’t take time to savor anymore—I need to read faster.

Okay, you caught me, I know I’ll never catch up, but maybe I can prioritize. I’ll just make more stacks and stop adding to them . . . you see the problem don’t you?

When I looked at my stack again I found an old friend. It was my missionary copy of the scriptures, dog-eared and used with torn pages, some pages with holes, all with hand written notes on them. I once called those scriptures my most valued possession.

I use new scriptures now, but they don’t fall open at the slightest touch of my hand like the others. Passages don’t seem to be in the same places, and I fight the pages trying to find what I’m looking for.

Perhaps there’s a metaphor here, but I’ll let you decide what it is. Tonight, I’m going to visit an old friend. Good luck with your writing and I’ll see you next week.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

by G.Parker

One of my goals for this year, as mentioned in my blog a week or so ago, stated that I would be working on editing. I have many stories that are complete and just need a good editing to be submitted. I admit -- once I write and 'finish' a story I don't like to look at it again for a while. I need to let it go away from my brain while I work on something else. Then, when I go back to it, it seems new and amazing. I think, "I wrote that?"

This month I'm working on a novel called Jenny of the Wood. Should you like to preview, I do have the first couple of chapters posted at so you can check it out. This story started as a dream in my husband's head and developed into a story in mine. I'm not really a fantasy writer, I'm more of a contemporary romance writer, but I'm finding I don't have a set genre.

The reason I bring this up, is I've been editing this week. (Finally!) Last night I was able to get through several chapters, and it's like reading it for the first time. I'd forgotten the little details, the plot weaved through the pages. I didn't want to stop when it was time for bed.

This gave me a sense of hope as I turned off my computer. Perhaps those that read my book will feel the same way -- maybe it will be hard for them to put down. I'm hoping that's the reaction. Isn't that the dream of every writer?

So, if you're working on something that you're tired of, perhaps you just need to take a break for a while and try something new. Or, pull out something you finished a while ago and dust it off, get back in the creaky saddle and work at it again. You might find some old friends you'd forgotten -- friends that are still waiting for the master's touch.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


By Nichole Giles

Have you ever had one of those weeks when your brain worked fine, just not in the way you wanted it to? I can think about getting my kids to and fro—and by to and fro I mean all over the city starting at 7:45 a.m. and returning for good at 9:10 p.m.—and I can edit things that are already written, or things other people have written, but try as I might, I have not been able to think of a single topic for a blog.

Usually, I write my blogs days in advance. But lately, I’ve been struggling to pull topics out of the air. I’m starting to wonder if the creative side of my brain is rejecting the horrid, cold Utah weather. The blood in my head seems to slow considerably with the seconds of prolonged exposure, turning into slush as it makes its way through the nooks and crannies, and finally turning into a solid mass of ice when it reaches the final destination.

I thought to write about starting a fresh new year, about second chances and new opportunities, but I didn’t get past the title before the brain-ice closed me down.

I started writing about the insane human need to do more than that of which we are physically capable, but I never even got the first line finished.

I almost wrote about finding humor in the little everyday things. Things we would forget about if we didn’t take notice and write them down. (This going along with the LDS Humor project on which I am currently working.)

I even considered posting a writing prompt or inspirational quote to help my readers and myself get started with our blank pages. But I got distracted, played mother, cook, and taxi, and when I came back, the idea fizzled like a fire with no kindling.

So, I’m very sorry everyone, but I have no topic this week. But I will offer you a word of advice. Even when you struggle to come up with a topic, write anyway. It’s the only sure way to prevent a winter of brain-freeze.

Quote for today:

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
~Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Passion

By C. LaRene Hall

For the past few weeks, I’ve been talking with some relatives about the targets I’m aiming to accomplish this year, and it's been interesting to hear their reactions. Some of them couldn’t believe that I had scrap booking as one of those important things to finish. I asked them, “Why do you bother taking pictures if you aren’t going to put them in a scrap book so your children can look at them?”

I still shake my head and wonder why anyone would take the time to snap hundreds of pictures, and go to the expense of developing them, if all they were going to do was leave them in the envelope or put them into a drawer. What a waste.

To me, that is the same as spending time writing a story and then not sharing it with anyone. I’m glad I decided that I would send at least one story a month out to a magazine or book for publication. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I don’t finish many stories in a month because I sometimes do research instead of always writing.

I’m as passionate about scrap booking as I am about writing. One good thing about the pictures is I usually put them away in a book, and the job is complete, but the writing never ends. For sure this year I’m going to send my stories out for others to read. There is no sense writing a story if no one is going to read it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Dose of Reality

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

I’m not a big fan of reality shows. Somehow, watching people eat bugs and vote each other off an island never seemed like real life to me. The closest I’ve even been to that was the time a bug flew up my boyfriend’s nose and I voted to take him home so his mom could get it out.

I will admit, though, that occasionally I’ll sit down with my husband, Russ, and watch a game show—and as amazing as it may seem, those programs are now included in the category of reality shows. All I know is that when you’re too tired to think, much less write a blog, there’s nothing like a game show to enliven the winter stupor into which your brain has sunk. If watching someone hop, scream and boogie around the floor while trying to guess the lyrics to a song doesn’t make you feel alive, nothing will wake you from the zombie state into which you’ve obviously slid.

Tonight I watched a woman win $100,000 only to lose 75% of it in another round. The next contestant came in and almost tanked on the first song. He managed to pick himself up off the floor and sing his way through the next two—only to blow it with overconfidence on the third.

That wasn’t the most interesting part, however. Although I felt sorry for those poor folks, who were trying to escape life’s rut by appearing on TV, what got me going was the preview for the upcoming show. The wild-eyed woman of next week bounced up and down and pointed aggressively at the board, her eyes widening into giant orbs. Then she screeched in a voice that would shatter windows, “Lock in those lyrics!” And Russ said, “Brought to you straight from the mental hospital.”

I don’t know, maybe you needed to be there. But, you couldn’t get more real than that—and I just had to write it down.

What books C.L. recommends:
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

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Friday, January 11, 2008

One Big Crazy Family

By Keith Fisher

I registered for the LDStorymakers conference the other day. As with everything else the price went up, but that’s not what I want to write about today.

I have a friend who wants to become a writer. She asked me where to start and I gave her a flippant answer I cannot recall, but then I went into detail about rough drafts, conflict, and characters, hooks, cliffhangers, and adverbs. I told her to start writing and read a lot. I told her to go to the writer’s conference.

In my attempt to teach her, my mind drifted over seventeen years, and hundreds of pages in books about writing. Magazine articles, writers clubs, and workshops. I realized I’ve come a long way. It hasn’t been easy, I’ve struggled with English and grammar, problems with plots, and time conflicts. But all in all it has been a good ride.

This will be my third LDStorymakers conference and I’m looking forward to it with all the wide-eyed optimism of a new writer. I can’t wait to see the antics of Tristi Pinkston, rub shoulders with the many talented people, meet new friends, and renew old acquaintances.

When I look at my many manuscripts in different phases of development, I realize I’m a much better writer than I used to be. Most of all, I can see the sweat and blood that I’ve put into them.

My friend, I know there is a chance you will be published on your first submission, but it may take more. Years will pile up, but you will be rewarded.

As I’ve written many times before, start writing and never quit—watch people and note how they do things. Let your imagination soar—it will take you to new ideas and plot twists that you never dreamed possible. Let your characters speak to you, don’t be afraid, because you’re not crazy . . . even if you are, you’re in good company. Go to a writer’s conference and you will see . . . we are all one big happy family of crazy people.

Good luck with your writing, and see you next week.

Writing Helps for Dummies

by G.Parker

I used to be one of those who thought these book were pure gimmick. "Who actually reads those?" I'd ask myself, passing them by for something that looked more promising, but cost more. Let me tell you, those books are written for the average person, and they have great stuff. My hubby is reading one now about a particular computer program.

My point, however, is not those particular books, but the simple fact many of us can't afford to go out and buy writing books, so we are stuck with looking around on the web or borrowing from friends. While borrowing from friends is nice, they usually want the book back and you can't mark up the margins.

With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to point out some of the sites on the internet that help with writing. There are lots of organizations that are free and give you access to critiques, grammar help, etc. Along with those organizations, there are also many sites out there with generic help (such as spelling, punctuation, etc.). Some of those places are invaluable.

If you've spent any time on the internet as a writer, then these sites will possibly be ones you've already visited. If you're new at the whole thing, then perhaps they will be of benefit. -- This is a great place if you write historical fiction or non-fiction and need to know how people dressed. -- This site is great if you don't have a dictionary, thesaurus or need other basic grammar helps. -- This is a good resource site for those who want to make a living writing from home. -- This site has lots of resources for all kinds of writers. It takes a little delving, but it's good. -- this is a membership site for writers. They have challenges, contests, suggestions, etc. They're great. -- writers digest is a great magazine, and the site has lots to offer the writing enthusiast. -- is another membership site. Membership is free, but there are ugrades that give you more options, such as add free membership, etc. I've been a member for several years, and they are great for critiques. -- there is a forum on this site where the LDS writer can find a home. They're great, and there are many published authors to lend their support and wisdom as well. -- this is kind of different, I didn't find it worked for me, but several people swear by it. You might find it worth your time. -- this site is great if you're feeling in a slump and can't come up with anything to write. They are a tag line generator, and promote madwrites. -- this place is great if you're looking for help with writing skills as well as do's and don'ts. -- this is a great resource site as well.

These are all sites that I've bookmarked on my computer at one time or another and I've used each one. There are many more out there, all you need to do is search. Don't let lack of knowledge stop your writing or hinder your efforts. If you don't find what you're looking for or need on the internet, libraries are a great source as well. Just keep writing!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stick With It

By Nichole Giles

Every day, as soon as my kids go to school, I make my way over to the gym. I only spend about an hour there, sometimes less, but unless I have a sick child, an important appointment, or a deadline, I take that hour each morning to prioritize my personal health.

And every January, I prepare myself for an over-crowded parking lot and a short wait time for the most popular resistance and cardio machines. The surge in attendance usually lasts through the end of January but by mid-February simmers down. There are always a last few stragglers who keep their goals going strong all the way through March, but by April those of us who are regulars have the gym back to ourselves with only the occasional pop in from “seasonal members.”

I think it’s wonderful that people will resolve to get in shape, even if they only dedicate a few months out of the year to try. But it makes me sad when those people who come to the gym in January, all eager in their new workout clothes, give up before giving themselves the chance to reach whatever goals they set.

A healthy body, like a healthy mind, requires regular maintenance. And what’s more, we make goals because we hope for something, we expect something of ourselves, and then we set goals when we determine the easiest possible way to get the things we desire.

I use the term “easy” lightly though. Think about it. When ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, their vision was much longer than their lives. And when the pioneers prepared to make a cross-country journey to the Rocky Mountains, they knew they were in for a long haul. When we become parents, it is not only for a few years, nor is it a job we can take temporarily until we decide it’s time to move on to something better, parenting is forever.

Now writers, we know all about goals. We also know about dedication and patience, don’t we? We write because we have to, because we don’t have a choice, and because very often if we don’t take some time out for writing, we get grumpy and grouchy and angry at the world. Well, at least I do. And we have goals, just like everyone else—the ultimate one being publication. Actually, no, I changed my mind. Our reachable goal is publication. Our ultimate goal is being number one on the New York Times bestseller list, fame, fortune, and iconic status. That’s what we really want.

But the Grand Canyon wasn’t carved in a day. Nor was it carved in a year. It took time. Lots, and lots, and lots of time. And if you’ve ever visited there you know that the millions of years of work the Colorado River put forth to carve that amazing place was worth it.

Make your goals worth the effort you put into making them. Whatever you chose to try this year, stick with it.

One more thought. One of the women in Authors Incognito is having her first book release party this weekend. She got the contract for this book after more than 110 rejections, and many, many years of writing and submitting. Now she has an agent, several manuscripts on the market, and the future is happy and bright for her writing career.

Talk about sticking with it!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Out of Control

By C. LaRene Hall

The year has just started and already I feel like I’m racing out of control without a clue as to what I’m doing. I know it’s because I haven’t taken the time to set my goals. Sometimes I struggle because that is what everyone else does. I don’t want to be like anyone else because I enjoy doing my own thing.

This year I’m not calling them goals or resolutions. I don’t want to be ambitious, or aspire to anything big. I know that if I don’t decide to do something with my life, it’ll go down the tube. This year I’m going to aim to do a little each day. Like Robin Hood, I’m aiming for the target. If I do it each day, the things I wish for will come true.

Targets for my writing will include write something every day, and sending a story out every month. I plan to spend two days a week doing research. Without research, I’ll never finish my stories in progress.

I aim to invite my family over to my house more often. Instead of taking them out for their birthday my objective this year is to invite them to my home where we can spend more quality time together.

I finished catching the scrapbooks up the last few weeks, so this year I won’t have to work so hard on them. I think for the other extra chores I need to do throughout the year I’ll make a big bulls-eye and wherever the arrow lands that day that’s what I’ll do. I feel better already because now I know where I’m going.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Committed this Year

By C.L. Beck
© 2008

Every year my author friends make New Year’s goals. Those are good ones, I’ll think as I read their lists. I should make the same resolutions.

But, I don’t. Why? Because I’m committed to making commitments I can keep. So here’s my list of goals for 2008:

I will write at least once this year—preferably by Jan. 1, so that I don’t procrastinate and end up doing it at the end of the year. When nothing shows up on my blank, white paper, I will go into the kitchen and eat that three-week-old, green, Christmas tree sugar cookie I was saving for emergencies.

I will send goal number one out to a publisher by February 30. When that doesn’t happen, I’ll mail half of my Christmas tree sugar cookie to the Salt Lake Tribune.

I will use my spell cheque moor.

I will read the book, Don Quixote, in the original Spanish. When that doesn’t happen, I will try to read the Spanish label on my catsup bottle. When that doesn’t happen, I’ll settle for watching Speedy Gonzales.

I will sharpen all my pencils. When that doesn’t happen, I will gnaw a point onto one pencil while searching for a pen.

I will re-read my list of goals daily. When that doesn’t happen, I will re-read them weekly. When that doesn’t happen, I'll use my computer mouse to bang holes in the list.

So, there you have it—goals that I’m certain I can accomplish. And I don’t know what goals you have in mind for this year, but if you’re having trouble coming up with a list, I’ll be glad to help—as soon as I gnaw a point onto my pencil.

What books C.L. recommends:
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

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Another New Year/The Case of the Missing Hats

By Keith Fisher

I remember when I was kid, seeing discarded, fancy party hats and noisemakers at Grandma’s house on New Year’s Day. Us kids were allowed to play with them and it was fun, but I wondered what I was missing. What was the source of the noisemakers and joyful toys? I wanted to stay up late on New Year’s Eve and watch the reverie, just to be in on the goings on, but I wasn’t allowed.

"When you get older," Mom would always say, and I was left to my wild imagination about the rituals participated in, on that night of all nights. I don’t remember when I was finally allowed to stay up, but I do remember being disappointed. I wondered why I had cared so much. There were no party hats, noisemakers, or joyful toys. I think we played Monopoly and Grandpa won (as he always did on Sunday afternoons).

When I drifted away from the beliefs of my parents and began to experience another, non-LDS life I found a forum for the celebration, but I never saw any party hats. When I went on my mission, I still kept the ritual of sleeplessness (but with a somewhat more sedate form of entertainment). I remember my companion sticking his head out the window on a snowy night in Gander, NewFoundland, and shouting "Happy New Year" at the top of his lungs. All in all a very daring thing to do, but still no party hats.

When I got married and it was just the two of us, we wondered what the point was, and started watching Dick Clark in New York but still no party hats. Now that I’m older and sedate is a state of being, I wonder what all the shouting was about. A few years ago, my daughter was determined to stay up until midnight. She was fine until about ten, when she began to drift off. Through a series of pokes, jabs, and wrestling matches, we managed to keep her awake, but when it was finally time to sleep, she couldn't. She was too keyed up from wrestling. It was fun, but I think she wondered where the party hats were.

So now that I’m old—I don’t drink, I don’t have any fireworks to light off, and I normally stay up all night anyway, (I work the graveyard shift). I’m left to wonder two things: What is the point? And what was the ritualistic purpose of those party hats?

Good luck in your writing and remember it’s just a change of date on the calendar.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Loss of Anonymity

You may have noticed the comments feature of our blog has the anti anonymous function turned on. When I discovered this, I was saddened. First, because some of us don’t have time to log into blogger before leaving comments and therefore we like to leave comments anonymously but sign our name at the bottom. It has been turned off because of a few foul-minded individuals who cannot control themselves.

Which brings me to the second reason for my sadness. There are those who feel the need to leave foul and abusive comments on our blog. Those MORONS who have nothing better to do with their time than to read a blog about the process of writing LDS fiction, then leave their disgusting mark on it like a male dog establishing new territory deserve our pity but not our attention.

So to those who would comment, but either don’t have a blogger account, or don’t have time to log in first, let me say, we at LDSWritersblogck wish to say we’re sorry. We want to thank you for reading and for your sage comments.

Resolutions? Bah, Humbug!

by G.Parker

There are many words tossed out this time of year, New Year's resolutions being some of them. Personally, I hate the word resolution. It causes nothing but anxiety, trepidation and chaos in my world. I about break out in hives just thinking about it.

I prefer the word goal. I also prefer to set goals throughout the year, not just in January. It took me a long time to see the merit and principles involved in making goals. As I've grown older, I've come to realize they help me achieve the things I want to do.

There was a long period in my life that I didn't accomplish very much because I let events dictate my actions, not the other way around.

Goals can be very handy, especially when you are a writer. Believe it or not, some writers have a hard time putting words to paper. They want to write, they have stories pounding in their brains, but they are paralyzed by 'what if's'. What if it isn't any good? What if no one reads it? What if no publisher will print it?

The problem is, no one will read it and nothing will come of it if you don't write. Making goals, therefore, help push those words out and get the work going.

My goals are fairly simple this year. Timing at the end of 2007 has caused my goalmaking to coincide with the beginning of the new year -- much to my chargin. I would postpone the whole thing since I wasn't organized during December to do it then, but the only one that would effect would be me. As a result, I gave in and wrote down what I wanted to do for the next 12 months.

What kind of goal is most helpful? That depends on what you are trying to accomplish. For instance; instead of a word count goal this year, I'm setting one of a time frame. I will spend two hours a day on my writing. This helps because I will be focusing alot on editing.

The best way to determine if your goals are or have worked, is the end result. Did you accomplish what you set out to? What could you do differently to be more effective?

We'll see where things sit at the end of 2008. I hope to have accomplished quite a bit. I'll let you know.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Call for Submissions

By Nichole Giles

I am starting the new year with a bang. My good friend and fellow blogger, C.L. Beck and I have embarked upon an exciting new project and we’d love to invite all our readers to participate. So, in place of my weekly blog, I’m going to post an invitation to submit your humorous stories for possible publication in a book. Now’s your chance, so don’t pass up a great opportunity to gain a published credit. Good luck!

Share Some Humor
(Published and unpublished authors alike are invited to submit!)

Nichole Giles and Cindy (C.L.) Beck are actively seeking humorous, true, anecdotal stories of Latter-Day Saint goofs and gaffs at church, for a book that is being considered for publication by Covenant.

Whether your story takes place in Sacrament meeting, Relief Society, Priesthood, Young Men and Women, Primary, at a ward party, or at any ol' Mormon meeting (and face it, we have plenty of meetings from which to garner bloopers), we welcome them all.

We seek unpublished, narrative, nonfictional anecdotes that read like fiction. Stories must be humorous, original, in English, typed, titled, and up to 170 words. You don't need to be a published author to submit, but if you are, we welcome your submissions as well.

There are no entry fees ... but then again, there aren't any prizes, either! Well, except for the prize of the opportunity to spread a little laughter, and a chance to get your name and website listed in a book that is being considered for publication by Covenant. Ooo, that means a possible publishing credit for you, too.

Selections for the book will be made by committee. Because of that, it won't do any good to call Cindy or Nichole—or to bang on their doors—begging them to accept one more story. (Although we have heard whispers that some on the committee might consider a chocolate bribe.)


Submissions must be true, humorous anecdotes that have taken place at an LDS church or at an LDS church-related function. Stories must be UNPUBLISHED. Stories that have been previously published in books, magazines, e-zines, websites, blogs or other forms of publication will NOT be considered.

They must be double-spaced, titled, in English, with a word count up to 170.

They may not contain the names of the individuals involved (we don't want to get sued because Sister BlubberPuss and Brother ToeJams saw their name in print), and can not give ward or stake names.

Email submissions to ldshumor at yahoo dot com. No attachments—please copy and paste your submission into the body of the email.

One submission per email, but feel free to submit as many stories as you like. In fact, we encourage this! Include your full name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.

DEADLINE: February 15, 2008

You can also view the guidelines, along with two sample stories at

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A New Beginning

By C. LaRene Hall

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” – Lewis Carroll

I love that quote. It’s what I plan on doing with this new year. Actually, I’ve been pondering what I know about New Year’s day. I don’t want to write about the usual things you would expect such as goals and resolutions. Instead, I want to think about the beginning of celebrations, and traditions.

January 1st is the oldest of all holidays. In ancient Babylon almost 4,000 years ago, they celebrated the first day of spring. It was the perfect time to start a new year with the rebirth and blossoming of plants. Their New Year resolution was probably to return borrowed garden equipment instead of losing weight.

As I searched to see how different cities and countries celebrated this holiday, I wasn’t surprised to see that the most popular celebrations consisted of parades and fireworks. I love watching parades and fireworks so I would be at home wherever I traveled.

Years ago, people thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did on the first day of the year. That’s the reason why people celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends.

Another thing that brings good luck is food. Many cultures believe that if it’s in the shape of a ring it will bring good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle" which completes a year's cycle.

Many years ago, the new year started with a custom called ‘first footing’, which was suppose to bring good luck to people for the coming year. As soon as midnight had passed, people waited behind their doors for a dark-haired person to arrive. My husband tells that when he was young, on New Years Eve right after the clock chimed twelve, his father who had dark hair would go out the back door and come in the front door.

My husband doesn’t remember any more details, but the custom further states that the visitor carried a piece of coal, bread, money and greenery for good luck The coal was so the house would always be warm, the bread to make sure everyone had enough food to eat, money so they would have enough money, and the greenery so they had a long life. The visitor would then take a pan of dust or ashes out of the house with him, thus signifying the departure of the old year.

In almost every English-speaking country is a tradition to bring the New Year in at the stroke of midnight singing, "Auld Lang Syne". Some of the symbols of the New Year are Father Time and the New Year Baby.

Unlike us, February 7, 2008 is the first day of the Chinese New Year. This coming year is the year of the rat or formally the year of Wu Zhi. I wonder what this means for all of us. I hate rats.

Anyway, my wish for all of you is to have a wonderful New Year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Book-in-a-Month Club

By Darvell Hunt

I'm going to write a book in a month--for the second time.

I am accepting Tristi Pinkston's challenge to write a book in the month of January. Here's her challenge:

Tristi Pinkston's Book in a Month Challenge.

I've already completed a novel in a month a few years ago for the National Novel Wring Month challenge, so this should my my second novel in a month. If you're interested in participating, come join the club at the above link.