Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ann Dee Ellis

By Darvell Hunt

Have you read ever Ann Dee Ellis's young adult novels? I recently read her first book, This is What I Did:. My response? WOW.

Ann Dee Ellis is the primary reason that I have attended three BYU week-long writing conferences and why I'll probably go back this year. She’s even teaching a novel class this year and I plan to sign up for it.

Three years ago, I was attending an AML conference (AML is Association for Mormon Letters). I went to a panel class hosted by Dean Hughes, Ann Dee Ellis, and Chris Crow. Ann Dee talked about the lucrative deal she received for her first book, which she got from contacts she made at Chris Crow's BYU Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference.

That sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to go. This was not an easy decision, as the conference certainly was not cheap, but I’ve considered the time and money well spent.

At last year’s BYU conference, I met Ann Dee in the hall and I chatted with her for a few minutes. After two years, she still remembered me from the AML class, even though I never really talked to her directly. That impressed me. I talked to her about writing, and she asked me what I was working on. I was disappointed in myself for not having read her book yet, but vowed to correct that oversight.

So, one of the first authors I looked up on my new Amazon Kindle was Ann Dee Ellis. I'm glad I did. I downloaded and read, This is What I Did:. (The colon is part of the title.) What an interesting ride. Honestly, it seemed to be something like “Stephen King for junior high kids.” It's got it all: sex, violence, bullying, flirting, fear, hiding from that fear, humor, and, despite all that, even some triumphant moments—hidden amongst the dark moments. And, on top of the incredible content, the writing style is so unique that it’s worth reading just for that.

I don’t recommend that you read this novel with your Relief Society book club, for sure, but do read it. Be advised, however, that the content may be a bit strong for some readers.

(Please note that when I compare Ann Dee Ellis to Stephen King, I don’t mean to imply that she writes horror for kids. These aren’t really horror stories, although bad things do happen. Stephen King’s stories are often intense and so are Ann Dee Ellis’s. That is what I meant. Also, the “sex and violence” that I mentioned don’t compare to King, but are appropriate, I think, for this type of book and the target age group.)

I’m now starting Ann Dee’s second novel, Everything is Fine. From reading her first book, I’m assuming the title is meant to be sarcastic. It should be a good read.

Monday, March 30, 2009


By Ali Cross

For the past year I have been privileged to be a member of a wonderful critique group. Three of us met at the LDStorymaker conference last year and decided to start a group together. We located two other members through Authors Incognito.

We’ve been meeting for a year now, twice each month. Friendships have bloomed, but more, shared respect and encouragement has been a boon to our writing.

It was difficult, at first, to willingly subject our efforts to the critical eye of strangers. But as time has passed and as we have gotten to know one another, we have come to appreciate and desire the opinion of our group.

There are many things I could say in favor of critique groups, but for the moment, the thing I am most thankful for is the camaraderie we share. What a relief it is to me to know there are four people out there in the world who know where I’m coming from, who get me. I don’t have to make excuses for wanting to talk about my writing, about a problem I’m facing or something I am excited about. They get it.

With their help, I am becoming a better writer and I have more faith in my writing. More, I don’t feel alone.

I think it’s important for writers, particularly fledgling writers, to associate with others who have similar hopes and dreams. It is in such company that you can come to accept yourself as a writer. Through their eyes, you can see your work more clearly, identify where improvements need to be made, but also what is wonderful about your work.

At an LDStorymaker conference two years ago, they gave out bags on which was printed “I will NOT live like a normal person. I am a Writer.”

A circle of writer friends knows exactly who you are and they accept you as is. In the company of like-minded people you are not strange, you are a writer.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Come to the Tower

By Keith Fisher

I’m impressed. No, I’m amazed. When Annette Lyon asked me to review her new book on the blog, I readily agreed. I looked forward to another of her Temple books. I asked to be scheduled last so I would have time to read. With all the stressful moments, competing for my sanity this month, I barely touched it.

Then one day, I took my laptop to the hospital to be with my dad. I wanted to read my new book to him before he died. With visitors coming and going, I managed to get it read and he liked it. He pointed out a concept I hadn’t noticed was there, and we had our last literary discussion.

I noticed the icon representing the PDF version of Tower of Strength, opened it up, and started to read it to Dad.

I became transfixed because of the depth of the writing. Annette’s talent and word crafting skills jumped out from the pages. I thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions, and the depth of characters. She makes the reader love her character in a short few paragraphs. Even those who would not be in the story for long came fully developed on the pages.

I found myself stopping my reading to go back and reread whole paragraphs. I’m sure Dad felt like a TV viewer without the remote, trying to watch while his spouse keeps changing programs.

I didn’t get to finish reading the book to dad, but he loved what he heard. Dad' was familiar with the author’s work, and I took pride in the fact that I had an advance copy of a new book by the author of At The Water’s Edge.

I am back reading the book, and I’m pleased by the historical depictions of places where my ancestors lived, in the times when they lived there. The romantic aspects are portrayed with the magic of the human heart. I especially love the way Annette showed us the unabashed, pure love, Fred had for his wife, Tabitha.

So far, Tower of Strength is a must read. Especially, for those who are a little critical of LDS fiction. The writing is very good, and reflects the quality of many of the books being published in that market these days. You can buy a copy Here

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Avoiding? I'm Not Avoiding.

by G.Parker

Sometimes I find myself getting up from the desk and sauntering into the kitchen to see what's available to snack. Other times I get up to see what my various children are doing when I realize things have grown quiet in the house. I've been known to sit back down and start reading emails, and if I don't have any new ones and my children aren't home, visit a tetris game. Sigh.

But I'm not avoiding writing. I'm just taking a break.

At least that's what I tell myself. I'll bet you've caught yourself doing this a couple of times. Pick up the newspaper, glance through the articles, find the funnies...anything but sit and face that blinking cursor on a blue screen.

Setting a goal to write daily can sometimes come back to haunt you. If one didn't set the goal in the first place, sitting at random times and pounding at the keyboard wouldn't be an activity that one needed distraction from. It's not exactly writer's block, because generally I can write during these times, it's just that I feel...antsy.

I had a co-worker come in today and say she couldn't sit at her desk. She had to be up and roaming the halls or going into a classroom about every 10 minutes. I guess with some people it could be associated with spring fever.

So I guess I get writing fever sometimes. Sigh.

The only cure is as was mentioned in a blog here recently -- butt glue. When I find a good strong one I'll let you know. Until then, I'll get my pages written for the day, I just have to go check on the daffodils outside first...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Writer's High

By Nichole Giles

Last week was a bit of a frenzy for my family. After we finished doing some spring cleaning, we were left with several items we didn’t need, but that were in good enough condition that someone else might. We’d already taken a load of junk to the dump, and another load of things to Deseret Industries. So we listed these things on a local classified website.

Smash, boom, bang, and we were getting calls within minutes of uploading our ads. Every single item sold within hours of being listed. Including our 24 foot travel trailer—which we would have loved to keep, except we’d outgrown it, and hadn’t used it for two years.

The things we sold were just lying around our house, but when we put in enough effort to clean them up and submit them for sale, people snatched them up so fast I wondered if we should install a swinging glass door like they have in retail stores.

The next day, I found myself—and my kids—wandering around the house, wondering what we could list next. It almost felt like a selling addiction. My husband and I joked that we’d start selling off the furniture next, just to feel that high of accomplishment we felt when people showed up to buy our old doghouse for $20. But really, I have no intention of selling my furniture.

This same principle can apply to selling our manuscripts. I’m in the process of preparing a submission package. I’ve done this before, but mostly on a smaller scale. The thing is, once you sell one manuscript—no matter who buys it—you feel a certain high that can’t be duplicated until you sell another one. And even if it takes years, you spend your time focusing on that goal so you can have your fix.

This is my year. Say it with me: This is my year. I’ve spent the last several months focusing on finishing my book for submission, and now expect to experience my next fix very soon. I’ve had a handful of small successes, and now it’s time for another one—however big or small.

Are you with me? Then people, let’s get submitting. It’s the only way to find the high of acceptance.

Good luck.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Do I Have?

By C. LaRene Hall

Sitting through several funerals the past two weeks has made me stop and contemplate about my life and why I’m here. Sometimes I laughed and other times I cried, thinking, I’m so lucky to have the church in my life. I wonder how people that don’t believe as I do survive in similar circumstances.

Visiting with family members after the services, we were all thinking the same thing. Without our belief of life after death, the unknown would be devastating.

Once in awhile everyone should take a moment to think about what we have. I belong to a select group, the LDS Church, and I choose to believe the things taught. My faith is strong, and I know I’ll see my friends and family again.

My ancestors gave me a great legacy. I enjoy reading and writing about their struggles as they paved the way so I can have a good and full life living here in a free land. It will be an enjoyable day when I can thank them personally for their sacrifices. Meanwhile I’ll keep writing about them and helping others see the things we have.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Young Man Named Logan

By Cindy Beck

Some of you may have heard about a young man named Logan Henderson, who called into a radio talk show to share an experience he'd had. Although I don't believe he's a writer, or that he's LDS, I do believe he's a young man of great faith and spiritual understanding.

As LDS writers we work toward those qualities ... we know they'll improve our writings. What we sometimes forget is how much they also improve our ability to cope with the sting of rejection and how they help us move forward when, like Logan, we don't understand the whys of life.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Bum Glue

By Ali Cross

Recently I’ve spent some time in a physical therapist’s office, with lots of opportunity to read and re-read the inspirational art they have plastered on the walls. You know the kind—picture a cliff face with a solitary climber struggling against the sheer rock. The words on the bottom might say something like “Joy is found not in the destination, but in the journey.” They’re meant to help you not feel so bad about the pain you’re currently suffering, but to keep your eyes focused on that finish line.

One photograph that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at lately features the famous quote by Thomas Alva Edison, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

I couldn’t help but think about writing in this context. Oftentimes people assume writing is mostly inspiration and that a writer simply lets the muse do the work for him. In point of fact, writing is tedious, sometimes boring, and very, very long.

When I was a brand-new writer, one of the first books on writing I got for myself was “Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.” It was a bit premature, as I hadn’t suffered for my art enough yet to truly appreciate much of what was written about in that book.

But one article sang to my soul and has stuck with me over the past few years.

It’s an article by Bryce Courtenay in which he tells of the time he ran the Boston Marathon. He found himself running alongside another man with whom he struck up a conversation. When he discovered his new friend was a writer, he asked the one question that burned most brightly in his mind: what he believed was the secret to writing a bestseller.

Huffing and puffing, his friend responded, “Bum glue!”

Mr. Courtenay says,

“Bum glue—glue your bum to a chair and keep going, and never give up. Writing is about time spent with words until eventually they become your friends and begin to cooperate with your gifted storyteller’s mind.

“Writing is about time and practice; it takes six years to become a physician, a task infinitely easier than learning to write” (Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, p. 313.)

Like Mr. Edison said, inspiration only accounts for a tiny fraction of writing a good story. Most of it is sheer effort, force of will, and dang hard work.

So when your muse has gone on vacation and you’re left with a novel to write, plant your bottom down in your chair and settle in. You’re doing the work you were created to do, and you’ve been blessed with that 1% of inspiration. Now it’s time to put in the work, and you can do it—with a little help from Bum Glue.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Look at the Manual

By Keith Fisher

Don’t critique it, I know it has problems. Just take a look, and I’ll tell you about it at the end. Oh, and I realize many will disagree. It’s just my humble opinion.

Jenny spent the rest of the afternoon checking with her mother, making reservations, and dinner. She purchased a greeting card, and a new dress. Got a makeover, and was waiting for Sam at the door when he got home.
"What’s going on? Where’d you get the dress?" Sam asked.
"I wanted to make the weekend special." She led him to the dining room and he stood there, staring in the direction of the table.
She had set out her grandmother’s china and crystal. Candles were burning, and she’d thought of everything for a romantic dinner.
"What’s all this? Did I miss a birthday or something?"
Jenny frowned and shook her head. "No, you didn’t forget anything. I just wanted a romantic weekend."
He looked skeptical. "Where are the kids?"
"They’re at my mom and dad's. We have the whole weekend to ourselves."
Sam looked around the room. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, dinner tonight. Then, drive south tomorrow morning. I have reservations at a bed and breakfast."
He scowled. "And how do you plan to pay for it?"

As I’ve said before, I’m writing a romance and this is part of a scene from my book. What did you think? I bet the women nodded their heads and saw similarities between Sam and someone they know. I also bet the men either missed the point or they skipped over it. After all, Sam works hard all day only to come home and find out the wife spent all the money.

Whether you identify with Sam or you despise him, depends on your perspective and in large part, your gender. I’m learning a lot from my characters and I discovered a secret.

Guys? If you want to learn to be romantic, read what your wife or girlfriend is reading. Talk to her about it. Listen closely. Don’t add your opinion. Realize that not every male character is realistic, and apply the good things to your life. Try to emulate what she likes in a character. Before long, you might find that she is a lot like the women in the book. Hopefully, you will realize that she always was.

Girls? Try to realize your man is trying to understand you. He is the same guy he always was he’s just confused. He’ll come around. If he’s like Sam, you might have to hit him over the head (not literally please). Mostly he doesn’t know he’s done something wrong. Above all, don’t compare him to the leading man in your book. He can try, but he might never become that character. Encourage the good things and try to overlook the bad.

Good luck in your romance and your writing---see you next week.

P.S. Next week I will Review Tower of Strength by Annette Lyon. I think you will like it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What's Square and Occupies Your Mind?

by G.Parker

For my blog last week I mentioned the movie Inkheart. I talked about how the author wanted to disappear into his own book. Something else snagged my attention during the movie. There was a part where he was trying to write something into the book, and was having a difficult time. We've all experienced that at one time or another.

It's called writer's block.

I sat there and thought to myself, "Oh come on, just write something! It's your story, you know everything about it, just change something!" I was really frustrated with him.

The young girl in the story asks him if he has writers block, and then suggests that she could help him. He remembers that she mentioned wanting to be a writer, and all he can think to tell her is that it's a lonely life. I thought that was a sad commentary on writing.

So -- Writer's block. What causes it? Pressure? Frustration? Stress? I think it's anything and everything. We are (for the most part) social people. We live with others, we work with others, and generally, write about people. Life tends to get in the way, jumble our thoughts and make things stall.

The biggest thing I've found to help me are mad writes and editing. Mad writes (sometimes known as mad libs, or flash fiction)get the juices flowing; and editing gets them working on the particular story you've become blocked with. I have been fortunate in not experiencing writer's block very often. But then there is the whole avoidance issue...

There are also classes at local schools and colleges, online classes, and critique groups. We've talked about our various critique groups several times, so there shouldn't be any doubt as to how beneficial they are. Have you found one yet? There are also lots of contests to enter for free. Sometimes writing something for a contest can get the brain going as well.

If you have other suggestions for writer's block, let us know. I'd like to see how you overcome the brain freeze.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cut By a Fifth

By Nichole Giles

The other night I did something I’ve been working toward for eighteen months. I finished my work in progress. That isn’t to say that I don’t have four more in the works, but that the biggest, most major project I’ve ever taken on, is finished.

Well, okay. I realize it’s entirely likely that I’ll end up doing three or four more edits if and when I actually sell it—but for now, it’s done enough that I’m ready to write the synopsis and start the submission process.

I knew I was getting close, so I stayed up until 1:00 am, and when I was finished, sent a copy to my alpha-reader—my fifteen-year-old son. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

My copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing” sat on the shelf for two or three months until I got around to reading it. But once I started, I found the story—though nonfiction—so compelling that I flew through the majority of it in a matter of days.

In his book, King discusses a valid point, asking who—besides ourselves—we are writing to please. Who is the first person to whom you will send your manuscript the minute it’s finished? For him, it’s his wife. And because he knows she will be the first one to read it, certain scenes and conversations become reality because he aims to please the person he calls his alpha-reader. Even still, she has plenty of criticism for him, and that’s as it should be between an author and alpha-reader.

King also talks about the ten percent rule. After he has finished his manuscript—writing without editing—he automatically plans to cut out ten percent in the edits. By my calculations, I’ve cut approximately twenty percent. Not quite as much as I wanted, but a significant number of words. I now feel like my manuscript is much stronger because of the adjustments.

As I prepare to bundle my baby and send it away, I’ll take comfort in the knowledge that even Stephen King gathered a large collection of rejections before he made a big sale. I’m about to dive into writing my synopsis, and then I hope to get submitting. Wish me luck and cross your fingers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Life's Scratches

by C. LaRene Hall

Somewhere I read – This life is full of scratches. That is why the Lord gave us patches.

This past week has been full of more scratches than I want to count. In fact, some of the hurts are deeper than scratches. Sometimes going through life, we receive a scrape here and maybe another day a cut. Some days we receive a nick and the next day a scuff, but we always get up and keep going. We don’t let the hard things knock us down. I also have to agree that the Lord does give us patches. There are friends who put their arms around us, others pick us up and help us keep moving. If we pray, the Lord fills our hearts with peace.

Since we are encouraged to write about what we know, these experiences help us find emotions to draw on. If our life was perfect with no conflict, we wouldn’t know what it feels like to be scared or hurt. Then we wouldn’t know how to describe that emotion to others as we write our stories. Sometimes we need a reminder that life is not always full of the good things. Even though I've had a bad week, I'm thankful for the people who help me push forward.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My New Kindle 2 Scares me!

By Darvell Hunt

My New Kindle 2 scares me! But, to be fair, the first thing I read on it was a Stephen King story about an Amazon Kindle that was from, well, not from Hell, but certainly close to it.

The experience of reading a whole story in ebook form was a little scary to me, too—not because of the first story I read—but because I never believed reading on an electronic device would be so much like reading a paper novel. I’m a big fan of the latest and greatest electronic gadgets—heaven knows my drawers and closets at home are filled with them—but I never really imagined that an electronic reading device could ever replace a collection of papers bound together into a physical book.

I think Amazon has changed my mind on that. Honestly, it does kind of feel like I’m reading on a larger-than-life child-sized iPhone, but you know, aside from the novelty of it all, I think the device works well for what it was designed.

A new addition to my reading experience is wearing reading glasses, which has less to do with the Kindle and more about me turning into an old fart. I found I still need the glasses for my new Kindle, just like a real paper book, so these two media have more things in common than not. It seems about the only difference between them is how you turn the page!

So—could the Amazon Kindle 2 really replace paper books? Well, I’m beginning to think so. Sure, it might. Wow, did I say that?

There will always be car fans who think the best cars made were produced in the 60s, and there will always be readers who think books should be made of paper, but you know, those lines are a bit blurred for me now. I must admit that I’m surprised by how much I like my new ebook reader. I think the device has kindled (oh brother!) a new interest in reading the written word again. (Much of my reading lately has been with audio books, as I drive a lot for work. I also don’t like admitting that I need reading glasses.)

Also, being the gadget geek I am, the fact that I can log into Fandango.com to order movie tickets on my Kindle, or check the Drudge Report news or read The Onion blog—well, those things just make a great device seem even so much better.

I guess I’m sold. I just hope I can keep my wife from finding out how cool my new Kindle is. Oops, I think she reads my blog. Dang it, there goes that idea!

Monday, March 16, 2009

What if . . .

By Ali Cross

Where do story ideas come from?

And once you have your story idea, how can you develop it?

These seem to be two most popular questions writers get. For me, it all starts with two little words—what if . . .

Actually, most of my story ideas come from dreams. But unless I’ve been blessed with one of those rare and special dreams that tell me a whole story all at once (can’t say as I’ve ever had a dream like THAT), I usually only have an idea, or premise to get me started.

Regardless of how I get my initial idea—whether by subliminal suggestion or sheer force of will—I’ve been able to expand upon the idea by playing the “What if . . . ?” game.

Here’s an example of how the game might be played, using a story line I developed just because I wanted to see if I could come up with a young adult book idea:

What if there’s a teenage girl who’s the literal daughter of Satan?

What if he wants her to do bad things, you know, go into the family business, but she wants to be a good girl?

What if her father demands that she prove herself to him by assigning her a soul to ruin, but she does the opposite and saves the soul?

What if her boyfriend is an angel?

What if he’s been sent here to show her she has the right to choose for herself?

But what if the devil’s daughter thinks she’s destined to be bad?

What if she pushes away her friends because she thinks they are too good for her?

And so it goes.

When you get stuck somewhere in your story and you’re not sure what happens next, the “What if . . .?” game can be useful again. It’s especially fun to play the game with a friend—sometimes the ideas someone else comes up with spark a myriad of our own and off we go again.

Mind mapping is a fun and easy way to play the game on your own. Just start with an idea, ask what if …? and let the ideas flow.

I’d love to hear if you work like this too. If the idea is new to you, try it out and let me know how it you liked it. Have fun!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Missing a Step

By Karen Hoover

Have you ever questioned where certain phrases come from? I have, on more than one occasion. I had an experience two days ago that brought home my understanding of the phrase “missed a step” in none too friendly terms. I was walking down the stairs with my hands full and, thinking I’d reached the bottom, I stepped out to find nothing but air. The side of my foot landed first, my ankle giving out from under me, and I hit the floor, pain screaming though the joint. It hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe. I lay on the ground moaning and groaning until my husband came to my rescue and helped me up.

This in connection to a conversation I had with a friend of mine about a week ago has really had me thinking. She was bemoaning the fact that her writing never comes out the way she wants, that she can’t seem to write great no matter how hard she tries. I, of course, being the good friend that I am offered comfort and told her that it’s all part of the learning process. I remember going through it. I remember those days of wondering if I would ever be ‘good enough’, and feeling like I was chasing a phantom.

The problem is we can’t start at the beginning and leap to the end. We have to take each step along the way, learn the process, so that in the end we can be the great writers we so desire. If we miss the step of plot, our stories will ramble. If we miss the step on characterization our protagonist will be cardboard. If we miss the step of grammar our manuscripts will be unreadable. Every step we learn leads us that much closer to the end of having a good book and knowing how to write fully and well.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t intend to skip anymore of those steps. It just hurts too much.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hank Did it, You Can Too

By Keith Fisher

Do you remember Hank Williams? I’m not talking about Jr. I’m talking about the original? Hank was a country music singer/songwriter in the nineteen fifties. He sang with a kind of whining tone that was popular in the type of music he played.

He wrote some good lyrics that are still used by musicians today, but its how those lyrics came to be written that I want to write about.

There is a story about the song, Kaw-Liga that expresses my point. Now as I understand it, and you’ll have to check on my accuracy, Hank was staying with friends, associates, and drinking buddies in a cabin in the hills. Hank had been keeping pretty much to himself and in a reflective mood.

After a day or two, they ran out of liquor and took a car to get some. On the way back home, Hank was riding in the front seat of the car. He said that the woods surrounding the cabin did something to him. That the feel of the place got him thinking and he suddenly hit the dashboard and followed with the rhythmic drum-beat that is prevalent throughout the song. He started singing his lyrics and borrowed a pen and paper to write them down.

You can take many of the other songs written by him, and tell the story of his life. All of his hurt, Joy and fears are expressed in his lyrics. Of course, he didn’t write some of the songs he sang, but he lived the words.

The point here is Hank listened to his heart and wrote what he found there. He used life’s ups and downs and made music many people could, and do, relate to. We as writers can take a lesson from that.

As many of you know, I have been spending a lot of time lately in the hospital sitting with my dying father. While walking down the hall of ICU one-day I had to stop, listen and breathe in the air around me. This was a scene I had tried to describe in one of my stories once. I didn’t get it wrong but there were certain details I had missed. The rhythmic beep, beep, beep of a monitor, the sound of a respirator as it breathes for the patient, the smell of the antiseptic dispensed from the containers lining the walls.

I wrote it down, and I’ll use it in a story someday. About three weeks ago, I sat in an armchair in the public library, waiting for my daughter to choose her books. People of all walks of life passed by. Some were in a hurry, some not. Some of them were dragging kids along. Others stopped to peruse the books on sale tables. I watched them all, made my judgements and cataloged them in my mind as characters in future books.

In another story, I'll take my current experiences, draw from my feelings and lay it out for a reader to feel. Like Hank, my life can be told in what I write. Many people tell me they would love to be a writer but they wouldn’t know what to write about. I’m going to start telling them to look around, pay attention, feel the moment, and use your senses. Then tell others about it. The craft of writing can be learned as you go but if you really want to write, start listening and pay attention.

Good luck in your writing---see you next week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Would You do?

by G.Parker

My family and I went to see Inkheart for Family Night on Monday. I'd seen the first hour or so of it during a trailer shop, (I do mystery shopping for theaters)and a couple of my other children had already seen the whole thing -- but I wanted to see the end. I wanted to see how things were going to get fixed. Don't worry, if you haven't seen the movie yet, I'm not going to give too much away. Grin.

Inkheart, for those of you who don't know (as I didn't before the movie came out) is the name of a book. Actually, it's a series of three books. My daughter has read the series, and liked the movie better than the first book. From her description, I don't want to read them anymore. Kind of reminds me of how all the Narnia books end. Sigh.

What fascinated me about the movie, was the concept of an author wanting to live in the book he has written. Most of the stories I've written are about places I have already been. I haven't attempted many fantasies because that line of thought is generally difficult for me to picture -- it's pure imagination. While the two fantasies I have written are fun, the one I finished is still within the confines of the northern American continent. I didn't need to make up anything about where it was. The one still in the works is an unknown -- it comes in spurts and moments of challenge. I still don't know how it's going to end.

Have you ever fallen in love with what you were writing so much that you would rather be there than in your real life? Are you so lonely in reality that you would make up stories to take yourself away? I can't imagine it. While I enjoy writing, and putting the characters and places down on paper, I don't picture myself there.

My imaginings are times away with my hubby on a beach or cruise ship somewhere with or without our children...although usually it's without. Grin.

What is your approach to your writing? Is it an escape from reality? Or is it something that must come out because it's begging to be told? You've read our different blogs where we've expressed how the characters are in our heads, pushing for the story to be written. An author's life is not always a comfortable passion.

But the idea of escaping into one's work was amazing to me. I know that many read to escape reality, but I had never considered an author writing to escape reality. I don't think any of us here at the Blog feel that way. Interesting concept.

Most of my children are writers, and they left the theater with several new story ideas. It wouldn't be a bad thing if they would finish something. Sigh.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Just What We Do

By Nichole Giles

I’ve been writing—seriously writing—for going on four years. It doesn’t sound like very long to some people, but to others it sounds like forever. Personally, I haven’t noticed much about the passage of time other than my kids have shot up (like feet rather than inches) and I’ve actually completed a few novels and sold some things for publication.

But if I go back and read my early work, I can see a significant difference in style, voice, technique, story, and plot. I look back at it and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote that, or how I ever thought it might be good. But the truth is, it was good. At the time, I was discovering writing, and everything involved, and the only way to do that is to write a lot. Every day. And I’ve done that—faithfully—for all this time. So even if the writing itself wasn’t high quality, it was good for me to do.

More than that, I’ve also been reading. Not that I didn’t read before, I did—but with different eyes. Now I look at technique, style, voice, technicalities, editing…everything that comes together to make a story not just good, but easy to read.

And I read a LOT. Rather than sticking with one favorite author and one genre, I now read a large variety of both—fiction and nonfiction—and each book I read is a study in how that particular author approaches story. That’s not to say I like everyone’s approach, but when something doesn’t work for me, I study it in order to figure out why.

I’ve gathered a collection of nonfiction books—mostly about writing and mythology. The mythology ones are great for research into my fantasy novels. The writing books have taught me as much as any class or author lecture—and I’ve taken lots of classes and gone to lots of conferences.

These books look at me from a shelf in my office, encouraging me to keep going, even when I feel like I’ll never get it right. You all know what I’m talking about. That little voice of doubt that creeps in and whispers that you’re wasting your time, no one will believe your story, and you might as well shut down the computer and find something more productive to do. That fear of rejection and success at the same time can be crippling and exhilarating. It’s a love hate thing for us, I think.

My point—in case you were wondering—is that we all have those doubts. And we ALL produce imperfect writing sometimes, especially when we’re getting started. It doesn’t matter. Write anyway. That’s what we do. We write. And the more we write, the better we become. Then we read everything we can get our hands on, and we become better writers for that as well. And even when it becomes physically painful to put those words on paper and share them with others, we push on. We take those rejection letters and file them, or burn them, or turn them into wallpaper—whatever—and we do another edit and resubmit somewhere else. It’s just what we do.

In my library of writing books, there are four that have affected me significantly and which I’ve read more than once. I thought I’d share them here, in case any of our readers are interested.

“On Writing” by Stephen King
“Word Magic for Writers” by Cindy Rogers
“On Writing Well” by William Zinsser
“Self-Editing For Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King

One last thought. I’ve been a part of this blogging group since the beginning. Having this deadline has acted as incentive to keep me writing—even when I wasn’t working on any particular project. Blogging is part of the reason I’ve progressed so much, because I am constantly on my toes watching for topics and ideas, and while I’m at it, I’m learning.

So, give yourself a deadline, write something every day, read as much as you can and ignore the irritating voice of doubt that perches on your shoulder and tries to convince you that you can’t do it, because you CAN. We’re writers. That’s just what we do! HUH!

(Yeah, I borrowed that from “Bedtime Stories.” Couldn’t help myself.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scrap the Outline

by C. LaRene Hall

A month ago, I attended a class that encouraged writing with an outline. Two weeks later, I also attended several classes that suggested the same thing. I took all of these classes very seriously, and I tried to follow the directions given. I was sure that maybe the instructors knew something I didn’t. By now, I’m ready to throw both arms in the air and declare defeat. It has helped a little to know where my story is heading, but I’ve had enough.

I even threw my first chapter away. Don’t panic. It’s stored away some place safe. I started over, and then I started over again. In the past month, I haven’t even written one chapter. I was hoping to have something for the first chapter contest, but it isn’t happening.

I’m calmly putting away the outline, and starting over again. This time I’m going back to my usual method and writing whatever pops into my head. Maybe when the editing process is here, I’ll again pull out the outline and see if I’ve missed anything along the way. For some people outlining may be the way to go. If when I first started writing I had outlined, maybe I could get it and use it effectively. But I’ve decided it’s better to not use an outline than it is to not write.

My advice to everyone is to write what you know, and write the way that is best for you. It’s good to attend workshops and writing classes, but don’t get so hung up on the way it’s supposed to be done, that you lose your voice to the point you can’t even write. These writing tools are there to help you, not hinder what you are doing. Now I’m going to do it my way.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Kid on the Blogck

By Darvell Hunt

As you might have noticed from yesterday’s blog, there’s a new kid on the blogck. Ali Cross has joined our blogging group and we’re excited to have her on board.

She’s not really a kid, but she’s new here, so I think the pun works. We had some technical difficulties in getting her added to our group, so our blog ended up with two copies yesterday. Before fixing the problem, each post got comments, so we left them both up. I think that’s a good sign for her first post.

We here at LDS Writers Blogck have known Ali for quite some time already. We’re excited for you all to get to know her, too—perhaps you already do from her other blogs. Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy her insightful posts.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Gift To Create

By Ali Cross

I am so grateful to be here, and to have the opportunity to share the stage, even for just a little while, with the awesome writers who make this Blogck their own. Thank you!

I didn’t grow up always wanting to write the Great American Novel. For one thing, I’m Canadian. ;)

Having never written novellas, or even short stories, I did write poetry—but what preteen and teen hasn’t, right? After all, it’s the medium of choice for teenage angst. Well, that is until You Tube.

But while attending university, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with some misfits with whom I fit very well. That was the first time the idea for writing a book started to tickle the back of my mind.

Some fifteen years later while on a drive to a vacation spot with my family we were filling up the long hours with talk about our dreams. I mentioned my dream of some day writing a book about a character I had created during my D&D days. My husband said he too, had a story idea running around his head, and so we played the "What if … ?" game for the first time.

By the time we reached our destination, we each had full-blown stories worked out. We stopped and bought index cards, notepads and pens before checking into our hotel and proceeded to write our books over the next week. It was an amazing and cathartic experience.

When we returned home, I started poking around the internet to find information on writing. A wonderful woman reached out to me and told me about the LDStorymakers conference. She was very encouraging about my writing and convinced me to not only attend the conference, but to enter in the first chapter contest.

I went to the conference and two remarkable things happened:

Tristi Pinkston taught a class in which she bore her testimony about our gift to create. She said, and she provided scripture and doctrine to support her statement, that we had the opportunity to develop our talents in the preexistence and that we brought those talents with us to earth.

And then she said, "If you feel a desire to write a book, then that is a prompting from God, and you should do it. It is your talent. You are a writer."

The other remarkable thing that happened was my first chapter placed second in the sci fi/fantasy category. I wasn’t even there to receive my award because I didn’t believe in my abilities as a writer and certainly hadn’t expected to win any sort of recognition. Up until that weekend, I just wrote. Afterwards, I was a writer.

Recently the Blogck shared a short video that is further proof of what I learned at that LDStorymaker conference two years ago--we are creative beings, it is in our nature to create. Whatever your outlet may be, let it be.

I can testify, that the desire to write is a gift from God and if you pursue it, you will be blessed.

I write because it is in me to do so. I write because I feel I must. I am a writer.

The Gift To Create

by Ali Cross

I am so grateful to be here, and to have the opportunity to share the stage, even for just a little while, with the awesome writers who make this Blogck their own. Thank you!

I didn’t grow up always wanting to write the Great American Novel. For one thing, I’m Canadian. ;)

Having never written novellas, or even short stories, I did write poetry—but what preteen and teen hasn’t, right? After all, it’s the medium of choice for teenage angst. Well, that is until You Tube.

But while attending university, I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with some misfits with whom I fit very well. That was the first time the idea for writing a book started to tickle the back of my mind.

Some fifteen years later while on a drive to a vacation spot with my family we were filling up the long hours with talk about our dreams. I mentioned my dream of some day writing a book about a character I had created during my D&D days. My husband said he too, had a story idea running around his head, and so we played the “What if … ?” game for the first time.

By the time we reached our destination, we each had full-blown stories worked out. We stopped and bought index cards, notepads and pens before checking into our hotel and proceeded to write our books over the next week. It was an amazing and cathartic experience.

When we returned home, I started poking around the internet to find information on writing. A wonderful woman reached out to me and told me about the LDStorymakers conference. She was very encouraging about my writing and convinced me to not only attend the conference, but to enter in the first chapter contest.

I went to the conference and two remarkable things happened:

Tristi Pinkston taught a class in which she bore her testimony about our gift to create. She said, and she provided scripture and doctrine to support her statement, that we had the opportunity to develop our talents in the preexistence and that we brought those talents with us to earth.

And then she said, “If you feel a desire to write a book, then that is a prompting from God, and you should do it. It is your talent. You are a writer.”

The other remarkable thing that happened was my first chapter placed second in the sci fi/fantasy category. I wasn’t even there to receive my award because I didn’t believe in my abilities as a writer and certainly hadn’t expected to win any sort of recognition. Up until that weekend, I just wrote. Afterwards, I was a writer.

Recently the Blogck shared a short video that is further proof of what I learned at that LDStorymaker conference two years ago--we are creative beings, it is in our nature to create. Whatever your outlet may be, let it be.

I can testify, that the desire to write is a gift from God and if you pursue it, you will be blessed.

I write because it is in me to do so. I write because I feel I must. I am a writer.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Don't Be Shy---You Are What You Are

By Keith Fisher

I know it’s presumptuous of me to say, but I’m a writer. It’s okay though, because Webster’s Dictionary says this:
Pronunciation: \’rī-ter\
Function: noun
Date: before 12th century
: One that writes

I spend hours in solitude, doing what is called writing. Again, we consult Webster’s:
Main Entry: writing
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
1: the act or process of one who writes: as a: the act or art of forming visible letters or characters; specifically: handwriting 1 b: the act or practice of literary or musical composition
2: something written: as a: letters or characters that serve as visible signs of ideas, words, or symbols b: a letter, note, or notice used to communicate or record c: a written composition d: inscription
3: a style or form of composition
4: the occupation of a writer especially: the profession of authorship.

Don’t hesitate to tell people. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, you are a writer. There are hundreds of people who would love to write, like you do, but they let other things prevent them. Be proud of the fact that you have made the commitment. Be proud of the fact that you can create. Be proud of your work.

I am spending time with my family this week, but I have been filling my notebook. This story pulls at me and won’t let me take a break from it. Each time one of my aunts, uncles, or cousins ask, "What are you doing now?" I tell them I’m a writer during the day, and I work full time at night on my other job.

One thing about it, though, explaining my stories is helping me develop my elevator pitches. You know---the thirty-second speech you deliver to a publisher? The one that makes them buy your book?

Good luck in your writing---see you next week.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'm Glad I Don't Write For Them!

by G.Parker

One of the positive aspects of being a writer is that it gives one choices. Sometimes it's the choice of starving or eating -- but it's still a choice. We also give choices to our readers -- and they choose whether to read or not.

What brings this to mind is the tabloids in our world. You can't miss them, they're in every grocery store next to the check out counter. They're in the gas stations, the convenience stores, drug stores, I'm surprised they aren't in the hardware stores, but then I guess they figure women are the biggest readers. (Is that because women are known gossipers?) So -- there they are; the tabloids full of gossipy news about celebrities that we wish we could live like or emulate (heaven help us).

But now that we live in a world of the electronic age where everything is known within minutes of it's happening, tabloids have joined the internet landscape. One of my email accounts is at Yahoo. If you click on the Yahoo home page, you'll have at least two selections of tabloids. I can't believe the stuff that shows up on there. I try to ignore the stuff at the grocery stores as well. I remember Men in Black and how they were supposed to be the "best investigative reporting on the planet." Please.

My point is this: How would you like to have to earn a living that way? I think it would drive me crazy to write such stuff. Do you have to believe what you're writing? Honestly think you have something to add with your article? This doesn’t make sense to me. How can they write about something so outrageous as a woman giving birth to a bat boy and be able to live with themselves?

I guess if it comes down to the only way you know how to make a living is to write, and the only option you have is to write for such a business, then I guess it's write or starve, and writing will win.

I'm just glad it doesn't have to be me. I'd only last a week or so, and then I'd be in the park, fighting the pigeons for the crumbs.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


By Cindy Beck

Do you ever have days where you wonder if you're just wasting time writing?
Or moments where you feel your writing isn't good enough—or literary, deep, touching or ____________ (fill in the blank) enough? At one time or another, most of us have felt that way. We've had a bad day, received a disheartening critique or an unexpected rejection, or ended up with writer's block. It's enough to make a writer feel like giving up.

Don't. Don't give up. What you do as a writer has worth.

If you find it hard to believe me, then take it from a man who knows. Click on this video and listen to the words of Elder Uchtdorf about creativity and the place it holds in life.

Something to Say

By Nichole Giles

After Karen’s post about her mother, and then Darvell’s about his father, I’ve given a lot of thought to writing as a therapeutic exercise. During times of extreme emotion, I’ve found that writing, above all else, has the ability to help me sort through my feelings and find the words to express my pain, anger, joy, or happiness.

We all use different forms of this therapy. Karen has her letters, Darvell has been known to express grief through fictional means, and others write in journals. We blog, we email, we write entire books as tribute to our feelings. More often than not, the writing that comes from our deepest emotions turns out to be our best work, even if it will never be publishable. Because whatever words we use are true to us at the time we write them. They are the most true words we know, and so they become our best.

Writing, for most people, is an expression of a deeper person who lives far below the surface of our outside faces. I’ve heard several times that a writer’s first book is autobiographical. I’m going to disagree on that point. I think every work that comes from an author is autobiographical—not because the characters are modeled after the author, but because there is a piece of the author in everything they write.

My twelve-year-old daughter has a private blog. She only posts once a month or so, but when she does, I continue to be impressed with her ability to express herself, and to describe the things happening in her adolescent life. I see in her writing style and voice—while she’s too young and inexperienced to understand she has them—that are unique and descriptive. She isn’t writing for the joy—of all my children, she’s the least likely to grow up and chose to be a writer—she’s writing because she has something to say. That’s all.

And sometimes, that’s the only motivation we need. Writers or not. In all it’s forms, writing is the truest expression of self. Just like art, music, and dance.

On a more humorous note, I told my visiting teachers the other day that I sometimes hear voices in my head. One sister grinned and chuckled, expressing her amazement at what I do. But the other one—newer to visiting me—looked at me in alarm. She didn’t say anything, and I hope I didn’t scare her with the truth. I was only trying to explain that as I was driving to a seventh-grade basketball tournament, two full-fledged scenes for a new book thundered into my mind, and I was grateful for my handy-dandy notebook because I got the idea on paper before it could vanish. I took the scenes—which I turned into a full chapter—to critique with me the other night and it was well received. Looks like I know what will be my next project.

I realize that these new scenes are the manifestations of a culmination of events that occurred over a two-week period. And this chapter is my way of expressing feelings about those events. No one in my life died. I don’t have a giant source of grief or a life-altering problem. But I do live in the world, and because our world is far from perfect, my emotions scream to be heard. I have something to say. That’s all.

And so I’ll say it through writing. Why not? It’s way cheaper than therapy.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Another Obstacle

By C. LaRene Hall

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I hate changes. Maybe my age makes me rebel, but I doubt it. I’ve never liked changes. It probably stems from me having to move so many times while I was a young girl. For the first five years of school I attended a new one every year. That meant I had to make new friends and find my way around new surroundings the beginning of every school year. Of course, with that came new rules. Every new place has different sets of laws than the one before.

Recently I had to purchase a new computer with an updated Microsoft Word program. I doubt I’ll ever learn to use the new one as well as I used the old one. Every week I find something that I can’t figure out how to do. Somehow, I’m muddling through it, but it isn’t fun. I’d rather have the old one back with all the buttons where they belong. Then I can spend my writing time productively.

I’m thinking about this today because of the newest change to our phone system. Its fine when I use my cell phone because everything is programmed correctly, but when I have to pick up the office phone to place a call, I keep getting that annoying recording, “This local call now requires 10 digits . . .” It makes me rather angry. I wonder how long it’s going to take me to adjust my habits. Old ways of doing things are hard to break, especially when you’re older.

This makes me realize as a writer that if I can make my characters upset, my story will be better. If they are having challenges and changes, they are growing. It doesn’t mean they have to like what is happening to them. In fact, the more they don’t like it, the better the story will be. Your readers will keep reading because of the many obstacles you can place in the way.

Have a good week trying to get use to this new imposed phone system, and keep writing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

So long, Dad!

By Darvell Hunt

Some of life's most interesting and most powerful stories are true. I've concentrated so much of my life devoting my attention to creating fiction, that once in a while when reality smacks me upside the head, it doesn't seem real. Not real at all.

My dad passed away last Saturday morning. He was the best dad I ever had. His passing was somewhat of a surprise to us, though he was getting up there in years. (Don't we all somehow seem to do that without even trying?)

Making arrangements for his final resting place has taken much of my time over the past few days and I don't have much time to write now. I just wanted to say that he will be missed, not only by my family, but the many people who came to know him--including many of my writing friends.

So long, Dad!

I'll see you again someday in that great big publishing house in the sky. (That is, if I don't get rejected.)

For anyone who might be interested, funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 7, 2009, at 10am in the Lindon 16th Ward LDS chapel located at 610 West 100 South, Lindon, Utah. Family and friends may visit at Olpin Mortuary at 494 S 300 E, Pleasant Grove, Utah, from 6pm to 8pm on Friday, March 6, 2009, or one hour prior at the above LDS church building.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ukulele Jam

by Karen E. Hoover

I attended LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) at BYU last weekend and had an interesting conversation with my friends, one that I’ve pondered on for the past week. Somebody brought up the fact that their daughter had recently played in a school ukulele choir and out of my mouth popped this: "Oh! Give me your email. I'll send you a link to the best ukulele music ever."

Immediately the group started laughing, with me, clueless as ever, sitting there going “what?”

You see, the problem was we had a different perspective on what good music or even good ukulele music really was. I actually sent them the link several days later and each of them responded with amazement. I got responses such as “I never thought I'd write this but, those are some pretty amazing finger pickin' ukelele tunes. You have converted me.” And “That was amazing. Once again, you were right...” and a simple “Wow!”

Now, what does Ukulele music have to do with writing, you might ask? Well, nothing, really, but the story relates in that it’s all about perspective. The way we see the world is directly influenced by the experiences we’ve had and the way it has taught us to think. That affects us as writers and it especially affects our characters—or at least it should.

The other lesson this experience taught me is that there’s nothing like getting a great surprise, especially the kind that shift our perspective. The mystery that keeps you guessing “who done it” until the very end, and then finding out it's the guy you least expected. The romance that makes you think she chose the wrong guy and then discovering he was the best choice all along. Every little step that surprises and delights is one more chance to change our perspective and create a paradigm shift.

So what would you rather write? Predictable vanilla? Or something a little more spicy? Take a chance and try it. Shift your perspective. Change your world.