Saturday, October 31, 2009
I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my critique group lately. We’re naming characters after each other. It’s fun to see what kind of person will get my name next.
Tristi used it for the son of her main character in Secret Sisters. He’s a good man, and I like him. Nichole wrote a character with my first and last name. He’s a very intelligent kid, so I’m flattered. I guess I should worry, though, if a villain gets my name, is it a sign that I’ve offended them? I resisted the habit, for a while, but I succumbed the other day, and named a character after Kim. I’m so ashamed.
I think every writer models characters after parts and pieces of people they know, or have known. I’ve heard writers say they use rotten in-laws as antagonists. What a great way to get even for unkindness. Be careful, however, your nemesis might figure it out. Even if you honor your friends, the line between offence and flattery can be thin. You never know who might be offended.
Most us, when we write, put ourselves into plots we would never be able to live in real life. It would be easy to name our protagonist after us, because, aren’t we really playing make believe? Which brings me to the point.
I went to the Halloween parade at school yesterday. I took pictures of some of the more creative costumes. The originality fascinates me. There were the standard witches, goblins, and super heroes, but some of the mothers put a lot of creative effort into the design. One little girl played the part of an old lady. She not only looked the part she acted it out perfectly.
All Hallows Eve has turned into a wonderful holiday. We can be anyone, go almost anywhere, and do almost anything. For one night, we can be all the characters we write about. At times like this, I wish I wrote fantasy.
Good luck with your writing—Happy Halloween—see you next week.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Our fellow blogger mentioned an article where they stated if an artist is honest, his work is important. Many a writer is intimidated by the celebrity who makes it to the big time and stands in the limelight. But as stated, many unknown writers are just as good, if not better.
I know as a group we have gone through phases of depression and discouragement where we have wondered why we bothered. We discuss what our goals are and why we are writing. None of us are writing simply to make money, though that's always good...
We write because we're driven. That's why we do stuff like Nanowrimo -- it helps give us focus and keeps us honest. We tend to group with others that feel the same to bouy each other up, and it's something that keeps the sanity going.
So if you know a writer that's participating this next month in the national novel insanity, think of them and support their efforts to be honest to their craft. Chocolate and few distractions come to mind...
That way we can all be as honest as Mr. Lincoln was.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
So, as October draws to a close and November rears its crazy, Medusa-style hairdo, my trusty pink netbook (who I have neglected to name yet—rude) and I will be tucking into the heart and spirit of creation, hoping to bring forth a novel worthy of…well, at least a few laughs.
Thinking about joining us? (Enter scary music and Darth Vader breathing sequence.) Come on over to the dark side and become one of my village people. You can find me in the NaNoWriMo community by searching NicholeGiles (no space, don’t forget the caps). Add me to your buddy list, and send me a message so I can add you to mine.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
For my blog this week I want to tell about an article a friend of mine sent to me a few months ago. Keith Bond, who is a regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, wrote the article.
I don’t want to get into any trouble so I’m just going to tell you in my words what he wrote. He begins by pointing out that many times we hear the words, “so-and-so is an important artist,” or “such-and-such piece is an important work of art.” He brings up some good questions. One of those is, “Who decides that an artist or piece is important?”
What would happen if one particular piece of work was so good that it changed that person’s entire career? Does that mean his other work is less important? It is my belief that without the prior work the artist could not have done the current work. If that is the case, then all the work is important.
Mr. Bond pointed out that there are artists who are deservedly in the limelight. Many others that are not in the public eye are equally gifted. The part I liked best was when he said, “All sincere art is important. All honest artists are important.”
To me that means, that all art is important, and has a place. It has the ability to affect people in a very special and extraordinary way. Just because it touches me doesn’t mean that you will even like it. Just because it doesn’t shout to the world doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
Next, he says that all honest artists are important. He refers to honest describing those that are true to their artistic voice. This means that you create from within, not for the market, but for the need within to express yourself.
There is no way that I can say this the way Keith Bond did. The last paragraph said, “Be true to your inner voice. Create sincere art that only you can create. As a unique individual with a unique voice, you are important. No other artist can say what you have to say in the way you can say it. You are original. Keep your art true to yourself and it will be original. If you do, your work will resonate with those who love your work. You will be important to them. By enriching their lives, you are contributing to a greater society, to a greater world. This makes you important to the world. You are an important artist creating important art. Don't give that up for anything, even for the accolades of the critics.”
Every time I read this I think - WOW!
All of us writers are important, and we are all creating something worthwhile. There is no way I'm going to give up. It doesn't matter how many rejections I receive, my writing is important.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Tonight I watched the movie Arthur and the Incredibles with my family. It’s the fun story of a young boy who goes in search of his missing grandfather and finds himself in the middle of a tribal war between fantastical creatures that live beneath the ground. It has everything young children love in an adventure.
It also had some things that rubbed me the wrong way as a writer.
Here we are in a world other than our own and the Minimoys (tiny insect-people) know nothing about our world or cultural differences. Yet, one of the characters says “Mama mia” and another takes the Lord’s name in vain.
I found it bizarre that the writers of this script would include such contemporary phrases when they have no place in the Minimoy’s world. It would have been much better if the writers had created a unique phrase to show the characters’ frustration, rather than use one borrowed from our language.
You don’t need to create an entirely unique language for your other world, but please, get a little creative and find appropriate phrases or words to express emotion. Scott Westerfeld does a great job of this in his Uglies series. He regularly introduces words that have unique meanings in the dystopian world of his novels.
As a writer you work hard to create a world for your characters to draw the reader in and firmly plant them in the place you’ve created. Yet every time you use modern language, you yank your reader right out of the story.
Once the characters of Arthur and the Incredibles began speaking in ways that didn’t suit them, the fun slowly seeped out of the story for me. I didn’t believe it anymore, because the writers made it impossible for me.
So when you write your masterpiece, choose your words carefully. Let your readers find a home in your world and enjoy every moment, and every single word.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
No, I didn’t spell it wrong. Let me explain, but first, Theres a book lauch party in Fillmore today. Click on the link at the bottom.
In critique group this week, we heard a story about a writer who explained the need of adding potatoes to a manuscript. In the simile, the manuscript is dinner, the dialogue is the meat, and the narration is the potatoes. Some writers are carnivores and their meat is spectacular, but they have to go back and add the potatoes for a well-rounded dinner.
That is the syndrome I’ve fallen into, chopping the narration, making the dialogue stand-alone.
In Writer’s Secrets, published by LDStorymakers, Linda Paulson Adams compares the bits of narration to the glue that holds the dialogue together.
I was told in critique group, parts of my dialogue needed beats. This is a common suggestion for me. I know what it means.
In the book, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, we learn. Beats are little bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes—the literary equivalent of what is known in the theater as stage business.
When beats were mentioned, the lady who’d told the story about meat and potatoes said, “hey what are beets?” We had a pot luck dinner at critique group this week. So, by the time we got to my chapter, It was late, and we were getting loopy. We all leaped to the comparison of the meat & potatoes story, and the beats. Someone said something like, “Beets? Okay, lets get our vegetables strait.”
We were left with explaining the concept of beats, not beets. I always think of rock n roll. The beat makes the rhythm easier to play. Beats interspersed with good dialogue keeps the reader going, and removes the stumbling blocks.
Whatever vegetable or binder you prefer, leaving them out makes a reader stumble. If it’s hard to read, it’ll get tossed. But Keep in mind, as Linda Paulson Adams said, using too much glue, can ruin the project. Beats, potatoes, or beets can also be overdone.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, October 23, 2009
In the past year I've had some struggles with my writing. This morning I came to the realization that part of the reason is that I've forgotten to feed the dream, and my baby is dying. Of course it took my wonderful husband to point out the fact.
Regardless, I have not fed my dream of being a writer. I neglected to attend any workshops or conferences. I haven't been writing on a consistent basis (other than this blog, grin) and I didn't take any time to read any books on writing. I haven't even had the time to really read (which if you've been reading my blogs you'll remember me mentioning).
So what do you do in this situation? You take stock. You look at the pantry and see what the food situation is.
Right now mine is pretty bare.
As Nicole mentioned in yesterday's post, Nanowrimo is coming up next month. It's a time I usually treasure and look forward to. A month that my husband puts up with and grits his teeth. I generally have a story waiting and primed to start writing on, excited and nervous to get going. This will be my sixth year participating. I have managed to pull it off each year (though I can't find the one for 2004, I don't think they had icons that year), though some have been harder than others.
This year I don't even have an inkling. I've gone and signed in, started up my "romance writers who are writing clean romance" forum, but I still don't know what I'm going to write.
My husband asked me if I was going to a writing seminar in 2010. I asked him what was the point? He said I needed to feed my baby. Before it died completely.
I think he's right. So -- we are launching a new feeding program. I'm just glad this baby doesn't require nightly feedings, I'm getting too old for that.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
At the League of Utah Writers Roundup last month, I had the opportunity to attend a novel writing class taught by author Kirt Hickman. As part of this novel class, we were given the following tips to use in helping complete our first draft:
1. Write early in the morning or late at night.
2. Eliminate distractions.
3. Write by hand.
4. Don’t stop to edit. Leave blank spaces and keep going.
5. If you make a decision to change something, don’t fix it now. Make a note and keep going.
6. Don’t stop to do research, make a note and keep going.
8. Work a minimum of one hour a day for first draft. This way you can likely be finished with this draft in roughly 90 days or less.
Kirt then handed us each a piece of unlined paper and a really awesome Bic Velocity pen. We were told to close our eyes, uncross our legs, and take several deep breaths. When we opened our eyes, he started a timer and told us to start writing. The idea, he later explained, was that by using unlined paper, we could feel free to write however we wanted, without restrictions. The pen was one of those really nice ones that flows flawlessly from word to word, and seems to fly over the paper without much effort by the writer. We had five minutes. In that time I wrote almost two hundred words—which I did add to my work in progress. When we multiplied those words into an hour, I could’ve written over a thousand words. Actually, I think it was something around 1700. Yep. That definitely means I could have a rough draft written in three months.
That is, if I actually followed through with dedicating that time, not getting distracted, and feeling the groove every time I opened my computer/notebook. Relaxing is generally easier said than done in my experience.
Which brings me to my point. We’re heading into November—which happens to be National Novel Writing Month. For most people, November is a rotten month in which to dedicate yourself to writing an entire novel. Especially if you’re having Thanksgiving dinner at your house (me), and even more so if you’re responsible for the bulk of the family holiday shopping (me again). But then, as I proved in October, August, and April, during Tristi Pinkston’s book in a month challenges, every month is busy in a different way. Sometimes it takes a program like this to give us a kick in the tail feathers and motivate us to move on through.
I believe it’s time for me to put Kirt Hickman’s theory to my personal test. I have one novel about 2/3 finished, and another in the outlining stage. What do you think? Should I do NaNoWriMo? I may not complete an entire fifty thousand words, but I could probably do thirty, much in the way Kirt claims is possible. Am I up to the challenge? Are you?
If you’re thinking of joining hundreds or thousands of other authors in this yearly challenge, I want to know. Let’s do this thing together! Maybe we can all write a bad novel that can be edited to shreds and resurrected into something great.
Hey, it could happen. Let’s get planning.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This past weekend was an uplifting time for me. Our stake was involved in a multi-stake conference session in the Salt Lake area. We started the weekend with a chapel meeting at the Jordan River Temple, where we sang, prayed and listened.
Sunday the members of our stake filled the chapel and cultural hall to listen to the words of our prophet. Those before him spoke about obedience to the prophet’s voice.
I was excited when President Monson spoke of books he has recently read, and told some stories from them. I also loved listening to him as he quoted the popular poem, In Flanders Field.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
We are the dead. Short days ago
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae
Sometimes I find it hard to realize that although President Monson is a prophet, he is also a man, and enjoys reading and doing many of the same things I do.
President Monson also told us to reach out to the aged, the widowed, the sick, the handicapped and the less-active members of our church. He encouraged us to extend to them the hand that helps and the heart that knows compassion. Our prophet told us that reaching out to another would bring joy into our hearts. President Monson doesn’t just tell us to do these things. He leads by example, and I hope that I can do a better job of following in his footsteps.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Over the last weekend, I took my daughter to the old farm where I grew up in eastern Utah. I don’t get out there much anymore, but it seems I’ve been there more frequently since my dad passed away earlier this year.
I showed my daughter around the yard—places like where we used to keep the goats, the cows, the pigs, and where we used to put out the chopping block when we wanted chicken for dinner. I took my daughter’s picture as she sat on my dad’s old tractor—which probably hasn’t run in 10 or 15 years. She got to see our old pet cemetery—but there are no signs at all of Missy or Snowball or Scrappy. No tombstones or dirt mounds or anything— just lots of dirt and even more weeds.
As we were getting ready to leave, my daughter asked, “Dad, why do you want to sell this place? You have so many memories here.”
I sighed and replied, “The memories aren’t here at the farm, they are inside my head.”
I’ve thought about that comment over the past few days. Not only are all those memories crammed into my skull, but all of the stories that I’ve written or contemplated are there, too. And, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference—and I’m sure the latter borrows from the former more times than I'd care to admit.
I seem to always be thinking of new ideas for stories, and more often than not, a tidbit of a memory from that old farm will be expanded and enhanced and thrown into the story, mostly unrecognizable. I suppose there really aren’t very many new ideas left out there—just lots of rehashed ones.
A writer, in effect, becomes the sum of his or her experiences. I hope my experiences—exaggerated by my creativity, of course—are interesting enough to keep my readers going once I have committed those modified experiences to paper.
I miss the old farm—yet at the same time, I’m glad it’s in my past. I never was much of a farmer. I am, however, finding myself farming my memories from those days long since past, to write my stories of today.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The other day I drove through a construction area where they had the road restricted to one lane. While I waited for my turn to drive through, I watched the workmen dig a ditch.
Three men with shovels worked on a long stretch of narrow gully. Two workers pushed in their shovels and lifted them out, moderately full. The third man bent his knees and dug in his shovel, lifting up with his back to reveal a shovel overflowing with dirt. He’d toss it, then bend, dig, lift and toss again. With each one of his thrusts, the third man did twice the amount of work of the other men.
By the time the lane opened up and I was free to move my car, the third man with his strong and determined efforts had caught up to the other two. They stood back and let him finish the trench on his own.
I found myself musing on the comparison between these workers and writers.
Some writers think they’re working. They write, they read, they attend writing conferences. They believe they are putting in an effort, but perhaps they aren’t seeing much progress.
And then there are the other writers—far fewer of them—who truly put their shoulders to the wheel. They attack their work with vigor. They bend their knees and put their back into it. Each day brings them closer to their goals until they cross the finish line.
Which kind of writer are you? Are you the guy standing on the sidelines, happily letting others push on past? Or are you the one who puts your shoulder to the wheel, and basks in the satisfaction of work well done?
I’m not sure I know the answer to that myself yet. Of course I want to be the one who crosses the finish line. And now that I’ve seen that hard-working man at the side of the road, I feel like I have a much better idea how to do it. I won’t get where I want to go with half-hearted efforts. I need to bend my knees and put my back into it.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Since I was given an advance reader’s copy of Am I Not a Man--The Dread Scott Story, and asked to read and review the book, I’ve been captivated. The story behind this, perhaps, the most famous court case in United States history brought tears to my eyes.
I must admit I had preconceived notions about the book. With Schindler’s List, Dances with wolves, The Work and The Glory, and countless others. Many books play upon our sympathies, and I was prepared for yet another, but I found the effort in research was obvious throughout, and a refreshing weaving of fact was presented.
I delighted in the staging of a conversation between two of my personal heroes, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. They both regretted making compromises in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution respectively. The hypocritical feelings of many were expressed in that conversation, along with other story lines throughout the book.
The thing that impressed me most, however, was the way the story leads the reader into the realization that our country was given two opportunities to abolish slavery. Both were during the drafting of two of our greatest documents.
Since those warnings were left unheeded, it becomes clear, through the reading of this book, the hand of a Higher Power took matters into His own hands. Dred Scott was the instrument. His lawsuit was the catalyst. Abraham Lincoln was the instigator.
Yes, I recommend the book to everyone. The expressed humanity will delight you---the historical information will educate you.
I’m told there will be illustrations in the hard cover release, but I became curious. I searched the Library of Congress, and found the attached newspaper article. It illustrates the attention the country was giving the case. This is a family of obscure slaves that turned the Supreme Court upside down, and helped set in motion the emancipation proclamation
You can preorder your copy here
You can visit Valor Publishing here
Good luck with your writing---see you next week.
Friday, October 16, 2009
There are two questions that I think all of us need to ponder at some point in our writing careers.
The first is: Where do you write?
I have found that the best place for me to write is sitting at my desk at home, gazing out over my large backyard of freshly mowed grass with the willow tree waving in the wind and the apple tree in full bloom. Okay, so the dandelions are in full bloom too, but hey, it’s a nice contrast to the green!
The point is, I can write just about anywhere. My favorite place just happens to be at my home desk. It’s a little harder to get lost in the storyline when I’m in a crowded airport or doctor’s office, but I get there eventually. I also do great writing at work when I don’t have anything else to do. (um, I hope no one at work reads this…)
The second is: Do you keep track of your ideas and file things away? Or, in other words, are you an organized person?
I have to be the first to admit NO to both of those–but I’m learning! I am finding it a distraction if I have piles of papers on my desk that need to be taken care of. However, the longer those piles sit there, the easier it is to ignore them! What I’m asking you to think about is where do you keep your story ideas? All the thoughts that are scribbles on napkins, the backs of receipts, pieces of your child’s construction paper, wedding reception envelopes, or in my daughter’s case, large spiral notebooks–where have you put them? All in one big pile on your desk where you can lose them? Stuffed in your purse or backpack where they get lost in no-man’s-land? Filed in your PDA and never downloaded to your computer?
Those are the precious gems that just might end up being your first published work! I’ve had several story ideas disappear simply because I didn’t have a chance to write them down, or lost them when I did. I’ve also lost ideas just because I couldn’t remember how I’d saved them on the computer. . .but let's not go there.
Organizing story ideas can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. All you need is a file folder (hopefully ALL of you have filing cabinets) and a label: Writing Ideas. Then you could have folders inside for how you want them separated, like plots, ideas, outlines, etc. Even if you have things saved on the computer I would recommend having hard copy in a file somewhere. You can never be too careful.
Initially I didn’t care if that part was organized–I hate filing and would toss things in there just to get onto something else–but I have since discovered the wisdom of organization. So, you’d have to make that choice. It comes down to how long you want to spend sorting through all those papers looking for something you vaguely remember putting away.
After all, how long do you want to take to find a plot outline you did last summer? You know, the perfect story involving a monkey, a jar of peanut butter and your neighbor’s kid? I mean, it’s a best seller in the making, isn’t it? Just where did I put that?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Have I ever mentioned the rejection contest held every year in one of my writing groups? Probably. Anyway, last year I took second. For the most part I’m proud of that. But every once in a while, I wonder if being the second biggest loser is really all it’s cracked up to be.
I mean, should I really be proud of the fact that I continually get rejected by publishers and agents?
Actually, the answer is yes. I should. Because every successful author I know has a long, long list of rejections. From what I understand, Harry Potter was rejected something like thirty times. Twilight was rejected seven times. The Mazerunner was also rejected a bunch of times before it got picked up by Delacorte. Stephen King pinned his rejections to the wall in front of his desk and collected them until he finally got a contract. Every author gets rejected.
It’s not personal, it’s business. And generally I’ve grown tough enough to deal with what used to fill me with a sense of loss and make me wonder if I’ll ever be good enough. But every once in a while, I’ll get a rejection—usually a stupid one that’s no big deal like a magazine article proposal or something—that hits me with an arrow at a vulnerable time or in a sensitive spot. And even though I know it’s absolutely stupid to be upset, the build-up of other rejections crashes down on me and makes me wonder if I’ll ever see the payoff. If I’ll ever submit something that someone will actually be excited about.
This year I’ve accumulated something like 24 rejections. Probably more. And I still have two and a half months left in the year, and several more submissions out. Yes, every once in a while, that number is depressing. But the thing is, I only really need one acceptance to make my efforts worth it. Just one.
In life and writing, there are no guarantees. Sometimes you work really, really hard, and you pray, and you go to great lengths to insure success, only to have it thrown back in your face. So what do you do? You pick yourself up and dance. Because at some point, realization dawns that each rejection is a step up a ladder, and no matter how long it takes, as long as you keep climbing, you will eventually get to the top.
From my personal rung, I’m seeing a whole lot of people reach that spot, and I know I’m not really all that far away. So, yes, I can take a few more rejections, because each one gets me that much closer to good news.
Only this year, I intend to be the number one biggest loser. Hey, if I’m going to be a loser, at least I get to have my name on a plaque.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Early Saturday morning I realized I needed to do something with all the plants, and flowers I had acquired the past few weeks. Those who know me, realize there isn’t a green thumb attached to my body. Give me a computer and I can write up a storm, but give me a potted plant, and disaster is sure to strike. Some people love gardening, but me – don’t ask.
I knew that if I didn’t do something that day, the beautiful plants wouldn’t live to see another day. Even if I do my best, they might not see another week. Somehow, I managed to replant and split two of the largest plants into six smaller ones. I didn’t want to push fate too much, so I left the other three smaller plants alone. After all, they still haven’t shown any sign of dying.
All of this happened four days ago and all the plants are still breathing, at least, there are no droopy leaves, and maybe, I didn’t give them too much water. I wonder if I watered them enough. Anyway, that corner of my living room is beautiful. Before there were two scraggly plants trying to survive and now the entire corner is alive with plants and flowers. I wonder how long it will last. Probably not long. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy it, and since the scenery is better, maybe I’ll even move to the front room to write.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Talent, courage, and inspiration create writers. Perseverance, experience, and deadlines create authors.
I’m somewhere between these two right now. I’m definitely a writer; I know that. I have numerous finished novels to prove it. What I’m working on now is becoming an author—and what I mean by that is becoming published.
Self-imposed deadlines can help with getting published. One of the best things I learned while writing for a local hometown newspaper was writing on demand. Submissios had to be made by the deadline or they would not appear in the next issue of the paper. It was that simple. You write your story on time or it doesn’t get published.
Deadlines also work with novels and other forms of writing, even if they are self-imposed. I’m planning to have two novels ready to submit by the end of this week. They need some final edits and then need to be printed out. By Saturday, this will be done.
That’s my deadline. I hope it helps me progress toward my goal of becoming a published novelist.
Monday, October 12, 2009
(Originally posted April 27, 2006)
By C. L. Beck
There’s no doubt I’m giving away my age by mentioning this, but a number of years ago there was a song released by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel called Why Don’t You Write Me. It’s one that easily becomes an ear worm.
Have you ever had an ear worm? In case you’ve been infected but didn’t recognize it for the insidious bug that it is, an ear worm is a tune that gets into your mind and repeats itself over . . . and over . . . and over . . . and over . . . and . . . well, you get my drift.
The problem I have is that it’s not my subconscious repeating that phrase; it’s those danged voices in my head. Ah yes, I can see you’re already glancing furtively to the side and wondering if it’s time to call in the little guys with the white coats—the ones with a straight jacket that’s custom fit to my size.
No need to act in haste. Let me explain. There’s a fact all writers will freely admit on Oprah—albeit with a mask over their face and a voice changer in the producer’s control booth. The characters about whom we write have lives of their own. They can be quite persistent when we’re writing about them, often taking paths we didn’t intend, doing things of which we disapprove, saying dialogue we don’t want and sometimes even killing off the heroes that we created.
When we aren’t writing about them, they’re even more insistent. They bug us when we’re awake, give us insomnia when we try to sleep, and when we’re finally so exhausted we nod off, they infiltrate our dreams.
One writer I know sent out a plea for help, asking what she could do to quiet the voices in her head. The suggestions ran the gamut from hot baths and soft music, to hot chocolate and rock and roll.
Well okay, maybe I exaggerate slightly. No one mentioned hot chocolate and rock and roll, but if I’d thought of it, I would have.
Other authors suggested keeping a pad and pen, or an AlphaSmart word processor by the bed in order to jot down ideas and characters as they came to mind. I thought I’d try that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a pen that actually writes and I don’t own an AlphaSmart. However, I came up with a reasonable solution.
Last night when those voices kept me awake by asking why don’t you write me, I finally silenced them. I picked up the Kleenex and crayon that I’d placed on the nightstand and wrote down everything they said.
Then I took my Haldol, blew my nose, turned out the light and went to sleep.
**Ali is having Internet issues and will return to her regularly scheduled day next week!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
In Hamlet Act three, scene one, is perhaps the most famous question in all of literature. To be, or not to be. That is the question. In this poignant scene the character is debating the disadvantages of suicide. Kind of like the theme song of Mash, Suicide is Painless, but I digress.
I was in the zone the other day, and working on my story was thrilling. The song, Back in the Saddle Again, written by Ray Whitely, and played by Gene Autry & The Cass County Boys comes to mind.
So, there I was, writing pearls of literature, when I realized I left two story lines open-ended. When I wrote the draft, it didn’t bother me. In this book, I’ve written over twenty-five characters, six POV’s, and fifteen interlacing story lines. So, to leave a few plots finished, but not ended, didn’t seem bad.
Suddenly, one of the characters showed me plots and stories leading in different directions than the ones I had planned. In the beginning, I never intended to grow this particular character. Her name is currently Sharon, but I’m sure she wants to change it. Anyway, I intended that she would have a short part in the story and move on. As the draft unfolded, Sharon ended up getting more depth and sympathy from me. I ended her story on a positive note and led the reader to a natural conclusion.
In the zone the other day, Sharon wouldn’t leave me alone. I now have three interlacing plots for a sequel and I am left with a choice. To sequel, or not to sequel. That is indeed the real question. If I don’t write the sequel, I have to go back and re-write the direction Sharon’s story went. It wouldn’t be hard, take out a couple of minor characters and send Sharon back to New York, but she doesn’t want to go.
Now, I sit here, staring at the plots I drew on my whiteboard. I’m getting more excited to write the sequel than I am about finishing the original. Sharon smiles as I write that, because she knows me. She knows I won’t let it go . . .
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Sometimes the way life turns out is not the way it's been planned. I feel like I'm quoting another movie (While You Were Sleeping) but it's true.
The twists and turns of life add to ones character and development. Usually it's not the kind of trials you would pick, but we don't have the choice of consequences, do we? My son is getting married next week, and it's rather unexpected. Not that I'm entirely broken up as my hubby is, but it's still not what we wanted for him. My husband is focused on all the things my son will now not be able to do -- when we know many people who have become great examples despite the fact they didn't do some of those things. It's times like these that I remind myself that sometimes we don't all fit inside the lines of the 'expected' life. Much like a song I really like; Unwritten. I felt the same way when my daughters didn't graduate from high school, getting adult diplomas instead.
I figure I should have some good material for a book when it's all over. I have good in-law stuff, and drama enough for a soap opera. Too bad I don't like soap operas...grin. But that is something that a good writer is able to use to their advantage. Every day life is full of material to enrich a tale in your head.
To quote the song: "No one else can speak the words on your lips."
What does your life have to say?
Thursday, October 08, 2009
By Nichole Giles
Last week I promised to impart of my newfound wisdom—gained from attendance at yet two more conferences. Have I ever told you how crucial these are to a writer? Besides the networking opportunities, the information you learn from other authors, agents, and editors is simply invaluable. Today I’m going to share some of what I learned.
I have in front of me pages and pages of notes—all handwritten, since I apparently didn’t feel like getting out my handy-dandy new netbook. You know, the one I wanted because it’s so much more portable than my honkin-huge, heavy laptop. Go figure.
So, flipping through pages, and my eyes and fingers land on a topic…
Today’s lesson will be about filter words. Don’t know what those are? Yeah, I hadn’t heard the term either, and I’ve been writing seriously for almost six years. So my attention spiked and I listened on. (Not that I wasn’t listening anyway, just saying.)
Filter words are telling words, or words that generalize an emotion rather than showing what the character is experiencing. For example, “He felt, she saw, he heard, she looked, he watched.” Also, thinker attributes fall into this category. Now do you know what I’m talking about? So basically, filter words are key telling words—and ones you would do best to avoid whenever possible. They create a distance between the reader and the viewpoint character. To avoid this separation, it’s important as a writer to focus on whatever the viewpoint character is focused on.
Instead of watching what’s happening from the outside, draw the reader into the head—and body—of the character. When your character feels scared, rather than telling your reader, “He heard a noise,” try something more like, “a loud bang echoed off the floorboards above his head, and sent a chill curling down his spine.”
Which phrase is more descriptive? And which do you better identify with? Let’s try a few more.
She watched the beautiful sunset.
The sun dipped below the horizon and fiery oranges and pinks burst above her head, spreading fingers of color into the darkening azure sky.
“He thought about his brother, and the day of his murder.”
“Memories of his brother’s lifeless body spun around in his mind—the smell of iron and salt, the sticky, bloody knife on the ground next to him—and the echoing wail of the coming ambulance as he held Jeffery’s head on his lap, willing him to live long enough for help to arrive.”
As a reader, which phrases draw you in farther? And as a writer, what can we do to avoid these pitfall filter words? Kirt Hickman gave me an awesome idea I’d love to share. Using your “find and replace” option in Microsoft Word, search each of these words, and then change their color to something other than black. You can do this by clicking the “more” option when you’re in the find and replace box. Follow the choices to font, then color, and there you go. Once you’ve colored your filter words, go through your document and rewrite those sections and /or phrases.
This same technique can be used with pet words, ‘ly’ adverbs, passive verbs, ‘as-ing’ phrases (meaning phrases starting with “as” and ending with an “ing” word) and other issues you hope to avoid. So, while you’re at it, search them all. And when you’re done, tell me your manuscript isn’t much stronger.
One thing to remember is that you will never be completely rid of any of these words or phrases, but it’s important to eliminate as many as possible.
That’s my wisdom for the day. Good luck with your search and replace. See you next week, same time, same blog. Until then, write on!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Much has happened in my life the past two weeks. It’s never easy to lose someone that you care for. Although we all knew my mom was going to die soon, it still took us by surprise. I’ve realized that I have many friends who have been there for me. Thanks to each of you for your prayers and support.
Shortly before my mother died, I ran across a verse I want to share with you.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
What kind of destiny will you have?
I’ve seen more people that I care deeply for this past week for than I usually do in a year. Watching the actions of my grandchildren, I found myself thinking about the habits they were developing – their character. Some of them were making great choices and others were not. The destiny ahead will be full of wonderful things for some. I wish it could be so for everyone. I wonder what I can do to help those in need.
Most of my habits are good, but I do have a few flaws. I guess I need to help myself first. I’ve been lax in my writing this past year. I think now is a good time to turn over a new leaf.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Stephen King said that some of the best advice he has ever received with a rejection letter from an editor was to cut his writing by 10%. “Kill your darlings,” he said.
Yeah, well, that’s sometimes hard to do.
I once had to cut a story that was published in Irreantum magazine, the official publication of the Association for Mormon Letters. My editor for this piece made many suggestions, most of which I followed, but the hardest suggestion to implement was to cut the unnecessary bulk.
I gritted my teeth, pulled on my best writing gloves, and proceeded to weed my story. It was a dirty, messy job, but in the end, I reaped the benefits of a cleaner, tighter story.
I concluded that Stephen King was right; however, being a writer myself, I figured I would give his advice in my own words, which are these:
Weed it and reap; if you do, your target audience—which just may include your future editor—won’t read it and weep.
Monday, October 05, 2009
A couple weeks ago I attended Time Out For Women in which Chieko Okasaki spoke about teaching our children. She reiterated the famous statement, attributed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: When asked how he handled his people so well, the prophet replied “Simple, I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”
Sister Okasaki suggested that we must first learn correct principles so we can properly teach them to our children. She also said all of us are free to act, but those of us who know the correct principles are far more likely to behave in keeping with the teachings of the gospel.
It occurred to me that attending writing conferences, reading books on the art of writing, and associating with other writers in critique groups or on blogs, is how we writers can learn correct writing principles.
Just like at Church, we may hear the same things taught to us over and over again, but each time there is the opportunity to glean a special golden nugget that never occurred to us before.
Furthermore, we become so well plied with good techniques and strategies, that when we search our minds for the right solution for a story/problem, we have reliable tools at hand. It doesn’t matter how experienced or inexperienced you are as a writer. All of us can benefit from education.
Take the time to learn correct writing principles, then manage your writing efforts in accordance with those principles. Also, be tenacious! Never quit learning and trying. Do this, and you will be successful.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
“She leaped up from the bench, fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
Does this sentence seem wrong somehow? Does the title of this blog make sense? I’ll talk about the title in a minute, but the sentence was written into my WIP and I brought it to critique group this week. The whole group found fault with it.
Heather said it was old language. “People don’t write that way anymore.”
Tristi said it sounded biblical, and unless I’m writing scriptures I should think about changing it. I must admit, the scriptures are probably where I got the phrase, “fell on his neck”. I wrote the phrase to avoid repetitious words, but I also, thought it sounded clever.
This isn’t the first time my group found a problem with my old speech patterns. I usually cover, though, by saying I’m and old man, what do you expect. It makes me realize I use phrases and figures of speech that just aren’t used anymore. Some of my dialogue comes from the time period I grew up in, but there are ways of talking that are getting discarded in academia.
I recently attended a writer’s workshop and listened to Annette Lyon talk about grammar. Besides being the author of There, Their, They’re-A No Tears Guide to Grammar, she’s a self admitted word nerd. Words and proper use, is a hobby for her.
In her class, she answered some of the most pressing questions such as me/I, also Em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens. When Lay/lie came up, I was reminded of the LDStorymakers Conference when a man said some of the old conventions are being dropped in the publishing industry.
So, in this day of quick emails, and text messaging, I wonder if technology is causing us to lose our ability to communicate properly. It’s true. We have lost the art of letter writing. When I read simple letters written in the nineteenth century, subjects of which would be sent in emails today, it’s fascinating to read the language. Much better than books I read, the letters are almost poetic.
There was an episode in the original Star Trek series that emphasizes my point. The Enterprise crew encounters a world where the inhabitants speak simple English but nobody, except the chief, can read. At one point he speaks the sacred words from an ancient parchment. He starts by reading “wuh tey pebla” or something like that. Well, of course Captain Kirk recognizes it and begins to quote, We The People. The society had suffered atomic warfare and lost their language over many centuries.
I know it’s important to communicate with my readers. So, in my speech and writing, I’m endeavoring to keep up, but I still let old speech patterns, and sixties language slip into my writing, but I wonder about the rising generation. My daughter adds colorful messages to her sentences that I didn’t understand at first. Things Like BTW, OMG, TMI, and FYI. You may recognize these as short ways of text messaging, but I don’t text. Like the lost art of letter writing, how long will it take for us to eliminate words? Will our children pick up a copy of A Tale of Two Cities, for example and not be able to read it?
Good luck with your writing---see you next week.
Friday, October 02, 2009
I used to be a voracious reader. I would read anything I could get my hands on, especially if I was at a doctors office or waiting for someone. I used to spend so much time reading, that sometimes it got in the way of keeping house.
I'm not sure why I read, exactly, although I believe mostly it was for entertainment. My husband feels it's escaping, and I guess that's true to a point, I think everyone tends to like to escape the real world. My children read much like I used to, they gobble up the written page.
Books used to call to me. There is a character in the movie Mannequin named Hollywood. At one point in the movie, he's telling Jonathan that the reason he can't loose weight is jelly doughnuts. "They call to me, I can hear them in the middle of the night -- Hollywood, oh Hollywood..."
That's what books were to me. If you had asked me when I was younger why I read, I would have given you a blank look and shrugged. It was like air or food. It just was.
But lately, my entertainment time has been cut and my reading time has suffered. Along with that, my eyesight has started to diminish, (sigh -- a result of old age, alas) and I've had to start using reading glasses. This hasn't happened overnight, I've been needing them off and on for the past two years, but I've been in denial. As a result, I've become picky about what I read. If it's boring, I don't bother finishing it. If it has tiny print and I don't feel like finding my glasses, I put it down.
Right now I'm trying to read two books -- The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck's Common Sense. I've been reading them for about a month, and I still haven't gotten much past the first chapter. I just don't have time. I keep thinking about all the writing books I could be reading, but it's like that saying, "So many men, so little time?" How about so many books, so little time. That would be me.
I wanted to talk about reading, because as writers, the reader is what makes or breaks us. If we are trying to reach a broad range of readers, our writing has to be such that everyone, young or old would want to read it. Harry Potter books aren't just popular with the young, there are lots of older folks that have read the entire series. Twilight was popular apparently with a whole range of women. (Personally I don't get it...)
Are you writing for a specific audience? Is your reader going to be unique or one of many?
Think about why you read what you read, and ponder it for a while. A friend of mine said his writing teacher used to tell the class to go to the bookstore and look on the shelves where your book is going to sit. Look at the books next to that spot and see what they are like and who wrote them. That's what you want to get to be like. Those people who have already made it to the bookstore shelves.
Those authors who have readers. That's where you want to be.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
By Nichole Giles
In the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity and privilege of attending two conferences. You’d think that after two conferences, I’d be brimming with new information and dying to share it with my readers. Strangely enough, I’m having a hard time deciding what to write about. The problem may stem from the fact that it’s almost midnight and I just realized it’s almost Thursday—my scheduled day to blog—and I haven’t posted anything to the group for an edit. (In case you’re wondering, our general rule of thumb is that we post to our Yahoo group the day before.) Or maybe it’s because I took in entirely too much information and now can’t get any of it back out of my brain again.
Actually, I’m thinking the problem falls somewhere between an early breakfast fund-raiser this morning, and a soccer game seven (or more) towns away in the freezing, icy wind this evening. And a few minor crises dealt with in between. So, rather than sharing all my newfound conference wisdom today (don’t worry, I will be sharing soon) I’m going to tell you about soccer.
My daughter’s team is good. More than good. Until today, they’d only lost one game. Unfortunately, this week they somehow got matched up against the top ranked triple A team, even though our team is technically in a double A league. So, basically, they were up against the best team from a whole other league. (Think: National bestsellers vs. Locally published nonfiction.) In order for them to play the game, we had to drive an hour to the field on the first freezing day of the season. But we went—even though it meant cancelling anything else we had planned for the evening—and set up chairs on the sides of the field.
The game started, and even though the teams weren’t very evenly matched, our girls held their own and gave the other team a good workout. When the opposite team was up two points, our goalie made an amazing save, and several of us stood up cheering for her. The referee promptly stormed over to us, announcing that, “Anyone with the ‘orange’ team (ours) was on the wrong side of the field.” Then he glared while about twenty of us stood, stunned, and picked up our chairs, blankets and umbrellas to traipse around to the other side—where the sun (when it came out) hit us directly in the face. After that, we set our chairs down, only to be told again to move—until we were on the far side of the field where we had to strain to see what was happening at the goal. (And it was all the parents, not just me.)
After his little show of power, the referee (who was a grown man—not a teenager) stayed on the opposite side of the field from us—refusing to come past the half mark, even to do his job. Unfortunately, his stubborn…well, whatever it was, caused him to miss some important things. Granted, they were minor things and probably wouldn’t have made a big difference to the outcome of the game in the long run. But the point is, he felt a need to show his muscles to us—the parents—but then retreated to hide. Funny enough, the minute he blew the whistle to signal the end of the game, he scurried off the field and disappeared. (Which made me sad because I meant to thank him for the time he took to ref the game, and promise him we’d keep secret his need to overcompensate for a lack in other areas. I know, I’m just nice that way.)
Why am I telling you this?
I think it comes back to good business and professional behavior. As long as you’re a writer, you will always have critics. Fortunately, you will also have a cheering section who will stand up and scream for you when you do something right—even if you’re fighting a losing battle.
And one day, when an editor, or agent, or critic, or blogger makes a bad call, smearing your name or your work into smudge, you’ll have a choice. You can run away and hide, or you can stick by your work and fight until the very end. If you fight the battle with integrity and drive, even if you lose, you’ll come away from the game a better person.
And your critic? Well, they may just scurry off the field to disappear into the parking lot—and never return again. Or not. But one can always hope.
Whatever you do, remember how very much our treatment of others matters. It’s a sad day indeed when the referee feels the need to run away while the opposing coaches, teams, and parents shake hands.
And with that bit of wisdom (please, oh please, let it make sense) I’m off to bed. Until next time, write on.