Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I’ve been thinking about all the things that I’ve collected over the years. When I was a child, paper dolls were my favorite thing to play with. Nowadays I’m not sure if little girls know what a paper doll is. I never could have enough paper dolls or clothing. I spent hours cutting clothing out of the Sears Catalogue so that my dolls would have more clothes.
During my early adult life, I collected salt and peppershakers. When small children broke most of those I started to accumulate mugs. Many years later, my husband worked out of town and he started to buy me a bell at all the places he visited because they were easier to bring home.
Most of my friends know that I collect fairies. I have a fairy fountain and a large variety of fairies. Of course, I have many books about fairies. I also have a lot of lighthouses and pirates. On my most recent trip to Arizona, I even found a pirate fairy.
Books are high on my list of things to collect. If you are my friend and you are a writer, I have to have your book. I could post pictures of my books, but if I forgot someone, I would feel very bad, so I’m not going to put any pictures of my book collection out there.
But none of these things are my most valued collections. My friends are at the top of my list. I’m grateful for my friends. I have some dear friends from my high school years that I still visit with. During my 50+ years as an adult, I’ve held many jobs, and I still have friends from each. Many dear friends have moved away, but I can’t bear to lose their friendship, so I always stay in touch. The past few years I’ve attended many writing conference and have met some dear friends there. All of these new friends are priceless to me. No one can have too large of a collection of friends.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
I’m quite sure most of you have read this quote—it’s probably been shared here before too. But when a friend recently shared it with me it hit me with such force, I felt it bore repeating.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said,
"God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future; He expects you to embrace and shape the future--to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities.
God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe."
I want you to take a moment and really think about what Elder Holland has said here. Print out the quote and read it every day this week. Put his teachings to use in your life.
I’m going to—I hope you do too.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I'm late, I'm late for
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye,
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late
I'm late and when I wave,
I lose the time I save.
My fuzzy ears and whiskers
took me too much time to shave.
I run and then I hop, hop, hop,
I wish that I could fly.
There's danger if I dare to
stop, and here's a reason why:
I'm over-due, I'm in a rabbit stew.
Can't even say good-bye,
hello, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.
These lyrics sung by the white rabbit, in Disney’s version, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, describes my feelings today. My friends will tell you I’m notoriously early. Almost everywhere I go, unless I get delayed waiting for somebody, I like to be early, but today, I feel late.
I have three blogs to write this morning, so I woke at six, went back to sleep for (just ten minutes), and woke at 8:30. the City of Orem is holding an auction of stolen goods today and I planned to go and see if they had anything stolen from me. I didn’t make it.
I suppose it started last night when I staid up to watch a PBS Frontline story, about the economy and unemployment. I realized that all the people they were spotlighting, and those at their networking groups, were all over fifty. Since I’m back in the job market, I realized I’m late. Too late to start a new career, and I have too much experience for an entry-level position.
After the Frontline show, I turned to an interesting movie I’d never seen before about the Vietnam War. The story was about a seventeen-year old, Vietcong soldier named HO. An American officer, played by Beau Bridges told the story from a diary he’d found. The American had been the kid’s prisoner. Anyway, I got caught up in it, and was late getting to sleep.
All of this lateness causes me to think about my most recent book. I’ve heard editors talk about finding similar stories on the slush pile and they publish the first one they received. So, I feel pressure to get my story sent in. I write with a sense of being late.
Often, I feel a purpose in my writing. I feel like there is someone out there, who needs to read certain parts. I’m sure we’ve all had a book, song, or movie that touched our lives and influenced us for good. This is my purpose, and I don’t want to be late.
Then I realize, the stories that touch my heart usually don’t come to me, until long after the premier or launch. Like the movie I saw on television last night, I read stories at just the right time, for me. Perhaps, if my story is meant to touch a heart, it will find that person, whether I get it published now, or later. But, still, I’m rushing to get it to market. I’m late!
On another note, Our very own DN Giles is holding a book launch today at 1 p.m. click on this link to read my review and find the launch information.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Okay, last week I talked about voice. Today I wanted to mention tone. I know, you're thinking -- tone? That's only involved with muscles, isn't it? Or tone of voice?
Writing has a tone too. It's the mood or setting of a story. Is it dark, humorous, thought provoking, mysterious, etc.
I just finished doing a review of a book called The Cleansing of America, by Cleon W. Skousen. Now, other people have interpreted it differently, but I found it to be rather dark. Not that it's not appropriate in the tone, but just dark and somewhat foreboding. Mainly, that's because of the subject matter. He lightens it at the end, with thoughts of how we should live today to be better prepared for tomorrow, but the whole book gets you thinking.
What type of tone do you set in your book? Do you change it in the middle? Are you a consistent writer of one tone or another? I tend to write lighter romances, but there are those who write mysterious and sinister ones, upbeat and silly ones -- there's a whole gambit out there.
Just another thought to add to the writing mind for the week -- what tone do you want to set? See ya next week.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Okay, this is a topic I get to tackle because I’m totally guilty of writing in different genres. Granted, it was unintentional and completely accidental, but that’s beside the point. I now have to my published credits one humorous anthology with a religious theme, Mormon Mishaps and Mischief, and one historical, reality fiction, The Sharp Edge of a Knife. Both are written under the name D.N. Giles, because they both have inspirational undertones, and that’s the way I chose to do things.
There’s a reason for this. I’m not really an inspirational author. I mean, I hope I’m inspirational, but I’ve never set out to write books with inspirational themes. Does that make sense?
Generally, I write young adult urban fantasy or paranormal. And there’s always the possibility that I’ll step into the realm of dystopian, which isn’t a different genre at all but a different style. For this reason, I’ll write under my full name for all my young adult work in order to avoid confusion. The question begging to be answered right now is how far will readers follow an author through all their forays into different types of writing?
Case in point. I’m a fan of Scott Westerfield’s work. Loved the Uglies series. Loved So Yesterday. Loved Midnighters. Except the end. Not thrilled with that, so much, but the concept and execution was there. So when I first saw Leviathan hit shelves, I picked it up and bought it, expecting that my teenage son (also a big fan of Westerfield’s) and I would have to fight over the book. He got it first, since I technically gave it to him for Christmas. Only recently have I snagged it from his shelf and started reading it.
I was completely surprised to discover that this book is completely different from Westerfield’s other work. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it did throw me off guard somewhat. This book fits in the steam-punk category. And while steam-punk is totally okay, and the book well written, I’m five chapters in and completely bored. I’ve decided that steam-punk isn’t my thing. Because Westerfield’s writing certainly hasn’t fallen in quality, nor has his ability to plot. At least, to my knowledge. Although, maybe I’ll change my mind later on in the book.
My point is I was completely taken off guard when I first got started. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, because I continue to trust in the author’s writing ability. However, I will be a bit more cautious the next time I pick up a new book by him, and I’ll probably be a lot more careful to read reviews first.
So again, is this change a good move for an author or a bad one? What are your thoughts on this subject?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I want everyone to know how much I love the country that I was born into, and how grateful I am that I’ve lived my entire life in the United States of America. I, like many others, take the freedom of choices for granted. For years, I’ve sat comfortably back and thought life would always be the same, I had nothing to worry about and nothing to fear. Things are changing. Now is the time for me to stand up for what I believe.
I want to continue to decide what is best for me. I don’t want this to turn into a political debate so I’ll use my writing to explain my point. Someone else shouldn’t decide if I can write a book, and which course I should pursue in the process. If I want to write a mystery, that should be my choice. It shouldn’t matter if that is the only type of book out there. It might mean that no one wants to publish what I wrote, but I still have a choice. As a writer, I can choose which direction to go. When our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they gave me that right.
Recently, the direction my life is being forced to take has been on my mind a lot. Every year the government takes a few more choices away from me, and force me down a path that I don’t want to go, but I still think this is the best country in the entire world,
I know it’s not the 4th of July, or Thanksgiving, but earlier this week someone sent me this reminder. I don’t hear this song very often, but I still remember the chorus. I especially want you to listen to the verses.
Monday, March 22, 2010
You've heard the call.
The call that told you, you are a writer.
The dream that fills you and consumes you until you’ve put it to paper—and long afterward.
Do you believe you can respond to the call, fulfill the dream?
When the angel Gabriel told Mary she was to bear the song of God,
Mary said, “ . . . be it unto me according to thy word”
When Jesus said to the men of Galilee,
" . . . they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt 4:18-20.)
Choose to follow the commandments of the Lord, to answer when he calls, to pursue our dreams.
“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17.)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
On another note, Click on the image to read my review of Dangerous Connections, by Julie Coulter Bellon.
Friday, March 19, 2010
A friend of mine, who also happens to be in my critique group, has been asked to be on the judging panel of the Whitney awards. I was thrilled for him, and we were all excited for him because it meant he got a little more exposure to readers.
He was a little daunted by the task of reading the books that have been nominated. I won't tell which category, or his name, because I don't want anyone trying to bribe him or otherwise promote their books. But, he gave us an offer to read the books he is reading so that we can see what we think. So far, we've traded off twice, and I've gotten to read two very different books, both by authors I've read before.
It's made me think of voice. Everyone has a very distinctive way of writing, or a style of writing that is called 'voice.' This is what makes each author different from the other. Some are able to be funny, some bring sympathy, some are mysterious, but whatever the voice, they remain true to that style throughout the book -- that is if they are good at it.
The difficult part, is finding that voice. Feeling out what tone is best, where your individual talent lies. The second difficult part is staying true to that. There are many books that switch points of view, that write in first person all the time, and float randomly through a plot that doesn't go anywhere. I think most of us have read books like that, and we wonder how in the heck they ever got published.
I'm thankful that so far the two books I've read do not suffer from any of those difficulties (though personally, first person is what I do about half the time) but one of them did have a strange way of beginning. I've been told by my critique group that my voice is more true to romance. When I try to write suspense, it doesn't flow as well. Oh well, I like to have both in a story, much of the time. But I also like to try different genre. I find that in a small way, I like fantasy as well. I guess we'll see. So far they like the fantasy novel that they are critiquing for me, maybe because it has romance.
If you haven't decided what voice you have in your writing, now is a good time to decide. What flows most easily from your fingers? How do those characters feel in your head? Read back through what you've written and see if feels right. Have someone else read and give their opinion. Find your voice, and be true to it. It will bring a whole new meaning to your writing.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
My good friend Elana Johnson said something fabulous to me the other day. We were talking about querying agents, and ended up discussing the merits of different writing credits—even those with the word “Mormon” in the title. This is what she said: “You should absolutely be proud of that book.” Suzette Saxton was also in on that discussion, and she agreed.
Their words were significant to me for a lot of reasons, but especially because it felt good to have someone telling me to be proud of my book—which I am. But it’s still good to hear sometimes. I think people have a lot of misperceptions when it comes to anthologies, so for today’s blog, I’m going to go over a few of the more common ones. Please bear with me, this post might be a tad longer than most of my others.
Myth: Creating an anthology is a piece of cake. All you have to do is have a bunch of people send you stories and you put them together to create a book.
Fact: Creating an anthology is hard work. First, you start with an idea. Actually, to be realistic, more like ten ideas. And once you’ve brainstormed and envisioned said ideas until you know exactly what each one would entail, you start writing proposals.
Next, you write samples to go with each proposal, put together a proposal package and send it out to publishers you’ve researched and that you believe would be a good fit to publish your idea. And that’s only the beginning. The proposal stage.
Myth: “My idea is so unique and amazing that any publisher will pay big money to sign a contract with me.”
Fact: Most publishers aren’t interested in anthologies at all, regardless of how brilliant your idea. When and if you do find one that will look at your proposal, consider yourself lucky if they agree to look at one out of ten or twenty proposals. But be warned. As soon as they like a proposal, it will be up to you to create the finished project. Minus the cover, of course.
Myth: All I have to do is have people send me stories, and I can throw them together. Piece of cake.
Fact: First of all, collecting stories requires a wide network of skilled writers who are willing to write and then submit stories. If you have a resource like this, and if you’re able to bribe enough people to send you stories—free of charge—no matter how skilled your authors, eighty percent or more of the submissions will require either extensive editing, or complete rewriting. This is beyond the stories or submissions for which you yourself are responsible, which should be at least fifty percent.
Once you’ve proposed an idea, the stories you use have to fit the theme of your proposal. You’ll need to decide on length requirements, voice, tone, and other guidelines. This is a fairly difficult process.
After you’ve begged, pleaded, bribed, and conned enough people into basically giving you their stories, it’s time to cover your legal bases. Your writing priorities will shift while you put together a contract that you can send to all your accepted contributors. (Don’t forget to collect the signed contracts and put them in a file.)
There will also be a few stories that no amount of rewriting can fix. No matter how gently done, sending rejections to the same people from whom you solicited free work isn’t easy.
Myth: Creating an anthology doesn’t require a lot of writing.
Fact: I can see how this perception is common. The finished product often seems so simple. However, in a project like this, along with writing proposals, samples, contracts, guidelines, acceptances, rejections, introductions and acknowledgements, you will have to come up with a minimum of half the stories in the book. Which means you will need editing assistance from another source. Or two. Or three.
Myth: Once a publisher has the finished product, they’ll send the contract right over.
Fact: In the extensive amount of time it takes to put something like this together, publisher needs, budgets, or tastes may change. They might find something else they like better. They might have a change in editors. They might decide they don’t love your book after all. And after all your months of hard work, they may ultimately reject your book.
If you aren’t willing to throw in the towel after completing a full anthological manuscript, be prepared for a slew of new rejections, and cross your fingers, eyeballs, and toes, then pray you’ll find one publisher who sees something of promise in the manuscript. And while you’re praying, beg the Man upstairs to please inspire that publisher to NOT make you turn your book into something completely different and then start over.
Myth: Creating an anthology isn’t as much work as writing a novel, and therefore, isn’t as valuable.
Fact: Though the type of work is very different, in my experience (since I’ve written both an anthology and several novels) I’m going to tell you, the anthology was actually the more work of the two. It took more time, more dedication, and more research. Writing of any kind is definitely a labor of love. But here’s something to consider: any project for which you work with thirty contributors and a coauthor, while attempting to gather 200 stories of 200 words or less is not-so-much-cake.
ALL WRITING IS VALUABLE. Every piece of work has a place, and all of it matters. And if a book—of ANY kind—is lucky enough to snag a publisher, it has done so because there is a market need for that particular book. If a publisher thinks something is good enough to invest in, it probably is. Publishers are in this business to make money and they don’t generally send contracts to authors just because they like that person, or because they feel sorry for them. It just. Doesn’t. Happen. But even if you don’t get a publisher, you’re still working toward furthering your writing skills, your process. The lessons you learn with each word you write always carry immense value. Never discount that.
Myth: All authors are treated equally by publishers, associations, and fans.
Fact: Unfortunately, this isn’t true either. Even when it comes to Christian based associations, all authors are not considered equals. No matter how much they claim to like you, someone will always find a way to belittle your efforts. The only thing you can do is be yourself, create in the best way you know, write what feels good, and hope that someday, in some way, you will have the opportunity to make someone smile.
So as Elana said, I’m proud of my anthology. I loved helping some of my author friends gain another published credit or two. I loved laughing at the submissions, even the ones that were ultimately not right for the book. I loved writing the introduction and acknowledgements and stories. I loved carrying my notebook with me everywhere I went to try and catch the small daily funnies. I loved it all, and it was worth every stressful minute.
A few interesting facts about Mormon Mishaps and Mischief:
200 stories in the book
78 are written by Cindy
48 are written by Nichole (plus the introduction and acknowledgements)
126 TOTAL written by us
63% of the stories were written by us
37% were written by others.
At least 80% of the stories required substantial editing and rewriting. Although, none of the anecdotes we accepted and edited were cut.
If we had chosen NOT to help others get a publishing credit, and had done the entire book ourselves, we would only needed to have come up with 74 more stories of our own. That's 37 stories apiece, which we could have easily done in the amount of time it took us to accept submissions, go through them one by one, edit, accept and contract. We chose to do things this way because we WANTED submissions from other people. We wanted to see other names in the book with ours. It was, in fact, a large part of the original idea.
Regardless of the amount of work this took, I would do it again. Not only that, I’m willing to guide and direct other people who decide they’d like to try something similar should they need help. Because it was worth it to me, and I’m proud to be able to say I did it.
Be proud of your work, wherever it takes you. Think of it as a stepping stone to something bigger and better.
Until next week, write on.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
by C. LaRene Hall
I love getting fortune cookies when you go to a Chinese Restaurant. The paper in my last cookie said, “The world will soon be ready to receive your talents.” That made me both happy and sad. Why aren’t they ready now, I wondered.
Then I thought back to the recent writer’s conference I attended. J. Scott Savage gave the keynote address and he spoke about “What’s Holding You Back?”
After listening to Jeff, I decided that most of us have hundreds of excuses. I know I do. Usually, I blame the other guy such as the editor, agent, or even the computer. He encouraged us to get rid of the I cant’s. First, we need to realize some things we can’t control and other things we can control. After listening to this speech, I know that I can break the barriers and succeed. I just need to be more positive, keep trying, and write what inspires me.
Monday, March 15, 2010
You can't use the excuse that there's no time to write. Plenty of people out there are busier than you and still manage to crank out books.
Who's with me? Let's punch those clocks!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I’ve been amazed lately. I sit at the feet of great friends who are masters of the art of promotion and publicity.
Years ago, as the director of a Dutch oven society, I realized the value of shedding a good light on what we did in that organization. I learned about creativity as it relates to publicity. It was relatively easy to promise free samples, and expect people to come to an event.
Then, a Utah County Health Department official heard my interview on a local radio program. I’m still not sure of the motives, but they threatened to close down our cook off, and we would not be allowed to give free samples. Now, because of that incident, cook offs in Utah County, most times, don’t offer free samples.
Promotion got harder after that. Creativity became the watchword.
Later, I got serious about my writing career. I learned publishers rely on authors to promote themselves, and their writing. I already had an Internet presence and I knew how effective it was for the Dutch oven group. I knew how to approach shopkeepers and manufacturers. Having worked in sales for so long, I knew the value of a business card and promotional gifting.
I also, knew I hated sales, but I loved courting customers. I shifted gears and launched my author promotion campaign. I made a new website, business cards, and joined writers groups. Networking came natural to me. Then, I was invited to join the LDS Writer’s Blogck, and I could get my writing out there. Blogs were relatively new then. I could network by keeping up, and commenting on all the writer’s blogs, because they were few in numbers.
Then came Facebook, and other social networking sites. Josi Killpack talked about using launch parties as a tool to avoid the common book signing. I wrote an outdoor cooking blog for, Your LDS Neighborhood, and because book launch blog tours were becoming popular, I started another blog.
Soon there were hundreds of blogs. Networking became a nightmare. How was I going to keep up? Many of my friends were getting published. Launch parties became popular. Writer’s conferences, besides being an oasis in the desert of not being published, were a great source of networking with authors and publishers.
In my critique group, we talk about the new developments in publicity and bounce ideas off each other, but I sometimes feel like a stranger on Madison Avenue. Most of my writer friends have turned into advertising executives.
Now, book launches are becoming charity events. Great contest ideas and other publicity campaigns are inspiring. Every time I turn around, there is another, new way of drawing attention to a book. I don’t even try to keep up with the all the blogs. I comment on a few, but time will not permit my checking them all everyday.
I spend a lot of time going to launch parties and blogging about books. I write down all the great ideas I see, and file them away for when I launch my book. I work hard at networking, posting witty comments and advice on Facebook. I’m polishing my latest work in progress and working on a dozen more.
Like the day the County Health Department heard me on the radio, promotion has gotten harder. It is worth it, however, because it means the difference between selling 1, and 5,000 copies. If I tap into my creativity and do it right, I might just be a best seller.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, March 12, 2010
A friend and neighbor decided she was so impressed by my progress with weight loss that she hired the same company for a personal trainer. I was flattered, and a little nervous. I mean, what if she doesn't do as well? Will she blame me? Will it affect our friendship?
Anyway, we went together on Saturday and she told me that she's not sure she will do very well. Part of their plan is for the clients to keep track of their food on an online site so that they can print it up and bring it in. It keeps track of percentages, like fat, protein, etc. She's not really into computer stuff, and she doesn't always eat lunch at work, yada, yada, yada. I couldn't believe it.
I told her that she had to make the decision and keep with it. It's what I had to do. I figured if I was plopping down a substantial sum for someone to help me get healthy, then I'd better do what they told me to do. I told her she'd probably have to make lunch and take it with her. She might have to make some adjustments in her routine if she wanted to see the results. She only has 20 pounds to loose, but it might be the hardest thing she's ever done.
It totally floors me -- this woman has a doctorate, she's a principal of a junior high school, but she's not sure she can wrap her brain around changing her life to get more fit.
It's like with pretty much anything in life. What we put our efforts into, is what we see results for. In the movie Fireproof, there's a statement from the father to the son in the love dare journal, "What you put your money and time into is what you really love." If you are putting your time and money into things that don't really matter and aren't going to help you in the eternal perspective, is it worth it?
Writing is much the same. If we are consistent and determined, we will succeed. It might not always be in the way we figured, financially or otherwise, but it will be a success if we achieve our goals.
My husband and I had another 'hobby' discussion a couple of weeks ago. I let my determination wane until my writing becomes a hobby and my critique group a writing club that meets a couple of times a month. It stings every time it happens, because that's not really what I want -- it's not my real desire. But many times life gets in the way and changes the way I view things. I begin to think perhaps it's not a big deal, and I am not a writer.
Then my husband informs me that I've been given a gift, I have a way to reach many people and strengthen their lives, affect change, and fill some part of Heavenly Father's plan. sigh.
So I'm taken back to the knowledge that I need to be determined again. It's time to get motivated, kick myself in the butt, and get the fingers moving. No, writing is not always easy, but it's what we are, and what we do.
Like has been stated many times on this blog by myself and others -- consistency is the key and determination will get you there.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
After last week’s post about music, I’ve been thinking. Again. I love melody and harmony, gorgeous instrumental and classical, all of it simply moves me. Speaks to my soul. In a very real way, lyric-free music has a tendency to tell a story, which tends to be completely unique to each individual who hears it. There’s something really special about that, I think.
But even more, songs that do have lyrics also tell a story. I’ve blogged about this before, and I remember mentioning that song lyrics are the ultimate tight writing. And here I am, thinking about it again. Music and movies. Movies are also a good example. Hear me out.
My friend James Dashner (you might have heard of this guy, and if you haven’t, you will very, very soon, and I’m not just talking about in blogs) is a full time author. Part of his work time is spent going to movies as often as possible. He says seeing a movie helps him figure out how to move his plot forward, how to write in twists and turns, and get the story told. Okay, so yeah, it’s almost like reading the cliff notes of a classic novel right before the big test. Or maybe not…
Because screenwriters only have about two hours in which to tell the whole, entire story, so in very many ways, movies are another lesson in tight writing. Not only that, they’re lessons in detail, plot, and character. Even bad movies have value to us as writers. (Yes, I say that, while recognizing that I haven’t been to a movie for weeks, and no, I haven’t seen Avatar yet, but I’m going to. Maybe this weekend.)
Song lyrics can serve a similar purpose. If you really listen, most songs are, in fact, very, very short stories being told to a tune. Consider this song:
Or this one.
No wonder music can be an effective cure for writer’s block. It’s just another form of story, a short movie playing in our heads. Unless it’s a music video, then it’s on a screen.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. - Calvin Coolidge
What Is Persistence? It’s maintaining action regardless of your feelings. You push on even when you feel like quitting. When you work on a goal, sometimes you’ll feel motivated and sometimes you won’t. Motivation isn’t what produces results – it’s your actions. Persistence keeps you taking action even when you don’t want to. It’s what gets you results.
How do you know when to continue vs. when to give up? I use to believe that you should never give up, that once you set a goal, you should hang on until you’re done, no matter what. Now I know there is no honor in clinging to a goal that no longer inspires you. It’s okay to change your mind and set different goals.
Persistence is good. It’s the only reason most authors have their books published. Look at the sidebar and see what some of our blogging group has accomplished. Don’t give up – keep writing.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
No matter how hard you try or how many times you proof your writing, it's almost impossible to fix all of the typos. So what can you do to correct the final 5% of your errors? I suggest that you have your computer read it to you.
Computers don't make mistakes—people make mistakes, even in writing. I have found that Text-to-Speech software can greatly improve your chances of finding the elusive typos that you just can't seem to ever see with your eyes—things like word transpositions, similar words (like than and that), and even missed punctuation. If you're a good reader like most writers are, your brain tends to fix these problems when you see them, so that the writing makes sense in your head even with the typos—which is normally a good thing, but not when editing.
Reading aloud helps to add another sense to your proofing.
I just finished the final edits of a middle-grade novel that I thought was pretty clean. I used a program called TextAloud to read the story to me aloud as I followed along in Microsoft Word. I was amazed at the simple typos I found, as the computerized reader pronounces words exactly as they are typed and makes the errors obvious. Even things like a missing period became apparent, because the voice doesn't pause for normal sentence breaks without appropriate punctuation.
I highly recommend using an audio text reader during one of your final passes through your manuscript—even if you think you've done your best to catch the typos, or even had your critique group look it over a couple of times.
I'm sure there are other Text-to-Speech packages available besides TextAloud, but I highly recommend this one—particularly the voice called Audry, which is a U.K.-accented female voice. I seem to be able to pick up on audio typos much easier with a U.K.-English computerized speaker. Unfortunately, extra voices often add to the cost of the package.
Try it! Obtain a trial version if you're not yet convinced. You might be surprised by what you hear.
(Disclaimer: This is not a paid advertisement for Next-Up or TextAloud. I was not compensated in any way for mentioning their product. Other text-to-speech products would likely work just as well. By mentioning TextAloud, I in no way imply that it will work for your needs and requirements.)
Monday, March 08, 2010
And then I remember.
God gave me this desire to write. And along with it, He's blessed me with ability and the opportunity to learn and grow in my craft. One day, He might ask me, "What have you done with all that I've given you?"
I hope I can say that I tried. That I believed with Him by my side, anything might be possible.
What will you say?
Saturday, March 06, 2010
The writer opened his laptop, and turned it on. His fingers twitched in anticipation, waiting for the software to load. In a moment, he would be able to pour out his innermost thoughts, for the world to admire.
With a shrug and a sigh, he reached out. His fingers curled over the keyboard, index fingers were placed above the F and J keys. Suddenly, the ideas evaporated. He had nothing to say. He leaned back, rested his head on the chair, and cursed at the ceiling. He called himself a fraud, like he had, so many times before.
I’ll bet you’ve all been there, a time or two. I tossed and turned all night, and fell asleep about six a.m. I still hadn’t come up with a subject for this blog. Well, I have several vague ideas, but my mind wouldn’t let me develop them.
When I write a blog, or an article, I try to put a slant on situations from daily life. This week was spent in total immersion reviewing my college math books, studying for a test. I can’t think of a way to incorporate algorithms into writing, although, I’ve done it before.
After studying all week, I knew my mind had turned to mush, when I closed my eyes and I saw equations written on paper. The brain is a marvelous thing, you know. It can recall archived info, totally ignored for years. I’d forgotten how to do much of what I studied, but after a little struggle, my brain kicked in, a light came on, and I remembered. Well, signed numbers remains a mystery, but I think I figured it out.
Anyway, with all the concentration, I haven’t left my mind open for new concepts and metaphors about writing. I did however, take a short break, and noticed something while reading an article in Writer’s Digest.
When generally referring to the human race, in the old days, writer’s and speakers used words like, mankind, him, he, and his. It wasn’t chauvinistic, or exclusionary. After all, God had used those terms in scripture.
Then, as I understand it, in deference to women, we started listing both, with a fore slash, he/she, him/her, and so on. Using the female reference first was also acceptable. That way of writing, however, grew tiring, so many writers added statements at the outset, saying, they would use one or the other, but they were including the whole race.
I’m told the proper way now, is s(he), but we seem to be going back to using one word. We writers are using one gender, or another, without a statement about gender neutrality. I can usually tell whether the author is a man, or a woman, by which word she/he uses. Don’t get me wrong, however, I’m happy with the change, but there is a problem.
The article I read, written by a woman, was about characterization. The writer used a lot of references to a theoretical person, and in every case used female pronouns. As I said above, It doesn’t bother me, but the author used the word she so many times, it drew my attention. Like my mathematical immersion, I was distracted. I wondered if the writer ever developed male characters.
I don’t know if I would have noticed it, if I weren’t a man. I understand how women could feel excluded, but I don’t think gender neutral is the answer either. Perhaps we use those words too much anyway, but how do you write an article on characterization without using a lot of pronouns?
I’ve learned that said, is an invisible word when used in tag lines. Do you think we could learn to ignore he, she, his, and her's too? I know it would make writing easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about so many repetitions.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, March 05, 2010
There is a big discrepancy between screenplays and book manuscripts. Many of us who have written a book and then contemplated turning it into a screenplay have realized this, and I don't know about you, but it totally scared me off. There's a lot in a screenplay that you don't have to spell out in a book.
Fortunately, there is also much in a book that can be left out in a movie, and still get the main plot across. One such book I came across this past weekend. It had been made into a movie that I totally enjoyed, so I thought the book would be a great read.
No such luck. Not only was there more to the basic story than before supposed, but it had the kind of language I wouldn't let my children read, and conversed about sex in entirely too free and casual a way. Definitely not for me. For once, it was a much-better-than-the-book-movie.
Have you ever read a book and thought it would make a great movie? I know there have been many like that. My kids wish that Mr. Heimberdinger would make a movie out of the first Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites. He did an excellent job with Passage to Zarahemla -- but then, he says himself that it was originally written as a screenplay.
I think those that write for movies or television have a whole different set of rules and problems than that which face the novel writer. Personally, I'm not ready to jump into that boat -- I'd probably sink faster than I could bail.
Fortunately there are many out there who are talented enough for that, so I can stick with writing stories. Now if only I could get the time carved out and the fingers going...
Thursday, March 04, 2010
This week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about music and the effect it has had on my life. I do everything by music, and every thought, emotion, action, inaction has a theme song in my mind. Every book I read, every major life event, every important or memorable moment has been assigned a musical theme.
Because it’s normal, right? Isn’t it? I thought so. Yeah.
So anyway, last weekend I attended a writer’s conference in Phoenix. I heard several speakers, learned many lessons, had a few ah-ha moments. You know, the usual. And then, during the last lecture of the day, Nancy Turner talked about overcoming writer's block and she said something that struck a chord in me. She said, “Everything has a theme song.” And she went on to explain that even if every scene in your book doesn’t have a theme song, at least every manuscript should have one in the mind of the author. A song that helps you get back into the theme of the book, the minds of the characters, the story itself.
Music is an expression of story, and story an extension of the music. So when Ms. Turner said that in conjunction with overcoming writer's block, I couldn’t help but grin. Okay, actually I almost laughed. But not at her, because the class was great. I was laughing at me because I could name titles and artists for certain scenes in all my works in progress, and even overall theme songs for entire novels. Talk about dorktacular.
Anyway, my point is, the next time you struggle with a writer’s block, try sifting through some mood music, and maybe even work on assigning the scene a song that will inspire you to keep going. It works. Trust me. I’ve been doing it for years.
Until next time, write (and rock) on!
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
By C. LaRne Hall
Somewhere I read – Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. One such moment happened to me this past week as I traveled by air from my home near Salt Lake to the ANWA writer’s conference in Arizona.
I was lucky enough to get a window seat near the rear of the plane. I had never gone by air over southern Utah and I was anxious to see the country I love from a different view. Never could I have guessed what awaited me.
Even for a writer, there are not enough words to describe the experience. As we flew near Bryce Canyon, I was hypnotized. There were no clouds in the sky and the brilliant red rocks were so vivid I felt I could almost reach out and touch them. All too soon, the incident was over.
As we approached the Grand Canyon area, I wasn’t as lucky because most of it was on the other side of the plane. Coming back, I had a plan – I would sit on that side of the plane so I could see this amazing piece of nature. One problem with my plan – there were no window seats left. I was a bit perturbed because the young man in the seat next to the window slept all the way. I caught a brief glimpse of the Canyon, but not much because there were lots of clouds that day.
I do have one thing to look forward to. This coming summer – my daughter and I are flying back to Palmyra, New York and are going to Niagara Falls. I know that will be another one of those moments that will take my breath away.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
I love it during a critiquing session when someone tells me something like, “Oh, this guy would never do that! It’s out of character. You need to fix that.”
After my unsuccessful attempts to tell them why they’re wrong for saying this, I find myself looking deeper in the critiquer’s claims. I often discover that they‘re right—and that’s a good thing. This means that I’ve successfully created a character with whom my reader can associate and they can recognize when my character is being “told” by me to do something that he just wouldn’t do.
This level of characterization can be hard with a fictional character, but when it happens, the character jumps from the book and comes alive. When it doesn’t, the character seems two-dimensional and never seems to leave the flat page.
Consistency is important in characterization. People tend to be consistent in real life, and what are we representing with our fiction, but real life?
Take for example, my dad.
I’ve been missing my dad a little more than normal this last week, because Sunday marked the one year anniversary since he passed away. I was looking at old photographs of my dad last week and was amused when I saw him wearing almost the exact same shirt in pictures taken 40 years apart. The first photo shows him when I was a baby in the late 1960’s; he's standing next to my mom, who is holding me in her arms. The second photo shows him near the end of his life in December 2008, a little over a year ago and just two months before he died. You have to examine the photographs carefully to see that my dad is, in fact, not wearing the same shirt.
My dad was consistent. His tastes in clothing, apparently, didn’t change much from when he was a young father to when he was an elderly man about ready to pass from this world.
I hope I can catch that same sort of consistency in the characters I create—and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of those characters end up being a lot like my dad.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Last week I had an epiphany during critique group. We take turns giving our comments on each piece of work, and in this particular instance I was the first one to share my notes on a friend's chapter.
As we made our way around the table, my thoughts about my friend's writing began to change. By the time the last person gave their opinion, I realized mine had completely changed. The other people critiquing had been right. Their thoughts gave me new insight into the work we were examining.
Critique groups are a wonderful tool to help a writer become their best, we all know this--or at least, we should. But up until that moment, I thought their purpose was to help us grammatically, to help our pacing, our character development, etc.
What I hadn't realized was that critique groups can also help us gain new perspective. They open our minds to new and different possibilities, they challenge us to think outside our own box.
As always, we have to take what others say about our work with a grain of salt--any changes we embrace have to be ones we know will improve our story. But, it is important for us to keep an open mind. You just never know when someone will say something about your writing that opens up a whole new world for you and really drives you to write your best.
Be ready for those moments because they’re golden and could really set the stage for your success.