Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Do It

Back in 1985 Peter Vidmar, Olympic gymnast, spoke to a group of young men about what it takes to be an Olympic athlete and how those same principles could help in their lives too. You can read the full talk here, and I recommend it.

As a writer, you won't be surprised to read how athletic training relates to writing--but it doesn't hurt to be reminded from time to time.

From Brother Vidmar's talk:

"The athlete with the greatest desire to succeed will stand a greater chance of reaching his or her goal. The same holds true for the student or the musician or whatever it is that you young men aspire to be. A five-year study of many of the United States’ top athletes, musicians, and scholars has recently concluded that “drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to their extraordinary success.” (Los Angeles Times, 17 Feb. 1985.)

In determined athletes, we can see the difference between knowing and doing. Those who really desire to reach their goals will do whatever they must do in order to achieve them.

Our great prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, has in his office a little motto that simply reads: “Do it.” In Matthew 21:28–31 we read:

“But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard.

“He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

“And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

“Whether of them twain did the will of his father?” [Matt. 21:28–31]

Let’s not just talk about what we want to be. Let’s not just dream about what we want to be. Let’s just do it, whatever it takes."

I, for one, accept that challenge--to do whatever it takes to reach my goals. Who's with me?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Changes in the Plot

By Keith N Fisher

As a young man in high school, I learned to be loyal, punctual, and do a day’s work for a day’s wages. I learned the rewards of hard work. I admit, I’d rather do easy work, but I’m not afraid of hard work. (Darn, I just used a series of repetitious words, but I don’t have time to edit.)

I learned to be loyal to the company, and they would be loyal to me. Because of that belief, many of my friends went to work for the steel mill, thinking they were set for life. We should’ve known better.

When did the world change? There seems to be a climate of disloyalty in the workplace today. Everyone is looking for a golden parachute instead of investing time into a business. Experience and hard work seem to have no value. Companies stay in business long enough for executives to rake a profit, then the company disappears, like pollen in the wind, with no regard for loyal employees.

I’d like to know when did greed become the paramount concern in the world? I once listened to a young man, fresh out college, and making more money than me, ask, “What I want to know is, when do I start making the really big money?”

What does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, I planned to write about how adjusting to changes in our life often force us to change our writing habits. I guess I had some penned up frustrations forcing their way to the surface.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately. Who hasn’t right? The stress of life has been cutting into my writing time and I’ve noticed a serious dent in my creativity. But then I start writing and the juices begin to flow.

Writers have been given a terrific blessing. No matter what happens, life is better when we get into the zone of creation. I learned something about that during critique group this week. Two of our members were having trouble with their plots, so we put our heads together and offered suggestions. I love to plot, and brainstorming felt great.

Like my friends did with their stories, sometimes the plot in our lives takes a strange twist. We can’t seem to make the story flow. Like the books we write, sometimes it helps to think it through. Go back to a point when the plot made sense and work it forward again.

In the meantime, writing is a blessing for writers. Carve time from your granite schedule and do what you’ve dreamed of doing.

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wound Down

by G.Parker

When I started the job I currently hold, I was excited. I worked four hours a day, worked with computers and was left pretty much to myself. That was three school years ago. My how time flies.

There are many days when I still like my job, but it has morphed into something else entirely. Last year we changed our location and I got my own office. It has a large window and I love it. The only problem is it's a little cramped with all the things I get to keep in it -- related to my job. So, there are pluses with the minuses and I try to remember the pluses outweigh the minus most of the time.

Except this past month. As the school year ends, my job gets crazy. You see, I work in special education for preschool. Some of the preschool children turn five and get ready to go to kindergarten. I manage the files for all those little preschoolers. It's my job this year, to personally look at every single special education file that is to move on to kindergarten. Every. Single. One. Have I mentioned that we have over 300 files transitioning this year? Sigh.

So, I've been feeling a little stressed out and crazy. I've begun counting down the days till school is out, because that's my last day too. Last year I didn't really get summer vacation for a myriad of reasons. This year I'll actually get three months (or so) off. I can't wait.

Because of the stress of life, I haven't been doing the writing I really wanted to do. It makes me look forward to June even more because I hope to have the spare time I haven't had.

Of course, that's after one day where I sleep in as late as I want and totally veg out. My kids know how to make their own breakfast and lunch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's the Pits!

By Nichole Giles

Yeah, you heard me. Getting rejections, having your work critiqued, more rejections—it’s not fun. And yet we still submit. We still write and ask other authors or editors to look at our writing and tell us what they think is wrong with it. We constantly subject ourselves to this torture and it becomes a vicious cycle that will someday, hopefully, end in a publishing contract.

But in the meantime, we live in this never ending cycle. I’m not going to lie. There are days I feel like a total hack. Every writer does. There are days I feel like my books (published and unpublished) are crap. There are days I wander around my house looking to do anything that will keep me away from my computer because I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

What was I thinking?

Probably, I thought someday I’d write something that would influence someone else. Maybe I thought I’d have the opportunity to touch someone’s life, to help someone, or to make a person smile.

It could be that I just wanted to tell a story. Or that writing is the only way of silencing the voices that haunt my dreams, waking and sleeping. It could be that I felt a need to contribute to the literary world that has driven me to reach higher, stretch farther, and think harder than any other form of media ever could.

Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just feeling. I felt like a writer. I feel, now, like a writer. I am a writer. And rejection, criticism, and disappointments aside, I will always be a writer. So. Does it matter if I don’t find an agent/get a publishing contract/end up with a multi-million dollar deal? No. It doesn’t. Not in the least.

Because in the end, I want all those things and more. I am a writer. And what writers want more than anything is to write.

And so I will.

**Be sure to stop by my new book review blog and become a follower. You won’t be sorry!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


by C. LaRene Hall

This week I’m in Colorado visiting family. My trip here was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it was most frightening. I love travelling and have flown in an airplane on many occasions. I’ve heard the pilot say frequently, “Keep your seat belts fastened and stay in your seats because we may experience some air turbulence.”

Several years ago, my husband flew out of town often. He related to me many experience of things that had happened to him while on the flight to a far away city or on his way back home. Still, it didn’t seem real to me until last Saturday when the plane I was flying in suddenly dropped several feet and then began swerving back and forth. Immediately I quit reading the book in my hand and grabbed the back of the seat in front of me. Yes, I even prayed.

Now, a few days later, I’m sitting here thinking that this flight was very much like my life as a writer. Some days things go smoothly and I just fly right along. Then I get a rejection and I feel like the wind has been knocked right out of me and I drop. It’s sometimes difficult to pull myself back up. At other times, I find myself swerving back and forth – a good day here, and a bad day follows. Rarely is it smooth sailing for long. My flight as a writer is very unpredictable. I just hope the ride smoothes out soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More on Critiquing Etiquette

By Ali Cross

A friend of mine, and member of my critique group, recently brought a concern to my attention—she feels my critique comments, and those of several other group members, is out of line.

She writes LDS contemporary youth/crossover fiction. No one else in our group writes in her genre, and none of us even read it, so we are definitely not knowledgeable about the demands and expectations of her specific genre. Oftentimes, she finds, we criticize her character’s motivations unfairly because her characters would not behave like the characters in our historical LDS fiction or YA fantasy/dystopian stories.

And she’s not wrong.

You really can’t criticize a genre you know nothing about. Which has led our little group to examine how we can best serve our group members even when we don’t read/know their specific genre. It turns out the solution may be something as simple as word choice—and a healthy dose of humility.

How we speak to one another during a critique session can make all the difference in how our comments are perceived—and determine their helpfulness. Rather than say, “Your character would never act that way,” we should instead say, “I don’t understand why your character is behaving that way.”

The first example is judgmental and isn’t open to discussion. The second example reserves judgment and allows for differing opinions.

And that’s where humility comes in.

If you don’t know a genre, you can’t speak definitively on the subject. You have to allow that perhaps you don’t know how that LDS boy would act in a specific situation because he’s not the vampire boy you’re accustomed to writing, and reading, about.

Perhaps you have the good fortune to belong to a critique group consisting of members who all write and read the same genre—but most of us are not that lucky. Usually a group consists of a variety of genres so humility and care are necessary as we work together.

This week my critique group will be meeting and we’ll have the chance to practice choosing our words more carefully as we edit each others' work. I have a feeling this approach will do all of us a lot of good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Home for an Author

By Keith Fisher

After the success of the Harry Potter series, I heard that J K Rowling bought a castle. I googled it and found the attached picture. I don’t know if this is really her house, but it’s not my definition of a castle. The source where I got the picture called her house an historic Georgian country estate, built in 1865.

In my daydreams, when I’m not running plots through my mind, I think of what kind of house I’d buy, if I wrote Harry Potter.

Nichole, my friend, dreams of the day when she can purchase a tropical island and live on the beach with her laptop. Others think of mountain cabins. Still, others hope for a New York City penthouse.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Have you seen a house in the movies and said. I could write there? When I saw the new version of Yours Mine and Ours, I fell in love with the lighthouse tower. “I could write there,” I said. I since found out it was a set and the exterior views were doctered. the lighthouse doesn't exist.

While cropping 1930's postcard images at my former job, I discovered a castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and imagined myself writing in that setting. I found a picture of how it looks today, and discovered it’s a tourist trap.

So, I’m curious. Where would you live?

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Are You a Word Smith?

by G.Parker

When you're given the compliment that you're a word smith, you need to take it as it's meant; a compliment. Personally, I've never heard myself associated with that description until this past week. It surprised me.

We have a member in our critique group that is amazing with words. She has the vocabulary that many envy, and can describe a scene so real you think you're there. However, this person has a difficult time believing in her skill and talent. She takes criticism very personally and has let other's change the way she views her work. We have told her many times that she's a word smith - she's a pro.

A fellow member that I carpool with commented on it, and how she's a wonderful writer. Then, out of the blue, her next words were: "And so are you! I had no idea until this latest story."

Now, I could look at that two ways. Simply a compliment, or a compliment and an insult - not that she'd meant it that way. We've been in this group now for almost two years. I have submitted at least four stories for their critique, and they have liked them all (for the most part) but this latest one I've given them is the only one they have REALLY liked. I mean, I've been told I should try the national market first.

Well. I thought some of my other work was good too, but not everyone feels the same way about your work that you do.

Anyway, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that she thinks I'm a word smith. I'll try not to get a big head over it. Grin.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Personal Success is a Team Effort

By Nichole Giles

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop hosted by the League of Utah Writers. (Thanks Tobyn and Roxy!) They had fantastic presenters and it was a fun way to spend my Saturday.

Angela Eshler, Author and former editor for Covenant, gave the final class of the day. Something she said during that class struck home for me. She was talking about the importance of face-to-face contacts, and making personal connections. She said, “Your success does not ever have only to do with your efforts alone.”

Now, if you read these posts about Sneezy and Happy’s indoor soccer team, you probably understand why this rang so true to me. Because after the writing of a book is finished, there are so many other people behind the scenes making sure that book becomes a success. Other authors, agents, editors, cover designers, a marketing team, booksellers, advertisers, and on and on and on. This is your team. And you’ll have far better results in the long run if you make efforts to have more than a working relationship with these people.

I think the same way of thinking is true for everything in life. None of us succeeds all by ourselves. We need the help of our team to make life valuable. It’s why so many of us choose to have families.

Look around you. Who’s on your team? Are you making an effort to help those people succeed in the same way they’re helping you? If not, maybe it’s time to start.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


by C. LaRene Hall

This week I have a dear friend from my long ago past staying with me. We graduated from high school together many, many years ago. It’s great fun reminiscing about those years gone by. When I told her I needed to write a blog, and had no idea what to write about, she suggested friends.

Immediately, I agreed. Last month I attended the LDStorymakers Conference, and I have to say although the classes were all great, the best part of it was meeting new people and especially seeing fellow writers from past conferences. Never had I been in a room with so many people with whom I had common interests. That could be because this was the largest conference they have ever held. It didn’t matter who I sat next to, I always had something to talk about because we both had the same passion. We both like to write.

I know that next year as the time approaches for this writing conference I’ll be excited to attend because I know that I’ll get to see all my writing friends again. There’s nothing like a good friend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You Can’t Get a Straight Board from a Crooked Tree

By Darvell Hunt

Last week while I was surfing channels, I came across a reality show in which a camera crew was following the experiences of a logging company. I wasn’t really interested in it, but they were showing some of the heavy equipment they used to cut down and move trees, so I ended up watching it.

After they had hauled off a load of freshly-cut logs to a lumber mill, their driver returned with a significant number of trees that had been rejected. This rejection cost the logging company money, because they had to pay for the fuel to return the trees, as well as man-power time to bring them back.

I found it curious when one of the employees commented that they would just send trees they thought MIGHT be accepted, but they didn’t really understand how the mill judged trees as suitable. So they decided to take the camera crew to the lumber mill to get a better grasp on what type of trees they should be sending.

It was interesting to see the trees debarked and cut into prime lumber—and I got to see more heavy machinery, which was cool (maybe it’s a guy thing!). By at the end of the lumber mill tour, the logging company employees had a better understanding of what the mill was looking for in trees.

After the tour, everybody was talking outside the mill near some logs and the lumber mill bosses were explaining why some trees got rejected. They had to consider how boards will be made from the trees and how much waste would be produced and what type of quality they’ll get from different logs.

They said if a tree was crooked, the waste they produce is much higher, if it was usable at all, because you can’t cut a straight board from a crooked tree. I thought that comment was interesting, mostly because it seemed obvious, but yet it apparently was not considered when sending trees to the mill.

So what does this have to do with writing? Plenty, I think.

Sometimes we, as writers, are sending out crooked trees to lumber mills and then wondering why they get rejected. Just like the logging company, if we don’t seek to understand WHY the trees get rejected, our rejection rate is going to remain high.

Trees, especially hardwoods, take a long time to grow—just like novels take a long time to write. Once the tree is crooked, there’s not much you can do about it. A story can be crooked, too, because of a plot twist that doesn’t make sense or a character that behaves inconsistently. If we don’t take care when crafting our story, the result might be something that is not easily fixed—or maybe not at all.

We, as writers, have to recognize when our stories get crooked—and more importantly, when they cannot be fixed. Some stories become learning experiences that need to be discarded so we can concentrate on crafting something better. Perhaps a story can be straightened by throwing out large portions of it, but perhaps not.

I think the difference between a published writer and one who just can’t quite seem to break into the market just might be this inability to see the crooked trees for what they are. No matter how much you trim the crooked tree and dress it up, it will still be a crooked tree that the lumber mill will reject. Sometimes you just have to know when to stop and let it go—and move onto cutting down a new tree—hopefully a straighter one this time. Perhaps only then can we experience something besides yet another rejection.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Humility in Writing

By Ali Cross

Humility is practiced at every turn in your quest to be a published author.

You must be willing to accept the guidance and direction of others more experienced and knowledgeable than you, whether in workshops or classes, or in communicating with agents and/or publishers. Despite how much you think you know, it’s rarely a wise decision to discount the value of lessons taught by those who do know.

A writer has to accept criticism. Critique groups can be a minefield of hurt feelings if you don’t check your pride at the door. You must be willing to sit and listen, and accept that your critique partners may be right. Later, you might decide they aren’t, in fact, right, or that they’re only partially right, but take your time before ignoring everything your crit partners said.

It’s my personal opinion that the more willing you are to approach your work with humility, accepting the help of others along the way and adjusting your work accordingly, the more likely you’ll be to produce a product that is capable of being sold and claiming a place on a bookstore shelf.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your integrity, or that of your story, just because other people have suggested certain changes. In the end, it’s your work and you must be the one responsible for it. Just be willing to look at your work with humility, accepting that sometimes your words and phrases could be improved.

A writer also has to be humble enough not to let harsh criticism, from a family member, crit partner, agent, or reviewer, derail them in their journey to success. You have to accept that not everyone is going to love your work, and probably no one is going to feel as passionate about it as you do.

And that’s exactly what needs to go hand in hand with humility—self-awareness. Know who you are and what you hope to achieve with your story—then be humble. Do your best, then let others help you on your way.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Chamber, a Circle of Family

By Keith Fisher

Good morning, I’m the first to arrive at the Utah county league of Utah Writers, Spring workshop. It was either, write here, or write this blog at home and be late for the workshop. Or, wait and write it later today. You might wish I waited, since I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts.

It’s been an interesting week with many things to do. Yesterday, I went to Ken Garff Ford, (a car dealership) in answer to the mailer they sent me. I got to try my key and see if it started the car. It was a cool car, and I didn’t win. (Of course not, right?).

On Wednesday, I made a Dutch oven dinner for my critique group and our guest. It was great to hear Tristi Bless and the food and ask that I be blessed too.

As part of two contests, in honor of Kim and Nichole’s book launches, We offered the winners an opportunity to come to our group and be critiqued. What a fun prize, and great fun for all of us, as well. Only one of the winners was able to attend this time, but we had dinner and an extremely long session. We laughed well into the night. Heather made a cake in honor of the release of Tristi’s, Secret Sisters and it was delicious.

Our guest LT Elliott, is a great writer and editor. I hope she got more out the session than we did. I know I had fun, reading her chapter. I love the way she writes.

During the session, my mind drifted back to a blog I wrote in 2008 called The Chamber. I talked about setting up a critique group. I knew I needed help with my writing, and the idea of socializing with other writers appealed to me.

During the LDStorymakers Conference that Spring I invited a few of my friends. Since then, we’ve read thousands of words together, critiqued six books that were later published. I’ve brought two and a half myself, but they haven’t been published yet.

Our group meets once a week in rotating places. Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts, but if there are three of us, we meet. We celebrate each other’s birthdays, and publishing contracts. We attend Book launches and support each other in other events. We’ve been known to read in restaurants, as well as family rooms. Whoever is hosting usually prepares snacks and we take a break during our reading to shoot the bull, and talk about Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and publishing news. We’ve laughed with each other, cried for each other, and been each other’s best friend.

I knew we had a special group, when I attended a writing event and heard a few writers express their envy. I never realized there were writers who would love to be part of it.

So, there I sat, in my living room, looking around at my friends, with gratitude for the help I receive each week. I’m also grateful for their husbands. Without the support of their husbands, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

I don’t mean to be sappy, (I know, it’s too late.) but I have found a family of writers who support me in ways I will never be able to repay. Cooking dinner for them is an effort to show my gratitude. I earnestly hope you have a circle of friends like mine.

Well, now its afternoon and I’m listening to Dan Wells give his presentation. Sorry if this needed more editing. Blame the workshop. We had a wonderful time on Wednesday night. I think LT did, too.

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

Friday, May 14, 2010

And The Winner Is...

by G.Parker

If you've read this column very long, you've heard about a thing called National Novel Writers Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. One of the challenges is to write 50,000 words in a 30 day period. This past year was the fifth year I've participated. I'm beginning to feel old.

Thing is, they've actually put together some cool stuff if you reach your goal. Last year was an opportunity to see your work in a proof copy. Something you could actually hold in your hand and get the feel for what it would be published. For free. Through Createspace, a great POD - which means they publish on demand. Publishing on Demand is slightly different than most 'vanity' publishers, this means you don't have to put so much up front out of pocket. Anyway, I made the goal in 2008 and have a copy of my story. Of course it's nowhere near actual publication ready - I found tons of mistakes in it - but it's still cool to hold it in my hand and see my name on the cover. Way cool.

This past year, 2009, I did it again, and I've been realizing that I need to get my manuscript ready for another free proof copy. Today I spent a while designing the cover. Now, while it's not a research based, attention grabbing cover, it's still going to be nice. It will still represent what my book is about, and it's going to be cool to hold it in my hands. Once again I'll have that feeling.

There are a couple writers in our blogging group that know that feeling for real. I know it in an illustrator’s sense, but I'm really looking forward to the written word being published and in my hand. That idea is part of what keeps me going. Remember how I talked about spring fever last week and ways to get past it and keep writing? This is one of the things that keeps me going.

The other stuff is good, the writing, the editing, the knowing the book is finished - but there's nothing like holding that book in your hand.

What do you dream about with regard to being published? I'd like to know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Leave a Trail of Genius

By Nichole Giles

After attending several Storymaker conferences over the years, I’ve discovered I like staying Friday night in the hotel where the conference is being held. Even though I don’t live far away, it saves a lot of driving, and gives me somewhere to crash in the few hours between the late-night party and the early morning classes.

So this year, I got a room at the Marriott. I won’t outline the boring details of my night, or my morning. Instead, I want to talk about the handy, dandy little note pad on the nightstand. First of all, being a writer, these are the small details I notice. Because, let’s face it, at one point or another we’ve all ended up awake in the middle of the night writing down dreams or epiphanies that have come to us when our brains are the most relaxed. And a note pad and pen come in handy.

But I especially loved the one at the Marriott because at the top of the pad was written, “Leave a trail of genius.”

Those words made me think. Isn’t that our goal as writers? To leave a trail of genius in our wake. To write something so profound, so emotionally wrenching, that another person will read our words and be forever changed. Genius! That’s definitely the goal.

Because of that inspiring note pad, I left a note for the Marriott people about the comfy beds and tasty food. I couldn’t leave the fancy paper empty. Besides, now they have my autograph. And when I’m a bestselling author, they’ll be able to tell people I stayed at their hotel, and while I was there, I left a trail of my own brand of genius.

And that note is only the beginning.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Query

by C. LaRene Hall

Although the writer’s conference was a few weeks ago, it’s still in the back of my mind. Life has been crazy at my house, and I’ve not been at my computer very often. My mind keeps wandering to the things that I know in my heart I need to do. One of those things is a query letter. The workshop taught by Elana Johnson was fantastic and she kept the entire class in stitches with her sense of humor.

She pointed out in the very beginning that the purpose of a query letter is to generate requests. First, you have to have a hook. You can sum up your entire novel in one sentence. Your letter should not describe your book at length, drag the reader all the way through the plot and should not give away the ending. I was excited to hear this bit of news.

In your second paragraph, you should give some brief and pertinent biographical information. You need to be professional, serious, dedicated and confident. After all, you are trying to get someone interested in reading your novel.

Your third paragraph should be the sign-off. Don’t drag this out. Finish your letter with a complimentary closing.

Elana made this sound so easy, but I’m still nervous. I’m not sure how soon I’m going to take this next step, but I’m glad I attended the class. Someday, I am going to write my query letter, just not today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Know It When I See it!

By Darvell Hunt

Literary agents and publishing editors often say they are looking for the next great idea for a book, yet they often seem leery about taking on something that’s never been done before. What a confusing contradiction.

So what are we writers to do? Should we write something like what we currently see out there, assuming that there will still a market for it down the road, or do we try to create something new and different, and hope an agent and/or a publisher will take the chance on us?

Some of the best-selling books out there don’t fit the mold of what’s been sold before—and I don’t think even most agents and editors have any idea what the next rage will be. So how are we supposed to write for it?

At a writers conference a few years ago, I heard an agent say this: “I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, but I know it when I see it.”

I think that's how it works for me, too. I don’t always know when my next “great idea” will come, or what form it will take, but I usually know it when I see it. You can't force inspiration, but it's fun to convert it to written form when it comes!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Called to Write

By Ali Cross

At the recent BYU Women’s Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Sister Julie Beck, General Relief Society President, speak. She taught many wonderful principles among which was the suggestion that we spend at least some time in the scriptures every day. She encouraged us to not only read the scriptures, but to study them, and she suggested a way to get us started.

Sister Beck recommended that we get an inexpensive copy of the Book of Mormon and three colored pens or pencils. At the front of your book, write the following questions in their own color:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What are my responsibilities?
  3. How can I fulfill my responsibilities?
As you read the Book of Mormon, highlight the passages you find that answer these questions, and write the notes at the back of the book.

I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found in my short time putting this suggestion into practice. In 1Nephi verse 1, it reads “I make a record of my proceedings in my days,” and in verse 3 I read, “And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.”

These scriptures, to my mind, answered the question “What are my responsibilities?” And they’ve inspired me to action.

Not only do these scriptures make me want to faithfully keep a journal, but they’ve also prompted me to consider the value of the commercial projects I am writing.

Mine, and yours, is the call to write. Perhaps because of our propensity to put thoughts to paper, we can, and should, keep wonderful journals that are steeped in the stories and remembrances of our family. One day, those words will be as precious as gold to our children.

But, the stories we write for public consumption will also stand as a testament of what we believed and valued in this life.

We have been called to write, so write what you will—just be sure your work can stand the test of time and will be something you can always feel proud to claim as your own.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


By Keith Fisher

I hear a lot about profiling in the news lately. People being singled out because of race or other factors. As I worked in my yard the other day I realized I was profiling.

I meticulously searched through the preferred group, eliminating members of another group. Not only did I single them out I looked upon them with disdain. Toward the end of my experience, I developed a real hatred for any other group, and coddled the preferred one.

I admit, my prejudice runs deep. In the past, I was guilty of genocide, using chemical agents designed for the purpose. Yes it’s a part of my personality to profile that group and there are thousands of people just like me.

I was pulling weeds in my garden.

Its fascinating how certain weeds have the audacity to grow so close to my pea plants, it’s hard to eliminate the weed without pulling the plant too. Have I mentioned I hate weeds? I’ve been known to sacrifice a row of good plants in order to eradicate the infestation of weeds. Like nuclear weapons with people, roundup is a product designed to kill all vegetation. It doesn’t distinguish between good and bad plants.

Okay, enough about my hatred for weeds. I want to talk about another kind of profiling. I think there are too many cliché characters written into stories these days. There is the crime boss who dresses in suits with dark shirts and light ties. I see many spoiled, Nellie Olsen types, who never had a selfless thought. Also, there is the self-absorbed macho-man who believes the world would end if he wasn’t there to protect his lady. Not to mention the air headed woman who needs a man to balance her checkbook.

There are as many variations of the Snidely Whiplash character, as there are Dudley Do-Rights.

Yes, I’m just as guilty as is the next writer. I think it was Mick Jagger who said, every rock and roll song has already been written, and everything new is a variation of the original. Writing is the same way. We look for villains, heroes, and heroines. Sidekicks, authority figures, and supporting cast, but real people aren’t drawn like that.

The people I know, and interact with daily have multifaceted personalities and complicated lives. They aren’t larger than life, like the characters in a movie, but they have thousands of things influencing their nature.

I’m sure I’m preaching to choir here, but just like people profiling won’t extract terrorists from an entire group of people, characters in literature shouldn’t be drawn to conform to a mold. The more real a character becomes in my mind, the better my experience with a book.

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

Friday, May 07, 2010

by G.Parker

I am finding it easy to be distracted this time of year. I don't know about you, but it seems like it's been a long winter and seeing blue sky and flowers blooming outside, distract me from stuff inside like housework, writing, etc. I had just begun getting back to the writing thing, too.

I almost think we writers need an association much like AA. Something that keeps us at it every day. We acknowledge God's hand in all things, and promise that we will write each day. Kind of backward from the plan, but hey, I think it would work. We could call it WH - Writers Helpers, or EWA - Earnest Writers Association.

Perhaps I just need to put a sign over my computer: Every word written today is a word closer to a finished work. No? How about: Every word written today is a step closer to eternity. Hmmm. I'm not sure about either of them, but I think you get the idea.

It doesn't take much for a writer to be distracted. We've talked about how we can end up spending hours reading emails and doing research on the computer. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but before you know it the hour we had to write is gone and the family or other responsibilities call.

I'm not saying we can't enjoy the springtime -- in fact, if you have warm weather and a laptop with a good battery, you can be one with the world. But for those of us locked to a desk (I just don't write well on paper anymore - the thoughts come faster than I can write) it's a distracting world outside.

How do you deal with spring fever? I'd like to know.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Criticisms and Opinions

By Nichole Giles

So here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking about criticism, since it’s a pretty big part of writing, and really, a large part of life. Sometimes it’s constructive, sometimes it’s just criticism, but always it’s just someone else’s opinion.

Often, we can be our own harshest critics. You know, when it comes to our self image or our abilities, or our work. Because of this, I think it becomes more difficult to accept criticism from others, especially when it comes to our writing.

Words often have a way of cutting us more deeply than they were intended. At some point, we—human beings—dig out our magnifying glasses and draw a focus on those words—or sometimes lack of words. We make those critiques harsher than they should be. We focus on them until we can see nothing else besides those painful words that were probably not meant to hurt us in the first place.

Sometimes we obsess, cry, or forget about everything else important in life because of those enormous words that have stolen the focus of our thoughts.

But they’re just words.

Someone else’s opinion that is just that. An opinion, not a law or decree. We have the power within us to make a choice. Do you choose to let criticism paralyze you? Or will you take whatever value you can find in it and then move on?

Which person do you want to be?

I choose to rise above the hard things, take criticisms that have value, and leave the rest behind. What about you?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


by C LaRene Hall
This is a picture of the toolbox similar to the one that I own. I’ve always believed that every woman should have her own toolbox. One that she knows where it is, and that has everything she needs when she gets tired of waiting for someone else to fix something around the house.

This really isn’t what I’m going to be telling you about today. Instead, I want to share some more things that I learned at the LDStorymaker’s Conference. I attended a class taught by Nephele Tempest on Writing a Synopsis. She told us that learning to write a good synopsis gives us one more tool in our toolbox. It’s something we all need and something we all need to know how to do correctly.

She explained that when you write a synopsis you are trying to sell someone on reading more of your book. It’s simple, first you create a skeleton, and once you have the bones you can fill in the rest. You can have one or two pages, or you can have more detail, but your skeleton has to be good.

Every synopsis should include a theme, characters, the setting, conflict or goals and a conclusion. You have to be careful that you don’t give away the ending, but you have to make sure they know that you have an ending in mind.

She encouraged us to practice writing a synopsis for someone else’s book. It will make looking at your own book a lot easier. There is no correct way to do it. It’s what you consider most important – the highlights of your book.

You should adjust the level of detail based on the length of your synopsis. A very short synopsis will focus on who the main characters are and their goals, while a longer one will include in more depth how they achieve those goals.

A short synopsis is good, but shouldn’t be too short. There should be a paragraph about your book and one paragraph about you. Don’t be too brief. We all laughed when she said that we don’t proclaim idiot ahead of time by telling the editor that you are the next (------famous person). This is an intelligent look at what your book is about – who your hero is, what they are doing, how it ends. It’s not as scary as it seems. It’s just like writing anything. It’s part of your job.

She made sure that we all realized that we should only query on completed work. Most editors want a full manuscript to buy.

I learned so much by attending this particular workshop. Those who didn’t come missed a great presentation.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Twilight for Middle-Grade Boys

By Darvell Hunt

Having recently attended the LDStorymakers Conference, my batteries are now charged up and I’m ready to go. I feel a bit like the Energizer bunny! I’ve set some new goals, some of which are rather lofty.

This year, I plan get my current work in progress accepted. I describe this way: It’s Twilight for middle-grade boys, but I throw out the romance and the pining teenage angst and change the vampires into aliens who aren’t hiding in seclusion, but are actively seeking to change the “normal” people of the world into aliens.

While you may think I’m kidding, I’m really not—not entirely, anyway. My goal is to get this book in the hands of young boys and actually get them reading—something that many boys of this age don’t normally do. And, built into the storyline, is a viral marketing gimmick that will prompt boys to want to share the story with their friends.

Now, I’m not comparing my book to Twilight because I want to ride on the coat tails of Stephanie Meyer (well, okay, maybe I do a little!). I believe Twilight got many teenage girls (and wives and moms, too!) either back into reading, or to seriously consider reading above the other distractions of today’s world. I want to do that same sort of thing for middle-grade boys. I honestly think my book can do that.

And, of course, I don’t want to alienate middle-grade girls either, so, the book was written so girls should enjoy it as much as the boys would. But, it doesn’t stop there. It’s a known fact that a large portion of the readers of the young adult market are adults. Wouldn’t it be great if parents could actually enjoy reading the same books as their young kids in fifth, sixth, or seventh grades?

Now, I may know what you’re thinking—if you make your audience too broad, none of them will really enjoy reading it. That’s a valid point. I’ve designed my book for middle-grade readers, but I also tried to make it appealing to adult readers as well. Who wouldn’t want to read about aliens acting like Mormon missionaries who want to convert the whole world? (And, curiously enough, once you have read the book, you may become an alien yourself, if you’re not careful!)

After I get my book deal and you can go down to your local bookstore and buy a copy, maybe you’ll be able to tell me how I did with my new goals. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to get my book on that shelf so it's actually available—and not only that shelf, but shelves around world.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Five-Year Plan

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I sat listening to a writer talk about his five-year plan for becoming the author he wants to be. He emphasized goals and hard work. I turned to my friend and whispered, “I gave up on my five-year plan twenty years ago.”

My statement made me reflect on my intentions and the realities of the publishing world. Actually, I’m not sure when I abandoned the plan, but several years ago, I wrote a great story. I thought it would be easier to get that book published in the national market, if I wrote another book for the LDS Market. How foolish was that thought?

Now I sit, with five unpublished books, fifteen more in different stages of development, and a fulfilled sense of destiny. Notice I didn’t say unfulfilled? I’ve come to the conclusion I’m writing in the market where I need to, I’m fulfilling my destiny. Yes there are times when I doubt that conviction, but I’ll talk about that some another time.

My original plan went by the wayside when I realized three things. The first was, the LDS market isn’t a means to an end. I thought it would be easier to get publishing credits in that market, but I was wrong. If anything, it might be harder. It’s definitely harder with the content restrictions imposed on the writers.

The second realization came when I sat in church, during a ward reorganization. You know, when the bishopric makes a ton of new callings in order to give everyone an opportunity to serve? Some of the positions from which people had been released, had not been filled. I listened with a profound sense of confidence. I knew the Lord didn’t need me to serve in those callings at that time.

I wondered about that, though, and a new thought came to mind. I felt my calling was to write in the LDS market. Then I heard a touching story by an author who received a poignant letter talking about how his book literally saved the life of someone who read it. I was hooked. I wanted to touch lives, and hopefully, help God love his children. I can do that by writing in the national market, but it’s easier, if I can refer to spiritual things.

I haven’t totally abandoned the national market, but writing LDS fiction is what I’m supposed to be doing now.

The third realization dawned, when I went back and read my first book. It was terrible. I’ve improved over the years, but I’ve discovered, contrary to many opinions, a good story does not cover up bad writing even if it gets published. Five-year plans are great for making business goals, but learning the craft often takes longer. It has for me.

Following a plan and working toward a goal can help you stay focussed, but in a business ruled by subjective opinions, it might not be wise to make unrealistic expectations. If I were to offer one piece of advice to every aspiring writer, it would be, work like you expect to be published tomorrow, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to wait. Keep looking for ways to improve. Listen to critique partners. Listen to contest judges. Throw out the advice that doesn’t ring true, and hold onto the suggestions that make sense.

Keep writing and remember this:

In, The Screwtape Letters, by C S Lewis, Wormwood notes there are more tempters around one man than another man. He assumes the one with the most tempters is the really bad man. Wormwood’s uncle, Screwtape, corrects that assumption with the note that it takes more tempters to turn the good man away. It only takes one to keep a bad man in line.

If your talent has the capability to touch hearts for good, there will be opposition. Discouragement will come at some of the oddest times, in some of the oddest ways. You, however, have the power to overcome.

In the Bible I found this: For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, fear not; I will help thee. –Isaiah 41:13

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.