Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Today I was thinking that I’m at the ½-mile mark of the year. I remember some of my resolutions that I set at the beginning of the year, but honestly couldn’t remember all of them. I snuck a peek and can’t believe I actually thought that I could reach these goals –
1. Expand my horizons. I’m still working on this one. My vacation is just around the corner and there are many new adventures waiting for me. One of those is promoting my book in another state amongst strangers.
2. Preserve my physical health by doing all the things that I should, such as exercise. Well, I have gone to the gym a couple of times, but not as often as I meant to.
3. Be a truer friend. I need to work more on this one because sometimes I’m too involved in my own life.
4. Grow spiritually. I started out working on this and even attended the temple two or three times every month (twice as often as I did last year). Then May and June came and I failed to go. Maybe my going four times next month will almost get me back on track.
5. Pray to communicate. To communicate I think it means you have to hold still long enough to listen. I wonder when I’ll ever learn to do that. I think I need to work on this one too.
6. Read scriptures. Finally, here is something I have done. My goal was to read the entire Old Testament, and I am more than half way done.
7. Write something every single day. I wonder if I meant write something or if I meant that I should add something to my story every single day. At work, I write checks every single day, and on weekends, I write grocery lists.
8. Read a book every week, including some self-help ones that I usually toss aside. Wow, here is another one that I have accomplished. Early in the year I read Skousens, The Cleansing of America. Then I have read two other books that I consider self-help. The first one I finished last week. It’s called, The Route by Gale Sears. Last night I finished another one called, Get Off the Beach! What Legendary Surfers Know That Salespeople Need to Know…Now by Eloise Owens.
I’m halfway to my goals. There are still more things I need to work on, but I still have half the year. If I recommit myself and get busy, I won’t feel like a complete failure come December 31st. Wow. I’d better get busy!
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sometimes it's tricky to proceed with faith when everything seems stacked against us, but if we persevere we'll discover that everything's all right in the end. It's not only true in life, but in our writing as well. Prepare every needful thing for your journey: be educated and dedicated.
Good things are to come.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
By Keith N Fisher
With all the talk on this blog lately, about asking for God’s help in our writing, My thoughts were directed to the image of a drive up window. A garbled voice comes over the speaker and asks, “May I help you?”
Or sitting at the counter in a dinner, and a tough old man wearing a white T-shirt with rolled up sleeves, wipes the counter with a moist rag and asks, “What’ll it be?”
The truth is, Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us to ask. He metaphorically stands at the door and knocks. He wants us to come to Him. He blesses us every minute, but sometimes we don’t recognize those blessings. Sometimes, we forget to thank Him, and sometimes the answer is no.
I concur with my fellow bloggers. God will, and does help us in our writing. I’ve noticed that if my motives are positive, my writing can be better than my abilities. If my motives are selfish, I’m left to my own wisdom and talent. The writing is not as good and I suffer from discouragement and doubt.
Another thing on my mind today, is my blog punctuality. You might’ve noticed I’ve been late posting for the past few weeks. I’m sorry, but I’m working at a more physical job and I’m too exhausted to write most nights. I’m getting more used to it though, and I promise I’ll be back on Saturday mornings soon.
Check out my review of Alma the Younger, by H B Moore on my Writer’s Eyes blog.
On a final note, have you ever seen a book recycling operation? I have occasion to work with thousands of books each day, old and new. The books come to us from people who are finished with them. Some of the books are sold at severely discounted prices. Others are loaded into four feet square bins to send to the paper-recycling place.
Everyday, I gaze into the bins and think of the character in the Twilight Zone episode, who finally gets a chance to read every book in the library but he breaks his glasses and cannot read. See it in three parts, here. I also, think of each book as somebody’s baby.
I gaze at 110,592 cubic inches of the printed word, other writer’s children, and I’m sad. Then I pick up one of those children wishing I had the time to read. I think of all the lives that book probably touched, how many paper products it will be part of, and I feel happy to be part of the circle of life.
It still saddens me, however, when I see a book written by a friend of mine, sitting in the pile. Then, I realize it’s an indication of how the book sold. You should see all the copies of Twilight.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I think the last blog entry was a source of inspiration. I've had no problems writing this week. In fact, I had to make myself stop last night so I could get some sleep, and that hasn't happened for a while. It's nice. A little frustrating, but nice. I hate having to stop when it feels like things are flowing. And I don't know if I'm going to have time to write this weekend.
Yep, I'm going out of town again - back to where the temperatures hover WAY too high. It's strange, I'm not really a fan of Vegas, but this is the second time this year I'll be there. It's a good thing there is such a thing as air conditioning. I'm excited to visit the temple this time.
Anyway - I just wanted to remind you that it's important to write. All the time. Every day. Because you never know when those words are going to click and things are going to come together. You won't know if you're not writing.
Have a good one!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Last week I spent my afternoons attending a local conference. During the week, some of the authors, editors, and the lone agent, said some things that resonated with me. I thought I’d share them here.
1. Everything you are, read, and experience composts together and leaves an imprint to become your voice. ~ Brandon Mull
2. It doesn’t matter so much what you put in your story, but how your characters react to what’s there. ~ Brandon Mull
3. I will never be done trying to get better. ~ Brandon Mull
4. Either you’re good at multi-tasking or you’re bad at it. Decide which you are, then get over it and move on. ~ Allie Condie
5. On the wall of a classroom: Don’t make excuses, make improvements.
6. Skip trends and look for universal truths. ~ Jennifer Hunt, Little Brown Publishinbg
7. A book isn’t successful unless [readers] love it. ~Jennifer Hunt
8. When we’re reading books we never thought we’d love, that is great writing. ~ Jennifer Hunt
9. Story is more than what we do, it’s who we are. ~ Mary E. Pearson
10. Quoted by Mary Pearson: “Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than those you did.” ~Mark Twain
11. Successful books ask tough questions. ~ Mary Cole
12. Suffer from a wealth of ideas, lack of sleep, and an insatiable curiosity about the world around you.” ~Mary Cole
What do you think? Do these apply to you? Yeah. I thought so too.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
You may have noticed my absence recently here on this blog. This is not because I'm not interesting in writing, but rather that my life has gotten too busy. I've started a new job, which has been consuming my life right now, and writing has, unfortunately, gotten pushed down in priority as I learn new things and drastically change my daily schedule.
I've been commuting to Las Vegas for over seven years. I've also spent a large portion of my working time at home from a basement office. This arrangement has completely changed over the past couple of weeks.--which has been for the better, I assure you.
But, I must offer my apologies for missing my Tuesday blog spot at LDS Writers Blogck. Now that I'm settling into my new local job, I should have more time to get back to writing. Until my primary source of income is not from my writing, I must concentrate on tasks that pay the bills. Writing is my passion, but not currently my job. I plan to correct that "problem" in the very near future.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
In the early days of aviation, planes didn’t have very much, by way of instruments. Perhaps, an oil pressure gauge. Pilots were left to navigate by their wits. Without a radio, they didn’t even have a compass, unless they carried one in their pocket.
Pilots flew by their own instincts. They had to navigate by looking at the landscape. They had to determine level flight by the feel of the aircraft. Thus, the term, flying by the seat of your pants.
Today is Father’s Day. I hope you have a good one. Also, I hope you remember your father, and thank him for doing his best with you.
It’s true that some fathers don’t do their best, but most of them do. Unless you’re Fred McMurray on My Three Sons, most fathers don’t have a clue. Mothers seem to have a natural gift for nurturing. Fathers are left to their wits.
It would be wonderful if each baby was born with it’s own set of instructions. If daughters had a pressure gauge installed in their forehead. A father could read the emotion level and act accordingly. He could read the artificial horizon to see if a kid was drifting off the strait and narrow path. He could read the fuel gauge to know when to give hugs.
Unfortunately, or maybe it’s a good thing, a father is left to the seat of his pants. He knows his wife has it under control, but he revels in his own sweet moments when things seem to come together. He lands in unfamiliar territory with low fuel grateful he didn’t crash, knowing he will have to take off again. He is flying by the seat of his pants, searching for the airdrome, bringing his children into adulthood.
In all your celebrating today, remember, there is another father. Perhaps we can use the day to give thanks to our loving Father in Heaven. He made it to the airdrome many years ago and he knows the way. His instruments are calibrated and he offers a hand to help.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, June 18, 2010
I wasn't able to write yesterday, and it was a strange feeling. It's not that I've been very dedicated so far this summer - I've told myself I need to write, and once actually got myself to sit down at do so, remember my vacation? But I haven't been really good about it.
Yesterday was the day my critique group was meeting, and I realized I should have something to hand out. Thing was, our UPS has begun to have problems, and it choose the night before to wing out so I couldn't turn my computer on. I could get on the internet on a different computer, but I couldn't access my hard drive and my story. I generally keep a back up on an email site and a separate hard drive, but it didn't have the most current copy, so that didn't help.
I thought it was really ironic that on a day when I really wanted to write, I couldn't. What's that saying, it's not until something is gone that you realize what you had? Or how about the grass is greener on the other side? I think it's human nature, sometimes, to want something only when it's gone. I'm not sure.
But at least my so amazing hubby got things figured out and my computer back up so that I'm able to access things today. I'm going to be writing, and I really don't have anything else to get in the way.
Life is good.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
No matter where you are in your writing journey, you’ll be regular confronted with rules. You can’t do this, you shouldn’t do that, books should be between this length and this one, and never step out of this line, or into that one. How’s a person to keep up with all of them?
I admit. It’s a tough thing to do. Really. But learning the rules is important. Learn them, know them, figure them out. And then, once you have, you’ll know how best to break them. And when.
When I first started going to conferences, I had an agent tell me that 30 or 40,000 words was way too bare bones for a middle grade book, let alone a young adult one. She claimed that any book with so few words was most definitely lacking crucial elements needed to tell a fully fleshed-out story.
This was right after I’d finished a magazine writing class that had emphasized the importance of tight writing. *big, enormous sigh*
But I took that advice to heart, and began studying the ins and outs of storytelling. I learned how to enhance my story with description and sensory details, how to include scenes that moved the plot forward, but also revealed the characters to the reader. I studied hard, and I learned.
And my recent work is coming in around 90-100,000 words. (Okay, actually more, but I’m getting really good at cutting.)
But. As mentioned in earlier posts, I read a lot. This year alone, I’ve read no fewer than six young adult books that have come in at 40,000 words, maximum. Most much shorter than that.
How did this happen? *more big sighs*
These authors studied, hard. They knew their audience. They knew their characters and scene and story. They knew the rules, and then chose how best to break them. Somehow, they found a loophole by mastering the art of cramming lots of details into as few words as possible.
Each of these rule-breaking books has been incredibly powerful, emotionally charged reading. No wonder they got away with it. In these cases, more words would’ve lessened the impact of the story.
What rule breaking books have you read recently, and were you glad for the authors' rule-breaking judgment calls?
**The books mentioned above are authored by the following: Patricia McCormick, Ann Dee Elis, Lisa McMann.
***All are issue books which include heavy themes and possibly some language. Read at your own risk.
Monday, June 14, 2010
By Ali Cross
Last week I wrote about the importance of seeking Heavenly Father’s help with your writing; today I’d like to talk about how you recognize the Spirit’s influence in your work.
This past week I set out to revise my story The Jump Boys. Several critique partners had suggested changes to the story that would make it stronger and more believable, and I thought their ideas were great. However, as I plugged along, I felt more and more discouraged. I became struck with apathy—I couldn’t move forward, and I couldn’t even think about the story without my thoughts becoming tumbled and confused.
Driven to my knees by pure desperation, I asked Heavenly Father what I was doing wrong. I got the distinct impression that I was asking the wrong question. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that my problems had begun with the new story changes, so I asked Father two questions: Should I clean up the original story? Or should I continue to make major revisions? Surprisingly, I felt I should stick with the original story.
But I wasn’t ready to give in quite so easily—I asked Father to let me wake in the morning with a sense of contentment and happiness if this choice was right. And He did. I woke with a smile on my face, ready to tackle The Jump Boys again with a clear vision of how the work should go.
That was three days ago and while I’m not done yet, I continue to feel at ease with the direction the story is taking. More importantly, I haven’t suffered from any writing apathy or discouragement.
Thinking about this experience has made me realize that I’ve felt this way before. It seems to me that whenever I hit a wall in my writing that I can’t scale, tunnel under or go around, it’s not because I’m a terrible writer or the story is pointless—it’s usually because the direction I’m going is not the right one. A simple step back, time spent in prayer seeking guidance and counsel, and the willingness to follow through in faith, is all that’s needed to knock that wall down and get back to writing.
How does the Spirit manifest in your writing efforts?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
With all the changes forced upon us daily, Its nice to know some things don’t change.
We spent the evening, yesterday, on Center Street in Orem, Utah. Each year, as part of Orem’s Summerfest celebration, they hold a parade. In most years it’s a blessing to have it in the evening, during the cool time of day.
This year, someone laid a tarp down on our traditional patch of grass, causing us to shift ten feet to the east. They come earlier every year. Last year, was the first parade I spent without my father since he’d died earlier, and I missed him again.
Over the years, our tradition has changed a little. We started out down by city hall, but after my daughter was born we stayed closer to home. (Not as far to walk.) Some time later, we used the time to rest and either mourned or celebrated after cooking all day in the Dutch oven cookoff.
One thing that has never changed, however, is our picnic. Each year we go early and have dinner while we watch the people converge. Whether it was Sub sandwiches or the fried chicken this year, it has become a tradition in our family.
We were treated, yesterday, to a cold front that blew through, and dropped barrels of rain in the afternoon. As we were eating, a cold wind drove us back to the house for coats and blankets but the tradition continued.
One of my neighbors stopped by to set up chairs for his family and laughed at us shivering over our plates.
He asked, “What are you guys doing?
“We’re having a picnic,” I said. “Would you like some watermelon?”
I knew he thought we were crazy, but I realized how inbred our traditions are. Some things never change, and that’s a good thing. In a world where nothing is certain, jobs come and go. Fortunes are won and lost in a minute. It’s our traditions that keep us grounded.
Stop by next year. I’ll save a piece of watermelon for you.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
P.S. Check out my review of Rebound by Heather Justesen.
Friday, June 11, 2010
If you were anywhere near Las Vegas over the past weekend, you will have heard that they were going through a mini heat wave. Of course they were. And that's when we were there.
Fortunately, we had good air conditioning in both our car and the condo. I ask you, isn't air conditioning one of the best inventions of modern time? We proceeded to St George, which was a bit cooler, but not by much. Instead of being 110 it was 105. Yeah, that's cool. We teased our friends who we visited while we were there about the heat, and they admitted for the first time since we've known them that it had gone from being 80 to 100 overnight - and yes, that's hot. Grin.
Coming home to something considerably less than that was nice. It's been cloudy and cool and very nice. I like green, do you? I noticed quite the difference between Las Vegas and St George by way of landscaping. I think they need to realize they live in a desert and plan accordingly, but they are fond of their fountains.
Anyway - I did get some writing done, believe it or not. My hubby brought his lap top and I got several pages written. So all in all, it was a productive and relaxing vacation.
Now it's time to attack the mounds of laundry...
Thursday, June 10, 2010
You know how writing teachers and editors and agents and other instructional peeps love to say the words “write what you know”? When they say that, it’s kind of a general reference. A way of telling you to write about a subject with which you have experience. Or, you know, something you’ve learned a lot about.
I don’t think they actually mean write scenes and people directly out of your life, with attention to every single exact detail.
Let’s face it. Real life—with all the ups and downs—is in most cases way, way, way too boring for fiction.
But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that your life isn’t boring. Maybe you’re really an undercover spy who lives a double life. Your spouse thinks you’re a sales-person and that you work a nine-to-five job for which you sometimes travel. But really, it’s all a ruse. You’re living a carefully constructed lie in order to hide your real, super-spy identity. Great. That’s good. It would probably make a good story. Especially if a spy nemesis came after your family and you had to help them escape before saving the world.
Although, even if you were a super-spy living a double-life, if you plan to write a fictional story based on your experiences, some things will have to be changed. And I don’t mean just identities. In the world of fiction, your story, however fantastical, has to be believable to the reader. The details have to be evocative, but not too graphic, and your descriptions should be vivid. Just because you were there doesn’t mean your readers can see it like you did. Or that they should. You’re telling a story, not writing in a journal or giving a police report.
But here’s the thing. It’s okay to change those details. It’s okay to give this experience to your characters and make it a little bit different from the way it really happened to you. And it’s okay to change the outcome, emotions, or reactions of other characters in your book. Because it’s fiction. You don’t have to account to anyone for the changes you have made. Not even yourself.
Remember, it’s fiction. Not real life. Take all the creative license you want. Your readers will appreciate you for it.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Since my one sister and I are finally able to sort through things left behind with my mother’s passing away last September, it’s amazing the time it’s taking. The number of boxes there are to sort through is overwhelming. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, because it’s not. In fact, I have found some of the most incredible papers and items from the past that I had no idea even existed, and things that I will treasure forever.
The awful part is, the others should have allowed us to sort through these things seven months ago instead of having us wait. Back then, it would have been an incredible experience. Now, it’s more a chore and something that we need to do.
I’m glad that I’m taking a careful look at everything. Otherwise, I would have missed some things along the way. In books there are notes left behind when my father passed away 17 years ago. I’ve written his life story, but I’ve never printed it. Now I know why – it was not complete. I needed those written words. The precious keepsakes that I’m finding will help complete the life story of both of my parents. I’m getting anxious to finish the sorting so that I now can get on with the writing of their story.
Monday, June 07, 2010
A writer friend, no stranger to the Blogck, once told me that she only finds success in her writing when she invites Heavenly Father’s help. Karen Hoover, author of The Sapphire Flute, says her very best writing sessions begin with a prayer and some time spent reading the scriptures.
At this year’s BYU Women’s Conference, it was suggested that we seek the Lord’s help with our daily lives. We can pray at the start of each day to know what is most important for us to do, then close our day with the question, “What would thou like me to know?”
I’ve been employing this practice in my daily life, but it’s only been recently that I had an aha! moment that prompted me to put both Karen’s thoughts and this direction from the conference together. Imagine what we might achieve if, at the beginning of each writing session, we asked Father to guide us to write that which was best or most important. And what if we were to ask Him at the close of each day or writing time, what He would have us know or do regarding our writing?
I think, if we put our writing in His hands, we might truly become the Miltons and Shakespeares Orson F. Whitney spoke of when he said, “God's ammunition is not exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God's name and by his help we will build up a literature whose top shall touch heaven, though its foundations may now be low in earth.”
Saturday, June 05, 2010
A few years ago, while having a particularly stressful day at work, I voiced some of my concerns and did some complaining. It made me feel good to vent, Even better if I could draw people into my frustration. There is not doubt, having someone say, “poor boy” gave credence to my feelings.
During one particular rant, a coworker made a comment that set me back. Something like “I don’t have time to worry about that stuff,” or something. I was disarmed. My friend was right. My complaints were menial compared to the big picture.
I made up my mind to try and build people. Instead of dragging them down, I’d try to raise them up. This was a monumental thing for someone like me. First I had to develop a positive attitude myself. Then, I had to build others and try to help them be all they could be.
I’d like to tell you I’ve been successful in my endeavor, but I have days when I want to strike out and take the rest of humanity with me. Oh, there have been a few successes, but those were times when I could feel a higher power trying to bless other people.
As writers, we tend to look at the success of our peers and wonder why. We often tell ourselves, we are as good a writer as those being published. We grasp at misconceptions and get frustrated by our own efforts. Then there are other times, when writing seems to be a waste of time. We say what ever made me think I could be a writer.
We all have doubts and frustrations, but it amazes me to see the few who build others. A few words, a pat on the back, a way to go, or a little hug, seems to come easy for them. I’m sure they will never know how much they build the rest of us.
Since the time we worked together, I’ve seen my friend have doubts. There have been times when life closed in around them, and frustration set in. I know my writing heroes do too.
I wish I could reach out and convince them how much they mean to me. Light emulates from them, and they’ve helped me get through times of darkness. I hope I can be that for them. I want to be the purveyor of a good day.
I hope you will accept my good intentions, because I believe you are a writer because God intended it that way. Don’t give in to the feelings of doubt. Have a good day.
Good luck with your writing---see you next week.
Friday, June 04, 2010
Last week I told you my batteries were kind of run down. I don't know if I mentioned that this week I'm going on vacation with my hubby and kids. We're going to Vegas first, and then to St. George. I seriously think I'm missing a few brain cells, because it's not going to be cool weather in any sense of the word, but I guess it's not the hottest time of the year, so who knows.
This will be a chance for me to work on re-charging and spending some away time with my family. My hubby isn't too keen on it, he doesn't really like going to Vegas, so we might skip that and just go to St. George. Either way, it's out of the house, which is just what I need sometimes.
Also, my critique group gave me some excellent ideas on the story I've been working on, and I figure I can take a note pad and write away while we're driving or sitting by the pool. Hmm. A working retreat. That's always good, isn't it? It's all in the change of view sometimes. I'll let you know how it goes.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Okay. We’ve talked about critique groups, and how important they are in our writing journey. We’ve talked about how to take critiques and how to give them.
So what’s left?
It’s time to talk about the barracudas. These are your alpha and beta critique partners, those people who know the ins and outs of writing and don’t pull any punches. They give it to you straight. Or, at least, you expect them to.
These people aren’t always in your regular group. They may not even be people with whom you’re close friends (a fact that could be both good and bad on some level). What they are is one more step toward reaching that 100% of where you need to be before you start the submission process.
Some people pay big money to have professional editors make their manuscripts bleed. Others trade manuscripts with authors whom they’ve come to know through various networking channels. Whatever you choose, remember that you’re doing this in order to better your manuscript.
Not everything a barracuda says will be right or true or work for your story, so you have to be confident enough to make that judgement on your own. Because no matter who your barracuda is, the story belongs to you and you alone.
It’s a really big ocean, and guppies likely won’t survive. Most of us aren’t here to be sharks, but if we want to endure, we have to learn to swim with the barracudas.
I think fins will probably look good on me. What about you?