Saturday, January 30, 2010
I asked my daughter what I should write about this morning, and she suggested peanut butter. Since I don’t have an agenda . . . well, it is good. Think of the rich creamy smoothness, and how it feels in your mouth.
“What about chunky?” you ask.
Well, do you remember getting a spoonful stuck to the roof of your mouth? That brown oral, cement, impregnated with little pieces, left you confused whether you should chew or just twirl it around your tongue.
Ain’t it grand? Having to pick all that chunky goodness out of you teeth? Then, having to deal with the peanut butter induced heartburn, brings new dimensions to your anti-acid dependency. What? That has never happened to you? Give it a few years. :)
Every week on this blog I try to offer a different prospective to struggling writers. Sometimes I get a lot of comments, sometimes I don’t. Make no mistake—I love comments. I like to read what people think, and realize I’m not alone in my struggle.
The truth is, we all have issues of uncertainty and days when we wonder why we torture ourselves. We entertain thoughts of escaping to a tropical beach or a high mountain to get away from it all. Then, we start thinking about how nice it would be to take our writing along.
A while back, I watched a remake of the old movie, Yours Mine and Ours. I spent the majority of the picture feeling jealous of the lighthouse tower where the family lived. Can you image how it would be to convert that space into an office for writing?
We could explore the how and why it got there, but the fact is writing is in our blood. On bad days, when I don’t want to do anything, much less write, I’ve found that if I force myself to put words together, life gets better. I lose my troubles in writing and I am renewed.
Also, finding kinship with other writers validates my feelings. It truly is wonderful to be part of a group who understands the pain of killing a cherished character, or having to rewrite a chapter, because your protagonist showed you a better way. I’m part of a large group of folks who have writing in our soul. It’s nice to be encouraged, even better to do the encouraging.
Just like peanut butter helped me focus my thoughts for this blog, my friends help me believe. Thank you to my writing friends. I hope to be able to help you too. Leave comments and remember chocolate goes well with peanut butter.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week
Friday, January 29, 2010
Okay. How many of you were familiar with the words? Were you able to use them in your regular sentences? I spotted another one this morning that I thought I would add. It's not even out of 200 year old papers...this is one Elder Scott used in November. Vicissitude. That's a mouth full. Any idea what it means? Here we go:
Vicissitude - n. 1. A. A change or variation.
B. The quality of being changeable; mutability.
2. One of the sudden or unexpected changes or shifts often
encountered in one's life, activities, or surroundings.
Often used in the plural.
I guess it fits. Elder Scott was speaking about how the Spirit helps guide us through the vicissitudes of life.
Exhortations -- n. 1. The act or an instance of exhorting.
2. A speech or discourse that encourages, incites,
or earnestly advises.
Our founding fathers were big on exhorting... many of us would use that with our children.
Debauched -- v.tr. 1. a. To corrupt morally.
b. To lead away from excellence or virtue.
2. To reduce the value, quality, or excellence of; debase.
I have read several articles that talk about the society of England at the time the founding fathers were setting up the constitution and the worries that their debauchery would spread to our lands. I find that interesting, considering what's going on in our nation now.
Statuary -- This one's easy, I hope everyone knows it means statues that are decorative. Stuff that sits in your yard, like the little gnomes.... There wasn't any online dictionary meaning for it, so it's my blurb. Grin.
Nonentity -- n. pl. non·en·ti·ties
1. A person regarded as being of no importance or significance.
3. Something that does not exist or that exists only
in the imagination.
This could mean many things then. They could have been talking about how the slaves were viewed, while today we would use this to describe imaginary things. Have you heard this word used recently?
Indefatigable -- adj. Incapable or seemingly incapable of being fatigued; tireless.
Today we need to be indefatigable in our efforts to support each other and our beliefs.
Now that class is over...grin. I just thought you might enjoy the words and their meanings. Now what 'new' ones can you find?
Thursday, January 28, 2010
There was a time when I believed that my dreams could be put on hold. I was busy being the mother, the wife, the homemaker—and at the time, that life was something of a dream for me anyway. But even then I had other dreams, other desires. I wanted to create in an artistic sense, be it with music, acting, or writing. I wanted to travel to foreign and tropical places, see the world. And I’ve always, always, my whole life, wanted to live in a house on the beach.
I know. I’m a dreamer. But that’s okay. It’s part of what makes me who I am, and who I am is a creator, a writer, a mother, an artist, a world traveler, and a person who is determined to someday buy that beach house. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. I think our dreams are what make life good. What make us happy even in the roughest of times.
But sometimes life gets in the way. Things happen. As parents, we often put off the things we want, the things we dream about, in order to prioritize the needs of others, especially our children. For instance, today, I wanted very badly to write. Currently, I have three ongoing writing projects in various stages of development. And I woke up with the bug to work on all of them. It’s been a few weeks since I had a good, solid writing session, and I had high hopes that I could make it happen today. All I would have to do is pick which project to open.
Except…first I had an appointment, and when I got home, something came up. Then another thing came up, then it was time for the kids to get home and I had to pick up the carpool. Then music lessons (four, back-to-back, half-hour sessions), basketball practice at both six and seven, also, my critique group was coming over, to my house. And I had to print a chapter to read and go get copies. To top it all off, my husband works nights right now. So, it’s all up to me. (Thank goodness my oldest now has his license.)
I didn’t get to work on my books. In fact, I’m writing this late at night, knowing that Thursday is my day to blog, and I should’ve had this turned into our blogger group yesterday. But, you know, stuff came up.
It couldn’t be helped. Or could it?
Sure it could. Looking back, I could have set my alarm and woke up earlier. I could’ve ignored the phone, the internet, my email and found at least a half hour for some good solid writing. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. Even now, when I finish writing my blog, I can give up an hour of sleep—and probably will—to work on a chapter or two.
Over the past few years, I’ve realized that I could potentially put my entire life on hold for someone, or something else. Every single important thing, every single day. Something will always come up, and there will always be a reason for me to not do that thing that is so important to me.
If I allow it, life will continue to fly right past my eyes while my dreams and goals sit in a holding pattern, waiting for me to discover a minute when nothing has come up.
But life is too short for that. It just is. I don’t want to wake up one day when I’m eighty and realize that I never wrote that book, never cruised the Mediterranean, never bought that beach house. Not that eighty is too old to do those things, but…why wait until then? Okay, granted, the beach house thing—that does require funds of a certain degree. But if I do it right, maybe living my other dreams will help bring that one to fruition.
Friends, there will always be a reason why you can’t. Why you have to wait. Those reasons are the things that hold us back. But if you can just look past them, you’ll see a whole other list. The title of this list? Why you should.
Do it now. Now. Now! Get to work on fulfilling your dreams. Because believe it or not, there will never be a better time.
Okay, I’m finished with my blog. Now I’m going to write.
**Tomorrow I'm a guest blogger over at Day Dreamer. Be sure to stop by and say hi!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This is a good week for me to discuss what I’m going to do this year to become more spiritual. We just had stake conference and I find if I attend with an open heart, I gain an amazing new outlook on life. There are always some incredible ideas presented that if I follow them, it will change my life. Of course, there are the usual encouragements such as praying more, and studying your scriptures diligently. For some reason I always fall short with both of these principles, and every year I say I will do better. This year my goal is to read the entire Old Testament. It seems I always quit before reaching the end.
Sunday, when the stake president stood to speak, I had no idea the things he had to say would have such an impact on me. He warned us about taking cell phones with us to church. Many adults and teens use them as entertainment during sacrament meeting, such as texting back and forth, or playing games. My son had a good argument about this because he has his scriptures on his cell phone. He assured me that he keeps his phone silenced and only uses it to look up gospel related information during church time.
The stake president also warned us about addictions. Not the normal ones we talk about, but things such as pornography, facebook, and the internet. I know that many of my writing friends have encouraged me to use facebook and twitter more often than I do. I understand how they can be a good networking tool, but I can also recognize that a person can become so addicted to their use that they neglect important things. I know many people who have gotten so involved they neglect their families, their work, church callings, and scripture study. As far as I know, my writing friends haven’t been so involved that it’s an addiction.
Neither of these things is something that I indulge in, but I have a new understanding of why they are bad choices. I wish those people who take their cell phones to church or use facebook to excess had been there to hear the advice offered during our conference.
I use the internet to research many historical things for my writing, and I do try to network on facebook, although now I’ll be more careful so I won’t become addicted. We live in a wonderful world with lots of fantastic inventions that help us in our writing, but I’ll be cautious and watchful that I don’t abuse those things given to me. I’d be lost without my computer.
Monday, January 25, 2010
At the last Storymaker conference, Rebecca Talley made me promise that I would embrace querying and get my stories out there. For one reason or another I didn't get around to fulfilling that promise--until the start of this year.
Without any more excuses it was high time for me to write a query and synopsis and begin the terrifying process of searching for an agent to represent me and my work.
Now, forty queries later, I can honestly say querying isn't as scary as I feared.
Mainly it hasn't been so bad because there are some excellent tools out there that helped me, and maybe they could help you too.
I forked out a whopping ten bucks and bought Elana Johnson's From the Query to the Call. Written in Elana's easy-to-understand and witty fashion, I finally "got" the query. Elana has an excellent worksheet that helped me break down my story into bite-sized pieces that could easily be manipulated into a one-sheet query letter.
And while her book doesn't directly address the synopsis, she has some excellent links to articles that were as easy to grasp as her book.
If you have the chance to attend the LDS Storymaker's conference this spring, be sure to say hello to Elana. Her query workshop is full now, but she will also be teaching two additional classes on querying--you should check them out.
In addition, QueryTracker.net offers an excellent service designed to help writers find the right agents for their work and to track their progress. I highly recommend it.
As for me, every time I send out a query I'm still quivering in my boots--but not because I don't think I have a strong query. Sending your work out to be judged by others in a highly subjective business is terrifying. Period.
Still, if I can do it, you can too.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Where I live, we got a bunch of snow overnight. I went out to shovel my walks and driveway this morning. Around here, snow holds many blessings, Not the least of which, is service.
While shoveling, I noticed how I performed my task, nipping away at it a bit at a time. I took a standing break and glanced at my neighbors. That’s when I realized we all have different styles of snow removal.
I never thought about my method before, but it seems I divide the area into geometric quadrants and sub quadrants. I do the same when I mow the lawn. I remember working on the shape of Nevada on my parent’s lawn. At another house I worked on making Utah, but I was talking about shoveling snow.
My method starts with a long path down the middle of the driveway then I come back up one side turn around and go back down the other side. In the interim, I shovel the curving walk that leads up to the door. I take circular bites out of it, removing most of the snow on the first pass and finish up, by getting the bits left on the other edge. My theory is to push all the snow off the concrete, all the way to the lawn. This prevents water puddles that freeze into black ice, causing accidents.
One of my neighbors starts at one end of the drive and shovels in a horizontal fashion. Throwing snow in no particular spot. He is done, when he gets to the other end. Another, has a snow blower, and uses it about the same way as I use my shovel. I have another friend who puts a blade on his ATV and loves to plow through the ward, clearing sidewalks.
I noticed a little kid trying to help his dad. He took shovels full, and tossed them back on the driveway. At least it wasn’t on the already cleared parts, but he worked against himself, moving the snow twice, sometimes more.
The point of all this, if there must be one, is just like we all have a different way of removing snow, we can develop our own method of writing. We don’t need to write like others. As I said last week, there are certain styles to follow, but you can say things, your way.
I’ve found my writing is like shoveling. Occasionally, I write a great sentence and I have a profound thought or two, but like when snow comes out of the side of shovel or I miss a spot, I have to go back and do it again.
Also, in my haste, I sometimes shovel before the end of the storm. Then it snows a bit more, warms up, then freezes. My efforts were not fruitless, but they caused more work as I removed the ice. In my writing, I sometimes rush headlong into telling a story. I know it’s great. (How could it not be?) Then I suffer embarrassment when my critique group points out plot holes or bad writing. I have to go back and redo it, agonizing over how to fix it.
Sometimes I create work by writing scenes and descriptions that aren’t pertinent to the story. In this, I am like the little kid who throws the snow in front of himself. I have to shovel those sentences again.
The simile for the motorized snow removal is simple. My computer has made writing so much easier. Like the snow blower saves time, I can write whole books quicker, but even with mechanization, there are spots on a sidewalk that just can’t be reached without a shovel. Still though, promoting myself as a writer is made so much easier using a computer on the Internet.
There is a good point in favor of writing over shoveling, however. Unless you count sedentary time, at least my writing won’t give me a heart attack.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, January 22, 2010
On our way back from St. George this past weekend, I was reading out loud to my hubby to pass the time. We were reading The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. His language isn't so unusual, but a lot of the language he was quoting was from our founding fathers, and I thought it was interesting how our language has changed over the years. As writers, language is essential to our craft, so their use of words intrigued me. The way words have changed in regards to their meaning is also interesting.
Such as animated. In the book, he mentioned a quote that used animated in the same way we would now use excited, revved up, activated, in to, etc. We tend to think of animated with regard to movies, cartoons, and expressive facial features.
I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these words you were familiar with. Perhaps you could use them in your current vocabulary and intrigue (and frustrate) your friends.... Grin.
I'll be posting the definitions next week. Let's see how many you figured out and actually used in your daily conversations. 'Till then, write on!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
By Nichole Giles
Last week my family and I hiked a dead volcano. We were on vacation far from home, so it was a hike we’ve never done before. Since we live in the Rocky Mountains and hike often during spring and summer months, we started off completely optimistic that this three quarter mile walk would be cake for us. I mean, come on, it’s a mile and a half up to the Timpanogos Caves, and we do that every year without too much difficulty.
We stared off on ground that was comfortably sloped, laughing and talking as we went. A little ways up, the road got steeper, and then steeper. Still, we could see what we thought was the top, and it didn’t look far at all. No worries.
A while later, the trail got steeper still. Finally, my heart rate sped up a little more than normal. My nice morning hike was becoming a bit of a workout. About this time, the trail veered off to a lookout that gave us a wonderful view of the valley and ocean below. The clear, blue water sparkled in the morning sunlight as it washed upon a shore of white sand, and the lush green plants spread out like a fluffy carpet across the valley below. Some people who’d been hiking in front of us decided they’d gone far enough. They snapped a bunch of pictures, and then turned around, satisfied that they’d hiked as close as they could to the top.
We stopped to take some pictures too, and then continued our upward journey. The trail wound around for another few hundred feet and then I turned a corner and found…
Until I saw the next staircase. Twice as many stairs, and somehow, they seemed even steeper than the previous flight. So, once again, we all made our way up. (On a side note here, the kids were way ahead of the adults by now.) At the top of these stairs, another short tunnel led us into a small room with…
As I continued on what was starting to feel like an endless climb, I couldn’t help but think of how this particular hike resembled not only the journey of a writer to publication, but also of every person experiencing life. We walk and we walk and we hike and we work, and every time we think we’ve made it to the top, we discover another staircase. Some people might stop at the first lookout, the halfway point, content to go no further. And for them that’s fine, it’s a great place to be. But others may have loftier goals, and will never be content stopping at halfway. For us, the journey feels endless and harrowing and we end up wondering why we’re trying so hard.
Meet me at the top and I’ll buy you a mango flavored shaved ice. Or pineapple. Coconut…well, you choose.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Some say that I’m already a true friend, but I know deep down that there is a lot more that I could be doing. I don’t always remember to call those I should. Even on their special day, I sometimes let the time slip away without me making that important call or writing that special email. To be a good friend, it is essential that you make contact on their vital day. It isn’t okay to forget.
I also realize that I should contact friends often, not just when they are under the weather. It’s also important to recognize and speak to others when you are at church or in a store. Yeah, I know it’s easy to be in your own little dream world. Sometimes I use the excuse that I’m a writer, and that’s what we do. That doesn’t make it okay.
The other morning I lay awake thinking of my goal to be a better friend. The more I thought, the more I felt that I was on a merry-go-round.
As I, lay there thinking I could see many different groups of friends. There were the ones from high school, others from different work places, some from my ward, and others from the stake I belong too. I could also see those that have moved away that I always send Christmas cards to, and the friends that I have recently acquired in my writing circle. I really do have quite a collection. Usually when you collect something, you take good care of it. I guess this is the year to do that.
Somehow, with all the many things required every day, I will still take some time to be a true friend. I will still take time to write and dream, but I’ll try not to ignore the world around me.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Today in , a historical vote could change the political climate of the most powerful country on earth. No matter which candidate you hope wins the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by political giant , there is no denying that this election makes for a great story.From the most eloquent of bloggers writing in Boston about recent polls to the country hicks living in the backwoods of western Massachusetts (where I once lived myself), stories will be told for years to come of what happened in today’s senate election. It’s not the words used to create those stories that really count, but the content communicated by them.
I think we writers should remember that. Regardless of grammar, style, punctuation, or even spelling, if the story is compelling, people will listen.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The other day I read an agent's tweet about how she wished writers would proofread their queries before they sent them out. This agent said she didn't know how many times a writer will write her a second time, saying they sent out their query with typos, so would they please delete the previous version and accept the new query instead.
It probably won't surprise you to hear this agent's response:
I actually did proofread my query and synopsis before I sent them out, however I didn't get them critiqued by very many people beforehand. After sending 36 of them, I got the verdict on my query from the Public Query Slushpile (a great place to try out your query before you send it out) and on my synopsis from my critique group.
So guess what I'm doing now? Yep, I'm rewriting both of them. But I'm okay with it. My first query and synopsis were good enough to get me two requests for partials and two for a fulls. But now I know I can do better. And I will.
During my research on agents I read a comment that said "you can never submit too late, but you can submit too early," meaning, take your time getting your submission material as perfect as you can before you begin sending them out.
You don't want to end up like those folks who realize, belatedly, that they didn't send out their best work. In your search for an agent, there are no second chances.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I have a confession to make. No, I haven’t committed any great sins recently, and there aren’t any warrants out for my arrest. I read grammar and style books. Well, that’s not quite, the right term. I skim them. But then, I would venture to say, so, do you.
You see I struggle with the English language. Not that I hate it or anything, it’s just hard for me. I used to think I missed it in the fourth grade, like math. Since I was at home with the mumps for awhile, I didn’t learn certain key elements. Consequently, I went through my life thinking I was stupid, when it came to fractions and decimals.
Later, in college, I had the opportunity to take an arithmetic course. It was basic stuff, and I was able to go through it at my own pace. When I reached the part about fractions and decimals, a light came on, and I understood everything from that point forward. I suddenly knew why I struggled with algebra. Combining numbers, or ciphering, (As Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies, used to say), become joyful for me after that.
I’ve tried, since then, to learn the basics of English, (thinking I missed it in the same way I did math). It was tough. I began to wonder how I communicated at all. It was a miracle to me, that I could write it. As I struggled through the books, I began to realize I already understood this stuff, I just didn’t know the proper terms.
Now I know, it’s not me. I have a friend who calls herself a curmudgeon in matters of style and grammar. All my friends in my critique group seem to get it too, but I struggle, and I know others that do also. It’s not easy to remember the rules. While reading, Lapsing Into A Comma, by Bill Walsh, I realized styles are constantly changing. It’s no wonder I don’t get it sometimes. Then if you add the growing list of words and phrases I can’t use in the LDS market, I think I do pretty well.
When I got serious about writing, I admit, I was clueless about rules like subject/verb agreement, and the placement of commas, but we all have our own problems. Even my friend, the curmudgeon, had trouble with the whole lay/lie/lye thing. But when I look at my earlier manuscripts now, I’m amazed I did so well.
So, when I find a red mark from critique group or the spell and grammar check shows mistakes on my sentence, I relax. Most of the red marks are plot problems and a few comma discrepancies. When the self important spell checker says I made an error, I feel confident in knowing what I’m doing. Writing E-mail as one word, is not a crime when I say, “Sorry, I didn’t know it was wrong,” and I go back and fix it.
It’s hard to keep up with changing style regulations. There are hard and fast English and grammar laws that must be headed, but technicalities can bog you down. Most rules can be bent as long as I know the reason, I’ve learned to find out what’s wrong, and I change it. Basically, I’m still learning the language I write in, without knowing what I’ve been doing.
I’m grateful to have friends who know this stuff, and keep me in line. With their help, I’m getting better—I’m developing talents.
Don’t sweat the small things. Tell your story, and fix the grammar later. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Last month I told you how this month was going to be about finishing my NaNoWriMo and editing it. I was going to write every day and be so inspired and.... Well, it hasn't been happening.
Yesterday I came home from work with several items in mind to do. Start laundry, clean off my desk, write my blog, write on story. Well, things stalled out at the desk. I haven't really cleaned my desk in a LONG time. I've cleaned off the top, but not underneath. It was scary. I'm talking one big cob web in the bottom corner...ugh.
As a result? I didn't even get the blog written. I spent most of the afternoon and early evening cleaning and vacuming -- then we ended up going to a viewing and I had to Zumba.
This weekend we're traveling. I might get something done, but only if I take paper with me.
I tell ya, procrastination is real. What I need is an anecdote....
Thursday, January 14, 2010
By Nichole Giles
This post was originally written in 2006, the day I started working on what is now "The Sharp Edge of a Knife." This book is complete, and is being typeset this week. Watch for a release announcement around the beginning of February.
Have you ever had a story idea that popped into your brain, and even though you didn’t have time to write the story, the idea stayed and stayed and stayed? Recently a story has been swimming around in my brain, its little head bobbing to the surface daily screaming, “Write me! Write me!”
I haven’t taken the time. I’ve been in the middle of several other projects and haven’t wanted to start a new one until I finished some of the others. So I’ve let it sit, and simmer, and stay, until I just can’t leave it alone anymore.
I haven’t finished my other projects, but I get the distinct feeling that my grandfather’s spirit is urging me, insisting that I write his story. Not his life story, although he led a truly interesting life. It will be the story of just one of the amazing things that happened to him, that he survived, and (can you believe it?) was able to tell his grandchildren. I’m thinking I’ll write it as nonfiction, although the additional freedom fiction would allow is tempting. The bottom line is, my grandfather wants me to write this story, and so I am going to start working on it today.
The minute I made the decision to go ahead with this project, I could feel my grandfather’s approval. It was as if his spirit was saying, “You write this story and I’ll make sure someone wants to read it.”
I got that eerie, “If you build it, they will come,” feeling. Should that have freaked me out a little? Maybe. I’ve given a lot of thought to death lately. Last week marked the anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, who was very dear to me. My grandfather also died in April not many years ago. Now a fellow writer, one I didn’t know well personally except through his amazing work, will share this anniversary of death with those I love.
April is looked upon as a month of life. Spring, the season of blooming flowers and baby animals, and birth. But for me it is also becoming a poignant month of reflection. I have been reflecting on what my grandchildren will know about me. The things I choose to write can give them a glimpse into my life, my heart, and my soul. No wonder we’re taught to keep journals.
In the month of the anniversary of his death, my grandfather asked me to write his story. I think it’s about time someone did.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
My second goal for the year is usually fairly easy for me at the beginning of the year, but after a while I get side tracked and preserving my physical health by doing all the things that I should such as exercise goes by the way side.
At first, this year I was having a difficult time because my treadmill was in the kitchen and because of Jack’s health, I couldn’t leave it down for easy access. It was in the way. That never works – if I have to get it ready for use, I never do it. At least I had a reason why I was ignoring its beckoning call. It was just too darn heavy to lift down and back up before and after each exercise session.
Last week I had my son move the treadmill into the family room where I can leave it down all the time. Now I have no excuse. The entire room has all my exercise stuff, and now I have no reason to resist the thing that my body needs. That was the plan.
Sorry, I must be human because I’m still resisting. I hardly ever go into the family room because we had to move the television and Jack’s chair into the living room. Now, I’m using the excuse that now there isn’t a television to watch. Guess what? When it was in the kitchen, there wasn’t a television. During exercising time, I usually read a children’s book. Since I write children’s books, I should be reading them. So what is my problem?
Beats me. I guess I’m not committed enough yet. This is something I have to do because later this year I have to walk on the treadmill for the doctor so I had better just get with it. I really have no idea why I’m not doing this because I know that I need to do it if I want to preserve my health. I’m eating healthy, just not doing the exercise part of this New Year’s Resolution.
Writing should also be a daily exercise. It’s something that is good for every writer. We might not want to do it, but it’s good for us.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Recently I read an excerpt from the book Curious? written by Todd Kashdan, Ph.D, that offers several suggestions on how to increase your happiness. This excerpt taught a concept I thought to be particularly pertinent for writers.
Very often we make wildly general statements about our abilities, or chance for success. We say things like “I’ll never make it as a writer until I can quit my job/my kids are grown/my spouse supports my dreams.” Our lists of excuses, or “never” statements, are as diverse as we are, and those lists can go on and on.
However, Dr. Kashdan suggests we can begin to make a change in such negative thinking by occasionally sprinkling in less immovable words, like “sometimes” or “maybe.” So we should say, “Maybe I can make it as a writer even while I’m working full time.”
The key here is believing. Happiness and believing in oneself are synonymous. We are not happy when we think our dreams are unachievable. However, if we can begin to sprinkle in these tiny suggestions of possibility—that perhaps we can be successful even in less-than-ideal circumstances—we will welcome more happiness into our lives.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
My friend issued a writing challenge for the month of January. Like other writing challenges I resisted signing up. However, I started writing the sequel to my WIP and after seven days I have 6420 words.
To be fair, I plotted the book in December, before I started. I made research notes and I know where the story is going, but I started writing a week ago. On top of that, I am editing and re-writing my WIP. I was able to spend about seven hours yesterday on re-writes, and I feel wonderful today. I'm still not in the challenge, but I could be.
Writing is an interesting occupation. I got a phone call the other day from one of my writing friends. I'd just returned from the public library, and I’d checked out a few books. My friend asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was reading a list of baby names.
After a brief period of laughter, we noticed how interesting it was, that a writer would immediately conclude I was looking for names for my characters, not expecting a bundle of joy in my life.
Yes, we writers are an interesting bunch, and there are more of us each day. I picked up a bad habit recently. I eves drop on computer screens as I walk past them in the library. Many of those screens show a page full of manuscript, and I walk away, hoping I’ll finish mine first. Yes there is competition, but isn’t it fascinating that even with that competition, writers are more than happy to lend support to other writers?
I’ve attended a few book launch parties lately, and I watch my friends get publishing contracts. Some of them are so talented, they’ve found success in a fraction of the time I’ve spent, but I’m thrilled for them.
You might say. “Sure you are, but how do you really feel?”
My answer is of course I’m jealous, but my friends have stuck by me during some very low moments. They gained my love and loyalty the hard way. Therefore, I am thrilled.
There is advantage, however, to being the last unpublished writer in your critique group. I get to attend book launch parties and learn how to do them. I get to learn about publishing contracts and what to do after you sign one. More importantly I get to associate with the best writers in the field.
When I first got the urge to write, I pulled out a manual typewriter, and started banging away. I told a story that was in my heart, but having done poorly in school, my manuscript was terrible, and I never showed it to anyone.
Later, while working a stressful job, I came back to it. This time it was to relieve the pressure, but after I finished, I wanted my manuscript to be good. I wanted it to touch lives, but it sucked. Don’t get me wrong, the story was great. It was just written poorly.
Since then, I’ve spent thousands of hours in the pursuit of an acceptable manuscript. But when I’m in the zone, when I get caught up in the urgency of telling a story, then I remember why I started writing.
The other day, while writing the sequel, I imagined a character arguing with me. I’ve been writing about the protagonist and her developing feelings for a mother figure in her life. The other character comes to me and says. “It’s not fair. Why don’t you write about me? After all, I’m the real daughter, and I should get more of the story.”
Yes, we writers are an interesting bunch. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.
Friday, January 08, 2010
I finally got to watch the movie Julie and Julia this week with my family. Having grown up watching Julia Child and her cooking show, I have been anxious to watch the movie and see how it compared.
I was really impressed (except for the ending)—I loved the movie and now want to read the book.
My children all turned to me and said, "Mom! You could write a cooking blog." Sigh. I've already tried that. I'm sure there are people out there who will still make money from the blogging world, but I think the initial fascination with it has waned. I think in order to have a large following you have to be able to write with more humor than I'm capable of, and have an interesting life. Both of which I suffer a distinct lack of.
This doesn't keep me from writing, however. In fact, I have four blogs. There's this blog about writing, and my personal one called Musings From an LDS Writing Mom, where I talk about my personal life, writing and art. I have one for cooking, which is Frugal Mom, Gourmet Wannabe, where I put recipes that I like, and then a political one called Stupid is as Stupid does where I gripe when things get too frustrating with regard to our government.
This blog is a weekly commitment. I'm fine with that, I've had experience with trying to come up with two blogs a week and it was too much. My other blogs are when I feel like it. Those who are followers know that I'm sporadic at best. I used to not worry about it too much, because there weren't that many followers, and only a few commented. If you have seen the movie, there's a part where she says she wonders if anyone even reads her blog, besides her mother. I know that feeling. My family doesn't read mine, so I don't worry too much about what I say. I am also very careful not to mention names or ages or where we live. Have I mentioned that my husband is a computer tech and hates the internet? ’Nuff said.
Anyway -- once you see the movie, though, you get the itch. Anyone who has blogged knows what I mean -- the itch to write on a blog and share your thoughts with the void. Her inspiration was Julie Child. My inspiration has been the written word.
So, I'm going to start again. Part of the reason I wanted to see the movie was for the food. I love to cook. Much like Julia Child, one of my favorite things is eating. Food is an addiction, unfortunately one that I cannot fully be rid of.
My family suggested I catalog my weight loss efforts and the recipes I use and alter. (I rarely use a recipe.) That's something I can deal with, and perhaps it will help cement the changes I'm making for the future.
Who is your inspiration? Was there someone in particular that brought out the writer in you? Perhaps this is the month of new beginnings after all.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Finally, after months of having it on my list of things to read, I got around to finishing The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire. All I can say is, WOW! It’s disturbing, and intriguing, and…even romantic in places. But the bottom line is this is the kind of series that really, truly makes a person think.
In fact, since I started reading it, I’ve been thinking so hard about the whole concept that it’s kept me awake at night. Yeah, I know, pathetic, right? Or not.
Setting aside that this series is done in first person present tense—which was unusual until the last few years and is extremely difficult to pull off no matter how good of a writer you are—the way Suzanne Collins portrayed these characters, this world, and the whole situation, is so well written that it feels real enough to give me nightmares.
Yeah, nightmares. Because the entire story feels so freakishly real. And if it were real, what a frightening place and time to live. It’s enough to start a rebellion…
Right about now, I’m very tempted to discuss some things about the plot and characters, but I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it. All I will say is that I’d like to start a campaign to save *&^%# (not telling who, or I’ll give it away). Because I believe something about this person is very crucial to the ending of the entire series. Please! I know it can be done. (And if any one of my author friends is lucky enough to get their hands on an ARC of the next in the series, I’d like to be first in line to borrow it—unless I find some way to get my own. Suzanne? Let’s be friends!)
Enough about that. I actually do have a point besides praising the books. Reading this series has once again brought to mind several questions about my writing. Will what I’ve written get under the reader’s skin until they’re itching to read it over again just to make sure they understand it right? (Which I did with Catching Fire.) Will it affect their sleeping habits and keep them awake at night by the very reality of the fictional concept? (Probably part of the reason I haven’t slept well all week.) Will my characters stay in the readers’ heads for weeks after they’ve put the book down? (As I’m sure these characters will stay in mine.)
Or maybe I should combine all the questions into one, big, all-important point. Will what I’ve written change the way my readers think or feel or act? Will it affect their lives for the better?
I’m not saying everything we write needs to be this way. We can’t always write about dark, heavy, spiritual, or life-changing themes. But everything we write can potentially affect someone. Or many people. The question is will it be for the better? We, as writers, have the ability to inspire deep thought in our readers. What will we do with that gift?
It doesn’t matter if our audience is a little child with a picture book, or an adult reading complicated fiction, or nonfiction, or anything in between. The whole point of writing, and reading for that matter, is to voice what's in our hearts and heads and bring about an understanding of those thoughts.
What are your feelings? If you can potentially make one point that changes the world, or the people in it, what will that one point be?
Give it some thought, and have a great week.
Until next time, write on.
**Warning. I will not be around this week to answer questions or comment on comments, but I will be reading them, and I really want to know. Maybe your comment will spark a new blog topic in a couple weeks.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The first thing on my agenda for this year’s resolutions is to expand my horizons. I’m not sure if this means that I’m to increase my horizons or to work on developing them.
I have always loved quotes by Mark Twain and think this somehow fits here.
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
This year I’m planning to travel with one of my daughters. We haven’t completed the plans yet, but they are underway. While I’m gone, I’ll explore and do lots of investigating for stories already started. There will be plenty of time to dream as well as discover new things.
I’m going to try other types of writing and see where that takes me. I love doing different things – I always want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. I hate doing the same things over and over. Different to me is good.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
I recently pledged my support to help a local Utah editor start a new fantasy/sci-fi publisher. Starting January 1st, this new publisher is now seeking submissions for "multicultural fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults."
Check them out HERE.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Recently I had two experiences that in tandem opened my eyes to where I am now as a writer and from whence I have come.
My husband, David, who started this writing journey with me—we both finished our first books on New Years Eve a few years ago—is reconsidering his decision to give up writing. He quit two years ago when I invited him to join my first critique group. We were hard on him, and he wasn’t ready yet, his writing too tender and fresh to face the harsh storm of critiquing.
Next, a friend of mine, who wants to be a writer, read one of my manuscripts. She came away feeling sad because she “could never write like [me].”
I remember the first critiques I got—how they made me feel sick to my stomach, made me cry, and made me doubt. You often hear how writers need to have thick skin, but what you don’t always hear is that writers aren’t usually born with that thick skin. We get it like an athlete builds calluses—from constantly exposing ourselves to judgment and growing tougher because of it. But you definitely have to be in the right frame of mind, to be mentally prepared for such lashings.
I also remember—particularly because it wasn’t too long ago—that I read a friend’s soon-to-be-published manuscript and finished it both incredibly pleased for my friend for writing such a fantastic book, and utterly depressed because I couldn’t imagine writing anything that good. However, now it seems the tables have turned, and my own writing is evoking such responses in would-be authors.
I realized, in consoling my friend and encouraging my husband, that the manuscript my friend read is one that’s been through at least ten major revisions. It stank to the high heavens in versions one-through-nine. Perhaps, now, at version ten, it’s finally starting to look its age, finally starting to make heads turn. But it certainly wasn’t born that way.
All of these experiences have brought me to a point where I can honestly say, with pride of ownership, that I am a writer, nay, I am an author. And I can also say with true sincerity, that anyone can do it as long as they’re willing to do the work and never, ever, give up.
You just need to try. You need to not give up. You need to get to a place where you are ready and able to hear and withstand the criticism of experienced writers. Then, you need to be willing and able to take what will help you move your story forward, and incorporate it. That means rewriting. Revising. And then you do it again.
So far, I’ve yet to write a novel that has reached completion. Until a manuscript is published, I imagine it can always be improved. I think this is the mark of a successful writer—because I do intend on being successful—to never stop seeking to improve our work.
No matter where you are in your writing journey, rest assured someone else has been there before you and gone on to great success. I’m happy that David has decided to step back into the game—I’m proud of him for not giving up on his dream. Hang in there and you’ll be successful too.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
After hearing it quoted from, I asked for the book, Outliers for Christmas. According to the author, studies indicate 10,000 hours is the magic amount of practice required to master a skill to the point of excellence.
Of course the amount of talent possessed is a factor. Desire is certainly necessary, but ten thousand hours is the number. If we write 4 hours a day, and 6 days a week. That’s 2500 days, 416.667 weeks, and a little more than 8 years.
Let’s see, I’ve been dabbling in writing, really, since before my mission. Then I got more serious about it. I accepted it as an occupation in . . . Since then, I’ve written for about four hours a day, on average. Yep, I figure I’ve reached my ten thousand-hour mark and I can expect a contract anytime.
Are you laughing yet? Yes there is merit in practice, and I think I’m getting better, but it’s like everything else in life, once you learn something, you discover so much more you don’t know.
Before you, or I, get discouraged, remember, I said that talent and desire, are factors. Also, belief in one’s self, will get you published. We’ve all heard stories about authors who put in their ten thousand hours after being published. And there are far more, who got where they are through determination and hard work.
There is a famous quote that states. “Whatever a mind can conceive, and believe, it can achieve." Lately, I’ve become convinced of this, but I’ve also learned to depend on a higher power.
We can do it, you and I. I’ve never heard it said this way, but JK Rowling put in her ten thousand hours escaping the reality of being a divorced mother on welfare, into a world of wizards and magic. She was determined to get past rejection, and finally she had the right book at the right time, in the right place. Do you see a higher power at work here?
The Sorcerers Stone is a good story but not that well written. After more practice, (another ten thousand-hours), Rowling improved, the writing got better.
Keep practicing and plan for the day you sign that contract. Good luck with your writing---see you next week.
Friday, January 01, 2010
People tend to get a little crazy around this time of year. I know that I look at the calendar differently, excited for a new year to begin, (usually) and the old year to go away with all its trials and frustrations. Some years haven't been as bad, but I'm generally ready to leave it all behind.
Hopefully everyone realizes it's all psychological -- It's all in our minds. There wasn't really a difference between yesterday and today. There is no cosmic calendar that gets turned over while the angels gaze at the new days with wonder.
Calendars are the way man came up with to gauge/mark time. To manipulate and deal with the space of light between morning and night. I ponder on the human need for change when the seasons come around, and I recognize the need within myself.
I love the change of the seasons, and am usually ready for each change. Winter gets old, with the cold and the snow and the shorter days. Spring is exciting with the new flowers, bright colors and promise of new birth. Summer is a time when I'm too warm and wish there were a swimming pool in my back yard, and then Fall is my favorite with the changing leaves, cooling temps and promise of winter with snow.
I used to spend New Years Eve writing in my journal, catching up on the year (if I haven't been as faithful in writing) and pondering the days. I wasn't a popular girl and didn't have loads of dates, so I had lots of time on my hands.
Now that I'm married with children, we usually stay home because we don't have tons of friends who like to party. We have a family party, eat snack foods, play games and stay up to watch the ball drop, drink sparkling cider and then drop in bed.
I gave up on making New Year resolutions a long time ago. I never saw the benefit in them, and I generally broke them within a month or two. I figure that's a waste of time and effort. As I've grown older, I've seen the wisdom of making and keeping goals. Since that's done throughout the year, I don't see the new year as any different.
I do have goals for this new year though. I have a goal of editing my NaNoWriMo entry and getting my proof copy. I want to finish the editing of my critique group story and get it submitted. And, I promised my hubby I would work on and finish a different story this year. So...I have lots to do, plenty to work on.
Welcome to the New Year!! It's a whole New Day.