Thursday, June 30, 2011

If You Haven’t Heard

by Cheri Chesley

This summer, I am doing what I can to help my friend, Rebecca, raise money to pay her cancer bills. She's having another surgery Friday (tomorrow), and she's a bit worried about it. You can read more about it on her BLOG. I also have an update on my BLOG.

What I'm doing is a more direct way of using one's writing to help others. I think, when we think of our writing helping others, we think of the impact the words we write may have on someone who reads them. You know--all we have to do is reach ONE person, and we've done a great thing.

I'm already looking ahead to the end of August, and hoping I've done all I can. Like most people, I'm always going to be concerned that I missed something and could have done more. But, this is one thing--and I'm just starting out as a writer. I have another plan in the works, a more long-term goal, and that feels pretty good, too.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Show, Not Tell

By C. LaRene Hall

This workshop was taught by Annette Lyon. As usual, her workshop was very informative and one I was glad I attended.

Annette started off telling us that showing is so many things, and the word was can be a red flag of not showing.

What is telling? The writer interprets events, feelings and more for the reader. They assume the reader isn’t smart by telling them – Here’s the way it is.

What is showing? Planting clues for the reader. Give them evidence. Trust the reader to figure it out.

Result: The reader experiences everything with the character.

Telling: The most boring climax ever. You need details or you are cheating the reader.

Micro showing can help you create the macro event.
#1 The 5 senses = Sight + at least one per page that is not sight. Touch, Taste, Sound, or Smell.
#2 – The movie camera – Facial expressions, small actions and gestures, setting, other details such as clothing, weather, walls, furniture, etc. If we can’t see where we are, we can’t experience it. Movie camera tip – cause & effect. Show the event before the reaction.
#3 – Thoughts & Emotions.
#4 – Specificty – where you are not saying what it is, you are describing what it is. Avoid words that could mean lots of things.

Macro showing is a much bigger picture.
#5 – Put us in the scene. Show the action or place, without saying what it is.
#6 – Character – Exact same place but experiencing different things. Reveal what they consistently do, say, react to (and how) and value.
#7 – Dialogue in scene. Do not do info dump. Watch out for – as you know.
#8 – Cause & Effect – Point of View – every character has their own way of seeing things. Whose lens are we showing the story through? How would the story be different from another lens? Pick the right lens. (Who has the most to lose?) Stick with that lens in a scene.

Head hopping is hard for a reader to follow. Don’t let the POV intrude! POV Intrusion is not your friend. Waters-down showing and turns showing into telling.
Watch for ed words and saw.

Next week I am going to tell you about the class I attended that was taught by Tristi Pinkston.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Language Changed

By Keith N Fisher

I received the gift of a DVD for father’s day. I had not sought to see the movie. After all, it is a remake of a classic John Wayne western, and I thought it had been done well enough the first time. Did you notice the lack of contractions in those sentences?

The movie I’m speaking about is True Grit with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. My gift intrigued me though, because I liked John Wayne’s version, but Jeff Bridges has also been a favorite actor of mine. I wanted to see the new version.

Jeff did a great, although different, job. One example, (spooler alert here), when the character falls down from exhaustion, just short of his goal, after trying to save Matte’s life, he laments his getting old. I’ve never been in that situation but I understand the lamentation. Jeff did a wonderful job of portraying those feelings and many other truisms the character faces.

I liked the movie. It made me cry. The feelings of compassion and camaraderie expressed are marvelous and it made me want to read the book. I never had that desire before.

I think one of the reasons for that, however, is the lack of contractions. While watching the film, it doesn’t take long to realize the dialog is all in proper, or formal, English with a few nineteenth century words thrown in. The language seemed strange at first. Kind of like all the Thine’s & Thee’s in a movie about Quakers. After a while, I accepted the lack of contractions as the way they talked during the time period. I’m given to understand the book was written that way, so I plan to read it.

The experience left me wondering about the evolution of the English language. An old adage I grew up with, came to mind, “Ain’t, ain’t a word and you ain’t supposed to say it.” Now, many of us use it all the time in our speech. I use it in my writing.

Also, members in my critique group are constantly correcting, and updating my words. They find language in my manuscript that just isn’t used anymore. It’s my nineteen sixties childhood showing again.

In my curiosity about nineteenth century speech patterns, I found a list of common words used back then that you might find interesting. Click here. The list illustrates my point. To explain further, I’ve read that the New York Times used to ban all contractions from the publication. In my manuscript, I constantly put them in at the request of my critique group.

It’s true. Language patterns change over time. Therefore, the words we use can resonate differently, depending on who reads them.

In the case of True Grit, I have to say it was refreshing to see the slime ball criminal using respectful language, but there is a problem. Every character needs to be an individual. It’s not advisable to give them all the same traits, because the reader won’t be able to distinguish between them. They can’t all use the same speech patterns because not everyone gets the same education or upbringing.

Also, there were many slime balls back then, who spoke from the gutter. Nevertheless, there were ways of talking trash while still using the speech patterns of the time. Case in point: Rooster Cogburn.

There is much written on the subject of dialect in writing. Everyone suggests using it sparingly. It can confuse the reader and bog the story down. If that’s true, I wonder about using time period language as well.

In writing, we research facts, making sure of accuracy. Should we use correct speech patterns, too? One of the reasons I don’t like gothic novels is because of the language, but should my research include speech? Can I tell a nineteenth century old west, story using modern, English dialog and remain true to the research?

A while back, I was encouraged to take the nineteen seventies language out of a book set in the time period. Since I lived then, I remember the language, but like the problem with dialects, readers might stumble over it. I took it out. I keep putting contractions in for the same reason.

In the case of the Movie, the director claims, “It’s the way people spoke in those days.” There are, however, others who claim they’re wrong. Click here. Also, some critics point out the book was written from the point of view of a middle aged woman who spoke that way. I would suggest they look at the Rooster Cogburn character. He spoke without contractions but still managed to use colorful speech.

I’m interested to hear what you think. Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Spaces

by G.Parker

(reprint from 2006)

There are two questions that I think all of us need to ponder at some point in our writing careers.

The first is: Where do you write?

I have found that the best place for me to write is sitting at my desk at home, gazing out over my large backyard of freshly mowed grass with the willow tree waving in the wind and the apple tree in full bloom. Okay, so the dandelions are in full bloom too, but hey, it’s a nice contrast to the green!

The point is, I can write just about anywhere. My favorite place just happens to be at my home desk. It’s a little harder to get lost in the storyline when I’m in a crowded airport or doctor’s office, but I get there eventually. I also do great writing at work when I don’t have anything else to do. (um, I hope no one at work reads this…)

The second is: Do you keep track of your ideas and file things away? Or, in other words, are you an organized person?

I have to be the first to admit NO to both of those–but I’m learning! I am finding it a distraction if I have piles of papers on my desk that need to be taken care of. However, the longer those piles sit there, the easier it is to ignore them! What I’m asking you to think about is where do you keep your story ideas? All the thoughts that are scribbles on napkins, the backs of receipts, pieces of your child’s construction paper, wedding reception envelopes, or in my daughter’s case, large spiral notebooks–where have you put them? All in one big pile on your desk where you can lose them? Stuffed in your purse or backpack where they get lost in no-man’s-land? Filed in your PDA and never downloaded to your computer?

Those are the precious gems that just might end up being your first published work! I’ve had several story ideas disappear simply because I didn’t have a chance to write them down, or lost them when I did. I’ve also lost ideas just because I couldn’t remember how I’d saved them on the computer. . .but let's not go there.

Organizing story ideas can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. All you need is a file folder (hopefully ALL of you have filing cabinets) and a label: Writing Ideas. Then you could have folders inside for how you want them separated, like plots, ideas, outlines, etc. Even if you have things saved on the computer I would recommend having hard copy in a file somewhere. You can never be too careful.

Initially I didn’t care if that part was organized–I hate filing and would toss things in there just to get onto something else–but I have since discovered the wisdom of organization. So, you’d have to make that choice. It comes down to how long you want to spend sorting through all those papers looking for something you vaguely remember putting away.

After all, how long do you want to take to find a plot outline you did last summer? You know, the perfect story involving a monkey, a jar of peanut butter and your neighbor’s kid? I mean, it’s a best seller in the making, isn’t it? Just where did I put that?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


by Cheri Chesley

Summer is an especially difficult time for me to write. I have no *place* to go to do the work required, and my concentration is shot with the kids all home. It's not that I've taken on any new projects, I'm just trying to catch up from what I didn't get done during the school year.

But, lately, there's more to it than that. For one thing, in May a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. For information what I'm doing to help out, you can click HERE to read my blog. I'm not in any way trying to detract from her struggle, but her diagnosis has changed me in ways I did not think possible.

I also have several members of my extended family facing difficult health and personal issues. Maybe I'm too much of a softie, but I find myself frequently preoccupied by my concern for them. There's a lot here I have to trust in the Lord, but it's not easy for me. I'm working on it. :)

Because of everything, I've felt my writing focus trickle away. I've been doing a lot of personal evaluation and reflection trying to get it back. I really believe this is journey we all take in one form or another as writers. There are real life issues that come up in each of our lives that will affect us, change us, or help us grow. Sometimes these things take time to adjust to.

Things will shift into focus and all will be well. I have faith in that. I also know that, whatever the Lord's plan is with my loved ones, His will be done. Like most of us, though, I'm always going to wish I can do more. Sometimes it's just hard to stay focused on what you're supposed to be doing at a certain season in your life when so many big things are crumbling around you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Hero/Family Relationship in Middle Grade and Y/A

by C. LaRne Hall

This is going to take a few more weeks to be able to tell you about the writing classes I attended at the Storymakers conference the beginning of May. Today I'm starting on the classes that I took on Saturday. The first one was taught by Tyler Whitesides. This class made me stop and think about the things that my writing is missing.

Class Objective – analyze the relationship that exists between your protagonist and the adults in your manuscript and learn how to deal with parents or guardians while staying true to your hero’s character.

Fantasy novels often benefit from the absence of parents cluttering up the story. The child protagonists in such stories often engage in adventures and feats which no sane parent would permit; leaving the parents out of the story prevents these complications.

“A dead parent is one fewer character to have to write. When authors omit parents for the sake of convenience, I take issue because a convenient story is not the same as a good story.” by Leila Sales

Who is responsible for your protagonist? There is almost always an adult responsible. Who? It could be parents, relatives, and legal guardians, and caregivers, institutions such as orphanage or boarding school. The adults could be abusive, neglectful, incapable, disbelieving, overly busy, unintelligible, inarticulate, supportive, positive, or overly involved.

Your Hero
Age – How does this age affect his/her feelings towards adults?
Place in family – oldest – youngest – only-child – orphan. How does this affect him/her?
What are some of your hero’s personality traits? Is your hero shy – outspoken – mischievous – truthful? How does this affect his/her interactions with adults?
Background/experiences – betrayed – neglected – spoiled. What background/experiences has your hero had that may affect the way he/she views adults?

The Caregivers
Personality of the adult responsible for your hero in your manuscript – are they controlling – lax – paranoid? What are some of the caregiver’s personality traits? How does this affect your hero?
Background/experiences – personal childhood – personal mistakes – imposed aspirations.
Responsibilities – money – work – housing. What responsibilities does the caregiver have? How does this affect your hero?

Bypassing Adults – parents are involved in the story – child lies to/deceives parents (it has to be in the protragonist personality) – child tells adults, but they don’t listen. This will lend credibility to your story. Maybe there are no adults in the story at all – it’s a setting in a parent-free environment. It could be a place unknown or unreachable by adults or the parents are under a spell.

If you understand the relationship/interactions between your hero and the adults it will give more realism to your story. At the end of the story, your protagonist has to be the hero, whether or not adults are there. When all the action is coming together have the kids in danger and have them save the day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I Choose to Write---It's What I Do

By Keith N Fisher

Within a year after we were married, my wife and I moved into a small house with a fairly good sized yard. We wanted the privacy that living in an apartment couldn’t provide. We also wanted to entertain our friends and families with backyard parties.

Since the house had been a rental for many years, the tenants hadn’t taken care of the yard. Maybe you can imagine some of the problems I had revitalizing the vegetation. Not the least of which, were the two overgrown apple trees.

I believe those trees were from the original stock when the land was an orchard, before the turn of the century. When I moved in, I started a rigid program of pruning and shaping that eventually produced some of the largest Red Delicious apples I’ve ever seen.

One of my reasons for leaving the apartment was to grow a vegetable garden. So, I removed a huge block of grass and filled the space with topsoil. I was proud of the vegetables I grew. Each winter, I started seeds under fluorescent lights. People still ask about my peas every spring and whether I got my tomatoes planted.

Along with the garden, I worked on the house too. In one project, I remodeled the living room using scrap wood paneling and installed a wood-burning stove my dad built. I replaced a window with a sliding glass door that opened up on the redwood deck I built. The deck had several tiers and long angles that took careful planning and precise calculation to make it look right.

Living in a one and one-half bedroom house was okay for the two of us, but we wanted a family so I planned a second floor. Of course, in order to build it, I needed to beef up the practically non-existent foundation. Those plans led to my digging a basement, by hand, under the house. I’ve written about that project before, but I never mentioned the benefits.

During the winter, when I couldn’t work in the garden, I came home from work, ate dinner, and climbed into the hole. I dug for hours with pick and shovel. There were many times I wished for some dynamite to loosen the hard pan.

Although it was many years ago, I still think about those days and wonder how I ever found the time for all my projects. I realize, however, that I didn’t do much else. When I wasn’t making a living, or working on a project, I planned and plotted. I thought about where to plant tomatoes next season, or how to build the deck extension.

I was lost in my thoughts, but there were benefits to all that contemplation. The stress relief was healthy, but the scheming made difficult jobs easier. When it came time to actually do the project, I’d already built it in my mind and I knew exactly where to begin.

Now, we live in a different house. Gardening seemed to take a backseat to Dutch oven cooking competitions. Dutch ovens gave way to my writing career and my weed patch is doing nicely, thank you. I’m still busy plotting and planning. Characters need to be drafted and articles need to be researched. I’ve re-set my priorities.

The strength I gathered from my projects has been replaced with the strength that comes from writing and it’s brought me through some hard times. Before his health went bad, my father was my conspirator. He helped me with many of my backyard projects. When he died of cancer, my writing took me away from the reality of the hospital room. I even shared some of it with him. He said he was proud.

Some of my friends and family think I’m wasting my time writing. They see my tilled under weed patch and lament the gardens I used to grow. What should I say to them? Should I say anything?

Like gardening and remodeling, writing has become more than therapy for me. It’s a way of life. I admit discouragement at times and maybe I am a little crazy, but have you ever listened to them?

The ATV enthusiast can’t wait to tell you about the latest, sweet ride. The snow-boarder speaks another language and risks his life on that perfect maneuver. I know Dutch oven people who spend a whole year planning for a five-hour event and all they get from it, is a pat on the back. There are myriad ways people use to cope. Each one is more than a hobby to the enthusiast.

I could be working in my garden, or rebuilding cars. I could go golfing everyday, or even fishing. I choose to write. Its what I do.

If you choose the same, don’t let the skeptics dissuade you. Hang in there and keep writing. It will save your sanity.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Imagine Your Words

by G.Parker

(reprint from 2006)

Imagination is a powerful thing.

All it takes is a couple of words and your mind can call up images that fit what someone is describing. Memories help conjure up those pictures—they make your memories part of what someone is trying to describe. So, in a way, how we read something and picture it in our heads, depends on what we have seen and done in our lives.

Descriptions are probably the strongest tool to pull someone into your writing, provided you don't over do it. (Editors will constantly tell you something is too "wordy.") Setting the stage or scene doesn't take a lot of detail, just hints of things. Let the imagination of the person reading work for you.

Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort and sometimes it just comes to you. For example—while I was driving one day images of the fog surrounding me started words going through my mind. They evolved and intermixed until the beginning of a story came to me. It ended up like this:

The mist, settling into the low-lying meadow, blanketed the trees and caused them to become ghostly images in grey light. Drops hung from bare branches like globes of crystal, perfect in reflection--yet clinging, afraid to fall. All sound was muted, as if the mist was a giant quilt silencing the creatures that lived in the meadowlands.

Hopefully that gave you a picture of the scene in your head—it is one of the reasons you write. This is what you want to give your readers.

Creating images and thoughts in the mind of the reader is the sign of a good writer. You can do it. Go practice.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Love Castle

by Cheri Chesley

No, not THAT Castle, silly. This one.

I admit it, I'm a late bloomer. We're three seasons into it before I even get around to seeing an episode. But I'm having a great time getting caught up. The writing is crisp and intelligent (mostly). The cast has great chemistry. Sure, you know from the get-go that the handsome author and the beautiful detective will eventually end up an item, but it will still be fun to watch the ride.

Why is a blog about writing talking about a TV show, you may ask? One of the things I enjoy most about the show is the "writer" tie-ins. You may have seen James Patterson doing his own commercials to promote his newest books, but it's fun to see him on Castle sitting at a poker table with a bunch of other authors. And I appreciated the recently viewed tribute to the late Stephen J. Cannell, where a newbie showed up at the poker game and all the regulars wouldn't let him sit in Cannell's chair.

I especially like the fact that you can buy the fictional author's real books. Click HERE if you don't believe me. What a hoot! Not to mention a great gimmick for ABC.

Hopefully, by the time the new season starts this fall, I'll be all caught up. No spoilers, please! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Open Your Book with a Bang – Kaboom

By C. LaRene Hall

The last class I attended on Friday at the writers conference was taught by Lisa Mangum. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and she gave me many good ideas.

How memorable is the first line?

The harsh truth – editors care so much about the first line that they will make a decision on that first line – your first sentence should be the greatest thing you have ever written. Please do not paint yourself into that corner or books would only be one sentence long.

What can you do for your first line? The first page is important, but not necessary the first line. Editors will usually read the first page. Beginings are hard for everyone.

Do this
1. Do start with a prologue if your story needs it. Prologue moves the plot – the pros of a prologue. Prologues can be good. Don’t be afraid of them. They can help set the mood, tone, or theme of your book; Please don’t treat it as a place to dump your back story or clog it with exposition. Is this strong enough to do it’s job or should this be the first chapter. The shorter it is the better.

2. Showcase something special about your story on the first page. Allow your character to be heroic. Find some instance where he can exhibit a good quality to show your character. Hint at a mystery yet to come. Reveal strong voice. Strong voice on first page they will turn the page. Extend invitation to reader to continue to read.

3. Do review your first page after writing your last page.

4. What’s the first thing you do when you finish reading a book? I often go back to see where it all began. By waiting to revise your first page until after you have finished writing your last page, you’ll be able to see clearly, what needs to be changed.

5. Do you think about your book as a whole. Your book is more than the pages in it. Consider the packaging as well. What’s the first thing you read in a book? Title? Author? Jacket copy? Endorsements? Do you read the first line of chapter one?

6. Prepare them to love your book.

7. Covers are important.

8. Do pay attention to your first page.

9. Don’t try to tell your whole story in the first line. Don’t rush it.

10. Don’t start in the wrong spot – start on the day in the story when everything changes. If you start the action too soon, you might end up with too much exposition.

11. If you start the action too late, you might end up missing the heart of the story.

12. Don’t obsess about the rules – rules are made to be broken. Start with what is going to pull the reader in. Do what is right for your story. Don’t feel pressured. Take a break. Set it aside and write something else. Gve yourself permission to move past the first page. Move past anything you are stuck at. You can come back to it later.

13. Don’t stress the job. Your first sentence is to make the reader read the second sentence.

I think all of these ideas are great and hope to someday become a better writer by listening to her good advice.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pet Peeves

By Keith N Fisher

What is your pet peeve? A friend of mine has one that makes sense, but only when I ponder it. It might be a regional thing, but have you ever noticed how many people answer “Good” when asked, how they are? This bugs my friend because he didn’t ask about behavior, he asked about physical or mental well being. To say “I’m good” indicates lack of sin.

I know, it’s a little thing, but if you think about it . . .

If I were to poll the responses to the question about peeves, I suppose a good portion of the answers would involve spam e-mail or something to do with automobile traffic. My latest peeve involves driving, or, more specifically, the road I travel twice a day.

For those of you familiar with Orem, Utah, you know there’s an interesting traffic situation at the corner of 1600 North and State Street. If you’re traveling south and wish to turn left at the light, there are two turning lanes.

The problem arises when the left lane disappears right after you turn. A car in that lane is forced to turn north or impose on the traffic in the right lane. To aggravate the situation, there is only one lane, and vehicles coming onto 1600 North at that point must yield to those cars traveling through. Many people don’t pay attention to the yield rule.

While ignoring a yield rule, ranks high on my peeve list, what really bothers me, is the turning lane off of State Street. Some drivers deliberately get around the line of cars in the right turning lane, waiting for the light to change. They think they’ve cleverly discovered a way of snaking a better position in traffic in a 35-mph zone where many cars travel 25.

Now, I can empathize with those who make the honest mistake. I’ve been there, done that, but it only takes one time, and you’ll never make that mistake again. It’s easy to see which ones know better, but choose to get into the left lane anyway. They line up like a dragster, hoping to beat the other car through the light. They shouldn’t have to worry however, since the arc of travel on the right is so wide, the left lane easily wins.

Okay, just like answering with “good” in my friend’s peeve, this is a little thing, but if I happen to get to the intersection first, my wait is longer. What makes the other driver think he has the right to circumvent the delay? Is he so arrogant that he assumes the law doesn’t apply to him?

Recently, I sat first in line, waiting for the light after work one morning. It seemed as though the light would never change, and I saw a truck in my rear view mirror. He pulled behind me, then made a quick lane change. At the line, he inched forward. I knew what would happen next.

My irritation rose, I plotted a very Un Christian like thing. When the light changed, I stepped on it. I made it through the arc trying to keep my speed, but in the end, his truck was more powerful than my mini-van. He floored it and left me in the dust.

I knew, that he knew, what he’d done because he quickly brought his speed up to 45-mph in order to get away from me. I know it was 45, because I was right behind him . . . uh maybe I shouldn’t tell you that.

Anyway, on the next block, he turned in front of a church. I shouted, “I hope you remember to tell your bishop about that maneuver!” Yes, I know he didn’t hear me. I also know, he’s already forgotten the incident. I’m glad for that, because it was stupid on my part. I need to take a deep breath and close my eyes . . . there, I feel myself letting go. Do you feel it, too?

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, there are rules to follow in the craft of writing fiction. Rules that, perhaps, weren’t followed in previous generations of published books. If you break those rules, like my friend in the truck broke traffic rules, you might get away with it. Your manuscript could get published. You might even self-publish, but if the rules were broken, someone will notice. It will cheapen your writing, and it might carry into your brand.

Take time to learn the rules. Apply them in your work, and use an editor. Your book will be better. You will come through the traffic of literature looking like a professional instead of an arrogant rule breaker. As for my writing, I'm getting better, but I'm still learning. As for my road rage . . . well, I promise thats the last stupid thing I'll do, ever.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Garden

by G.Parker

In a moment of introspection, I realized something this morning while I was watering my garden.  Writing is much like creating and maintaining a garden.  Have you ever given that some thought?

When you create a garden, there is the planning phase, the preparations, the planting, the maintenance and weeding and then the harvesting.  All of these aspects are similar to writing.

Usually in writing a story, there is the initial idea.  This generally turns out to be the plot, what the story get's built around.  Then you flesh it out.  This can be either in an outline, storyline, however you work it.  It gets you from the beginning to either the end, or the climax and you have to figure it out.  

Then it's the work.  That's the filler...chapter by chapter, line by line, you fill the pages with the story.  The characters, the scene, the dialogue.  That's the planting of the plants and then watering them.

Rewrites would be the weeding.  Going through and making sure the story flows, like watering the plants.  Until finally, you reap rewards in harvesting the items you planted, or seeing someone actually read your work.  And like it.  And want to publish it.  

Seeing your book in print is like the best harvest festival ever held.

Just this past Monday a good friend had a book signing event with several other authors at a local bookstore.  It went smashing, from what I understand, and when I was there, there were loads of people, all picking up copies of the books.  It was an awesome garden.

What kind are you planting?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Book is Always Better

by Cheri Chesley

We've all had the experience of sitting in a movie theater eagerly awaiting the start of a movie based on a beloved novel--only to be disappointed in the end. At some point, we've forgotten the phrase "based on" that they attach to every movie-from-a-book project.

What I find interesting is the regularity in which movies are made from books these days. A lot of people I talk to about my book ask whether there will be a movie. I've even had someone volunteer to be one of the characters. :)

But I'd like to explore the other side of the coin. We're such a visual society, and yet I've almost never heard a person say they enjoyed the movie more than the book. I find this super-awesome, because to me it means people are happier creating the fantasy of a story in their minds rather than being content having movie makers translate it for them on the big screen.

I have to say there have been several movies made from books that I've enjoyed a lot, but only if I take the "from the book" aspect out of the equation. As long as I can keep the two separate, then I can enjoy each. My husband has a harder time if he reads the book first, so he's happier if he can see the movie first (complicated, in most cases, since by definition the book has to come first--but it has worked).

When you think about it, this puts a larger emphasis on books than ever before. Movie makers are looking to recently published works--and public response to them--for their next idea. It's nice to think authors can still make a difference, though, have you ever wondered what's wrong with Hollywood that they can't come up with their OWN ideas? :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


By C. LaRene Hall

The fourth class I attended at the writer's conference was taught by Liz Adair. She is an amazing presenter and I learned a great deal. Remember the things I'm posting are the things I heard in the class. That is with the exception of all the laughter.

When the trouble is gone, the story is over. This quote and many other points in this presentation are taken from Les Edgerton’s book Hooked.

1. The character struggles to resolve the surface and story-worthy problems and restore his stability.

2. A new stability is established in the conclusion, reflecting the change the protagonist has undergone as a result.

3. Stability + inciting incident = instability = stuggle to resolve instability = new stability

We need a sliver of the old stability. Your story is the struggle to resolve instability, and the surface problems. This struggle to resolve instability is where the surface problems (conflicts) are.

Surface problems = tight situations, looming disaster, conflicts, barriers, things that thwart the problem.

A story worthy problem, makes the difference between adventure – one conflict to another conflict. Nothing to linger – nothing to make you ponder, no story. The story worthy problem is what is going to make your story last.

As you plot your story focus on one scene.

Perhaps, the story worthy problem is discovered through working through surface problems.

Conflict can be broken up into smaller units. The whole book is made up of several scenes. A structure within a structure, but it always has conflict, an inciting incident, surface problems, or a story-worthy problem.

Protagonist enters the scene with a goal. The antagonist also enters the scene with a goal. The scene ends in disaster for the protagonist – reaction, dilemma, decision. Goal, Conflict, and Disaster.

Be aware that there are techniques that you can learn that will make you a better writer. While you’re writing, learn about them and apply what you can.

First just write.

Later, analyze the scene you have written. Is it a scene or a sequel? Or neither? If it is neither then you must find a way to make it one or the other or you must throw it away. If it is a scene, verify that it has a goal, a conflict, and a disaster. Identify them each in a one-sentence summary. If you can’t put the scene into one of these structures, then throw the scene away as the worthless piece of drivel that it is. Get rid of it. Each conflict as well as each goal for each scene must arise organically out of the conflict.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Another Project

By Keith N Fisher

I wrote a scene this morning for my Star Crossed book. It’s one of the many stories I’ve been working on. I believe I’ve mentioned my project file before and how full it is. In it, there are ideas and drafts for more books than I can write in my lifetime.

I’ve kept one of those projects on the back burner for a while now, but I’m bringing it forward because a good friend recommended I write a cookbook.

As a former world champion Dutch oven cook, and backyard party enthusiast, I always intended to produce a book with my recipes and advice. As one of the writers for Your LDS Neighborhood .com I blogged about the subject for more than a year. I still contribute to the blog, but with the upheavals in life, I’ve neglected it for a while.

As I said, I always intended to do a cookbook, but my fiction always took precedence. Now, I’m returning and I’m getting new ideas for recipes.

For the last day of school yesterday, my wife and I, cooked lunch for the faculty and staff of an elementary school. We made Dutch oven chicken enchiladas, sourdough bread, three kinds of cobblers, and a pineapple cake. They provided salad and the drinks. This traditional event has become second nature for us. We can be counted on to be in the same place, on the same day, every year.

During a quiet moment, between checking the pots, we reflected on some of the food we’ve cooked over the years for that event. I began to recall dishes I’ve created along the way. Many of which, I never wrote down. I invented a pile of recipes for Dutch oven cook offs that I never put on paper, and I created dinner from anything that happened to be available in the cupboard. In all my recollections I realized my cookbook will be full of crazy ideas that turned into great meals.

It’s been like that since I brought this project forward. Ideas hit me like solutions to plots in my fiction. I write it down and go back to what I was doing. Also, other things have been falling into place. My critique group loves the idea of me bringing a dish to taste for my weekly chapter, but we came up with a promotional idea that will knock your socks off. Not only will it help my cookbook but we will be launching and signing their fiction as well. I’ll give you more info later, but keep August 13 open.

Now with all this talk about cookbooks and recipes, you might be wondering about my fiction. Not to worry, The Hillside has been submitted and I’m waiting to hear back on it. The sequel is finished and edits are just beginning. Star Crossed is half written and I’m plodding along, developing ways of getting to the ending I’ve already written. I also have three other, hot stories on the front burners, waiting patiently for me to get back to them. Not to mention the rejected stories, I need to re-write.

I’m a busy writer and I work nights. Still, I love it when a new character wakes me up to tell me their story. I write it down along with the emotion that came with it, file it away, and pray God will let me live another fifty years so I can write the story.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Back to the Slush Pile

by G.Parker
Okay - perhaps it's not the slush pile, but it's the stack of stories that you've finished and set aside for a time when you can get to the re-writes.  You know what I mean, the stories that you finally typed 'the end' on, and don't want to look at for another minute because you'll toss the pages in the garbage.

I have several of these.  Many of them have already been through my critique group and I haven't been able to make myself do the rewrite.  Some people really like doing rewrites - I don't.  It takes up SO much time.  Time that could be used to do original writing - if that makes any sense.  I just have such a hard time with re-writes.  I keep thinking that I'm falling behind on the story I want to finish, and then when I finish it, I don't even want to think about reworking it.  Sigh.
I guess that's where discipline comes in.  And it's something I struggle with.  Just when I think I've got the daily thing down, family and work and stuff get in the way and I get side railed again.  Then, for some reason, it takes me forever to get back in the grove and I loose even more time.  I really think we need to look at the eternal perspective and think of how to work with no clocks hanging husband likes to remind me;  "time - a measurement of the immeasurable." 
Anyway - If you have a stash of stuff to work on like I do, this is the month to get it pulled out and get working on it.  If you're in the middle of something that is progressing well, then perhaps you need to wait.  But if you're only procrastinating because you hate the idea of what lies ahead...just jump in.  It's kind of like the cold water's a lot easier when you jump in rather than go a toe at a time.  
Or so I've heard...I've always been the toe person.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

When is it Enough?

by Cheri Chesley

As many of you know, I'm spending the summer promoting and selling my books and ebooks as much as I can to help a sweet friend with cancer. You can read about my efforts and find links to my books HERE. Also, Rebecca posted her gratitude in a comment--and it's nice to hear from her. She started chemotherapy last week, but as of now it doesn't look like she'll have to go through radiation. (little cheer here)

On Sundays, since she was diagnosed, I've stopped by her house to pick up her kids for church. Remember, it's been a roller coaster ride for her family since her diagnosis--surgery, dr visits, chemo. Sunday afternoon, my daughter came to me and said how Becky's daughter had rested her head on my daughter's shoulder through most of Primary and cried. She's afraid. Afraid for her mom. Afraid of the changes in her life, the uncertainty. Yet as I watched her with her two younger brothers in Sacrament meeting, she was so patient with them and so kind. Before she went to class, I hugged her and told her what a great big sister she is. Maybe I set her on her path to tears, but I didn't mean to. I just wanted her to know how wonderful she is and what a blessing she is to her family.

When I get ready for bed at night, I think to myself about the things I've done so far to promote and sell my books to earn money to help them. I also fret and worry about what I didn't do--what I can do. I never feel like I'm doing enough to help. I think about how such a diagnosis would change my life--how the simple realities of day to day concerns would change in a heartbeat. Her diagnosis has already changed me; I can't accurately imagine what it's done to her.

Currently, my worries are book publishing and editing, finding a permanent place for my family to live, getting our budget issues under control, and car problems. If I found a lump tomorrow, all that would change. Maybe I have an overactive imagination (maybe? ha!), but I would consider the range of possibilities, and I'd worry about the worst case scenario. Moms do this (I think dads do, too); we consider the impact on our family, our kids, if we weren't around anymore. If I died, what would that do to my kids?

Maybe I'm too sensitive to that particular worry. My father died when I was seven years old--I know how that affected me and watched how it affected my brothers. I'm a different person than I would have been if he'd lived.

I'm not a wealthy person, and I don't have an abundance of free time. If I did, I'd be anonymously paying all Rebecca's medical expenses and making sure she had all the comforts she and her family could stand. As it is, I am trying to sell my books this summer to give them the money. And, because it's for a cause larger than myself, I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want EVERYONE to know there is a way to help this sweet, wonderful family. Even if it means I have to shatter my comfort zone to do so.

What I'm not sure is whether I'll ever feel if I've done enough to help.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


by C. LaRene Hall

During the LDStorymakers writers conference, the Breakout #3 class that I attended was taught by Joshua J. Perkey, one of the senior editors for the Ensign magazine.

A reminder – my notes are just that – this is not from the class syllabus. If we jump all over that is because of the many questions asked.

Why write for the magazines?
1. It’s the coolest thing ever
2. To bear testimony to the world.
3. This really needs to be in the magazines.
4. To feel good about making an offering.

Curriculllum Department Mandate: Fill the Earth with the Knowledge of the Lord.
If you write for the Ensign, you will have a chance to have a great impact on the world. There are 900,000 subscriptions to the Ensign, 1.2 million subscriptions with the Liahona, and close to 300,000 to the New Era and Friend. The magazine is translated in up to 46 languages.

Our mission is
1. To bring souls unto Christ.
2. Strengthen testimonies.
3. Strengthen families and individuals.
4. Help parents be better parents.
5. Help spouses be better spouses

How to Beat 90% of the slush pile, and how to write for the magazines
1. Read, read, read the magazine.
2. You need to know what they publish. In The Friend they do true stories.
3. Study the magazine.
4. Know our style, tone, voice and approach.
5. Know the kinds of things we publish.

The magazine is designed to inspire. We aren’t looking for unusual writing. We’re looking for wonderful, compelling, and inviting stories that inspire others to change and come unto Christ. Study articles that are like the ones you would likely write. Look for similar stories that have been printed.

The biggest mistakes writers make:
1. Opening with, “Dear Brothers and Sisters.
2. Not crafting submissions as articles.
3. Sending us sacrament talks. Turn them into articles, first.
4. Getting preach. You can give advice but you can’t tell them what to do.
5. Using 2nd persons: If you do this . . . doesn’t usually work. My patriarchal blessing says . . . or I had a dream . . .
6. Expecting us to fix it for you.

What must every article have?
1. A hook.
2. A message.
3. A thesis statement.
a. Develop a Gospel Centered-Thesis.
b. You’ve got to have a purpose.
c. Why should the entire Church read this?
4. Consider the close line: what will you hang your story on? This should be apparent early on the first page, and should lead to inspiring experience.
5. Develop a story with conflict and resolution.

Write with magazine needs in mind. Review our calls for articles on the website. Features are longer articles. The back page in only one page long, and less than 500 words. We always need powerful articles that testify of the Savior, of this work, and of the Church. Just don’t hit us over the head with it. Use crisp, clear language. Don’t overwrite it’s not a literary journal. It needs to be doctrinally sound, grammatically solid, engaging, intriguing, and inspiring. We don’t do deep topics very often. We look for solid gospel sense. Don’t assume readers understand you.

Are you the right person to author the story? Are you an expert in a specialty field, counseling, parenting? Develop a personal voice within the constraints of the magazine’s voice.

Write an original article that is still relevant to the worldwide church. Pray, pray, pray. Involve the Lord. This is His work.

Ask: Why should the entire church read this? Is it universally applicable, or only relevant to me, my family, my ward, my stake?

So why should you write for the Church magazines?
1. We need you! The ensign receives about 400 submissions a month.
2. We need superior submissions. Everything you do affects someone. You have an impact.

Other magazine writing
1. Do your homework.
2. What do they publish?
3. What are they looking for?
a. Thesis, tone, style, voice.
b. Length, audience appropriate content, and word choice.
c. Arc: purpose, conflict, and resolution.
d. Be as polished as you can, and then follow up