Saturday, June 30, 2012

Place bookmark here . . .

By Keith N Fisher

I worked last night and didn’t get my blog written. I don’t have a title either. I suppose the world won’t end because I don’t post, but it might.

As we approach the two hundred and thity-sixth anniversary of the United States, let me wish you the best holiday ever. Hopefully, you will not get discouraged like I have. Try to see the good in the world and get along with your brothers and sisters. Everyone has differing opinions and beliefs.

Share a kindness with others and it will come back to you. May God bless those who’ve suffered loss during this early fire season. Be safe, have fun, and help others.

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Recharge the Batteries

by G.Parker

I was able to have a wonderful time with my husband this past week.  We spent a week without children (well, mostly - we did go to the Manti pageant together and they came up on Sunday and had dinner with us...what's up with that? lol).  It has been a long time since we've had that much time alone together.  I hadn't even realized it until we were packing, and I reminded him how long it had been.  We've had over night and weekend trips, which are wonderful sanity savers, but it had been a long time since we'd spent that much alone time.

We spent most of it with my writing, and him studying.  While that doesn't sound very romantic, just being together was great, and then doing walks and stuff during breaks was what made it a wonderful trip.  The weather was gorgeous, the room was comfy, and I actually got lots of writing done.  He didn't get quite as much studying as he would have liked, but it was definitely a benefit.

There comes a time when you have to recharge your batteries.  If all you do is work, there comes a point when the brain shuts down.  Even if it's not a 'job', you're still working.  And while some people don't have issues with that, I need breaks.  I need motivation.  I need sanity!  Grin.

I feel that this is especially important with writing.  We are continually working on our craft.  Where ever you are, whatever you are doing, writing is usually part of it.  So if you haven't thought about doing it, and are having problems with your current work-in-progress, perhaps you need a break.  From either writing or the rest of life to focus on writing.  Sometimes you need both!

But you'll find that once you get your batteries charged and come back refreshed, you'll get lots more done and feel much better about life in general.  I know I do!  Of course, another week away wouldn't hurt  Have a great week!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Do You Get Your Ideas?

I know it's not Tell The Truth Tuesday or anything, but I am going to make a small confession here: I like SOME chick flicks. Usually, the phrase "romantic comedy" can get me to watch something. There are plenty that I don't like, but there are some that I do.

One of my favorite chick flicks is actually not a romantic comedy. It is Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon. (Come on, it's Reese Witherspoon, how can you not like it?--Let's ignore that mess known as Legally Blonde 2.)

There are a few good lines in that movie. One of the most well known is when Victor Garber's character says to Luke Wilson's character "Do you think she just woke up one day and said, 'I think I'll go to law school?'" Now, the audience knows this isn't true with Reese's character Elle Woods. But that concept of waking up one day and saying "I think I'll ____" toward something unmerited and unwarranted is something plenty of us do.

One question that I hear (almost ad nauseum) at writers conferences is "How do you get your ideas?" Honestly, I wanna reply by saying, "You do realize that not everyone is going to get ideas the same way, right?" What's worked for Brandon Sanderson may not work for Dan Brown. What obviously worked for Stephenie Meyere is probably not going to work for Stephen King. (Let's be honest, if Stephen King wrote Twilight, Bella would've died in chapter 3 and Edward would have a different war with Jacob.)

I'm going to answer how I get my ideas. More than likely if you were to ask me "Do you get your ideas by (some method that makes sense)?" I would have to say "yes" in reply. Let's look at how I've gotten 7 of my many ideas.

1) When I was fourteen, I was one day thumbing through my dad's Bible (I have no idea why) and I looked at the name Malachi. I thought to myself, what if it was Malashi. And that was the name of a place. And in that place was a group of Power Ranger wannabes in a Star Wars world. (I was fourteen, I stole ideas instead of fabricating them.)

2) Tomorrow Never Dies was about to premier (that's a James Bond film for those uncultured people). I was with my dad and brother and the newscaster talking about the movie said the word "Agent". I created A.G.E.N.T.S. about a group of people (again sci-fi/fantasy) who were trying to protect the planet from some evil people. (Again, there was somehow a Power Ranger theme to this. What can I say, I was into random pseudo-ninja fighting.)

3) One of the first true fantasy novels I ever read was Magic Kingdom For Sale-Sold. In it, Ben Holliday purchases the Kingdom of Landover. Landover is supposed to be a portal kingdom connected worlds together. This idea led me to write what has become "Eli's Journey". The thought of the connected kingdoms was since been removed.

4) I was tired of writing about Eli so while my daughter slept next to me when she had a cold and USC was trying to get into the Elite Eight, I just started writing and came up with an interested fantasy novel I hope to look at again and improve.

5) I was sitting behind this girl in my intermediate accounting class. Her first name was the same as my daughter's. Her last name was the same as my daughter's heart doctor. So I thought: what if this is my daughter come back from the future to help me somehow. Obviously that would've been much cooler than another classmate I barely knew/know. But I got a story out of it, that has been tweaked many times. But the concept of a child going back in time to save a parent has never changed.

6) Looking through my Grimm's Fairy Tales, I found one I thought would make an awesome retelling/fractured fairy tale base.

7) I started driving to work one day and got this image of a teenage boy thinking he'd just killed someone and created a brand new idea.

Let me recap here. Reading a word. Hearing a word. Reading a concept. Just going for it (Elana Johnson calls this pantsing). Connecting imaginary and figurative dots. Taking an already told story and hoping to make it interesting. Just randomly seeing an image in my mind.

What have you done? Or rather...what random moment has inspiration struck you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Turn up the Heat

by C. LaRene Hall

I bet that title got your attention. No, none of us need the heat turned up this month except maybe in our writing.

Before I left on vacation I was telling you about the great classes I took at the writers conference in May. One class I attended was taught by Michele Holmes and was called - Chemistry 101- Turning up the Heat in Romance without Crossing into the Fire Zone. The purpose of the class was to teach us how to write a good, believable romance that will satisfy readers, yet leave the reader wishing for more.

As in any story you do need to create lovable characters – If a woman she needs to be strong, not needy. She can take care of herself and has a strong value system, someone the reader can respect. There needs to be a reason for the way she is the way she is. The male in your story needs to be a protector, and expresses devotion in the way only he can. He’s a guy, but not a caveman with a sense of humor, as well as determined and persistent, and he has a sense of commitment. He should have a strong moral code and be focused on the heroine. Most important he should not be overbearing. He pays attention to details, anticipates her needs, and comes through for her.

Next you need to build a believable relationship. Friendship First – a friend is a person whom one understands, admires, and depends on. One who provides support and encouragement. Then comes love – a deep, passionate, and tender affection for another person.

In your story you should only have one point of view per chapter.

Just when things are getting good, throw a wrench in your story. Be sure to think outside the box.

Chemistry – it’s not about body parts. Physical attraction is a necessary part of any romance. Create a situation where two characters want each other – whether or not they admit that to themselves. Then make it so they can’t have each other. Grow physical awareness, and combine it with desire, denial, and restraint.

Learn to write appropriate and emotional intimacy. Use eye to body contact - Eye to eye contact - voice to voice contact - hand to hand contact - arm to shoulder contact - arm to waist contact - and kissing, hand to head.

Dialogue can be light banter, and fun. Keep it realistic. Deeper conversations can reveal much about a character’s past. Move the relationship to a more intense level. Show trust and intimacy.

The reader needs to have a reason to believe the couple will remain together and the relationship will endure.

It is important to keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat. Make sure you build romantic tension.

I have never written a romance story so this class was very interesting to me and something I look forward to using in my writing soon.

Monday, June 25, 2012

22 Rules of Storytelling by Pixar

by James Duckett

Emma Coats, a storyboard artist at Pixar, put out her 22 rules of storytelling over Twitter. Having watched Brave, Pixar's latest release, I thought this would be fitting. Keep in mind that this was over Twitter, so she had to keep each rule under 141 characters.
(Image Source: Wikipedia)

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Do any of these strike a chord with you? For me, it is number 11, which is what I'm struggling with right now. It isn't so much writer's block as a fear I may not be able to write it down as well as I see it in my head. It's time I do it and if it isn't perfect, well, number 17 can become plan B.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Beta Readers

We've all heard the term beta reader.

Wiki defines it as:  is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public."

So the beta is the second (or third or fourth or fifth) person to see how well you've put on paper the story that's been in your mind. Ever wonder who the alpha reader is? You, the writer.

The scariest thing I ever did was let another human being see my story. She was a coworker. Her input was really basic. If I entertained her, I succeeded. She liked it, and I was encouraged, but I realized I needed a bit more detail in the feedback.

I read in Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy about having a Wise Reader. When I sent further edits of my manuscript, I included this summary of Card's description:

What the beta is not:
  • Trained in literature
  • Needed to tell me how to fix the story. I need to figure that out. (So no diagnosis or what’s wrong or prescriptions)
What you need to do is answer questions:
  • Were you ever bored or found your mind wandering (tell me where)
  • What do you think of the characters? Who do you like? Who do you not like? (Why to both the above)
  • Was there anything you didn’t understand?Did you get confused anywhere? Did you have to read any section twice?
  • Was there anything you didn’t believe? Any time you said, “Oh, come on!”
  • My Online Critique Group
  • What are you still wondering about?
I think these beta readers are absolutely needed in the writing process. When we're involved in critique groups, we're with other writers who are trained to pick the writing apart. It's very much about diagnosis and prescription. But sometimes we just need people who can experience the story.

What do you ask of your betas?

Do you ever have those times when what you really just need is encouragement?

If so, how do you let your beta know that?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Don’t Fore-Slash Me

By Keith N Fisher

I reached an impasse with my work in progress this week. You might remember I’ve been working on a suspense novel, and it became too hard. I’ve had trouble keeping the intensity up, so I put it aside for now and went back to The Only Key, a mystery I started about six years ago.

It was wonderful to revisit the characters and figure out how to fix the problems that I left. A few years ago, I entered this story in a first chapter contest and it didn’t do well. To be fair to the contest, they didn’t have a mystery category, they had a mystery/suspense category.

As you might’ve guessed, the judge who gave it the lowest score commented on the level of suspense. It wasn’t intense enough. I argued that is was a mystery, not to be confused with anything Stephen King would write.

Then again, there seems to be a prevalent appetite for intensity in the media these days.

The whole experience made me consider the fore-slash and how we often combine genres. My colleagues have written about the combination of genres lately, and I don’t mean to tear down what they wrote, but I’m writing a mystery, plain and simple. Will readers judge it poorly due to lack of suspense?

Normally I write women’s fiction. Basically defined, I write stories about women, for women to read. Each story might have romantic elements, but I don’t write romance. Yes, the contest, I mentioned, also has a romance/women’s fiction category.

My suspense project is women’s fiction with very little romance, and my mystery is not women’s fiction, but there are romantic elements. Does that mean I can’t enter them in the contest?

I suppose genre purists will always be a problem in contests like that, and I’m not really complaining. It’s just that, working on, The Only Key, reminded me of my contest experience so I wrote about it. Maybe next week I’ll write about social media and protecting your professional image. Then again, maybe not.

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

Friday, June 22, 2012


by G.Parker

I tried to find a good picture of a groupie and all that really came up was stuff I wouldn't want anyone to see...let alone post!!  ARGH. picture.  Just put the image in your mind of the girls they showed when the Beatles came to America for the first time and they stood outside the ropes of the airplane and screamed as if the world had come to an end.  That's what I was wanting to put there...

Groupies mean different things to different people.  It's another one of those perception things.  They can be anything from a fish to a wild sex-crazed fan.  The groupie I wanted to talk about was critique groups.

I'm really missing mine.  Sigh.

I had an awesome group that I met with for over three years, possibly longer - the swiss cheese factor, ya know?  They became the voice in my head as I'd write, helping me edit along the way.  "Hey, you really don't want to put that word in there again, do you?  You know they'll just say "WHY?"  "Remember so and so doesn't like the m-dash."  "Last time they read this, they tore that whole plot line to shreds, so why are you still using it?"  Etc.

They really helped me be a better writer and think things through with more attention to reality and clarity.  I'm currently rewriting a story that they critiqued and suggested another turn of events for the plot line.  At the time I didn't like their suggestion and I basically put the story away because it wasn't working.  I've since pulled it out and have totally reworked the premise, just as they suggested I should.  Sigh.  It takes me a while, but I usually learn.  I figure I'm lucky if it only takes two or three times...

But I digress.  I bring up my critique group because we ended up disbanding several months ago.  There were several factors, jobs, family, career, busy life promoting current book, etc.  All very legitimate things and all happening at once, so we ended up calling it quits.  I'm secretly hoping that we'll all touch base again in a couple of years, and see how things are going.  All of them had talent and stories to be told.  I'm sure that many of them will end up in print and I'll be able to say, "Hey!  I knew them!"  I also hope they'll be able to say that of me.

I believe we've all mentioned critique groups before, and how beneficial they are, but I just wanted to remind you again.  If you don't belong to one, you need to find one and join in.  They really do help keep you centered on what it is you're trying to do -- write.

So, that's all the advice I have in me this week.  Hopefully I'll have something more profound next week.  Have a good one.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Make Me Feel It

by T.J.

I am one of the worst criers. And when I say "worst", I mean that I do not cry very well/easily. To actually get me to shed a tear, you've got to have me talk about my dearly departed mother or play Butterfly Kisses or pull one of my nose hairs or make me cut onions sans contact lenses.

But just because I don't cry on the outside, doesn't mean I can't feel the emotions on the inside. And when I'm reading your book, you better get me to feel an emotional attachment to your main character(s). Honestly, I want to be BFFs with your main character so that when he or she is in his or her darkest moment I don't wanna say "So sad, too bad" and walk away.

Characters are meant to be dynamic.They're supposed to go through their own personal hell in order to achieve their goals.

Now, most people know that I read mostly fantasy. Occasionally I'll pick up mystery or suspense. But that doesn't mean I've never read anything else.

The thing about "general fiction" or what I like to call "closest to real life" is that the characters are supposed to be much more relate-able. This year, I'm reading and reviewing The Newport Ladies Book Club series. Thus far, only Olivia and Daisy have been released. But honestly, these are two women that went through a personal hell in order to gain something throughout the story. Both women were relate-able to an extent (come on, it's non-romantic chick lit). Still, the thing is, I could find something with each woman that I could place in my own life (whether past or present).

One of the things I like to get from a book is the feelings it evokes. If it evokes nothing, it didn't do a good job. I've read books like that and it was painful to get through. Even in an "ensemble" book where plot is the main factor (suspense seems to commonly fit this mold), I still have emotional responses to what is going on, if it is well-written. Usually it's hold-my-breath-until-they-make-it-out-of-the-situation-alive.

In the end, if your character gets slapped in the face, I want to put my hand to my cheek in response.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Expanding on the master chapter list

by C. Michelle Jefferies

A few weeks ago we talked about  master chapter lists. Usually, I make the list after I write the rough draft. This time as I draft a rough things are different. I have a one year old who thinks his life goal is to drive me nuts. Using my old "just rely on the structure page" is not working. I have so little time to draft and my attention is scattered all over.

So I altered my plans a little. This time, instead of writing them down after I write the chapter, I took the entire storyline and wrote them down on index cards. Scene by scene. Then I took the cards and taped them to the door to my office.  It didn't matter how I put the  up as long as I had room at the top of the door to start putting them up in the right order.

I grouped scenes together like everything that went with PP1, mid point, and PP2. and started to tape them in order starting at chapter one. I walked away from it for about 15 minutes so I could look at it with fresh eyes. When I was sure the order was right I numbered them before I took them off the door.

Now I have a master chapter/scene list and so when I have a little snippet of time I know exactly where I am going and what scene I need to write.

It's worked so well the last few days, I think I might do this every time. It tells me where I need to go but it provides me with the pantsing freedom that I seem to require to draft.

It's a win win.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day -- Give Your MC a Dad

I'm typing this on Father's Day though it won't post until the day after, but I wanted to write something Father-ish.
There seems to be a long-standing tradition in story-telling to have your hero without a parent or a father. Frodo didn't have one. Harry Potter didn't have one. Luke Skywalker technically didn't have one. A lot of other books written nowadays seem to lack fathers to the point that the orphan/hero story is turning cliche. I think this is fine and dandy as long as it aids the plot,as it did in all the ones mentioned above. If it does't add to the plot I'm going to encourage you to give your hero or heroine parents.

This can actually help your characters. I'll liken this to when I used to date. I always paid attention to how my dates would treat their parents and other family members. I would be leery of dates that treated their parents or siblings with disdain and disrespect. Why? Because if your date treats their loved ones like this then imagine how this person will treat you once the "honeymoon period" is over. I liked dates who were respectful to their family; I bailed on the ones who didn't.

I'm not saying your main characters have to hero-worship their parents. But if your character treats their parents with respect, even if he or she doesn't agree with what is being said, then it will go a long way towards building likability in your character. Having parents and a family is a good way to get to know and eventually root for your character. You can use the interactions with the MC's family members to really learn who your characters are and is a great way to show and not tell a character's personality.

One example is Marty McFly from the Back to the Future franchise. Even when his parents were losers and pushovers he still treated them with respect. Of course, having parents were a major part of the plot, but in trying to save their love it helped you root and cheer for him hoping that George would kiss Lorraine at the Fish Under the Sea Dance (no, no, it was the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance).
Though we didn't see it until the second movie, Biff (the villain) treated his parents differently as he yelled at his mother while leaving to go to the dance. It made us not cheer or identify with Biff. It made us loath him. And, sure enough, he treated those around him with the same manner of disrespect.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers . . . and A Bit of Writing Humor

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there or the guys who provide fatherly role models. Too often the role of good men in the rearing of children is downplayed to the detriment of society.

My real life is crazy. Seriously, I need to include some of this drama in a book. On top of that my current WIP edit has been giving me fits.

Sometimes we just need to step back and smile.

I totally stole this from Tristi Pinkston

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Teaching Yourself the Craft

By Keith N Fisher

My grandmother made wedding cakes. It was one of the many ways my grandparents made a living together. Grandpa was a hard working farmer and traveling salesman. Grandma was a hard working farmers wife and cake maker.

At one time, grandma had the recommendation of caterers and wedding planners. Some of her business came through word of mouth and she had several portfolio picture books brides could look through in order to make decisions.

I’m not sure when the world turned to fondant, but my grandmother decorated the old fashioned way. She sat for hours with frosting bags making string loops. She made frosting roses with the speed of a machine. Each cake was a work of art. She was master of her craft.

Grandma made wedding cakes for all of her older grandkids, as well as her nieces and nephews. Many times she would have four huge cakes going at once in different stages, and we had great conversations while she worked on them.

As far as I know, Grandma never had any formal training in her craft. She taught herself how to make the decorations. My grandma got started when her grandma didn’t have time to make the cake for a family wedding. She asked my grandma to make it and nobody knew until years later. After that, grandma learned from the work of others and taught herself an enviable craft.

You don’t see many wedding cakes these days, decorated in the old ways. Fondant and plastic are the mediums of choice. Even the applesauce and spice cakes have given way to other kinds. It still takes time and a little talent to master the craft, but I think the world has lost a beautiful art form through evolution and lack of knowledge.

The writing craft is like any form of art. Even with formal training, the artisans must practice and teach themselves to form words and place them in a coherent and meaningful way.

Learning the craft of writing is simple. Just glean what you can from others, then sit down and practice. In the book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become perfect in everything. How many words does that convert to?

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Parallel Novels, Anchor Characters and Worlds

by C. Michelle Jefferies

There's a type of series that are called Parallel Novels. Where the main character isn't consistent in all of the books. Where the setting and world details are the same, or the the worlds are all in the same galaxy. And the MC of one book is a secondary character in the other.

I am totally in love with the idea of these novels. I love series, and getting to know the world and characters better. I love parallel novels even more because I get to see more of the world and meet more of the characters. Not just the world according to one MC.

Sherrilyn Kenyon does parallel novels well. Her League and Dark Hunter books are excellent examples of novels with the same characters and world but with different people as Main Characters. Melissa Marr is also really good at parallel novels in her Wicked Lovely series.

In writing my book, I have developed an amazing world. At least I think so. I had two series planned one is four books with the MC of the first book and a second three books with the first MC's son.  About a year ago I had an awesome idea for a scifi/steampunk YA adventure. I began to work on it in my head and jot down notes. Then I realized this was an extreme prequel to my series and was on the same world.

I refused to accept it for a long while. I almost felt it was cheating. But after a few months I realized that indeed it was the same world just hundreds of years in the past.  Then I also realized that with this book I had an opportunity to create an amazing world and have a lot of fun with it.

Since then I have added another trilogy to this same world, and two stand alones. (at least in ideas and plotting out books) As the idea of the story became parallel instead of series, I became more excited.  I also have a few novel ideas in an Urban Fantasy world. I'm excited to get working on them too.

So what makes it a parallel novel(s)?

Anchor characters and anchor worlds.

Anchor characters are a character that is seen in all of the novels. Or you might see a handful of characters throughout the books but there is always at least one.

In my Emergence world there are three main characters, one in each series/trilogy. But my anchor character(s) isn't one of them. He is a secondary character in all of the books though. He's a genius inventor and entrepreneur from Australia. He is the character that links all of the books together. I also created a character that although he is almost non existent in four of the books, (but is mentioned in a round about way)  is a larger character in the others.  He IS is the fix to a universal plot hole in all of the books.

Another type of parallel anchor is world or setting. If you have a world that is unique and interesting you might want to revisit it again and again with different characters.

While two of my series books and one stand alone in the "parallel universe" are based on Earth. The other trilogy/series, and the one extreme prequel is on another world.

In this way, everything is connected by either world or character and you get to enjoy many different places and characters as well as keep up on some old favorites.

Give them a try, I hope you decide you like them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jerry Seinfeld on Staying Productive

by James Duckett

I'm always on the lookout for ideas on increasing my productivity. Imagine my surprise when I heard of an idea from Jerry Seinfeld. Don't get me wrong, I mean no disrespect towards Jerry; his television show is one of my favorites and he is one of the few comedians I have seen perform in person. But he is more well known for making jokes than he is for motivating others to greatness.
What he suggests is what he credits for becoming a better comedian, but this could be applied to nearly anything that requires a daily commitment. Like, oh say, writing. But I could see this also being applied to exercise, dieting, learning a new skill, praying, reading scriptures, and more. So here goes:

When asked how he got to become such a great comedian, Jerry shared a system he does called "Don't break the chain." The idea is to grab a large, one-year calendar that shows all the dates on one page. Hang it up in a prominent place where you'll see it every day, such as your bedroom or office. Then you set a goal, such as writing 1,000 words per day, and when you make that goal you take a red marker and put an X on that date.
If you do this every day you will start to form a chain of X's. Your goal is to not break that chain. Ever!

I'm going to pick up a calendar and do this myself, I think the idea is brilliant. With me being a visual person, this seems just what I need to keep me motivated. I am going to modify it a bit. For example, I'm going to make that X but will also write down the length of the chain every day. When it gets so I'm writing two and even three digits it will be that much more depressing to break that chain.

I know I'm not the first to blog on this. Have others heard of this and implemented it into their writing, or other activity? Did it help you in your success? Got any advise for somebody just starting off.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

It Happened Again

By Keith N Fisher

What is your favorite time of year? Summer, with all it’s splendor and outdoor living? Winter is nice, because of Christmas and snow sports. The fall colors can be beautiful, and relief from summer heat, makes Autumn nice, too. I like Spring. Even with an iffy year like we’ve had, the relief from Winter’s grasp and the newness of life, is a wonder to behold.

Have you ever balanced an egg on end? You can do it during the moment of the equinox. I wanted to see if it was possible, so I took an egg to work several years ago. We tried and tried just before the appointed time. It just wouldn’t stay up.

Suddenly, at the exact time, the egg stayed up. We took a picture. (It didn’t turn out. A white egg on a white counter.) It was truly amazing.

Such is our life on Mother Earth. There are wonders to behold, right in front of our eyes and we don’t see them. Many people, over time, attached mystical significance to those events. Like in 1833, A meteor shower lit up the night sky. Many of the Cheyenne who gathered at Bent’s Fort in Colorado thought it was a sign of the end of the world. Chief White Thunder saw it as a new beginning and made peace with his enemies.

Many of us, recently, were witnesses to two celestial events that could’ve been interpreted much the same way, if nineteenth century Native Americans could’ve seen it. Thanks to modern mass media, we are witnesses to many wonders. We also, see many troubling things such as war and natural disasters. We can choose to interpret it like the ancient people did, or we can enjoy the good moments we have.

On Facebook, one day, I posted the slogan used by BYU TV, (Channel 11-2 for those on the antenna). Their slogan is, See the Good In the World. I mentioned it, because I had grown weary of all the negative that people dwell on. It’s so easy to get caught up. Between political viewpoints, disease, and disaster, it is hard to see the wonders our planet offers.

I admit, I’m one of the negative ones, but its destroying my health, not to mention my sanity.

So, I implore you, for your own sanity, take the advice of the slogan and see the good in the world. Good is easy to find in the warmth and beauty of a newborn child, being witness to an act of service, and the beauty and splendor of spring.

For many years our ancestors prayed incessantly that winter would be replaced by spring, that rain would come, and seeds would grow. When those prayers were answered, those people were so grateful, they celebrated. How many of us celebrate Spring? Our faith tells us life will change, wars will increase, disasters will come. People will suffer, but this year, I’m grateful for green grass, and leaves on trees.

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

Friday, June 08, 2012

A Few Words

by G.Parker

Last week I commented on speech writing.  This week I'm going to talk about getting the most bang for the buck.  In other words, how to write an obituary that doesn't cost the moon.  I bring up this subject because today is my sister's funeral and her children wrote the obituary.  Strangely enough, I used to work for a newspaper in their obit department.  It was a strange job because I saw people from ALL walks of life.  It brought home to me that death happens to anyone at any age and time.  It didn't matter how healthy, wealthy, skinny, fat, smoker, drug addict, new born -- everyone dies.

Unfortunately, we weren't expecting my sister to pass away this soon, so it has been somewhat of a shock.  I'm not sure anyone is really ready for a loved one to die, no matter what the circumstances.  But when they do, there is always the follow up stuff.  Namely, the obituary that gets put in the papers.

Most papers charge by the word or line.  Some charge by the inch.  Photos are a whole other prospect, and the bigger the more cost.  Granted, obituaries are a touchy subject, most people think it shouldn't matter how much they cost, it's the farewell to the deceased.  Some people feel they shouldn't cost anything as it's taking advantage of those grieving.

Having been on both sides of the situation, I'm not sure which way to go.  If the papers ran obits for free, they would loose money and people would probably get carried away.  I think limits could be set, etc., but that's a debate for another day.  I was just glad not to have to participate in the wording of this one, though I think I could have saved them some money.

My main point was to illustrate how few words could express great things.  My niece wrote her very first obit when she wrote it for my sister, and she did a pretty good job getting everything in they wanted to express.  I think, however, that a contest could be run to see how much can be left out and still get the meanings across.

Many obits talk about the life of the deceased, what they did, how wonderful they were, etc.  Have you ever participated in the exercise of writing your own obituary?  What you wanted it to say? How you wanted  to be remembered by  those left behind?  It's a daunting project, and I've never really done well with it.  It smacks too much of saying how great you are, etc., and I have a hard time with it.

The challenge is to say a great amount with the least words.  My mother's obit had the sentence "Back on the bird committee."  This referenced the fact that she was an avid bird lover and had several books, statues, etc., about and of birds.  My sister was an animal lover, and reference was made  to her dog Max.  Personally, I'm not that fond of animals, and so I'm hoping no one mentions it in my obit.  Talk about hummingbirds if you want, but no dogs or cats.  I figure, in all reality, mine could be really short.

"Loved her family and the Lord.  Tried to be the best she could.  Loved painting, writing and cooking (not necessarily in that order).  Survived by...preceded will be held at the house of...  Be prepared to play cards, eat and talk till the wee hours."

Don't you think that sounds like a party?  Nice and short, and to the point.  Unfortunately, I have seven surviving brothers and sisters with spouses, so that paragraph will be the longest of the whole thing.

How few words do you think you can use?  It's a challenge for the week.  I'd love to see what you come up with.

Until then...remember to tell everyone you love that you love them and give them a hug.  You never know how much time you have left.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Elements

by T.J.

When you go to the book store, you notice (or have memorized) the different sections of the store. Take Barnes & Noble for example. There's Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense, General Fiction, YA, Middle-Grade blah blah blah. Then there are all the subgenres, mostly found in YA. Don't believe me? Tell me a Paranormal Romance book/series where the characters aren't under 18 to start? Dystopian has a few that hit the adult section, but the popular ones are in the YA. Anyway, let me get back to the point.

Now, how many people have read a fantasy that had romantic elements? If you've read Harry Potter 4-7 then you have to answer in the affirmative.What about a fantasy with a mystery element?

So what's my point here? My point is that every story has an element that is not the focus genre. Anything categorized in the YA section or general sections usually has a romantic element to the story. Harry Potter had Cho and Ginny catching his attention. Katniss had Gale and Peeta. In Dashner's The Maze Runner, Thomas and Theresa were together. Variant's Benson dealt with Becky and Jane. Possession's (WAY TOO HORMONAL) Vi had Zenn and Jag. Need I go on? (Please say no.)

Now, with these books, the romance wasn't the main focus of the story. Harry Potter's goal was to rid the world of Voldemort. Katniss wanted to live. Thomas was trying to get out of the Maze. Benson questioned the purpose of Maxfield academy. Vi wanted to be truly free. None of these was "Choose which social freak to marry."

And what about mystery. The Maze Runner and Variant have great mysteries to them. Basically "What the crap is going on?" is the main theme for both. But it's a good mystery. I like that. Possession has a decent mystery to it.

(Random: With the exception of Harry Potter, do you realize that all the books I'm talking about are deemed Dystopian?)

Anyway, to me, there are a few elements that every story needs at least one of (and probably two or three) in order to keep the reader's attention. Here is a list of examples of those elements:

Action: Epic fantasy needs at least one fight/battle scene. Mistborn's battle between Vin and the Lord Ruler is a classic example of this subtle element being in the story, but not the most important one.

Adventure: Usually, when I read "adventure" I think "journey" or "quest". If you ever watched Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon), you'll notice that the show is an adventure as the characters journey throughout the land.

Mystery: Who and what are key element questions. A good mystery is all about the whodunnit aspect. But a good book could have a "who is the betrayer" or "what does this object do"? Harry Potter 7's golden snitch is a good mystery element.

Romance: Well, I think I made my point earlier. For those with increased level of testosterone, you gotta admit, it's nice when you get the girl.

Suspense: Make me bite my nails for a moment. Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail refers to a classic example of suspense when she refers to Pride & Prejudice and the "will they or won't they get together" concept. Not that I'm a big Pride & Prejudice fan (Hello, of course they get together. I'd say spoiler alert, but my great-grandparents were all born AFTER it was published), but the element of suspense is there. Jane Austen makes you question whether Lizzie will get with Mr. Darcy. (I know her name's Elizabeth Bennet, but I like it when the other characters call her Lizzie, so deal with it.)

There are many other elements to add to a book. These are (to me) the five classic necessities.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Little lessons learned

by C. Michelle Jefferies

How's that for alliteration?

At the moment, I am editing as well as drafting. While I am awaiting the release of my first tech suspense, I am writing a new YA scifi/steampunk, and editing the #2 book to the one being released this summer.

This sweep is probably the tenth or eleventh time I have gone over the book in preperation for it's submission to my publisher. I am down to the point where I am making tiny little adjustments. Adding or subtracting words, punctuation, rearranging sentences for clarity and deleting fluff. The major stuff is all done. Chapters added, plot holes fixed, character developement polished.

So yesterday I sat down and re-numbered my chapters. I will not be adding anything major to the MS and felt safe making sure they were all in order and no numbers were off.

This is where the little lesson comes in.

After I write the rough draft I take a seperate document and make a "master chapter outline". It's usually about four pages long and includes the chapter number, the "unofficial" title* of the chapter, the plot reasons for the chapter, and a short synopsis. *unofficial title: a word or short phrase that gives me a clue as to what the chapter is about. IE the begining chapter of soon to be released book is titled "blood". Have I intrigued you yet? LOL

THIS document is my lifeline for the duration of the story. I print a copy of it and paste it into my project notebook. I also take this notebook everywhere I go. If I have an idea or an epiphany it goes into this book.

Back to the chapter outline though.

As I re-numbered the chapters I found two problems. I'd written down two chapter entries for a chapter I eventually didn't split, so I had an extra number. I'd also forgotten to add in four chapters as I wrote them into the MS. So instead of 46 chapters I actually have 49. Talk about messing with my allready addled brain.  

While this "master chapter outline" saves me TONS of time. (Being able to "see" the book in four pages.) Forgetting to add those chapters and not correcting the non-split, messed with my productivity and took almost an hour out of time I could have have been doing something else.

I am sure there were reasons, whether good or bad, that I didn't update my list. But I have learned my lesson. I will definitely not avoid updating on purpose again. I'd rather take a few minutes on occasion than hours fixing it later.

This method works for me. It might not work for you. But hey its worth trying anything once right?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Notes from Paul Genesse's class on Plot-Storming from Character

I had the opportunity to befriend and get to know Paul Genesse on Facebok and even chat with him before I took his class at LDS Storymakers. I like Paul, he is a very nice guy, and the topic of the class he presented on was what I really needed to hear. If you would like to get to know Paul a little more feel free to visit his website at

His topic is the title of this blog post. The character in my WIP is currently a little flat so I did go out of my way to attend a couple of character-driven classes at the conference. Here are my notes for that class.


When you finish a book it isn’t usually the plot you fall in love with, it is the character. He strongly recommends that you focus on character. Figure out the character you want to write about first and then focus on the plot.,

Where does it start? It all starts with a name. If you can come up with the name of your character everything can flow from there. (Personal note: my current WIP pretty much started here)

Writers love negative stuff about characters and might be where you want to start. Think about their flaws right away and then think about what their strengths are.

One of the most powerful things he has learned to do in his writing career: write a biography from the character from their point of view. Write it in first person as if the character is writing it. In other words, use their voice. Ideally you want to go 2 pages, but it is best if you can do more.

Do personality quizzes on your character as well. Color-code them (red, white, blue, and yellow) or do the Myers-Briggs personality test. It is good to determine where your character fits so that you know how they really are in their lives. Work on Keirsey’s Personality Zones. (Guardians, Artisans, Idealists, and Rationals)

Note: I thought that was ingenious! Something I had never considered doing with my characters.

This was one of my favorite quotes, probably through the entire conference: "Writers who write very great plots write really great stories. Writers who write very good characters have really great careers." I put that on Twitter and it was probably the quote that was retweeted the most that weekend.

The seven-element story structure:

Character in a…
Context with a…
Tries to solve…
But Fails repeatedly until it reaches a…
Resolves (denouement)

Note: Does anybody have an example of this? I thought he posted an example but I didn't write it down. But I imagine it goes something like this (warning, Lord of the Rings Spoiler Alert!!): Frodo from the Shire has to destroy the One Ring. He travels to Mount Doom but encounters several difficulties along the way. Upon failure, Samwise steps in to keep things going. He finally reaches Mount Doom and the ring is destroyed. He returns home to the Shire but feel he doesn't belong there anymore. He moves on.

If you don’t have conflict early on in your story it is going to be boring. You need to have conflict and tension on EVERY PAGE. Ergo, don’t start your book with a discussion on the nice weather.

Make sure the stakes of the story are high (life at stake, etc). Make the stakes primal! Unless you are writing humor, don’t make the resolution easy. Work in some try/fail cycles. You should make it appear they are getting further away from their goal until they actually get to the climax.

Don’t write about orphans anymore, that is a bit overdone. Often you can get more depth in a character if you give him a big family with pets and etc.

If you have a strong character, have them save themselves. Strong characters make strong decisions. Your character should not be a leaf in the wind blowing to and fro. If so, that is crappy writing. I like this quote from Paul: "Your character needs to be the wind."

If you want to hook the reader right away, they had better be making a decision. After the decision, they need to have repercussions of their choice. A strong character will deal with the repercussions.

Don’t make them whiney. Nobody’s favorite character in Star Wars is Luke, it is Han Solo who feels he can do anything.

Three basic story structures:
  • Boy Meets Girl (Romeo and Juliet)
  • The Man who Learned Better (They figure out something. They are weak at the beginning but learns to become better)
  • The Clever Little Tailor (They have all the answers, like Indiana Jones) 

Six Fundamental Conflicts of Aristotle (can be applied to all genres of writing):
  • Man against man
  • Man against nature
  • Man against himself
  •  Man against society
  •  Man against God
  • Man against machines

It is fine if secondary characters are also making strong decisions because they usually impact the main character. Especially the antagonist. Make the antagonist, who is the hero in their own mind, a very good, strong villain by having them make strong decisions. Very rarely do the bad guys consider themselves the villains.

Another great quote: "If you marry a great character with a great plot then you have magic."

Six fundamental story types by Damon Knight
  • The story of resolution (the hero has a problem and solves it)
  • The story of revelation (something hidden is revealed)
  •  The trick ending story (surprising twist)
  •  The story of decision (ends in a decision, not necessarily action)
  •  The story of explanation (explains a mystery)
  •  The story of solution (solves a puzzle)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Plot Types per James Gunn
  • Far traveling
  • The wonders of science
  • Humanity/the individual and the machine
  • Progress
  • The individual and society
  • Humanity/the individual
  • War
  • Cataclysm
  • Humanity/the individual and the environment
  • Superpowers
  • Superman/superwoman
  • Humanity/the individual and the alien
  • Humanity/the individual and religion spirituality
  • Miscellaneous glimpses of the future and past
Fantasy Plot types
  • Far Traveling
  • The Quest
  • Strange Powers
  • People and the Powerful/omnipotent other
  • People and magic (or other unscientific sciences)
  • The individual and society
  • Wonders we can touch
  • Good vs Evil
  • Balance
  • Questioning Reality

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

by Donna K. Weaver

It's interesting as I look back over the past year. I know a lot more than I did a year ago and so much more than I did two years ago.

Last July, on my personal blog, I was considering the pros and cons of self-publication. With the industry in flux right now, it really is an amazing time. A year ago, when I wrote that post, a writer friend and mentor, Donna Hosie was adamantly opposed to self-publication. 

But over the last year, after turning down offers of representation from agents who wanted to change her stories too much, Donna decided she would give it a try. Her debut novel Searching for Arthur came out on Friday. She told me she feels incredibly powerful in deciding her destiny as a write. The support she's received from friends, coworkers, and online acquaintances has been astounding and humbling.

I'm excited for her even as I work through the revise and resubmit information I received from a publisher. Until I received the R&R, my intention had been to self-pub later this year. I haven't abandoned that goal, but I confess to clinging to a desire to have at least one book traditionally published. 

And why is that?

Because there are still places/groups that will not allow the only self-published to participate/become members. 

I don't want to deny myself that option.

Does that make me a coward, surrendering to someone else's power to validate me? I hope not. 

Where are you on the traditional/self-publishing issue?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Chapter Twenty

By Keith N Fisher

It’s been a busy week. I’m sure you could say the same, but I’ve lost track of what day it is. Well, I know it’s Saturday because Gaynell posted yesterday. I worked nine hours last night at the place where I began my convenience store career. It was like walking down the halls of my Jr. High School as an adult.

On Thursday, we cooked for the faculty and staff of Foothill Elementary. I haven’t cooked in Dutch ovens for that many people in a year and I had to remember how to make some things.

On Wednesday night, I had the ladies from my critique group over. I had to load the Dutch oven stuff into the truck and they figured it would be best to have critique at my house. I read chapter twenty from Star Crossed. It has been a while since I’d seen this chapter and there was a brief moment when I got lost.

After the ladies left, I sat there thinking about all the projects I have finished. Star Crossed is waiting for critique, but The Hillside is at the publisher’s, The sequel to The Hillside is waiting until I know the status of the Hillside. Currently, I’m writing Shadow Boxing, and looking into resurrecting some old manuscripts.

While reading one of them, I realized how much my writing had changed. Yes, I’m a better writer now, mostly because of the aforementioned ladies, but I also write differently. Like working in the old store, walking through the pages of Eternal Tapestries was familiar, but intimidating. Reading chapter twenty brought me back to my state of mind while writing it. Cooking, although the threat of screwing up was intimidating, It’s a skill that will always come back to serve me.

Writing well, is a skill that cannot be learned. We must continue to improve or die trying. The editor in all of us balks at something that doesn’t sound right. If we wrote it, we cringe and fix it according to our current skill level. We read other writer’s work and glean tricks and skills from them. I read chapter twenty and noticed a few places that needed fixing.

May we never think we are the best writer we could be. Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, June 01, 2012


by G.Parker

Many of you will have sat through your share of graduation ceremonies.  One thing they have in common is someone gives a speech.  Usually it's the valedictorian of the class, the class president, the school principal or all of the above.  (We are talking high school here...I have very little experience with college graduations! lol)  Yesterday was my second youngest son's graduation.  There were four speeches given by classmates, and two by administration.

I have not been called upon to give any speeches.  I've given a couple of talks in my day, but they  have been few and far between.  (Which doesn't bother me at all.)   But I've noticed that the writing of speeches/talks is a bit different from novels.  You have a little more pressure to keep the audiences attention with a speech, or they're going to fall asleep.  If they're reading a book and it's boring, they'll just put it down.  If they're stuck in a speech location, they'll end up falling asleep, so there are two variables that go into speech writing.  One, the person giving the speech and two the person writing it.

In politics, the writer is not usually the speech giver.  One of my favorite scenes in a movie reflecting this is the movie Dave.  They are having him practice a speech in front of a podium and he's showing how he's memorized the president's speech, mannerisms, etc.  The assistant says "I wrote that."  Dave is amazed, and says "I love that speech!"

But in school settings, it's my understanding that sometimes the final requirement for a grant, scholarship, grade, etc., could be the speech and how it's given.  I was impressed with all four speeches, but one of them really stood out from the others.  It was a bit immature as far as the wording, but it was humorous, intelligent and backed by fact.  She spoke about clocks, and how they were developed over time from a pendulum swinging one to one designed to work on board ships. It took the inventor, John Harrison, most of his life to create such a clock, and she tied that into how they (the students) needed to keep trying on whatever it is they want to accomplish and now is their time to do and be whatever it is they want to be.

Sounded like good advice for all of us.  Every day is a new day.  Each day is our chance to become what we want to be, do what we want to do.  Life is too short to miss an opportunity.  Remember those goals you set at the beginning of the year?  That's what I'm talking about.  How far have you come?  Have you accomplished what you wanted?  Are you writing every day?

Who writes your speeches?  Be your own best speech writer.  It's kind of like what you want your obituary to say.  Write your own and make it real.  Be the best speech writer for you.