Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If you have ever felt

by C. Michelle Jefferies

If you have ever felt like giving up. Like there's not enough time. Not enough story ideas. Too many story ideas. The muse is mad at you or left you completely.  The kids need you. The house needs you. The job needs you. Everything is more important than writing . . . . . .

You're not alone.

We all feel like that sometimes.

But . . .

Don't give up!

There's hope!

Even if you write TEN words a day. (Thank you Marsha Ward.) You're still writing.  Even if all you do on any given day is work on your story in your head. You're still writing.  Even if for a moment in time all you have is the desire to write. Even if nothing gets written you're on the path.

Don't give up. Keep trying. It'll happen.

The path to wisdom is not always straight

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Last Installment

By Keith N Fisher

Because I write five page chapters, it took quite awhile to get, Star-crossed, through critique group. I took the last installment the other day, and I finished the group revisions this morning. I’m excited.

I love watching the reactions of my group when we come to the end. Some of them look pleased others not so much. Still others put on their poker face not wishing to offend. It’s like telling a joke and coming to the punch line. Jokes get laughs. Story’s get praise.

During the critique group process, I can’t wait to spring the surprise and wait for comments. It’s the moment of truth. Was I successful? Did the plot work? In Star-crossed, I wrote a love scene into the last chapter and got a thumbs-up from one member. Another one needed more buildup. In the end, I made it better in revision. Now I’m ready for beta readers.

Recently, in my blog post, I wrote about rewrites. I forgot to mention there is a difference between revising, rewriting, and editing. I’m enjoying a period of writing, when I’m doing all three on different projects. The differences are mostly in how much work is involved.

Revising is easy, because you have a guide to follow. Usually it’s a hard copy with red ink all over it. You look at the red marks and decide if you need to make a change or not. If your critique partner noticed grammatical errors, it’s easy to make those changes.

Editing can be a lot like that, except you also must restructure sentences and paragraphs to make it flow better. Deleting some of your precious words and phrases can be excruciating. Also during an edit, you must determine if your plot is sound, Are there holes where all the logic fell through? Or have you written something that seemed important at the time, but got left out later? Plot holes are usually hard to spot because the plot lives in the mind of the writer, but we sometimes forget to explain the details to the reader.

Rewriting is hardest, because you often have to delete whole chapters and multiple characters. I often think about the dark ages before computers. Hmmm. BC, Before Computers, get it? Anyway, I envision a writer during that time, taking several pages of manuscript and tossing them into the fireplace.

Now days in the AC, (after computer) . . . well it can’t all be cute. Today we can cut and paste. Hopefully you keep a file of takeouts, because you never know, you might want to put it back into your story. You might want to put it into another book. I’ve heard of writers taking characters out of one manuscript and using them in another. Keep a takeouts file.

For me, rewriting is a lot like writing a new story because I usually have an outline in my head. I know how the story will be from beginning to end. Everything else is just of means of getting there. When I rewrite, I’ve already written the story once, so I have an outline to follow. The temptation during the AC (after computer) is to capture and paste text from the first draft. Don’t do it.

Part of the reason for rewriting is the first draft didn’t work. You know where the story should go. Write it again. You’re probably a better writer now, and the story will turn out the way it should be.

A final note about rewriting, Some stories should just be allowed to die. If your plot isn’t making you excited, don’t be afraid to abandon the idea and start something new. Still, don’t give up until you write it to conclusion either. The joy/curse of being a writer is that you will always get new ideas. If one didn’t work, another will come along.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Graduation Day

by G.Parker

(Drawing copywrited by gparker)

Well, we spent the day with our youngest daughter.  She graduated from college today with an Associates Degree.  She's almost through with her bachelors, but hadn't gotten her Associates until now due to paper snafus and stuff.  This time next year we'll be doing her Bachelor Graduation and it will be a much bigger party, let me tell you.

We heard several speeches, one by Mr. Huntmans Jr. himself.  I was prepared to not enjoy it, politics and stuff -- but it was good.  He made several points that I thought were good.  Especially about giving back to the community.

I like that they emphasized that a couple of times through the different speakers.  The importance of service, and giving to others.  How now that you've reached your goal, help others to achieve theirs.

It's kind of why we write this column.  I'm afraid I hadn't been able to get it done in advance, so once again you get a glimpse of the personal life and a small writing thought, but that's my life.  Tomorrow I'm going to actually be participating in a street gallery of sorts with my paintings.  The first time ever.

After listening to the talks today from honorary master degree recipients and professors who have more initials after their names than anyone can write, I feel a little foolish.  What is my small achievement at 52 compared to their mega stuff at perhaps the same age??  However, this isn't a comparison, and we aren't out to compete with each other.

It's all about trying and working toward achieving our goals, be they writing or other goals in life.  You can do it.  Everyone deserves a day of graduation.  What is yours going to be?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm Late

By Keith N Fisher

As the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland observed, I'm late. Yes it has been that kind of week and I have a blog half written. No excuses! Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dear Abby

by G.Parker

I've been writing about different types of media recently -- and it's affect on our society.  How we as writers are able to contribute to that affect.  My focus has been movies and television and books.

It occurred to me this week that there is also newspapers and magazines.  Whenever I think of newspapers, I picture Lois Lane from Superman, who was always looking for the story that would get her the Pulitzer Prize.  Remember the movie The Help?  The first job she got out of college was writing a cleaning column for the local newspaper to break into editing.

I want to talk about a different kind of writing.  The advise column.  I've written a story about a writer who does a dating column.  (it's not finished yet...lots of work yet to do, lol)  There was the famous one that died recently called Dear Abby.  Everyone knew about that column.

There's one that my daughter has been coming home with from college for the past couple of weeks.  It's a woman who pretty much gives her opinion on politics and life in general.  It's not an advice column, it's more an opinion column.

This past week she stated that she was part of the silent majority (minority).  It was a group that met and married their spouse before having sex and living together.  They haven't divorced.  That their children grew up and married and haven't divorced.  They pay for what they buy in cash or don't buy it.  They don't expect a handout, and they own a gun.

There are a great deal of this 'minority', but they don't speak out because their too busy living.

I think we as writers are part of that 'minority.'  There are a lot of us out there who want to write.  Every time you turn around you hear about someone that wants to write a novel, or a relative who is writing their life story, or such. (I have a sister that writes for her own enjoyment and never intends anyone else to see one word of it.  It's driving me crazy cause I want to read it!)  When someone becomes a published author, those who are thinking they want to write come out of the wood work and ask for all sorts of favors and advice.

Once again this is about our voice -- our spot in society.  What we are able to do.  This week has been a very sad week.  There has been tragedy and there has been inspiration.  There has been a media frenzy and there have been foul ups and misrepresentation.

Want to change the world?  Become a writer.  You'll start at the base and work to the top.  Just be careful if you choose to write for newspapers or magazines.  Journalism used to be a nice word.  Now I feel like it's becoming similar to lawyers.

Instead of Robin Williams crying; "I'm not that kind of lawyer!"  We'll be saying, "I'm not that kind of writer!"

We're the best.  We're the cream of the crop.  Just show the world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An attack for writers block.

by C. Michelle Jefferies

The dreadful words. Writers block!

Oh how writers dread it. It is a plague! It can even be contagious between writer friends by mere suggestion.  The horrible long minutes staring at a blank page or screen. The feeling of hopelessness when it hits is miserable.

So how do we get rid of it?

There are many ways but the one I will talk about today is "morning pages".

Sometimes writers block is caused by a brain that's too busy. That has too much going on to sit back and draft a story. So one way to break the block caused by a busy or distracted brain is to take paper and pen or sit with a blank screen and just write. For a specific time say, maybe fifteen minutes you just write. Not your story, not anything scripted or even story related. Maybe its just your to do list for the day or your grocery list. Maybe its just venting. Maybe its bad limericks. Who knows?

Whatever it is it does something to the brain and frees up the creative parts and allows you to dip into the muse.

What do you do to get rid of writers block?

The path to wisdom is not always straight

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rewriting and Rewriting

By Keith N Fisher

I finished rewriting my first book this week. It’s called The Trophy, and it’s the story about a young girl who gets drawn into what appears to be a dangerous world and discovers the answers to hard questions. Considering I originally wrote it in the nineties, I’m a much better writer now. This wasn’t the first rewrite for this particular book, however, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. It was originally written for the national market, but I turned it into LDS fiction during one of those rewrites.

This time, I took the LDS elements out and rewrote it into the national market. I fixed errors, and showed more feelings and motivations. I also added exposition in places where the plot wasn’t clear. I found errors had slipped into the text during all those rewrites. They glared at me this time through.

As the story progressed, I had to go back and see what I’d written before in order to make it consistent. I found errors had slipped in during this rewrite, so I will be bringing it to critique group, then as always, I’ll need some beta readers.

When I finished, I went back to another of my first books and started a rewrite. This one, however, has edited, but never rewritten. It’s harder, because I can’t edit what I wrote before. This one has to be rewritten from scratch. Unlike starting a new book, I know exactly where the plot is going I know the beginning from the end and I’m writing a new book.

Rewrites can be fun but they humble the writer. It’s not just craft and structure errors. Its bad writing and you wonder if the story is best buried. This book frightens me, though. You might remember me telling you about it before in this blog. I wrote the story from an idea that came to me, beginning to end, during a church meeting when my daughter was a baby.

Now as I revisit what I wrote then, I wonder if I ought to just leave it in the drawer. While writing using the old manuscript as notes, I found a scene that actually happened in my daughter’s life. I even had the names right. Now, As I said, I wrote that when she was a baby.

It’s my Stranger than Fiction, experience and it freaks me out. It’s not the only similarity either. Did I condemn my daughter to live the life I wrote? The story is full of the main character going astray with life changing experiences. Everything works out eventually, but I really don’t want my daughter to go through all that. Maybe I should rewrite the story so that the protagonist avoids the bad stuff?

Maybe I should revisit another book I wrote. The protagonists were boys, and I don’t have a son.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, April 12, 2013

They Keep Getting Better

by G.Parker

Have you ever noticed that a favorite author either gets better with each book, or sort of tapers off?  There doesn't seem to be a even level, or plateu for writing.  You are either really good and keep getting better, or you're average and get great, or your so so and go down hill.  There are even those that are really good and then sort of slide off.

Think about John Gresham.  I think he's written some really good books.  I wouldn't recommend them to everyone, they're abit gritty and most of them have no morals, despite the fact that they are writen by and usually about lawyers...lol  I haven't read anything by him since Bleachers.  In talking to someone else who was familiar with his books, they said that he had really gone down hill.  In the beginning his books were gripping, full of suspense.  They felt that his later books had become to formulaic.  They were very disappointed.

I think of Josi Kilpack.  Read any of hers lately?  She has a food/murder series going that is just simply amazing.  I thought the first book was good, but they just seemed to keep getting better and better.  The last one... whoa.   I'm really looking forward to the next in the series.  Especially since it takes place on a cruise...;)

But anyway, my point is authors that really care about the craft either continue to educate themselves and improve their writing, or they level out and start to go down hill.  Once they start to think they've made it to the top, I think they start believing the hype.  I'm sure it would be difficult to not absorb some of the accolades that abound, but it's something that as a writer you need to think about now.  Before the crush.

What kind of writer do you want to be?  I'm sure you want to be amazing.  You want to be on everyone's mind.  Your book on everyone's bookshelves.  Doing the library circuit.  Book signings.  Demands for another book from the publisher, your agent, the public.

Isn't that the dream?

I just want to be the best writer I can be.  Don't you?  That means reading up on other authors, on styles and plots and taking classes.  Continuing to write consistently, every day.  Making writing a part of your life in such a way that you know when something isn't working.  You grab the group of readers and ask them to ferret it out so you can fix it.  You have a critique group that works through the chapters with you.  Your family knows that it's crunch month, and they know mom/dad isn't making dinner or going to be running errands to the store for that last minute project, they'll have to think ahead.  I know, same ol' stuff.  But that's how it is with writing.  It doesn't really change.

I don't know what any of the hoopla is like, I don't know that I ever will.  I know that it's going to continue to take work to get there.  I must say though, that if I can come anywhere close to some of the writers we have in our midst, then I'll be satisfied.

How about you?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Trusting Your Gut in Writing

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I'm a red belt in a Korean form of martial arts called Tang Soo Do. The color of my belt means I'm half way to black belt. While that really doesn't matter, it gives you an idea of how long I have been working on this art.

One of the things we do before every class is warming up exercises. Push ups, sit ups, leg lifts, and other things. One of the focuses of the warming up exercises is to strengthen the core muscles. Because in martial arts the core is the strength to everything. Punches, kicks, forms and self defense.

So what does this have to do with writing?

I see posts on various social media all the time wondering if the writer should do this or that. Should they add, remove a character or plot, or include a prologue. (That last one, the prologue, was me. I do it myself.) All over the place, and in every medium, that artists can express themselves--is full of indecision.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with asking for advice and help. However when we let our self doubt and indecision interfere with the creative process then we end up dead in the water in regards to the creative process and we literally snuff the muse out.

We artists are sensitive people. We have a really thin skin  under the toughened exterior we have to develop for public exposure. When we have a bad critique or review or simply struggle, we start to tear at ourselves and  convince ourselves that were not worthy of the title author or artist or musician and there goes all of the positive thoughts about ourselves right down the drain.

Do you realize that if we treated someone else or had someone else treat us the way we sometimes treat ourselves we'd be horrified?

So back to the sit up issue. When in a martial arts spar we must trust out gut to not only protect vital organs, but to give us the strength to strike and kick and grapple to save ourselves.

So it's the same in writing. Trust your gut. You know what's best for the story. You know where it needs to go. There's nothing wrong with asking for advice or help, but don't let yourself get into a cycle where your constantly doubting yourself as an author. Trust that the critiques are there to help you and if you disagree with what the other person says that its okay. Trust the story.

After all, you are the author.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Sour Grapes

By Keith N Fisher

In one of Aesop’s fables, A fox who is starving, tries to get some grapes from high on the vine. He tries everything to get a bunch of grapes and fails. Finally he gives up and reasons that the grapes were probably sour anyway. We use the term, sour grapes to exemplify the fact that somebody thinks they were given a raw deal in favor of another.

When we get rejected after working hard to sell our books, we can choose how to react or not. Rejection is part of life as a writer, so we keep trying. We submit it again, and we write something new. Or, we complain to everyone that our book was perfect, and the publisher made a huge mistake. I would hope we wouldn’t start railing on the agent or publisher, especially not in public.

That would be sour grapes.

In the February2013  issue of Writer’s Digest I read an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis. She is a movie star, and the author of ten published children’s books. She also, happens to be daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. If you don’t know who they are, I’m sorry for you. Think about the shower scene in Psycho and Tony played many critically acclaimed roles like the Boston Strangler in 1968.
TonyCurtis, Janet Leigh, and family

Anyway, the interviewer, Marcy Kennedy Knight, asked her, whether being famous helped her as a writer. Jamie left it up to the world to decide. She felt that being a public person does help you get looked at, and having famous parents may also have helped her in her acting career.

She went on to point out that people tell her the writing is great. Basically she was saying that being Jamie Lee Curtis might’ve got her foot in the door, but she does her best to deliver.

The ramifications of her story, and other famous people, turned writer, are obvious. Being who they were got them where they are. If we as writers trying to break into the business were somebody famous, We would have a better chance. People would read our books because of who we were.

We can choose to be bitter about that or not. If we choose the former, are we like the fox who complained the grapes were sour?

Jamie’s story is different, though. Being who she is might’ve got her the first contract, but getting nine more books published proves she is good. How many celebrities have written books that shouldn’t have been published? How many have you read? Being celebrities got them in the door, but I bet a self-respecting agent wouldn’t even consider a second book.

There is another type of writer who claims sour grapes. Have you ever read a book by a famous author and found myriad errors? Many authors get to the point where their grocery list could get published. They get lazy because they aren’t held to higher standards. How easy is it to develop sour grapes feelings when you get rejected for breaking a rule you’ve seen a famous author break?

Be glad you are held to a high standard. You are becoming a better author because of that measure. When you publish your tenth best seller, remember to write it well, no matter what your publisher will accept. Don’t be a fraud. When somebody excels (without paying their dues) in your field of endeavor, remember they had an unfair advantage. Someone helped them reach the grapes.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Writing Styles

by G.Parker

I decided that I needed to write something that focused more on writing than my world.  I mean, I know my world is fascinating and all that, but you read our blog for writing insights...not how my kids are doing and my comments on the weather.  ;)

So, it occurred to me that perhaps you might have heard of a writing style called the snowflake method.  I think the first time I heard about it was when I went to LDStorymakers the first time, but I'm not sure.  I know a lot of people put great stock in the theory and design.  The idea is that you build small, and it turns into a novel.  Each little step is a part of the snowflake.

Personally, I am of two minds when it comes to novel writing.  I have an idea and I write around that idea, building the plot and characters as I go.  Or, I have an idea that I'm able to write an entire plot outline, including all the characters and their backgrounds before I write word one.

More often than not, I write the first way.  It's an unusual story that I've written the whole outline for, including characters.  However, when I do, I find it easier to track what I'm dong and who's talking.  I like being able to look up names and personal info and not having to remember it all.  Trust me, when you get to be the older generation, it gets harder to remember all of that.

In writing though, it's always good to be willing to grow and learn.  If you become more skilled at something, you become better at it.  We all want to improve our writing abilities, so perhaps you would want to explore a different way of writing.  Just a thought.  Check out the website, and be sure an look into things at the LDStorymakers conference.

You'll always come away with a greater outlook than when you started.