Saturday, June 30, 2007

Taking Time to Write a Better Book

By Keith Fisher

First, have you ever wondered what the LDSwritersblogck group looks like? Here for your approval are we.
Fist row left Nichole, Connie is directly behind her. Darvell is next to Nichole and Karen next to him. Behind Karen is Gaynell and CL (Inky)Beck is behind Darvell. I am the large guy in the rear. Thanks to the Giles’ for inviting us to their backyard for brunch.

Now the Blog:

Last week I promised to keep you informed about my attempt to rescue my book, The Award. As you may recall, I am re-writing my first novel.

The work was going well—I was making notes for changes—ideas were coming faster than I could write them down. In the middle of it, I heard from some of my proofreaders about another work in progress.

The readers pointed out some story problems and typos I hadn’t noticed. Putting The Award aside, I set out to fix the other one. That’s when I discovered another facet to the subject of my blog last week.

As we polish our craft, all writers learn better ways of telling a story. We apply our knowledge to our new projects, and they are better than the old ones.

After fixing the errors, I started changing semicolons and ellipses to em-dashes and found other problems in the exposition. There were obvious errors I wouldn’t have paid attention to before.

I guess that’s the danger we face in taking a long time to write a book . . . or is it a blessing? I embarked on yet another re-write of a project I had sworn I would never touch again. Learning more about the mechanics of writing can cause re-writes, but the knowledge will make it a better book.

And when I get tired of the re-writes, I can go back to my other works in progress and make all the changes to those books. In the meantime, If I hurry, I can submit my book before I learn something else and take it apart again.

From my ramblings, you may think it’s better to learn all you can before you start to write, but keep in mind that 99 percent of good writing is learned by doing. Keep writing and if you have to scrap 4,000 words and start over, don’t despair. I have heard it took hundreds of failed attempts for Edison to invent the light bulb.

Friday, June 29, 2007


by G.Parker – noun
1. a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.

This word popped into my head this morning as I was thinking of a topic to blog about. Recently, many of our writing group have started up their own blogs in an effort to get themselves known in the world of books and writing, as well familiarize themselves with the electronic media and it’s impact on the publishing world. Many of them are first time bloggers and this is a new and exciting experience for them. Some of them have been blogging for years - if sporadically (that would be me).

This whole situation got me thinking about networking. In the business world, networking is the word used to describe contacts that will further your career or make you money. It’s all about who you know, not what you know, right? Well, that works in many areas.

Take our writing group. Where else would a bunch of writers applaud each other, support one another, and assist with questions and give information? There is no thought of jealousy (or if there is, no one mentions it) nor is there any sign of critism of each other’s efforts. We simply enjoy each other’s company, wish for all to succeed and cheer on everyone’s efforts.

With the blog issue, one of us asked if anyone minded her linking their blogs to her sight. Does this benefit her? Not directly, but it’s the whole networking thing. What helps you, helps me. What I do for another, comes back to me. The golden rule remains a constant, no matter where or who you are. Sometimes it takes a while, and we wonder if it will ever come around - but it does. Eventually. That’s why writers are such long suffering chaps. We have to be...editors take forever.

So find a good blog and do some light reading. We’ve all got something to say, and we all say it differently. In the all gets read.

Here is a listing of some of our blogs:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Action = Reaction

By Nichole Giles

Summer is a busy time for most people. Then again, so is the rest of the year. Life tends to happen, and if you don’t take a few minutes every day to write a few pages, lines, or even words, you will lose the gift you have been given and it will slip away unnoticed, never to have touched a life. Not even yours.

In light of this, I’d like to share with you a few pieces of advice from literary agent Stephen Fraser, given to a crowd of writers at the BYU Writing for Young Readers Workshop a couple weeks ago.

“Never underestimate the power of a good idea.”

“Writing is a craft that is built from experience and practice.

“A good manuscript is a piece of writing that is truly worthy of you and your audience.”

“You can’t rush a work of art.”

“There is a right place for your good writing, and you can know what it is, so do your research.”

“Be patient, be resourceful, be fearless.”

“It is your individuality that makes your writing good.”

“Writing that is timeless, elegant, crafted, pure, intelligent, strong, dramatic and poetic always has a place. Good books endure.”

“Writers are transcribers of ideas, who are infinite in numbers and always coming.”

Good advice coming from an agent, right? Now, I’d like you to ask yourself one question. Why am I a writer?

Once you have answered that question, ask the next one. What do I have to do to write something every day? When you have figured it out, go ahead and make that sacrifice. Get up earlier, stay up later, skip that TV show, or whatever you have to do to find the time to write, and get going.

But before you do, there is one last thing I want you to remember. ACTION = REACTION. Always. In movies, in story, in life. Now get to it!

(Let’s get a little reaction here!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Myth

By Connie S. Hall

Isn’t it fun when you can discover a myth? I’m going to share one with you today. Maybe you can let me in on some of the ones you know.

Some days the hardest thing to not write is a split infinitive. See I told you. I bet I could win a contest writing them. If you don’t know what it is, I’ll explain. It’s when a word or phrase comes between the word to and the verb. To fix it sounds simple, but I can tell you from experience it isn’t always easy.

Traditional grammar and the most formal grammar rules require that we not split infinitives.
This one rule has been the cause of much controversy, but saying they are ungrammatical is a myth. To avoid the split infinitive sometimes results in ruining the rhythmic pattern. It’s good to avoid them in formal writing, but to avoid them when writing a story simply by shuffling adverbs about can create far worse sentences, and often changes the entire meaning of the sentence. Splitting an infinitive is not a sin, but it’s nice to avoid. When it’s easy to fix, we should fix it, but there are times when we should let it go.

I was grateful to run across this piece of advice because I found myself toiling over one sentence, and juggling first one phrase of words then another. Sometimes nothing else works. As a writer, we sometimes need to decide if our sentence sounds best when split, and sounds awkward when it’s not. Many times as I'm typing away I write a split infinitive then realize how awkward it sounds and go back to change it. I’ve learned after a short time to move on. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Keep writing and don’t let those split infinitives discourage you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Today is normally the day that Darvell Hunt posts, but something came up and so I’m here in his place. And no, I’m not continuing yesterday’s saga of the Steller’s jays, because I promised you that next week.

Instead, I’m going to tell a writing secret.

I’ve heard it said that the books we love most appeal to us because they capture everyday life … but in a new light. It’s the mundane with a twist. It’s our own lives filled to the brim with potential—complete with good and evil, friends and foes, triumphs and failures. Only the story is turned on its head. And it isn’t titled, My Life with a New Perspective, but the Count of Monte Cristo … or the Grapes of Wrath … or Charlie’s Monument.

If we want to succeed as writers, we have to take the ordinary and twist it, turn it, and then tie it in a knot. When we’ve done that, we’ll have something unique that others will flock to the store to buy, and stay up all night to read.

To give you an example, most people have heard this poem:

The Purple Cow,
by Gelett Burgess

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

Some enterprising, anonymous person turned the poem on its head with this:

I never saw a Purple Cow
I never hope to see one;
But from the milk we’re getting now,
There certainly must be one.

There you go—that’s the secret. Look at life around you, and then turn it topsy-turvey.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

For the past six months, two Steller’s jays have visited our birdfeeder. If you’ve never seen a Steller’s jay, picture Groucho Mark. Give him a topknot, wings of Prussian blue, and instead of those bushy, black eyebrows, paint them white. When he talks, have his topknot stand on end. There you have it—transformation from Groucho to Steller’s jay.

We thought it was two males visiting our feeder. On Saturday, we discovered differently. They were making a racket, and I looked out to see Corky Pokey Pie, our dog, chasing one around the pine trees. Only it was a much smaller version. It turns out our two boys were a romantic male and female … and they’d hatched four chicks. Chicks which were now squawking and hopping all over the yard. None of them had learned to fly yet.

Enter CAT. He’s a feral feline, turned pet, with a hunting instinct that’s primal. I wish he would catch big, ugly mice with buckteeth and fleas. Instead he catches beautiful birds with Prussian blue feathers—when he gets the opportunity.

I grabbed him and locked him in the garage. He managed to escape three times … but that’s another story. The point is he was no longer out there—at that crucial point in time—chasing the fledglings that were hopping like little jumping beans all over my yard.

With our three pets stowed safely behind locked doors, I tried to help the fledglings. Mom and Dad Jay scolded and squawked at the babies to get back in the tree. The babies scolded and squawked at me for coming too close. When I’d try to herd them to safety, they’d run the other direction, fussing the whole way.

By evening, the chicks and I were worn out. One of them had wandered off and, for all I know, was lost. Two of them had made it back into the tree, but the fourth fledgling just couldn’t do it. He'd flap his wings and leap for the limb that promised safety. Try as he might, he'd fall short. His parents and I shouted encouragement, and he’d leap again. And again … and again. The poor little thing drooped with exhaustion as he sat on the fence rail.

The sun was setting; dusk was falling. My heart was breaking and I knew if he didn’t flutter into the tree before dark, he was in peril of losing his life …

Did he make it?

Or did CAT get loose again and the chick end up as a midnight snack?

Stay tuned for next week’s blog and find out!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Finding the Source of the Tick

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever seen, or perhaps been, one of those children who just had to take the new clock apart? Then having spread all the pieces out, you were fascinated to figure out what caused the tick?

When I was younger, I enjoyed taking things apart to fix them. I think my average was about 50/50. Sometimes the thing worked again, sometimes it didn’t. Often times I ended up with a few extra parts. I just chalked them up to redundancies.

As I get older, I find I need to document and catalog each piece or I’ll forget how they all fit together.

Recently, I entered a first chapter contest offered as part of the LDStorymakers’ conference. The genre was suspense and I had been working on a new book, a great book, a magnificent book, a book intended to grab your emotions and hold them to the last page. Surely, I thought, it would win. I edited, proofread, and edited again.

As an afterthought, I decided to enter a chapter from my first novel, the one I never submitted. I had been revising it as part of my writing exercises. What the heck, I thought, I’ll send it in. Did I tell you the other one was going to win anyway?

Imagine my shock when the chips fell, the great chapter, the magnificent chapter, the one that couldn’t lose? It didn’t even place. You guessed it. The afterthought, the writing exercise, the book I have ignored all these years took third.

As I mentioned before, I have several books in different stages but I’ve added this one to the rotation. It’s called The Award, and it should be ready for submission by Halloween. Like the clock, I have been taking it apart to see what makes it tick. I’ve been amazed at how badly I wrote back then, but I’m awestruck by the basic story and the way I told it.

When I take the chapters apart or rearrange them, I often find parts left over. Redundancies not needed to tell the story. I also found that it’s working. The characters are making changes and taking the story in new directions. I had to kill a character that took a prominent roll in the first version. She volunteered, and I saw she was right. She will be back in another story.

Just like the catalog I mentioned above, the original story is a framework. It’s better than a first draft, because I have invested so many years in it.

Perhaps you have an old story, something you never showed anyone. Perhaps it’s a new story that isn’t working. May I suggest you take it apart to see what makes it tick? If it doesn’t tick, find out why. Spread the parts out in a big circle, you’ll need a catalog in order to get the pieces back together. Don’t be afraid to throw out the redundancies. If the story works, you don’t need them.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Short Story or Novel?

by G.Parker

Okay. You've finally decided to write that story that's been sitting on a note pad since you were in college, high school, whatever -- you've decided you're going to be a writer. What direction do you want to go in? There are many options to writing, but if you write fiction (which is my choice) you have to decide if you're doing short stories, (like for magazines or collections) or a novel.

I started writing with the idea I was going to write the great novel of the century type thing. LONG story, full of romance and action -- you get the idea. Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, my stories never got much longer than 20 pages. I think one went to 50...

Now that I'm older and hopefully more skilled, I really like short stories. I still have a few novels in the works, (the stories now run an average of 250 pages) but short stories give me the quick pleasure -- the excitement of the finished work much sooner than a novel will or can. My favorite route is entering contests, or challenging myself to write a complete story in less than 600 words, or 300. I really enjoy a flash fiction challenge -- or what we used to call Mad Writes. (We tried one of those here in the past, no takers. Anyone want to try again?)

The appeal for me is the short story doesn't have to have the background, the research, the complete development of the characters. It just needs a simple plot with a punch line at the end that brings it all together. Sometimes I have used these short stories to build a novel around, and that's been fun too. But I never thought I'd like the short story, I was always glued to the novel idea.

What is it you like to read most? Do you like the short stories in magazines? Do you like collections of short stories? In the state of Utah, they have a writing competition every year. It's put on by the Arts Council, and this year it has a short story compilation.

When I read that, I knew this was my year! I had some short stories to enter, all I had to do was gather them together, make sure I met the word count, and send them all in.

That was three weeks ago. Before I entered a slump of not wanting to write. Before I realized that some of the stories I wanted to use would be inappropriate for a contest venue.

I have one week left, and I've been vacillating between getting my butt in gear, and just forgetting the whole thing. You see, I had a dream 24 years ago which was the first (and last) time I entered this contest. I entered my first real completed novel -- nada. Not a thing. No comments, nothing. I had spent three days at my work (my boss had been a real sweetheart!) typing the thing into the computers and printing it up, only to have no input or wining letter.

I wonder if that's what my problem is. Well..I'll have to get my fingers going, and the files opened up and check stuff out. I wouldn't let anyone else shelve their dreams because of a long ago rejection, so I'd better not let myself fall short. Even if I don't ever hear from them, I will know that I entered, that I still tried.

You can't win if you don't step up to the plate.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shake Things UP

By Nichole Giles

Two weeks ago today, I embarked upon a journey of discovery and growth. After packing the biggest suitcase I could find, and sitting on it to zip it closed, I dragged it through a crowded airport and hopped a plane.

I could claim that I was “alone…on a greyhound bound for nowhere,” as recording artist Miranda Lambert would put it, but I won’t. Because, well, I was on a 747 bound for San Antonio, and I wasn’t even a little bit alone. Among the other passengers on the plane were my two sisters-in-law and my mother. We planned to meet up with my younger sister for our yearly girls-only-get-away.

You might be wondering what five women might do to amuse themselves on such a getaway, and why I claim this was a journey of discovery and growth. Well, I am about to enlighten you. (Warning: pocketbooks within 50 feet may feel assaulted by the following revelation.)

We shop. Our journey is one of discovering great finds, many bargains, and tacky souvenirs. And while we shop, our feet and our shopping bags (and later our suitcases) grow. Well, not all of our feet grew, only the pregnant person’s feet grew, but we were all right there with her, feeling her pain. The point is not how much money we spent—which was surprisingly much less than it must have looked—but that we had a lovely time being together as individuals, as sisters, and as girls.

Now here is the part where I tell you what my three-day shopping spree has to do with writing. Every now and then, it is good for the soul to shake things up. Change your routine a bit, and take a day or two (or three or four) to recharge your batteries. You might be surprised at the progress you can make on your projects when your brain is rested and refreshed. Men and women alike all need—and deserve—a break from the stress of every day life.

Decisions that you struggle to make, and problems you might be helpless to solve, will all be there when you get back. They don’t go away just because you did, but taking yourself out of the situation, even for a few hours, can work wonders for your psyche.

Even though my trip fell on the worst possible weekend, it came at a time when I needed it most. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your life responsibilities, take a few hours and go meet a friend for lunch. Give yourself permission to be human, put away your computer, and take a breather. You may not make your writing goals for the day, but you’ll be much more productive tomorrow. And who knows, along the way you might discover an amazing story just waiting to be told. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No Road Is Straight

By Connie S. Hall

When I write, the road might seem straight for a while but eventually it has curves and speed bumps. I hate it when a curve comes my way because I feel like a total failure. The speed bumps in the mobile home park down the street from me are too high, and I get a terrible jar every time I venture there. It reminds me of the rejection letters I sometimes receive.

I know before my story is finished I’m going to have to stop for a red light. It always happens. My fingers fly across the keyboard and then all of a sudden they stop. The idea vanishes. Nothing I do will make it come back. I think that is why my computer is full of half-finished stories.

Writing is like a flat tire. Sometimes if I have a spare or lots of determination, I can fix it. Usually I have to walk away and return another day. Sometimes that day comes weeks, or months later. With one story, it has been years since I attempted to add to the story line. In fact, it’s the first book I attempted to write. I honestly think I’m afraid to continue. It’s an adult book, and I’m more comfortable writing for children.

I wish I could hook my engine up with more perseverance, but sometimes I have none left. It’s easier to start something new.

I think the sooner I realize that the road to success is not straight the sooner I’ll get my story finished. I just have to DO IT!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Alabama Alligators and Bolivian Bats

By Darvell Hunt

I made fun of a popular children's book writer and got a signed copy of one of his books as a prize. Talk about positive reinforcement for bad behavior!

It was all in good fun, though. And even children's book writer Rick Walton was present and joined in with the laughter.

Last week I attended the weeklong "BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop." All those who attended could participate in a daily writing contest on four of the five days and I was awarded second place on Tuesday. I'd thought I'd post my winning entry here on the blog.

The contest assignment was to write a 300-word scene putting two writing conference faculty members into an elevator with a wandless Harry Potter. Now before you read this, I should tell you that I chose to write about novelist Martine Leavitt and children's book writer Rick Walton. Martine has won awards for writing young adult novels about homeless boys in Canada and Rick is a prolific children's book writer who is known for his goofy children's stories.

Here's my contest entry, entitled Alabama Alligators and Bolivian Bats. It doesn't bother me that it doesn't make a lot of sense, because, hey, it's humor!

Alabama Alligators and Bolivian Bats
By Darvell Hunt

“Hello, little boy, are you lost?” asked Martine Leavitt.

“My name’s Harry Potter,” said the boy.

“Harry Potter, scary squatter, stuck in the elevator and wants some water,” Rick Walton said and giggled.

“Water? No, not water,” Harry said. “I need my wand. I seem to have lost it.”

“You’re lost? I knew it!” Martine said. “Where do you live, Harry? Can I help you find your way home?”

“Home?” Rick’s eyes brightened and a big grin spread across his face. He pulled a pen and pad from his back pocket and began scribbling.

“No, I’m okay,” Harry said. “But if I had my wand, I could get us out of this elevator.”

“Let’s see, Alabama Alligators, Bolivian Bats,” Rick chanted as he wrote.

“You want to get out of here?” asked Martine. “Are you running away?”

“California Crickets, you thought I’d say cats!”

“Away from the Dursleys? Yeah, I’d love to run away from them.”

“Dogs from Dover Delaware, Elephants from . . . uh, Efrica.”

“Oh, you mustn’t run away, Harry!” Martine said and then looked at Rick. “Elephants from Efrica?”

“First draft. My editor’ll fix it,” he said. “Um, now then, Floridian Frogs and Gophers from Ghana.”

“You ignore him, Harry,” Martine said. “He’s just a silly children’s writer.”

“Silly me, silly you, Harry’s gonna live in a great a big shoe!”

“Shoes? Oh, Harry, do you need new shoes?” Martine asked.

“No, I don’t need new shoes, I need my wand! Sheesh. I think Snape might have taken it.”

“Um, no, Saskatchewan Snakes and Tibetan Tigers won’t come until, oh, maybe page six,” Rick said.

“Oh, yes, we’re moving again!” Harry said with a cheer. “Boy, I’ve gone face-to-face with Voldemort, but you real-life muggles sure scare the living bejeebies out of me!”

Monday, June 18, 2007

Visiting Oz

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Thanks to Shirley Bahlmann, (who’s a talented writer and a sweetheart of a friend) I was given a one day opportunity last week to attend the BYU writers' workshop. I felt like I’d glimpsed Oz and had hobnobbed with my fellow wizards. Except I was in Provo. And they were writers.

But you get my drift … I was untouchable!

Then I went to my mailbox and was greeted with rejections. Four. Count them … four rejections. Form letters without even a personalized note among them.

Rejections, bah! I laugh in their face.

Dorothy Gale, of Kansas, kept going until she was clicking her ruby slippers to go home. I'm sure I can do the same. A glimpse of Oz isn't enough. I plan to stand inside its hallowed halls—despite the fact that my ruby slippers are actually turquoise flip-flops and Toto is a Welsh Corgi who's eaten a plastic munchkin and just thrown up on my carpet.

If, like me, you’ve recently been treated to a few rejections, keep your focus on Oz. And when the wicked witch’s monkey grabs you by the hair and tries to steal your courage, remember this quote:

“The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. Many a person has given up at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success. As the tide goes all the way out, so too does it come all the way in. Prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence and effort can turn a hopeless failure into a glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.”
(Quoted from Bits and Pieces on Persistence by Rob Gilbert, Pg. 17).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fifty-Dollar Sentences

By Keith Fisher

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands . . .” These words from the Declaration of Independence are remembered for lofty ideals. They are used as a symbol of freedom by millions.

Basically, it says that sometimes people need to change their ties to other people or in this case, a king.

You may ask, “Why didn’t the author just come out and say it?” Because it was written during a time when people labored over the right words to use in a mere letter to loved ones. Writing was an art form. It called upon the reader to examine the beauty of the written word.

Thomas Jefferson was commissioned by the Continental Congress to draft a document that spelled out their intentions and provided a symbol that rallied a people who would soon be called into war. The Declaration (with a few changes from Jefferson's editors) was the result of his labor.

Life is different today. With all the competing media, the average readers don’t have time to decipher magnificent writing that makes them think. They like plain English they can read quickly.

With role models like Jefferson, Dickens, Whitman, Shakespeare, and others, it’s easy to fall into the trap of the literary long-winded. We try to impress our peers with twenty-dollar words and fifty-dollar sentences.

We want to imitate opening lines like, "It was a dark and stormy night", or "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times", and "Oh Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done". These are lofty sentiments that say it all, but if an author of fiction used opening lines like those today, chances are it would not be published.

We must reach into the heart of a reader and grab their attention from the first word. We cannot express ideas that cause the reader to pause and reflect on the beauty of the fifty-dollar sentences.

We are told that if the reader pauses, they will move on, and we have lost our chance to entertain. Therefore we must write words that are familiar, that conjure images quickly processed, making room for that which follows.

David G Woolley, author of the Promised Land series said, “If we do it well we transport the reader to a place just beyond eternity without leaving the Lazy-Boy. It sure ain’t easy but it is doable.” I echo his sentiment, It isn’t easy—but we can do it.

Have you ever taught a 12-year-old Sunday school class? The students tune out the teacher most of the time. There is however, a very small attention window, a short time when you can teach. A teacher must be prepared to fill the window. Writing fiction is like that. The rewards are immense, but oh! How I wish I could write fifty-dollar sentences that waft elevated themes to the heavens.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm Going to Be Famous!

by G.Parker

I was taking photographs of the paintings I have done and framed in my home, getting ready for them to be put on my website, and my daughter discovered me. She thought it was a bit strange and asked what I was doing. I told her I was going to be famous, which made her laugh.

After some thought, I realized that wasn't quite what I meant, and not a very humble approach. What I meant to say was that I'm going to be well known, (someday) and I want people to be able to see my work in hopes of seeking my skills or talents. I figured the best way to do that was create a website.

What I didn't realize was how picky I am, or how difficult it is to do that. I've got a site all set up (thanks to suggestions from my fellow bloggers) but I've been stalled for two weeks, realizing that I need examples and that it's going to take more work than just putting a site out there with my name on it.

Kind of like writing a book. It takes more work than putting words together, slapping on a cover, and signing your name to it. It needs to be something you are proud of -- that you would be happy to show anyone. Otherwise, it would be rather embarrassing -- "Oh - that, well, you really don't want to look at it, I didn't get to have any say on the cover, and the editing didn't go well, and..."

Meanwhile, I'm working on the writing and painting. It's a frustrating process, because there simply aren't enough hours in the day. But, I would recommend to all inspiring authors to prepare a site much like my fellow writers and bloggers have. They were an inspiration to me and I'm thankful to be able to rub elbows with them.

I just hope some of their skill rubs off on me.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Procrastination Prevention

By Nichole Giles

I’m having one of those crazy-mixed-up-busy-beyond-comprehension weeks. One of the reasons for this is due to my attendance at a writing workshop at BYU. I am learning a lot, and am filling my veins full of great ideas and inspiration. In the meantime, I’ve been so focused on my classes that I haven’t had time to write a deeply thoughtful blog.

So here is your inspiration for the week taken straight from The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration by Monica Wood.

“Follow-up Notice From the Department of Procrastination Prevention.”

Set your screen saver to say one of the following phrases after thirty seconds of inactivity.

“Don’t get up.”
“Remember why you do this.”
“This thing won’t finish itself.”
“What are you waiting for?”

Now, plant your behind in a chair. Happy writing!

(If you can think of another great phrase, feel free to share!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Never Say Never

By Connie S. Hall

Everyone loves a parade. That is everyone except my husband. If there is a parade, it normally kicks off a celebration. They liven up the community, and generate goodwill. I think they attract people the same as flowers attract bees.

My father looked forward to them every year. As a child I can remember watching him and several scouts ride in the back of a truck flipping pancakes during the July 4th Parade in Provo. As a teenager, I did somersaults down the same street. The thing I remember most about that is how hot the asphalt was.

Many years before camping overnight became popular along the parade route, you would see my father sitting in a chair saving his family a seat for the fun event on July 24. I cherish the long discussions we had sitting up all night. By morning, I was too tired to watch. Now, I’m one of those crazy people camping out. This year as I wait I’m going to write. I’ve started a book about parades and sure wish I had been keeping notes. Since I didn’t, I have to rely on my bad memory.

Several years ago, our stake assigned me to supervise the building of a float for the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City, Utah. After it was over I said, “No one should ever have to build more than one float in a lifetime.”

That is still the way I feel about it, but others don’t agree. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints rotates the assignment yearly to various stakes to join in this fun event. Every five or six years if you live in the Salt Lake valley, it comes back to you.

They also have each stake participate in a youth parade. I have helped with this smaller one many times and one year we built the float in my yard. There was brown and green paint on the driveway for years. I didn’t know then that paint was good, it’s better than glitter hanging around forever. After working on a big float, we had a sparkly yard. Whenever I pulled weeds there was another shiny little speck. The big lesson I learned is never do it in your own yard.

Once you have experience, the local church leaders don’t let you off the hook. I honestly thought I would never have to help with anything like this ever again. In my wildest dreams I was sure they wouldn’t ask me to do this another time. I told them, “I never want to do that again.”

They dissolved our stake and now I belong to a new stake. My reputation followed me, and because I said I would never build another float, when the assignment came, they asked me to be co-chair and help. I guess to our stake president that made sense. My parents taught me when I was young that I should do all the things my leaders asked me to do and never say no. Being second-in-command was as hard as when I was in charge. There was as much work, but you didn’t have to make the final decision.

Building a float is a good experience, but it’s also a difficult undertaking. Far too often people sit back and let everyone else do all the work. One thing I can say is the friendships developed while undertaking something this big are lasting. Those who worked with me side-by-side are the best. They will always have a place in my heart.

Guess what? I’m building another float. This year I’m helping my community. My parents are to blame again because they taught me you should always serve those in your neighborhood. I may have to find another home because my husband isn’t happy about this. I’m not worried, my mother has an extra bed, and there is a couch at my work.

I think this new adventure will help me with the book I’m writing. My mother says, “I’ll bet your father is up in heaven clapping his hands, and jumping up and down because he loved parades. He’ll be glad you are doing this.” After this comment how can I say NO?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Talent and Persistence

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

There’s a little booklet that’s fun to read. It’s called Bits and Pieces and has inspirational sayings, quotations and short, short stories. I’m sure I enjoy it for the inspiration, but also because I can relate to the name. That’s me—falling apart in bits and pieces.

The issue I’ve been mulling is about persistence. So many times as writers we think we have to be enormously talented in order to succeed, and when the going gets tough, we give up. Because we get rejection after rejection, we think our writing is worthless and that we can’t put two sentences together that make sense.

I’ve heard it said that anyone who writes and persists long enough will eventually get published. I think that’s probably true, as long as we view the rejections as a tool to improve our writing.

The hard part about knowing we’ll eventually get published is that “eventually” drives us crazy. Exactly how long is “eventually”? Two months? A year? All of us would keep going if we knew a fat contract would arrive in two months. Most of us could keep going for a year. Unfortunately, no one I know owns a crystal ball, a seer stone, or even a magic eight ball to tell the future. And so we’re stuck waiting and trying not to give up.

For those who’ve just gotten their first, fifteenth or fiftieth rejection, here’s a quote to make you feel better.

“I believe that most people place an undue influence on talent. I don’t doubt that it exists, but talent is essentially a potential for something. The issue really is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without those things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.”
~ MILTON GLASER, Graphic artist
(Quoted from Bits and Pieces on Persistence by Rob Gilbert, Pg. 10).

If today is one of those days where you’ve told yourself you’re crazy to think you’ll ever get anything published, take the quote and tape it to your computer screen. Then finish that work in progress and mail it off. Then mail off another.

Modest talent may be the door to publication, but persistence is the key that turns the lock.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Patching the Holes in a Leaky Brain

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever tried to put air in the tires of an old bicycle that hasn’t been used for a long time? Most often they won’t hold air. It leaks out in many places. The same thing happens when you take an old brain and try to input new information into categories for later retrieval.

In the past, I suggested you try working on more than one project at a time. The idea was to keep writing while you work through a story problem, and return to the main project when the problem is cleared up. The method worked, because it allowed me the luxury of being able to choose which project to work on that day. The system even spilled over into research.

Lately however, the futility of my strategy hit me over the head and caused me to rethink.

I’ve been reading a lot of suspense lately, and I noticed it showed up in my writing. While editing a contemporary novel, I caught myself adding mystery to the exposition. This was a mistake because although I wrote suspense into it, this novel is not supposed to be a mystery.

In like manner, after reading High Stakes by Jennie Hansen and many other western novels, I found myself adding nineteenth century wisdom, and western dialog to a novel set in present day New York City.

One of my projects is set in mid-nineteenth century-California. While working on it, I found myself foreshadowing events that would give the reader a clue to solving a mystery that I never intended to write into the book.

Like the bicycle tire, my brain is leaking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, some stories could use a shakeup to make them better. But it can also confuse a reader and make me scrap 40,000 words in order to re-write the project I have already drafted to conclusion. Seems counterproductive to me.

Another symptom of brain leakage, was when I forgot the last name of my protagonist and started calling him by the name of a character in another book. The other day I had to skim back over 200 pages to find out whether or not I had established a certain fact vital to the story. Have you ever forgotten if she had green or blue eyes? With brain leakage this happens frequently.

I’ve decided to admit my defeat. I’ll still be working on more than one project at a time, but I’ll divide my projects by genre and stick to it. I think I’m also going to be selective about what I read during the time I’m working on a certain project, and I need to update my fact sheets, character profiles, and timeline outlines.

I’ll talk about those next week and keep you abreast of how my plan is working. In the meantime, just scratch a rough spot near the hole and let the rubber cement set a little before sticking the patch over the leak . . . (If only brains were like bicycle tires).

Friday, June 08, 2007

What Would You Do?

by G.Parker

I was asked a question the other day that kind of stumped me. The person asked if I could do anything that I knew was going to be successful, what would I do?

My first thought was, gee, I'm already writing and painting - success is only a matter of time. What would I do?

She was waiting for an answer, so I said the next thing that came to mind and we ended up talking about restaurants. But, it got me thinking, and I decided it would make a good blog.

So many times we start something with the hope that we'll succeed, but we never know. The point of her question was an article that stated failure is an OPTION -- not a guaranteed outcome, just as success is an option. It all depends on how we approach it and what we do to reach it.

It also depends on what you consider success and what that word means to you. Does it mean a bigger house? A fancy car? Vacations around the world? Good kids that make a good life for themselves? A peaceful and happy home where everyone loves to be? A published book? Or a national best seller?

My first desire when I started writing was to be published before I reached 40. I don't think I knew anything about national best sellers, to me it was just being published -- to be able to pick up a book and have my name on the cover. Now that I'm past that figure and not published as a writer, I have a little panicky feeling. I've missed my goal, I'm not successful, what do I do?

However; like I said before, I still feel I'm going to be successful -- it's just a matter of time. It depends on the amount of time I'm willing to spend to get there, and how diligent I am in reaching my goal.

How about you? What would you be willing to do?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Letting Go

By Nichole Giles

We sold four puppies yesterday. They are beautiful puppies, playful and fun loving, each with his or her own personality. In the seven weeks since they were born, my family and I have become attached to those little guys.

I was present as each one of them was born. My husband, Gary, and I put each of them to their mother’s breast for the first time. We have held them, and loved them, and watched them grow into the most adorable little fur-balls on the planet. (I am in no way biased.) But we have to let them go.

That’s the trouble with puppies. It has been a wonderful experience for us, but as much as we love them, we can’t keep them all. Aside from the fact that the city ordinances only allow for two dogs per owner, I can’t even imagine the cost of feeding nine dogs on a permanent basis. And can you imagine the destruction in my beautiful back yard? Oh, my poor, poor garden! So, we find them good, loving homes, say goodbye, and hope against hope that we are sending them to a life filled with bones and chew-toys on a five-acre farm.

It’s a tough concept to learn. But I’m working on it.

This same concept can be applied to our work as writers. An idea is born, and we nurse it, hold it, love it, and watch it grow into something we never imagined we could produce. (And never, are we biased.) But then the day comes when we are forced to find our work a decent and loving home. We send it out into the world, hoping against hope that we are sending this story (or article, or book) to the right editor, who will give it the attention it deserves, with a few editing marks and beautiful artwork.

That’s the trouble with writing. Your story won’t be read if you don’t send it. As much as you love each story, you can’t keep them all. Aside from the fact that it is unfair to your talent and craft for you to horde your work, you’d run out of filing space. Your work would eventually cover your desk, and then your kitchen counter, and pretty soon every surface in your house would be filled with works of wonder and beauty that only you (and maybe a few select others) have seen.

As we have had to give up our puppies, so must a writer give up his or her pages. Love them, stroke them, and kiss them goodbye, then put them in the mail. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better as soon as you go to the bank and cash that publisher’s check.

It’s a tough concept to learn. But we’re working on it!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Are You Sure You Want to Clean Your Room?

By Connie S. Hall

I almost hate myself. My computer office at home is so clean I don’t want to enter its doors again or I might mess it up. Being this organized is ridiculous. How will I be able to work with nothing to look at?

My plans of working in the yard on Saturday and Monday of the Memorial weekend ended abruptly when I had to have an ingrown toenail removed on Friday. Saturday I did what I was supposed to do. Nothing. Sunday afternoon we delivered the many bouquets of flowers to all the graves. Monday, what shall I do? An idea hit. I could keep my foot out of the way while I cleaned the cluttered room. It wasn’t dirty, just messy with many piles of papers scattered all over in neat stacks. I even knew what was in each pile. Anyone that knows me well knows filing is at the bottom of my list of things to do. I hate the job and it’s always the last thing done.

Now that the room is clean, I have another problem. Among the several papers that I needed to file were notes from conferences and on-line helps suggested to me by other people. The titles include:

1. The 3 Most Common Mistakes Made When Writing Articles.
2. Article Writing Mistakes – 7 To Avoid.
3. 7 Formulas for Writing Articles That Get Read!
4. Top 7 Mistakes Writers Make and What To Do About Them.
5. 12 Tips For Writing Articles On The Internet.
6. 6 Tips For Better Writing.
7. 10 Tips For Better Writing.
8. 10 Tips For Writing Success.
9. Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes.

With all this good information, I should find something to help me, but instead I became discouraged and quit reading. To me it seems they should offer similar information, but do they? No, they’re all different. Which ones do you listen to and read? If I took time to read all of these when would I have time to write, and how would I have time to keep a clean room?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Keep on Going

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

The other day I was perusing a booklet in my favorite reading room, the library—also known in my house as the powder room. Or, to be less politically correct, the bathroom.

Ah-ha, the stuff in this booklet would make great information to put in a blog, I thought, glancing through it.

I sat down on Friday to write about what I'd read, thinking the theme should travel a serious, grown-up track. The title of “Persistence” came to me, but since that was the name of the booklet, I vetoed it. After scratching my head and pondering for a bit, a new title popped into my brain—“Keep on Going”.

It seemed logical. It seemed reasonable. But what I didn’t know was that after hearing the word "bathroom", the naughty, inner child that hides in my mind had suggested it.

My goal was to write about inspirational, lofty ideas. The wayward kid wanted to tell you about an incident that happened when I was young.

Honest, I tried to shoo that naughty child away, but you know how the voices in your head refuse to cooperate. Especially the ones that are only nine years old. It appears you’re stuck hearing the story, whether I want you to or not.

When I was a kid and would see my dad striding with purpose through the hallway, I’d always say, “Where are you going?”

He’d reply, “To the library.” It seemed so unfair that he was going without me.

One day when he gave his usual answer, I begged, “Can I go, too?”

My dad laughed and said, “Don’t you know what the library is?”

“Sure, it’s the place where you check out books,” I replied, wondering why that was funny.

“No, it’s another name for the bathroom.”

I certainly did not want to accompany him there. Even if he did have a book in his hand.

The moral of the story is that words can have dual meaning, and as writers we have to be aware of not only their denotation but also the connotation. In addition, bear in mind cultural nuances, or our words may tell something we never intended.

That application of the “library tale” may not be what my inner child thought was going to come from this blog—I suspect her style is to only tell cute anecdotes and dabble in mischievous word plays to entertain the reader—but hey, I’m the writer and for once I’ve taken things where they need to go.

Oops, “need to go”. Okay, maybe she won after all.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Until Then, She Prays

By Keith Fisher

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that behind every successful man—there is a good woman. To apply it to OUR endeavor we could say: Behind every successful author—there is a man or woman who believes. The person who has read every bad sentence ever written, but is still proud. The person who hopes for, weeps for, and prays for the writer in their life.

This is especially true of the authors of LDS fiction. Can you imagine knowing there will probably never be a large return on the investment—but supporting it anyway?

I would like to pay tribute to the person behind the author. To that end, I changed the lyrics of a song written by Steve Gibb and recorded a few years ago by Kenny Rogers. Please excuse the bad poetry but I didn’t have much time.

While she lays sleeping,
I stay up late at night to write a thought
but sometimes it’s so hard to fix a plot
It’s good when I finally get it said, and I go to bed

While she lays dreaming,
I stumble to the kitchen for a bite
Then I think of my protagonist and his plight
Just waiting for me like a secret friend, and there’s no end

While she lays snoring
I kneel beside the bed to say my prayers
She stirs, and she casts away my cares
with a goodnight kiss, she asks about the story, the pain and the glory

While she lays waiting,
I get back up and wander down the hall
The muse must be answered when it calls
She turns over on the bed to go to sleep, she starts to weep

But she believes in me, she knows my dreams are in the heart of me, She knows that maybe on that special night, when my prose is right . . . until then, she prays.

Friday, June 01, 2007

No Imagination

By G.Parker

I discovered the other day, that my imagination is limited. One would think that, being a writer, I would have an unlimited imagination. This is true when I'm writing, but is less so when I'm painting or cooking.

When cooking, it's a whole new ball game. What gets me interested in making a recipe is the big, bright colored photographs. I had the choice a month or two ago between two cooking magazines: Cooking Light and Cooks Illustrated.

Cooks Illustrated was several dollars more than Cooking Light. However, Cooking Light has loads of advertising. I showed my husband the difference and he pointed out that for one magazine I was paying for quality, the other I was getting less recipes and more advertising. Which one has more value? Less Advertising? He was all for me getting the Cooks Illustrated one. I chose Cooking Light.

Why? Just for the pictures.

The Cooks Illustrated felt too much like a text book for a high school cooking class, while Cooking Light is a glorious celebration of food. It's pathetic. I'd rather pay for advertising than information so that I can see a picture of what I’m fixing my family.

I'm willing to try new recipes, but I'm more inclined if they have a big shiny picture that makes my mouth water.

I guess that's what we are supposed to work toward with writing, making a picture in the reader's mind that makes them feel what we are portraying...but unfortunately, it doesn't work the other way around for me.

I do make a darn good pasta salad, our favorite summer meal.

And, since it was suggested, I've included my recipe. (I cook for 8, so the recipe is large.) Have a good one!

Parker Pasta Salad

3 to 4 pkgs pasta (I use multi colored or shell) cooked till tender, drained and cooled
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 can sliced olives
1 pkg frozen imitation crab thawed and chopped(or any kind of meat you prefer such as salad shrimp, grilled chicken, etc.)
2/3 to 1 lb cheddar cheese cut into small chuncks
2 lb bags of frozen veggies (broccoli, peas and carrots, whatever is your favorite)
1 lg red bell pepper chopped
1 lg green bell pepper chopped
1 lg golden bell pepper chopped
1/2 to 1 C mayo (depending on how moist you like your salads - add till texture is smooth)
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
seasoning to taste - I use a garlic pepper blend that I sprinkle on after everything is mixed.

After noodles are drained and cooled down, mix everything together in a large bowl, adding mayo last. Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom so that each item is coated. Tastes best if refrigerated a good hour or two before eating, but that doesn't happen often at my house.

Serves 9, 2 or 3 servings each