Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Code Name: Avocado

By Darvell Hunt

I had a dream the other night in which I went to a clinic for carpal tunnel surgery. When I woke, my left arm was throbbing in pain.

I concluded that I had been sleeping wrong on my left arm and this had caused me considerable pain. My brain, rather than waking me up or telling me to roll over in my sleep, made up an excuse to explain away the pain and then attempted to deal with it, deciding for me that it was carpal tunnel syndrome (which I do suffer from in my left hand) and that I needed to go to the clinic.

But the clinic in which I found myself was rather unusual. There were two long lines, both of which wrapped back on themselves again and again, like a snake line at a popular buffet at dinnertime. One of the lines was to register for medical service; the other line was to receive it.

With such big crowds, the clinic owners had devised a system to protect the identities of those being called back to the examining rooms: secret code names. You received your secret code name in the first line after filling out your paperwork, then stood in the second line until your code name was called.

My given code name was avocado.

Now, to be honest, I’m a fan of avocados. I like to eat them raw occasionally in salads or in sushi rolls, even though I am highly allergic to them (I eat them in small amounts and I'm okay), but I can’t stand guacamole. So, given that, I’m pretty sure the code name was not self-selected. I have no idea where that came from.

This is a prime example of how dreams can be farmed for good ideas. While I am quite sure that I probably will never use the idea of the code name of avocado to protect my identity in a busy clinic line while waiting in line for surgery, this nonetheless shows that dreams can be used as a source of information that your waking life could never provide.

Stephanie Meyer reports that the idea for her vampire books came from a dream. I think her success is a good enough reason to try it myself, don’t you think?

I’ve recently started an LDS supernatural psychological thriller based upon a dream I had one night a few years ago—an idea that I think is an excellent plot idea for a book and one that I would never in a million years think about while I was awake.

Unfortunately, I’ve also lost numerous ideas for books that woke me up in the night with their profoundness, because I never wrote them down before I went back to sleep. The human mind naturally forces dreams back into the subconscious after waking. You can, however, take steps to prevent this natural tendency of your mind to hide its best secrets from you. How?

I’ve heard that many authors use journals next to their beds for times like this, but I haven’t yet began this practice. Maybe if I had, I would already be published, as my best ideas wouldn’t have slipped back in the hidden corners of my mind. I'm planning to keep an AlphaSmart Dana computer by my bedside instead of a notebook, however, mostly because I'm a computer geek and I don't seem to get enough of computers during the daytime.

But, whatever method you use to record your dreams, if you try this and your spouse asks you, “What the heck are doing at this hour?” during the middle of the night, just mysteriously explain to them that you’re working on a secret project, code named avocado, and get back to writing before the idea is gone and lost forever.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Writing for the Fun of It

By Keith Fisher

When I started writing fiction, I was getting up at five a.m. Mostly, because my restless mind wouldn’t let me sleep longer. I had a stressful job and the workload seemed overwhelming. Every morning I’d show up at six, even though I didn’t need to be there until eight. I would go home each evening and run my house design business. My home office was stacked with blueprints and books on standards, codes, and beam stress.

One night I came home and turned on my computer. Instead of CAD, I loaded word and began to tell a story about a young girl who gets an unbelievable job offer. Is there a hidden price to pay? Are there secrets best left undetected? Will she choose the life of a rich recluse, or follow her dream of being a star?

At the time, I didn’t have any houses to design, so each night I went home and told more of the story. I finished it three months later. In the world of published fiction, at one hundred thirty-six pages, my book stood out as a mediocre first draft. I thought it was fantastic because I had lived the story in my mind. I never considered the reader, and whether others would want to read it too.

As I mentioned last week, in the interest of getting publishing credits, I put the first book aside, and started another book. It wasn’t until after my second book got rejected, that I realized I didn’t know anything about writing a book. I could plot a good story, but I was a terrible wordsmith. I also discovered an increased desire to tell stories. I found myself plotting whole books in my head, from beginning to end while attending sacrament meeting.

I was hooked. How could I turn my back on this? I began to seek help in books about writing, and to rewrite my second book. I created lives just outside my realm. My characters came alive for me and I continued to struggle and tell their story. My day job had become manageable. The stress hadn’t disappeared, but I found release in solving the problems of a character in an impossible situation.

After a while, cheap software products made it easier for homeowners to design and draw their own houses and I didn’t have the necessary resources to build my design business so I put the blueprints away. The design standards and engineering books got moved to a higher shelf. The writing and grammar books came down to a shelf within arm's reach. My office gradually transformed into my writing space.

In 2005 I lost my job, and every time I asked myself what I should do, it kept coming back to, finish my book. I was in the middle of re-writing my second book and writing my third. I submitted my second book to a different publisher. It got rejected—I was devastated—I kept writing. I attended my first writer’s conference in March of 2006 and felt gratified to know there were many others, just like me. I discovered I was normal.

Now that I’m about to submit my sixth book, I look back over the long list of works in process. I have fifteen books in different stages of development. I have been taking chapters of my first book to critique group. I’ve re-written it several times. The last time I took it apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. I hope you will like it.

With all these books I’ve started, you probably guessed, I like writing more than editing. I still have ideas come to me in sacrament meeting, and everywhere else I let my mind wander. I get excited about a new idea and if I can’t persuade someone else to write it, I start drafting it. I write for the pleasure of writing.

I used to mentally walk through the rooms of houses I designed. And see it transformed into the real thing. Now, I launch my mind into a story I have written, walking through scenes as if I was there. Like when someone built one of my houses, my stories will be books and I'll be thrilled when people read them. I want to touch hearts with my books, but in reality, I touch my own heart every day.

Jeffrey S Savage, in his blog, said: . . .writing should be a joy in and of itself. If you don’t love doing it, why bother? I love doing it. I hope you do too. If I looked at my writing with a feudalistic view, I might be tempted to quit. Again from Mr. Savage: Seventy percent of getting published is how well you write. The other thirty percent is pure dumb luck. I write for the fun of it. My completed story has its own rewards.

However, like driving past a house I designed, seeing one of my books on a bookstore shelf will be icing on the cake.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Corner of the Galaxy

by G.Parker

Several weeks ago, one of our members issued a challenge to blog showing their desks or office areas. I thought I would take him up on it, so here we go.

Last night we watched the movie Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, one of my hubbies favorite movies. This silly comedy is based on a book that I purchased for my son a couple of years ago and read to see if it was anything like the movie.

It seems pretty close. I don't think I was interested in reading past the first book though -- so apparently it didn't hold my interest much more than the movie did. ( I have to say, at least it was way better than Napoleon Dynamite) Funnily enough, the movie grows on you. There are parts we just have to watch over and over -- like when they are on Vorgon and are trying to walk through the field to the buildings without having an idea...kills me every time.

The reason I bring up this movie in relation to my desk, is the clutter. You could probably find the galaxy on my desk -- then again, maybe not. It's also the corner of my world where I create (as seen by my easel). In reading a book by Steven King on writing, he mentions that we need to have our own little space where we can revive. This is a place where our creativity flows much easier and smoother (supposedly) than others. Well, this is it. While I do get distracted sometimes by the view out my window (as I mention in my other blogs from time to time) I am more at peace typing away at the keyboard here in writing than anywhere else.

Also, I mention the movie because of it's reference to the lack of creative thinking, original thoughts, etc. I believe it's called satirical thinking, but I'm not sure, but he did a great job of it.

I also love the whole guide idea. It's what we always wanted when we first started having children. You know, something that told you how to handle the colicky baby, changing diapers, diarrhea and projectile vomiting, and worse of all -- potty training. When we first saw the movie Robots with Robin Williams and saw the part where there was a dial on the baby that could lower his crying, we both said "That's it!" Unfortunately it's not reality, so that ain't coming any time soon.

Anyway -- back to my desk. You can see two printers, but they each have a different function. The big one only works for faxing things and trying to scan them in...sigh. The small one works for printing. Right now it's out of colored ink -- time to visit the store again. Then you can see that everything is surrounded by filing cabinets. Yes, I have three 2 drawer filing cabinets, and they are all full. I figure that's a real sick thing, but I can't do anything about it. The black file is totally filled with all the papers from when we had our pizza business, and we can't get rid of it yet. We're counting the years...

Next to the printers are the speakers and my monitor. Ah...I love that monitor. It's huge. And not just from front to back...grin. Sure, I'd love a flat screen, but not until they go really cheap. This baby works just fine.

Next to that is the broken UPS -- I don't know why it's still there, my hubby is my technician and he's a little busy.

Then we have the computer my hubby built all by himself and works wonderfully. The Palm that no one uses anymore, the stuff my kids made me, the shell from Hawaii that was a gift, picture of Christ...yeah. All the stuff on the other side is books on writing, CD's with programming, and the two big stacks of CD's are music. I write better to music...grin. Candles, staplers, phone, miscellaneous stuff that really should be tucked in a drawer somewhere or given away. It seems like the more stuff I get rid of, the more appears. sigh.

This is my slice of peacefulness, and I welcome you to visit any time. Just remember the answer is 42.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Musical Stories

By Nichole Giles

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a music lover. There is no one specific type of music I love more than another, and when people try to fit me into a style slot, none of them ever feels quite right. In the same way I love reading different genres of books, I listen to different types of music for different reasons.

The pull of music is strong. Few people I know can resist a really good beat, or a catchy tune that just makes you want to move—whether you’re showering, cleaning, or driving. But the best songs are the ones that tell a story. I have gained serious admiration and appreciation for songwriters who want to tell a story, and who not only do so a few stanzas, a chorus and a bridge, but also are able to make it rhyme. That’s an amazing and difficult feat.

Talk about tight writing.

Those of us who write novels, articles, and blogs can take a lesson from music. Songs must follow a rhythm as well as a pattern, and still rhyme while telling an emotional story in the fewest words possible.

Consider these songs:
Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss My Stupid Mouth by John Mayer
Just a Dream by Carrie Underwood Stupid Boy by Keith Urban
Hotel California by The Eagles Whatever it Takes by Lifehouse
Endless Summer Nights by Richard Marx What I’ve Done Linkin Park
Til Kingdom Come by Coldplay Concrete Angel by Martina McBride
Ode to my Family by the Cranberries Me and Emily by Rachel Proctor
Say Goodbye by the Dave Matthews Band Gasoline by Sheryl Crow
Traveling Soldier by the Dixie Chicks Georgia Rain by Trisha Yearwood
Backseat of a Greyhound Bus by Sarah Evans Lithium by Evanessence
The Glory of Love by Peter Cetera Fighter by Christina Aguilera
Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

The songwriters have told an entire story that, added to music, beat, and rhythm, wraps itself up in around five or six minutes and leaves the listener emotionally satisfied, and often wishing for more. Personally, I listen to my favorites over and over again until I know them word for word and beat for beat.

That takes some serious writing skill.

Is Economy Affecting Writing?

By C. LaRene Hall

With the economy this year, many things have changed in my life. My husband and I have had to alter the way we spend money. We don’t just run to the store for every little thing we think we need. Like everyone else, we are trying to save on fuel, so we plan our errands so that everything in one direction we do at the same time.

I work for a Real Estate and Construction Company. No, I don’t sell real estate and I don’t build houses, I pay the bills. Things are not looking good in the housing industry now. I’ve never seen it this bad.

What are we going to do? I don’t think anyone has the answer to that question. As a member of the LDS church, I’ve always believed in food storage. My supply is low. Last summer my grandson cleaned my food storage area and threw all outdated stuff away. It filled my garbage can for several weeks, but I was glad to know that the things I have are safe to eat. The problem is I haven’t replenished it as much as I should have.

With money as tight as it is, I have also thought about another thing. Are people going to be spending their money to buy books? I haven’t bought as many this year, and have spent more time going to the library. If people aren’t buying books, how am I, as an author, going to sell them? To me that is a scary question.

Maybe it means that my writing is going to have to be twice as good as it was before. Publishers are going to have to be more selective in what they accept. No matter what, since I’m a writer I’ll still have to write.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Lucky Silver Dollar

By Darvell Hunt

I always keep a silver dollar in my wallet. It’s no ordinary dollar, though; in fact, this dollar consists of two silver coins: a 1943 Walking Liberty half-dollar and a 1944 Walking Liberty half-dollar.

Yes, I know, I’m weird. Keep with me, though.

I carry these two fifty-cent pieces with me in the coin pocket in my wallet, everywhere I go. They are my writing talismans. (Or is that talismen? No, my spell checker didn’t like that!)

Each of these silver coins represents something totally different with regard to my writing, yet except for the dates, the coins appear to be almost identical.

The first coin, which is the 1943 silver half, I found with a metal detector in my sister’s yard in Pleasant Grove, Utah. This coin has probably been there in the soil since Americans actually carried silver in their pockets to purchase goods. The second coin, dated 1944, I obtained at a local coin store.

So why on earth would I carry these two coins?

Good question. The answer is not because I’m weird. Though that may be true, I feel I need to explain a more valid reason for me to carry coins that I can’t (or rather won’t) spend. Writers like me usually have more convoluted reasons for doing the weird things that we do.

For probably most of my life, if not all of it—or at least until I found it—that 1943 silver half was just sitting under the surface of the grass in my sister’s yard—even before it was her yard. All I needed to discover the coin was a little effort on my part, a bit of looking in the right place, and a lot of luck. Once I had all three of these elements, I was amply rewarded with my best metal-detecting find to date. This was simply a lucky chance discovery.

The second coin, the 1944 half, was obtained in a boring, straight-forward manner, that took an investment of time and money: Okay, I simply bought it. Not very difficult and not very creative. I knew what I wanted, knew where to get it, and set out to purchase it. This was a deliberate, methodical act. (Although, I had purchased the coin before I found the other one in my sister’s yard.)

Good writing is a combination of what it took to obtain both of these coins, which, when combined, created my lucky silver dollar. The realization of this contrasting combination has prompted me to carry these two silver halves with me at all times, to remind me of the two aspects of good writing.

So, if you missed reading between the lines, these are the two aspects of good writing as defined by my Walking Liberty halves:

First, there are truly great stories out there and always have been, just waiting to be pulled from obscurity. These are generally free acquisitions, but they must be diligently sought out. Great effort and planning may be required to find these stories, as well as a lot of luck, but once they are found, the rewards are great. I call this half the “something from nothing” aspect of my writing, or as some writers like to call it, my muse.

And secondly, great stories also require concentrated effort, hard work, determination, endurance, and paying the full purchase price. There are no short cuts--just good, solid work.

Without both of these, my lucky talisman would not be complete.

My silver dollar writing talisman is the marriage of truth, luck, and discovery, coupled with hard work, perseverance, and dedication—not necessarily two sides of the same coin, but rather two coins of the same dollar.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expanding Horizons

By Keith Fisher

I finished reading a national market book this week. I think I’ll keep the title a secret, since it was a romance and I have an image to uphold. Anyway, I discovered something interesting.
We all have different reasons, but some of us write for the LDS market. The blog you are reading, in fact, indicates that. As for me, I consider it a calling.

I started writing in the LDS market because, as a neophyte, I assumed it would be a good vehicle to get my national market stuff published. I had written a book for the national market, and I thought it would be easier to get publishing credits through the LDS market first. Then get more attention in the national market. So, I wrote another novel.

Neither of those books has been published. About Three years ago, I attended my first LDStorymakers conference. It was great to hear prayers said in that setting, but I had an epiphany. I looked around at my fellow laborers, and felt we were all perched on the edge of a precipice waiting for God to use us. We were ready to influence humanity for good. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted my books to touch hearts and change peoples lives.

So I began to write for the LDS market. Who knew it would be so hard to get published. I continue to hone my skills and I watch LDS writers cross over to the national market. Would that I could write full time and quit my other job.

Then I read the book I mentioned above. It ripped my heart out. I’m still recovering. With IV’s in my arm, and heart monitors making sure I’ll pull through. In a small way, the story touched my life, but it wasn’t an LDS market book. I thought of all the books I’ve read in my life, and remembered how some of them touched my life in one way or other. Most of them were written for the national market, and many of them were not best sellers.

Even with this revelation I still consider it a calling to write in the LDS market. But I’ve decided to dust off my first manuscript and rework it, or toss it. Either way, I’m going to write for both. I think the key for me, will be to keep it clean and work towards touching hearts for good. I don’t want someone reading one of my books and attaching the word Mormon in a negative context to it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

To Feel or Not to Feel, That is the Question...

by G.Parker

Watching my son graduate from basic training was one of the proudest moments of my life. I couldn't take enough pictures. I'm sure my grin was as wide as possible, and my eyes were full of tears. Two days later, I couldn't seem to get rid of the empty feeling in my heart -- tears were always on the verge of falling and I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster, I missed him so much.

I spent some of my travel time (the trip was 17 hours, one way) trying to come up with ideas for my blogs this week, knowing I'd have to come up with two pretty quickly. Since our blog focuses on writing, the pros and cons, the ups and downs, I figured this was a good time to talk about emotions in our writing.

There are many moments when writing a story that you need to have characters show emotion. In a thriller, there needs to be suspense, anxiety, fear, and sweat. In a romance, one expects the thumping heart, shaky hands and fluttery stomachs. In action stories, a reader plans on to see racing pulses, excitement and the wonder of what's around the next bend.

As a reader experiences the emotions of the character, he is drawn into the story -- more involved with what is happening. If what the character is experiencing doesn't reach out to the reader, then the story is going to seem shallow and not worth delving any further.

I wrote a short story a year or so ago that turned into a longer one. I presented it to my critique group for reading a month or so ago, and one of the responses I got was "It's too hard to read. The emotions are too strong." While in some ways that's not good, it was exactly what I was trying to achieve. I wanted the reader to be caught up in the emotions of the character and what he was going through. Obviously it's not going to reach everyone, but for those it does come to, they'll get my point.

In experiencing this past weekend and the emotions of a mother with all the conflicting feelings of pride and sorrow, I knew that it was something many of us feel and would understand, something I can use in future writing.

It's just going to have to be something farther down the road so that I can see without having to wipe the tears every five minutes...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


By Nichole Giles

Last weekend I went to a conference for the League of Utah Writers. I’m always glad to learn something new, and to socialize with other authors. I stayed the night at the hotel where the conference was held, partly because the conference was a good distance from my home, and partly because there were a few activities and speakers scheduled for the previous evening—and with the price of gas these days, and considering travel time to and from Ogden, a hotel room was the better choice.

I have to confess, though, the poetry dinner that night got boring after a while. I didn’t enter anything in the contest, so it was difficult to keep my attention riveted. Toward the end, I snuck away. There was no graceful way to do this, mind you, since I was seated in the far back corner of the room—and there was only one way in or out. (I watched one or two people—who I will not name—try to sneak out through the kitchen, but the staff wouldn’t allow it, the meanies.) Anyone needing to use the restroom would have had the same problem, and I had watched people here and there do just that, and since I actually did need to go, I…did.

But I digress. I have a terrible habit of doing that lately. Sheesh.

I snuck up to my room and changed into my jammies, then snuggled up under the Marriott’s fluffy down comforter to work on my book. Honestly, having the evening to myself to work on my book was part of the appeal of staying over night. Especially since I had planned to finish this project by the end of August, and it still isn’t ready to go. But then again, you can’t rush perfection. So I wrote for three hours—until I couldn’t see anymore and my brain got stuck.

My characters insisted that things happen a different way than how I was trying to write them, and that night, our argument ended in a standoff.

So I went to bed—determined that I’d be able to figure out a solution in the morning. Of course, I got very little sleep, because my characters wouldn’t shut up. (Thanks a lot, guys!) And by the time I got moving and had everything together to check out, it was time to run downstairs to my first class. I ended up stewing about my dilemma all day until I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Frankly, I hate being stuck.

So, during a break between the last class and the banquet, I pulled out my computer (along with some earphones so I could drown out background noise) and kicked back in a chair in the lobby to have it out with my characters once and for all.

Well, I worked it out—sort of. And after I fixed it, I was able to concentrate on other things and people. Like, the speaker at the banquet, and my friends at the table with me.

What a relief! I hate arguing with my characters. Sometimes they can be so darn stubborn!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Right or Wrong

By C. LaRene Hall

With the recent natural disasters in our country, it amazes me how, even with modern devices and equipment, man is still unable to predict the weather accurately. Sometimes they are right on, but other times they’re only close. Because of this, people often don’t believe what they hear, so they decide to ride out the storm thinking the weather people are exaggerating. Now, many of them are in trouble. If, everyone would remember that God is still in control and pray about such decisions, we, and our love ones could stay safe.

I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with writing. I often find myself like those unbelievers. I hate to take something out of my story. Often I believe it’s a good paragraph, and it took so long to write and get it perfect. Why would I want to delete it?

Maybe it doesn’t move the plot forward or maybe you don’t need it. If someone else says to delete it, you should take the advice seriously. I’ve always heard other writers say that it is difficult to hit the button that will take it all away. I believe that if it is boring to someone else, it probably is. Of course, you can ride out the storm thinking you are right and they don’t know anything. If you do, you may find out the hard way and never get anyone to publish your book. I’m not willing to take that chance. If someone tells me my paragraph isn’t needed I really think hard about it. Yes, they could be wrong, but they could also be right.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Writing LDS Non-Fiction

By Darvell Hunt

I recently tried something new that I haven’t done in the twenty-some-odd years of my writing career: creating LDS non-fiction.

Why on earth would I do that?

Well, have you visited your local LDS bookstore lately? If you have, you probably know what I’m talking about: LDS non-fiction is a big seller—some say even bigger than fiction.

Deseret Book publishes a lot of non-fiction. So does CFI. Covenant, not as much, but still sufficient to understand that non-fiction is a good market to tap for a wannabe writer who wants to enter the LDS marketplace.

So why haven’t I tried this sooner? Well, to sell a non-fiction book, you pretty much have to be an expert in something. You have to provide material to the reader that other people can’t. Or at least, something that other people haven’t provided yet. Up until now, I didn’t think I fit that profile, but I’ve found a topic that I enjoy and seem to know a little bit about.

So, I’m trying something new. It’s a bit different work than I’m used to, but it’s much to my liking. I’ve always been a seeker of information and non-fiction certainly delves into that realm.

I’ll still be keeping my fiction-writing going and submitting what I have, but for now, I like the hat of a non-fiction writer. It seems to fit me well and it looks good in the mirror.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

By Keith Fisher

I sat on the stage in the Multi-stake conference the other day and watched a young mother come into the cultural hall and sit down. I assumed she was a mother because she clutched a baby to her chest and tried to calm him.

The act of her embrace spoke volumes to me. She protected her baby and it was obvious she’d come between him and harm with her dying breath. Also evident, was her quiet joy in her responsibility. She was at peace with her decision to be a mother.

I glanced to the other side and noticed another mother. Her toddler strained to get away and explore the wilds of the cultural hall. It had to be an effort for her to let him explore, keeping him at arms length, ready to snatch him back, if need be, before he got too far from her.

There was another mother behind me. Her boy wanted to climb the ladder on the back wall that leads to the storage room above the stage. This mother waited patiently while her son tried his ability to climb the rungs. But she kindly established the rules of how high he would be allowed to climb. She pulled him off the ladder each time he went higher than she felt comfortable with.

After a while I noticed a mother on the front row. With two returned missionaries, her family is in transition. They stand on the edge of adulthood. Soon she will enjoy the blessings of weddings and grandchildren. Her family will expand and her joy will be full.

It occurred to me that as writers, we are all mothers. Our infants come in the form of a book idea not yet drafted, an article, written but not ready for publication. We tend to protect that work. We would never allow another person to read it. We need time to perfect it, to let it grow.

After a while, with a lot of hard work, our toddler takes on a life of its own. It wants to explore paths you never intended it to go. As a good mother, you listen to the characters. Ideas come to you that would make the story better, but it would change the story and would mean painful revisions. You keep the story at arms length, letting it take you to different places, but ready to pull it back when it goes down paths that would make the story too long or would confuse the reader.

Later, we're ready for others to read and offer suggestions. We take it to our critique group, but like a mother, we establish the rules. If we feel comfortable with the suggestions made, we can write them in or keep them out, if we don't like the suggestions. We are the mother, and we decide how high our baby can climb. You never know, with too many revisions it might fall off the ladder, and become a weak story, with no chance of ever being published.

After a life of revisions, editing, and total re-writes our baby is ready to be published. It goes on a mission and converts some, but it touches the hearts of others. It brings joy into our lives, but it’s not the end. Just like the mother with a family of children ready to expand. We will have a family of stories in different stages of writing. Each one getting ready to be published, getting ready for their place in the sun.

Keep writing, have faith, nourish your stories and like children, they will make you proud.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leaky Trust

By Nichole Giles

The other day I happened upon an article that really made me sad. Someone had posted unedited, raw chapters of Stephenie Meyer’s newest work-in-progress on the Internet. Setting aside the fact that this is a highly anticipated book—which is basically Twilight from Edward’s point of view—and ignoring the idea that her readers and fans already know what happens in the end, this is a serious copyright infringement.

I read Stephenie’s statement on her website, and my heart hurt for her as I wondered how I would feel in her position. First of all, authors are (or should be) incredibly careful with whom they share their WIP. This is exactly why. But you know that whoever leaked these chapters was someone important to her, or at the very least someone she trusted. Which makes it a personal hurt as well as a professional one.

Then, there is the idea that this work was raw. I’m sorry, but I don’t even take my work to critique group without going over it several times—unless I’m in a massive hurry, which does happen on occasion. Usually, I do a quick edit of my chapter before clicking print. I can’t even imagine having the public—my hundreds of thousands of fans—seeing unedited work.

Embarrassing? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. Crimson-seeing-venom-inducing-infuriating? Oh boy, is it ever.

Yet she’s handled it with dignity and class. And that’s admirable. Rather than spill the beans about who posted her pages, rather than take out her hurt, and anger, and embarrassment on the person who caused this problem, she has issued a statement, and posted the chapters on her website.

But there is a downside to the whole mess. The book, Midnight Sun, is now shelved. Indefinitely.

Do you know what that means for her fans? It is entirely possible that this book will never be finished. And that is the biggest tragedy of all.

Not that I blame her. I wouldn’t be able to work on it either. They might as well have sucked her blood and left her empty. And she’s supposed to like vampires. Except…

The thing with writers is that we can’t just suddenly stop writing. Sure, we might be blocked here and there. We might take vacations, and/or breaks. We may even claim we’ve retired. But we just don’t stop writing. It isn’t possible for us. We write all the time anyway, weather we have paper and pen, computer, or just words imprinting themselves on our brains. And if one project stalls for a while, another one will rear its head. Another story will form, another character will cry to be heard, another villain will jump at us out of nowhere and we MUST write his story.

In that vein, I firmly believe that someday, Stephenie will finish Midnight Sun. And when she does, I’m fairly certain she will NOT share her chapters before they’re clean. If even then. In the meantime, I’d bet money that she is working on something else, some other brilliant idea, some other wonderful project. Maybe she’ll start an anonymous blog? (Hey, why wouldn’t she? It’s a great pastime!)

We should all learn from her experience. Critique is important, but trust is crucial. And no matter what happens, write anyway.

I think that says it all. Don’t you?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Skating Over Obstacles

As a child, one of my favorite activities was skating. I didn’t have the cool rollerblades children have now. The ones I had attached to my own shoes with a strap around my ankle, and the length and tension I adjusted with a screw.

20th century model which fit over ordinary shoes.

After reaching my teen years, I continued to skate. By this time, instead of skating on the sidewalk I went to the roller-skating rink. There they had wonderful shoe skates with a toe stop.

By this time, I had another activity that I loved as much as roller-skating – dancing. Shortly after I started dating at 16, I met a great guy that loved to skate. He hated to dance, at least on a normal dance floor. Almost all of our dates were at the skating rink. Kay taught me to dance on those wheels and sometimes I was sure I was flying.

Skating over obstacles was something I learned to do well. I think once you learn to overcome difficult things that come your way, you can overcome all sorts of complications. That includes the hurdles you have to cross to find someone to publish your book. My largest obstacle is all the rejections I’m gathering.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Which Book First?

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been helping a friend plot a book lately, answering questions like, what do I think would happen if . . . I’m glad to help, and hope my suggestions are of value. With all the talk about my friend’s new book, I found myself wishing I could write it. I’ve been doing edits until they are coming out my ears, or leaking from my brain through some other opening.

Anyway, I’ve discovered I like writing more than editing, (go figure). I’m on a deadline and my book is almost done. I’ll keep you informed.

Editing is a necessary thing, but writing, especially plotting, can take me to the heights of imagination. I can go to exotic places and be an unusual person. I can take myself back into my own past and do it right this time. I like solving plot holes and conjuring alternate ways of achieving a happy ending. I like it more than deleting was’ or spending hours in a thesaurus looking for non-repetitive words.

My preference for writing vs. editing became evident when my critique group finished my current book and I tried to decide which book to bring next. I looked through the writing folder in My Documents and found all my works in progress. As I’ve mentioned before, I have several books in different stages of development.

The first week of critique, I brought the first chapter of The Trophy, a finished book, but it needs revising. It’s a story about a woman, and I knew the ladies in my group would make me put in more emotion. So the next week, I brought the prologue and first chapter of All That Glitters, a book that’s only half finished. The story is about a man who deals with outlaws and such during the California gold rush, but as I said, it’s only half finished and I don’t have time for free writing right now. Remember my editing deadline?

I considered all my other books. Two are finished but need revising, others are, as I said, in different stages. I went back to The Trophy because it’s ready, and I didn’t want to confuse my group too much.

So here I sit, with three edited chapters in two books and I can’t get to those revisions until I finish with the book I’m on deadline for. It feels sooooo good to write this blog. At least I can ignore my deadline for a little while. But I’ll have to work through the night to make up for lost time.

I must admit, however, I am grateful. I have been blessed with a vivid imagination and eventually I’ll have learned enough to write things correctly the first time. Until then, thank you my friend, for allowing me the opportunity to stretch my imagination a little. I hope I have been helpful.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Small Words, Big Thoughts

by G.Parker

A long time ago I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. It inspired me as no other story had to that time. (besides Anne of Green Gables...grin) It was when I read it that I thought about writing for the first time.

My initial thoughts were selfish in nature -- amazing how you think only of yourself at 12 years old -- sigh. I wanted fame, I wanted status, and for some reason I thought writing would bring me that. Silly me.

As I grew, I realized that this wasn't going to be an easy thing, nor did I think it was really going to happen. My life's story wasn't going to be one that everyone wanted to read. It wasn't going to have a tragic ending and I didn't live during any major war. (Until now.)

So...ideas changed. I wrote poetry (very BAD poetry) and romance stories. I would create stories much like the ones I read, and I was a voracious reader, much like my children are today. If only I'd known...nah. Even then I would still have read. I'm sure it was an escape from an unsure life of foster homes.

Anyway, as I grew, I realized that the stories had to be more than copies of things I'd read. So I stopped writing and just read, keeping notes in my journal of my life and emotions. I've kept a journal since about 12 years old, and most of it in the early stages was the same thing you'd read from any young girls diary. "It was sunny today. We had hotdogs for dinner. The boy down the street is really cute..."

When I started college, my writing became more of a reflective thing. I started writing fiction with more depth, not copies of someone else's work. I also wrote more poetry, and my testimony of the gospel became stronger. Interesting how it all plays together, isn't it?

After my mission, I decided to tell a story using Oregon as the background, which is where I served. I decided it had to be about Astoria, one of my favorite locations, and began writing a full length novel for the first time. The initial drafts were really quite funny. I thought it was wonderful though, and even decided to enter it in the Utah Art's Council contest. Now -- at this time there was no such thing as personal computers, nor did I have my own electric typewriter. My boss (which is still amazing when I think about it) allowed me to use the computer at work to not only convert the story into word processing, but to print on the work printer.

It took almost a whole day.

I turned it in just under the deadline, and waited anxiously for my confirmation of winning. It never came. They politely sent my story back, and didn't bother to write notes on it. (I'm sure they didn't know where to start...)

I have since rewritten that story, and gone on to others, hopefully better. I still think the original story is good, and I might end up self publishing it someday.

But it's these early experiences and efforts that made me the writer I am today. The small thoughts I started with, the copies of romance novels that I inhaled -- all of it contributed to my continuing on and keeping the creative muse inside me alive. The only time it was dormant was when I was busy having seven children and there was no time for creative thought or outlet until I'd been married 10 years and my sanity was in question.

It's amazing what comes from a few small words written in one's youth.

Next week I won't have a blog. I'll be watching my son graduate from boot camp, crying, clapping and cheering with the rest of my family. Hopefully there will be much to write about when I come back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Diving into the Depths

By Nichole Giles

I love going to writer’s conferences. It’s no wonder I enjoy them, I always meet great people, hear inspirational speeches, and learn new techniques (or hone old ones.) But more importantly, every time I do something serious that has to do with writing—like going to conferences—it reminds me that I AM a writer.

Why is that important? Well, for one thing, if I didn’t constantly remind myself, I would definitely forget. It’s like…well, take religion for example. If you don’t go to church, don’t learn new things, don’t read the doctrine every so often, you’d sort of forget you’re a member of that religion. If someone asks what religion you are, you might tell them the church you used to attend—but you probably wouldn’t tell them that you haven’t been there for five years—and I highly doubt you’d suddenly become a missionary.

And think about math. If you don’t do algebra equations (or heaven forbid, something more complicated and difficult—ugh) regularly, you forget how. I know I did. I haven’t been in school for years, and do you think I’m any good at helping my ninth grader with his geometry? No way.

What about language? If you were to live in a foreign country for three or four years, speaking only that foreign language and never the language of your own country—might you forget how to say certain words? Sure. My husband did.

Here’s a big one. If you email or text or blog without ever worrying about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the other basic writing rules you learned in elementary school, you will very likely forget those things altogether. It would stink to have to learn them over again. Believe me, I know some people who are doing just that, and they do not find it fun.

If you’re a writer, you have to write every day. Write something. Email. Journal entries. Blogs. Free writing. It doesn’t matter what, and everything you write doesn’t have to be publishable. In fact, sometimes it shouldn’t be. As long as you’re doing it, you’re making progress.

One of my good friends—who I met at a recent conference at BYU—said the other day, “I really want to do this, so I’m jumping in with both feet.” To that I say, hallelujah! That’s the best way—and sometimes the only way—to do it. Take all the classes you can, go to conferences, join critique groups, and most importantly write every day.

There’s a writer’s conference in my area next week. I’ve been planning to go all year. But when it came time to register, I hesitated. Come on, everyone’s feeling the same economic crunch these days. So I didn’t register, and I put it off for a couple of months. But that little voice inside me—either my muse or my conscience, I can’t decide which—kept nagging at me crying, “Just write a darn check and make the reservation! You’ll be sorry if you miss it.” So, I wrote some extra blogs, scraped together some cash, and made the arrangements. Because even though I could think of a hundred other places to use that money, I feel the same way as my friend Carolyn. Only I decided to jump in feet first three years ago. This time, I’m diving headlong into the depths of the ocean, and taking my manuscripts with me!

If I don’t pop up for air soon, will someone please throw me a life preserver?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

There are no Secrets

By C. LaRene Hall

Can you believe there are people writing self-help books that list hundreds of ways to be happy? A couple of titles I noticed were “9 Habits of Maximum Happiness”, and “The Get Happy Workbook”. At your local bookstore, you can find books that might help you in your search for happiness. That is, if you practice the ideas listed. But, why go to the expense of a book, and time to read it when the answers you need are in your scriptures, or in our prophet’s voice at conference?

You don’t just find happiness – you have to make it happen. You can find your own path to being happy by finding what brings you satisfaction. Happiness comes from the inside. It’s all up to you. Happiness is a choice!

I have observed that the happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes their way. When the door of happiness closes, another one opens; but often times we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one that opened for us. I hope we will all continue to watch for those open doors.