Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Book is Not Closed

By Darvell Hunt

I have something that Michael Crichton, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, John Steinbeck, Jane Austen, or even Mark Twain or William Shakespeare, do not have.

I have life.

My work has not yet been completed. I can still write more than what I have—and better than what I have. If one of my stories is not yet complete, I can finish it. If there is an idea that’s been banging around inside my head for years, I can still put it on paper.

Life is precious, but very limited. Unlike land, which they say goes up in value because it has a finite supply, we get a steady stream of time—24 new hours each and every day. It comes and goes whether we use it or not, and everybody gets the same amount per day.

I have recently made a commitment to use more of my daily allotment of time to produce more writing—word combinations unique to me that no other person on earth can create, nor compare exactly to what dead writers have already created. My words are my own and unique to me.

In addition to the few names I listed above, there are many other great dead writers out there, but nobody knows who they are. They didn’t write. Or they didn’t submit. Or they didn’t persevere.

Popular fantasy writer Tracy Hickman says that if your words are not read, you are not a writer. If we waste our moments of time doing something else besides our God-given talents, which may include writing, then we waste our lives, as time is the essence of life.

I am a writer. I have more life left—more time to write. My book is not closed. My work is not done. I must continue to write as well as I can until life closes my front cover and puts me on a shelf, where I hope people will recognize my name and further give me life by reading my words.

Monday, June 29, 2009


By Ali Cross

A couple thoughts collided to bring you this post. First, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some writers tailor their work to suit the market. I’m talking about those writers who write outside of their genres just to meet market demand. Or who change their main character from a girl to a boy because they heard there were fewer strong male protagonists for middle grade readers, not because they wanted to write a story about a boy.

Secondly, I’ve been thinking about those times we try to manipulate our stories so they go in a direction that they clearly don’t want to go. I’m sure all of you can relate: There are times when you have an expectation from your story, you sit down to write it, only to discover your characters have something else in mind.

When a writer does either of these things, their story becomes less sincere and the reader knows it. What happens when a reader encounters such writing? Well, I’ll tell you what I think happens . . . the reader snaps the book closed and tosses it onto the floor.

As a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers. Lie to them, and they’ll know it. If you’re lucky, they’ll forgive you, but if you’re not so lucky, if you lie to them too often, they might never read your stuff again.

It’s important to be aware of market trends when writing your books, but you should never write in a genre you aren’t comfortable in. If your voice and story ideas are best suited to adult epic fantasy, but you’ve heard the trend is toward YA dystopian, don’t change your genre. You may be able to crank out something that’s publishable, but your heart won’t be in it, and eventually your readers will discover that about you. Guaranteed, at that point they’ll feel let down.

Similarly, if you try to make your characters behave in ways that are contrary to their nature, your story will be derailed—in feeling, if not in actuality. Your readers will begin to doubt what they’re reading and question everything they thought they knew before. No matter how the changes propel the story forward, if your character is not believable, your story might as well be dead.

Writing is a responsibility. In exchange for their hard-earned money and valuable time, you must be honest with your readers. They trust you to take them to another world, to let them escape reality for a little while. If you betray that trust, the reader will know, and they will not come back to you.

Be sincere in your writing. Be true to your heart, to your story and to your characters. Your readers will thank you for it!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Agent in Old Lace

A book review by Keith Fisher

When Tristi Pinkston agreed with the rest of us to attempt a start of a critique group, I was pleased. I knew I’d learn a lot about writing, but since Tristi wrote historical fiction, I figured I’d learn more about history.

On that first day, Tristi brought the first few pages of her Secret Sisters Manuscript. Needless to say, I fell in love with her characters and thoroughly enjoy the antics of Ida Mae. After receiving a contract on the series Tristi came with a mystery/suspense that had to be edited right away. I sat in awe of Tristi’s versatility.

Because of difficulties, I didn’t get a chance to help much with her edits. So, I got to read this book fresh and I found a great story.

I’m still waiting for Secret Sisters, but Agent in Old Lace is a great snack to tide me over. Actually I liked the book. The story intrigues and delights the readers. The plot twists keep them reading, and the protagonist is fleshed out completely.

Here, read this:

. . . With the gun still in his hand, he glanced from side to side.
"Shannon!" he yelled, and for a minute she thought she’d been spotted. "This is the biggest mistake of your life!" He kept walking. "Shannon, come out," he cajoled. "We can still make it work. I’ll forgive you, and we’ll get married. "Just come out and everything will be all right."

Yes the poor guy is insane. But look at the scene. He’s got a gun. He’s threatening her with it, and he still thinks she might marry him. What a delightful situation this is. Agent in Old Lace is full of this kind of writing. I liked it. You can get a copy here or at bookstores near you. If it isn’t on the shelf ask for it.

As far as historical fiction is concerned, I’m not disappointed. I know Tristi will eventually bring some history to our group, but I enjoy Agent in Old Lace.

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

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another Vignette from Life...

by G.Parker

The other day I was sitting outside of a large movie theater, enjoying the warm summer evening. A tall slim woman with short blond hair and bright yellow top came by, loaded with shopping bags and a little Chihuahua. She put her bags on the stairs and then put the dog down. It ran around like it had found paradise. I've never seen a happy Chihuahua -- only snippy, snarly ones.

It came over and grinned up at me, sniffing around my legs and wagging it's stubby tail. I was hesitant to pet it, not wanting my fingers bit. After a minute it wandered back to it's owner, and she chuckled.

"He's a friendly little guy," she assured me.

"I can tell," I said, still reluctant to put it to the test.

I watched it run around the plaza, and then the lady stood up and looked at me, a cigarette in hand.

"Do you have a match?" she asked.

"Sorry," I told her, shaking my head. "I'm afraid not."


She looked around the area, wondering who to approach, and right then a man came out of the theater, with shaggy light brown hair, scruffy T-shirt and worn jeans, a backpack thrown over his shoulder -- holding a cigarette.

She immediately headed his way, little dog following. Right as she got up to the man, he asked, "Do you have a lighter?"

I chuckled at the interchange, and wondered what they would do.

"No!" the woman said, obviously dismayed. "I was coming to see if you had a light!"

"That's why I came out here," he said. "What do you think we can do?"

Both of them looked around the square at this point, and then a woman who was sitting at a nearby table noticed them holding the cigarettes and waved at them.

"I've got a lighter," she told them.

Both of them looked relieved as they headed her way.

"Thank you so much!" The blond woman gushed as they gathered around the table.

I watched them get their cigarettes lit, thinking it was pretty funny how a habit could unite three total strangers.

See what you can observe in your world. See ya next week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Emotion Driven Characters

By Nichole Giles

The other day we rented the movie, “Forever Strong.” I admit, I wasn’t all that interested in watching the show, but had heard good things, and my kids really wanted to see it. So we watched it together—my husband and I, and both our daughters crammed on my bed…but that’s another story—and I think I got more out of that show than my girls did.

In the beginning, the protagonist had some serious life issues that got him into big trouble. Throughout the movie, we watched the main character learn and grow, and change his ways—with real, true motivation, and through the help of a few people who care.

By the end, he’d changed significantly, even to the point where he was able to influence others to be better, stronger people. The story, and the growth of the main character, was profound enough to make me think—and keep thinking—long after the movie was over.

It was a really good show, and a truly heartwarming story.

What makes a good story? In this case, the theme isn’t about the sport the characters play, or the dire consequences of making poor decisions—though those are subplots. The main storyline is about a person who is taught how to make better decisions, and the profound way a few caring people change his life. It’s about learning to be strong.

This is a great example of a character driven story, one crammed full of the emotions human beings experience. For me, that’s the most important thing. Human emotions. Everyone wants to feel—including our characters. In this case, the screenwriter succeeded in achieving the goal.

Another great example is the movie, “Gran Torino.” Character driven, character changes, an unexpected twist at the end that is the only possible right way to end the story. But the viewer never sees it coming. (Warning: This movie is rated “R” for language—which is really bad—and some violence in the end.)

Do you know another great example of a character driven story? Tell me about it. Let’s share.

Until next week, write on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Garden

By C. LaRene Hall

Many times, I’ve heard the saying, Life is like a garden – we reap what we sow. This year has been one of those years. My husband had to plant the vegetables twice because of all the strange weather we’ve had. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just replant life, the same way we do our gardens?

We can replant the life of our characters and make things turn out the way we want. We just have to be careful that it seems realistic. Our characters need to learn something, the same as each of us learns life’s lessons.

Seeds planted in my youth bloomed bright and full. My parents did a good job teaching me. Although I didn’t always listen every time, some of the things they taught stuck. I have found that in the early afternoon of my life, I have reaped many fruits of my life’s harvest, and I raised a bumper crop. It’s good to look around and see the full circle of color.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father's Day Tribute

By Darvell Hunt

G. David Hunt: August 1937 - February 2009

I miss you, Dad!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silence is Golden

By Ali Cross

Imagine if you couldn’t speak. What would you do? How would you let people know what you were thinking, feeling, what you needed?

At the end of a vacation in which there was neither time nor opportunity to write, I felt very much like such a person.

I ate up the miles behind the wheel imagining what I would write about next, how I would change or improve my current stories and how wonderful it would feel to be able to express myself again.

In many ways, taking such breaks from writing can be good for you—absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that jazz. You get to step back from your writing and, for a change, see the forest, instead of just the trees. You can cleanse your mind, like taking a sniff of cocoa beans after sampling perfume. (I’m trying to see how many similes I can come up with in one paragraph, like a brunch buffet on a Saturday morning.)

I willed my car to fly over the miles that separated me from my goal—to spend a few hours of peace and quiet with nothing but my stories to keep me company. Since simply willing the time to pass more quickly didn’t work, I entertained myself on the long drive by writing in my mind, or, as Terry Brooks says, daydreaming.

Easily as important as the time you spend with fingers on the keys, or pen to paper, daydreaming is an essential part of any good storyteller’s routine. We need to be able to let our mind flow over the ideas, collecting and discarding them as they come. Allow all your senses to come into play and immerse yourself into the story as you did when you were a child.

So what if you couldn’t speak? Assuming it’s a temporary thing, you might cherish the silence. Similarly, if you’re without pen and paper or in my case, a laptop and power supply, treasure the time you have to dream. Silence, as they say, can truly be golden.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Little Promoting

By Keith Fisher

I was in the bookstore, and two things grabbed my attention. I heard an old song I used to play and sing. And I bought a book.

Thirty years ago, I spent a lot of time playing my guitar and wasting time. I didn’t foster delusions that I would be a great rock star or anything, I did play at a few weddings but other than that, I wanted to escape adulthood.

My friends and I liked to play Neil Young songs. I liked the Eagles with a few rock and rollers and obscure songwriters thrown in. Did you ever follow Hoyt Axton’s career? Anyway, I loved to play Sugar Mountain by Neil Young. I could relate. You see if you managed to stay at the carnival forever, you wouldn’t have to grow up and be responsible.

That was the song I heard at the bookstore. It wasn’t Neil Young singing, but it took me back over the years to a time when I felt the same way.

Also, I bought a copy of Cup of Comfort for New Mothers. My friend, Kim Thompson, was a contributing author and she told a touching story of when her youngest child was born in severe respiratory distress.

When I met her, Kim found out I was writing in the LDS market. She told me she wanted to try writing. I asked why she didn’t, and so she started writing. If anyone ever had natural talent she does. She brings first drafts to critique group and we’re amazed. (Some of the ladies threatened to drown her.) :) I told her she would be published before me, and she was.

Now, She stands on the brink of having her book published. Kim signed a contract with Valor Publishing Group. Her book, currently titled I’ll know You by Heart, will be released in March 2010. She will be writing under the name Kimberly Job. Keep an eye on her---she has a future in this business.

So this is my Saturday morning state of mind. I wanted to promote Kim. To let you know about the name change and give her the credit she deserves. Those of us in our critique group are very happy to rub shoulders with her.

Now, lets see, that means everyone in our group has a book published or coming out. Well, except me, but I’m working hard---won’t be long now.

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

Friday, June 19, 2009

Using Life Experiences...

by G.Parker

One of the most common suggestions for writing is to write what you know. That's why many authors use everyday things in their stories. It's why we writers are observers. We need all the experiences we can absorb.

There are somethings though, that come across as unreal, no matter how real they are. In the book I've written about my vacation to Hawaii, my critique group has commented more than once about something I've written in there, and my statement has been, "But that's how it happened!" grin.

Take this story related to me by a co-worker: She had been to a local Wal Mart, and realized that this couple was following her. It kind of spooked her, and she tried to turn corners quickly and get her errand done so that she could loose these people and get out of the store. She finally got to the check out and figured she'd lost them, when she turned around -- and there they were! As she started checking out, the woman got her attention.
"Um, can we tell you something?" she asked.
My friend said "I guess so."
The woman pointed at her feet and said "You have the sexiest feet we've ever seen!" Her husband nodded his head, both of them wearing serious expressions.
"Sexy feet?" my friend repeated, totally surprised by their statement.
The cashier heard what they were saying and was suddenly excited.
"Can I come see?" She came around the counter and looked at my friend's feet. "Oh yeah, they are sexy!"
Here they were, in a line at the checkout stand, and everyone was admiring my friend's 'Sexy feet'. There were several people in line behind her, but no one else seemed to think it was odd.

She was so embarrassed she just wanted out of there.

You see, my friend is a shoe fiend. She thinks shoes are the greatest thing next to chocolate, but she would never look at someone's feet for their feet, she looks at the shoes. The idea that these people were looking at her feet and thinking they were sexy creeped her out.

I told my husband about it, and now it's a family joke, as to whether we have sexy feet or not.

See how stories start? If I stick that experience in a story, do you think anyone is going to think it really happened? I definitely wouldn't have...before now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Coming Out of the Clouds

By Nichole Giles

Last week I took a drive in the canyon. I’d gone up to a small mountain town to spend a weekend with a few of my girlfriends, and though we all would have loved lounging around by the pool on Saturday afternoon, it rained the whole time we were there.

It sounds like a disappointment, but my friends and I were just happy to be in a quiet house where we could giggle and chat and watch chick flicks, so the rain didn’t bother us too much.

When I went to leave on Sunday, the rain had stopped and the sun shone—however weak—so I loaded my things in the trunk and put the convertible top down. In my mind, there’s nothing quite like the feel of mountain air on my skin, the smells of campfires, and crisp, clear water, and millions of trees caressing my senses as I traverse the winding roads listening to…whatever music suits my mood at the time.

I drove away from the house, trying not to see the dark storm clouds closing in on me. Instead of worrying about rain, I cranked my stereo up louder. Minutes later, drops of water splattered on my windshield, small and slow at first, but within a few minutes, the splats grew larger and came much faster. If you’ve ever ridden in a convertible in the rain, you realize that I wasn’t really getting wet at this yet, because I was driving faster than the water was falling. But as the storm continued, I knew that eventually it would catch up with me and I’d be drenched.

As it happens, the canyon in which I was driving is a two-lane highway in some places, and that highway becomes fairly narrow—with few or no turnoffs—around a very large, full lake. In case you were wondering, at that point, stopping to put the top up wasn’t an option. Though, if there had been a place, I probably wouldn’t have stopped anyway.

See, just as the rain was at its hardest, I looked up, wondering what I’d gotten myself into, and saw that up ahead, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining through. I told myself, “Hey, it’s not really so far away,” and kept going. Even when traffic slowed me down, and my clothes became damp, I kept moving—aimed for that sunny break in the clouds.

When I got there, it was more beautiful than I could have imagined. The side of the hill was covered in purple and yellow wildflowers, and the trees reached hundreds of feet toward the sky. The sunshine warmed and dried my skin, and I was revived.

As I was driving through this warm spot, I thought about writing, and how easy it is to get discouraged when you’re trying to drive through the storm. How hard it is to see through the clouds to the sun. Your work is criticized, and you become discouraged. Success is difficult to come by, and you get rejection after rejection, and begin to wonder if all your hard work has been in vain.
I see writing as a journey, and sometimes, we can’t help getting caught in the rain. When this happens, my advice to you is to look up. It may be hard to spot, but somewhere ahead, there’s a break in the clouds where the sun shines through on the tall trees and riot of wildflowers—a spot you can aim for where you can be refreshed and revived before diving back into the rain again.

It may be a small success, or an encouraging comment, or an agent calling to request your full manuscript—but it’s there, just ahead. Be patient. It’s closer than you think.

Have a good week. Write on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


by C. LaRene Hall

A few weeks ago, I went shopping, not because I wanted to, but my brother asked me to buy a picture for him to give my mom. I never found what he wanted for her, but I did find something for me. Those who know me probably realize this is unusual because I never buy things for myself.

The picture I bought pulled me right in from the first minute I saw it. I had no choice; I had to have it for my home office. In the front, some children sit facing a lake with mountains in the background. On the mountain is a castle and in the sky two unicorns. The caption says, “It’s sad when we give up the castles of our future for the fantasies of our todays.”

I would probably have made the purchase, even without the words because I love the painting. Also, I think I’d have bought a plaque with the words, even if there had been no picture. From deep inside something called, “Buy me!”

I’m usually not that impulsive and I hate shopping so I have no idea why this picture stares down at me as I sit writing at my computer, but I’m glad it does. It’s an inspiration and I’m sure it’ll help immensely because magical things make me want to write.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

With a Little Help from My Friends

By Darvell Hunt

I now have over a dozen new writing friends, each of whom helped me with my writing last week. I hope I helped them as well.

I feel a strange but pleasant buzz rushing through my body, because my writing batteries are all charged up, thanks to the BYU Childrens Writers and Illustrators Conference. This was my fourth year in attendance and it was a as good as ever. Lots of writers, authors, illustrators, editors, and even a literary agent, were all gathered together in the same place, which made for a fun week.

The conference worked my writing muscles pretty hard and, while each day left me practically exhausted, each day I went back for more, I felt renewed strength. I left on Friday evening with a new toolbox full of writing goodies that I hope to use in the near future.

One of the reasons I go to conferences like this is to meet other writers, like myself. It’s nice to know there are others who are pushed from within to write compelling stories that inspire readers everywhere.

Tracy Hickman, co-creator of the popular Dragonlance fantasy world, basically taught us the tree-in-the-forest allegory as it relates to writing: If you write and nobody reads it, is it really writing at all? (That’s my translation of it, anyway; he didn’t actually say it using those words.)

I’d like to add my own little phrase to his. How about: I write, therefore I am. Hey, I like that!

Now back to writing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do or Do Not

By Ali Cross

Master Yoda said it all when he told the young and whiney Luke Skywalker “Do or do not. There is no try.”

That great line applies to all things in life. You either run or do not run a marathon. You either do or do not clean your house. You either do or do not write your book.

When you say “I’ll try,” you are already admitting defeat. Saying you’ll try, means you don’t believe you can succeed—you’re giving yourself an out, before you even begin. If you say you’ll try, when you fail, you have a built in excuse: “Well, I didn’t really think I could do it anyway.”

However when you commit to do something, if you fail, you are on the line.

There is no middle ground in writing. If you’re wishy-washy about your craft, you certainly won’t go anywhere. Writing requires your whole heart. Not a sliver, not even half. Only your whole heart will do.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Learning to Cope

By Keith Fisher

"Life ain’t easy then you die." How many times have you heard that statement? I’ve heard it said in many variations. I went to a self-hypnosis seminar today and didn’t get a blog posted. What a great experience it was. I will be a better man in the future.

It was quite interesting to be the only man there. Tonight I went to the Orem Summerfest parade and wrote an article about patriotism. Right now, I’m falling asleep so this is my blog for today. Next week, I’ll write two blogs to make up . . . I promise.

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

Friday, June 12, 2009


by G.Parker

Lately, my life has come to a crossroads. I have to decide what it is I'm going to do about writing. I'm either going to grip the bull by the horns, so to speak, and get on the ball; or I'm going to stop writing and put away all the manuscripts that are piling up that need revisions.

I've grown tired and somewhat depressed, and I'm ready to quit. I don't normally think of myself as a quitter. Sometimes I am liable to be lazy, but I usually get things done.

But in contemplating the past two years of writing and what's been produced, I have had to take a deeper look at my abilities. Am I really capable of writing something worth publishing? Can I write anything at all that isn't full of holes and need lots of revisions before it's even suitable for submission? I don't know anymore.

The sinking empty hole in my stomach informs me that I'm not ready to give up writing yet. There's too much of my soul wrapped around the written word for me to toss it all aside.

I figure there are more people like me out there -- I know I'm not that unique or special among the society of writers. What is it that kept you at it when the hour seemed the darkest? Why was it worth it to keep plugging away at the keyboard when there didn't seem any use in it?

I guess my motivation is that I feel something would slowly die inside if I pushed that part of me away and locked it up. I also don't want to give my children an example of quitting -- perhaps they will learn from this struggle I am having and do better.

Somewhere there has to be a silver lining.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Exhilarating Journey

By Nichole Giles

Last week, I talked about finding success in finishing a project. What you didn’t know is that when that blog posted, I was actually on a vacation with my family—and I didn’t take my computer. (Sounds like torture, huh? But actually, it was kind of nice knowing I couldn’t work on any of my projects if I had time, which I didn’t.) When we got home, my son asked, “Mom, so did you come up with any great book ideas while we were gone?”

To which I replied, “Actually, no. I’ve decided to focus my energy on the book I’m working on right now so I can get it finished before starting something new.”

He looked shocked, because I always come up with a new idea on a trip, and then I get home all excited to write down all the details. Not that I didn’t have ideas this time. But I think I’m fairly focused on two main projects, and I’ve told myself everything else has to wait, so all the ideas I had were centered on my current WIP.

Now, the issue is one of time. It’s summer vacation, and since my kids are home during the day, I’ve lost my quiet time of concentration. The best time for me to work and focus on finishing my own projects has been while the kids were at school and my husband at work.

But don’t worry. I’ll adjust. There’s nothing more exhilarating in this journey of ours than finishing the last page of a novel and knowing that you truly are finished. (Minus countless edits, of course.) It’s been a few months since I finished my last novel, and my current work has been slow moving due to my crazy, hectic life. But I will finish it!

Brandon Sanderson once gave a lecture at a BYU conference, and during his class he claimed that you have to write a minimum of five novels before you get one published—so he did just that without any expectations and miracle of miracles, his sixth (or is it fifth?) novel, “Elantris,” was purchased by Tor while he was in the process of writing number thirteen. Coincidence? I think not.

Still, I have no intention of letting my first five novels sit in a drawer forever. Nor do I intend to edit them over and over again for the next fifteen years. My very first novel will never see print—I won’t allow it because it was bad. And I have no intention of rewriting it. That particular project was a wonderful learning experience for me—and proof I could actually finish something of that magnitude. My second was much better, though a bit short for a novel, and has been submitted. That one I will follow up. It was better. My third, I dare say, is leaps and bounds ahead of the other two, and I’ve pinned a lot of hopes on it. That’s the one I’m actively submitting, and hope to follow up as a series. But we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m working on number four, and gathering ideas for other projects that I won’t start until the fourth is finished. With each project, I’m learning more about my craft, the mechanics of good writing, and the importance of outlining a plot. I have high hopes for every one of my manuscripts—but I’m finding the wisdom in Brandon’s words. The more I write—and finish—the better I become.

Follow up is key to success. So, write something every day, focus on as few projects as possible at one time, and remind yourself how important it is to finish what you start. You never know when that big book deal will come your way, and all the better if you have two books to submit instead of just one. Or three or four or five or fifteen…

Until next time, keep up the hard work! I wish you success.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


By C. LaRene Hall

I’m sure most of you have heard the expression, when it rains, it pours. That is exactly the way I feel about my life right now. Around every corner is another challenge.

Some of the problems have been illnesses or accidents, others are some things have been breaking, but every day there’s something new to face. At least it keeps everything interesting. I can think of one good thing - with all the excitement it’s given me lots of good ideas for writing, but the big problem is time. When am I going to find time to write all that’s happening?

With everything going on all year, you’d think things would improve. Don’t ever think that – because as soon as you do, something new happens. Memorial Day was one of those days for me. I needed to spend time at the hospital with my mom, but wanted to spend time at the park with my grandchildren. Things were going great until my daughter did an amazing flip-flop right to the ground. Then instead of going to the hospital to see my mother, I had to take Annette to emergency at a different hospital.

Since then, things are going a little smoother. I certainly hope that sometime this year things will get back to the normal dull life. Maybe then I’ll have time to write more than a blog.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Practice, Practice, Practice

By Darvell Hunt

In all honesty, I believe the best way to write a great novel is to first write a bunch of crappy ones.

I spent last Saturday attempting to groom my yard (dang it, Adam and Eve, thanks for all the thorns!). My yard seems like an endless task, but on the bright side, I get to do physical exercise.

Oh wait, was that the positive side? Oh right. Yes, the physical exercise that I tend to neglect during the cold months. Now that I’m back in the yard, it seems I have to start over with my reluctant body.

I can blame my allergies, which seem to be more bothersome this year for some reason, but mostly I had to quit working early because I got pooped. I haven’t exercised my body enough this year to really get any significant work done. Not yet, anyway. I expect by summer’s end, I’ll be lifting huge rocks (of which I have plenty in my yard) and mowing the lawn in ten minutes flat.

Writing is like physical exercise. If you don’t do it often, you forget how. Your creative muscles tend to lax and you write more garbage than you like. I believe that if you can write stories as casually as chatting on the phone to your friends—and do it as often—then you are finally to the point where your stuff just might actually be good.

For me, I’m afraid, that point has come only after so many novels that I don’t count them anymore. (I think it’s around ten to twelve that I’ve finished or done considerable work on, but it’s discouraging to count them, so I stopped.)

It’s all about practicing your craft, just like exercising your body. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Hopefully, I’m getting good enough to achieve my goal of getting published this year.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Don't Bother Me. I'm Writing.

By Ali Cross

I haven’t been blogging much lately on my personal blog, and you might have noticed that I didn’t blog here last week either. I haven’t been sick and I haven’t been out of town. But why haven’t I been blogging? Because I’ve been writing.

My world has been drawn down into a small little bubble filled with my words and characters—everything else has felt . . . somehow less real.

Non-writers might find such an admission startling. But writers know. You get what I’m saying. Every one of you would smile encouragingly and express happiness for me that I’ve been “in the zone.” We all live for times like that. Times when the writing comes so easily it’s like living a dream.

This recent experience has taught me something about myself. Most of you will have likely already learned this lesson. It’s one we’re taught from our earliest days as writers. To be a writer, you must write. I’ve heard that we should write every day, no matter what, and the idea sounded great, but come on . . . who can really incorporate that into their daily lives?

I would put “writing” on my to-do list, but it always got relegated to the least important item and as a result, rarely got done. Blogging was usually my only form of writing, and while blogging is an excellent way to keep your writing skills fresh, it hardly propels your stories forward.

However lately, I’ve had the opportunity to submit some things to publishers and they are being well-received. Well-received means more is asked of me. It means more writing. So writing has recently been bumped up from a “C” priority in my Franklin planner, to an “A” priority, which means I’m writing every day.

So my housework is barely getting done, dinners have been the simplest I can concoct and many things I previously viewed as important are getting that measly “C” placed beside them in my planner. No longer is writing the least important thing on my list.

As a result, I am discovering the joys of writing every day.

I’ve known that joy before, but the lesson didn’t stick and I soon forgot. This time, I hope to retain what I’ve learned because the thrill of feeling my stories move forward, of living in the world I have created and through proximity, coming to know my characters and their stories intimately, is intoxicating. I never want to forget the joy daily writing brings me.

I hope my personal blog readers will forgive me for taking an hiatus of sorts because I may not be blogging much. I hope I won’t be blogging much. Because that probably means I’m hanging out with my characters, making sure their stories are told.

There ought to be a sign to hang on my office door: Don’t bother me. I’m writing.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Balloons in My Backyard!

By Keith Fisher

I started running as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning. I wanted to sleep in, but that became impossible when a hot air balloon floated past my bedroom window just below the treetops.

At first I thought it was in trouble, and I thought it was in my neighbor’s backyard. As it turned out, it was losing altitude, and gliding down the street behind my house. I muttered something and jumped out of bed. I dressed in a hurry, grabbed my camera and went outside.

The cool morning air felt nice as I rushed down the sidewalk in the direction the balloon had gone. It sat on the road at the end of the block with people holding the basket from slipping away. I stopped to snap a few pictures.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect landing. At the end of the block, the road turns with a house set at the apex, like in a culdesac. The Balloon had landed in the center of the road and the center of the intersection.

"What’s going on," I heard someone say.
"It’s someone’s birthday and this is a pick up," another person said.
"If that’s the case, it’s a pretty darn accurate landing," I said.

As I began to move closer for a better look, the people climbed into the basket. The operator pulled a cord and the burner flamed up with the sound of a blast of air. The balloon began to rise.
When it was just high enough to clear the tree tops, the aircraft drifted into another neighborhood, then another. We watched, wondering who had climbed into the basket? Who was having a birthday anyway?

I talked my neighbor into going with me, and we found the balloon three neighborhoods away, the passengers were holding the basket and walking the balloon into a vacant lot. I asked the pilot if he was having problems and he said he was fine, just looking for a place to fold up the balloon.

He said that it was an unusual morning. The places were wind normally blew were calm, and the places that were usually calm were windy. The pilot had to change his flight plan and find a different place to land because of the wind.

I live in a place where the canyon winds blow daily. It’s nice to cool off in the summer and it protects young plants from frost. But balloons don’t land there. I’m glad for unusual days. It gives me something else to write about. Hopefully, this one has given you something to think about too.

See the pictures I took Here

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

Friday, June 05, 2009

What's The Point?

by G.Parker

Have you ever felt conflicted about what you're writing? Perhaps you start writing one type of story and in the middle things switch -- the plot takes a turn, and suddenly you're writing something else? Have you written a story that you really didn't want to but felt obligated by a situation?

This type of writing wastes time, energy and frustrates everyone associated with it.

For example; I have a story that I've been presenting to my critique group that I wrote for the Nanowrimo project in 2007. It's based on a vacation I took by myself -- and didn't enjoy (long story). As I go through the story, I'm torn and it's obvious in how it comes across. It's become a mis-mash of story lines, as if I can't decide which type of story I'm writing.

My critique group informed me that I'm not a good action writer based on this book, and I decided not to take it personally, it's the only exposure they've had. They also informed me they felt I was a definite relations writer (i.e., romance writer) and that was my strength. Sigh.

Several years ago I had decided that I was a romance writer. Once in a while I added a little suspense or action, but I love romance, and that's what I write. By a fluke, I ended up writing a little bit of fantasy and discovered I liked it. It's not something I do very much of, but I have one long story that is gradually getting whittled down -- it's just not a priority, it takes too much brain power because it's outside my comfort zone.

That experience made me think that I could write anything I wanted; romance, suspense, action thriller, fantasy...the universe was my toy. Sadly, I am finding that is not the case. At least not without a great deal of practice and diligent reading.

What is your genre? What type of story do you feel most comfortable writing? Perhaps you just need to explore your options before you settle. I'm not sure I've settled yet, but this story is definitely going to end up on the chopping block.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How To Measure Success

By Nichole Giles

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to attend a sci-fi/fantasy CONduit, during which I listened to an address by Howard Taylor, artist/ author of the web comic Schlock Mercenary.

Howard’s address in a sentence: Hard work takes time.

Howard’s address in another sentence: Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying.

Third sentence: Practice and experience lead to optimal performance. (And by Howard’s calculations, you’ll need to “practice” for approximately a million words and a minimum of ten years.)

His speech reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks prior to this CON. She said, “I continue to be amazed by your ability to create and construct an entire story from beginning to end. It isn’t a common thing, no matter how many authors you know.”

And she’s right. Of course, she’s right. The ability to follow a creation through is huge. Just the idea of starting a new project like a book can often be intimidating. But finishing is a true measure of success. Even if that particular book is never published, we have successfully completed a monumental task simply by finishing it. There’s something to be said for that.

By writing a full manuscript, we jump into a small percentage of authors and wanna-be writers. Think about those who start new books all the time, or who claim to be planning to write a book, or building a world—but never actually finish the project. Those of us who finish, actually, truly finish, are unique.

So, if you have a completed manuscript, no matter how bad you think it is, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve already succeeded.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Never Give Up

by C. LaRene Hall

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Albert Einstein

I love this quote, and it gives every writer hope. Last year I won the rejection contest for the Authors Incognito group. Most people can’t begin to understand why anyone would want to win such a contest, but I was excited and I did work towards this award.

The award was presented to me in April at a writer's conference and I have hung the plaque on my wall next to my computer where I can see it every time I sit down. To me it is more than rejections – I set a goal at the beginning of the year, and didn’t give up. I kept submitting the entire year. I decided early on that I was going to submit at least 52 times – once a week. I didn’t hear back from everyone because the rejections are still coming. They don’t even hurt as much now when then come, and some of the letters are encouraging. I know that with each letter, I’m one-step closer to a contract.

Believe that you have not failed. Keep aiming for your goal and never give up.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

BYU Workshop for
Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

By Darvell Hunt

The most comprehensive writing workshop I have ever attended is the week-long conference at BYU called the “Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop,” which is coming up next week. This will be my fourth year in attendance.

I was excited this year to discover that Ann Dee Ellis will be teaching one of the workshops on novel writing, so I signed up for her class. If you haven’t read her first book, you’ve really missed out! I’m looking forward to finding out what new things I can learn from her about my old craft.

If it’s like the last conferences, it will be tiring, yet invigorating. I just might learn that little extra bit of information that will make a difference for me in my quest for national publication. Wish me luck!