Thursday, May 31, 2012

Believe Me

by T.J.

I don't write non-fiction. (One day I might, I have some ideas.) But this topic is about credibility in fiction.

Some people out there are probably saying "What? It's fiction. It doesn't have to be real, right?" True, it doesn't have to be an actual course of events. But you're still asking a reader to believe it. Why? Because if a reader is gonna escape into your book, they need to feel like they're not being lied to or they'll leave.

And then my favorite response to this is "I write fantasy. It doesn't have to be real." Of course not. All fiction is supposed to be--well--fiction, no matter the genre. But what you need is to have a world presented in such a way that the reader isn't going to say "Even for this world, that's impossible."

Let me give an example of how this would work. I'm going to go at the easy scapegoat: Twilight. Now, I've never read Twilight. But, I've seen the movie. By no means would I claim to be an expert on the story. I just know enough of it. So let's say Bella walked out of school and all of a sudden a dragon appeared. And Jacob and Edward had to team up to take the scary beast out.

Now as cool as that would be, it just isn't plausible. The world Stephenie created isn't a world with dragons in it. It's a world with humanoid mystical beings. There aren't elves and dwarfs running around. Bella and Edward didn't leave their wedding on their brand new USS Redwood space shuttle.

This is a pretty drastic example, but the point is there. Sometimes, we may do something that pulls our reader out of believing in our story. It could be something as subtle as missing an eye-color change. Perhaps it's a day of the week. FYI, I've read 2 published books where the author wrote one day down and then wrote another day down shortly thereafter as if referring to the first date stated. Inconsistency is a pill and I'll catch it most of the time. Another one I read about a character's ancestor. This ancestor went from great-grandfather to great-great-great-grandfather to great-great-grandfather.

If you can't keep your "facts" straight, you can't keep my attention.

So there we have "mismatched world" and "consistent data". Other ideas? Verbiage. If your character doesn't swear, then don't suddenly make him swearing up a storm if nothing set him off. Don't go back and forth between 19th century Queen's English and 21st century Ebonics. I won't like you. If you mesh them? You better do it right or your story's going to be put with my 3yo's stinky diapers.

Okay, that's enough ranting. (FYI, I suck at verbiage, so I'm reminding myself where my stories may end up.)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creating White-Knuckle Thrills and Bone-Chilling Suspense by Gregg Luke

This class was great and all that I expected. There is no way I can begin to tell you the many things he taught that day, but I'll tell you a small part. That way next time you see him as an instructor you will make sure you don't miss the class.

His first question was, "What is suspense?"

The description I liked best was - it creates fear and draws out emotion. Suspense is like conflict, just intensified.

Gregg taught about six elements of good suspense.

1.      Three dimensional characterizations. Good characterization – your villain has to be complex. All good characters need external and internal problems layered into the story.

2.      Good pacing. Pacing keeps story going. Put your protagonist in immediate conflict or create the potential for conflict in the first chapter. No one wants back story in the beginning.

3.      Anticipating of action is the key. Don’t mistake action for suspense. Action is the thrill. Suspense is anticipatory, action is the thrill of the moment.

4.      Detailing of senses, action and angst. Detailing applies first and foremost to characterization. Be sure to layer information. Know their fears, their dreams, dislikes.

5.      Resolution – this is the key element to all writing. Be sure to develop a satisfying and plausible end to each detail. Don’t forget to include your protagonist. Have them resolve conflict or at least be involved in it.

6.      Trim the Fat – If it doesn’t add to the story leave it out. Sometimes less is more.  Don’t be afraid to kill someone off. If it does not build angst, it will not instill suspense. Sometimes deleting one or two words makes all the difference.
Next week I'll tell you a little about the third class I attended at LDStorymakers.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

by Donna K. Weaver
Originally posted here.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots -- Thomas Jefferson

American Cemetery in Manila
I had my first view of a military cemetery, when I was about 12 or 13. My father was stationed on Sangley Point in the Philippines, and we visited the American Cemetery in Manila.
This was an eye-opening experience for me because of the sheer number of graves. Seeing all those grave markers made it real to me. That each one of those marked a life given up in defense of this country's freedom ... my freedom.

My next experience was a few years later, when I spent the summer I was 16 in Hawaii with some family friends. Dean (the dad) was stationed on Pearl Harbor and during that summer we visited the Arizona Memorial.

Arizona Memorial - List of Killed

Once again I was struck by the number of names on the list. It's easy to sit in a classroom and read the statistical information about the number of men who died there. But this wasn't a list of statistics. This was a list of real people who had families and dreams. I would never again consider the "statistics" of battles as something just of numbers.

Punch Bowl Cemetery - Honolulu
We also visited the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Honolulu. It was poignant for me as I looked at the new graves. Unlike the cemetery in Manila or the Arizona, these were recently killed young people. Young men who had died in Vietnam. Young men not many years older than me. Young men who may not have agreed with what our government was doing but answered when our nation called--and paid the ultimate price.

I come from a long line of people who have served this country. Two of my great grandfathers fought in the Civil War (they lost, but I believe the country gained).

Following are pictures of my family members who have or are now serving our country.
My maternal grandfather. He served in the U.S. Cavalry.
My Uncle Ned survived not only the attack on Pearl Harbor but the battle of Iwo Jima. He died last winter.
My uncle Jim and my dad (who served 25 years).
My brother David in his Naval Academy uniform.
Me with my Signal Corps Scarf. (my husband Ed served in the Air Force in Vietnam)
My brother-in-law Maynard who was Career Navy and served in Desert Storm. My sister Darcy didn't have a picture of herself in uniform, but she also served.
My nephew Evan who served in Afghanistan.

Bert, one of my fellow moderators at the Leaky Lounge wrote the following a few years ago:

A Simple Request

A few days ago, I caught a brief reference in the news to the return of a handful of Marines from Iraq, met by a small but vocal group of protesters. The incident brought back more than a few memories. I feel compelled to speak to my academic colleagues.

Sooner, perhaps, than we are ready, we may be faced with an issue Academia has not really faced in a generation, large numbers of young veterans enrolling in our classes, beginning new lives and new careers.

Having stood where they shall stand, I hope I can help you to understand what they shall face and how they will behave.

They shall face, as I did, professors who will inform them on the first day of class that they may as well drop out now because anyone too stupid to avoid military service is, obviously, too stupid to pass the course work. Many will respond by scoring 100% every test you give them, getting their A's not because you "give" them A's but because they "take" those A's by brute intellectual force, driving themselves with a self discipline few who have never served in a combat zone can imagine. These young people have worked fifty-and sixty-hour days in unbearable heat for months on end, performing exacting but mind numbing tasks upon which, literally, the lives of other people depend. They shall not be overwhelmed by your reading lists. Like all veterans, they know that the rest of their life is a gift.

They shall be called, as I was called, names like fascist, rapist, and baby killer--by both faculty and students alike, often in class and to their face. But they have had worse things thrown at them. They've been trained to stand their ground under fire. More importantly, they know the truth; they know that they built clinics and schools and gave first aid to children shot, burned, cut, and blown up by an enemy who indiscriminately destroys anyone who appears to be friendly to Americans—even small children. It is easy to sit here in America watching CBS or CNN, believing you "know" what all those young people are doing. I am often amused to see professors who regularly rant about the unreality of TV falling into the very foolishness they condemn.

They shall be used as pawns in games of political propaganda by professors trying to make political statements. But these young veterans have, unfortunately, been used on occasion by foolish and inept officers who see their own military "exploits" not as something contributing to national security, but as some kind of political currency to be traded later for votes. These young vets know an "A-hole" when they see one. They know how to protect themselves.

Be warned. Often they will be smarter than you—no, not better educated or more well read—but wiser, faster. Many of them are going to graduate with honors—magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa—and then they are coming after you, coming to take your job, where they know that someday they can make a difference in how this nation treats its young veterans.

I don't care how you feel about them; they don't care either. My simple request is that you treat them fairly. Give them the chance they have earned and the grades they deserve. Don't make them fight a second war against intolerance and bigotry here in their own country.

As for me, I will embrace them as comrades.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Day of Joy

By Keith N Fisher

We’ve all done it. Every writer has been there, staring at a work in progress and not been able to add another word. I suppose confession is good for the soul, so I admit I’ve suffered from this dilemma. It’s been tough lately, to continue.

Many people edit during those times, and I have plenty to do, but I hate doing it. I love to sit down and let a story take me where it needs to go. As I said, that hasn’t happened for a while.

In my associations and reading blogs, I’ve found many others who’ve also suffered. I sympathize with you.

Yesterday morning, however, I woke up with an idea for my WIP and sat down to write. Before I knew it, a day had passed, and I had written several chapters. Yes, it felt good, and I felt validated. With all the health problems I’ve had during the past year, I had plenty of time to write, but couldn’t bring myself to it. Yesterday, the tide came in, then last night, a crisis took the wind out of my sails.

Now, I’m not telling you all this to solicit any responses from our readers here at the blogck. Well, perhaps recognition that we are all the same. So, why am I telling you this?

One of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Fiction. Big surprise right? A writer who likes a movie about writing and how characters relate. The writing and acting in that movie is impressive. The way the author agonizes over every word then, to suffer when she discovers her character is real and she must kill him off.

Ideas for stories have always come to me full-blown. I’ve known the beginning middle and end from inception. In one story, the tear filled climax was so powerful for me that getting there was easy. All I had to do was explain the story. There have been books, however, that knowing the end made it difficult. In my book, The Hillside, for example, I’ve written nine different points of view and five completely different plots. I needed five different endings and each plot needed to effect the others.

Also, in the past, I’ve kept several projects open to work on whichever strikes me on that day. I haven’t been able to do that lately, and my current project is difficult. It’s a mystery/suspense and I’m having trouble keeping the tension up. In addition, I’m discovering the story as I go. Well, I know why my character is being pursued but the details have eluded me.

So I’ve trudged through it, knowing my writing is better than it used to be. Feeling empathy for those who are struggling, and hoping for a time of enlightened joy. A time when the words come so fast I can barely write them. That happened for me yesterday, and I’m grateful.

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Reason

by G.Parker

While I was browsing through news sites today, looking for inspiration for this blog, I came across an article that struck a chord and I decided needed to be enlarged upon.

It was an article at the Deseret News about a Major who runs marathons to bring attention to our fallen heros.  My first thought was, "Well, that's cool.  How many friends in his unit died?  Or what is the reasoning?"  By the time I got finished with the article, I was frustrated and sad.

As a family we've been reading the Book of Mormon.  Anyone who has read it knows that there are many parallels to our day -- which is one of the reasons it was written for our time.  Just the other day we were reading about the downfall (again) of the Nephite government and how they were letting the Gadianton robbers take over government positions and adopting those ideas into their society.  Before that was where the leaders were bemoaning a lack of support for their soldiers from the government.  Sound familiar?  When I read this article, it felt like I'd been reading a second chapter of the previous ones -- an echo of the past.

As a writer, many things catch my attention that I feel the need to point out to others.  I guess in another life I would have been a serious journalist.  But since that's not where I am, I still take what ever opportunity available to give voice to what I see going on around me.  Sometimes it's been scary - a step out into the dark because I know the ramifications could not be pleasant - and sometimes there's been no looking back.  I simply knew it was the only choice to make.

This blog is not a political blog.  It is not a social commentary blog. (Though I suppose sometimes it sounds that  It's about writers and writing.

Today I felt that as a writer I needed to remind all fellow writers that we have an obligation to use that gift for the good of the many.  Remember the Star Trek quote?  "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one."  (I realize this probably came from something else, but that's what makes me remember it.)  The ills and needs of society far outweigh any worry or concern I might have about my own comfort.

I come from a family of military service.  My father was a Ranger in WWII and was on those beaches on D-day.  My grandfather was in the Navy, and my husband's father was in the Air Force.  I have a son in the Army reserve, and several nephews who serve.  This article touched a nerve because I have seen it in action.  I have seen these men and women come back from service, suffering trauma and DSS and not have society understand.

I agree with the Major's position.  Society as a whole has forgotten there is a war still being fought.  Many think that just because we've pulled out of one country and are working in another, that this is a different thing, just the same old thing that the government is doing.  The military goes on, and will always go on, fighting for freedoms that most people don't even care about or acknowledge anymore.  They're too busy texting, social-networking or seeking after money to care about how lucky they are someone is keeping the war outside of the mainland of the US.

I realize that sounds a bit like a tirade, and if I offend someone, I'm sorry.  That was not my intent.  I truly feel that this weekend, when we honor those who have sacrificed for this country, we should remember the more recently gone.  Our words and thoughts should honor them and the great good they've done for us.  We who use the word as our way of expression have the chance to reach out to those that might otherwise not think about it.  We can help with the thought process, encourage remembrance, and suggest honoring.

Hopefully when we break out the BBQ grill and get everything ready on Monday to celebrate the beginning of summer, we'll take a moment to visit the sites of those who have gone before and made that day a peaceful one.  It shouldn't be too much to ask.

I hope you enjoy your another day of freedom and let it ring loud with the laughter and joy of your family.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Giving Up on Giving Up

By T.J. 

Back in December 2010, I went to a book signing with a few authors in attendance, including Julie Wright. My wife and I were in the middle of a conversation with Julie when at some point she told me that I'll be published one day.

First, this struck me as odd. I really wanted to say "How on earth do you know, have you read the crap I write?" Instead, I responded with, "Yeah, I've made the goal to give up on giving up." Julie laughed and said she loved that phrase. (I'd also bet Julie doesn't recall this conversation, but it's all good, cause I do.)

There are two pieces of important thoughts here.  First, Julie Wright told me I would be published and have my own book signings and such. Why would she say that since she never has read (besides my faux-LDS-reality-blog posts) anything I've written? That was something that bothered me for a while.

Like when someone tells me I'm such a great guy or so kind or so nice or blah blah blah. I know they mean it as a compliment, but they've given me an expectation on the type of person they expect to see every time they see me.

But in all honesty, what Julie and these people are telling me is that they have faith in me. They believe that I will have not only the skill, but the drive to get there. It's not just my writing skill, it's my ability to finish that she was playing toward. (I could be totally wrong, but oh well.)

So, the other thought here is my goal to give up on giving up. I've started so many different stories in my life I don't dare guess that figure. I'm an accountant, I'd have to find the actual number or I'd feel like a liar.

But giving up is something I've been so good at. I've given up at so many things in my life, writing is just one of them. One day, though, I decided I had to finish writing this book (the one I'm still revising). I did not give up and I've written and rewritten the story so many times it's not even funny. 

As it comes to the four other projects I have going on, I've decided to not give up on any of them. I'm going to keep them in the works and try to do something with them every month until one of them takes on the new priority. But for now, I have to keep my current WIP in the priority slot or it'll never get finished.

Speaking of that, recently, I was working on the revisions for chapter 3, trying to figure out how to make it a little better and a little truer to the character and theme. But in doing so I thought to myself, I should just give up. Well, just the other day, I got a critique of my first 2 chapters from writing buddy Julie Daines. (I have a lot of Julies in my writing life, I guess.) And even though she tore some things to pieces, the one thing she reminded me was that I have the story.

The story is there and I know it's compelling. And really, all the red marks she put in the critique are simple fixes. Yeah, some are LESS simple than others. But it all boils down to changing from this style to that style. My character has his style, I've just removed it from him on occasion to be authory. I need to let my character tell the story and me just get it down for him.

So, I was reminded (even recently) that I need to give up on giving up.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tips to Increase Your Writing Productivity – Kevin J. Anderson

by C. LaRene Hall

You probably knew that I would get around to talking about the LDStorymakers writing conference that was held earlier this month. I only attended on Saturday and enjoyed every minute I was there.

The first class I attended was about techniques on how to use every minute and get more words written. I took lots of notes and one thing that I liked best was when he said, "Nobody gives you the time to write. Nobody gives you the time. You have to find it and make the most of it."

For some reason there are people out there that think they are the only ones who are busy. We are all busy - some more than others. I learned years ago that you find time for the things that are important to you.

The very first tip from Kevin Anderson was to shut up and write - don't just talk about writing. DO IT!

Next he reminded us that it’s your job so put in your time. Make sure your friends know you are at work. If you don’t take it seriously no one else will.

Two other hints he gave us are -  Defy the empty page,  Dare to be bad you can fix it later because it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I was glad that he brought out that we each should know the difference between writing and editing. They are different thing. Writing = creative. Editing = elitical part – engineer looking at how scenes are. He encouraged us to remember that when we are writing and have the momentum going –keep it going. We can switch hats and become an editor later. You can do your research and fix things another time. If you are in the middle of an action scene you don’t stop to look things up. You can always go back and make changes.

Next he told us to use every minute. Write at the drop of a hat because you never know how much time you are going to have. You have to learn to make the most of the time when you have the time. If you only have time to write one or two sentences, write with the time you have. I am guilty of this. I don't always write and use every minute that I have.

I particularly love the next tip. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. He continued by telling us we should work on different projects at the same time. Change the channel and switch to something else.
The next tip was to create your best writing environment. You need to figure out what works best for you. Pay attention to your writing setup. Look at what your setup is. Fix it for comfort.

The next tip was something I had never thought about - Think outside the keyboard. This is not the only way you can write. Try writing with a goose-quill – write with a notepad. Work on your lap top other places. Look at different ways you can do your writing. Use a recorder to tell your stories. Go somewhere where you get inspiration and then tell your story. You can use the recorder for notes.

The last tip was to get inspired! The more ingredients you have in your head the better. Exercise your creative muscles.

He concluded the class by telling us to know when to stop. If you are writing and rewriting and rewriting and you are not sending it anywhere – endless polishing doesn’t make it perfect – only endless. Finish it and send it out. You can’t keep editing over and over again.
This was a great class and his many tips were things that will help me.
See you next week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Emotional Response and the Power of Good Words

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I participate in a number of social avenues for my writing. I am in a critique group and also talk about my writing occasionally on Facebook. I also work with my local library teaching and encouraging new and teen writers.

To get a point across in the writing group, I will use small snippets of my current story to make what I am talking about clear. I have often posted on Facebook a small idea of what I am writing. My crit group gets fifteen pages twice a month to crit and my friends, who all know I am a writer, hear all about my story.

Every time I tell someone about my story I get eavesdroppers telling me that they want to read it. I guess either the story is really good or my enthusiasm rubs off on them.

At the library recently, I was using Emergence to illustrate the period of time between the introduction with the first plot point and then the second stage of the story until the mid point. The cleaning lady at the library overheard me and asked where she could get the book. I had to tell her it wasn't published yet. I was talking to a reader at a baby shower and the lady next to her asked to read it too. I get this a lot. They hear me talk about the book, and like the emotional pull of the story, and characters.   

I was at the local store months ago and I told a friend I figured out the ending of the book and was so excited about it. She'd never read it, and after we talked I gave her the finished MS. She started reading it and loved it. Every time I'd see her, she'd tell me where she was and how much she was enjoying it.

To be honest, I was loving the admiration and compliments. Talk about stoking my ego. LOL

However, about three quarters through the book she stopped reading it, TWICE! In the same place. I was frustrated and kept wondering if my story dropped at that point or I became a terrible writer between the beginning and the end.

Then she told me that she had become so emotionally involved in the story and so invested in the characters lives that she had to stop because she couldn't bear to read what happened to the characters in the end of the book. See if you remember, I told her the whole plot line and what happens at the end. Stupid me. :) I also had a friend who's husband had serious surgery and couldn’t bring the MS to the hospital as it was too stressful to read at that point in time.

It was pretty frustrating because she had given me, up until that time, really good feedback that I always used for revisions. She even asked me if one character was too good to be real, what an eye opener that comment was, and more but much better revisions.

As I have thought about this friend of mine I have come to realize that when something is written well you elicit an emotional response. Whether good or bad. When Emergence is released this summer,I am going to have people who love it or hate it. I am probably going to have people hate me for the ending of this book. I have joked with my good friends that I'm going to get hate mail for this one, and that I'm going to need a PO box.

I have had to accept that it's okay for her to not finish the book, a thought that had never crossed my mind before now. That as a writer I can't please everyone and that's okay.

That perhaps if I want everyone to love what I write, I should write something fuzzy with fluffy bunnies and butterflies. That I should abandon the high action and plot twisting story with the deeply conflicted MC . . . .


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heaven Is Here

Have you ever heard of the NieNie Dialogs? I did a few years ago when my daughter told me about Stephanie Nielson's blog--and that Stephanie and her husband had been in a plane crash and severely burned. I started following her blog when I found it again a year or so later, when she was well on the way of her recovery.

I love this woman's view of life and her family. She encourages and inspires me immensely.

And her memoir is out. It's called Heaven is Here. I'm reading it to my husband, and we laugh and cry together.

Nie starts with what she remembers of the crash as a man from the neighborhood where the plane went down holds her head in his lap. He comforts and encourages her as they wait for the emergency medical personnel to arrive. Nie's been burned on 80% of her body.
Source and Article

She takes us back to when she first met her husband and through their courtship and early marriage/parenthood.

Then she gets to the crash and all that was involved in her healing process--both physical and emotional. I didn't read her blog before the accident, and I didn't follow it until she was well enough to begin blogging again.

Stephanie is LDS, and her testimony is a powerful thing. Hubby and I are loving this book.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Be Accurate--Check Your Facts

By Keith N Fisher

I sat on my front porch trying to fix a corrupt file in order to submit a manuscript the other day. By the time I got it fixed and in the email my battery was flashing warnings. I sent the required documents before my computer slept, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Later, I plugged my computer in and reviewed my cover letter. I found two typos.

“Oh crap,” I thought. “They’re going to think I’m an idiot.”

While stewing about my blunder I thought of a subject I’ve written about before, but I found new object lessons, so I’m back on my soapbox.

I watched an interview the other day in which Lavell Edwards and Ron Mcbride talked a lot about the good old days. For those who don’t live in Utah, they were head football coaches for BYU and U of U. The rivalry between those two schools has been legendary.

The interviewer asked many questions that seemed to spark joyful responses in both men and you could tell they have a warm affection for each other. Many of their recollections brought memories back to me.

Toward the end of the program they spoke about the information age. They agreed they don’t use email and went on to complain about the inaccuracy of some of the blog writers and amateur newscasters on the Internet today. Even the pros, it seems, often get it wrong. Coach Mcbride talked about listening to the radio while driving one day. The radio host got the story completely wrong.

I thought about the absurdity of the situation: here was Ron Mcbride, the man who lived the events, listening to someone tell him how it really was.

As writers of fiction, many of us feel a need to blog. I write weekly here. Also, I write a more personal blog with book reviews and a blog about camp cooking. On occasion, I have gotten things wrong, so I know the danger. I’ve seen ill-advised Facebook statuses that should not have been written, and everyone knows about the possible errors on Wikipedia. I wonder if we will lose our history to those who write inaccuracy. Perhaps we might, if they write loud enough and long enough.

Just because we want a fact to be true doesn’t make it so. Still, if you get enough people to believe your version, does that change history?

As writers, regardless of whether we write fiction or nonfiction. Whether we blog or write short stories, we must be accurate. If we fail, the loss of our history will be partly our fault. Medical doctors take an oath. Perhaps writers should, too.

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

Friday, May 18, 2012


By G.Parker

Working in my garden this week, I pondered life and it's many aspects.  I seem to remember Keith writing a blog about weeds earlier, but I couldn't find it through last year, so I'm hoping this isn't exactly what he wrote.  Knowing how different our writing styles are, I doubt it.  He's a better writer than I am.  ;)

Anyway - while toiling away, pulling out the tall grass and strange weeds that had choked the peas without totally killing them off, it occurred to me that writing was a lot like gardening.

First (depending on your writing style) you outline how you want the garden to look.  What sorts of plants you want to put in it, what you want to get out of it.  How large, how you plan on maintaining it, watering it, etc.  If you are a bit OCD, it can be a time consuming process just to get started.

Then you plant the seeds.  Each word that is written in a story is a seed to the reader.  The more you write, the longer the story, the more involved, the more the seed grows.  By the end of the book, it should be a fully matured plant, ready for harvest.

Before that point, however, is the nurturing, weeding, pruning,  In other words - the editing process.  Sure, you get the rough draft all thrown together, get the rows straight, seeds planted, but the watering doesn't get done on a consistent basis, or the weeds grow over night where you've already pulled them out.  Sometimes that scene that you wrote which was your best scene ever or best chapter of the book, has to be taken out.  The weed has overcome the root of the garden plant and killed it.  Or you've pulled the weed, only to discover that you've pulled the plant out with it.  ARGH!

Sometimes it takes a visitor to the house to notice something wrong with the garden.  "Hey, did you notice that the tomatoes are not going through the tops of the baskets?  If you don't get those back in, you're whole plant is going to fall over and your tomatoes will rot."  You've been out there almost every day, but you got distracted during a big growth spurt and didn't even notice how some of the plants had leaned off to one side and grown through the side.  Many times our stories take on a life of their own.  You think you're going down a viable path, only to discover when your writing groups or a critique group points out that something isn't going to work after all.  It's best to discover what isn't working with a story early on -- before it feels like you're amputating a limb.

Then finally, it all comes together.  The plant has matured, the fruit has grown, and it's time to pick and harvest.  It's amazing how good it smells, tastes and looks.  There's nothing like fresh food from the garden.  Fresh tomato salsa.  Homemade applesauce.  Apricot Jam.  Rhubarb and strawberry pie.

The trick is hanging in there and keeping up the daily grind of weeding and watering and working.

What's your garden look like?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Popcorn Popping On The Apricot Tree

by T.J.

My three-year-old loves this primary song. Every time he gets to choose a song for family home evening, this is his choice. (Mostly because we won't let him choose the ABCs.)

Like the blossoms on an apricot tree though (or popcorn on the burner), we do not know which one will "explode" for us first.

Keven J Anderson spoke recently at LDStorymakers about the concept of working on multiple projects at a time. I've done my best to incorporate his suggestions into my writing life.

For me, my wife has convinced me I can't multitask my projects. If I do, I procrastinate one instead of finishing it. I do the same thing with reading. (Currently, I'm reading 3 books and my wife hates it.) Well, my thing is, I usually will finish a book I've begun when I'm ready to (in reading).

I don't see why that principal can't be true for my writing as well. I right now have 5 books in my mind. These are completely different stories and really can't be merged into one another. They also technically fit into 5 different genres, 3 of them semi-related. For those interested, I have a YA fantasy, a fractured-fairy tale (for adults), a YA sci-fi, a mystery, and a romance. How's that for everywhere?

But each book is in a different phase, which is perfect for me. I'm revising my YA fantasy. I'm drafting my fractured-fairy tale. And I'm outlining/researching the other 3. This way, when the YA fantasy ticks me off and I want to write "and the random bomb went off, killing everyone" I will instead go work on something else. This keeps my ADHD mind fresh and can think of something different.

I even can get inspiration for one book while working on another. And I usually won't forget it, so I don't have to write it down. That's "luck" I've got going for me.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are schedule.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Managing Time

by C. LaRene Hall

Last week I said I would give you a list of the things I do to manage my time.

1.      Set goals.

a.       Goal setting is the basis upon which time management skills are built. Time management demands good planning and good planning requires setting goals.

b.      Make your goals specific so they can be measured. What are your goals, your daydreams and your greatest desires in life? Goals can control the direction your life takes. Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars, but keep them within reach. It helps to takes an inventory of your skills to weigh your strengths and recognize your weaknesses. Once you have your goals, and have assessed your abilities, you can begin to concentrate your power on these goals. Remember to revise your goal list from time to time.

2.      Learn how to plan your day. Create a To Do List and prioritize your daily work to achieve your goals. We all have different responsibilities and objectives, but we all need a daily plan of action. Ask yourself, “What activities can I complete this week to help me achieve my most important goals?” When you sit down to plan each day write down everything you need to accomplish. Look at those items critically.

a.      First make time for what is most important to you, things that you value the most. Once you identify them be sure to put them first in your jar of life. Set your priorities and take care of yourself. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for yourself.

b.      Learn to know the difference between interruptions or activities. What is urgent and vital and what is of limited value? Don’t allow non-vital interruptions to take you away from your focus on what is both necessary and urgent.

c.       Learn how to prioritize and how to organize.  Don’t let anyone else take control of your life. Use an agenda or calendar to list important dates like deadlines, but also schedule time for social activities, birthdays or appointments. Be realistic about your time expectations, so that you can successfully stick to your schedule.

d.      Do your most difficult work when you have the most energy. Think about the time of day you are most effective and have the most energy. Plan to do your most difficult work during these times. Once you know which hours and in what place you work best, guard them zealously. During these golden hours, switch off your phone and avoid emails (according to one study, it takes, on average, nearly 17 minutes for someone interrupted by an email to get back to what they were doing).

3.      Keep a one-week time log of where and how you spend your time. Setting your goals and scheduling your daily action plan will point you in the right direction. Only by checking where you are putting in those hours can you see where you can begin to trim them.

4.      Evaluate your time log. Compare this against your master goal list. Start by analyzing the ways you wasted time. How much time and effort are you applying toward your important goals? How often did you procrastinate? How often did you work on tasks of low priority? Was your day well balanced? Were you effective? Did you meet your goals and objectives? Did you let television, computer games, facebook or someone else control you? Did you spend time on yourself? Did you spend your time the way you really wanted to? REMEMBER you are in control – it’s about what you want.

5.      Learn how to delegate. Consider where you can delegate responsibility.  By delegating work to others you become free to work on more important tasks. It gives others a chance to develop their skills. Effective delegation is essential in achieving personal goals and to keep life from being over complicated by too many details.

6.      Work in a clutter free area. Keep paper down to a minimum. Learn to handle a piece of paper only once. Throw unneeded things away. Keep desk or work area clear and organized. If things are put in the proper place you will not have to hunt for them when needed. Clutter breeds confusion and this can only lead to wasted time.

7.      Develop the habit of managing your time. Time is your most valuable asset. Save when and where you can. Count each minute of the day as an important one and derive satisfaction from whatever you are doing at the moment.

a.      Learn to listen. This will save a lot of time, both for you and for someone else by not having to ask the person to repeat it.

b.      Learn to respect your own time and people will respect you. As a writer plan your own day. I found that by making a yearly chart that reminds me of deadlines coming up that I accomplish far more than I did before the chart.

c.       Breaking a project down into small tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to finish.

d.      Focus on one thing at a time. Time can fly by if you are juggling more than one idea or project at a time.

8.      If your goal is to be a writer then you need to do that every day. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, or if it makes sense, you just need to write.

9.      Stop making excuses. They will not help you accomplish what you want to do.

10.  PLAN NOW!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writers Conferences

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I would say this is my favorite time of the year except there are a scattering of conferences from February to October. If you are a writer you should be attending some of them. While reading blogs and practicing writing is benneficial to your career, I believe that my skill and success is from what I have learned from Writers Conferences.

Many conferences offer not only inspirational keynote speakers, but breakout sessions. These sessions run the gamut from begining classes such as dialogue and pacing, to advanced craft classes on plot and conflict and self editing. They usually offer marketing and promotion classes too. THIS is where you learn the nuts and bolts of writing. This is where the usually reclusive writer can find people who are like them. They can talk to other writers, pitch or ask questions to editors, agents and publishers. They can find fellow writers who need a writers or crit group.  They can associate with other reclusive OCD talking to themselves people.

If you live in Utah, you have plenty of conferences to attend. There's LTUE in February, at UVU, its a minimal cost. LDStorymakers in May, it costs alot more but is so worth it. This year there's Rhemalda publishing's Got Stories in June, it's free, you just need to register. A Steampunk Festival In July, while not a writers conference it looks extreemly cool and is really cheap. League of Utah Writers in September, it's a two day conference and while mor expensive is a really good conference. And finally,  Book Academy in September or October, it's also really reasonable in price.

Check them out. I am sure you won't be disapointed. If you live outside Utah, google writers conferences and I am sure you'll find a few.

Monday, May 14, 2012


by James Duckett

There is a phrase I've heard, and I wish I could accredit it to somebody, called BICHOK. It simply stands for "Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard." This has been my mantra since I got back from LDS Storymakers, except that I have been doing my writing in a couch and not a chair, so the phrase still applies. Yay!

While at Storymakers a friend of mine asked how I was enjoying the conference. I said I was getting a lot out of it but before I started writing I had a lot of revisions to perform on my outline. The same outline I've been working on for months.

She said, "Enough is enough. Stop outlining and start writing the story. If you keep updating your outline waiting for it to be perfect you will never get around to writing your story."
Well, I've taken that to heart. Since then I've added several chapters to my story and it is progressing faster than it ever has before. Is it perfect? Of course not, it is the first draft. But progress is being made and that is what matters. Progress that would not be made if I didn't get my butt on my couch and kept clicking away on the keyboard. Writing the story is much more productive than nitpicking away at the outline.

So this is for you, if you are struggling getting some progress done. If you don't start writing I can promise you that your story is not going to write itself. Your story will not get written until you, and ONLY YOU, sit down and start working on it.

I've blogged several times on making time for writing. Notice I didn't say "finding time." If you are trying to find time it will never come up. Something more urgent or pressing will rear it's distracting head. You need to MAKE the time to write, and then write. Put it on the calendar. Let your family know that your writing time is YOUR time and if any emergencies crop up then, well, that is what 911 is for, right? Okay, maybe not that extreme. Maybe.
However, every now and then you just need to roll up your sleeves and make the best of a free moment. I've got another friend who introduced me to #DEW time. #DEW, being a hashtag on Twitter, is an anagram for "Drop Everything and Write." That means get off Facebook. Stop worrying about your level 15 battle cattle on zooville or whatever your Internet game of choice is. Just drop it all and do nothing but write.

Make the time, schedule it, put your butt in a chair (or couch), and get to writing!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

 by Donna K. Weaver

Today is a day that comes with very mixed feelings for many women.

For the older single woman, you may wonder if you'll ever have your own family, so the day can be a reminder of your insecurities.

If you're married and haven't yet been able to have children, it sometimes serves as a reminder of the monthly anguish that feeds your fears.

For the young mother surrounded by the demands of little ones (and frequently full-time jobs--as though mothering isn't a full-time job), it may be a day when you have to put on a pretty face that doesn't always match the internal feelings of perpetual fatigue and inadequacy.

When you're the mother of teens it can be a plea that they will get along, just for today, so your home will be peaceful.

The mother of children grown with children of their own has the opportunity to watch her own daughters struggle with doubts and fears, wondering where the years went.

We women so often struggle with the image of this heavenly, perfect "mother" who is always even tempered and patient. The woman who is always graceful under stress, refined in speech and manner. Classy.

Yet the reality is we're just women. Doing our best for our children.



Where does that woman on the pedestal come from? Because she never lived in my house. I think it comes because children are so forgiving. They forgive and forget, remembering and cherishing the fond memories.

There's a lot we can learn from children.

And remember this: grandchildren are your reward for not killing your children.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Does the Light Go Out?

By Keith N Fisher

Do you remember the old debate about the refrigerator light? Does it really go out when you close the door? Another one in the same vein was, if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around to hear, does it make a sound?

In our world today, we seek after absolutes. Many of the philosophical debates are cast off in favor of logic. Yet, in the world where writers live, there is conjecture. We think of the tree falling. Not only does it make a sound for us, but also as a dying creature the tree screams as it falls. Then, after it hits the ground, it moans it’s last breath.

Of course the light stays on in the fridge. How else would the creatures see? I remember spending long hours as a child, on my belly staring into the blades of grass. In my imagination, I saw another world. Not unlike the big one I lived in. When I got older, I stopped thinking about the vast jungle in our front lawn and tried to delve into the mysteries of the female heart.

Trees falling and refrigerator lights were nothing as compared to the age-old question, does she? Or doesn’t she? Think of the man picking petals off a daisy, hoping to discover the answer.

Now, I’m older. I’m a writer with several stories in my computer and in my head. Some are finished books most are unfinished. While thinking about a character the other day, something sparked a new debate in my mind. What happens to my characters when I stop writing for the day? Like the refrigerator light, do they just turn off?

There was a character in the Star Trek the next Generation series who came back a couple of times. He was created when Data was playing Sherlock Holmes in the holodeck. Jordi who was playing Dr. Watson, asked the computer to create a mystery that Data couldn’t solve. The Computer created a Moriarity character who was aware. He knew who, and what, he was.

The problem arose, when the character came back and complained about the unbearable length of time he spent, waiting for someone to deal with his situation.

As a writer over the years, I’ve put aside many outlined stories in favor of another, more immediate story. I get back to most of them on occasion, but some of them have waited a long time. I’ve created characters that haven’t seen the limelight of being written about for years. Like Moriarity, do they feel the passage of time?

Of course, this is crazy, but I’m a writer, I deal in conjecture. Any writer will tell you their characters talk to them. Some of them even hijack a story. Do my characters get angry when I ignore them? What do you suppose would happen when the murderous antagonist from my old west story crossed over into my coming of age?

Sounds like good fodder for another project. The characters are already written.

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ode to My Mom

by G.Parker

It's not quite Mother's Day, but it's close enough that I feel I can post something to that effect.  In doing so, I want to comment on poetry and or prose.  Poems are not a big read in my house.  I believe I mentioned in an earlier post that while I used to write it quite frequently when I was a teenager, I was never much for reading it.  My mom (as I also mentioned before) was an avid reader and encouraged her children and grand children to read.  She also loved to read to them, especially poetry.

Not only did she like to read poetry, she also wrote a great deal of it, usually related to her grandchildren.  She created little books with photos of the grandkids and poems written to fit the picture.  It was great.  She would also combine a children's rhyme with a picture as well, and those were great.  We have one of my younger brother sitting on the floor of the kitchen, pie pan in lap, and thumb in the air with a 'plum' on it -- she put it with Little Jack Horner.

So this is to all the mothers out there.  Those that are, have been, or want to be.  Remember how much the written word can effect the children in your care and how much reading helps them be creative.  Thank you for all you've done and will do.

Now go read to someone!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Time Flies

by C. LaRene Hall

            Last week I spaced posting - Sorry, I'll try to remember what I'm doing and get back on track.

Last month in Ephraim I taught a class called, Time Flies - The Art of Making the Clock Work For You.
            Time is not on your side. It’s your time to not waste time.
There's so much to do in a day, and so little time!
Does it seem that no matter how much you do, you're always behind? Do you suffer from distractions? Are you bored? Do you forget things? Is it hard to follow through? Are you overwhelmed? Do you have trouble planning your next project? Or your next book?
Just because a time management plan works for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. I cannot tell you what will work for you. REMEMBER – What works for me will probably not work for you. My way isn’t the best way for you. No two people have the same problems, and no two people do things exactly the same way.
No one is more aware of the problems of time management than busy people.
My story started 30 years ago when I attended a Time Management seminar in Arizona. I heard many things that day, and learned management of your time can change the course of your life. I felt if I didn’t make an effort to change habits I had just wasted an entire day, and the time and money it took me to go to the meeting. I hate wasting time. I have always believed if you don’t use your time you lose it forever. You can’t save it for another day; every hour and minute counts.
           There was TWO IMPORTANT key word in what I just said. Can you tell me what that is? CHANGE HABITS. If you are not willing to do this one thing you may as well leave the class right now because nothing I say will make a difference to your life. We each need to learn to identify bad habits and get rid of them. Learn to say NO to those things that do not require immediate attention.
I began to use the things taught that day and I found I was in control of my own life. The number one thing I learned is, “If you don’t spend time planning your day and deciding on your priorities, somebody who is less organized will disrupt your life.
I began to take a few minutes to plan each day and I now feel that I have power over the remainder of my day. I put my energies into the things that can make a difference in my life. You have enough time to accomplish anything you want in life, but until you learn to manage your time, you will probably always be one step behind. You can become the master of your life. You can manage time so it doesn’t manage you. Controlling time means more time to enjoy your life.
Most busy people are into a thousand different things, giving freely of themselves to everybody. The list of places where you give away pieces of your life is endless. Have you ever felt pulled in too many directions? Few of us save anything for ourselves. Time management can help you arrange the pieces of your life more efficiently and more effectively. You can learn to save some space for yourself.
Now my efforts go into things that make a difference to me. I still help people, but I do it when it’s convenient for me. Yes, sometimes there’s an emergency that you can’t avoid and things don’t always go as planned, but that isn’t every day.
Next week I will continue with a list of things that I do to manage my own time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Lessons Only I Got

The 9th Annual LDStorymakers writers conference was this past weekend. And let me just sum it up in one word: awesome!

Let me tell you a little more about this conference: 11 hours were scheduled class time. During which there were too many options available. Being the ADHD person that I am, I get overwhelmed when I sit through that many classes and have to take breaks.

During these "breaks" I learned a lot of information, which was just as valuable as the regular classes.

My first break came for the last conference hour of Friday afternoon. I got to sit and chat with Sarah Eden, the shortest person in attendance of the conference over the age of 18. Really, I didn't learn anything, it was just fun to chat. I guess, if anything, I learned that writers don't always talk about writing. (Okay, I actually knew that.)

I'm gonna skip to the last break I took during the Saturday afternoon sessions and go back to the others. Right after lunch I was so excited to get a front row seat in Annette Lyon's Hero's Journey class. But as I got hit with some social anxiety, I had to take another break. I was bummed because I'd heard it was so good. So I went to the bookstore and spoke with Josi Kilpack for a bit. In so doing, David Wolverton/Farland walked up carrying a heavy box of books as he prepared to leave the conference for his long drive home.

Josi, knowing that Dave was still recovering from some injuries decided he shouldn't be carrying those boxes. I think her words were, "Oh, T.J. can carry those for you." Um...sure. I'd spent the majority of the conference as a lackey for the co-chair Jaime Theler and the MC Sarah Eden. I could add Josi to the list. Well, imagine my gratitude when I got a free hardback copy of David Farland's latest novel, Nightingale. Lesson here: If you do what Josi says, maybe you'll get a free book out of it.

Now, back to the other 2 hours that I took a break, which were consecutive. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Jeff Savage. (And by opportunity I mean Jeff was near an open outlet and I didn't want to use my battery so I snagged it before someone else could.) But in the small conversation I had with Jeff, I learned something quite interesting. I received an email during this time, which was Twitter alerting me to a new follower I'd never heard of.

This isn't something that annoys me, but it's something I'm confused by. So I ask Jeff what his thoughts were on it. Little did I know I'd get a five-minute lecture on why it was okay for me to have fans and followers even though I do not have a book in e-format or physical copy for others to read. Blogging for my 3 blogs, plus my Twitter interactions give me enough cred.

It's amazing how good I felt about myself after Jeff's comments. Well, that's it for today.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.