Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday So What: Alpha, Beta and Omega

So What do the words Alpha, Beta and Omega have in common? Well, they're all Greek letters and that's why it sounds like a frat or sorority. As it relates to writing, you could call it the fraternal order of readers.

It's important to know the difference between these three types and their respective roles.

Alpha Readers:
These are the people that read and comment on your story as you are writing it. Most likely your critique group. Alphas are super important, because its always good to have extra pairs of eyes on your plot line to point out any major holes. Better to find them in the early stages of crafting than when you are 300 pages strong and then realize you took a wrong turn on page 50.

Beta Readers:
This is who you farm your book out to after you are done with the first draft and maybe a round of revisions. It's good to have a mix of author buds and non writing folk. The author type people will pick up some of the structuring nuances you might have mixed, but it's important to have a beta or two from your target audience. Remember, when your story gets published, not all of your readers will be writers. The things that may drive another author nuts, will be loved by the general public.  It's good to have a wide sampling to see what works and what doesn't. And that's what a good general Beta is for. They're not line editors -- not there to fix your commas. They will point out some macro things. Perhaps whether or not they liked your characters, or maybe were confused by a plot point. Pacing is a good thing to ask about.

Omega Readers:
This is a very exclusive club. It consists of you and your agent or editor. After all, you and whoever might be paying you for a story, are the end of the line. This is when you reread all the Betas commentary and decide whether you want to use it or not.  The opinion of an Omega reader will probably hold the most weight. It's one thing if the neighbor down the street tells you you need to rewrite an entire scene. It's a whole different kettle of popcorn when an agent tells you to.

So there you have the basics of the fraternal order of readers. Are you a member?

Friday, September 28, 2012


My computer moves at a snail's pace. By the time the "New Post" page appears so I can start typing, I've forgotten what I was going to say.

Where was I?

I'm probably not alone in this, but I've found that the less writing I get done the more um, shall we say creative, my dreams get.

Like the hypnosis-zombie apocalypse dream.

Or the I'm-in-a-friend's-wedding-and-hate-my-dress dream.

I've been working a lot. Last week I clocked over 50 hours. This week wasn't as bad, but I still squeezed a double shift in on Tuesday. That's not my favorite thing by a long shot, but you do what you have to do, right?

My writing is suffering and it frustrates me. I had planned to write a book in September. Now I'm looking at the dwindling days left in the month and drastically reshaping my schedule. Right now I hate having an outside job. I hate anything that drags me away from my writing. And, most of all, I hate being so tired all the time that even when I am home I have no energy or my back hurts too much to sit in the chair.

And even those start to feel like excuses after a while. Even when the pain is so bad I can't even stand up straight.

Can I express how much I'm looking forward to General Conference? Probably not. I've missed a few Sundays of church because of work, and I really don't want to miss that weekend. I need the recharge. I need that overwhelming infusion of the spirit.

My husband just took a job that will mean a significant pay cut, even though it's closer to home and he'll be spending much less in gas commuting to and from work. So it really doesn't look like I'm going to be able to quit my job any time soon.

I keep telling myself that if writing is so important to me, I will FIND the time to get my projects done. I will MAKE the time.

Right now I'm just struggling to make time to get dressed and go to the grocery store before work. :/

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keeping The Flow Of Writing

I was taught really young that distance running actually becomes a little more difficult when you take a break to walk a ways.  The idea being that every time you walk to give yourself a rest, you have to exert more effort to regain the pace you had previously.  If you can push yourself through the difficult spots in your run, and instead just moderate your pace, you will have a more successful experience running.

I believe the same is true about writing.  It becomes more difficult when you stop doing it.  However, as a busy wife and mother and with a FT job, finding time to right often comes in fragmented pockets of time - 15 minutes here, half and hour there.  How does one keep enough flow of writing to make the most of those short and sporadic writing opportunities?

One trick I found that really works was shared with me by author Stephanie Humphreys.  She suggested I keep a binder or notebook for each WIP with various sections for character notes/research/setting/plot/etc.  However, her suggestion was that one of the sections be strictly for writing down the last thoughts I have about my work before walking away.

So if I'm writing a paragraph in chapter 22 from my hero's POV, before I save and close my file, I need to remind myself what I want to happen next.  It seems like a simple thing, but I find it very effective.  There is so much in my life to occupy my thoughts and wishes and concerns, it is often difficult to remember such a simple idea in my story as what I thought should happen next.

Even if I change my mind in the interim, at least I knew where the story was headed the last time I sat down to write it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We All Fall Down

On the path to bettering ourselves, we all will face minor or major set backs.  At times quitting will seem so much easier than continuing forward.  The reasons for your journey will become hazy, and your initial joy and excitement will wane.  But to achieve the balance and harmony that we all search and long for takes discipline and the ability to endure through the tougher moments.

 To maintain our focus, we may need adjust our goals.  Adjust seems the wrong term.  Perhaps I should say, divide our goals.  Our ambition often leads us to set lofty goals that are hard achieve or long-term goals which makes progress difficult to measure.  Instead, we should set realistic short term goals that carry us to our long term destination.  Pray for divine inspiration as you attempt to establish your goals.

There are plenty of distractions in our daily lives.  We need to trim the fat from our schedules, without cutting out the necessary tasks that bring us rejuvenation.  If we leave no time for ourselves, we will have nothing left to give.

Inspiration for today's post came from my thoughts an comments on M Russell Ballard's April 1987 Conference address "Keeping Your Life in Balance."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Making Time Appear Out of Thin Air

I don’t have time.

Boy, if your house is at all like mine, that’s something that probably gets said about a dozen times a day. But really, don’t we all have time? We each get 24 hours a day. Where does it go?

Each year in the fall I begin to realize that my time is slipping through my fingers like sand. My plate gets piled high with servings of busyness and at the end of the day I drop into bed and wonder if I actually accomplished anything.

So each year I have to sit down and do a time audit. Have you ever seen that object lesson where you start with a jar, then you add the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water? Well, I do something like that. I start with my rocks: what really needs to be done on a daily basis? Then I fill in around those with everything else.

I’m a big fan of a program called FLYlady. FLY is actually an acronym that stands for “Finally Loving Yourself.” The concept is that many of us are “SHE”s- Sidetracked Home Executives- we are wonderful people who are really good at procrastinating and getting sidetracked, and we end up beating ourselves up over our shortcomings in keeping our homes neat and tidy. I am definitely one of those people.

Anyway, one of FLYlady’s lessons is about having routines. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. When you send your kids to school, their teacher doesn’t just have a general idea of what needs to be covered and crosses her fingers hoping that the math lesson will get done that day. No, she has a plan, and a set time for each subject. The idea behind routines is very similar- you create a list of the things that need to be done daily (my ‘rocks’) and then you get into the habit of doing them. You have a morning, afternoon, and evening routine.

The reason that routines are so effective is that they create positive habits within you. They also help with the whole Finally Loving Yourself thing because when you do your routines, you give yourself a gift. When I do the dinner dishes at night right after dinner and then I run the dishwasher, I have given myself the gift of clean plates and an empty sink in the morning (as opposed to the dreaded pile of dirty dishes- what a lovely way to wake up).

My routines include reading my scriptures (definite rock!), 5-minute quick pickups around the house, doing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, and one load of laundry a day (morning routine- gather and start, afternoon routine- switch to dryer and fold), among other things. I keep my routines simple and as short as possible. Each one has 8 items or less on it and most of those take 5 minutes or less.

The beauty of these routines is that once they’re done, so am I until it’s time for the next one. I have made time appear out of thin air! I can spend that time with my kids, get some writing done, do a craft project, or whatever else I want to do (my pebbles and sand). I can be free of stress about my home because I know that even if something is messy, I know it will get cleaned during my next routine.

I’m off to my routines now- time to make more time!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Purpose

  Our lesson today in Church was on a talk given by Sister Julie B. Beck titled The Vision of Prophets Regarding Relief Society: Faith, Family, Relief.  During the lesson  a song kept playing through my mind.  It goes like this:

The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name.

   This comes from the second verse of As Sisters in Zion. 

   While sitting in church I had a whole post written out in my mind, and it sounded really good.  But as I sit here I'm struggling to put any words down.  I've written, deleted, and rewritten only to delete again and wonder if my idea was as good as I thought it to be. Perhaps it's because my words don't need to be written today, just the words of this song. 
  The last verse of the song goes like this:

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday So What: Wrong Turn

We've all seen one of these in our lives. Whether in personal or family life, or in our writing -- things are going smooth then Wham, bumpy dirt road.

I recently had this experience in both aspects of my life.  Things were going great, I was sailing along, the words just pouring through my fingers. We're talking 5000 words a day. Then boom, couldn't get a single sentence out. Something just felt wrong. It wasn't easy, it literally felt like slogging through quicksand. Write a paragraph, delete it.  Delete the paragraph before it. Wonder why I am a writer anyway since I clearly sucked.

A day off and a little perspective taught me that I had gone the wrong way in the scene prior. That's why I was having trouble making it work. If you have to force and trudge it to come out, chances are you have made a little error in the progression of your story.  Maybe a character's voicing or attitude is wrong. Or the reasoning for an action doesn't track. It can really throw you off.

The same thing applies to home life. When my day just feels like I am trudging through that mud and the kids are being little demons, I probably took a wrong turn somewhere. I might have started the day with the wrong attitude. I might have my priorities messed up.

Sometimes I feel like I keep going down that bumpy dirt path until I get a flat tire, rather than taking a moment to turn myself around.

So my advice for the week is if your having a rough road as a writer or at home, Stop. Look back and find that spot it went from smooth to that three hour tour that never ends. Go back to that spot and turn yourself around.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Daughter's Teacher Gave Me Homework

Only a writer/mom can walk into her 3rd grader's parent-teacher conference and come out with homework. 
 I admit that, for me, going to my youngest child's parent-teacher conferences is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Somehow, I gave birth to an angel and she lives among us. I hear things like "she's so sweet" or "I just love her" or "she gets along with everyone" and the like. A couple years ago she was the hit of her class because she befriended an Autistic boy and helped him with his work. But this was nothing to her. She made a friend--that was it. And she could help him, which is something she loves to do more than breathe. She loves to help.
 But I digress. We had particular fun this last conference because the teacher spent 5 min correcting a 91% in Spelling that should have been 100%. (really, 100.5%, but who's counting?) It just made me laugh that she knew my little girl so well that she looked at the 91 and thought "this is not right" and set about researching and fixing it. 
 Anyway, as he is wont to do, my husband informed the teacher that I'm a writer--and I have 3 published books. And, as my manager, he is going to spend the next few months getting me into schools for author visits and maybe line up some other speaking engagements.
 So Mrs. Smith got really excited, and suggested I come to the class and teach a series of mini classes on the different aspects of writing--outlining, plotting, story structure, hook, etc. As we gradually made our way to the door she kept talking about how great it would be to have a published author helping out her class. 
 Then she turned to me and said, "Why don't you write them a story? Just a short thing, about friendship (the classroom theme) and when you come you can read it to them."
Sure, I said. (why? no idea) So...I have homework. And she promised she wouldn't forget, so I have to have my assignment completed when she comes calling.
 And I just realized the perfect story for them. Would it be wrong to send it out to an editor first? I might get a better grade. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scam Artists Beware! (Part 1)

Dishonesty is nothing new.  Especially dishonesty linked to money.  And it only seems to get more sophisticated along with advances in technology. 

So I wasn't too surprised last year when I received the first of many calls to come from a company claiming to support Microsoft Windows, claiming that they'd received an error message from my computer about malicious files that had invaded, and they had the means to fix it.

At first I was totally sucked in - I've seen those error messages pop up when programs close unexpectedly.  However, as I'm not the technology guru of the family, I often defer such issues to my wise and ever-computer-loving husband.  That wasn't good enough for the tech-center caller - he wanted me to simply follow his step-by-step instructions to fix the problem.  I became uncomfortable at this point and hung up.  When my husband came home that day, I informed him of the call, which he promptly googled.  Turns out, it was a scam.

The idea behind the call was to gain remote access to my computer, insert a virus, and then charge a fee ($160) to remove it.

Well, they called again.  And again, and again, and again.

At first, I asked them to stop calling.  That didn't work.  I then told them I knew they were scam artists (anything to get them to declare my number dead in their records and stop calling).  This only made them defensive and verbally abusive.  Affronted, I asked to speak to a manager, who was even more abrasive, cursing caustically.

Then I got smart.  I started playing along, pretending to follow their instructions just to keep them on the line, when in reality, my computer wasn't even on.  Ten or fifteen minutes into the call, they figured me out and hung up.  Then, finally, they stopped calling.

Until this week.  Almost nine months later, they're trying to scam me of my hard earned money, again!  I tried a different approach this time - I proclaimed they must be a scam because I have a Mac, not a PC.  The line went dead.

And still they call.  I started researching the issue again, and found this site.  Makes for an interesting read (I don't have time to watch the video, nor am I that invested in this issue).

Why am I telling you all this?  Because it comes at an interesting time of research for me.  I've read a few articles about the wolves in sheep's clothing that seem to be invading the world of writers (particularly in the realm of self-publishing, where some good people have been robbed of lots of money with the alluring promise of publication).

How does one fully protect themselves from scams that aren't as clear cut and identifiable as they may have once appeared to be (hindsight is, after all, 20/20)?

Check back next week, because I'm going to do some more research, and share what I find.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment about resources you have found/used to help protect yourself and your work.

And watch out for these phone calls.  According to Microsoft, it never makes calls out to its customers.  Don't get robbed of your hard earned cash.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest post: Rebecca Carlson - Someday is Now

All my life I've been telling myself that someday in the future I would have more time to write. Someday I wouldn't be so busy, or have so many demands on my time, and then I could really get started.

That day finally came for me when my children went back school this year. My youngest entered second grade, and for the first time since he started school, I wouldn't be teaching, working, or taking a class. I would have six glorious hours every day to sit in front of my computer and type.

I tried it for one day. And I was miserable.

How could it be? For years I'd thought that if I could only write for six hours a day, uninterrupted, then I would be truly happy and produce the masterpiece of literature that I had always dreamed of. But now that I had all that uninterrupted time, it didn't feel right. It reminded me of what happened in college when I got that highly-prized internship at Los Alamos National Lab. I discovered that I didn't like spending all day with my data, my code, and my computer. I couldn't take the isolation. I needed people.

Did that mean that I couldn't be a writer?

Couldn't be a writer? Now just wait a minute! During all those years of college, then babies, then teaching, as my family moved eight times in sixteen years, I wrote five novels! I'm already a writer. I've always had time to write. That's because I made time to write. And what I wrote was good. Why did I think that there was some future, over the rainbow, in which I would really get started? I had started. I started the day in third grade when I wrote my first story not because of any school assignment but just because I had a story in me that had to come out.

I want to write. I need to write. But there are so many other things I want to do as well. I need to live. So what did I do? I signed up for a sailing class. And when I was offered an unexpected teaching job, I took it gladly. There will be time to write. There will always be time to write. I will make time to write, just like I always have. Writing good stories is a way of sharing my talents and serving others, but so is helping my neighbor move, or working on the elementary school play, and I want to be able to keep a balance and do all sorts of good things with my life.

Keep writing.

Someday is Now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I Can Do Hard Things (and so can you!)

Me at the starting line for the Monument Avenue 10k. My shirt reads, “You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.” I wear it for all my races now.

WARNING: Long story. But good ending. :-)

When I first started blogging here, I mentioned that I’m a runner. Well, not so much a runner as a very slow jogger, but the point is that I can get my feet moving in a forward motion that’s faster than a walk. I also mentioned that on occasion I do crazy things like 10k’s. What I didn’t mention was that up until a couple of years ago I couldn’t even run (jog) a mile without stopping. 

Now, I’ve been pretty fortunate that I’ve never really been overweight- I’ve been blessed with a great metabolism for which I thank my mom’s DNA. However, being slender doesn’t necessarily translate to being athletic or fit. I was never either one of those things. Running The Mile in school always made me moan with dread, and I usually ended up walking most of it while panting pathetically and whining with my other athletically-challenged friends. Runners were “those” people. Not me. At all. So how on earth did I start with this 10k business?

Well, a few years ago my husband found out that he could get free registration for the Monument Avenue 10k. He’s Mr. Athletic and he loves a good deal, so to him it sounded like a fun run to do with his friends and he signed up. I thought 6.2 miles sounded ridiculous and decided that this was something I had to see.

We arrived at the race, which takes place in downtown Richmond in the spring, and I was amazed. Hundreds of people proudly wearing their race numbers waited behind the starting line, fidgeting with anticipation. Thousands more, both runners and spectators, wandered around in the surrounding area (the race usually has 10,000+ participants). Music blasted over loudspeakers and an emcee enthusiastically announced the start of each wave.  Whenever the starting gun went off, a roar went up from both the runners and their fans cheering from the sidewalks. Despite the gloomy, rainy weather, the energy of the crowd sizzled and sparked. It was like a block party.

We sent my husband off with a cheer at the starting line, then we cut across a few blocks so we could cheer him on the home stretch to the finish line. I remember seeing a father and son team start out together- the son may have only been eleven or twelve- and seeing them come across the finish with the father carrying his exhausted son on his back, piggy-back style. I saw grown daughters who had finished the race before their elderly mothers run back out onto the course at the end and link arms with their struggling moms to get them across the finish line. I saw total strangers yelling at people they didn’t know who were looking bedraggled, saying, “Come ON! You’re almost THERE! GO, GO, GO! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!” and seeing the spring came back into their step as the crowd roared. I heard the announcer celebrating not those who had finished the race in record time, but saying things like, “Here comes Susie Smith, number 1348- she’s been going for an hour and a half now- let’s hear it for her as she crosses the finish line!!”

As I watched the waves of runners go by, both young and old, and I saw the spectators yelling and ringing cowbells and handing out high-fives to them, something happened inside me. I was inspired. I realized that this race wasn’t really about athletic prowess or skill. It wasn’t about who was the fastest or the strongest. It was about who had the guts to start and who had the will to finish. I knew I had no athletic prowess or skill, but I was pretty sure I could muster the guts to start and the will to finish. Right then and there I decided that next year, I would run that race. And I wouldn’t be struggling- I wanted it to feel good, to feel comfortable (well, as comfortable as it can be to run 6.2 miles). That was my goal.

As one who is athletically challenged, I knew I had a long way to go, so I needed a game plan. I started doing research. I learned about heart rate monitors and how they can help you train, so I invested in one  and started going. My first goal was to run a mile without stopping. Within a few weeks, I could. My next goal was to run my whole neighborhood (2.2 miles) without stopping. After a couple of months, I could. My next goal was 3 miles. Check. I began to realize that if I could do one mile, then I could always do one more. I ran 4 miles. The month before the race I ran 5. I decided to save that last mile for the race. Mostly because I didn’t want to overexert myself right before the race- but also because I was confident that I could. I had reached every other one of my goals, right?

In the months prior to the race, I would dream about it, both while awake and asleep. During my runs, whenever I felt like it was too hard I would imagine myself in downtown Richmond, out on that course, people cheering me on. At night I would have dreams that I was flitting through the race, easy as pie, just trotting along, breathing easy as the miles stacked up behind me. Those dreams always reminded me of the dreams I used to have when I was little that I could breathe underwater- something completely impossible, and yet I was doing it!

On March 27th, 2010, I had a race number pinned to my shirt and I was in the throng of people waiting behind the starting line. When that gun went off, I waved to my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and my husband and kids (who were holding up homemade signs saying, “GO MOM!") and I took those first steps into finally achieving my dream, knowing I could do it and yet still in disbelief that I was actually going to try. Over an hour later, I crossed the finish line at a sprint (because if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it with umph, right?) having run the entire race. Since then I have run it a second time (last year I was pregnant so I couldn’t) and I have also completed 2 5ks.

I did what would have been impossible for me only a few years ago. Did I suddenly get more athletic? Did 6.2 miles suddenly become a shorter distance? Did I have a personal trainer who worked some kind of athletic magic on me? Did I get amazing technologically advanced shoes? No. The only thing that changed from when I was a whiny kid on that middle school track was me: my attitude and my belief in myself. I knew it would be hard, but I did my homework, made a game plan, and set goals. But most importantly, I believed that I could.

This is my way of telling you that if you can find the guts to start and the will to finish, you can do hard things too. You don’t need to suddenly become a better writer, you don’t need the publishing industry to suddenly get easier, and you don’t need a genius editor to critique your work. Certainly, all of those things are helpful, but what you really need is you- a positive attitude and a belief in yourself and your dreams. Cheesy and trite? Perhaps. But true, nonetheless.

I can honestly say that my experience training for the 10k changed my life. Not only am I now an avid runner (2-3 miles is the norm for me now on a regular basis- I’d do more if I had time!) but my perception of myself has changed drastically. I see myself as being strong, capable, and I firmly believe anything is possible if I set my mind to it.

One last thought in this very long post: I was just planning my Primary lesson on developing our talents and I came across this story about Heber J. Grant (isn’t he just the best?):

Later in life Heber wanted to work in a bank as a bookkeeper. But a bookkeeper’s handwriting had to be neat and easy to read. One of Heber’s friends told him, “[Your] writing looks like hen tracks.” Another friend said, “It looks as if lightning had struck an ink bottle.”
Heber spent many hours practicing to improve his handwriting. Some years later he received an award for having the best handwriting in the state. He also taught handwriting and bookkeeping at a university.

Boy, if that doesn’t convince you that we can do hard things, I don’t know what will!

I had the guts to start and the will to finish. I can do hard things- and so can you!

What hard thing will you try this fall?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Off To a Running Start

   Last week I had made plans to go jogging with my friend and fellow MMW, Amber. It took some finagling to get schedules aligned and to find enough strollers to hold all of our kids, but we managed and agreed to meet Saturday morning. Morning came, and as I roused myself from my bed I'm sure I asked myself a hundred times "Why on earth did I agree to wake up on a SATURDAY and go running jogging bouncy walking?" *Just to clarify, in case you haven't gathered as much thus far, I am NOT a morning person. At all. Nope. I'm pretty sure I look like Frankenstein's Monster trudging along as I get my kids ready each morning. Luckily they're used to it so I don't terrify them or anything. Hopefully.
   We were just about ready to go, and as I was herding my girls downstairs to grab some breakfast, and only running 15 minutes behind, I said to them "OK, lets hurry and eat breakfast so we can go to the swamp and meet our friends." Or something to that effect. I made it two steps down when I realized my oldest wasn't following. I turned to her and found her eyes rimmed with tears and her little chin quivering. I asked her what the matter was. With as much concern as any little girl could have she said, "Mom, if we go I'll miss the bus!" I then told her that she didn't need to worry because the bus doesn't come on Saturdays. And then, while choking back tears, she responded "Then how will I get to school?" Trying my best to hide my smile for fear of making her feel bad, I told her she didn't have school on Saturdays, only on M, T, W, H, and F's. With her lip still quivering she nodded her understanding, but fell into my shoulder and let out a few sobs. I held her and told her I was very happy that she likes school so much and reminded her that she would get to go again the following Monday. This seemed to help her feel better. She took a deep breath and we were able to go on getting ready.
   I think it is safe to say that her first week of Kindergarten was a success. And here's to hoping that her love of school lasts another 12 years!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday So What: 1st Person POV Pitfalls

So for this week I have been cleaning up and tweaking my YA Fractured Oz fairy tale, House of Emerald. An agent requested a full manuscript, so I wanted to make sure it's my best. But one of my beta readers noticed I had fallen into the 1st person trap. Now I have to go back through and dig myself out of it.

One of the reasons that YA and mass market adult fiction has turned to 1st person POV writing (telling the story from the I point of view) is the ability to really get into your character's head. But there is such a problem of too much of a good thing. If you live in your head most of the time, the story can be slow. Or have difficulty progressing. Thoughts and feelings are great, but sometimes we rely on them to fill the book and nothing is there to push the action forward except thought. I thought today might be a good day to go to the market. It is much stronger if some outside force pushed your character along. Like her mom asking her to go. If your characters thoughts read as half of your written material, you're in trouble.

That leads me to another pitfall. It is closely tied to the above problem, and is often a cause. One is the loneliest number. If your character has no one to react to, to bounce off of, they have nowhere else to go but in their own head. You need sidekicks, or a lot of action happening to your character. If your MC is in their room lamenting, it won't be all that interesting.

The next pitfall is tricky. It's really tough to get around and one that many new writer's fall into. The narcissist. Since your writing all from one person's point of view, it's easy to structure a lot of your sentences with I verb ___. I felt sorry for her so I took her a loaf of bread. If you have a lot of I sentences in a row, it get super obnoxious. Try changing up the structure. Feeling sorry for her, I took her a loaf of bread.

The last pitfall to avoid is being likable. If we are spending a good amount of time with you MC and in their head, they can't drive us nuts. There needs to be character growth, but if you MC is whiny we may want to shut the book on her. They don't have to be good, just not annoying or somebody we can't stand. This is true in any POV, but especially true in 1st person. If you want a good example of an interesting likably unlikable MC, check out Dan Wells, I am not a Serial Killer.

Friday, September 14, 2012

This is what Happens

When you have too many irons in the fire, so to speak.

I sat comfortably this morning, confident I had a post scheduled for today--only to finally check in and realize that I don't.


Thursday was a day I set aside just to write. I planned it, announced it, and got all ready to go. My mind was swirling with ideas. I have a short story to edit, and wanted to get it done or mostly done Thursday.

That was the plan. The reality? Not so much.

At 3am my husband woke up to find we had no power AT ALL in the house. He checked the breakers and everything was fine, just no electricity. At 5:30 we both got up, partly because we were overly warm and uncomfortable in bed and partly because it was time to get my oldest up for seminary. Which he does online since we live 30 miles from the church. Ya, that wasn't about to happen. We got all the kids up for school and got ready by flashlight/candlelight. Hubby called the power company. A truck showed up around 7. Hubby went to work, the kids caught the bus to school, and the puppy and I waited. I finally returned to bed with a headache and listened to the power company truck in the alley.

Suddenly, the ceiling fan came on. The bathroom light. Yes! Power is restored. I waited a few more minutes to see if the guy would come to the door and tell us what had happened. Nothing. Not a peep from the dog, who barks incessantly if someone comes to our door. My headache and I drift off to sleep.

The next thing I know it's 11am. We have power, but I feel rotten. Bad sleep will do that to you. So I take some time to wake up and get going. Announce to FB that I'm signing off for the day to get some writing done. Sure, the kids will be home from school soon (it's now about 1pm) but I can still work. I can shut myself in the office while they do chores and stuff and get some done. I can even write later while they are in bed. My schedule is not completely derailed.

Then I get a call. Can I come in at 2pm for a meeting to discuss my benefits? Yes, because I need to. But I'd rather not. Sigh. I get ready to leave.

I'm sitting in the waiting room and my boss calls my cell phone. Can I come in to work at 3pm? Forget that I have a meeting. Forget that I have dough rising at home for cinnamon rolls (which, by the way, did not survive). Forget that I have edits to do. I have to spend the evening at work.

Rush through my meeting. Hurry home. Throw my work clothes in the dryer and put together dinner for the kids for later. Leave them a note begging apology and also begging them to get along.

In all of that, I did write a couple of heart wrenching scenes for The Lost Princess. So I guess the day wasn't an epic fail. Sometimes I feel like that's what I get for making writing plans. It's almost like going to the temple. I've got to keep it a secret, sneak up on it, if I want to actually accomplish anything.

Mama said there'd be days like this.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Driving in the Dark

It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
~ E.L. Doctorow

I think sometimes we get too caught up in the big picture when we are writing.  When you have to drive from coast to coast, it helps to have a map and a general idea of where you need to go and when.  But our true focus should always be on the road right in front of us.  If we get lost, take a wrong road, or find ourselves at a detour, we can always reroute and redirect.

While it can help to have perspective of our writing as a whole, when it comes time to write, we need to focus on what's right in front of us.  Just a thought for the day!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Courage to Be Who You Are

Days, dates, and anniversaries have a tendency to just sneak right up on me. I glanced at the time on my tool bar and saw the 9/11 looming underneath the time.  A wide range of emotions filtered through me when I saw that. My sadness and reverence gave way to gratitude and hope.  I am grateful for a nation that responded with so much unity when under attack 11 years ago.  It is during times of trial that our true natures emerge.  Such tragic events like those of 9/11/01 cause most to reflect on their accomplishments and desires.

Are you on the path you really want to be traveling?  Or are you letting  fear or the expectations of others dictate your choices?  If you are not on your desired path, then you are sure to live a life filled with regrets and what if's.

I read a post by Rachel Coleman, who blogs at Rachel + Co.  I have to share her words with you, because I know there are many of you who need to read them.

it takes a lot of courage to say i want to be a writer.

it takes even more courage to say i want to be a writer more than i want to spend time with friends, or organize that drawer, or visit a neighbor, or volunteer at the kids' school, or contribute to my family's finances. when i write, there is a list of a 1,000 other things i could be doing with those hours. i look at that list in my mind's eye every day when i sit down to write. and i have to take fresh courage every day.
 We cannot let the fear of what others expect of us get in the way of our writing.  If writing is the path you have chosen, or if it is the path that has chosen you, then have the courage to travel it.  Everyday is a gift that must be used to get you to where you want to be going.  I do not want to be in the face of tragedy only to realize I had let fears and expectations govern who I am. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Because they grow up.

Once again my good friend and photographer (artist) Jennifer Wolfe has captured the most beautiful parts of my life in these stunning photographs. I <3 u, Jenn!

Well, Teeny is now 7 weeks old. And since she is my last baby, the time has gone by way too fast for me already.

As moms who are trying to pursue our dreams, our children can sometimes seem like constant challenges to our success and our sanity. It’s not that we don’t love them, it’s not that we don’t know and believe that our jobs as their mothers will be the most important thing we ever do in this life, it’s just that it’s hard. It’s hard to write 5 words, much less 5,000, when your train of thought gets derailed every ten seconds by a question, a cry, or yet another mess. Sometimes we are so focused on our dreams, which we can’t help but feel are receding farther and farther into the distance with every dirty diaper, that our children just seem downright irritating. We wonder if there will ever come a time when we will get to be someone other than just “Mom."

I came across this post a few weeks ago, and I bookmarked it, so that anytime my kids start driving me bonkers I can read it and remember how unbelievably blessed I am.

This is a tough time, no doubt. But when my Teeny is screaming her head off begging me to hold her (again, doesn’t happen often because the kid seriously has a halo and wings) I try to remind myself that there will come a day when she’s screaming at me in teenage anger and I will be aching to wrap her up in my arms and kiss her soft cheeks and just snuggle the heck out of her. There may come a time when I will be waiting up for her to come home at 2am and I will remember these 2am feedings with wistfulness, longing for the warmth of her tiny body snuggled up to me in my bed as she contentedly nursed and I sleepily stroked her little back.

I try to remind myself of these kinds of things with all of my kids, because as my second-to-youngest just turned 3 last week, I tried to remember what happened to my silly little toddler. Where did this spunky preschooler come from? And when did she outgrow my lap?

This week I challenge you to find the time in the simplest moments to just be present with your kids. Take a moment and really see them, feel them, experience the little person they are right in that moment. Touch their skin, stroke their hair, look into their eyes and listen intently to their little words, because they will change into someone else in an instant. And because there are women out there who would kill for what you have. They ache and long and hope and pray for a little person to tug on their arm and say, “Mommy, I need you.”

So for now I will let my writing dreams fade into the background a bit. Because every day right in front of me is a dream fulfilled, even if it does take the form of spit-up, temper tantrums, and stepping on legos with bare feet (ouch).

Don’t grow up too fast, Teeny. This is a pretty great dream.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Child's Play

    Children are such a great example to me. This week I had an interesting experience with my daughter that really made me think about my writing. She and my son were playing together, I'm not sure exactly what they were pretending, but they were 100% invested in their play. It came time for clean-up, so I told each of them to go clean their rooms. Without skipping a beat, my daughter sticks out her hip, puts her hand on it in a very dramatic fashion, and says to me, "OK Mrs. Haskin!" I just had to laugh! She then walked off, with a sassy swagger, to her room. It just amazes me how easily these kids can incorporate anything into their play. When children play, they adapt so easily to changing situations, others' ideas, and outside influences. There are usually two outcomes when someone introduces a new idea into their play. Either they adapt and play right along, or they fight. If they adapt and go along, they are led in a new direction, new ideas of their own and a whole new line of thought and play. If they try and force their own ideas onto others, or are unwilling to change along with the newly introduced ideas, they fight, play stops, and is usually accompanied by anger, frustration, and disappointment.
    We found we could relate this to our writing. There are times when we feel like we've hit a wall and we fight the direction of our story. Something unexpected pops up and because it was unplanned we try to avoid it or ignore it. Often times when this happens we end up fighting that wall or in other words we encounter the dreaded writer's block. I'm sure we've all been there, staring blankly at our computer screens or notebooks, our brains feeling a bit fried or compressed. How can we avoid this? Perhaps the answer is as simple as doing as our children do. Adapt. Allow the new ideas to play out, build off of them. What's the worst that can happen? If this new direction doesn't work out you can always delete and try again.
    I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to be an excuse maker. I can find an excuse for almost anything, especially when it comes to writing. In this case when writers block creeps in and I'm forced to adapt, as we've suggested above, I might make the excuse of "A child's imagination is so flexible and can stretch. Things don't have to make sense when they play. We, as adults, have imaginations that perhaps are more brittle and rigid and must comply with certain rules. We have to be consistent and rational." See, pretty good excuse, right? Wrong. As much as I want to convince myself of this it's not true. Just because we have to follow certain "rules" when writing doesn't mean we have to always reign in our imagination and creativity. Sometimes when I let my imagination go wild it takes me on a journey that ends with a great idea and an answer to my writing conundrum. There are times when we have to sort through some pretty crazy and ridiculous ideas to find that little gem that fits perfectly within our WIP.
Remember that sometimes the most unexpected things can lead to the greatest adventures!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday So What: Marinate

     I love  to watch the Food channel.  Ironic, I know. I can't cook and I have a weight loss book coming out. Go figure.
     Anyway, I was watching Chopped, and they kicked a chef off the show because her pork didn't have enough flavor. She didn't let it marinate long enough, and so the meat was bland.
     Recently, I got some feedback from a beta reader/ editor type person. My story didn't have enough flavor. I needed another ingredient. He suggested that I move a character that was introduced in the second half of the book, all the way up to the second chapter. = Major rewrites.
     I kicked, I screamed. I may have cried and cursed a little. I hated the idea. It was horrible and I rejected it out of hand. Then I went to sleep. And the idea marinated in my brain with the story. The next day it begrudgingly marinated a little more. By the third day I had rewritten the first three chapters to reflect the change.
     My friend was right. The extra character got me out of the 1st person POV trap (post coming next week). I needed that character to draw my heroine out and advance the story. She added just the right amount of bite and flavor. Sometimes ideas need that time to marinate. To really sink into your brain.
     My advice, when you get a critique from a friend, or a reader, or your group -- don't dismiss it out of hand. I know, the instinct is defense mode and protecting the integrity of your vision. Just hear it, and let it stew for a while. Let it marinate and then decide if it adds the right amount of flavor to your story.

Friday, September 7, 2012

And Now Back To My Regularly Scheduled Life

It's September 5th (when I'm writing this). The kids are back in school. Work has settled down finally and I have a couple of days off this week. Today, I was up by 9:30am and had only a few things to do because my plan was to WRITE.

So why am I sitting here at 2:21 pm preparing this blog post?

I can't write. And I don't know why.

As you may remember, I spent essentially the whole spring and summer editing and preparing The Tyrant King for publication--which I finally accomplished--with a lot of help from some very knowledgeable writers, readers, editors, and friends. I also started a job this summer and am now the acting asst manager at the local Dollar General store. (yes, that was a fast ride--I'll tell you about it sometime)

Lately all my other "hobbies" have gone by the wayside. Video games. Movies/TV shows. I actually did watch/play a little after work yesterday but only because I had a sinus headache that would fell an elephant and just wanted to veg.

Today I feel pretty good. But I can't get my brain in the right place to pick up my writing again. And now, the kids will be home in less than an hour. And I'm starting to feel slightly panicky.

Where did my muse go? It doesn't feel like she's gone far. I'm totally smitten with some of the ideas I've had over the past few months for new stories and ways of improving old stories. But right now there's an open .doc sitting on my computer and I'm here. Why?

How do you do it? We all have busy lives, and I'm a firm believer in the idea that you *make* time for what's important to you. So how do you make time to write. And, once it's there, how do you get back into the writing groove?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Help! This really bites....

Ahhh!  It's Thursday!  I don't know what it is about long weekends that throws off my schedule, but I walked around all day fluctuating between a knowledge of the proper weekday and a belief that it was Wednesday.  Add to that the confusion and excitement and fatigue of the first week of school, and I completely forgot to post!

I'm actually here looking for help today - I have a problem.  My almost two year old son has developed a nasty habit of biting.  He's the first of my three to have this issue, and I don't know how to deal with it.  Up until today, it has only been myself or his older brother and sister that have been victimized by his sharp incisors, and only occasionally.  Today, he bit another person's child.  Apparently it left marks.

What do I do?  Any good parenting advice?  I've heard the adage to bite them back when they bite you, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Can any body share some useful tips?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Deep Dark Secret Dream Job

I feel so honored to be the guest blogger on Mormon Mommy Writers! I totally identify with this blog, as the mommy of five kids who started writing when my oldest was a wee babe in arms and who is now just months away from a driving permit.

Lately I’ve been on a book tour for my latest book, Big in Japan. Writing it was a blast. I mean, I not only got to learn waaaaay more about sumo wrestling than I’d ever have imagined, I also conjured up a love story for it, which meant figuring out how to bring two very different people from wildly different backgrounds together, how to make them the perfect match, how to put the right obstacles between them, and how to make them overcome it all and find love.
Deep Dark Secret confession time: All my life I’ve secretly wished I could be a matchmaker. I mean, I love love. And if I can have an influence, somehow, in bringing about love, well, I love it.
But I’m a terrible matchmaker. In real life. I totally stink at it. In fact, I remember when I was a freshman in college, I worked at a department store with this girl from my hometown, and a guy from my ward had seen her and was smitten. My little matchmaker heart went into high gear! I told him to go for it, told her he was a nice guy. He brought her a dozen roses at work. She agreed to go out. Lah dee dah, they got married!
But it ended badly.
I felt somewhat responsible for the ensuing heartache. Should’ve learned my lesson.
And maybe I have. Mostly. Other than suggesting cute girls for my single brother-in-law to take on dates, I now restrict myself to fictional match-ups. And in Big in Japan I was doing my best to fashion them as interlocking puzzle pieces from the clay. Or whatever. I wanted them to be perfect for each other, but make their love seem totally impossible. I mean, he’s a 6’6” and almost 400-lb American. She’s a tiny Japanese girl. He’s low on confidence, she’s practically the princess of her father’s life. The list goes on. The more obstacles between the obviously perfect couple, the more satisfying it is to the reader when they finally overcome, I think.
And so, Big in Japan? It isn’t really a romance. It’s more of a sports novel or a coming of age or mainstream fiction. But it has romantic elements. And for that part of the plot to work, I had to really think out the relationship and how to make the match.
All my single friends and family should be totally grateful I’ve found this new outlet for my obsession, and they should definitely fear the day I give up writing and focus my energies on them and their lives. As someone says in every Star Wars movie, “Nooooooo!”
Jennifer Griffith lives in Arizona with her husband and five kids. Big in Japan is her fourth novel. She blogs at and can be found on Facebook at Read more about Buck Cooper and his sumo adventures at

(This is just a small note from me, Megan. Today is my last post, and I was so glad to give it to my wonderful friend and her fabulous new book. If you haven't read it, READ IT!
I've loved my time here at MMW, and I'm sad to be leaving, but as is true in all lives, there is a time and season for everything, and my season here is over. It's time to give another  writer the opportunity to share with you her wisdom and insight. I will miss all the women who are dedicated to MMW, especially Nikki, who gave me a chance when I really needed someone else to believe in my writing ability. 
Though I won't be posting every week, I'll certainly be lurking and saying hello from time to time. Ciao!)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Contest reminder

I took the morning getting my little girl to school. And I was away from the computer with the exception of uploading pictures to Facebook.

Today = busy morning, social afternoon, business-filled evening. I do not have a post but I did want to remind you to get those contest entries in. It it the last week. Time to write.

Monday, September 3, 2012

People Watching and Show vs Tell

Have you submitted your entry for our contest yet? No? Well hurry up! You only have until Friday, and this is YOUR big moment to shine! What? You didn’t know about the contest? Well click that tab right above this (Contest) and find out about it! Now, on to my post...

Just before school started I took advantage of a not-too-hot day and took the kids to the park. Apparently lots of other parents had the same idea because it was crowww-ded!

As I was watching my kids run around, I noticed a couple standing off to the side watching two little boys play. One reason I noticed this couple is because each had an arm around the other’s waist. It was sweet. As I continued to watch my kids, however, I noticed that this couple didn’t move- in fact, they bordered on being stiff. Suddenly it occurred to me that this was probably a new relationship. I remember that feeling- that slightly awkward initial phase of affection where you’re so anxious that you don’t realize you haven’t moved a muscle in 10 minutes. I smiled when I noticed the woman pull away for a second, stretch her arms (during which time I confirmed that neither of them was wearing a wedding ring), and then put her arm right back around her boyfriend’s waist once more.

I kept my eye on this couple to see if I could figure out which one the boys belonged to. I suspected they belonged to the guy, because otherwise the woman would have been more interactive with them- moms are like that. I suspect even more so if the mom is trying to incorporate a new man into her sons’ lives, wanting to be an enthusiastic buffer for the transition. Dads, on the other hand, are often more aloof and hesitant with kids, and I imagine that they too might be even more so in a situation like this (single guys have a tendency to be more interested in women than kids...funny how that works).

Soon, one of the boys ran over to the man and said something, casting a sideways glance at the woman. When I heard the other boy call out, “Dad, watch this!” it confirmed my suspicions- the man was the boys’ father, and judging from the body language I’d witnessed, this was probably a meet-the-new-girlfriend outing.

As you can probably guess, I like people-watching. I like to be a detective and study nonverbal communication (and verbal communication) and see what I can figure out about people. After this experience, I realized that people-watching can actually make me a better writer.

One of the things I sometimes struggle with as a writer is the difference between “telling” and “showing”. People-watching is a great example of how we can learn information with no “telling” whatsoever. I didn’t have a narrator who walked over to me and said, “That’s Tom. He’s here with his boys and his new girlfriend. He’s really hoping today goes well.” Instead, I had a scene in front of me with visual evidence that intrigued me to figure out that information on my own.

I think that the reason that “showing” is so much better than “telling” is because it makes the reading experience more lifelike for the reader. It puts the reader in the scene as an observer and gives them the tools they need to understand the situation. Granted, the degree to which you are doing either ’telling’ or ’showing’ also depends on your POV (point of view).

So, for example, instead of saying, “The exasperated and exhausted mother picked up her screaming child and left the park,” (telling), you could write, “The sweaty mother clenched her jaw and roughly picked up her screaming child as she stomped out of the park.” (showing) I didn’t have to use the words, “exasperated and exhausted” because a reader can deduce that from the physical description offered instead. The next time you find yourself using too many “telling” words, stop and ask yourself, “If someone asked me to describe what tired (or overwhelmed, or excited, or furious, etc.) looked like, how would I describe it?"

If you’re at all like me (and we’re all writers here, so you probably are) you often keep a running narrative in your head of your life as you live it. Your brain automatically inserts things like, “...he replied, smiling,” after your husband answers a question you just asked him. (Admit it. You totally do this.) So, the next time you’re out people-watching and running your narrative, practice your ’showing’ skills in your head. Describe only what you see, not the conclusions you are drawing from what you see.

Later, as I watched the couple leave with the boys, I tested my detective skills once more- I suspected they would probably leave in a smaller, 4-door car, not a minivan or SUV (he had to buy a cheapy after the divorce- it was all he could afford). They walked toward an older model Honda Civic (the couple holding hands, one little boy holding his dad’s hand and the other running ahead) and I smiled. I really hope it all worked out for them.

Have you ever struggled with the concept of showing vs. telling? 

(And does anyone else out there like to people-watch? Or narrate their lives in their head as if they were a character in a novel?)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Choice

   Life is full of choices.  Every day we wake up to a world of decision making and selections.  Choices ranging from when to wake up or what to wear to what to eat and what tasks will be tackled.  But there are other choices presented to us on a daily basis, that perhaps we overlook or fail to acknowledge all the time.  Choices like "Will I smile at the people I pass by?" or "Should I glare at the car I'm speeding by because I don't like their driving style."  Some of these latter choices include more of our attitude choices.  "How will I choose to look at this day?" 
   Today in Relief Society our lesson was on choosing to be happy.  Lessons like these are very personal for me.  Looking back over my life there is one life lesson my dad taught me that ALWAYS sticks out above the rest.  This lesson being: You can choose to be happy.
  Through the course of our lives we will all experience hardships and trials, difficult or dark times.  But it is how we choose to handle those times that makes us who we are.  I know as writers we face many challenges and disappointments, but we can also anticipate great accomplishments and triumphs.  We can't let the hard times outweigh the good, whether in our writing or in our day to day lives. 
  We are entering a time where we must make our choice, otherwise the choice will be made for us.  We can't afford to let anyone or anything make that choice for us.  It is our God given right and gift to choose.  We must take advantage of that.  When we choose to be positive and happy the doors of possibility will be unlocked.  When we choose to see the better part our eyes will be opened to greater things.  We can not let disappointment rule our lives.  I wrote last week about a devastating loss of a large chunk of our WIP I had just written.  I have been struggling trying to recreate the words and scene I had first written.  It took me some time to step back and realize that it's OK.  It's not the end of the world.  I had chosen to have a negative attitude about it and was hindering my own creativity in doing so.  So yesterday I sat down and just typed out everything that I could remember.  It's not in a polished story format at all.  It's just notes and basic thoughts, but I put it down.  I couldn't let my bad attitude keep the story from being written.  I made a choice. 

  I have made my choice, I choose to be happy.  I choose to be positive.  I know there will be days where this is really hard to stick to.  I know I will struggle and want to throw a fit, but if I remember to keep a positive attitude and just be happy I KNOW things will work out.  And now I challenge all of you.  Make your choice.  I hope you all choose to be happy, choose to be cheerful.  In doing so I believe we will spread a greater message than any book could.  I believe we could show the world who we are and what we really stand for. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday So What: Avoiding Deus Ex Machina

So What am I up to this holiday weekend? Touching up the end of my latest novel. In particular, I am making sure it doesn't fall prey to the dreaded, Deus Ex Machina. If you are a writer, you've probably seen or heard the words floated around. Here's how Wikipedia defines it:

Latin: "god from the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.

Lord of the Flies is one of the most famous examples. Someone from outside the island has to swoop in and save them all. 

So, basically it means you cheated in the end. Your character is stuck, she's screwed. Death is certain. But right before the blade hits, some white knight comes to her rescue. One problem, we've never met him before and it's the end of the book. Your character should be smart enough and well equipped enough to get out of a jam. It's ok for the side kicks to help, but a strong main character needs to have the main role. (Harry Potter walked a really thin line on that one)

So how do you protect against the hand of God saving the day and make a killer ending that's actually believable? 

Just a personal opinion mind you, but before you finish writing the first chapter, you should know how your book ends. None of this "We'll see what happens" stuff.  You need to know where your character starts and where they end. Let me tell you why. If you know how they're supposed to end up - both as a change in personal growth as well as what they need in their skill set to overcome the 'Big Bad' - then you can make sure they get what they need along the journey. That way you are not just throwing in at the last second "Oh, by the way, Katya used to fence as a child." An expert plot crafter will throw in seemingly ordinary bits of info, hints, or items throughout the story. Then when the ending comes the reader remembers and says, "That's why in Chapter ... she found that, Or went here." It makes the experience richer and more layered for a reader. But you can't hint if you don't know the end. I'm not going to throw in spoilers, but Dark Knight Rises does this to near perfection. You want to see the movie again just to catch the little hints.

So do yourself a favor, fix your beginning and your end points. Let the middle flow organically and go along the journey with your character if you want. Make sure your MC has the tools they need to outlast, outwit, or out kick butt. Before the last chapter.

Last call for contest entries this week guys. No more 'saving hands' from us.  :)


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