Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Last Day of Freedom!

-a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Oh, and happy Halloween, too!
Tomorrow (in case you missed our gazillions of posts about it) starts NaNoWriMo. Since I love to pass on good advice (“it is the only thing to do with it,” says Oscar Wilde), here are my last little bits of wisdom to add to all the NaNo advice we’ve been doling out the last couple weeks:

1. Have an accountability buddy. There is one main reason I won NaNoWriMo the last two years: a best friend of mine checked in with me almost nightly. We had an email chain where we briefly wrote each other our word counts, our triumphs and defeats, our excitement at finally getting to write the kissing scenes!* And occasionally a gentle kick in the butt. Without her, I would have fizzled out. Find someone (other than a spouse) who will do this for you.**

2. Plan to write ahead, as soon as you can. Technically you only have to write 1,667 words per day to finish in time. Don’t plan for this. First of all, many of us won’t write on Sundays, and you will fall quickly behind if you’re only doing the bare minimum the other days. Second, you’re most excited in the first week or two, you have the most ideas and (if you’re an outliner) scenes planned but not yet written. It can get significantly harder as the weeks go on. So start out hard and fast. I have a spreadsheet (geek alert!) to keep track of my goals, and I plan for 2,500 words per day. This gets me ahead fast, and then when I inevitably have a few lousy days, I’m still keeping up.

3. Plan to finish early. This one goes with #2. If you plan to get ahead, then you can theoretically plan to finish early. This is great for Thanksgiving plans, great for keeping up momentum, and great for having time to catch up at the end. Oh, and also great for gloating at your other friends when they spend the last week frantically staying up until forever every night to finish.***  

4. Don’t delete. When you are writing along speedily, the worst idea ever is to hit the delete button. Even when you have spelled something wrong and you know it. It takes you out of that moment of writing and slows you down immensely—both your fingers and your brain. And in November, that is a no no. Occasionally your fingers will stutter; keep typing. Here are two of my favorite finger stutters from a previous year: anytnhigagainst (“against”) and tentrusthsiastic (“enthusiastic”). See? It’s okay if suddenly you can’t spell.

5. Stare into space. Okay, perhaps you find my above suggestion a bit overboard. Perhaps you can’t stand the idea of all those little squiggly red lines all through your document. Perhaps you need to get over that. :) And here’s one way: Don’t look at the computer screen. Find a lovely, soothing picture to look at if you’d like. But nothing that draws you out of your book. That’s why I like to close my eyes or just unfocus them and stare at nothing at all. If you feel like you need to insert something earlier in your scene, just type “(insert this earlier)” and keep going. Don’t look at the screen to figure it out. Again, it takes you out of the writing.

6. Don’t have a soundtrack. I admit that lots of fun authors have soundtracks for their books. But I can’t comprehend it. How can you possibly focus on your writing when you’re listening to “Radioactive”? The same way you shouldn’t delete, look at your screen, or look at a boy band poster while you type, you shouldn’t listen to popular/radio music. If you want music, try classical, no words.

7. Accept the bad writing because you’re tapping into something completely different this month. It seems like all of this is suggesting that your writing is going to be terrible this month. And it’s a fact that your polish should be terrible (aka nonexistent) this month. And it may be scattered and riddled with holes and confused. But that isn’t the point of November. The point is to produce and learn by the producing. The speed just forces you to tap into different resources and portions of your brain than you use when you’re thinking over everything slowly and logically and editorially. You will suddenly find solutions that you’re forced into finding (when the rest of the year you say, “I’ll write the rest of the book when I figure out this plot hole,” here you just have to keep writing). It can be magical and awesome, but it may also look horrific.

8. Do something with this manuscript when the month is over. I’m not going to bother you with this one for now, because November is the month of no thinking and no editing. But November is not the end of the journey; there are bigger and better things in store . . . in December.

Happy writing!

* Although it turns out to feel surprisingly silly writing a kissing scene.
** Spouses can be awesome, and mine certainly made a huge difference in the finishing too, but I sometimes needed the encouragement from a different source (one I didn’t live with).
*** Just kidding. I never gloat. Ever! No, really, I don’t. I just point and laugh.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Counted On

"This is the Paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God."  
- President Dieter F Uchtdorf

I have thought a lot these past weeks about the undeniable evidence I have been witness to in my life that proves that God loves us each individually.  He knows us completely. He loves us completely.  He knows the challenges that will help us to grow into the best versions of ourselves.  I have realized that my own wants for myself often travel a road much easier than the road my Creator encourages me to travel.  Yet his road has always taken me to greater places than I could have ever dreamed for myself.

Often times when prompted through the Holy Spirit to travel the path of the Lord, I feel doubtful of my qualifications and ability.  "Why, Lord, have you picked me when there are others who could do so much more than me?"  It is often tempting to say I will leave this road to be traveled by those more able to succeed.  

For myself as well as anyone else who needs to read it I am declaring that there is no one else who will fulfill the callings the Lord has prompted you to fulfill.  No matter how small or grand our tasks are, there is a reason it is you He requires.  You must not shirk your duties and leave it for another.  There is no other you are counted upon to do your part.  He will guide and assist you when you are on His errands.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Time to SPRINT!

Hello fellow MMW sprinters! Welcome! Here’s how this will work:

1. Now that you’re here, pop down and leave a comment to say hello to everyone.

2. At 10pm (or 9 or 8 or 7 depending on your time zone) START WRITING! Work work work for 15 minutes!

3. At 10:15pm (or 9:15 or 8:15...well, you get the idea) stop for a second, come back and tell us how you did! Then GET BACK TO WORK!

4. Check in again at 10:30, 10:45, and then at 11 give us your final word count or share anything else you may have accomplished (brainstorming, outlining, etc.).

Have fun! Let’s all be positive and support each other in getting 1 hour closer to our dreams!

:-) Kasey

Writing Conference Do’s and Don’ts AND a Sprint Tonight!

My name tag for the James River Writers Conference- those colorful little dots represented the various genres- YA, romance, children’s, mystery, etc. You just put the dot stickers on to show people what you write.

A little over a week ago I went to my first WRITING CONFERENCE! And it was AWESOME!!

If you have never been to a writing conference, you must go. The energy there was amazing- it was thrilling to be around people who were just as passionate about writing as I am and to see so many who have turned that passion into a successful writing career. There was something inspiring about the connections being made and the overall buzzy feeling that Big Things were happening all over the conference for the two days everyone was there.

Looking back, I can see many things I did right, and many other things I probably could have done better to prepare for the conference. In case anybody else is thinking of attending their first conference, here is my list in hopes that you may learn something from it.

Things I Did Right (yay me!):

1. I made some contacts ahead of time so I had someone to talk to. I took my mom with me for moral support- well, that and she’s just written a book and so this writing conference stuff was right up her alley- but a conference is all about networking. One of the best ways to meet new people is through people you already know. And my mom and I had different interests as far as the panel discussions went, so it wasn’t as scary heading into a session on my own because I knew chances were good that there would be somebody there I knew.

This pic turned out a bit blurry (and I blurred out some of my info on purpose), but I just wanted to show the cool shiny foil effect on my cards. I like shiny things.

2. I had business cards. I wasn’t sure about this one, but BOY am I glad I did. Because EVERYBODY had a card. I went through Vistaprint (got a Groupon- woot!) and got a stack of these babies. I chose a pattern and colors that were polished and professional and also uniquely me. I pretty much gave one to everyone I met, and you’ll read later how that caused me a bit of a problem...

3. I put a lot of thought into my look. This may seem weird, but at a writing conference the only thing you really have time to share with people is a first impression. I wanted to make a good one, so first I decided I wanted to be memorable. Not like, blue hair and sparkly eyelash extensions memorable, but someone who stood out a bit from the crowd while still looking both approachable and professional. I had a strong suspicion that there would be a lot of people wearing black and dark colors there, and when we came down the escalator to the main floor of the conference, I saw that I was right- it was a sea of black. I wore tan skinny chinos with knee-high brown boots, a flowy flowery top and a cream cardigan over top (layers are very important). I felt like myself and I felt confident that my look was out of the norm.

My gorgeous business card case. Hooray for Etsy!

4. I paid attention to details. Along the same lines as #3, this one may seem kind of silly, but I bought a new laptop bag that would match my style and I also got a really pretty holder for my business cards. Again, seems shallow, but those unique touches were the catalyst for some great connections. One of the panelists actually complimented my bag and I thanked her and told her I’d bought it on Etsy. We talked about how much we love Etsy, and then I asked her what she would be talking on. It was a great way to break the ice.

5. I talked to lots and lots of people. Just before the conference started, I visited the various tables and chatted with people manning them. Because it was their job to talk to people, I found it to be a good way to ease into the “chatmosphere." Then at lunch my mom and I sat at a table with a playwright, a YA writer, a children’s writer, a novelist, and a guy who was a filmmaker but wants to move into writing books. All fascinating people with varied backgrounds and interesting goals. In each panel discussion I tried to introduce myself to the people I sat next to, and I was rewarded with some very interesting conversations.

6. I had a pitch prepared. It’s the question you will get asked: “So, what are you working on?” You’d better be prepared with an answer! I spent some time before the conference condensing my novel down to a brief synopsis that I could deliver in about a minute and a half. I rehearsed it, I tried it out on my family (my kids got so sick of me saying it) so that by the time the conference rolled around, I could rattle off the gist of my book to anyone who asked- and they did!

7. I didn’t pitch my book to an agent. This was a tough one for me, because they were all right there. All you had to do was sign up and an agent or publisher was ALL YOURS for eight minutes! That’s right- you get to skip swimming in the slush pile and move straight up to a one-on-one! So why didn’t I do it? It was so tempting, but my book is not yet finished, and I just knew that if (hope beyond hope) an agent asked for the first chapter or (as angels sing) a full manuscript, I would be frantically trying to come up with something good enough to send them. I don’t need that kind of pressure right now. I need to finish my book! There will always be next year. (By the way, my amazing mother did do a pitch session and the publisher she met with asked her for a first chapter! Woohoo!)

Okay, so that’s the rundown of my pats on the back. Here are the things I need to fix for next year:

1. Finish my darn book. One of the main, super exciting reasons you go to a writing conference is the chance to meet people who can make your publishing dreams come true. But they can’t do that until you write your book. A writing conference is a great deadline to shoot for! So next year, the book will be done and as good as I can get it so that I’ll be ready if I chance to get that big break.

2. Bring more business cards. Remember how I said I was handing out those fabulous business cards left and right? Well, those cards were so fab that they were printed on some very thick card stock. And that cute little card case was just that- little. I hadn’t realized how few cards it really held. Fortunately, I didn’t run out, but by the end I started to get a little nervous- should I refuse to give a card to a fellow writer in case I needed it for someone more important? Nobody should have to make those kinds of decisions, people! Bring plenty of cards!!

3. Arrive earlier to panel discussions for better seats. A few of the sessions I attended were pretty packed, and others not as much. I was doing a lot of chatting in the hall in between, and so sometimes I had a decent seat if the session wasn’t too full, but a few times I was clamoring for a chair in the back. I much preferred the familiarity of interaction that came with sitting up front- being able to see the panelists up close felt much more informal and enjoyable.

4. Do more research about participating authors ahead of time- especially those whose work is similar to mine. Because there were SO many presenters, I just felt like I didn’t have the time to research every single one of them, but I really wish I had paid closer attention to the YA authors and their books and maybe bought some of the books ahead of time so I could get them signed. Not necessarily because I want the prestige of owning an autographed copy, but for the opportunity it would bring to meet the author and make a connection.

So there’s my rundown. Again, it was an amazing experience, and I cannot wait for next year. I was impressed by the camaraderie shared among writers. There was no jealousy or negativity as far as I could see- everyone was super supportive of everyone else, and I saw lots of big hugs in the hallway outside of the pitch room- both celebrating successes and comforting failures. I even hugged a writer I’d just met at lunch- she had told me about her book (which I thought sounded awesome) and said she was doing her pitch that afternoon. I saw her later and asked how it went, and she said that the agent requested the full manuscript. SCORE! I was so excited for her that I hugged her. She was so excited she didn’t care! LOL!

So, to help get me to my goal and in the awesome supportive and motivational spirit of writing conferences and the upcoming NaNoWriMo, I invite you ALL to join me tonight for a writing sprint! Don’t worry if you’re doing NaNoWriMo- join us anyway and do a 1-hour brainstorm! Need to do revisions? That works too! Meet me at MMW tonight just before 10pm EST (9pm CST, 8pm MST, 7pm PST)- I will put up a NEW post just for our sprint- just click on the post, leave a comment to let me know you’re sprinting with us, and then GO! Come back and check in every 15 minutes- 10:15, 10:30, 10:45, 11- to let us know how you’re doing! Word count or other progress- everything is to be celebrated! Let’s just DO it! :-)

Have you ever attended a writing conference? Was there anything you felt like you did well? Anything you could have done better?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy "Giving Birth" Day!

Today is my birthday, I am 32 years old. Five years ago, October 15, 2008, I gave birth to a little baby boy. We had adopted our older daughter who was almost three, and were surprised when I found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t a hard pregnancy compared to what some women deal with, but it did come with a few hiccups. I had Preeclampsia and had to be induced three weeks early. After I delivered my sweet little boy, I stared at him and realized that I would do it all again for such a great gift.
I also started thinking about how my mom went through that four different times. When I was younger she had a daycare in our home so she could help our family and give us some extra special holidays, birthdays, dinners and more fun celebrations.

Almost two weeks later it was my birthday October 27th.  I decided then that as fun as it is to celebrate birthdays, I should celebrate my mom. That year I gave her flowers thanking her for giving birth to me, for sacrificing things, loving me and always making birthdays so great. On the card I wrote “Happy Giving Birth Day!”

The next year I did the same. In 2010 I had another baby on October 23rd. I had a four day old baby, but I knew that I had to give my mom flowers. My husband drove our new little family of five to the store and then to my mom’s work to deliver them.  

As a mom to three kids I know that it really is a job that never ends. I am constantly worrying, praying and loving my kids. I can’t imagine what it will be like when they are grown and gone. They will have their own lives and make their own choices. This year is the 6th year that I have recognized my mom on the day that she gave me so much, life. Yes, she has her own birthday and there is Christmas and Mother’s day, but why not give our mom’s just one more day that they deserve a big thanks. I love you Mom! Happy "Giving Birth" Day!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Literary Mood Disorder and the Power of Words

a post by Betsy Schow

My mom used to say, "Need a vacation, read a book."

Books have the awesome power to allow readers to escape their lives and step into a new world.

Recently, I've figured out it goes even further than that. My name is Betsy and I have LMD, Literary Mood Disorder.

Whenever I read (or now write for that matter) I am completely immersed into the emotions of the book. A few nights ago, I was really weepy and couldn't figure out why. It's because I was reading a particularly sad book and couldn't shake the emotion even when I'd closed the cover.

Thus I realized I am a total sheep, and should have figured this out years ago. In fact, I bet I was such a moody teenager thanks to the mass quantities of V.C Andrews I read.

Or maybe another road sign was when my husband started buying me romance novels around year 7 in our marriage. (first child was born shortly thereafter)

You are what you eat. Well, you are what you read and write too. Books inspire, lighten, frighten, and sink.
My first three published and in the process of being published books were lighter in tone and nature. Lots of laughs, some snark, and a little bit heart tugging on the side.

The two I'm working on now might just suck my soul through a straw. They are both a lot darker than I am usually, but tackle subjects that I had something to say about. Redemption and choice for the first, and cyber bullying and suicide on the second. So for the last six months I have been the most anti-social, down in the dumps creature to grace a keyboard. My poor, poor family. Hopefully it will be worth it when I come out the other end having grown as a writer and a person.

So to anyone who has ever said, "Oh, it's no big deal. I don't care what my kids read, they're just books after all and not real" -- I attack you with bookmarks and hope those papercuts sting.

We need to watch what we let our children read. We need to watch what we read, keeping in mind how books are changing us. I am not advocating we only read Happy Fluffy Bunny books or keep our kids away from getting a glimpse of the sometimes sad and harsh realities of the world. But never forget that books and words have power.

To change a family

To change the course of a nation

To change the soul

In either direction

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nanowrimo Here We Come!

By Nikki Wilson

The month of November is almost upon us. Most people think of November as the month of gratitude, Turkeys, and Black Friday. But we writers are a strange group and the month of November means frozen TV dinners, a dirty house, and lots of time with our imaginary friends. That's because National Novel Writing Month has become more than a dare, it's a movement in the writing community. When I first starting doing Nanowrimo seven years ago, many writers still didn't know what it was and now it's like the national writer's holiday! (Hmm, do you think we could petition for it to be a National Holiday? Then I could get the whole month off of work! Hahaha!)

For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, let me introduce you to the concept and the community. The whole idea is to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less. The main rules are that it has to be a new novel that you start on November 1st. Though outlining and brainstorming ahead of time are encouraged. You can sign up at On the website you can select the region where you live and find out if there are any Nanowrimo events going on in your area, like write ins. Also, you make a page for yourself where you can tell about the book your working on and track your progress. You can add friends to your page, this enables you to watch your friends' progress as well and cheer them on. (My user name is nickalodeon26. Add me as your friend!) The writing community really comes alive during this month and you don't want to miss it.

Maybe you don't have a new novel idea or you want to work on something you already started. No problem. I've spent many years participating in my own version of Nanowrimo. Maybe 50,000 words isn't realistic for you, that's ok, you can make your goal and work towards it. The point is to write and to take advantage of the excitement, motivation and support that is abounding during the month of November.

This year I have a new story idea to work and I am learning a new skill to help me along...OUTLINING! Like Gina, I too have found that rewriting a story a million times is getting old and I want to find another way. So I have been outlining during the month of October and I'm so excited to get to write this story that has been brewing.

I want the MMW community to come together during this month and help each other to accomplish their writing goals. So here a few tools we can use to make the most of this month. MormonMommyWriters has a yahoo group! You can look us up (there are no spaces in between each word). There we can send messages about our progress and challenge each other. Mormon Mommy Writers also has a facebook page. If you haven't liked us yet, please come on over and do so. We will announce writing sprints and goals. One year we even had someone make us our own chat room so we could do sprints but I'm not web savvy like that. But if any of you know how to do that, please let me know. I'm also thinking we could use Twitter to have word sprints. I've been unable to get into my Twitter account to find out if the hashtag #MMWwordsprint is taken or not. Please let me know if it is and we will come up with a new one. The way it would work on Twitter is that anytime you want a word sprint log on to Twitter and type in the hashtag. You will be able to see who else is on using the same tag and then you can arrange a time to start a word sprint (meaning you start writing as fast as you can for a certain amount of time then see how many words you each wrote). I've done this a couple times in the past, but it's been awhile.

In the comments, please leave your Nanowrimo name and any ideas or links to nanowrimo communities or helps! Let's all get excited about this and support each other in our writing goals. Even if you aren't participating this year, you can cheer us on!! If you can think of other ways we as MMW's can support each other this month, please leave a comment! I can't wait to hear all about your upcoming Nano stories!!


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