Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Writing vs. Storytelling

Once upon a time, like all the way back in 2011, I read a book. The buzz surrounding this book was deafening; there was virtually nothing else talked about on book blogs for several weeks prior to this book's release. I had been on the waiting list through the library for weeks and was ecstatic when my turn came. 

The book was awful

Oh, the prose was pretty. Beautiful sentences, evocative paragraphs, sigh-inducing lines. 

But the story was crap. Characters were one dimensional. The plot was flimsier than fancy tissues and more cliche than a Meg Ryan rom-com. Continuity problems abounded - I flagged thirty-nine of them in the two-hundred-ish page book. Physical impossibilities, scientific improbabilities, and flat-out stupidity marred the pages of this book, which happened to be the first book in a series that would go on to be wildly popular. 

On top of all that, the cover was a metaphor so heavy-handed, I'm surprised I could even lift the thing up. 

Lots of other people loved the book, willing to forgive all the problems (which they agreed existed) because of the pretty words. 

I decided to give her another chance; when her next series came out, I read the first book in that series. I felt it was marginally better, but still fell flat. Flat characters. Dumb story. Bad science (in a science fiction book!). 

Contrast that with my very favorite series, which is written ... simply. Yes. Let's use the word "simply". The writer breaks a lot of popular writing rules and many "real" artists claim this author is terrible.

Oh, sure, they agree the story is good. The characters are interesting and well-developed. The plot is tight and intriguing. The red herrings work, the twists are surprising. They laughed, they cried, but it just isn't. good. writing. 

And here's the conclusion I've come to: 

I prefer good storytelling over good writing. 

Let me say that again, lest your eyes deceive you: 

I PREFER GOOD STORYTELLING OVER GOOD WRITING. 

Now, to be clear, the writing needs to be passable. Correct spelling, reasonable usage of punctuation, all the words are used correctly, and all that jazz. But when it comes right down to it, I prefer a good story over something that might technically be more perfect in terms of craft. 

So this is now my aim. I want to tell a good story. I'll do my best to get the technical stuff right in all the ways that matter most, but story beats craft. 

What say you? 

 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goals vs. Systems


                 The other day I read an interesting article.  At first, I was very enthusiastic about what he had to say.  I still appreciate the underlying idea, but I'd personally feel the need to change a few things and be a bit more specific.  This article was written by James Clear on Entrepreneur.com.  He talks about the difference between Goals and Systems.  I can appreciate comparing the two so that you can understand the difference and the roles each play.  However, I would discourage the "forget setting goals" idea.  I do think that we, especially as writers, should focus on the system though.  I have read from numerous sources, most of whom are wealthy people, how important it is to fall in love with the system or the process.  That is how a lot of wealthy people stay wealthy.  They don't just achieve their goals and then stop.  James Clear points this out as well.  If you put too much of your focus on your goal, and not enough on the process, you won't be as likely to do it again.  (And that is, for most of us, the purpose right?)

                  Now, Mr. Clear is a writer and compares this idea to writing, which is why I chose to focus on this article.  He states that he decided to write an article every Monday and Thursday. As a result, over 12 months, he wrote over 115,000 words.  That's impressive!  As he points out he's written an equivalent of about two books!  I admire that, because it takes a lot to be that disciplined.  (It's an area I lack in... ha!)  He says he has been very happy, if not happier, with what he's written, instead of the books.  But what if what you dream of is writing those two books?  Stick to the advice he gives on setting a system of writing, but make it work towards your goal!  Goals can be VERY inspiring!! And like so many things in this world, has it's place.

                  There are a few thoughts that I'd personally change to be specific, such as his idea that "Goals reduce your happiness".  I'd change it to 'Goals can reduce your current happiness".  This small change makes a huge distinction.  If it is your primary focus, I can see how it would take away from being happy in the present.  Your happiness can always seem in the future.  But if you keep it in perspective, and focus on your system, then it can add to it!!  This is a lesson in itself, as a writer.  We have to be very careful about our wording, because it can change the entire focus and even opinion of the reader!  This may have been his intentions in writing it the way he did, but that is a whole new subject.  Ha!

                   I love his solutions though.  (changing the wording a bit, as I mentioned)  For example, he states that we should "commit to a process, not a goal".  I'd personally change it to 'commit to a process,  keeping the goal in the back of your mind.'  Or something close to that...  It's so important to keep these things in proper perspective, so that we can truly accomplish our goals, and enjoy the journey!

                   He advises us to "Fall in love with systems".  I truly agree that it is the system that will get us to our goal, whether it's in our writing, our love life or any other area.  He does concede at the end that goals "aren't useless" (haha).  However, I prefer his statement; "...that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.".  That, I believe, is the proper perspective to maintain.

                  One last thought... Remember that it's SO important to learn from your role models, and those who have already been successful at what you are trying to do.  It's invaluable advice!  But be careful and take heed to how you apply that advice!  It has the power to make or break your success!  That being said, take care with those that supply that advice.  I encourage you to read the full article.  Get to developing your own system and commit!  What are you going to do today?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Best Gift

Written by Ashley & Jessica

The hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping is done, the excitement and rush of celebrating is over, and the stress of the season has dissipated.  We’re seeing the end of holiday sales and annoying commercials.  The “after Christmas shopping” has peeked and surplus or unwanted gifts have been returned or exchanged.  The noisy, flashing toys may already be broken of have batteries half worn down…or removed by desperate parents.  Through all of this it’s important to remember the true gift of Christmas, the gift of Christ and His Atonement.  It is the greatest gift we could ever be given in this life.  It can’t be broken, it won’t lose its shine; it won’t be forgotten and replaced by a newer version once the current fad passes.  It is everlasting and eternal. 
As we put away our Christmas trees, we should not “put away” those thoughts of service, love and charity.  As we take down the twinkling lights let us remember the Light of Christ and strive to share it with others all year that Christmas will always be in our hearts.  As we come upon this New Year we should strive to remember this precious gift Christ gave us, the opportunity to repent and live again.  We challenge you as you make your New Year’s resolutions to consider this – How can each of us keep these things alive and special in our homes each and every day?  And what do we need to do to make it happen? We have both decided to put this at the top of our list of resolutions.  







Saturday, December 28, 2013

Regurgitations, Reflections and Resolutions

By Lacey Gunter

Our post-Christmas crash has come complete with a nasty case of the stomach flu. Oh the joy of dashing to the bathroom and dumping your head in the toilet as your stomach puts a reject stamp on all the holiday helpings that seemed to taste so much better yesterday. A joy only overshadowed by the lovely surprise left by your kids all over their pillow and mattress.

There seems to be a silver lining to it, though. It has made for a great jump start to the post-holiday diet my hubby needs to pass his physical for the army.While many people seem to have a diet near the top of their New Year's Resolutions list, I am amused to find writing near the top of mine.

It was about this time last year that I caught the writers bug. Over six manuscripts, an online writing conference, two critique groups, hours of research, reading, writing and rewriting and one year later I am amazed how much I have learned and accomplished. I now know writers can come from all walks of life and I can actually enjoy writing.


As I look to the year ahead of me I wonder what it has in store. I am excited to start a new job, but I am nervous about balancing my have to's with my want to's. One of my want to's, of course, is writing a few more manuscripts. Thanks to a successful PiBoIDMo, I have a jump start on it with several fun and fresh ideas.  But I know I will need more than a start. So, I am thankful to have all of you to be a network of support, encouragement and accountability.

Here's to the new year and helping each other accomplish our new year's writing goals!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Glimpse of Things to Come

by Mare Ball 

Two days after Christmas, I'm wading through a pile of laundry that is about as tall as I am.  I didn't do any laundry this week because...well, you know, it was Christmas week and so many things had to be baked and cooked and wrapped and delivered.  It completely left my mind that we would eventually need underwear.


It always takes me a day or two to get back into my normal (a relative term) routine after Christmas.  I just want to drink cocoa and nap and watch old Christmas movies.  I want our grown kids to stay longer, and I want to have food delivered, so we don't have to cook.  I want elves to come by and clean up the holiday aftermath and dust.  I just need a day or two longer to soak it in.  There's this month of preparation...and then, boom...it's all over.

I love the glow of the holidays.  I love the kindness of spirit most people exhibit.  I love the hugs from family and friends, the piles of decorated cookies, the smell of pine and nutmeg.  We all work so hard and invest so much to make Christmas special and meaningful.  And when it's over, we slip right back into griping and being impatient.  (I should speak for myself here.)

Christmas, for me, is small glimpse of heaven.  People are thoughtful and giving.  Artists on the radio sing about silver bells and Mary's sweet baby.  The night sparkles with white lights.  Ebeneezer Scrooge has a change of heart.  The Grinch has a change of heart.  Christmas comes to Whoville with nary a present.

The natural let down that comes after Christmas stems from my longing for heaven.  Which I do, often.  I look forward to the day when the suffering of this world ends, when the healing hand of God sets things right.  The sweet carols that play during Christmas service remind me that we have a mighty God who was brave enough and sacrificial enough to step into human flesh and walk this dirty earth as we do.  What an enormous gift, one too marvelous and sacred to fully comprehend.  At Christmastime, when we pause to remember this precious baby born in a cold stable to an unwed, teenage mom...my heart is so warmed with the desire to be in the full presence of the King.


And then, the next day...there's all this laundry.

I know there are blessings in this life too.  I appreciate the gifts I have.   But that glimpse of heaven...I'm so grateful my heavenly Father eases His way deeper into my heart in such a tender, sparkly way every year.  He's really giving me something to look forward to.




 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Epiphany

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Merry Christmas, everyone! Two of my favorite Christmas traditions actually occur after Christmas, so I thought I’d share them today. Most people celebrate the twelve days of Christmas starting on December 13th, but originally those twelve days came after Christmas. They were the twelve days intervening* between Christmas and a holiday called Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day.

File:XRF 12days.jpgFor the past several years, I have tried to do something fun for my husband for the twelve days of Christmas. One year I came up with small gifts that sort of vaguely related to the words of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song (starting with pear tarts for dessert and ending with a Radiohead CD). One year I wrote themed lists of things I loved about him or fun shared memories (by the time you hit twelve, it gets really hard to be creative). One of my cheesiest years was a series of silly poems.** This year I can’t tell you the plan because my husband might read this and that would really spoil the surprise.

Here’s what I love about doing the twelve days of Christmas (and doing them after Christmas, not before). If you have kids and a spouse, you may have experienced this phenomenon: You rush around before Christmas, trying to make sure you have just the right gifts for your kids (even if you swore this Christmas would be smaller), trying to make sure that if they have siblings everyone has exactly a fair number (and probably weight and volume) of gifts, and by the time Christmas comes you realize that the gift you got for your spouse was kind of . . . blah. Okay, maybe this is just me, but I have done this a few years. Plus, I find that the hubby is hard to shop for. He doesn’t need or want much, and what he does need or want, we just buy. The best thing I can give him is something a little more personal (even if it’s really silly), something that means I spent time and thought on just him.

Plus, it’s fun trying to think of some way you can represent eleven lords a-leaping as food.

Now for Epiphany (as it’s called in many Christian traditions) or Three Kings’ Day (as it’s called especially in Latin American countries). If you’re not familiar with this tradition, you should be! It’s awesome and fun and a good way to give your family those Christmas presents you couldn’t find in time for Christmas but that suddenly showed up three days later.

My husband is American but was born in Colombia, and his family spent several years in Colombia and Puerto Rico when he was little, so they have been celebrating Three Kings’ Day for years. Now that we’re married, we do it with our own family. Three Kings’ Day is, as you might guess, a celebration of the day the three wise men came to see the baby Jesus (probably not so much a baby anymore, and certainly not twelve days after His birth, but that’s really irrelevant to this discussion). Here’s what you do: On the night of January 5th, you go out and pull up some dead grass from your lawn (or some leaves or whatever). Then you put it in a little shoebox at the end of your bed. While you’re sleeping, the wise men come with their very hungry camels. They are so grateful to see some grass for the camels to eat that they leave you a small present in place of the grass.

We have lots of fun with this tradition. Last year, the camels were so happy that they left a note of thanks (which I wrote in shaky handwriting because, really, what kind of camel knows how to hold a pen well?).*** They also left us two bettas for pets, which turned out to be a terrible idea, but that’s another story.

I love that this is another opportunity to talk about the story of Christmas before it all goes away for another year. I love that it’s a silly, fun way of doing it. I have a real soft spot for the wise men, so I’m happy to get to incorporate them into Christmas a little more. I also love extending Christmas past when most people have stopped thinking about it.

Whether you join in either of these traditions this year (you should! it’s fun!), I hope that your Christmas was lovely and helped you remember the greatest gift we have—our Savior and His sacrifice. I hope your next year turns out just as lovely.

Merry Christmas! 

* There is some wiggle room over whether you start the twelve days on Christmas itself or today, the 26th. I like starting on the 26th and then ending it on Three Kings’ Day (with the final gift coming from the camels), but you can also call Christmas the first day and end on January 5th, then celebrate Three Kings’ Day on the 6th. 
** My favorite was my “Geese a-Laying” poem. Thus demonstrating why I write novels, not poetry.  
*** Okay, without going into the whole “Do we tell our kids that Santa/the camels are real?” debate, I will just say that my kids know who the “camels” really are, and it’s still fun and they love it.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Sorry photographers, sometimes a picture is not worth a thousand words. ;-)

by Kasey Tross

The other day I was going back through my book trying to identify the loose ends and cut out unnecessary stuff. I was reading a part in which the MC was going for a ride on her horse. Her horse is a very important part of her life, so I got very descriptive when I wrote that section, because I wanted the reader to really feel the joy she gets when she’s riding him. Also, I love to ride, so I was indulging myself somewhat, as I was bringing up all the sights, sounds, and smells that come with it.

As I was reading, I got really sucked in. I felt like I was there in the field, like I was the one taking that ride in the misty summer evening, rather than sitting in my living room on a chilly November night, and it was wonderful. When I closed the document for the night and headed up to bed, I started thinking about the power of words. I thought of the way the words in my book made me feel, and how certain books can pull you into their world so completely that when you close the book you feel like you’re waking up from a dream.

As wonderful as photographs are, I haven’t found any that have that power. There are some beautiful photographs and paintings that make me feel something, it’s true, and photographs can capture those moments with my family that I want to keep in my visual memory, but words have a transporting power for me that images just don’t. Even movies lack that extra quality that brings the magic to life. 


I decided to use the photo above to illustrate my point. This is my mom and me riding at her house- she’s on her horse Diamond (who passed away this year, sweet horse), and I'm on my sister’s horse, Chase. From the photo you can see that it’s cold- we’re wearing coats- and that the sun is probably setting from the orangey light reflecting off the barn in the background. Obviously we’re happy as well. 

Here’s what you don’t see:

- the smell of woodsmoke from a fire
- the sound of dinner dishes and silverware gently clanking together in the kitchen (right behind the photographer), since we were about to have dinner
- the smell of the leather from the saddle
- the horses chuffing softly as they breathed
- our breath (and the horses’) coming out in little frozen puffs of white in the air
- the soft thud of their hooves hitting the frozen ground
- the creaking of the leather saddle as we moved
- the bobbing of the horses’ heads as they walked, flicking their ears around in alertness
- the warmth of the horse’s bodies through the leather saddles
- the coarse mane under my fingers and the soft, warm fur along Chase's neck
- the distant barking of a dog

Those are just a few things that I saw and felt that evening, things which, for me, make that memory come alive. And that’s why reading and writing are so important to me: I can be transported and even transformed. I can immerse myself in another time, another place, even another person, and experience wonderful and remarkable things. It’s not just about a plot and a story- it’s about the art, the tactile feelings. It’s about an author and a reader taking a journey together. 

So amazing photographer friends, whom I love so dearly, your work is precious to me and captures things I could never put into words. But I think it’s safe to say that my work can capture things you can never put into photographs. :-)

And since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, here’s my little Christmas card to all of you MMWs out there- this is a fun song that just gets me all excited for Christmas! Merry Christmas, everyone!



Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Believe

 
As an adult every Christmas becomes more about the newest electronic, and as a parent the hottest toy. It’s hard not to get caught up in all the festivities. People forget about what this season is about. I feel like sometimes the “magic” of Christmas is gone. I remember being a kid and it was so different than it is now. I asked my mom that I didn’t really want more toys for my kids this year. It seems like every year they get so many toys.
Last night we spent the night in Heber, Utah. My mom got us all tickets to go on the Polar Express on the Heber Valley Railroad. My mom got the whole family tickets, and a night in the hotel. There are eight grandkids, ages ranging from eight months to almost eight years. It was perfect ages for them to do this right now. As we boarded the train I suddenly got a nostalgic feeling. The elves greeted us with happy smiles. They brought us hot cocoa and cookies. Then the dancing and singing began.  Through the songs Mrs. Claus came in our car for a visit. The smiles on the kids’ faces were priceless. Out the window my seven year old daughter counted thirteen “rein” deer. Their excitement was almost uncontrollable. Then we passed the North Pole. Out the window we saw Santa waving at us. The train stopped for a little bit and there was an announcement. “Santa got on the train.” I looked at my son who is five and he was happier than I could have imagined. Santa came in and we just knew he was the real one. He was jolly and had rosy cheeks and a big belly. He was so kind to all the kids. Took time to talk to everyone and take pictures. The night was better than I could have imagined. My kids loved every minute of it and that is exactly what I wanted. I wanted them to have a memory that they could hold on to forever. A night full of magic. And we got it!
I love teaching my kids about the “true meaning” of Christmas, but with young kids, they don’t fully understand. They usually see Christmas being about Santa Claus. Last Christmas day we were talking about Christ and his birth. My son who was four at the time said, “What can we get him for his birthday?” I never really thought of it that way. So we decided that the next year we are going to give Jesus Christ a gift. I am really excited this year that my kids are a year older and we can begin to focus more on why we celebrate this holiday. We are going to have a box that we use every year and we can write our gift to our Savior. I am really excited to hear what they say. They can say things that they will work on or do showing kindness to others. I am going to continue to make Christmas more “magical” and teach my kids the true meaning.
 

Post Coming later today

I've been out of town and will post later. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Power of the Pen

By Nikki Wilson

This isn't what I had planned on writing about for this week's post, but my thoughts won't be silenced until I write them down. And since I have to go to work in the morning, I really want to get some sleep and I can't do that with my mind full of words.

By now I think most people have heard about the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. If you haven't, just open a Facebook account or surf the internet for about five seconds. You will hear plenty about this GQ article.  Since this blog is mostly about writing I want to talk about the article itself. The first thing that struck me about this article is that it was written in the first person narrative POV which is often reserved for short stories, novels, or memoirs. By writing it this way, the reader is seeing everything through the author's eyes, thus making the author the main character of this article. Which is strange if the article is supposed to be about the founder of Duck Commander, but writing is all about trying different perspectives to tell a story.

As I read the article I realized it was a story he was telling. Not that I'm saying it was fictional, I'm saying the author wanted to take the reader on a journey, making sure the reader experienced what he wanted the reader to experience. He did this with expert precision. He starts out talking about the setting, the supporting character (Phil), and the background information. Once he gets that out of the way he goes right into shocking the audience with statements from the supporting character and painting those comments in such a way that the reader should feel offended. He continues to do this alternating from criticizing the supporting characters and praising them in the same sentence. But even as he praises them he makes sure the reader is looking down on them and their backward notions.

Now I want to take a step back and recognize that some of the statements made by the supporting character were crude. But I remember when Golden Girls first came out on TV and how it was suddenly funny to watch old people say crude things. Why? Because they wrote it that way. If this had been a sitcom, the whole audience would have laughed at Phil Roberson's crude comments. Why? Because it would have been written to be funny. Thus the power of the pen. The author is in control.

What was the author of the GQ article trying to accomplish? Did he mean for it go as far as it did? Maybe he was just trying to sell magazines. Maybe he really was offended. I don't know. But I do know that he used his words in a deliberate manner to invoke specific feelings and reactions. Because that's what we do as writers.

I'm not going to comment on the controversy from the article because I honestly believe God will sort everything out in the end, so why should I spend my time stressing out over who's wrong and who's right? That's not my call. All I can control is myself and what I write.

So my question to you as writers is how will you use the power of the pen? Will you do whatever it takes to sell books? Will you deliberately use your words to incite controversy? Will you use your words to divide people and point out differences? Will you manipulate your audiences to feel offended or other strong feelings to get strong reactions? Or will you use your words to tell stories that will inspire, uplift, and unite people? The power is in your hands, it is your responsibility to use this power wisely.

Once Upon a Time


by Katy White

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl at BYU met, became best friends, and then did the clich√© thing and got married, like basically every other story you hear about a boy and a girl at BYU.  These two fresh-faced, naive kids graduated, moved across country and to another country for further schooling, came back, and then, naturally, just assumed that, because they wanted to have a baby, they'd get pregnant.  Like normal, right?

Not quite.  They didn't get pregnant after trying naturally, or not so naturally.  They didn't get pregnant after eight years and countless doctor's appointments and medications and ovulation tests and pregnancy tests and failed IVF cycles.  Yet, they remained happy.  Maybe a little jaded and a little less fresh-faced, but still happy, because they knew that Heavenly Father would never give them a trial they couldn't handle.  And they reminded themselves of that often.

Eventually, they began to believe that they would never become parents.  They were sad, naturally.  Maybe even a little devastated.  But they resigned themselves to thinking that maybe this was simply God's plan for them and they needed to have faith.  The boy and girl both had great jobs with ample opportunity to share the gospel and be examples of believers.  The girl wondered if maybe this was the calling Heavenly Father intended for her.  Sometimes, she felt relieved.  Like, if she could only know this was the plan, she could stop aching to hold her own baby in her arms.  Other times, she felt a sorrow so deep, she had to pull over while driving so she could just breathe.  And other times, she felt a perfect, beautiful peace, like the plan was exactly where it should be, and she just needed to keep up.  

The boy and girl made a point to be happy.  They fought to be.  And they were, mostly.

One day, the boy and the girl prayed, like they had a hundred, a thousand times before, about adoption, and they felt good.  They'd never felt much of anything in the past when saying this same prayer.  So feeling good felt...good.  They attended trainings, had visits with a caseworker, and filled out paperwork.  So.Much.Bleeping.Paperwork.  They created a profile and poured their souls into a letter to their future birth family and into perfectly crafted answers to "getting to know you" questions and into finding pictures with exactly the right captions to display their personalities so that their birth mother could find them.  Only her.

Their profile went live.  For a reason they couldn't explain, they felt an optimism they didn't even remember.  They waited and wondered and went to Scotland (haggis is the perfect "fighting to be happy" food, obviously).  And when they returned, as in love and as optimistic as ever, they got an email.

Their birth mother had found them.

Their baby would be born in less than five weeks.

And she was.  And they were there for every second of it.  And they brought her home from the hospital and held her and changed her diapers and fed her and stared at her and laugh-cried for many, many sleepless nights because they were so indescribably happy.  And they were sealed for time and all eternity five months later.  And it was the most incredible, joyful experience of their lives.

What the boy and girl couldn't know before they got their amazing birth mother's email was what the Lord had in store for them.  They didn't know that their happiness, which was genuine and hard-earned and real, could be so utterly trumped.  They didn't know that they would both have to grow second hearts because their first hearts couldn't handle the strain of that joy.  

They didn't know that the extent of God's love for them could be SO PERSONAL.  They didn't know that faith wasn't simply being resigned to what life deals you, but believing in something more, regardless of whether they got it or not.  Like Abraham believed that even if he sacrificed Isaac, God would still keeps His promise that a numberless nation would be born through Isaac, no matter what. The boy and girl didn't know they could wield that kind of faith, and that God wanted them to.

They didn't know that a year after going through the temple, they would still cry almost every single day because their happiness was so full.  They didn't know that they could continue to love their perfectly imperfect child more and they didn't know they could fall in love with each other more just by seeing each other as parents.   

The boy and girl didn't know that, all along, the plan was exactly where it needed to be, and they just needed to keep up.

To my amazing, silly, clever, funny, adorable husband and daughter who far too frequently cute their way out trouble, happy forever anniversary.

This girl loves you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

60 Ways to Not Write Your Novel

1. Blog about writing.

2. Read a book about writing.

3. Join a fan forum.

4. Listen to Writing Excuses.

5. Make a snack.

6. Join Twitter.

7. Post "Twitter is confusing!" on facebook.

8. Read a book you've been meaning to read for a long time.

9. Write a review about that book.

10. Read all the other reviews about that book.

11. Get into a Goodreads war.

12. See the @ column on twitter.

13. "Ohhhhhh... THIS is why people love twitter!"

14. Join a blogging community.

15. Write your synopsis.

16. Write your query.

17. Write back cover blurbs. For the entire series of eight epic fantasies you plan on writing.

18. Have a "job" that pays you "money" for "doing stuff" that "isn't" writing.

19. Remember Chris Farley did an SNL skit with extraneous sarcastic air quotes.

20. Look up the skit on YouTube.

21. Fall down the YouTube rabbit hole, emerging four hours later with a new-found appreciation for Nerdfighting.

22. Organize your desk.

23. Vlog.

24. Download the More Beaute2 app and edit a selfie.

25. Take way more selfies.

26. Research mundane details of your novel.

27. Fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, emerging five hours later with a working knowledge of pulley systems, Napoleon Bonaparte, and cheese.


28. Say it with me: NETFLIX.

29. Write your acknowledgments page.

30. Write your dedication. Make sure it's so steeped in inside jokes that no one but the person it's meant for can understand it.

31. Have a social life.

32. Fake a social life on Instagram.

33. Agonize over your first sentence. Minimum time spent on this task: three to four hours per day, for no fewer than nine days straight. 

34. Research agents.

35. Research editors.

36. Research movie options and rights and merchandising clauses.

37. Use imdb to cast your novel's movie adaptation.

38. Design your own cover in Photoshop "just in case" you ever decide to self-publish.

39. Realize all the pre-installed fonts on photoshop are worthless.

40. Scour the web for the "perfect" font.

42. Worry a lot about your klout score.

43. Register for a conference.

44. Research conferences.

45. Create your own business cards to hand out at the conference.

46. Eat.

47. Exercise.

48. Sleep.

49. Be involved in your family's life.

50. Write short stories to "break up the monotony".

51. Create a short story event.

52. Pick a title for your book.

53. Google that title to make sure no one else has used it, or if they have, that their book sucks sufficiently for you to feel confident in outselling them someday.

54. Change your title.

55. Watch movies to "analyze" them

56. Analyze your favorite books. (Fan forums are really helpful for this)

57. Analyze your family. For research.

58. Create a Pinterest inspiration board for your book.

59. Fall down the Pinterest rabbit hole, emerging three hours later with a new commitment to health, wellness, and Nutella.

60. Make really long lists of pointless stuff. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

My First Poem

What was the first "piece" that you ever wrote?  What started you out?  I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I really hope that you guys give me some feedback on this.  It's so inspiring!!  My first one was a poem that I wrote about my dad I believe.  I don't even know where it is anymore, but I remember a bit of it.  It still gives me the giggles, because I wrote it when I was like, 8.
"...you're the dad of my days
     the light of my life,
     how happy I am
     that mom is your wife!..."
Something to that effect.... lol.
A lot of what I wrote was poetry until I got older.  Then I wrote all kinds of things, the only one missing is a book.  I will write my book.  It may only be one, but I'll write it.  I have so many inspiring people around me!!  I wanted to pass that love onto my children, so one of their Christmas gifts was a journal.  I explained to them what journals were all about, and what they were meant for.  They got so excited, they started scribbling away immediately!  I loved it!  I don't think it matters so much what you start out writing, it matters that you do it, and love what you are doing.  A lot of my passion for writing grew as my knowledge grew.  All of us have a need to express ourselves, so encourage those around you to get it down on paper!  So please, share with me your first experiences as a writer! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I'm Too Tired...


Life has been so crazy lately.  I’m sure many of you feel the same. Since the week of Thanksgiving there has been something going on every single day.  It seems likes there’s been a little bit of everything, from making and decorating two cakes to learning music for Sacrament meeting and birthday parties and Christmas parties, calling So-and-so, planning lessons, going here, picking up that…the list could go on and on.  At the end of each day I found myself not wanting to do anything.  I’d think I’m too tired.  It seemed like I was thinking this whenever anything new came up, or if my children or husband asked something of me.  It most definitely popped into my head when I found a moment to do some writing.  I’d have a perfect opportunity to sit and write, but I’d tell myself I’ll do it later, I’m too tired now.  It didn’t take long, but I got sick of my own mental whining.  It occurred to me, I’m not really too tired to do whatever thing needed to be done, I just didn’t want to do it.  What I wanted was to take a nap.  However, once I realized I could in fact muster the energy I discovered a little more mental strength and was able to do what needed to be done. 

I also realized that I’ve had this “too tired” attitude before.  It has touched pretty much every aspect of my life at one time or another.  There have been times when I allowed the physical and mental fatigue to dictate my choices and, in the end, my accomplishments.  But when I put forth that last bit of effort and pushed myself just a little bit further I found that I was always able to achieve whatever goals I had.  I also found that after giving it my all the reward was that much greater. 

I think this is part of Heavenly Father’s plan.  He wants to test us, He wants to see how hard we are really willing to work, and when we show our determination He always pours out His blessings upon us. 

I know at the end of the year every one seems to be stressed and tired, so to all of you I say-
Don’t give up.  Keep going.  You can do great things, And when you do feel like you just cant give anymore – pray.  Heavenly Father will give you the strength to carry on. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blah, blah, blah, something in the middle ...

By Lacey Gunter

I had this English class in junior high the students would joke that all you had to do was make really great opening and closing paragraphs and you would get a good grade, no matter what was written in the middle.  I thought it was funny and believed it in some part. Then one day a friend decided to put it to the test. He wrote a really nice opening and closing paragraph. Most of the middle was probably okay too. But mixed in there was a paragraph that was total garbage. I remember seeing it.  It actually had the phrase "Blah, blah, blah" in there, mixed with a bunch of other stuff like "I know you're not actually reading this."  I was pretty skeptical he was going to pull it off.  But, sure enough, his score came back an 'A' on the paper.

 To be fair to the teacher, I wouldn't want to be reading and grading junior high student's essays either. But it is a perfect example of how are general culture obtains and assesses information in this era of short attention spans and information overload. It could be argued that we are a generation of headline readers. So, naturally, a lot of emphasis gets put on those first few paragraphs and that really amazing ending.

Okay, now is the part where I start blabbing on, so if you need to just skip to the end...... ; )

Surely there is some merit to a great opening. It is your pass to get in the party. But you aren't going to be staying long at the party if you can't produce a great middle. Are we putting too much focus on the wrong thing?  Is part of the reason we got to this point because we've neglected to stress the importance of a compelling middle?

What gets a reader to actually read a book? Sure a great opening can get the reader to start the book, but it is what's in the middle that keeps the reader actually reading. And it's what's in the middle that gets the reader dreaming, sharing and discussing.

So take the time to make a really great opening and a blow you away ending. But, when it's all said and done, maybe your biggest task it to figure out how to KEEP the reader's attention. That's got to be somewhere in the middle.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shine Your Christmas!

by Mare Ball 

This month on Facebook, I'm posting a daily suggestion for how to look outward and bring a little cheer to someone who might need a boost.  I'm calling it "Shine Your Christmas," because these daily suggestions are designed to elicit some "shine" from your own heart and share it with someone else.

I'm hoping these simple ideas will prompt me (and readers) to realize we have the power to consistently do small things that can brighten someone's day.  I'm also hoping that, in the middle of the holiday chaos, these simple tasks will keep us grounded, keep us (me) connected to the real meaning of Christmas, which is loving one another. 

If you'd like to join in and see the daily posts, click to my Facebook page here: ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK - MARE BALL.  If you 'like' the page, you will then see the rest of the December posts (I might be giving away a Cadillac some day, too.  You wouldn't want to miss that.)  Here are a few posts from the first two weeks of December:

1.  Bake some Christmas cookies and give some to a grumpy neighbor or coworker.  (It's easy to give treats to people we love.)  People can't be grumpy when you give them a cookie.

2.  Peruse your bookshelves and put three books in a bag to donate.  Set the bag aside for now.

3.  String popcorn and cranberries to drape in a tree for the birds.  Or just toss a bowl of popcorn into the yard.  Watch for feathered visitors. 

4.  Choose four household items to donate.  Put them in the bag with the books.  Set aside.

5.  Bring up your neighbor's trash cans from the curb.

6.  Select five pieces of clothing to donate.  Put them in the bag with the books and household items.  Take the bag to your local thrift store.  You've just donated a dozen items! (You can see all my donations pictured with my posts.)

7.   Take a stray shopping cart from the parking lot into the grocery store with you when you go in.  The lot guy will appreciate it.

8.  Make some holiday treats for your local fire station.  Those firefighters might save your life someday.

9.  Drop a 5 dollar bill into the little red Salvation Army bucket.  Make Lincoln smile.

10.  Leave a treat and a note of thanks in your mailbox for your mail carrier.

Simple things.  Easy things that don't involve getting up on the roof to string lights, or dragging a Douglas Fir into the house.  But, things that challenge us to look outward and make a move.

As I've been working through December, these small things have quieted my heart and reminded me that the material side of Christmas (though sometimes fun) is not really the point.  All the gifts we give will someday turn to dust.

Action gifts create impressions and memories that just might last forever.  

Hope to see you on Facebook!  ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK - MARE BALL

Have a blessed and joyful Christmas! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Step #8

-a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Remember here, where I gave you eight steps to NaNoWriMo success? Well, November is over, and now it’s time to start talking a bit more about step #8. There is good news, and there is bad news here. Let’s start with the good news.

The good news is that even if you didn’t do any of the other seven steps, even if you didn’t hit 50,000 words in November—even if you didn’t try at all—you can still do step #8, the most important step of all.

The bad news: It’s harder than the rest of them combined.

Yes, the dreaded step #8 is to polish the novel (or short story or picture book or quilt or whatever).

If you only follow through on the first seven steps, you will turn out a lot of words and you will probably learn about your story quite a bit and tap some creative wells you didn’t know about. This is all awesomeness on your way to epic awesomeness. But, sadly, it isn’t enough. Because what you have is most likely so raw and full of holes no one will ever want to read it (including, maybe, you). (Okay, yes, I know that there are people who write fantastic first drafts, but those people are not me. And I’m sorry to say that they’re probably not you either.)

So the next step is, like Betsy Schow is always saying, to be a finisher. You’ve been a finisher at NaNoWriMo (or maybe not, but that’s irrelevant), but now you need to be a bigger finisher. You need to take what you’ve done, pick it apart, and stick it back together again in a way that makes sense. And then you need to make it pretty.

I’m saying all of this entirely hypocritically, by the way. I have four fairly large (50K or over) novel manuscripts sitting on my virtual shelves, one 30K manuscript, and scads of bits and pieces too. But I’ve only carried one of them to “completion.” (I sigh when I say “completion,” because every time I think it’s done, I get some feedback from a friend or reviewer and decide to fix it a little more. So even though I’m submitting it to agents, and it really is polished, it’s never quite polished enough, you know? Sigh.) So essentially I haven’t been much of a finisher.

That is because this step takes more work and thought and problem solving than any of the others, but I also think it’s the one that sets apart the serious writers. Sure, it’s not exactly “easy” to do NaNoWriMo, but how many people actually do something with their manuscripts afterward? I would bet that most manuscripts just languish for years (like mine).

Be one of the few! Make a plan and a goal. You have the entire rest of the year to be a NoFier (Novel Finisher . . . hmmm, somehow I don’t think this abbreviation is ever going to catch on). I actually ran some imaginary numbers on this at one point and determined that if I devoted even half as much time to writing during the rest of the months of the year that I spent in November, I could easily finish a novel a year. Draft in November, polish/reviews/revisions in December through September, outline a new one in October. Chop chop, that’s that. Tragically, this plan has yet to happen.

But 2014 is my year, people. One more of those manuscripts sitting on my shelf is going to get pretty.

How about yours?

P.S. I really wish I had come up with a cool picture or gif or something to go with this post. But honestly, given my brain power right now, you should probably just be impressed that I used bold and italics. That’s some seriously high-tech stuff there.

P.P.S. If you live in or near Logan, Utah, I hope you are planning on going to LDStorymakers this year. And if you don’t live close, consider spending huge amounts of money to go. We’re talking about Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson here, people (both of whose classes are going to fill up ridiculously quickly). And many other good things. It is going to be full of epicness. Make sure you register early to get into nifty classes and whatnot (registration opens on the 16th), but not any earlier than I do. :)

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