Friday, January 31, 2014

MMW's Fifth Anniversary!!!


 
 
 

This month Mormon Mommy Writers blog celebrates 5 years of being part of the best writing community!  I can't believe the time has gone by so quickly. I remember the day my friend Jenni James told me we were going to start a writing blog.  I thought she was crazy, after all, who would want to hear about writing from me? I'm not published and I had barely finished writing my very first book. She told me there were plenty of writing blogs by published writers but what the writing community needed was a blog by new writers that showed the struggles of writing good, clean books while staying on top of other responsibilities.

I soon found myself writing weekly for MMW blog and learned that Jenni was right. So many of us new writers needed to know we weren't alone. That we belonged somewhere. Over the years I have grown to truly love this community. It's now a part of who I am. I am a Mormon Mommy Writer and I'm proud of it.
I still may not have any of my own books published, and I may still be considered a new writer, but here I know I''m not alone.

The blog has done some changing over the years. We started out with weekly bloggers for every day of the week. This year we changed to biweekly bloggers for everyday of the week. We also have published a MMW book full of short stories, Totally Cliché.  Our second MMW book will finally be available to purchase in paperback by sometime next week!! Over the years we've had over 30 different writers, many guest bloggers, and have over 450 followers. What a wonderful community this is and I'm so thankful to all of you who read our humble little blog. A special thank you to those that comment and add your thoughts to ours. I love going to writers conferences and meeting people who read the blog. I feel an instant connection and am grateful for all my virtual friends!


Thank you for 5 wonderful years!! I'm ready for 5 more!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to Slash Your Word Count

by Katy White

The book has been written, the critiques are in, and it's time to write what I hope will be to complete my final draft.  I hope to both fix the problems that have been brought to my attention and to get my 83k YA Contemporary down to, oh, 80k.  The problem in losing these 3000 words?  I've already slashed the scenes that I thought were superfluous.  So I need to cut the count by words alone. 

How?!

Below is a sampling of areas I'll focus on in my final revision.  

1)  That.  The word "that" certainly has its uses (and I'm sure you can think of myriad examples).  But it can also be a word count killer.  For example:

"He thought that I should stop eating so much ice cream."
"Eating an enormous spoonful in his face, I made it obvious that I didn't care."

In revising, I'll read lines like these out loud for the rhythm of the sentence and keep those that impact readability.   


2)  "Out of" vs. "from."  Every time I can replace "out of" with "from," I lose a word.  This can look like:

"She raced out of from the room."
"His callousness pulled her out of from her daze."

And it's an easy change to make when I use "CTRL+F" to find each instance of "out of" and evaluate if "from" fits, or not.

3)  Axe some dialogue tags.  Once I've established that two people are talking, I probably don't need "he said" and "she said" as often as I currently have them.  

4)  Stop over-explaining everything because I want my reader to see a scene exactly as I see it.  Just because I care that my character cocked his head to the side before saying something, does the reader really need to know that?  Sometimes, sure.  When it helps them better understand my character.  But not always.  Unless it's desperately important essential that you see my character's confusion, as opposed to her being upset or suspicious or some other emotion altogether, the head-cocking just isn't necessary.  In fact, the dialogue should really speak for itself in most cases.  This rule applies to my writing all the time.  (See, I even did it there?  I needed you to read this sentence exactly as I would have said it out loud, even though you really don't need that for comprehension.) 

5)  Remove redundancy.  Instead of saying, "Josh crept stealthily to the barn," why don't I just say "crept," shall I?  Stealth is implied.  And so long, phrases like "nodded his head" and "reached a hand." "Nodded" and "reached" will work just fine.

6)  Sayonara, adjectives and adverbs (where possible).  This sort of fits with the redundancy above, but where something isn't redundant, I probably just need to find a stronger verb.  And if it ends in -ly, I really need to evaluate its usefulness.  That's not to say every adjective or adverb will go, but some will;  the ones that stay will be purposefully kept.  I'll keep the others purposefully. 

The fact is, I'm still going to have needless words.  I'll miss some tightening opportunities, and I'll choose to forego others.   Yes, you read that right:  despite the constant harping in the writing community to make your writing as tight as absolutely possible, I won't.  I'll look at my voice, the flow of my sentences and paragraphs, keep what sounds nice, and only get rid of what sounds clunky.  Because I want to sound like me.  Just the best, tightest version of me (this rule does not apply to my aforementioned ice cream problem).  

Above are the opportunities I find when I revise, but you may find others when you do, and I'd love to hear them (as well as what I'm missing).  So, please, sound off below with your favorite slashing techniques!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three Things You Must Do Before You Die

by Anna Jones Buttimore


Our Sister Missionaries visited the other day, and Sister Silva mentioned something she'd once read, which I have been thinking about ever since. It was this:

Everyone should do these three things before they die:
  1. Save a life
  2. Write a book
  3. Plant a tree
I think these are significant because they sum up the most important things we can do during our brief time here. We can do something really good to give someone else the opportunity to enjoy life to the fullest. We can express our creativity and leave a legacy to future generations. And we can help ensure that our natural environment continues to sustain others in decades and centuries to come.

I've done two out of the three. Every sixteen weeks I save at least one life by giving blood. I'm a registered blood donor, and have been for several years. It's easy, it's virtually painless, and I get to lie down for twenty minutes and then eat a free biscuit. It's a great thing to do and I encourage everyone to do it. Sign up at www.blood.co.uk or www.americasblood.org. It's an easy way to do something really good.

I have also written six books, eight if you include ones which are not yet published. I love writing, and will probably write many more in years to come.

I haven't planted a tree, as yet. I may leave that one for a few decades. After all, once I've done it I've got no reason to hang around.

It's interesting what isn't on this list. It doesn't say "make a million" or "raise a family" or even "climb a mountain." Maybe it should. What do you think should be on the universal bucket list?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The New Adult Debate

If you write fiction, you've probably heard this term being tossed about lately. "New Adult".

Particularly if you rub shoulders with the self-publishing, online-frenzied, contemporary-romance crowd, you've definitely heard this term a lot lately. But what does it mean? Is your story New Adult? How can you tell?

What it's not: 

New Adult is not a genre. Your genre is what type of story you're telling: fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery, literary, etc. Notice not one of these genres addresses the audience. Your fantasy novel could be anything from The Chronicles of Narnia (a child's story) to The Chronicles of Amber (definitely not a child's story), or anything in between.

New Adult is not Chick-Lit. Chick-lit was a genre. Remember, genres are basically marketing techniques, and the chick-lit label was marketing at its narrowest (and most insulting, if you ask me). New Adult is neither a genre, nor a reincarnation of the Chick-Lit movement. Are there similarities? Yes, sometimes. But they're not synonymous.

New Adult is not Erotica. Again, erotica is a genre. It describes what sort of story you're telling, though this is the only genre I can think of in which a category is unnecessary. Every person with a brain will assume you are not writing erotica for children, so erotica is automatically an "adult" genre.

New Adult is not well-defined. This is the hardest part of this post, but it's true. New Adult is a newer phenomenon, and it simply is not yet well-defined. Much like middle grade was a few years ago, or young adult before that, new adult is still finding its footing.

Is it college-aged protagonists? Yes.
Is it the still-kinda-a-kid-but-expected-to-be-an-adult-immediately-post-college stories? Yes.
Is it chick-lit without the "chick" facade? Yes.
Is it none of these things? Possibly.

Some agents and editors will say new adult has no male protagonists, some will disagree vehemently. Some people say it's "contemporary only" because they cannot conceive of an in-between phase in a culture that is not our current culture. Others will howl and rip out their hair if you suggest such a thing.

Just know this for now: New Adult is a thing and it's hard to define.

Okay, fine, what IS it then? 

New Adult is the bridge between Young Adult and Adult. If middle grade is all about understanding who you are, and young adult is all about figuring out how you fit into the world around you, then new adult is adjusting to those roles. This is the time of life before people are "settled down" and before they get good at making decisions or understanding their life.

New Adult is about the BIG things in life. Young adult spends a lot of time on the hubris of youth: insta-love, dramatic relationships, the feeling of immortality, etc. New adult has a touch of that, but the mistakes and the relationships are bigger. Young adult is about falling in love for the first time; new adult is about falling in love for the last time. Young adult is figuring our how you fit into the world; new adult is actually going forth and forging that path.

New Adult is mostly self-published contemporary romance. For now. This category evolved as a result of the self-publishing movement, actually. Authors and readers both wanted college-aged protagonists, but agents and editors repeatedly said "We don't sell that" and eventually some of the authors said, "FINE. We will sell it on our own."

And because self-publishing is dominated by romance and/or contemporary, those are the genres that are dominating the new adult category right now. Does that mean that new adult will always be 80% contemporary romance? No, no more than it means that you've seen the last fictional vampire. Trends shift, marketing changes, this whole publishing world will be flipped upside down before you know it.

New Adult is a category. Categories define what age your readership is (or, rather, what age of readers your marketing team will be aiming for). Some loosey-goosey guidelines:

Picture books: birth - 8
Juvenile readers: 6 - 10
Middle grade: 9 - 13
Young Adult: 14 - 19
New Adult: 18 - 22
Adult: 21+ 

That list is obviously not a hard-and-fast, set-in-stone set of rules. The readers of these categories are even more nebulous; adults read young adult fiction all the time, and vice versa.

But if you are writing a book that feels too old to be YA, but too young to be adult... maybe you have yourself a New Adult story. Agents are on the hunt for this category, and they are hunting for non-romance, non-contemporary genres.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Public Discourse: What We're Not Saying

By Lacey Gunter

I recently started a new job. I enjoy the job. It's not too demanding. My colleagues are friendly, welcoming and considerate of my time. It is an ideal situation, but it has been an adjustment.

Prior to taking the job, I spent that last year and a half being a stay at home mom.  I had done one big consulting gig, which was 6 weeks of stressful, sleepless, work, work, work. But other than that, it was just me, my home and my family.  It was lovely.

Along with the closeness and attention I was able to give to my children, I also really enjoyed the greater freedom I had to write. I was writing very frequently, improving and loving it. But tight finances, my youngest starting preschool and the ideal job popping up and dangling itself in front of me and my hubby inevitably threw a kink in it all.

Luckily, I have quarantine my working time to when my kids are in school, other than two hours of babysitting time. But that has come at the cost of loosing most of my free time I was using to write. I am still fitting some in, but nowhere near as much as I want and sometimes I feel guilty doing it.

In this state of barely treading water to stay afloat, I read an article yesterday about not enough women reaching the highest ranks in my profession and what to do about it. I was rather surprised about the level of 'political correctness' to it. We statisticians tend to be very thorough issue addressers, not shying away from the elephant in the room as that often leads to biased results and conclusions. However, in all the author's discussion of work climates being unfavorable to women, never once did she bring up the idea that the work environment is unfavorable to mothers.

As interesting and worthy of a discussion that may be here, what I am musing over is how often I see that happening lately. It seems like political correctness has become an accepted avenue for censuring certain topics or points of view. Much of the time these topics or view points are quite reasonable and worthy of discussion. There is nothing shameful about wanting to have a family. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the one who raises and nurtures your children. In fact, I have rarely met a working mom who doesn't struggle with this, at least in some part.  Yet treating this as a valid issue has become taboo in much of public discourse on this topic.

This isn't the only topic, either. It seems like nearly anything classified as being related to 'morals' has been given the cold shoulder by political correctness in the attempt to not offend some small segment of the population. Much of these morally related ideas are well accepted by the vast majority of people in society and well accepted as being beneficial for a well functioning civilization. Yet political correctness would deem that we are not supposed to talk about it that way. How is it in the name of free ideas and acceptance of others we came to accept such oppressive censorship?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Absence Makes the Heart More Realistic

by Mare Ball from Adventures in the Ballpark

I got back to work this week.  Having been sick since Christmas, it took me awhile.  I've had different health issues recently, and writing has been on the back burner.  It's amazing how hard it is to get back in the groove after a month of being off track.

Getting back to my WIP, I discovered this - some things really needed a do-over.

Words I'd written in July, after a month of not looking at them, didn't seem so great.  I also discovered I had too many graphics/photographs in certain chapters of my (how-to) book.  The whole thing just looked different.  Surprisingly, it was not too painful to remove some things and edit out chunks here and there.  This week, I've tightened and shortened and, hopefully, improved my book.

So, I've decided that month off was quite beneficial.  Who knew.  All month, I was feeling bad because I hadn't disciplined myself to get back to the computer.  I just gave in to my head cold and my puzzling joint pain and napped a lot.  I felt lazy and unproductive, but I wasn't ready to open my working files yet.

When I'm in writing mode, it's intense around here.  I can write for eight hours, I can work until two a.m., I can stay in the chair until my bladder begins to protest.  I love uninterrupted hours of working; I make a lot of progress that way.  And, of course, when I'm in the zone, everything I write is brilliant.      

Or, so it feels. 

I've been working on this book steadily all year, but I've had days here and there where I couldn't get  to it.  When I've returned to it, it's familiar, and I know exactly where to start, what to re-work.   After a month away from it, it was a different experience.  I felt less enamored, less attached.

More objective.

This is a very good thing.  Here's why: every editor or publisher is going to view my work objectively, not enamored-ly.  So, I'm ahead of the game if I can gain that perspective now

Time away (and not just a few hours) from my WIP clearly reduced some of my captivation with my own creation.  This will help me out when I find a publisher, and he/she requires I chop every third sentence.  My book is my baby, but if it's to gain any recognition in the publishing world, it has to stand on its own, apart from the adoration of its mama.

I'm inspired again to get this book and its book proposal finished.  That month wasn't wasted after all.

Have you found time away from your WIP gives you a new perspective?



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Somewhere Between Mild Discomfort and Abject Terror*

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
 
Somewhere between mild discomfort and abject terror. That is where I spend about an hour of my day every Thursday, driving to and from some classes my daughter takes. I have a fairly major driving phobia that causes ridiculous amounts of stress when I go out driving.

About a month ago it was pouring rain—that nice drenching kind that sluices off the cars in front of you and kicks up as mist around you, reducing visibility to bog level. It was not my most pleasant half hour. When we got safely to the school and my fingers finally unclenched from the steering wheel, I felt this strange sense of victory in what I had just done. For plenty of people, this type of commute is nothing more than a casual annoyance, but my heart was racing and I could feel the adrenaline pulsing through me (and I’m just not really a big fan of adrenaline). Yet I had not pulled off to the side of the road and burst into tears like I wanted to (partially because I would have eventually had to get back on the road anyway).

The more that I drive—and frankly, I avoid it a lot—the easier it gets. It’s desensitization therapy: repeated exposure to the thing that terrifies you. I have always known it would work, if I would just be willing to do it. But it’s just so hard (whine whine whine). Still, at least every Thursday, I take to those dreadful Maryland freeways and do what needs doing.**

Now are you ready for the metaphor? Writing, of course! When I think about my writing—particularly when I get to the hard parts—I sometimes get feeling this way, somewhere between discomfort and terror. Granted, writing doesn’t involve large machinery moving at high speeds that can theoretically squash you flat (if it does, here’s a hint: you’re doing it wrong). But for me there is the fear of being really bad at it, failing spectacularly, and so on. Which can keep me from doing it at all.

I’ve learned that for me, one of the secrets to driving is to not think about it too much. Just do it, but don’t imagine anything about it—just take it as it comes. I am a highly cautious driver, which is owing to the terror, but I have decided to look at this as a strength. I notice the cars around me; I pay more attention. I am aware, and it can sometimes make for better driving.

So when it comes to writing, I think sometimes the secret is not to overthink it. And you have to become desensitized to the terror and just write through it—which is, I think, one of the reasons for that constant advice to “write every day.” You get used to discomfort and you learn that you can work through it. It might even make you a better writer.***

*It will probably not at all interest you to know that the copyeditor in me really struggled with whether or not to capitalize the word “between.” Chicago, MLA, and APA were all fighting in my brain.
**As a side note, I think the designers of the Maryland freeway system must have been some sort of minor super-villains (ignore the contradiction inherent in that statement). They clearly knew that I would be moving here in the future (precognition) and decided to create freeways that would strike fear into my heart (evil planning). Because yes, the world does revolve around me. 
***Also note that I am terrible at taking my own advice. I do not write every day, even though I keep meaning to. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We don’t need to wait to be chosen, we already are!

By: Kristi Hartman

I have been reading MMW for almost a year now, and am so excited to be able to share the space with such amazing and inspirational women, and to bask in the world of those who have similar goals as mine. 

My name is Kristi Hartman, and I have been dreaming of becoming a writer for years and years.  I have had a specific story in my mind for the past 3 years that I have been struggling to get out.  Writing is such a passion of mine, but is also a frustration.  I can’t seem to get in enough time to truly make a dent in my goals.  One of these reasons, (or two, or three) are my 3 happy and adorable, (and sometimes whiny ;) kids.  I am blessed to stay home with them and watch them change and grow on a daily basis, as I try to fit in the writing, mothering, household, community and church tasks each day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I will keep trying! 
I hope to be able to share and inspire with you the way other writers on MMW have done for me.



I have been struggling with my inadequacies as a writer for the past few weeks, feeling like my abilities will never measure up, and no one will ever be interested in cracking open my book, or even publishing it for that matter. I have often felt like I should probably just give up all together.  Each day that I have been struggling with these feelings, I have also been trying to combat them with my inner confidant rock star woman, reminding me that I can keep going and I can keep pushing those keys on the computer to make my story come to life.  You know what usually happens?  The inadequate side of me keeps winning. And I keep letting her.  I keep listening to her commentary and buying into it, because she is just so darn convincing.  She seems to know me so well and knows just what to say to stop me from trying.  
The fear of failure and fear of never measuring up to the ideal in my mind has stopped my progression so quickly, I can still hear the creative brakes squealing.  
What is a writer to do?  Why do we let our fears and inadequacies get in the way of our true potential?  Why do we decide that it is always someone else’s turn to be successful, or to reach their goals?
I was on lds.org yesterday, and noticed an article by Elder Uchdorf.  Having always found his talks so inspirational and faith building, I read his words.  (You can find the article here.)
It was just what I needed to hear.  Both personally, and spiritually.  He states:

“You don’t need an invitation before you start moving in the direction of your righteous goals. You don’t need to wait for permission to become the person you were designed to be.”
And:

“Sometimes the thing that holds us back is fear. We might be afraid that we won’t succeed, that we will succeed, that we might be embarrassed, that success might change us, or that it might change the people we love.
And so we wait. Or give up.”
I felt like he was describing me.  I have been letting my fears and inadequacies get in the way of my writing, letting them hold me back tightly by the wrists, telling me my contribution is stupid, un-intelligent, or not worth fighting for.  
The Lord wants us to grow, and reach our full potential.  Any doubting thoughts and perceived inadequacies are not from Him.  He would never tell us we aren’t creative enough, intelligent enough, wise enough, or all-around good enough to do the worthy goals we have set out to accomplish.  

More wise words by Elder Uchdorf state:

“Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail—at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now. It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short.”
Realizing that failure is ok to go through is a tough thing for me.  I never want to look silly for trying and failing at something.  I am always so worried about what others will think or how I will think about myself that it brings me to the worst alternative:  Not trying at all. All the great and amazing things that have happened/will happen in this world are because someone had enough faith in themselves to keep trying.  Even when the self-doubt set in, and the task may have seemed overwhelming, people succeeded.  Because of this, we now have amazing accomplishments in so many aspects of our lives- books, art, advances in medicine, the list goes on and on.  
Let’s stop those mean, chatty, and negative inner-critics right in their abrupt, determined tracks.  I need to remember the wise words in this article:
“We can sometimes waste years of our lives waiting to be chosen (see D&C 121:34–36). But that is a false premise. You are already chosen!”


















Monday, January 20, 2014

How I Woke Up From a Coma I Didn’t Even Know I Was In (my story of technology addiction)

by Kasey Tross




I so wish that this could be one of those lighthearted posts about an addiction to chocolate, or adverbs, or something else equally innocuous. Unfortunately, it's not. Because this month things got real for me.

This month I have had to face the fact that I have an addiction.

Just like last January, this month our bishop asked us to participate in a Fast From the World. I am pleased to say that this was a much easier proposition for our family this time around. We knew what to expect and we knew we could do it. In fact, it's been almost mundane.

Well, until about a week ago.

That's when I started having computer problems.

At first it was just the screen- being in a house with four crazy kids running around had really put my laptop through the ringer and it had gotten to the point where I had to only have it open to a very precise angle or the screen would go dark. It wasn't so bad, though- I just fiddled with it until it worked and then tried not to breathe too hard so I wouldn't frighten it away.

Then the charging cord went bad. Again, it was much like the screen at first- just took a little finessing and shallow breathing and it was fine.

Until it wasn't.

One night it just died. Completely.

I was fasting from the world, so what was I going to do? No TV, no novels, no movies. I was suddenly left screenless. I was disconnected. And not just disconnected, but disconnected.

The only tool left in my arsenal was a car charger that gave my laptop 15-30% charge, depending on whether I was running a lot of errands or just a few. And then my kids got sick, so I hardly went anywhere. I found that anything I needed to do on my computer- sending & receiving e-mails, writing- it all had to be done in that short window of time (did I mention my battery is on its last legs too? Loses about 1% charge every minute). When I had two articles due for a magazine, I knew that the moment I opened that computer I was on the clock, and I didn't have one second to waste on anything that wasn't necessary to accomplishing my task. I have never written in such a focused and efficient way before.

Now, I am not one of those people who walks around with a smartphone glued to my hand. I have a very basic prepaid phone that I use only to contact my husband and my mom, and the only other people who have the number are my kids' schools and family members who might need to reach me in an emergency. So I'm good on that front. But my laptop is like my brain. When I'm at home, It's like a pet, always sitting next to me- only I'm the one on the leash. I can't get too far from it without feeling that pull toward it again. Every mundane task that takes me away from it feels annoying and I get more and more irritated until I can get my fix.

It wasn't until it was out of the picture that I really realized how addicted I was. Because once it wasn't an option, at first I went through withdrawals.

My kids are being needy- ugh, let me just go check my e- oh, right. I can’t. The laundry is piling up- but I've had such a long day, I should take a break and write down some of those blog ideas I had- oh, I can’t. Ugh, the playroom is a mess AGAIN. Well...I wanted to go check Pinterest to get that new recipe for dinner so...oh. Right.

Before the Fast From the World it was Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, and web surfing that lured me back in every time.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I was exactly like an alcoholic or drug addict- anytime my life put something in front of me that I didn't want to deal with, I reached for my self-medication: my computer. I wanted to just relax, to escape. Just like any addict does.

I think I really began to realize how bad it had gotten once the withdrawals wore off. It was so strange, I got this feeling I had forgotten even existed: boredom. I was bored. I had no screen. All I had was my house around me and my kids. So I began to pay attention to them, because I had nothing else to do.

Again, don't get me wrong. I'm not a terrible mother- I always did the things I was supposed to do: I made dinner every night; we always ate together (screen free) as a family; I read with my kids and helped them with homework; and for the most part I kept up with dishes, laundry, and basic cleaning. But I spent a lot of my time feeling short-fused and irritated. I felt like I never had any time. I always wanted to be doing something else.

Well, the truth was that I did have time, I was just using it to indulge my addiction. Once I cut the leash and began to really wake up I actually saw my life. I saw my home, I saw my kids, and I began to invest in them because they were all I had. After dinner I went ahead and did the dishes because they were there and I had nothing else to do. The hampers in my house are empty because I realized that laundry is actually pretty easy. I'm trying to figure out why I thought it was so burdensome before. It's not super fun, but when your choices are sitting around twiddling your thumbs or making sure your children have clean clothes, it's not that difficult a decision to make. I go to bed early now because...well, because when the dishes are done, the laundry is folded and put away, there's not much else to do. Which means I wake up feeling refreshed and I have much more energy and focus.

I've spent more time helping my worrywart daughter study for school than ever before, and I've seen her confidence level shoot up. I've discovered that all that annoying prattle that was going on in the background while I was trying to check my e-mail was actually my four-year-old daughter thinking some really deep and amazing thoughts and trying to share them with me. She has very vivid dreams, and now because of one of them she absolutely has her heart set on being a mermaid. When my son was home sick I discovered that he absorbs more information than I ever realized and that I might do well to just keep him home from school and let him watch the Science Channel all day- he'd probably be an astrophysicist by the time he's 14. And I now look forward to spending time with all of them because...well, because they're great kids. And there's no leash pulling me away.

This post is getting long, I know, so let me just sum this up: My life has changed.

I don't say that lightly. I mean, it almost feels like I've been asleep- or in some kind of a fog, maybe- for the last several years. I've been living with this constant frustration that I'm not good enough, not organized enough, not fill-in-the-blank enough for so long, that when that feeling just kind of dissipated, the whole world seemed to change. There is this clarity that has emerged for me, something that is so hard to explain other than to say that by turning off the screens, that person that I always wanted to be just kind of showed up. And I realized that now I am enough.

And all it took was a broken cord to make me realize it.

I kneel down and thank God every morning for breaking that cord for me. And I tell Him that I'm scared, because I know I can't turn off the world forever. I do have deadlines to meet, and I do miss making connections on facebook with many dear friends who live far away. I'm an addict who must leave the safety of rehab and reenter real life. I know I will have to find a balance, but I'm so afraid that I will fail. That I will slip back into the clutches of my stupid, stupid addiction that has robbed so much of Life from me. At this point, all I can do is pray and ask God to help me. Because I know I can’t do it alone.

I will end this post like any good recovering addict might: If you think you may be suffering from this addiction- and I assure you, it is very real- I encourage you to get help. Have someone hide your screens or chargers from you for awhile. Detox. See the world through different eyes. You might be surprised to realize it’s even brighter than a screen.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Keep Moving...


It's funny, as I was thinking about what to write about this week I thought of the movie Saving Mr. Banks. And then I noticed that Nikki wrote about it on Friday. I kept trying to think of other ideas and I thought of writing about a few other things, but all of the ideas I had really related to the movie. If you haven't seen the movie it was great. I laughed a lot, cried a lot and was really inspired.

Walt Disney really inspires me. I feel that he is one of those people that just never gave up. Not just on making the movie Mary Poppins, but in all that he did. He believed in himself, he had failed businesses and kept on going.



Writing can be hard, I feel like giving up. Some might even think I have a bad idea or I can't finish. There will always be twists and turns. I often think of Walt Disney who said, "We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we're curious, and curiosity keep leading us down new paths."



It is so true what he said. You have to keep moving. There are going to be hard times, and bad ideas, but if I just give up what does that do for me? I may have to put that idea in the back of my mind for awhile, but I can't just rip it up and throw it away. It took Walt Disney 20 years to get Ms. Travers to even consider the idea of Mary Poppins the movie.

Don't take advantage of the process, enjoy the ride.I am getting nervous to finish my story, I have spent several years working on it and I just don't want it to end.

 "It's kind of fun to do the Impossible." ~Walt Disney
 
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Saving Ourselves

If you haven't watched the movie, "Saving Mr. Banks" I highly recommend it. It's based on the true story of Walt Disney trying to get the rights to make the movie "Mary Poppins" from the author. The author had a hard time with this because the story was so dear to her. In the movie we find out that the story was so important to her because there were some parallels between the book she wrote and her traumatic childhood. I don't know how much of what was in the movie was true or not, but I do know that often my real life issues or problems find their way into my stories. Usually not in an obvious manner but in a way that allows me to face them at a safe distant.


I came across this quote from Lloyd Alexander the other day and I think it describes why writers do this:
"Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it."
This quote is so true. When we use stories to bring problems to life we are just trying to understand those problems from so many different angles. Most people can get that from watching movies or reading books. But writers get it from manipulating the problem and having power over it. It allows us to change the outcome or to relive the outcome. Either way, we are learning from every word we write.

I wasn't going to mention this, but on my drive home California this Christmas break, I stopped at a busy gas station along the highway. I'm in my mini van with my kids and my brother and I just want to get gas and leave (I may have been PMSing a little too if I'm to be completely honest.) There are no empty pumps so the only choice is to get in line behind a vehicle already at the pump. I pulled up behind a truck. The driver wasn't there but I figured he went in to pay or something, no big deal. I waited and waited, and waited. It was 10 minutes before the came back out with his coffee and Snickers bar. I wasn't happy at that point, I mean, there are parking spaces for that, right? But when he set down his coffee and snickers bar to start pumping the gas I instantly saw red. It was downright rude. I honked at him and told him to move but he just pretended he didn't see me. I saw another spot open up and I went to that one instead. But my blood was boiling. I'm not even sure why I got so angry. It didn't really make sense, but the only thing that calmed me down on the way home was to outline a new scene in my head for my book in which my character encounters the same situation but makes a point to the rude driver. Yes, the scene will serve a purpose in furthering my character development, but it serves another purpose as well, to give me closure.

Last week, I was feeling like my lungs were heavy. Like something was on my chest and it took just a little more effort to breath. Not a lot, but I thought of calling the doctor and making an appointment. Later that day, I went home and wrote for two hours (burning dinner in the process) but while I was writing something happened. That heaviness in my chest lifted. (even though the house was full of smoke from the burnt dinner.) Stress melted off of me and I felt lighter and could breath easier. That's when I realized that writing is actually imperative to my health and well being.

This is what writing does for us. It gives us an outlet and control over our lives. So while I started out writing to save the world one book at a time, the truth is, I'm saving myself  with each and every word I write and I thank my Father in Heaven for this gift of writing everyday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

First Novels and When to Move On

by Katy White

In 2007, I started my first novel.  The idea jumped into my head, took root, and within four or five months, I'd written about 120,000 words.  I loved it.  I thought it was awesome.  I sent it to a couple of friends who gave me feedback and I realized that it wasn't one book, it was three!  So I started from scratch again and wrote the first and second books, now around 90,000 words each.  I wrote an uber rough draft of the third that was around 60,000 words.  I loved this series so, so much.  There aren't enough o's in "so" to tell you how much I loved it.  

I made some connections after these new rough drafts and realized that the first book actually needed a major overhaul to incorporate all of my epiphanies (the sexy villain was actually the mentor's son?  WHAT?!), which I did.  Then I took a break of, honestly, about three years.  I didn't touch it, but I probably thought about it every day.  I came back to the story in 2011 and rewrote the first draft again, and rewrote the second book, too.  I sent it out to friends, and, after getting more feedback, I realized I started in the wrong place.  I decided to tell all my backstory through "Lost" style flashbacks (a nod to Gina for her post about the benefits of TV watching.).  I made those changes, and the feedback now from my readers was awesome.  Everyone loved it.  

It was time to see what agents thought.  I started querying.  My first batch of five queries led to a request for a partial with one of my dream agents.  HOLY COW!!  A week later when I was rejected, I reminded myself it was a number's game.  I kept submitting in batches of five every week, getting two more partial requests over the following month.  I was encouraged by the requests, discouraged by the rejections, and confused about what it meant that, after around thirty queries, I hadn't received a request for a full.

So I entered a couple of contests for my first five pages--and I even won one of them!--but after getting half my manuscript, even that agent rejected me.  Fortunately, though, she gave me very detailed, very helpful feedback.  My entry had some problems, but just as big a problem was the fact that my genre wasn't selling right now.   At a major writer's conference only a few months earlier, a panel of editors and agents explained that they wouldn't take on a book in my genre, period.  It was dead.  Over.

So was, oh, five, six years worth of my work.  At least, that was my initial thought. 


Since letting this book--this series--go in early 2013, I've written two new books.  Meanwhile, I spent a single year querying, revising, entering contests, re-querying, rinse, repeat.  But I honestly don't feel like I wasted a single second of my time with that first attempt.  Because I needed this time to research, to learn how to plot and how to avoid tropes, to learn the ropes of the publishing world.  Most importantly, I needed this experience to teach me that it's okay to move on.  It's okay to love your book and want to live in that world, and to still let it go.  If you love something, set it free, and all that jazz.  Right?

One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, explains in his book "Outliers" the rule of 10,000 hours.  He says to achieve mastery in a particular field, one must spend 10,000 hours essentially "practicing" that craft.  Now, even if I wrote two hours a day consistently, every day, for the seven years it's been since I wrote my first word of my first book, that's still only 5110 hours.  A far cry from the 10,000 I need for mastery.  But every one of those words gets me closer. 

A poll of 150 published authors several years ago asked the authors how many novels they wrote before selling their first.  The breakdown is below:

32% wrote one novel
13% wrote two
11% wrote 3
8% wrote 4
9% wrote 5
3% wrote 6
13% wrote 7 or more novels
6% wrote some short fiction first
5% wrote a ton of short fiction first
Over half of these authors had written three or more novels before publishing their first! Some of them indicated that, after they were published, they were able to understand the flaws in their first novel and revise them sufficiently to get them published.  But I hope these numbers are as encouraging to you as they are to me.  Because these tell me that it's okay to let go of your novel.  It's okay to move on--heck, it's probably essential to our success.  

We've all said it a million times:  writers write.  And sometimes, that means shelving the old to make room for something new.

Please, sound off below with your thoughts, tips, and experiences with moving on from your first novel! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Our Responsibility as Writers

by Anna Jones Buttimore
Sherlock Holmes - not a fan of Mormons
My husband served his mission in Russia. On more than one occasion he came across someone who said that they knew something about Mormons and didn't like them. When he asked what they had heard, they referenced the Sherlock Holmes murder mystery, "A Study in Scarlet", in which Mormons are depicted unfavourably.

So let's just clarify that. Here are people living in immediate-post-communist Russia who get their expertise on Mormons from a nineteenth-century English author who had, at the time he read the book, never actually met a Mormon.

As writers, I think we should remember that people believe what they read. Words are very powerful; after all, they are how we learn. Even when you're writing fiction, it's important to check details about your location, history, and anything which is based on reality to make certain that it is honest and accurate.

I'm currently writing a book set in Wales which talks a lot about the landscape, language and traditions. It's possible that there will be readers who know nothing at all about Wales, apart from what they read in my book. So it's my responsibility to make sure I don't say that the weather is always warm, or that there are five times more sheep in Wales than people. (There are actually just three times more sheep than people in Wales.)

Remember, if you write a book about something, then for some reader out there you may be the authority on that subject. After all, you wrote the book on it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

11 Reasons You Should Watch More TV

I'm absolutely standing behind this statement: You should watch more television. 

Okay, well, I don't know how much you watch, but I'm here to tell you that if you want to be an excellent storyteller, a weaver of words, you can gain a lot from watching television. 

Yes, OF COURSE, you need to read. You need to read in your genre, your genre-adjacent, your category, and whatever is selling like gangbusters. You need to read broadly and deeply and critically. None of that is new information, and I bet we could get into an internet-flame-war about how much reading one needs to do in order to be well-read (a topic for another time). 

But television can also hone your storytelling and writing skills. Here's how: 

1. It's fast. I can read critically and pick a book apart, examining it for structure and themes and arcs. If it's an adult epic fantasy (my poison of choice), it takes me usually around three weeks to finish. If it's a YA urban fantasy, it takes a day or two. I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a little over fourteen hours, straight through. Guess how long it takes me to watch the movies? A little less than five hours. 

With television series available on Netflix and other streaming options, I can watch ten episodes in a single afternoon (not that I've actually done that or anything...*cough, cough*). 

You see a story arc that would have been spread out over months condensed into one sitting. It's easier to catch themes and see character and story arcs when the story is so compressed. 

BONUS: For those with ADD/ADHD or reading disabilities, watching television can help them learn the art of storytelling in a way that's more accessible. 

2. It's appealing. Lots of people watch television. Not very many people are buying books (in comparison). You wanna know what's gonna sell? Take a look at what people are paying attention to. Now, obviously, you can't (and won't) write a tv-series-in-a-book, but you can be influenced by trends. Melanie Jacobson wrote an adorable romantic comedy inspired by The Bachelor (Second Chances, if you're interested) and Buffy kicked off an entire generation of girly-girls-juxtaposed-with-violent-themes. 

By understanding what's popular, you can decide whether the manuscript you're working on is something that will sell at a traditional publishing house, through self-publishing, or if it needs to be trunked for a couple years. 

3. It's hyperbolic. In order to convey characters in sometimes as little as two or three minutes, writers resort to extremes. In the opening scenes of the Gilmore Girls, we see Lane skanking to Rancid and discussing her religious mother and her Korean heritage. We see Lorelai make a joke about being *ahem* promiscuous, and we see Lorelai and Rory bond in a not-normal-mother-daughter way. The chances of that all happening on the same morning? Hmmmm. Slim. Very slim. But it carves out who these characters are right away. 

When writing, you can do this, too. This is the infamous show-don't-tell at work. Don't tell us Lane is being raised by strict Korean parents who disapprove of her rock star ambitions: Show her avoiding those parents and gravitating toward the rock n roll. 

4. It's a veritable what-not-to-do. There's a lot of bad TV out there. A LOT. And by watching just some of it, and watching critically, you can see what not to do. You can find flimsy plots, poor character development, tropes, cliches, and just plain bad storytelling all over the place. 

The trick is to identify why it's bad and then comb your own writing for those errors and eliminate them. 

5. It's a more interesting version of school. True story: I know an author that needed to learn how societies fall and flourish for her fantasy world-building. She watched the Guns, Germs, and Steel documentary. It took her three hours. I read the book. It took me five weeks. 

Another friend said she learned a lot of terminology from a crime show (she then researched that terminology to make sure she used it right, but she wouldn't have even known where to begin if not for CSI reruns). 

Documentaries or shows dealing with real-life situations can help you get a feel for a subject you're unfamiliar with. Of course, you'll need to do more research if the show you're watching is dramatized, but television can give you a foundation and a passion for something you might otherwise not have known about. 

6. It's full of real people talking. If you've ever had a beta reader or CP say your dialog sounds unrealistic (and based on my experiences as a CP and beta reader, I'm going to guess that 90% of you have), you need to watch more people talk. Television is really good for this. 

It's even better than real people. 

Yes. It is. And here's why: real people have to think about what they're saying as they say it (ideally, they think about what they're saying before they say it, but let's not get carried away). TV people have the perfect thing already ready. There are no verbal pauses, there are no words being used incorrectly. It's perfect dialog. 

7. It's full of real people moving around and expressing themselves. You need help writing gestures people make while they talk? Or the way a fight moves around a room? Or how people's hands move on each others faces and bodies while they kiss?
TV will give you all of that. Pause. Rewind. Watch again. And again. (try getting the people at the mall to do that for you - it won't go well) 

8. It's visual inspiration. As my good friend Suz said, "One zombie scene is worth thousands of words." 

For those of you who pin visual pinspiration, or who scour modeling sites to find the right face to inspire your love interest or main character, try surfing the television. It's easier to get a feel for how these scenes and people can inspire you when you see them moving and living and being. 

9. It's easier to see what's happening. Television shows can successfully juggle dozens of viewpoints and storylines without losing the viewer (hello, soap operas!). Books often struggle with this (with the exception of the ineffable George RR Martin, of course). Watching an ultra-complex storyline full of dozens of intricate players can help you weave a more complex tale yourself. 

Even if operatic stories aren't your thing, seeing these complex stories woven together can help you understand literary devices like foreshadowing and red herrings and metaphors. Seeing them come to life is often easier than reading them. 

True story: while watching Monsters University, my seven-year-old noticed a very poignant piece of symbolism regarding Mike Wazowski stepping across lines. That would not be possible in a book: But he now has a grasp on metaphors and symbolic gestures in a way he could not have done otherwise. 

10. It's full of  hooks and cliff-hangers (and curb-hangers). A television show has approximately four minutes to catch and hold your attention before the first commercial break. And then they have to lure you back after a two-and-a-half minute break. Considering most sitcoms are only twenty-one or twenty-two minutes of actual showtime, that's a big deal. You're gone for one-tenth of their storytelling time. 

And yet they get you to come back. 

How? 

Curb-hangers. Smaller than cliff-hangers, but they leave a question in the back of your mind, something that makes you want to return to see how it is resolved. Then these same shows go away for a minimum of a week, but often as long as four or five months, expecting you to return. 

How?

Cliff-hangers. Television has perfected the cliffhanger. Indeed it was a silent-film serial that gave us the term, and we see it used so often that people expect them. So much so that I've seen a non-cliffhanger-season finale and thought, "WHAT? That's IT? We don't get a big cliff-hanger???" 

If you need help figuring out how to build to a climax and leave it unresolved, watch television. It will teach you. 

11. It's a mental palette-cleanser.  This might be the most important reason of all. Television tells a story in a very brief amount of time - usually a complete conflict and resolution in just over twenty minutes. Some picture books take longer to read than that. You can watch something quickly, or watch a lot of somethings in a row, and get a much-needed break from your writing. 

My favorite shows to watch for storytelling elements are How I Met Your Mother, Gilmore Girls, and The Office. Others have recommended: LOST, Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, and Buffy.

What shows do you watch to learn about storytelling? What shows do you just like to watch? What storytelling tips and tricks have you gained from television? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Improve writing skills... quickly?

One of my favorite things to do when I find a good article is analyzing their perspective.  I think it’s fascinating to see how perspectives differ from person to person, even when talking about the same subject.  The important thing is, as Baz Luhrman states; “Be careful who’s advice you take, but be patient with those that supply it.”  I like to take it all in, and then decide what I like, what works for me and how I can apply it.  The particular article that I chose to address is from ragan.com, 10 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills-Quickly by Amandah Tayler Blackwell.  Now, I have seen a lot of lists on how to improve this or the other thing, but the part that snagged my attention is the “quickly” part.  I want to address a few of the ways she lists, and then come back to the “quickly”. 

    The first one made me think of Kasey’s post last week when she was sick.  I love how she makes is sound like she’s having all these great experiences, and then you realize that she is reading a story!  She cracks me up.  But I know that reading all these different stories and writing in your journal is a great way to come up with new ideas for writing.  Another great way, at least for me, is dreams.  I swear my dreams are so vivid, that I could get almost a new idea every night!  The ones that really throw me are the dreams that have a beginning, a plot and end!  I feel like I’m watching and participating a movie!  It’s kind of fun.

    The one that would be a challenge to me is her idea of rewriting your blog posts.  I definitely see the purpose in doing this, because it can help you to see ways that you can improve your writing.  I would have a difficult time sticking to this idea, unless I had to redo the post for something else.  I like the feeling that I am “finished” with something.  But I know that especially in writing, you can’t get caught in this thinking because writing is a process that requires a lot of rewriting. 

    I wanted to also mention one that I think we (especially us MMW bloggers) should pay attention to, and that is “commenting on your favorite blog posts”.  I get in the habit of reading something and then thinking to myself, “Wow, I really liked that.” and then moving on.  My goal is to stop and give some feedback when I read a post.  I love to see others comment on my posts. It lets me know where I can improve, it opens my mind up to other ideas and it also gives me motivation to keep writing because I feel like maybe I’m making a difference!  So when you read something you like (or even dislike) take a few moments and put down some constructive feedback! 

    Another favorite is “read beyond what you normally read”, but I’m not going to go too much into it, because I would like to see you guys read her article.  She has some great ideas!  The one thing that confused me a little, is that she didn’t go into how her list would help you get there “quickly”.  All of her suggestions were really good ideas, but  I am not sure I understand how it gets us there faster.  Any thoughts?  Check out the whole list!

Question to Ponder:
If you were asked to add five things to her list, what would you add?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Master Potter

For Christmas one of my daughters received a children's pottery wheel from her grandparents. Both of my girls were very excited to use it and make a little pot. It took some time, but soon enough my girls had learned how to press on the clay and shape it as is spun one the wheel. As I helped them and watched their little hands shaping the clay I couldn't help but think of the analogy taught in the church of the Potter and the Clay. 

There were some instructions that came with this little pottery wheel.  They were pretty basic and easy to follow.  The first step was to squeeze and squish the clay a bit in our hands to soften it up.  Amazingly, this is where the analogy begins.  Before anything can be made of us we must soften our hearts and be willing to be molded and shaped by The Lord, the Master Potter.  If we harden our hearts and become stubborn or proud the Lord will not be able to work with us and mold us into something better. 

The second step was really simple too, however the instructions emphasized that it was crucial this step was taken or we wouldn't be able to progress.  The instructions stated that the softened clay MUST be placed in the CENTER of the wheel.  If it wasn't centered the clay would be unbalanced and the force of the wheel spinning would either break the clay, or it would be flung off the wheel.  So it is in our own lives.  It is not enough just to soften our hearts; if we do not have a Christ-centered life we will break and be placing ourselves outside the “safety zone” of Christ’s blessings and protection.  If we have a Christ centered life and allow ourselves to be sculpted by the trials given to us by the Master Potter we will be strong and become a beautiful vessel that can benefit mankind and bring joy to our maker. 

The next step was where things became a little more difficult.  This was when we needed to start applying pressure to the clay.  This seems easy enough, but as we learned, there has to be the right amount of pressure.  We needed to have a steady hand and be gentle so we didn't break our fragile pot, but if we didn't use enough pressure the clay would not move or change.  How lucky we are to have a Master Potter that knows exactly what we require in order to take shape and grow. 
In our instructions it told us that there were many different shaped pots we could create depending on how we molded the clay and which tools we used to shape it.  So are we, as God’s children, capable of being many different things.  And just as certain types of pots or vessels have a particular purpose, so do each of us.  Heavenly Father knows from the beginning what it is we are meant to be, what we are capable of.  And it is our Loving Maker that knows just what tools to use to change us and help shape us into who we need to be in order to fulfill our calling and purpose in this life.




There were other things that were necessary for us to make our little pots.  The instructions informed us that we would need to keep the clay wet during the whole process so that our hands could slide across it.  If the clay became too dry it would “snag” on our fingers and hands, which resulted in a misshapen pot.  At one point this even caused my daughter’s pot to crack and break.  Like the clay we also need things that will make this sculpting process easier, things that will help lessen the friction and pain of difficult times.  Things like prayer and scripture study will not only help keep us centered on Christ, but will allow the Holy Ghost to dwell with us and soothe our “snags” or rough spots. 

The final step in sculpting a clay pot is to put it in the oven or furnace and bake it so that it becomes solid and firm.  Sometimes our worst trials are the things that make us the strongest, so long as we trust in Heavenly Father, the Master Potter.


But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8)


Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Power of Committment

By Lacey Gunter

Today I am delighted to attend the joining together of two lovely people, my dear niece and her wonderful fiancé. They are young and sweet and thoroughly in love.

Marriage is such a powerful institution. It compels us to be better than we were and to look outside ourselves. Committing to love and be with someone even when things get worse, much worse, is difficult and takes a lot of courage, strength and patience. Modern society doesn't seem to place as high of a regard for people keeping their commitments as it used to.

 In the Book of Mormona when the Nephitesb were in a particularly grievous battle with the Lamanitesc and the Nephites had gained a clear upper hand, Moroni, their leader said they were willing to stop the battle and bloodshed if the Lamanites were willing to promise not to come against the Nephites again in battle. While the Lamanites were eager to get out of the loosing battle they were in, they were not willing to make this commitment because they had no intention of keeping it. So they decided to continue to fight. 

I am always amazed by this story. At this point in time the Lamanites were not a very good people. There were not a lot of very pleasant words used to describe them. But they certainly had one thing going for them, they must have been men of their words. They must have believed strongly in keeping their commitments. Otherwise they would have just committed to the Nephites to get out of the bad position they were in and then broken their promise later when they came back to fight again. They apparently believed so strongly in keeping their commitments that they were willing to die over it. If nothing else, that impresses me.

How easily people in this modern day break their commitments when things get a little difficult or inconvenient.  But keeping your commitments can be such a powerful force for good. I am grateful for this opportunity today to be reminded of my commitments to my husband, family and my God. I pray for the strength, courage and patience to be at least as good as the Lamanites and honor my word and my commitments. 

It may seem small, but consider the example of Abraham and Sarah of the Old Testament. Entire nations can be born of that one small commitment. And studying a little genealogy can teach you how much of who you are came from who your ancestors were. Our faithfulness to that one small commitment can ripple down through the generations of our posterity and have the power to effect the course of entire nations. That is powerful.


a The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is the record of the people who lived on the American continents before, during and a little after Christ's birth, ministry and resurrection
 bThe Nephites were a people living in the Americas thousands of years ago before and during Christ's time. At the time of this reference they were faithfully living God's laws
cThe Lamanites were also living in the Americas at the same time but they were usually not living God's laws and often went to war against the Nephites

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Deadline Come and Gone

by Mare Ball  Adventures in the Ballpark

Wow.  I haven't done any work on my WIP for almost three weeks.  This is the longest amount of time I've not looked at it in a year.   Here are my excuses:

Christmas celebrations ate a good week.
I got a cold/sinus/flu-type bug that knocked me flat for another week  (I'm STILL hacking.)
I went to see Frozen and Catching  Fire.
I ate too many Christmas cookies.
I lost my motivation.

I beat myself up about it for a couple days....and then, today, I sat down at the computer and opened my book proposal file.  That led me to check some other files, which led me to my blog, and then this blog.  I read in a former post that my goal was to finish my book by November 30.



That bummed me out.  My book is 75% done, not 100% done.  How did I end up at January 10 with a still incomplete book? 

I paused a long time before I wrote this sentence.  Because, I don't have an answer.  I don't know what happened.  Life happened.  Stuff that was not writing stuff.  Good things, and frustrating things, and time-consuming things.  I don't know.

However - I do know this: every day, before I'm out of bed, I talk to Jesus in my head and thank him for my cozy bed and the rest I just gained.  I reflect on the day before me, running through what I need to do - and I ask for His guidance and His blessings.  I invite Him into my day.  I relish that quiet time to connect with my Creator and just be still and be grateful.  I don't get up until I feel closure on that time.

Then I groan my way out from under the covers and face the day, whatever it's going to be.  I always have somewhat of a plan, but God likes to throw a wrench in that often, so I've learned to be flexible.

And here's what I've concluded:  In God's view of my life, whatever my day entails, He is pleased if I'm honoring Him.  If I'm doing my best to be patient and sacrificial and grateful, if I'm using my gifts to help others....He's smiling.  Whether I'm writing, or not.  Sometimes I'm writing, sometimes I'm cleaning toilets.  Sometimes I'm taking Dad to the doctor, or trying to make leftover hamburger and goat cheese into something suitable for dinner. In God's eyes, what I'm doing is secondary to how I'm doing it.

I might be bummed about not meeting a writing deadline - a personal goal of mine - but God looks at everything I do.  And to Him, the writing tasks and the non-writing tasks are equal.  So whatever else I spent time on that kept me from meeting my November deadline....it was important too.  Time with family, movies with my girl, even sleeping for a week to knock out a nasty virus.  They were not insignificant events.  They were just not writing events.

I want to keep my writing in perspective.   I want to do my best, of course, to complete my book and get it published.  I pray for God's blessing on that.  But, I don't want to feel guilty or beat myself up if I fail to meet to a self-imposed deadline.  I simply want to do the best I can every day, at whatever I'm doing.  Writing is important, but it's not more important than everything else.

Now....my next deadline to complete my book is February 28.  We'll see how that plays out.

How do you feel about failing to meet a deadline?



Monday, January 6, 2014

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

by Kasey Tross

The day after Christmas I came down with the flu.

But it wasn’t all bad- I spent the next day with my friend Kyra. She’s a fashion designer from New York City. After her hot Irish boyfriend started making it big as an actor they moved into a HUGE house in Beverly Hills, which was great until the Oscar buzz led to a bunch of paparazzi stalking them everywhere. I mean, it was great for her fashion design business (seriously- how else do you get to design gowns for the Golden Globes and the Oscars?) but it made her crazy and it was way stressful on their marriage. Fortunately, they’ve reached a compromise and they’re making it work. And her designs are more popular than ever.

The day after that I was with my other friend Gaby at her farm in Massachusetts. In the years since her husband passed away she’s had a hard time, but she decided she was finally ready to love again, and she sent a video message to her children to let them all know she was getting married- on CHRISTMAS! So she got them all home- mostly because she refused to tell them who she was marrying until the wedding. In fact, she didn’t even tell the GROOM! Yes, she had 3 different men propose. She’s awesome like that. Well, the family all came and the barn was all decked out in white lights and it was so beautiful- turned out they even made it a double wedding. ;-)

The next day was probably my favorite- I took a train trip. I went all the way across the country- first on the Capitol Limited and then on the Southwest Chief. The people I met on that trip were a trip in themselves- there was Regina and her mom, both long-time train workers who had some amazing stories to tell, then there was the famous director and his writer and assistant- they were always   making things more interesting. There was Tyrone, the singing bartender who bore a startling resemblance to Elvis, then Father Kelly, the retired minister. Oh, and of course Tom and Julie, the engaged couple that actually got MARRIED on the Southwest Chief. If it hadn’t been for the avalanche on the other side of the Raton pass in Colorado, it would have been a pretty pleasant trip. But they got us out, and even with that, it was a lot of fun, mostly thanks to the great people I met.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I didn’t actually do any of those things. But I did read 3 different books that almost made me feel like I actually was doing those things!  I read "The Year of Living Famously" by Laura CaldwellI,  "The Christmas Wedding" by James Patterson, and "The Christmas Train" by David Baldacci.

 I felt lousy, and I slept a lot, but the one thing that kept my mind off of how awful I felt was reading. Thankfully, my husband had the week off so that I could stay in bed and sleep and read. When I read, I felt like I was somewhere else, experiencing all sorts of wonderful things, and it really pulled me through my illness.

The experience just proved to me once again how powerful words can be. I could have just been lying around in bed feeling sorry for myself (and I did some of that too) or mindlessly surfing the internet, or staring at a TV. But those things for me are life-sucking. After I finish staring at a screen I usually feel even more drained. When I read books, however, I feel refreshed and fulfilled, my
imagination alive with possibilities.

Who knows, maybe someday some other poor soul will by lying on their sickbed and something I will have written will allow them to forget about how lousy they feel for a little while... ;-)


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