Sunday, July 31, 2011
I listened to a podcast on writing romance by Janette Rallison the other day, and it got me thinking about love triangles.
In YA lit, especially, it seems like love triangles are all over the place. Think of Bella-Edward-Jacob (Twilight), Katniss-Gale-Peeta (The Hunger Games), Laurel-David-Tamani (Wings), Cassia-Xander-Ky (Matched), or Evie-Lend-Reth (Paranormalcy). There are more, obviously, but these were the ones I plucked right off the top of my head (although I had to pluck some of the character names right off of Amazon--the ol' memory isn't quite what it used to be).
Janette mentioned that sometimes the love triangle isn't between two desirable people (which, hello, Reth is SUPER creepy) but the power balance is such that the tension about who the heroine will end up with keeps the story moving forward.
As I thought more about it, I realized "love triangle" is just a fancy romance writer phrase for something else: "choice."
A love triangle--so necessary in romances because they focus on relationships--deals with the personal, or private, choice of a character. The character (and the other two in the triangle) are the only people greatly impacted by that choice. Other choices--which job to take, whether or not to move, should he or she step back and watch a robbery or step in and help--which a character makes can become more and more public.
It's when these personal stakes are in direct opposition to the public stakes that we get some real tension: save your family or save the world?
Not every book has someone saving the world, but every good book does have elements of personal stakes and public stakes. Figuring out how to solve both in the best way possible is what makes a really great story.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
When I cook I rarely use a recipe, and even when I do I take it as a guideline… unless I’m baking. But even then, I guess on teaspoons and tablespoons and that kind of thing. What does this have to do with writing?
You’ll have to stick with me for a little longer.
When I was in high school, I helped my mom clean out her spices. I remember finally taking the time to smell each one, and I started to understand why chili powder, cumin and oregano work to make yummy taco meat. The more I smelled, the more I wanted to experiment. Now, as I’m cooking, I know when I should use white pepper instead of black pepper, or powdered garlic instead of minced garlic. In the end, it’s those subtle additions that make the difference.
And NOW I’ll talk about writing.
When I read, I study language more than anything else. Building stories I can do. I may not be the best, but I can do it. It’s the language that fascinates me. The way some people put words together – Sarah Ockler, Marisa De Los Santos, John Green, Jandy Nelson… I could go on.
So when I look at my own writing, it feels bland… too soupy…
I remember when I first heard someone say that you really do need to actually look at each sentence in your book. Does it say what you need it to say, does it say more? Does it say less? Am I using my brain and the tools I have to write the best way I know how?
Do I have a point with this post?
I have no idea.
But I’d like to think that my point is that we all have a style and a way we like to do things, but there will always be ways to be better, to learn from writers around us, whether they be famous published authors, friends, or both ;D
Next time you go to edit, work on one page, look at the words you’ve put together. Pay attention to the small details, the subtle flavors and all of the little things that make your writing particular to YOU.
Happy writing people :D
Thursday, July 28, 2011
During Ammon's absence I discovered that our family has deep roots in Canada. Our earliest Canadian ancestor immigrated to Quebec from Normandy in the mid 1600s. I am amazed at how digging up these roots has nourished and strengthened the branches of our family tree. Yesterday I read a bit of history on an English ancestral line. Sir Thomas Cook led a fascinating life, full of economic ups and downs, time in the Tower of London, and a stint as the High Mayor of London. A family member asked a couple of the kids what they could learn from this particular ancestor. Someone quipped, "Don't lend money to the queen." (If you Google Sir Thomas Cook, you will find the humor behind that statement.) In one of those amazing AHA! moments I realized that my family history is a treasure trove of fodder for my writing. I've decided to dig a little deeper.
so...the 13 grandchildren just returned from a picnic at the splash pad, the dogs want water, and dinner for 34 needs to be prepared. I am taking lots of notes to add to add to our family story.
Is there an ancestor who has inspired your writing?
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
-My kids will be in school
-For the first time in over eleven years, I won't have a child at home during the day
-Swim lessons and summer movies will be over
-The puppies will be sold (hopefully)
-I'll have my Gospel Doctrine lesson finished
- I will have survived substituting in Nursery (I'm convinced that Nursery is the hardest calling in the church. The people who serve in our ward are angels)
-My husband and son will both be done with separate Scout camps
-The salsa in my fridge will either be gone, or have gone bad
- We may, or may not, have squeezed in one last trip to Sea World (we paid extra for year-round passes, but haven't been able to use them yet)
-Amidst all the rest, I will try to fit in Doctor's appointments, dog grooming, shopping for school clothes and supplies, cleaning the house, exercising, grocery shopping, laundry, organizing the kids' rooms for school, and WRITING
-And at some point, at least once during the next two weeks, I will take a nap.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
When I started in the BYU BGS program (an independent study course), the first class I was required to take was basically a how-to-be-successful-in-this-program-class. No big surprise there. This class had sections on study skills, goal setting, etc. No big surprise there either. What did surprise me a bit, and maybe it shouldn't have, was that as part of the goal setting section they encouraged us to build in a reward system for whenever we reach a goal.
Wow. Earth shattering concept, I know.
But really, I hadn't had a reward system in place for myself in, oooooh...I have no idea how long. After all, I am not three years old anymore. I am a grown up, thank you very much. I should be able to do things by sheer will and self-discipline, right? Accomplishing the task should be reward enough for an adult person like myself, shouldn't it? Of course it should.
But, you know what? (Of course you know what!) It works. It really, honest to goodness works.
Why? In part because it makes things fun. And fun is important, right Jolene?
So, I've decided I could benefit from using this ground-breaking system when it comes to writing. I'm new enough at this that I haven't needed a whole lot of discipline or goal setting to keep writing. I've just done it because while I worked on my first novel - I. Could. Not. Stop. Now, working on book two has been a different situation. For one thing I was an at home mom when I wrote the first draft of my first book. Now I'm not. And let me tell you, a job just gets in the way of a lot of things! ; )
Anyway, one of my favorite rewards for reaching a small or short term goal is to download a new song from iTunes. Love that!
How about you? Are you a goal setter when it comes to writing and do you give yourself rewards along the way? If so, what are some of your favs?
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
I haven't heard from this person since. I think he was hoping for easy advice or that I would take what he wrote, fix it and get it published for him. I wish I could. If it were that easy, I would have about 20 books published now instead of one.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I won't post a long one just a short apology. Was in an unemployment seminar at the LDS Services. Learned a lot. Hope it helps. Am still hearing it's 1-2 years before people find work. Has that been others' experience?
Monday, July 18, 2011
Well, Bonnie Harris beat me to it with her lovely post bidding farewell to the magical era of Harry Potter. I couldn't have said it better. Ms. Rowling has been such an inspiration to us authors, and not just those of young adult fantasy, and what a wonderful, emotional sendoff the last movie was!
That said, I was going to write about characterization, and suddenly a different bit of inspiration crawled across my monitor. I'll save the other topic for next time. Just as my fingers hovered over the keyboard, a little six-legged speck raced up my laptop, and I felt my blood boil. I mean, I don't even let my kids touch my laptop, so what gives these stupid creatures the idea that they're allowed to glom their disgusting feet all over my just-polished monitor, and scurry for cover in the electronics when they sense the crushing finger of death coming for them?
I'm talking about the bane of my existence from April to October of every year: ants. Tiny black sugar ants, to be exact. They've taken over my house. You can't leave a crumb of food out on the counter overnight or they'll be swarming the kitchen by morning. They get into the cat food, and constantly scout out my pantry. They leave a strong, nauseating smell of rotting oranges when you squish them. One of the kids spilled a few drops of pink lemonade on the floor that my oldest had just mopped, and I walked in a few minutes ago to see a trail of hundreds of them, leading from a miniscule crack in the tile to the sticky spot on the floor. When I'm finished with this post, I'm going into the kitchen to spray the lemonade spot with cleaner, then track down the ant line and attack it with Raid, laughing maniacally the whole time.
I've tried every home remedy suggested to me, from instant grits to cayenne pepper to vinegar. I've bleached their little pheromone lines. My ants are either too good or too smart for the little ant domes which are filled with poison-laced food that they're supposed to take home to their queen. Those come highly suggested by my friends, yet my ants refuse to touch them. Last year my husband bought some professional-grade outdoor poison suggested by his karate sensei, who's also an exterminator, and he sprayed all around our home's foundations and in trouble spots, like his sensei suggested. Did it make a difference? Oh yes. There was a noticeable drop in the ant population getting inside my house, from about 5 million to 3 million. For a week. Forget cockroaches surviving the apocalypse. My ants could kick the roaches' butts.
Yep, the only thing that really seems to work against them, albeit temporarily, is a trusty can of Raid and a good pair of eyes to track down where the line of invaders originates. Clean up whatever is attracting them, spray it with bleach or vinegar to obliterate their pheromone tracks, then sit on the couch cradling the Raid, nervously giggling and jumping at every movement. It's smart to stay at least ten feet away from me during this season, if you don't want to get sprayed.
Last week my husband did some research to see if you could give animals a blessing, after our little black kitty Yoda hurt his leg. He told me that not only can you bless a hurt or sick animal, but he read that you are supposed to treat all animals with respect and kindness, including insects. Well, we already knew that, but then he suggested that instead of cruelly poisoning our ant invaders, I should gently shoo them out of the house. I grabbed the can of Raid and chased him down the hall. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating here. I really did.
What is the point of my rambling blog post today? I really don't know. A peek into a tiny slice of my everyday life, I guess. Well, now I'm going to go attack that patch of lemonade on the floor. If you hear primal screaming coming from my house, don't be alarmed. This is therapeutic.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I picked up my copy of The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (by Jeanne Birdsall) used, at Goodwill or a garage sale. It's been sitting on my shelf for almost two years, waiting until the perfect moment to be read.
This weekend brought the perfect moment.
I was in the mountains with my extended family for a family reunion. We gathered at my grandparents' cabin and renewed our bonds with each other by splitting into groups and re-making Johnny Lingo. In our downtime, we went boating and rode the jet skis. I enjoy going on the boat and jet skis occasionally, but it's not my favorite thing. I was content to let everyone else have a turn and only headed out when one of my kids begged me to take them on a ride.
Instead, I would relax on the deck and visit with aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or their children. Or else I would read.
Thus arose the perfect moment to read about Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty Penderwick. I loved them from the first page. Ms. Birdsall's writing reminds me very much of Elizabeth Enright (Thimble Summer, Gone Away Lake) and Maud Hart Lovelace (The Betsy-Tacy books) and yet is still fresh and modern.
Even better, she has two other Penderwick books already written! I can't wait to discover them.
What have your favorite summer reads been so far?
Saturday, July 16, 2011
by Cindy R. Williams
It's true! The 2012 ANWA Writers Conference is now February 23, 24 and 25, 2012.
The new, additional date of Thursday, February 23, will be the evening only. It will bring us the opportunity to add a great Critique Camp and a Super Jump Start Workshop. More information is forthcoming. This is going to be the most amazing writers conference ever.
Get your manuscripts finished so you can pitch to publishers or agents at the conference.
Registration is limited and will be opening in about SIX weeks.
This writers conference will give you the kick start you need. Patti Hulet and I are the ANWA Conference Co-Chairs. The entire ANWA Board is working fast and furious on booking the best faculty. We will be signing with a hotel/conference center this week. I will let you know which hotel as soon as it is official.
One goal is to: "Uplift, Inspire and Educate".
More to come soon.
Friday, July 15, 2011
And I get it.
I think sometimes people are comparing themselves to other writers. To peers. To crit partners. And if they’d just write, on their own terms, they’d be so much happier.
I don’t write with the beautiful language of one of my crit partners. My grammar is obnoxious compared to another crit partner. My books are based in the real world instead of some fantastic place like another crit partner. I know a woman who has one book out, but I know right now that her next will be even more fabulous than her first, and definitely more literary than anything I plan on attempting.
But if I sat at my computer and compared my writing and my style and my publication aspirations to those around me, I might get discouraged. A good friend is signed by a big name agent and only wants publication in the big 6. She’ll get there. I have no doubt. I’m thrilled with my new agent and how much fun I’ve had with Cedar Fort in getting my first book to print. For me, that’s perfect.
I don’t want to be discouraged. I get to WRITE! I’m not slaving away over my garden for food (out of necessity ;^) and I live in a country where I’m free to write whatever I want.
Life is good.
So, next time you sit at your computer (or your notepad, you crazy longhanders) enjoy the process. Enjoy what you do, and make it your own.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
After catching up on the past week's posts for this blog, my heart aches for the large number of us who are experiencing huge challenges in life, whether it be health problems, lack of employment, or watching someone else in your life suffer tremendous pain. Today is the first day since my last post that I almost feel like I can breathe out again. You know the feeling: you take a deep breath in and nothing wants to come out...you just keep taking in breath after breath until your head spins...Yeah, there has been a lot of breath holding around here lately. (WARNING: disturbing content)
About 11:00 pm July 2nd, the six-year-old boy who frequently stays with his mom in our home came to my bedroom pleading for help because his mom was getting hurt.
"We have to call 911 because my mom's getting hurt. She fell down a lot. [Someone] is hurting her. I think we need to get a doctor because she is hurt bad." Perspiration beaded on his pale forehead and dripped into his rounded eyes as he looked at me, but didn't see me. His little hand felt like ice when I took it in my own to lead him down the stairs to the phone. When I let go so I could dial the phone, he paced back and forth across the kitchen floor, repeating the words, "We need to get help. We need to get help."
My husband Doug took the phone and made the call so that I could focus on the child. Doug went out the door to wait for the police. The child relaxed for a moment in my lap and told me he felt safe in our house, then suddenly tensed and asked me if the door was locked. As I walked over to the door, I asked him why we needed to lock it. His eyes glazed over as he said, "Because [someone] tried to kill me. My mom told me to run home and he grabbed my foot and tried to stop me, but my mom got in his way and stopped him and told me to run fast. Then she fell down again." I scooped up that little boy and carried him into the family room. I turned on his favorite Wonder Pets episode and we snuggled on the couch and waited for his dad to come get him.
His mom suffered multiple bruises all over her body, a fractured left jaw, fractured chin and hyoid bone and required seven stitches in her chin. Monday, she underwent surgery to place titanium plates over her chin and jaw fractures. Her fractured hyoid is only a half centimeter away from her carotid artery, but a CT scan showed only soft tissue damage and the artery was not compromised. She may need to have further surgery to remove the broken piece of bone, but for now it is wait and see. Not one of the surgeons is keen on getting that close to the carotid.
This is not the first time the mom has been beaten or abused by a man. Doug asked me how a person could have such little self esteem that they would allow others to treat them that way. He wasn't judging. He was trying to understand. We learned that this little mom has lived with abuse her entire life. Emotionally abused during her childhood and raped by a relative at eleven years of age (the incident was hushed up and ignored), this little girl grew up believing that she was to blame. She has been slipping deeper and deeper ever since as she has turned to tobacco, alcohol, and further abuse to try to hide from her pain.
Okay...take a deep breath and let it out again. I apologize for the drama and the graphic explanations. What I want to share is the hope and light and growth that is coming from this intense experience.
As I read Ether 2 today, I kept thinking about this little mom and the depths of her sorrow and pain. Just as the Jaredites were lifted out of the depths of the sea, every day, I see her get a little stronger as she finds the courage to step out of her patterns of abuse and into the light of living with faith. She reached out for help and her crime victims reparations will pay not only for medical expenses, but for the mental health counseling that she has so desperately needed and never received. She has not only grasped the hands of others reaching out to her, but taken steps to help herself up. Her first shocking words to me in the ER of "But I miss him and love him so much. It wasn't really him." have changed to "He did this to me and I'm mad! No one is ever going to do this to me again. Ever." She's opening her scriptures and looking for peace there. She emptied all of her alcoholic beverages and threw the cigarettes away. Her smile will be lopsided for a while, but the fact that she is smiling brings joy to my heart.
I loved laughing with her as we waited for her surgeon Monday. The immense disposable hospital gown swallowed her thin body. She pointed out the plastic lining in it and the hole in the side that reminded us of a vacuum cleaner bag. We imagined all sorts of scenarios. After the nurse wrapped her calves with those massaging thingies, she attached a vacuum-cleaner-like hose to the hole in the gown and inflated the gown with warm air. Then she handed the little mom a controller and showed her how to adjust the temperature up and down. Climate controlled hospital gowns? Seriously, how cool is that? (no pun intended, of course.)
I told our little mom that she might consider writing all this stuff down so that she can see her own progress. She will survive. She told me she feels more like a Warrior Princess every day. She will be able to help other people leave behind their victim selves and discover who they really are as she learns how the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ made it possible for everyone to rise out of the depths of adversity and step into light and joy. While I truly wish that the horrible events of the past couple of weeks had never happened, I am full of gratitude for the good things that are coming out of it. Prayers and hugs and hopes for happy endings for all of you out there!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Right now I'm rereading the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. He's one of my favorite authors. I read his writing and realize I've got a long way to go (which should logically make me not like him, right? Perhaps I'm a masochist, or I just like to understand what good writing is supposed to look like even if I can't duplicate it yet).
In the intro, he talked about how he came up with the idea for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. In the later book he has a character with a handful of children who are all pivotal to the plot. An author friend of his read the manuscript and complained that he was having a hard time telling all the children apart. Orson Scott Card realized that what it really meant was that he hadn't developed those characters well enough that they stood out as distinct individuals. Since I had just received the same criticism lately, I thought this insight was very... well, insightful.
So I paid close attention as I read to how he distinguished these characters, especially in scenes where there were multiple ones all together. I noticed that he constantly referenced each of them in the scene, even if they weren't the ones speaking. They were still doing something-- standing, sulking in the corner, smiling, or in one case peeing on someone else's leg. Whatever the case, their physical actions were mentioned-- and those actions were as indicative of their character as their dialog.
He also pointed out that writing a story with a lot of characters is difficult, because there are so many relationships you have to work out. Not only the relationships they each have with each other, but also how all the characters relate as a whole. On top of that, you have to keep in mind that different people act differently depending on who they're with (who doesn't act different with a parent than they do when they're with their friends, especially as a youth). So you are not only developing multiple characters, but multiple variations of each of those characters as well.
Whew! Writing can be exhausting. It also makes me realize why I'm so absent-minded. With all those extra people in my head, it's a wonder I can still remember my children's names.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
But don't be too long about it—the deadline is November 15, 2011.
First Place: $3,000 and a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference
Second Place: $1,500
Third Place: $500
Fourth Through Tenth Place: $100
Eleventh Through Twenty-Fifth Place: $50 gift certificate for Writer's Digest Books
Monday, July 11, 2011
I don't know about you, but I much of what I've learned about the craft and the business of writing has come from reading industry blogs. Writing techniques, how to query, who to query, when to query, how to format for submission, varieties of writing and editing styles and approaches, good books to read, authors to search out, genre definitions...The list to be had of writing info available on reputable blogs is downright staggering.
I have several I follow regularly, far too many to overwhelm you with here, so for today I'll narrow it down to three of my absolute favorites.
1) Miss Snark's First Victim (misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com) - A great writing community with with regular critique sessions, idea sharing posts, and monthly "Secret Agent" contests where entries are taken to be critiqued by an agent along with the rest of the people who hang out there. Very valuable feedback is given as well as prizes from the agent, ranging from requests for queries with partials to requests for full manuscripts. It's a great way to learn about what certain agents are looking for. Several contestants have found their agents here and more and more agents have started lurking about, reading work that has been submitted for other crit sessions then contacting Authoress, the anonymous and recently agented host of the site, to find out how to contact authors of things that interest them. I could go on and on about the cool things that happen on this blog, but I'll jsut stop here and say - GO CHECK THIS OUT!!
2) Nathan Beansford's blog (blog.nathanbransford.com) - Up until a recent career change, Nathan was an agent. His blog is probablay the best resource I've found for the 'how to' of writing and submitting. Nathan writes with tons of energy, passion, knowledge and humor. A large community hangs out there with lots of great info and resources. Love Nathan. Love his blog.
3) Kristin Nelson's blog (pubrants.blogspot.com) - This is where I have learned the most about the business of writing, from what happens at the large book fairs, to what the job of an agent is, to how to deal with the financial reports, tax issues, etc. that authors need to be aware of, to the latest stirrings and issues in the publishing world. Great stuff!
So, what are the writing/publishing blogs you can't live without (and don't want us to live without them either)?
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
By the time you read this post I will be half-way through a family reunion/camping trip. I can't vouch for my sanity by the end of this adventure. With adults being outnumbered three to one, anarchy is inevitable. Although there have been moments of structure combined with intensely strong feelings of love and unity, I fear soon the children will take over in a true “lord-of-the-flies” manner.
Having been thrown together in the middle of nowhere, forced to sleep in close quarters, and sharing food has resulted in a lack of sleep including brief interruptions in the night when spoiled grandchildren toss their cookies. Not having running water or indoor plumbing only compounds the problem of a quick and easy clean-up. My allergies alone have almost conquered me completely and I only have a box of kleenex as my aid. Antihistamines prove to add to my insomnia. I haven't slept for three days.
I will only be able to post this at the briefest of intervals since I only have internet access through my phone which is quickly losing power. Power is a luxury no one has in this forgotten place. This post is being written on a battery powered laptop which is also down to only fourty-four percent power. When it's gone...well...I don't want to think on it further. I leave you with this maddening question: If it's called “dueling banjos”, why is it a duet between banjo and guitar? Adieu my friends.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I ruin fireworks for myself every year. I just wait impatiently for the finale, it's my favorite part. And then when it's over, I'm bummed it didn't last long enough. It's best part and I want it first or during or mostly. The one-two punch fireworks are annoying. Just give it all you've got for 20 minutes boom boom boom.
I suppose it's the same way I write. I want to cut straight to the chase. I deplore lengthly words about the surroundings unless of course it's pertinent to the action. Like the big gray rock was used by the jedi to smack a foe in the head. I want action lots of it first, during and mostly. If it doesn't relate to the action, whatever is the point of all that "setting the scene business?"
Am I the only one that wants to know who did it first so I can concentrate on reading the book? If I try to read the book first, I end up skimming whole pages so I can get to the end. Did she win his love? Did he win hers? Did Jania ever marry? (That's a Star Wars reference.)
I have to laugh because right now I'm in a forced to be patient mode while looking for a job. I WANT to skip to the end. Anyone else that way?
Monday, July 4, 2011
I haven't seen fireworks or really celebrated the Fourth for the past few years, either because I'd be working that night or parking downtown was impossible to find. I'm not really looking forward to dealing with the crowds today either, so I'm not sure yet if I'm going to go out. My husband will probably call me a party pooper and try to drag me out anyway.
But I still love Independence Day. I've appreciated it even more ever since 9/11. I thank our ancestors for their bravery and sacrifice so we can have the freedoms we enjoy today. I doubt they foresaw that the date of their battle for independence would become a holiday that nearly every American looks forward to--one that some just use as an excuse to party and don't appreciate as much as they should. I'm grateful for the freedom to decide what religion I want to belong to, and what I want to do with my life. I'm especially happy my kids have the same rights.
Happy Fourth, everyone.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
I packed my children into our minivan a couple of days ago and hit the road.
After hours and hours of driving (and countless answers to the question, "When will we get to Grandma's?"), we arrived. Safe and sound and mostly sane.
In our settling in, I had forgotten something outside in the car. When I went outside to retrieve it, the sun had just set beyond the far mountains and there was an orange glow over everything like melted butter on a cob of corn (Idaho does the best sunsets). The sprinklers were spitting out a steady rhythm and the almost-constant rustle of leaves stirring on their branches was in the air.
I took a deep breath.
It smelled like home.
I breathed in deeply once more, then turned back inside to celebrate my mother's birthday.
It's good to be home.