Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creating a Great Plot

Plots are one thing every book needs. Unfortunately, coming up with the best plot is not always easy.

Sure, there are times I feel as if a particular story is already in my head, but, more often, the story hasn't been lived in my own life yet so I have difficulties presenting it to the world.

Let me explain what I mean.

"Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones," was already written; all I needed was an initial idea and it was pretty smooth sailing. With the second book in the series (which, by the way started out quite differently, with an old man as the main character) I was hung up on the plot. Everything I put to paper seemed wrong, that was, until the day I met with my sisters and shared my dilemma.

Ideas flowed after that. The lunch with my sisters got me started. I knew that the main character had to be the same as the main character in the first book, and she needed a new problem in her life, a problem that would take her to an entirely new level of living and responding to life.

I knew I couldn't write the book the same way; meaning I didn't want to have five stones again, or the same background story getting the main character to the end of the book, but I wasn't sure what would come instead.

Photo by: simple up, courtesy of Flickr
I began writing anyway. Through a few pages I realized something. Besides knowing what the woman's problem would be--not being able to have a baby--I knew that she would be struggling with the five stones; I also knew I'd need a new visual if you will and if it couldn't be the stones it would have to be something else.

A pink cupcake was born.

Now, I'm not going to tell you the meaning of the cupcake. And I'm not going to take you through the plot I have so far (I want you to read the book after all) but I want to clue you in about how to create a great plot, at least the way I create a great plot.
  • Try not to rush it. Allow the story to speak through you. If you don't know the entire plot when first undertaking a book, begin anyway, the entire plot will come.
  • Keep a distance. Sometimes you need to experience a part of life before you can truly understand what a particular character is going through.
  • If the idea for a new book isn't coming at all, do some waiting. Ask questions of those you trust. They just may have an idea that will work for you.
  • Make sure you have a big enough problem to carry the main character through the book, and don't have the character solve their problem too easily. I use the 5 times rule. The main character tries at least 5 methods to overcome his/her problem. Not one of them works until try 5 or 6.
  • If your book is a series, make it unique enough to stand on its own. You don't want your reader saying, "This sounds just like the first book." You want the books to connect but you don't want them to mirror each other in the same way you would look at yourself wearing the same outfit. Writing a series is sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror wearing a pink outfit, but the mirror shows you wearing a red one. 
When it comes to creating a great plot, the plot will only be as great as you let it. If you try to push your views too hard, or push the plot in the way you like the best, you may find that a great amount of re-writing is needed.

Do it right the first time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dialogue that's Real

I don't know about you, but having a great conversation is the next best thing to eating a chocolate doughnut. I love to talk, and I love to listen, and I love words (no surprise there).

Photo by: stu_spivack, courtesy of Flickr
Dialogue comes in all shapes and sizes in real life just like it should come in the real world called our latest novel. But sometimes, (dare I say it?) we find that our book dialogue is stilted, untrue, long-winded, boring, and altogether unrealistic.

Yes, real life dialogue can run the same gamut, but usually it's real enough in getting us to continue with our conversation. If the conversation turns sour we usually stop speaking, leave the room, or speak with someone else in the group.

Unfortunately, in a novel, we really can't stop speaking. (There's something about pure setting that really bores the reader). We can't leave the room (because again we're looking around at the pretty rose bushes in the charming garden of our main character for all time) and we can speak to someone else in the group I suppose, though the main character will still need to speak at some point in our novel.

What we can do is to create real dialogue in the first place instead of something else. And that takes practice.

Here are some helps:
  • Consider a real conversation and base your book dialogue off of that. What do people really say? "I can't believe it! Are you serious?" or do they say, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious"?
I hope you chose the first option. No one I know says, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious."
  • Consider the actions that accompany the dialogue. "I can't believe it! Are you serious?" Charly tugged at her shirt, trying to cover up the offending navel. Or, "I am full of disbelief. You are talking to me like you're not very serious." Charly thought her friend didn't understand about the latest styles. She liked the style.  
Just say it without saying everything. Your reader will figure it out if you say it without so many superfluous 'explaining' words. We know in the first instance that Charly was wearing a shirt that showed her navel. We also know that her friend was 'offended' by it.
  • Consider how often you use dialogue. I have said this before but it bears repeating. A great book has a mixture of dialogue and setting; one doesn't overrun the other, though dialogue usually plays a slightly higher hand than setting. Look over a page of your writing. Do you have more dialogue or more setting? Dialogue will keep your writing clipping along; setting gives it more of a pause. Let me put it this way: Have you ever skipped long winded setting to get to the next piece of dialogue?
In the end, dialogue that is real takes the pressure off your readers. Instead of hoping your story gets better, they can't wait to find out what happens next.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Speaking Your Mind in Writing

Especially if you're writing non-fiction, speaking your mind appears to be a general rule. You're writing your truth after all, and you have some you'd like to share.

Photo by: Balaji.B, courtesy of Flickr
Unfortunately, sharing your mind in writing can be like talking to a friend and instead of listening, telling her what to do. Self-help books fall into this category, but even with a self-help book there are moments for breathers if you will, moments for the reader to seek out some reflection. The best self-help books don't merely speak their minds through you, they offer ways for the reader to take a look at their own pace.

When you speak your mind in book form, it shouldn't be spoon feeding, (making sure your reader knows everything you know) in fact, a few ideas are better; and with these ideas folks can decide what works for them and what doesn't.

Stepping back a little is a good way to see if your writing is ready for the public. After giving your first draft a few weeks of sitting alone, read it again. Pretend as if this friend is speaking to you for the first time and sharing her ideas.
Photo by oddharmonic, courtesy of Flickr
  • Take a look at how you feel. Do you feel guilty? Do you feel happy about what you're reading? Granted, there might be a very good reason you're feeling guilty, but at the same time there should be room in your non-fiction book for understanding and room for growth.
  • Do you stop often in your book to reflect on what you've just read, or do you feel as if you don't need to think at all? Is everything handed to you on a platter?
My book, "Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones," had a little bit of everything that I've mentioned. Is it a perfect read? Nope. But there are some things I'd like to mention.

Some said the book was too simple.

Others said that the book was so deep that they took notes in the margins.

A few stopped reading at chapter 2. They couldn't read on because the book sounded too much like them and their struggles with Trust. They picked up the book later, after they'd had some time to think about it.

Others read the book through in one or two days, saying they couldn't put it down.

Some have read it twice. First as merely a novel with a story, the second as a story with opportunities to learn new things and take notes.

Often, in non-fiction, where the person is currently standing in their personal life, reflects the comments they give you. And that's okay too.

In speaking your mind you still need to be honest with the truth as you see it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Headaches and White Stuff

No, I'm not talking about dandruff, but I'll have you know that Bountiful, Utah has plenty of it right now. Snow that is.

Lately I've been balancing shoveling with doing my Just Dance workout. It doesn't make sense for me to do both and I figure one or the other will fill in the exercising niche for the day. Unless it snows more than once in a day...

I'm not usually one to complain, but...I've had it. I'm tired. This morning, after I shoveled, my body ached in places I didn't even know there were muscles. Anyway, I'm here now, working my brain a bit as I tell you my woe's.

Photo by pixie tart, courtesy of Flickr
Isn't it incredible how amazingly 'winter' it has been this year? Yes, I told you in an earlier post that I was trying to live in the moment, enjoying what is here and even use what is here now in my writing.

But today...

Photo by: El Frito, courtesy of Flickr

I just want spring to come. I want the shoveling to end, and the cold, and the inversion (they should call it aversion) and everything having to do with winter: hats, coats, gloves, boots, scarves...

I get headaches too in winter as you probably guessed by the headline. I think this is because of the crummy air. This is the third day straight I've had to 'dope up' on pain killers so that I can get through the day.

Sick of me yet? I apologize for complaining. But now that it's out I can get back to work.

Feeling the same way?

You know what to do.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marketing Your Book on a Budget

Today's post will be short but I wanted to let you in on a new booklet I'm working on that should be out in the next couple of months.

UPDATE: Release date March 21! Paperback $5.98, eBook $1.99.

If you've read "Marketing Your Book on a Budget 2012" then you should have a heads up on what is currently happening with book marketing. If you haven't, consider getting the 2013 edition; if you have, know that the 2013 edition will be giving you even more.

If you've wondered about reviews, book signings, interviews (both radio and blog) book trailers that won't cost you a dime to produce, social media, contests, free advertising and more, you'll want to check back.

The first time around, "Marketing Your Book on a Budget" was produced in Kindle form only for .99 cents. I have since discovered that there are many readers who also prefer the paper version, so expect to see this addition in the next few months.

Once you've purchased one copy of the book through Amazon, (and you let me know per instructions at the end of the book) you'll be on the list and I'll send you updates every year without you having to purchase another book!

So keep in touch!

Happy writing!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Ice and Editing

Last night I was scraping ice off of my driveway.

But let's back track a bit.

Earlier that day I had an errand to do. I got in the car and slowly went down the driveway. I knew there was ice, but  how bad could it really be? (For those of you who don't know, my driveway is more like a sloping hill leading into traffic. Yes, I'm also on a main road).

And so I began the journey. Suddenly, the car, which was going about 1 mile an hour, began slipping. I couldn't stop it, and by the time I reached the end of the driveway my car was facing the other way. I was also glad I was able to maneuver the car into a snow embankment on one side of my driveway.

I was pretty scared but grateful that I was safe.

Photo by: kvanhorn, courtesy of Flickr
After the errand, I returned, but I knew better than to try and make it up the hill to park. So I parked below. In order to salt the driveway, I used the other snowy side of the driveway to throw out the salt. And then I waited for a bit so that I could scrape.

It took about an hour and a half to get most of the ice off. I think I could have actually put on ice skates and they would have worked, too; at least behind the house, not on the driveway.

At any rate, as much as I hate editing I know it must be done. Some of the tricks I use; some salt ideas if you'd like to call them, include:
  • Let it sit with salt. Putting the book aside for at least two weeks before I go back to it for the first edit. If I can manage to wait even longer, so much the better. The less I know what sentence is going to come next, the better. I need a fresh pair of eyes when it comes to editing. Salt works on a driveway, but it works better if you let it sit awhile.  
  • Get some help. I am a pretty good editor, but not always the best with my own work. Always, always get others to go over your work. They will see things you never will simply because they are a different person without the emotional stake that you have in the project. A sidewalk is always an easier project when you get assistance.
  • Take it slow. After your first edit, clean it up, make adjustments, but don't call it done. After the salt melts there is still some scraping involved. Don't overwork yourself. If you need breaks while getting the rest of the ice off, let it sit even longer. There will usually be spots that need a deeper scraping anyway.
Editing is really a writer's best friend and if done with salt, help and some time, your manuscript will be just where you want it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knowing Your Genre

Knowing your genre is kind of like knowing how to bake a cake. Without all of the right ingredients, your cake might come out flat or lopsided. It might even taste funny.

Photo by: Rhonlynn, courtesy of Flickr

I remember the time I mistakenly put in salt instead of sugar. We keep both our salt and sugar in large white tubs, preferring to buy it in bulk, and this one time I mistook the one for the other.

Nasty, I can tell you.

Photo by: Rasdourian, courtesy of Flickr
We may even bake our cake too long or put in the wrong ingredients, especially if we think we can remember the ingredients in our head and don't need at recipe.

Consider a cake that's frosted before it's cooled.

A science fiction book can be like that, or a murder mystery or a Christian fiction novel. Keeping in mind that not one of the options I've listed above is written the same as the next one, you need to know some specifics in writing the genre of your choice. You need to know the ingredients, the temperature it needs to be cooked at and how long.

If you've never read a science fiction novel you shouldn't be writing one, and that goes for a murder mystery, a Christian fiction novel or anything else. It just doesn't work for you to guess. Trust me.

I tried to write a romance once, having never cared to read one. I thought mine would be better. What I soon discovered was that I had no idea what I was doing and eventually scrapped the project. Sure, I write very small scenes sometimes with a little romance in them, but I haven't considered starting a romance novel since.

Another good way to know your genre is to read nonfiction books from authors who also write the fiction variety. Orson Scott Card, for example, writes Science Fiction and Fantasy. His book, "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy," offers writers knowledge in time, space, magic and story elements needed for these two genres of writing.

Some writers will tell you that the best genre to write is the one that's selling the most, but I beg to differ. Write what you love.

The bottom line is like the bottom of the cake. You don't want it to be burnt so do all you can to know what you need to know to write it right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Keeping Your Writing Interesting

There's nothing like stale writing; sort of like stale toast that you cooked up an hour ago and forgot to eat. How to keep things fresh when it comes to writing takes some planning, a willingness to shift gears quickly, and guts when guts are needed.

Photo by John McCumpha, courtesy of Flickr
Allow me to tackle each fresh idea separately:


Planning is one of those things that takes time. But I like to think of planning like drawing out a map and filling in the cities, states and so forth. When I plan I make sure I know the days and times that I'll be working and the projects I'll be working on. But nothing is en graven in stone. Some general planning for today includes:

1. Putting out 5 marketing items--I'm on 3 currently. I got my books put on, got a video placed on YouTube, and I'm working on #3 here by putting out this blog. (I've learned recently that putting out 5 items a day keeps your work in front of your readers and helps them to remember what you do).

2. Working on my novel for at least two hours between 1 and 3.

Photo by: K. Tyler Conk, courtesy of Flickr
Shift Gears.

There's nothing worse than having a plan and then having your plan interrupted. But know this, it happens to all writers, whether they plan well or not. Shifting gears means putting down your edit so you can get your child a drink of water. It means taking that phone call or answering the door when you don't want to. Now I'm not suggesting you not take your work seriously--there are times I don't answer the phone or the door, but there are other times when I do. I am flexible about this because I know with grandchildren in the house, the need for help can be frequent. When I shift gears easily, instead of fighting it and forcing the outcome that I want, I usually find that I can get back to my writing that much sooner.


It takes guts to keep writing when the house needs cleaning or the wash needs to get done. It takes guts when some of your family members don't understand that your writer is a career and not just a past-time. It takes guts to throw out an entire chapter that isn't working and start over, or chop out that favorite line or paragraph. But when you plan, you also plan to fail (at least sometimes) and you need to have enough courage to keep going even when it hurts.

It also takes guts to leave one project and tackle another or put one aside for two weeks before you go back and revise. 
Keeping your writing interesting takes more than writing every day. It takes planning for success, shifting those gears when necessary, and using your guts even when it hurts.

Especially when it hurts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

5 Tips to Keep Your Blog Going

Honestly, there have been mornings I've had no idea what to write about.

Take this morning for example. And then I remembered a few of the tricks I've used before to get my blog going.
Photo by: Search Engine People Blog, courtesy of Flickr
1. I go to google and type in a word, any word that comes to my head. For example, when I wrote the blog Are You a Prepper? recently, I typed in the word, Prep. Other words that came up: prepaid phones, prepaid landing and preparation h. The interesting thing about this method is that you can really tie in most life experience to being a writer, and folks usually like reading about the life of a writer--could be, even the preparation h one.

2. What happened to me just yesterday or last week? If I focus on what I'm learning as a writer, as I learn it, the ideas are fresh and fun to share with others. I did this when I wrote: What is Real?
3. Sometimes I re post an earlier article that has been getting some great visits. My number one blog post is currently Vacation Ideas Worth Remembering. Interestingly enough, this idea came from idea #1 on this list.

4. Sometimes I've asked readers what they'd like to hear. I've offered a contest. I've asked some questions and received some feedback.

5. I try to keep my blog creative. When it's just easier not to put a picture up or a video, I've tried to resist this urge. People like to see photos and videos will catch their attention.When I decide to do a video, most of my blog is already done anyway. When I post a video I usually don't write much text, wanting those visiting my blog to see what's going on by clicking on the link to the video. Here's an example:

Keeping your blog going is not only about just putting something up, but making that something interesting, reflective, even life changing. And if you're putting out blog 5 days a week or more like I am, you need to apply some pretty interesting tricks to keep the words coming.

Have any ideas that you use to keep your blog interesting? I would love to hear them.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Favorite Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today I thought it quite appropriate to share with you some of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember the day I sat in one of my college classes and I viewed the "I Have a Dream" speech. I was inspired! I felt as if life presented so many great opportunities; my part was overcoming the barriers that hampered my dreams.

Photo by Vince Alongi, courtesy of Flickr
As a writer, I hope you see the wisdom and vision in the "Dream" speech. I hope you realize what we, as writers, can accomplish through Faith, Freedom and Hope. Let's grab hold of the American dream and run with it!

"Faith is making the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."

And finally...
Photo by Tony Fischer Photography, courtesy of Flicker
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Are You a Prepper?

Years ago I became a Pepper. Dr. Pepper was my drink of the day and I loved it. But through the years I discovered some things about Dr. Pepper and my health. It felt pretty good going down, but the after effects were less than desirable. I was bloated, tired and felt as if I needed another Dr. to get me moving again.

I have been off the caffeine trip since August of last year, and I need to tell you I'm doing much better. No doctor necessary. But I have to tell you, I still want that one sip, that one time where I can go out to lunch or dinner and have my favorite drink.

But I haven't done it. I am thinking of my future after all. I want to feel good as much of the time as possible and Dr. Pepper just doesn't do it for me.

So what is a Prepper? you ask.

Photo by: Mullica, courtesy of Flickr
A prepper is usually someone who stocks up on food storage for the end, or maybe not even the end, but the surprising end of a paycheck as they know it, at least for a time. These preppers prepare water, food, toiletries, 24 hour kits, clothes, and on and on.


So they can be prepared.

I like this kind of prepper. It make me think of a writer who does all he/she can do to learn the skills of writing. He/she may have a natural born talent, but this natural God given gift must be honed for greater things. And these greater things called publishing and marketing and selling come only after much preparation. Your preparation might include:
  • Taking a class
  • Joining a writer's group
  • Attending a writer's conference
  • Checking out books at the library and practically devouring them
  • Getting mentored by another writer
  • Mentoring a writer
  • Saving your rejection slips and paying special attention to the hand written notes occasionally found in the margins
  • Taking feedback and criticism
  • Rewriting
  • Being patient
  • Working hard
Being a Prepper when it comes to writing takes guts. Even after you're published, the end is still not clear and you may find yourself groping for new answers to questions that can only be solved by continually moving forward and continuing to learn.

Are you a Prepper?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Growing Zones for Your Next Novel

Something happens to me in the middle of winter. I begin to consider what things are going to look like in the spring.

Perhaps we're all like that. Already tired of piles of snow, wind chill factors, bundling up, trying not to slide on the ice, we're ready for bright blooms, green grass and a walk in the air without being worried about getting too cold.

Growing zones are a bit like that. Sure, there are places in your home that you may still be able to grow a plant, but you'd rather be planting your garden. You may even be able to take a vacation to a warm zone. You can take pictures to remember the sights and the smells, though you probably won't be bringing a plant back.

The best you can do is to enjoy the zone you are in when you're in it rather than complaining about the zone that's there. If you forget like me, the complaining escalates until the enjoyment of the season has diminished to nothing.

Photo by: Smabs Sputzer, courtesy of Flickr
Writing can be a bit like that. We may have a new short story but get hung up on the season we should be writing about. Consider writing about winter the way you are experiencing it right now rather than searching for a fond memory of the past. Not only will you begin to feel some joy, your thoughts will be where they probably need to be to make you the most happy--in the current moment.

Photo by Capt' Courageous, courtesy of

I don't know about you, but my growing zone right now includes piles of white snow, icicles dripping almost to the ground, and trees and trellises filled with crusty, white icy cubes. Just yesterday, all this joy made its way into my new novel and I could feel it.

For this moment at least I'm happy for the growing zone I am experiencing, though not much plant growing is taking place; if you consider plant growing in the literal sense. I have a poinsettia in the living room, still burning red though losing a few of its leaves, but I do have my growing grandchildren to fill in the growing zone gaps.

Believe it or not.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aching Muscles?

Okay, so I've started a new exercise program. You should find me toned and slim by the end of the year. At least that's my hope.

Photo by: sierrafit, courtesy of Flickr
We all want to feel our best, whether the best is physical or something else, but often, as is the case of exercise, we have to deal with sore muscles in the process.

Writing is a bit like that.

It may take us 8 years from the first day we put pen to paper to get our first article published.

We may find that we get more rejection letters than the acceptance sort.

We way even find that after we've published, it is still difficult to publish.

Photo by, courtesy of Flickr

Today my arms are aching from the Just Dance Wii game I use for my exercise routine. But they hurt a lot worse the first and second week. I am trying to get the leg moves down too, though I'm not judged for that according to the system, and I'm exercising 5-6 days a week even if I don't feel like it.

It's true that workout gyms all over the country are big business in January, and even in February, but come March the places are suddenly as empty as a park in winter. I hope that I'll be able to continue, that I won't give up even when it hurts, and that by the end of the year I'll have published that book I told you about yesterday. I also hope that I've helped others published theirs--my ultimate goal when it comes to working out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Writing Out Loud

I don't know about you, but writing for me is a creative endeavor. I'd like to think that I choose the best words for my work and give them even greater life by the way I use them.

Photo by Tony Evans, courtesy of Flickr
But sometimes, I'm quite frankly, stumped.

I'm working on a new book that has been giving me troubles: The title: The Feast. I scrambled for just the right words and direction for months and put the work aside again and again. And then one day I was at lunch with my sisters. I told them about my dilemma, that some words were coming but they didn't seem to be the right ones. I felt like I was forcing some and standing still with others.

The suggestion came. "Why don't you..."

Photo by Moyan Brenn, courtesy of Flickr
Now if I were to tell you what my sisters said, I would be giving away the plot, so just let me say this: I got started on my book just the other day and the story is flowing nicely.

Photo by: Horia Varlan, courtesy of Flickr
Talking about your plot struggles can open the doors to continued writing. There is something about sharing where you're at and allowing others who care about you to fill in the gaps. It's kind of like trying to see the forest through the trees. Sometimes you need some distance and another set of eyes to really get the picture of where your book should be going!

I'm glad I listened.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mentor a Writer

One of the best ways I know of to increase your writing skills and to help someone with their own is to mentor them.

I began mentoring about a year ago, and with that choice I have discovered some surprising things not only about others but about myself.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. When you mentor, you have to be open to listen. It isn't enough to spout off what you know, you must listen and learn where the writer is at and have the courage to start from where they're at.

Photo by: US Department of Education, courtesy of Flickr

2. Whether you choose to offer your mentoring services for free or for a fee is your decision. You may have had a mentor who mentored you and now you are paying it forward, or you may decide to start a business where the mentoring comes with a price tag. Whatever you decide, know the writer comes before anything else--that means the money you might be making, the kudos you might be receiving both vocal and silent, and the new clients you might receive because of what you do.

If your primary concern is to help the writer to be successful and they get that, they will be successful.

3. You may get some feedback such as, "Slow down, you're moving too fast with this concept," or "I don't understand. Explain it again." The writer you are mentoring may even say, "I'm not so sure we're going in the right direction. Can we try this?" As a mentor, you need to be open to the feelings of the writer. After all, they know themselves better than you do.

4. It's important as a mentor to know when to let the writer move forward in his/her life. There comes a time when you've shared what you know and they've applied it. They may find that it's time to break away for a season or for good--and that doesn't necessarily mean that you did a horrible job. It may mean that they are standing on their own two feet, a good thing if they ever hope to become a successful writer.

5. Mentoring another writer also gives you experience in editing. I don't know about you, but editing is a difficult procedure, especially when you're editing your own work. Allow the writer to help you polish this skill.

Above all, have fun. As a mentor you develop new friendships; new connections that may continue for years to come. There is a special connection, sometimes spiritual, sometimes emotional that occurs between a client and his/her mentor, a connection that can never be erased.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Take a Class

I've probably spoken about classes before, but the direction bears repeating.

Writing classes do multiple things for you:
  • They get you involved with other students and other types of writing. You just may learn something from another student. Students as a rule are at varying writing levels, so some students may learn from you, while you might learn from a more expert student.
  • They connect you with a teacher who cares about you and your work. He/she critiques your work and hopefully gives you ideas on how to improve it.
  • You get the opportunity to vocally share your work. The very best writing classes don't let you hide your writing.
  • You are sometimes able to critique the writing of your classmates, thereby learning a bit about editing.
  • Photo by PalFest, courtesy of Flickr
  • You may get a new idea for a book or short story.
When it comes to taking a class, the amount you pay for it doesn't always reflect what you'll be getting. So check the following things out before you sign up.
  • What has the teacher published? Do their published works reflect what you do? Though it isn't always important for the teacher to write in the same genre, an instructor who writes fantasy will fit in easier with a student who writes fantasy over someone who writes children's books, for example.
  • What is the cap on students? Do you want a more one-on-one opportunity, or would a larger group better suit your needs?
  • Will you critique other students' work, or will your work be primarily from the teacher? I personally like the option of getting a response from other students in the class as well as the thoughts of the teacher.
  • How many weeks is the class? A six to eight week class is great, but if you want to take a college level class, you're looking at a longer period in which you will probably be graded. And, I've said this before, but college level courses, even if they're labeled creative writing or fiction, may not be, so make sure you're in with the write instructor.
Taking a class keeps you writing, and if nothing else, allows you the opportunity to write without giving yourself excuses. Usually classes will have assignments that will be expected to be completed, leaving you little room for ducking out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing the Spiritual Novel

Considering writing a spiritual novel?

When I think of a spiritual novel, I am thinking of a novel chuck full of inspiration and motivation. If you consider the works of C.S. Lewis you will also understand what I mean.

Who is the Lion but Christ?
Who is the White Witch but Satan?
What is truly happening at the stone table? The Crucifixion.

If you're interested in writing a spiritual novel, you're not alone, and that's a good thing. There is still much good in the world and authors the world over are discovering ways to share what they know is true.

When I sat down to write Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones I had in mind a short book that told a story about someone overcoming an obstacle. At the same time I wanted to use scripture and the five stones that David gathered before he met up with Goliath.

Writing a spiritual novel is kind of like reading the scriptures or praying or having that contemplative moment. You take your knowledge and experience in the spiritual realm and apply it to the story you're writing. This writing cannot be hurried. As in the story above, you must Listen, Trust, have some Optimism that God will help you, keep going with Tenacity and always retain that Constancy needed with God to get you through.

Is that easy?


Photo by Mike Cogh, courtesy of Flickr
But I'd like to think that writing the spiritual novel is made that much easier as long as we are willing to tune in.

Year ago I heard the story of an old fashioned radio. This radio had a dial that had to be turned to the right or to the left to find the exact station. If the radio station wasn't on the exact spot, the dial not in its correct spot, static resulted.

I'd like to compare this story to writing the spiritual novel. If you're feeling a bit of static, if you're feeling as if the story isn't coming along as it should, or it feels rough or wrong, it probably is. Tune in. In your own personal life you probably know how to do that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writing For Beginners

Are you a beginning writer?

Many years ago I categorized myself as a beginner, and in many ways I still am.

Just 10 years ago I learned about marketing for the first time.
Photo by: Scinern, courtesy of Flickr
And just last year I managed to publish 4 books in one year and open a book publishing service company.

I am still learning. And I hope if you're a beginning writer like I am you'll also take a look at what you've accomplished and what is still to come. Setting goals is vital, but working on them daily is necessary to success.

Being a beginner is not a bad thing. It just means your eyes are wide open to learning new skills.

Have you never taught a class before? I taught my first writing class some 10 years ago, took a break while going to school, and then had to get up on the bicycle again. Tough.

I remember the first writer's group I went to. I was scared...spitless. But I went and shared my work. It was published work but I was still mortified. And I got through it.

Photo by Ned Richards, courtesy of Flickr
Your first book signing (if you haven't had one yet will be thrilling and scary) but after you do it once, it will be that much easier the next time. Your interview on the radio will be difficult, but you will find that after it's over that it was easier than you thought.

Are you a beginning writer?

I hope so.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What is Real?

I'm often asking myself this question.

For example, is real life war, crime, and suffering?

Or is real life love, a connection with God, and reaching out to others?

Photo by: Matt McGee, courtesy of Flickr
You might think I look at the world through rose colored classes, but I prefer the latter answer. It just doesn't make any sense to me to be afraid all of the time, to think less of people and what they are doing to each other and to the world.

Though I know this sort of stuff happens on a daily basis, I try not to focus on the bad but rather the good in life.

Photo by: Moyan_Brenn, courtesy of Flickr
We get plenty of bad without even looking for it.

So why do we have to try so hard to see the good?

Reflect on that for a moment.

Consider the movies that are made. Think about the sorts of things that you watch. Reflect on why you like what you like.

I used to watch soap operas until my dreams got in the way of reality. Yes, people have the sort of problems acted out in soap operas, and folks can get involved in crime and go to jail, and we like that sort of thing, but is it real?

When it comes to writing, whether it's fiction, nonfiction or a children's book, are we considering what is real? Is goodness a part of our story? Is it what wins over the adversary? Do we focus on the goodness of the main character; is this why he/she makes the change in his/her life?

Life may include war, crime and suffering but the the reality is much deeper, and it takes some work to find it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Get Away Today With Your Writing

I don't know about you, but I am usually not able to take a vacation on the spur of the moment. I usually have to save my money for a few months, maybe even years, to get where I want to get going.

Photo by: TooFarNorth, courtesy of Flickr
But a funny thing happens when I write. I am suddenly transported to another world, another country, another time, and I am able to get away and return with the same results.

I enjoy the setting.
I meet new people.
I visit new places.
I feel refreshed upon my return.

Photo by: Matthew Kenwrick, courtesy of Flickr
How about you?

If you're listening to your heart and writing what you feel inspired to write, then you are probably already getting away with your writing. But if you feel as if you must write to the market. Write what's selling. Write what will bring in the most money, you're probably not getting away like you should.

If this is you, I would recommend a personal evaluation.

Since this is a new year, consider where you want to be traveling in the near future.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wrestling With the Written Word

When the words you are using in your next writing project aren't coming easily, it might be equally easy to think that somehow you've lost your writer's touch.

Some folks call this "writers block," but I don't like the sound of that and try not to use it when it comes to my own writing.

When we wrestle with getting our words on paper or on computer screen, when we can't seem to find the right word for the sentence or the best way to describe a scene or character we might call this writer's block.

But the truth is, what is blocking us has nothing to do with writing but how we are currently dealing with life. For example, we may be struggling because we feel as if we have little time to write and so are trying to hurry. We might feel that the words we use are juvenile or inadequate, and to make our writing perfect all that we need is a good thesaurus. We may even try to push our words onto the paper. No matter what, I'm going to write this book. Even if it kills me.

Time. I'm currently working on a new book, but nothing is really coming yet, and so I'm using my time to write other things that are coming easily to me and taking notes when ideas come for the other project. I will continue to collect ideas until the light bulb turns on and I know it is time to write. Yes, some of my books have appeared from the get-go (I knew what to write from the first sentence forward) other books and stories have needed some time to gel. And so I'm giving this particular project some time.

Another great idea. Cut out some words from magazines. Choose 10 randomly. Use the 10 words to begin something new.
Photo by: Nina J.G.
Lack of Confidence. When we feel down about ourselves, we often have a hard time believing that we can write. We're no good, after all, and our confidence in our abilities is shot. When I'm feeling this way I go through my magazine pictures and write what I see. I put my current projects aside and have some fun writing something that may never be used. Another thing I do is to go back and re-read portions of manuscripts that others have told me that they like, or even love.

Pressure. If we're forcing our words on paper, we're not allowing inspiration to fill us and carry us forward. When this happens, the words we write are stilted and weak. We may even find that we can only write a few sentences before we feel we have "writers block." What we are really doing is writing without inspiration. When this happens I take a break and do something else. I may pray. I may read my scriptures. I may a take a moment and write a letter. Consider what inspires you other than your writing project and take a few minutes.

If you're currently wrestling with the written word consider what may be causing it. Whether you're dealing with a time issue, a lack of confidence issue or pressure to write when you don't feel like it, take a moment or two and consider the source.

You'll be back to writing. I promise.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Publishing Without Worry

Is there really such a thing?

I believe there is. And the truer you are to yourself, the less worry you will have.

Years ago, when I published my first book through a local publisher I worried about everything. Will the cover look right? Will the price of the book be what it needed to be? Would the editing be sufficient? Would I really know how to market when the time came?

So many publishing little time
Photo by: Joe Ross, courtesy of Flickr
Suffice it to say I had more questions than I had answers.

What troubled me the most was how little input I had for my project. Sure, I could suggest a cover idea, but the price would be set at $18 and the editing would be done by someone in-house, someone I didn't know. As for the marketing, I was expected to do most of it. And this was a very scary prospect for someone publishing her first book.

But if I could do it over again...

I would suggest making a list. On this list I'd write down everything I needed in a publishing company. What I wanted.  What I needed.

Would you like to give it a shot? Then get out some paper, right now. Now, write down a list of your concerns. Your desires might include a particular publisher, I particular cover, a particular editor or contract... Take a few minutes, at least 10, and write those things that come to you.

Now, let's take a look.

Do you find that most of your issues concern not knowing how to find a national, local, or print-on-demand publisher? Do you want to choose your own cover or want someone else to do it for you? What about an editor? Do you want to provide your own or do you want to go with an expert within a publishing house? And what if you don't get accepted with the publisher of your choosing?

Photo by Kevin Zollman, courtesy of Flickr
I find that questions like these get us to the gut answers of who we are and what we want. Having our concerns on paper takes much of the worry off our back; what we have instead is a list to help us to our goal.

Honestly, if I'd done such a list in the beginning, I might not have started with a local publisher, and yet, I probably wouldn't be where I am today either. Through that experience I realized that what I really wanted was to have my hands on all of the aspects of publishing, from idea to creation.

Still, as I look back, I can see that when I stuck to my guns I was the happiest. And it didn't matter what anyone else thought about my journey into publishing, what really mattered is what I thought and what I did with it. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Learn About Self Publishing!

Today, January 2, 2013, I will be part of a panel discussing my journey into self-publishing and starting my new publishing services company.

If you've ever wanted to publish
If you've ever desired more of a hands on experience
If you want to know how to market your work

Come and join me!

Place: Holladay Library, 2150 East 4800 South
Time: 7 p.m.


Happy Writing!