Three Things Thursday!

And we have a guest!

My friend Scott Rhoades, recently took a month-long sabbatical and wrote the whole time. I asked him to tell you about his experience because he put out a whopping number of words. Here it is:


I recently had four weeks of paid time off from work, and I spent it writing. 30 days of living the writing life. It was wonderful.
I spent the first week on a project I had been querying. In the recent PitchWars, a Middle Grade manuscript I considered finished got an excellent response. However, feedback was unanimous that my book was too short. So I fixed that. I spent a week revising my work in progress to get it ready to start querying. In the last two weeks, I started a new project. Overall, I wrote just under 50,000 words while also spending many hours editing.
In the process, I learned some things that might help those of you who are doing Nano this year.
Follow a Routine
I’m most productive between about 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  So, I was in my office (my Schreibwinkel) by about 9:30 every day. I started as early as 7:30 and as late as 10:00, but on all but a few days, I was in my chair before 10:30 and didn’t stop until around 2:00 or 2:30. I worked through my most productive time and stopped when I felt the mojo waning.
Because I wrote at the beginning of my day, every day, I woke up ready to go. Sometimes, my morning dreams were even related to the work I needed to do that day.
Minimize Distractions
My family is used to leaving me alone in my Schreibwinkel. I frequently work from home, so they’ve been trained for years to let me. They know  if they leave me alone for a few hours, I’m theirs when I’m done. Most things they need from me can wait.
I like to listen to music when I write, to drown out or disguise background noises like talking, which interferes with my thoughts. Over the years, I’ve learned that putting my music on shuffle instead of listening to favorites works for me because I don’t pay as much attention to the songs.
Take Breaks
Because my writing period is fairly long, I took breaks. Some were informally scheduled. For example, there were several days when I wrote from 9 until about 10, then stopped for breakfast.
There were also scheduled breaks. There were days when my writing group scheduled writing sprints where we worked for a specified period, then checked in with each other on Facebook.
Each writer has unique break needs. Some of us can only write for so many minutes without a pause. Some of us need to look away from the screen now and then during an intense scene so we can keep enough distance to write well. And some cannot stop without breaking the spell.
I know when I need a break. My only real rule was that I didn’t allow myself to become distracted by another task. My breaks were no longer than necessary, and my family understood that I might have shown my face, but my time was not theirs yet.
This is what worked for me. My family situation allows me to work this way. I’m not the only caregiver in the house during the day, like a lot of moms (especially) are. And I already have work routines when I’m home.
The result of putting structure around my writing time was that I remained productive, and that I enjoyed my writing time because other stresses are reduced as much as possible during those hours.
From Brenda
NaNo starts this week!  And one of the best encouragements they’ve ever sent out was from a woman several years ago who was serving overseas in the army.  She’d done NaNo for several years, and she didn’t want to “lose” that particular year.  She was out in a desert, with no electricity, no computer, etc.  Yet every night she would write out her words by hand.  When her commanding officer asked her what the “bleep” she was doing every night, she explained the Novel Writing month to him.  She indicated that being SO far away from home, like everyone else, this was one thing she was trying to hang onto.  I’m supposing it made her feel as if she were still HER SELF.  Probably the only thing that did.  When he saw her dedication, and how much it cost her in sleep (and probably anxiety of a different sort), he watched her write away night after night.  In the last few days, he asked how it was coming, and whether she thought she could make her 50K.  As the deadline drew closer, he came to her one night and presented her with a typed version of everything she’s written so far.  Her orders, the next day, were to KEEP WRITING and finish that thing.  Others were transcribing her notes for her. Later he was able to announce that, by army vehicle, bus, train, plane and submarine, her words were being carried to the U.S. and all were hoping beyond hope they would arrive and be sent to NaNo headquarters in time.  Just before midnight, he got word and announced to all and sundry that her manuscript had been delivered, minutes before the deadline, and she had been declared a NaNo “WINNER,” to which all her buddies gave a resounding “OOO-RAH!” and, for a moment, felt a little bit of “home” again.
So what makes me think I haven’t got time to write EVERY DAY in November ! ! !
I’m going for it !
From Cheryl
Lately, there seems to be a push to replace helpless princesses for butt-kicking heroines in movies and books.
My question is, is this really any better?
It’s true, less than 1% of the population will ever have Cinderella’s body, and far fewer than that will marry a legally recognized prince. But how many will be able to have the body of Scarlett Johansson and the ability to fight off dozens of highly trained, armed men without messing up their hair?
Really, aren’t we just replacing one impossible standard for another?
What happened to the Jane Eyres? The women whose virtues were their greatest strength, rather than anything physical? The “superpowers” of these heroines were integrity, compassion, and hope. These are women that every girl can aspire to be, and that every girl can achieve.
And quite honestly, I think the world could use a few more Jane Eyres rather than vigilante superheroes.


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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

NOTE: The girls and I have been moving and are still moving. I didn’t have internet access last week but WILL begin posting again!

From Kyra

I don’t think Mom got the chance to post my blog last week. Maybe she did.

Either way, I’m sure it was horribly written.

Only a couple more days left in this month.
I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed in myself. I was hoping to have an entire draft of this new novel written, and I just haven’t gotten to that point.
I’ve let a lot of things distract me.

Such as:

Boys. Guys that don’t like me, even if I don’t like them then decide to like them then they decide not to like me. Whatever. I hate dating and I’ve realized I’ll be forever alone. Sometimes I don’t give two shits about that fact, other days, like today, I kind of do. Aloney McGony.

Jobs/Lack of money/Being screwed over. I finally started a new job. Hopefully I can handle the stress of it. But anything is better than being as poor as I have been. Thank God for Mom’s food storage. Also my old landlord has been trying to cheat me and my sister out of a small amount of money. I’ve come to realize he must do this with all his tenants. May end up being a small claim’s court issue.

Moving. Myself and moving Mom. It’s taken a big part of my energy. But I’m so happy to see Mom in a house of her own, that it’s totally worth it.

My biggest issue has been insecurities.
I don’t remember when I lost my self confidence, if it happened overnight, or if it was just something that has slowly happened over the years. Either way, it’s really killed my writing. I can’t seem to get out of it.

But I will say this:

I get lovely notes from my lovely agent every few days, and it helps. Even just a little. Sometimes being happy, and writing, and all that other jazz, is just focusing on the good in life. Even if it seems like there isn’t a lot.

I’m just a giant baby bird right now. And soon I think I’ll get out of this slump and go back to being happy and confident and blah blah blah.

Either way, I just have to keep writing. KEEEP GOOOOING!


Filed under Agents, Depression, Kyra, Life, writing process

Halloween is only a few days away!

A few things:

1. Ally Condie’s launch party for her new book ATLANTIA is tonight at the Provo Library! Come!

2. Write a 25 word scary story and email it to us at We’ll post them on Halloween and scare all the kiddies.

3. My son loves grape juice. LOVES IT. I am paying for this love. Yesterday he sprayed grape juice all over the ceiling. Today he did this:

grape juice

This is my life when I’m not writing. What is your life? If you send us pictures to the above email address, we’ll also feature them not on Halloween but on other important days. Make sure to label your pic with your name and whatever else you’d like to share about your life as a writer.


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Preparation in Pictures!

Here’s what I’ve been doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo:

1. Laying in bed staring at the yellow leaves on the tree outside.


They are slowly falling and I told my husband that when the last leaf falls . . . well . . .

For a more dramatic version, go here. 

NaNoWriMo Prep: Turn everything i see into a horrible story.

2. Making bottles of grape juice that we may never drink because I want them to be bottles of jelly but two of our burners don’t work and I’ve never made jelly so it will probably just be mushy juice but I’m still making juice in hopes of jelly and then when I’m done I am going to say a small prayer that we don’t waste them and somehow find a way. Somehow . . .


NaNoWriMo Prep: Do it even if I don’t have any idea how I’m going to make it work–no idea how it will end, if it’s any good, or if it’s worth my time and effort. Because if I don’t try at all, all I’ll have is rotten grapes and sad feelings of knowing what could have been. A winter without jelly is a melancholy winter indeed.

3. Feeling good about myself because I planned and worked out an amazing project I was going to do at a craft night (MODGE PODGE!!!!!) for church. Cam was my coach as I prepared for the two hours of intense crafting (which I am the worst at and try to avoid at all costs). He even found me some excellent websites to read up on and study. Here and here. 

And then I actually made the light (with the help of about fifty awesome ladies) and I was feeling pretty proud of the results:


See how gorgeous that big fat ball is? Just like Pinterest!

But then today:


Collapsed. Awful. Big huge glue ball with some string on it.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Don’t be sad if what I think is awesome is actually not so awesome. I went through the process. I know how to do it now. I have ideas of what I need to do next time to make it better. Some writers write the entire first draft and then CLICK delete the whole thing and start over. It’s not a failure! It’s a beginning.

And finally

4. Watching this belly grow:

IMG_1803 (1)

This is maybe my best selfie ever. And I take thousands. THOUSANDS I say. I am very far along with this baby (I won’t tell you how far because I have watched Lifetime Network movies many many times). Needless to say, I am gigantic. HUGE. In the best possible way (I keep telling myself).

NaNoWriMo Prep: No research or planning or computer programs beat life itself. Live now and use it later for your books.

That’s all I got! Happy Tuesday.


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And Another Thing!

Still thinking about the writing next month?

Quick questions–are you writing a book NOW, too?

How do you do both?

Set aside time every day for your main WIP. BUT give yourself 15 minutes daily to prepare for next month.

Here’s a little something to work on:

There are a couple of ways to drive a story forward. One is with an intriguing plot. Another is with emotion–a feeling that flows through a novel.

So, I have to back up here. Once my sister stayed a summer with our wonderful grandmother and read romance after romance. My sister wrote me a letter. It went something like this: This afternoon I wandered through the darkened halls of Nanny’s home. The wood reflected my auburn-colored hair, like a fire in a fireplace. When I stepped into freedom, I saw the chiseled jaw of the mailman as he placed letters–love letters–in the mailbox. I ran across the field, grass whipping at my ankles, my gown slipping down my shoulders, revealing a bit of my ample breasts.

Okay–it wasn’t exactly that letter (she was like, 13), but sorta like that. There was a feeling in those Harlequins that Sam conveyed in her letter, making me laugh my guts out.

All our writing should have emotion.

In your 15 minutes today, play around with emotions you hope might be in your novel.

Do this for a few days this month. A quick emotion rush. Do heartbreak, sadness, fear, joy, loathing, love, excitement.

That first glimpse of the villain. That parting kiss from the murderer. That joke from a loved one.

Mix it up.

Have fun!


PS Our next get together will be the first week of December to talk about NaNo!


Filed under Character, Chris, Life, Plot, writing process

Pushing Ahead

by Lisa Sledge

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I don’t think I’ll be joining the chaos this year—too much of that in my life already! Instead I’m focusing on finishing the rewrite of my WIP and making sure it’s submission ready. I’ve never queried a novel before.

And that’s scary enough.

Speaking of scary, there’s been a lot of discussion here about our writerly fears. I think deep down we’re all a bunch of chicken-livered scaredy-pants. But we’re also freaking awesome because we put our writing out there for the world to see anyway. Doing something in spite of how bad it scares you is the definition of bravery.

What do you do when you’re afraid? When you feel tempted to listen to the nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you your writing stinks worse than the leftovers molding in your refrigerator?

Here’s a brief list of ideas on how to distract yourself from your fears:

Call a writing friend and go out for ice cream.
Watch a really bad movie and laugh at it. Ever seen the movie Troll 2? It’s one of the greatest low budget scary movies of all time. Watch it with friends and lots of chocolate. Your sides will hurt from laughing.
Reread all the best parts of your favorite book.
Get dressed up to write. Do your hair, your make-up, and put on your best outfit. Then get to work. Writing in pjs is great, but sometimes it feels good to mix things up.
Go on a walk or a jog before writing. Visit the gym. Do something to get your blood pumping.
Turn up the volume to your favorite song and sing along.
Take a deep breath, sit your butt down, and get the job done. Remind yourself that you’ll have all the time you need to go back and fix it up later.

What are your favorite tricks for pushing ahead?

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Three Things Thursday

I’ve been studying SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder.  It’s supposed to be “the Last Book on Screenwriting that you’ll ever need.” So, I’m going to write a screenplay for NaNoWriMo in November?  Not at all.  But a lot of novelists are giving Snyder’s work a good look because so much of it applies to novel writing as well.
His first suggestion is that, BEFORE you write your script (think novel), you write a good “logline” (think elevator pitch).  A short, pithy something that really explains “What is it?”  Snyder suggests it should contain 4 major elements:  1) irony, 2)a compelling mental picture, 3) an idea of the target audience (and cost of production for a movie), and 4) a “killer title.”
He gives plenty of examples from movies you’d probably know, or at least know OF.  For one: LEGALLY BLONDE.  In just those 2 words, Snyder shows the irony of the blonde ditz going to an upscale university, an immediate reaction to the mental picture of such a woman being in this position which would obviously appeal to a lot of women of  “a certain age” — especially those just younger, the same, or just older than the main character — and the Killer Title, which says so much more than others like “Barbie Goes To Harvard,” “Totally Law School,” or “Airhead Apparent.”
Write a “logline” or SHORT elevator pitch for your current WIP!  How could that help focus your story?
I’d like to second Brenda’s suggestion above. I always say you should be able to tell what your book is about in 25 words or less. I could do that easily with THE CHOSEN ONE–a 13 yr old girl must decide if she will marry her polygamist uncle or escape the life she knows. That’s 20-ish words. However, when I was working on THE HAVEN, for a long time I couldn’t say what my book was about in 25 words or less. I rambled. It’s this girl. She lives in this place. There’s a secret. And a boy. She has a best friend . . . Made no sense because, for a few years, I didn’t know what I was writing about. And guess what? I couldn’t write it, either. Know what your book is about! It will save you lots of grief!
PS THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU’LL EVER GET HERE ON TUP: I use this 25 word rule with people I am talking to, too. Got a long-winded friend and no time to listen? When they start a story say, “Tell it in 25 words or less.” Got someone who has to tell you about his book and you can see it’ll take ten minutes for him to get it done? Say, “Tell it in 25 words or less.” Maybe DON’T say it to a cop who’s pulled you over. But maybe yes to a cop who’s your pal. Use it with Sunbeams, Laurels, and next door neighbors. Best of all, use it on yourself.

There are hundreds of studies about why people love fairy tales, but the truth is, no one can really know. All we know is that some stories stay with us and are passed down to our children and our children’s children.

What’s important to us as writers is analyzing the aspects of fairy tales that we love most.

For me, I love the idea of falling in love with the person you were meant to be with all along. Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty fits this, as does Shannon Hale’s GOOSE GIRL.

I don’t find it romantic when you have to fight the world to be together. I don’t want the people I love most to despise the person I’m with. I want to believe that my family and friends love me and know me well enough to be able to pick the man I love out of a line-up, without me telling them. That’s why the ending of ROMEO AND JULIET works for me, because when you have to fight everyone for your “true” love (and after a week, was it really love?) everyone ends up miserable.

What about you? Which fairy tales work for you? Which fall flat?

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