Three Things Thursday

I remember when I was 11 or 12, I became “inspired” to write the greatest Christmas story EVER. I had a special pen and a special notebook and I would get down under the Christmas tree to write with only twinkly lights to see by.
I’m pretty sure it involved an orphanage, snow, and a little girl that believed in Santa no matter what anyone told her. A terminal disease may have been involved.  I’m also pretty sure I never finished it.
I can definitely say that it wasn’t the greatest Christmas story EVER. The lights didn’t cast magic over my words and make them better.
But the experience of writing…that was magical. In this world of instant gratification and results-based judgment, we sometimes forget about how important experiences are. Sometimes you’ll work for months or years on a story and it will come to nothing. That’s not a failure. You only fail if you learn nothing from it.
So take the risk. Try that story you’re afraid to waste time on. It might be stupid. It might be unoriginal.
Or it might be the greatest story EVER.
Some of us already have goals for next year.  Some of us are thinking about it.  Some of us haven’t made goals, unless they’re about NOT having goals and “setting ourselves up for defeat.”
In this week before Christmas, I’d like to suggest we all give ourselves a break.  For instance, one of my goals is to write AT LEAST 750 words a day.  Maybe I should think about NOT obsessing over the “every day” thing, just for this week.
I’d like to make writing a priority over most other things.  But here’s a list of things writing should NOT trump:
Dear friends
The real spirit of Christmas
Taking care of myself: eating, sleeping, remembering to take necessary meds
Have a Merry Christmas season with all your REAL priorities in mind!
Tomorrow is our last post for a week.
And so I wanted to tell you several things–
Thank you for being my friends.
Thank you for loving good books and writing good books.
Thank you for following Ann Dee and me and Kyra along for the last few years.
The very best blessings to you and yours.
And may this season bring you the most joy possible.
Love, love, love.

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Hey Guyzzzzz

I’ve been really bad at posting. Working retail during the holidays can be time consuming.

But that’s okay.

So writing.

Writing during the holidays has also been a pain. So has the drama I’ve been dealing with. As well as crushes, and parties, and everything else that’s a distraction. {Like watching the entire third season of American Horror Story in just two weeks…}

But I’m still getting a little bit on the page. I sent the first pages of my newest novel to my agent, and he seemed to like it. So that gave me some faith.

Writing is hard.

Did anyone else ever realize that?
Writing is hard.
Living is harder.

But look at us. We’re going both! And we rock at it! {Especially mom and Ann Dee!}

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And Another Thing . . .

So I was writing out my goals, one of those things I LOVE to do. I pen 200 + goals and accomplish 15 and feels mostly good about what I’ve done. Anyway, I was working on getting them all down (still am, actually) when I got a fortune cookie. No, it didn’t just fly in the air and land on my desk. The girls and I went for take out. And not New York take out like in Two Weeks Notice. Anyway, my fortune said this: “You don’t have to be perfect to be successful.”


I was sorta floored.


I’m always trying to be the best I can at lots of things. And I know I won’t be perfect, but what’s so bad about trying to be perfect?


The pressure. The stinking pressure perfection-seeking causes.


Here’s the deal–I needed that fortune. The part where it says I can still be successful.


There are so many books to work on and then I’ll be teaching again and I have to worry about my five daughters and wonder about child support and alimony and if that will ever be paid and if I have thoughtful presents and will I pay the bills on time and (since I’m LDS) will I do my church work the best I can and will we do a good job with my mother and there are so many things that need to be done on this house and boxes to unpack and I don’t have health insurance and Elise’s gall bladder is hurting her all the time now and there are three dogs to care for, three, and the conference, oh! the conference, and I have sick friends that I miss and friends who have big jobs to accomplish and I have to think of them and am I good example and how do I stop losing my temper and there are several broken hearts at my house and a few new loves and the blog, does it even matter to anyone, and Ann Dee has a new baby and I’ve only seen her once and the list just keeps going and going and going.


This is why I have so many goals.


I want to accomplish so many things.


I want to be really successful. Live off my writing. Stay these last days at home with my mom and daughters before the girls are caring for me.


But I don’t have to be perfect in all these areas. I just have to keep working.


Yes, I like this fortune.

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An Exercise in Reading

by Lisa Sledge

Want to grow as a writer? Here’s a study tip.

Go to your book shelf at home and pull down your favorite novel. It should be the one you’ve read fifteen times and keep going back to for highlights. Then open your laptop and bring up a new word document.  Create an outline, with each chapter of the book as a new section heading. Then read.

In your outline, record how the author conveys characterization, where they give hints of foreshadowing, and any main events that move the plot along and create the novel’s pace.

It takes a few days, maybe longer, but it will amaze you how the artist’s craft reveals itself and how much you learn about the creation of a good story.


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Three Things Thursday

From Cheryl

By the time you read this, I will be 39 weeks pregnant.

I’m massive.

I’m cranky.

My hormones are out of control.

I cried for almost half an hour the other day because I was craving In-N-Out but I’d already eaten and wasn’t hungry enough to eat again.

It made me think of what a fantastic unreliable narrator I would be. Just because my “problems” don’t make sense to anyone else doesn’t mean they aren’t real to me in the moment. Pregnancy makes non-issues seem like the apocalypse. Things get twisted and turned in my head and I feel like the whole world is against me. Everyone and everything seems to be picking on me personally. Fears and anxieties explode into full-blown terrors.

Unreliable narrators can make for fascinating novels. You never know whether or not to trust what they say, and yet you want to believe them. But to make them realistic, you have to be able to follow their logic, as twisted as it may be. They always have a reason for what they do and how they think.

Are you using an unreliable narrator? What problems have you run into?


From Brenda

Books We Love
Someone posted an on-line piece which said “When I recommend a favorite book to someone, I find that I’m jealous of the fact that they get to be reading it for the first time.”  And I SO feel that way!
Subsequently, I liked the post, shared it on my FB, then — in answer to it and a couple of questions from “friends,” I recommended THE EIGHT – a book out from years and years ago about an oil cartel, a Chess Master, a gorgeous U.S. female brainiac and computer expert, with flash-backs of the French Revolution.  A fascinating and curious path in an excellent book by Katherine Neville – the only book I can think of that I’ve ever read five times, other than, possibly, a couple of the Oz books when I was a kid.
For something of newer vintage, I suggested ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr, about a young blind girl in France and a pre-teen boy forced into service for the Hitler Youth organization in Germany. About a particular area during WW II, it is the most beautiful and touching writing you can imagine (if you love words, you’ll love the “poetry” of the language) and a fascinating picture of the era.  READ IT ! ! ! It’s long, but a surprisingly quick read with many, very short chapters.
What are YOU reading that you’d recommend for the “new” year?  We’d like to know.
From Carol
Write a scene from your character’s POV about their favorite holiday.

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A Few Reminders on Making a Character Real

She feels real to you. You dream about her, know you could pick her out in a crowd, even love most things about her. But the main character–actually, ALL the characters in your book–must feel real to the reader. Here are a few hints to help you achieve this goal.

1. Consider all the emotions real people feel and allow your character to feel that range of emotions.

2. Remember that character should drive the plot. That means your character’s emotional decisions can help move the story forward, too. You and I might act differently at a bank robbery. How would your character act?

3. If your character is in a certain situation, imagine how you would feel and let the reader see that. If you are connected to the character, you can imagine what she’s going through. In original ways, let us see the heart of your character.

4. Dig deeper than ‘I felt sad, baby.’ Sad can be monitored on a scale. You can be sad so that a Mars Almond Bar picks you up and you can be so sad you feel God has lost faith in you. This depth of feeling makes emotion ring true.

5. A human isn’t perfect, so that means your character must have flaws. She can’t be too good or too bad.

6. Simple reactions can help a reader understand a little more about your character. She’s afraid of dogs? Maybe that means she skips the dog clips on Facebook. She’s missing her dad who is overseas serving as a spy in a foreign government? Maybe a certain smell reminds her of him and makes her weep–but not where others will see her.

7. Beware cliche. I know, I know. No one understands pain like a teen. Or even like you. But many times the emotion becomes lackluster. Find new ways to say things.

There! I’ve been writing for about 12 minutes and I’m putting a time limit on these blogs so I can get to the two books I wanted to finish last month.

Remember what we have said lots of times, Good Writing is in the Detail. Make your story completely yours by writing lines that will take our breath away, make us laugh, make us cry. When your reader connects emotionally to a book, you have a reader for life. And that’s a  great thing.

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Three Things Thursday


It used to be assumed that teens had no interest in politics, and that politics had no place in YA novels.

However, I think J.K. Rowling successfully disproved that. Harry Potter is full of political themes, everything from civil rights to executive actions during wartime. Same with Hunger Games. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Hunger Games has more politics than romance.

And yet teens don’t bat an eye. They don’t skip over the political parts, they revel in them. They debate them. And perhaps most importantly, they begin to shape their own world views based on them.

Both protagonists and antagonists can be strengthened by having their own political views. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the time to get on your soap box and wax poetic about why a certain party is better than another. This is something that goes on behind the scenes. Something that you as the author know, but is never mentioned.

So ask yourself: Which of your characters support abortion? Gun control? Freedom of religion? Free speech? Universal healthcare? And most importantly, why do they feel this way?

Write it all down, but don’t reveal it. Then watch how your characters take on new life.



Did you make it?
No, I don’t mean did you “win” NaNo — I mean did you meet your goal for November? Now, what was it again? Did you lose the two pounds? Walk every single day? Cook a “real” meal for your family at least once a week?
Well, OK: did you meet or exceed whatever your goal was — and, yes, tell us what it was and how long it took to get there. (If it was 50K at NaNo, fine. If it was something else entirely, but you accomplished your
goal, even better.)
My ultimate goal was to get 50K for NaNo.  I made it by 10pm or so last night – was far enough behind I had to do a massive day of writing.
My extra goal was to get my weight down a bit.  Hey, Thanksgiving, and all! OK, I gained back the 3 lbs. I’d lost in early November.  I’ll do better this month.  Except for Christmas.  But if I don’t celebrate it EVERY day . . .
I hate to bring this up, what with the coming holidays and all, but now what’s your goal for December?
New goal: Keep working on the NaNo novel, even though I “won” it’s not a finished work.
New goal: Get to the gym AT LEAST 5 times per week.  Starting Dec. 1.
Start thinking of your goals. Send them to me here. I’ll save them and post at the end of the year to see if you did what you hoped you’d do.


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