Author Archives: CLW

Anyone Playing in

National Novel Writing Month?

I am, but only if I finish the two books I am working on now.

 

One of these two books I started years ago–and very nearly completed during NaNoWriMo.

Whatever the case, we get prepared this month for what will happen next.

 

Today’s exercise:

Do your normal writing.

But, in addition,

Develop two characters this week.

Flesh them out.

Draw them.

Make a file for each.

 

Who are they?

Do you like them?

Do you plan on using them next month?

Why?

Is one your main character?

Is one a villain?

Are they lovers?

Think of every possibility about these two. Remember to ask (for both), what does he want? And why does he want this thing?

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Confession

by Lisa Sledge

Please don’t hate me when I tell you.  I slept through two-thirds of the final action sequence in Avengers. In my defense, the action went on for a very long time. Don’t get me wrong, action/adventure films and books are high up on my list of favorites. So what happened? How could I sleep through the climax?

Two things.
I could predict the ending.
I didn’t care.

I read a lot of blogs on writing. One common thread of advice is that the best way to capture an audience’s attention is to ratchet up the tension from the very first page and never let it stop. That readers will only care to finish the book if they’re riveted  by an unending series of action.

What crappy load of garbage to feed aspiring writers (and yes, I definitely still fit in the “aspiring” category).

But seriously.

A reader will finish if they care. Action isn’t intense unless we’re desperately cheering for the hero/heroine. It isn’t enough to like them. We have to be invested in their relationships, troubles, and fears. We have to love them enough to be scared for them.

This week as we’re writing, let’s stop trying to hook our readers with series of unending action. The action can happen . . . but it’s not the most important thing. Let’s first strive to write a world with characters whose problems capture a reader’s heart.

That should be our goal.

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Filed under Character, First Line, Plot, writing process

#1 From Brenda!
In mid-September I spent two full days at the League of Utah Writers’ annual convention. One of the authors who taught mini-classes also gave the Key Note address at the Saturday night dinner and awards event: Johnny Worthen. At that last event something happened I don’t ever remember having seen in that venue (I’d I’ve been an active member of that group since the late ’70s: the ENTIRE audience jumped to its feet and gave a long, loud standing ovation: clapping-loud, yelling-loud!
I cannot give you his asides (which were many), or imitate his delivery (fast, Energetic, funny, touching,
etc. etc., etc.) but I’d like to share a few thoughts from it every now and then. Johnny is a native of Utah, specifically the Holladay and Sandy areas; he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English Lit, with a minor in Classical Studies, and likes to good-naturedly brag that he “reads Latin.” He’s also added a Masters Degree in American Studies with a film emphasis. He followed this up by saying “With training like this I naturally and inevitably ended up the fast food service industry.” (Appreciative chortling from the audience.)
Among his “dozen other careers,” he claims to have opened a bagel shop in Oregon and made sandwiches for years before “the rains of the Northwest threatened to wash my soul away and I returned to the sand from which I was bred and came home . . . more businesses, more changes. Less rain.”
So my question to you is, what did you REALLY think you would be when you grew up? And what other jobs did you do in the meantime? What job(s) employ you now? How has your life changed in the last three to five years? Is it for better or worse? How can you make it better than “better” now? How (or DO you even) embrace the writer’s life?
Johnny quoted Sharon Olds: “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.”
#2 From Cheryl
I finished! Well, I finished a first draft.
It’s really short (my first drafts always are.)
It’s really bad.
I’ve discovered I overuse the words “just,” “looked,” and “suddenly.” Oh, and of course, “I.”
But there’s something. There are words on the page. I have something to edit, to try to work with.
My message to all of you: Keep going! It will be worth it! Get your butt in that chair and keep it there!
And now, the real work begins!
#3
Using these ten words, write an important scene for your novel. And yes, you can use MORE than these words, these just need to be included. Also yes, you may add an ing and etc, if necessary.
block
highway
simple
puke
sunburm
creep
flex
situation
flounder
impossible
PS We’ll try to have a few clues for next month–that’s right–NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

I’m baaaaack!
It was a wild few weeks.
I got to finally hangout on the Florida beach. See my cute friend. Eat a lobster. Drink a beverage that’s a “double” skinny dip. And get my bag ripped apart because Mom insisted I bring her some Florida sand.
It was great.
But I am glad to be back.
I love my state. I love my sisters. And my friends.
The fall weather is making me feel weird. But I’m hoping those weird feelings mean I can start writing again. My brain hasn’t been doing its job lately. Hopefully that can change.

I am going to finish Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Believe it or not, Mom read this book to us as children and I fell in love.  Rereading it I am still in love.

I love good books. I hope I can write one.

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Dreary Monday

However, I’m excited! Today will be my first day writing in my brand new office chair.

With a ten year warranty.

I can now say Books Written BC and AC.

 

Yesterday was my birthday.

My girls gave me this new chair, a container of sand from FL and a PERFECT shell found in the ocean, an expensive pillow, a sweet trinket, lamp shades for some rockin’ garage sales lamps I found a few years back (3 bucks a piece), and something that may arrive today.

I didn’t ask for the chair, which I needed most of all.

They could see what the old one had done to me, physically. And they heard about it. Finally I pulled in a kitchen chair, but the damage was already done.

Saturday night they surprised me with this gift.

 

Here’s what most important about this. Now in control of their gift-giving (and they have been for years), they paid attention and got me something that I needed.

 

While I am so grateful to be divorced, it’s hard to not have a partner, to always carry the burden. I’m always worried about money, about my children, about my friends, about deadlines.

And I’m lonely, sad, overworked and underpaid, lots of times heartbroken. The feel-sorry-for-myself-list goes on forever. I would have never purchased this for myself.

(It’s so huge and comfortable and soft. AND leather!)

 

I haven’t been this touched by a gift in, maybe, forever.

People listened to me with their hearts.

My girls did.

After they gave me the chair, I felt a little less lonely.

 

I could relate this to writing and talk about what’s important to your character and how does she feel now and how is she changed. I could ask about her family and her relationships and ask what does she need. But I’m not going to. I’m going to say I’m changed because my girls listened and because this gift showed me they love me. I’ve kinda needed this.

 

Thank you Carolina, Elise, Laura, Kyra and Caitlynne.

Thank you for caring.

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I Am Doctor Frankenstein

by Lisa Sledge

At least, that’s how it feels these days.

I’m on my second draft. It’s a complete rewrite of the first.

It’s as if I took my baby and chopped it up into tiny bits. I’ve deleted characters, scenes, and subplots that didn’t go anywhere. Now I’m stitching in new material to fill in the gaps, changing the narrative voice (kind of a big deal), and deciding what remains to be salvaged from the old. It’s not much.

My book is a mess, but at least it’s an improvement over the first. So that’s encouraging.

With any luck, however long it takes to get to a final version, I hope I’ll be successful hiding the stitches and seams of my revisions. I hope I can blend the bits and pieces of my manuscript together in a way that appears natural.

I’m grateful for fresh readers who look at my writing and give me honest opinions. After staring at it so long, I can’t tell what’s working and what I only think is working. I cling to reassuring voices for dear life.

And I ask myself, am I having fun right now?

No. Not especially. What I’m doing is honest to goodness hard work.

But even if every moment isn’t a party, I love ending a writing session and knowing that my story is better because of what I did that day.

Patience. Determination. Perseverance.  It’s bound to add up to something.

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Filed under Revision, writing process

Three Things Thursday

From Brenda:
Writers should read. What might be even more helpful is to begin what Michael Petracca (in The Graceful Lie, a how-to writing book) calls an “Interactive Reading Journal”.
 
Divide your sheet of paper, a notebook page, or your screen page into two columns. List the left hand column as “QUOTATION,” and specify the item being read by title, whether it’s a fiction book, essay, book on writing, or whatever. You might also want to include a chapter title, page number or other identifying information (or page numbers could be listed at the beginning of each quote).
 
Read a particular portion: a chapter, a section as identified by the writer, or just until you find a quote you want to remember or respond to. Type the interesting or evocative quote in the left-hand column (with page number, as desired)
 
In the opposite column, write what you thought about the quote, or how you responded to it, or how you agree, or why you disagree, etc.
 
The longer you engage in this activity, the more you will begin to see HOW writers write, WHY they write. And you will see how you respond to those writings. All these can be important to you, as a writer, in crafting your own works.
From Cheryl:
In honor of Banned Books Week, I decided to list my top ten favorite banned books…but in the end, I couldn’t cut the list down. So here are my top fourteen, in no particular order, all of which have been listed by ala.org as some of the most frequently banned books.
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Fade by Robert Cormier
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What are some of your favorite banned books?
From Carol:
One of the very best parts of writing for me is typing the words THE END.
We all know writing is tough. Sometimes the hardest part is just doing it. Every day. A few words at a time. When you don’t want to. When you think you can’t. When you hate what you’re writing.
If you endure, I promise good things will come of what you do.

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