Author Archives: CLW

A Gift to You

Every semester at the beginning of my creative writing classes, or every June for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, I meet people who don’t have time to write.

I get it.

There are lots of things I don’t have time for–cleaning out the fridge, going grocery shopping, arguing with people I don’t like.

But the stuff I really care about–my religion, my kids, my friends and my writing? I make time for that.

For some reason we writers feel like our writing just isn’t as important as someone else’s full time job. Perhaps this is, in part, the  way our society views what we do.

“Oh, you’re a writer? That means you’re home all day? Can you help me with ABC.” And they AREN’T asking about the alphabet.

(Stay at home Moms–you’ve probably been asked to do tons for others because you are at home and that means, you know, that you have more time because you aren’t as busy.)

“Will you read my novel?”

“Will you edit my novel?”

“Will you watch my kids as I go tan?”

Over the years I’ve met lots of people who want to publish.

Some never will  because they are waiting for Time to fall in their laps instead of taking Time.

Some always allow what they consider more important to get in way of their writing.

Some are afraid.

If you have learned anything from this blog where we all complain, it’s that writing is HARD.

But, it’s also worth it.

At the end of each semester I say to my students, “You have permission to give yourself the gift of writing. An hour each day. Thirty minutes. Whatever you chose. Writing to you is as important as the car mechanic going to the shop to work or the doctor to the her office. Allow yourself to think your writing time is sacred. Is your own. Is a gift to you, from you.”

So what will YOU do to make time to reach your writing goals?

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Three Thing Thursday

Cheryl:

 

I just finished THIS MONSTROUS THING by Mackenzi Lee. What an absolutely incredible novel. 

It is, above all things, profound. As a reader, I was drawn in to the protagonist’s decision making process, trying to will him into making the choices I would make. Then I was forced to face judgment on my own decisions. It gave me a horrifying glimpse inside my own mind.
After all, am I good or am I clever?
The novel isn’t filled with flowery phrases or expansive vocabulary. It’s clear, concise, and to the point. The characters are not good or evil, simply human.
As I closed the book, all I could think was, “I wish I could write like that. I wish I could make people feel things like that. I wish I could create characters that come to life.”
I don’t know if I ever will be able to. But I feel a renewed determination to try.
Carol:
Mark your calendar!
Steve Fraser (Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency) is coming to town!
Hear his speech at BYU on February 24, 2016. It will be at 6:30 pm.
Room # to come.
Also, only a few morning spots left at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. (www.wifyr.com)
We have lots of classes to choose from in the afternoons and we’re excited about our faculty this year, like the AMAZING Trent Reedy.
Some of you may have heard him when he came to WIFYR a few years back. He was our keynote.
He and I were in the same graduating class at Vermont College and I love him. He’s smart, passionate, and he and I had a session or two of slow saunters around campus, talking books.
Brenda:
I’ll call this one “Sisyphus and His Rock”:
I just read a heart-breaking story about a college fellow who decided, finally, to share his novel with a trusted friend and able writing mentor. The student gave him a beautiful, thick, leather binder with tabs for each of many chapters. He sat on the student’s bed and read the first chapter, getting more and more excited, because — though long (34 pages) — it was good: opened well; had great visuals; pacing and language were both accessible. And the reader LOVED the characters.  Excited, he turned, finally, to chapter 2.
Twenty pages of blank paper.  Ditto for the other 18 tabbed sections.
The mentor said he thought this fellow “had been working on his story for rather a long time.” “Eleven years this February,” he answered.
And the entire time was spent writing, revising, rewriting the first chapter until it was “perfect.”  The mentor compared the work to Sisyphus’ trying to push a rock up the mountain only to have it tumble down again,  where he would start over.
I’m neither that good, nor that bad, I suppose: but I’m embarrassed to say I have 13 novels in various stages of “not-done.” Some are quite long. Some, not much more than a chapter or the barest essentials of an MC or two, and a couple of incidents to be fleshed out. I’m not like that college kid: I stop when something else catches my eye (or interest). . . “squirrel!” . . . And I may not get back to “it” (which ever “it” it may be) for months and months. Or even years.
How many “ROCKS” do YOU have? Are our rocks doomed to bury us, bring us down? Fortunately, my most complicated of stories (YEARS old by now, and heavily researched) has finally caught my interest again, and I’m trying to capitalize on the excitement which has re-entered my heart in its behalf.
I’ll go to my “next biggest” rock, as soon as I get through pushing this one to the peak. And I’m wearin’ my runnin’ shoes.

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Writing What Makes You Cringe

I remember hearing (from a  friend) an interview with  Stephen King. (I’m completely giving this story to you third hand. That means it may be completely wrong.)

Anyway, in the interview, King said  once he heard someone step on a roach and he (King) just cringed. Then he thought, “I want to make readers feel that way.”

Is that true? Maybe. But the idea of writing something that will make a reader cringe (in this case because it’s scary) is smart. We want our readers to feel emotions when they read our novels.

But how?

A few days ago a friend asked me to write something for a collection she’s editing. I won’t say what or anything in case my piece doesn’t get in. But I will say this–I was worried. It’s dark and sad. And my writing about this will sort of bare my soul. It took me three days to write less than 300 words. Then, I cried when I talked to my girls about it. Felt embarrassment about the topic. About the words I’d put to paper.

It occurred to me that when I write I do poke around at emotions. Lots of times I’m heart-heavy when I write a sad book. And the easiest novels I ever write are the ones that fill me with joy because those books are–wait for it–happy.

But have I ever felt the way this essay has made me feel? So raw? So exposed?

I think so. It’s part of my process. A hard part sometimes. But a necessary part.

If you want your readers to feel whatever it is you want to convey, then you better know that feeling inside and out.

The words have to ring true. The emotion needs to be palpable. The reader needs to feel like the character. Needs to BE the character.

So if you scare yourself, you are probably scaring your reader.

Remember that the next time you crunch a roach.

 

 

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Three Thing Thursday

Carol:

We have 2 or 3 spots left in the 2-day workshop with Steve Fraser, agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Go here for information:

Two Days with Stephen Fraser

 

Cheryl

 I took on a project. A writing project. It’s just a short story to be put in an anthology with some other authors, but it’s more than I’ve been doing for a long time. 

I’m nervous. Do I still have it? Did I ever?
I don’t know. But I’m going to try.
And the beautiful thing? Almost as soon as I agreed, ideas poured into my head. Like they’ve been waiting for me. Like they’ve been holding back, respecting my space, understanding that I’m sleep deprived and stressed and being pushed beyond my limits. But as soon as I called out, they were there.
I’m not ready. But I’m going for it anyway.
Brenda:
This quote puzzled me: “A writer shouldn’t be engaged with other writers, or with people who make books, or even with people who read them. The farther away you get from the literary traffic, the closer you are to sources. I mean, a writer doesn’t really live, he observes” ~ Nelson Algren
WHAT ? ? ?
Now, this is a man who wrote, “Never Come Morning” WITH some help/input from Kurt Vonnegut — a “friend” with whom he taught at a university. Moreover, his books, all out of print at Algren’s death, were defended and resurrected by the likes of some of his writer “friends”: Russell Banks, James R. Giles; Studs Turkel, who evidently took on the task of republishing his out-of-print or banned books.
So my advice is hang out with writers. Find a critique group, or “Found” a critique group. Go to Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE), or LDStorymakers, or Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR). Do a summer National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) at Camp NaNo, and make online friends with your writing buddies. Then do it again in November. And there are others as well.  (And GO LIVE TOO ! ! ! )
Writers helping writers. That’s what a REAL writing community is: and your writer friends will give advice, explain some of the “rules,” offer helpful critiques, encourage you when you’re ready to give up, hug you when you need it most, and generally KEEP YOU WRITING ! ! !

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What Makes a Best Seller?

So I started Eleanor & Park for a moment on Saturday and went to bed last night early so I could read. I finished at 3 am (and was awakened by a daughter just a few minutes later. I slept in this morning.). I rarely do that. Read a book in one sitting (or, in this case, in one lying down). But three chapters in, Rainbow Powell  had me.

As I flopped over in bed, the book complete, I thought about what makes a best seller. (The copy of E&P I had was on it’s 27th printing. 27! That’s a best seller to me! Plus I remember being excited when I saw a book I’d written had gone to a third printing.)

Here are a list of questions I wondered. Was it . . .

The way the book looks on the page?

Two dead-on voices?

A romance?

The slow reveal of character development, problems, bullying, nicely contrasted families etc?

Heartbreak. Laughter. Kissing. But not-too-soon kissing? Stress? Aching?

Language? Could strong language grab readers?

Lots of accolades, including A Printz Honor?

No book is perfect, and I didn’t quite believe the ending (this is how I feel now, I may change my mind after I have a few more hours to think), however I love the possibilities that the book leaves the reader with. Was that it? The ending? The hope?

What makes a best seller for YOU?

http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/overview.html

 

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Three Things Thursday on Saturday

I have to be to school early on Thursdays, and I try to remember to post on time, but I always forget. :(

So here we go. A post on Saturday.

 

Carol:

The gig at the Provo Library last night was a blast.

Christian McKay Heidicker did a terrific job AND got a tattoo.

There was food.

Prizes.

Chatting.

And writing prompts.

Make sure to mark your calendar for next year.

 

 

Brenda:

Re-reading a blog from Randy Ingermanson (“the Snowflake guy”) I came across his thoughts on breaking Big Projects into small Chunks.  I think we all do this — nevertheless, it’s a good reminder. We all feel pressured by time, or the lack thereof, for our writing.  Randy was suggesting taking YOUR OWN longest, PRODUCTIVE chunk of time.  Let’s say, you think you can write for an hour without losing momentum.  Set a timer for 50 minutes. Ban looking at Facebook, or emails, or answering phones, or whatever your daily interruptions are.  When the 50 minutes is up, STOP!  Take 10 minutes to walk around, get a drink, do anything BUT go back to the writing.  Feeling somewhat refreshed?  Good.
If you get one page done, swell.  A whole scene?  Even better.  A chapter?  WOW ! ! !
If you found you began to flag a bit before the timer went off, use even smaller chunks: 40 minutes of intensive work and a 7 minute break?  That works.  30 intense minutes and a 5 minute break?  That’s OK too.  What can YOU do in a finite amount of time?  What is your OPTIMUM amount of time at such an intense level?  It will be different for everyone.  And that’s good, as well.  The problem is to find out what works for YOU, and under what circumstances. And part of the process is letting go when the timer goes off.
If one hour is all you can spend on the writing and you’ve made it productive, you’re done for the day.  If you can do a second hour, with the same kind of intensity, go for it.  The point here is to restrict that chunk of time to intense, concentrated writing.  And to take the break, so you’ll feel renewed, revitalized, ready to move to the next “chunk” of your day, whether that’s throwing in a load of laundry, or sitting back down to the computer.
Cheryl:
I read a book this week. A good book. But I’ve been depressed ever since, because it could have been a GREAT book. 

It wasn’t the writing, or the pacing, or the characters. All of that was very well done. The problem was that the strongest aspect of the book was the backstory.
By the time the book started, the most important character development had already happened. It felt like starting the Harry Potter series with book 5. If we didn’t already love him, we’d never have put up with what a miserable little pill he was then.
That’s how this book was. The backstory was so well done that I could see what the first chapter would contain, what the climax would be, how the story would resolve. It was beautiful. Granted, it would have been a character-driven novel versus the plot-driven, action-packed summer blockbuster that it was, but it would have been so worth it.
Check your novel. Does it start in the right place?
Then check it again. Are you sure??

 

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Dreams

I’m mostly a nightmare gal. Have far too many bad dreams. Several a night.

Wake up screaming at a man in the doorway, or by the window, a lot.

Elevator-with-no-sides dreams. An elevator that’s tilting.

Zombie dreams. My aunt’s head in a watermelon. My girls missing.

The dreams where I’m walking from room to room in house. Searching. Hurrying. Worrying.

Knowing something bad is behind a door.

Being lost.

Oh, and the cloven hoof dream that Kyra wants me to share on FB.

But last night. Last night was good.

I haven’t written now in a month. Not at all (except an editor rewrite).

And last night I dreamed of the books that are waiting for me.

Wanting to be written.

There was that feeling I have when I sit down to write and things are going well. A feeling of being content.

When there’s hope.

A new world coming to life.

Like the way I feel because there are a few moments when I am in control, ’cause I know what’s happening a few pages ahead.

This morning, I woke up smiling.

Woke up with an email almost fully formed to my agent.

Woke to a whole list of books that were calling for me.

With thoughts of really writing.

This morning, I’m ready.

To find a few new characters.

Clean up a few scenes.

Investigate a few possibilities.

This morning is full of promises.

Way better, I tell ya, than that man in the doorway.

 

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