Author Archives: CLW

15 Minute Monday

I just saw this “Give Yourself an Exciting Horoscope!” Geez. All this time I’ve been looking at the old, boring, supposed-to-happen horoscopes. I think I’ll opt for exciting from now on.

This morning I’m sending an email to an editor. I have an idea. An awful idea!
The Lynch gots a wonderful, awful idea!

This idea is naughty, even.

And I want to see what my-hopefully-soon-to-be editor thinks. I sorta think she’ll say no. If she does, I’m talking to my agent.

I’ve never done this before–you know, come up with an idea that I think is controversial in the publishing world. I mean, I’m even thinking of using a different name. Probably I’ll use a play on John Green’s name, because that will help sell the novel. Joan Green. Anyway, let’s put that aside. My question to you is, when do you KNOW you must write a book?

Maybe a book outside your comfort zone.

Maybe a book that could get you in trouble.

Maybe a book that needs to be written but will be hard as all get out. (Yes, that’s a thing. That’s historical slang.)

Usually when I write anything it’s because I must. Something hilarious happened. Or something horrible. Or something frightening. And now there’s this emotion and it needs to be set free.

And this idea is sorta like that.

I have this unhappy feeling in my gut that has to come out.


Why do YOU write?

Not the average answer, “Because I have to.” We all know that. But why do you have to write? And why do you choose the ideas you choose? None of this, ideas choose me. We pluck them from the air or from the news or from other titles or from people.

Your answer is?



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Filed under CLW, Editors


Summer sort of begins for me a few days after ALA. The older I get, the harder it is to recuperate from WIFYR. And if I’ve made the trip to ALA, well there you go. (I love going to ALA, BTW.)

But then I have July and August (school starts the last day of August this year) sort of to myself. I mean, I can write and rewrite. And paint this new home we’re in and maybe even make my bed if I want to.

There are clothes to organize, weeds to pull, food storage to think about and do something with, boxes to unpack, closets to clean out, Mom to care for, and of course, every days has to have some kid time in it. I do have these beautiful daughters.

Constantly, though, there are the story ideas.

No matter how hard life is (and it’s been a beast for several months now), there are places to escape to, words to worry over, plots to play with.

The stories are always in my head.


So here are questions for a writer to think on:

How do you keep track of your stories? Especially if you have lots of crazy ideas spinning around.

How do you decide which is the best idea to spend time on?

How long to you work on a book before you’re done?

Is it bad to write lots of words as fast as you can, even if they are crummy words?

During rewrite, what do you do with discarded words?

How much time do you give yourself for your writing?

How much time do you really write–how much do you check your social sites?

How do you know, before you do it, if it’s going to be worth the time to follow a character for 60,000 words?

Why do you keep going?


That’s the biggest question of all. This is a hard, many times, unrewarding venture. We’re lonely, underpaid (if paid at all), and many times our delicious books don’t get into the right editor’s hands, or readers’ hands. When  books are published, most don’t get the awards they deserve, and certainly many don’t sell as well as other novels that seem poorly written. It’s frustrating, sometimes hard to watch, and so very personal.


If I didn’t publish, would I still keep doing this?

Truthfully, probably not as hard as I do now. But I would spend time each day working on a novel. And when I had cleaned that book up the best I could, I’d start another. I’d write another and another and another. Why?

Because I’m a writer.

That’s who I am.

All the way down to the bone.



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Filed under CLW, Depression, Exercises, writing process

three things thursday


One of my friends just posted on Facebook that during a phone call to her husband, they both heard a distinct clicking noise. When she spoke to it, it responded. 

Her explanation was that the clicking was aliens trying to communicate. Other people commented that it was the weather, cell phone interference, or the government spying.
What’s the first thing you thought it was? Whatever your first thought was, throw it out. What was your second idea? Your third? What would your character have thought?
Now that WIFYR is over (and I’ve slept and slept and slept for several days), thought I’d share an occasional topic or idea that resonated with me while I was there.  One of the panels consisting of Ann White, Ann Cannon and Michelle Branson discussed non-fiction.  Specifically, non-fiction for kids.  It was suggested that we take a look at children’s magazines who are ALWAYS looking for interesting non-fiction ideas, and often for poetry as well. They need articles about people doing good things, helpful things, funny things, accidental things.
Your kid was in a class program and something funny happened?  Write about it.
You had an odd, funny, difficult, sad, happy incident in your childhood?  Write about it.
You know a favorite family story that would bring a chuckle or show the way things were “back in the day”?  Write about it.
We can step beyond the boundaries of Utah’s own The Friend magazine to look at Cricket, Boys’ Life,Girls’ Life,Highlights, Jack and Jill, Ladybug, Stone Soup, to name just a few.  Not familiar with many of them?  Go to your friendly neighborhood library, and spend a few pleasant hours seeing who’s publishing what and where.  Need more info? Check out the Writer’s Market: they list many publishers, approximate prices for work . . . and just seeing what each is looking for will probably give you enough ideas to work on all month!
Happy Publishing!
How do you get done all the important things that must be done?
Right now I’m so tired.
I know most of this is from stress, but I am almost weak from exhaustion.
What do you do when you get to this point?
Just watch TV?
Go running?
Eat ice cream?
Suggestions gladly accepted.

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

I’m still on the blog. Sort of. I’m still in the writing world. Sort of. I’m still inspired. Sort of.
I had I good idea for a book a few days ago. But because I am so high stress at work all the time, I forgot it.
But I still have ideas brewing.
I’m almost settled in my new place, which means writers and book groups are going to be just around the corner.
I could be reading again.
Mom is a real writer. Someday I want that to be me.
It will be, I hope. I hope I hope.
It’s late and I’m tired.
Sleepy tired.


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Threee Thingss Thursdayy

Herb and I survived WIFYR, the week-LONG marathon of learning how to improve our writing 10 hours (and more) a day. We’d both been struggling a bit with opening chapters and, as a parting shot, Carol gave Herb an extra assignment: Read the first chapter of 50 books. Read them as a writer, noting what happens, when and how throughout. Then post “reports” on what you found out in each one. I was in a different class, but I thought Carol’s idea was an excellent way to figure out what I was doing wrong in my first chapter. I made a template, of sorts, for myself: the things I should look for or notice in each chapter read.
Here’s the list from my template — please feel free to add items you think might be helpful and post them here for all of us.
1.  Title
2.  Author
3.  World (as shown in chapter)
4.  Main Character  (MC) – how s/he is introduced
5.  What the MC wants
6.  The MC’s main problem (in getting it, or in life)
7.  Introduction of other characters
8.  Plot development (as revealed in just this chapter)
9.  Opening (what we find out in the first few paragraphs and how it’s working — or not)
I also added a few quoted sentences which showed the tension, the created world, and a couple of the outstanding characters. By the time I’ve read 50 chapters like this, those sentences will also be a solid reminder of that specific book.


I just watched The Great Gatsby again and I’m wondering  what makes it a classic. It’s not the writing, at least not for me. There are a few brilliant lines in it, but overall, it feels too flowery. The characters aren’t likable either. Each are burdened with flaws that can’t be vindicated. 

I think the genius lies in the fantasy it provides. Everyone can relate to longing for The One Who Got Away. It’s such a romantic idea, to think that someone has been pining for you from afar. And on the other side, we have the quintessential American Dream. A young boy, dirt poor, who managed to rise up to be the greatest and the richest of them all.
And then there is the debate about soulmates. The definition of bravery. The concept of honor. Is it possible, after all, to rectify a mistake made in the past?
What do you think makes it a classic?
Off to ALA tomorrow.
Going with my little Caitlynne.
Signings on Saturday: at the Zondervan/ HC booth at 10 am and at S&S at 3 pm. Come see me if you’re there.
I won’t be able to write tomorrow  as we’re leaving early in the AM. So here’s a FRIDAY exercise for everyone:
Get a cheap spiral notebook to keep your writing facts in. Save it always. Keep it near so you can add to it, like Brenda has. Ann Dee and I will work with you and this notebook the rest of the year, on Fridays.
To start–begin a collection of first lines and first paragraphs of novels. Write them into your notebook. Add title and author.
Analyze WHY these work or don’t.
How do you feel about the first line? The opening?
Do they fulfill a promise (you know this if you’re rereading)?
Do the first lines grab you?
What’s the tone from just that opening?
Are there wasted words?
Do you know what the book is about? How?
Why did an editor pick up this novel?
Is it successful?
Do this for the rest of the year. Analyze beginnings and why they succeed or don’t.
Remember Richard Peck said you are no better than your first line.
And Heather Flaherty, The Bent Agency, said she gives books three sentences.


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ALA and A Lot of Colons?

Last week’s Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers revealed some new, cool stuff we’ll do next year:

Practicums, 1-day, 2-day, 3-day workshops, as well as the normal 5-day workshops we have now.

Early registration.

Cute John Cusick.

We’re going to focus even more to help people publish.

And woot woot about that!

We’ll let you all know as the time draws closer.


Other things:

My dear friend Kathi Appelt taught about worrying the reader. I love that line. The reader should always be ready and willing to worry for a character.

And Ernest Robertson won the $1000 fellowship.

I had an amazing class. AMAZING. SO much talent in there.



In a couple of days I’m off to ALA and to meet my new Zondervan editor.


Not sure which of my girls is going with. Perhaps I’ll go alone.

When I get back will my house have another new coat of paint somewhere? We’re in a place we can paint as we want. And Laura painted the dining room and nearly all the living room over the course of two or three weeks. While Nina was gone to Girls Camp, Laura and I painted her room. And while I was at WIFYR, Laura and Nina painted my room. SO COOL. This place has been melon-colored and icky-green for a million years.

So: no more posts from me (including 3 Thing Thursday) as I will be gone.


But next week, we’re starting again: writing and reading and loving and talking and being writers together.



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“Returning to the Elements,” an article written by Jack Smith in last February’s THE WRITER, gave a review of several authors’ ideas about several of the basics of writing all of us are familiar with: Creating Your Protagonist, Managing Plot, Handling Point of View, Developing Setting, and Creating Dialogue.  Personally, he has written several books, including WRITE AND REVISE FOR PUBLICATION, and two satirical novels: HOG TO HOG and ICON.
He gathered ideas from several other authors, Catherine Ryan Hyde (of PAY IT FORWARD and 24 other novels) who led off the discussion on Protagonists.  She believes compelling protagonists “share two chief traits”: first, he or she needs to be someone with a strong enough “will to move forward through adversity,” and, second, needs to be “someone readers can relate to.”  It doesn’t harm to have your “relatable” character show some vulnerability either.  “We’re all vulnerable on the inside so our hearts go out to anyone enduring struggles we understand,” she says.
Oddly enough, she also points out protagonists “don’t necessarily have to be likeable or sympathetic,” though they do need “to be human.”  And how do we show the humanity?  “[G]et inside your character’s head” because that’s when the “humanity will begin to shine through.”
Is your protagonist . . .
moving with strength through adversity?  CHECK!
Relatable?  CHECK!
Likeable or not?  Doesn’t matter (though you should probably know).
Human?  CHECK!
And you know this by getting into his/her head?  CHECK!
GOOD JOB ! ! !

When it comes to writing, I am a perfectionist.  Nothing is ever good enough. The sentences are never tight enough, the structure is never solid enough, the pace is never steady enough. I have been known to spend an entire week on one paragraph.

But I wonder sometimes if my perfectionism is really just insecurity.  It’s a good line, saying that I’m a perfectionist when someone asks why I haven’t published yet.  It’s true that I’ve met with a few agents and editors and I’ve never actually been rejected, just asked to revise and resubmit.  But that revision…I can’t ever get it to a place where I can actually say I’m proud of it. I’ve never reached the point where I can say, “This is it.  This is as good as I can make it.” It’s always, “Something is wrong. I don’t know what it is, but something isn’t right.  I can’t show this yet, it needs work.” Then I spend months, no, at this point I’ve spent years trying to figure out what it is that’s wrong.

However, if I could be brave…if I could just be brave enough to show my writing to others as is…maybe they could help. Maybe these things that having me panicking could be fixed with a couple of sentences by someone much more talented than myself.

This is why a good critique group is so important. Finding those that can help, inspire, and keep you on a deadline is vital to success for people like me. If you’ve been struggling, a good critique group could be exactly what you need. And if you’re lucky enough to be heading to WIFYR this year (I’m so jealous!) then be on the lookout. Many phenomenal groups have been formed there.

FYI–I won’t be around next week. Not sure in Ann Dee will fill in or not.
So! I’m off to the conference!
Hope to see you there.

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