Author Archives: CLW

Ann Dee and I Have Been

working on a  novel together. You know that. We’ve talked of it.

We’ve done a draft and a half.

I love the book and my agent feels like we can  sell it. (Where to go, where to go?)

But, there are hard things to writing together. This week, Ann Dee and I will chat back and forth about the pros and cons of writing with a partner.

I’ll start:

#1 PRO  When you find someone easy to work with (Ann Dee and I work well together. Cheri Pray Earl and I work well together. Laura Williams and I work well together. I have written with several people that I had a hard time with. Too bossy. Didn’t get back. Wanted things one way and wouldn’t listen to my ideas . . . .), you write half the words you’d normally write. And that is cool.

By the time we had finished the first draft–neither of us knowing where the book was going at first–I felt like it had been a  far easier process than writing a book on my own.

#1 CON: Finding time to write is hard enough. Put two busy schedules together and it can take a long time to get a draft. So, Ann Dee and I were pretty fast–when we wrote. However, we dealt with each of us buying a house, me moving, her remodeling a home, caring for children, teenagers, terrible news, having a beautiful baby, our callings in the LDS church, teaching schedules, normal life’s wear and tear, family matters and etc. This was tough. We’d go a week or two or longer without writing. And then we’d write four or five chapters in a day.

I know for a fact Ann Dee was worried about the novel not having enough and I was always saying, let’s keep going and just see. That might be something she can talk about.

So–here’s your challenge–for the rest of May write with someone else. You can work on a picture book, mid grade novel, YA–whatever. Maybe your partner will never have written before. Maybe you will write in very different ways. Maybe you’ll want to pull your hair out. Still, set some rules for yourself and see if you can find an idea, a writing partner and a first paragraph by the end of this week.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

1 Comment

Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, Life, Plot, writing process

Three Things Thursday



Today is a sad day for me. For the last three months or so, the girls and I have loved a doggie for another family until they left for Oregon.

Her name is Phoebe and she left today. I miss her.

It wasn’t until the hit and run murder of my other favorite dog that I realized I could use animals as characters in books.

Thelma, in Signed, Skye Harper, is based on Violet, out doggie who died several years ago.

Now I will need a little pup like Phoebe to be a character in a novel. And I’m gonna flesh out a dog in the book I’m writing with Ann Dee and fashion her after this dog I miss terribly.

What about you? How do you make animal characters lovable and human?



May is National Short Story Month.  Who knew? Brian Klems, of The Writer’s Dig for The Writers Market online, was saying that while we’re all learning to write more well-defined characters  with more “layers”, more complex plots, scenes with heightened tension, and so on, today’s readers are drawn to writing which takes less space, less time, yet still offers great entertainment.  Short stories, novellas, short installments of longer works, flash fiction all are celebrating what readers really seem to want.
This made me feel like I should drag out a short story I wrote some time ago, polish it up and send it off.  This very act in and of itself might inspire me to write a follow up — I’ve always believed there was more to Tristan’s story than met the eye.
How about you?  Have you a short something that might be publishable in today’s fast-paced world?  Would it fit easily on someone’s eReader?  Telephone?  In someone’s pocket on one of these smaller devices?
Give yourself a break, and the idea a shot . . . why not?
For some reason, my subplots never make it into the first draft. My first drafts are about as simplistic as it’s possible to be without being an outline. They often weigh in at about 20,000 words. Almost no description, heavy on dialogue, more telling than I’d ever want to admit to. 

So while everyone else is scrambling to cut scenes and words and characters, I’m working on First Draft Part 2: The Other Half of the Story. It’s not a second draft, because I’m not correcting anything I’ve written. Instead, I’m trying to weave in a second and third storyline, matching up all the arcs, and making sure I’m not just combining two completely different novels.
What are some of your strange writing habits?

Leave a comment

Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, three thing thursday

Ten Minutes for Beginnings

Running a blog for years–a blog about writing–well, one begins to wonder what one should write about.

Okay–that’s the line I started with. Then I thought–what am I going to say today? What’s new out there?

Probably nothing, actually. But as I sat here I remembered something Richard Peck said years ago when he was here in UT. He was talking to a group of writers and teachers. His bit of wisdom that I’ve repeated in every writing class I’ve taught since? “You are no better than your first line.”

That means for anything, I think. The first line of a campaign speech, of a novel, of a poem, newspaper, article, essay, picture book. Your blog.

“Your novel,” Richard Peck told us that day, “may start chapters in. Find the right beginning.”

“Start your novel where the story starts,” I tell my students. On the day something new happens. Don’t waste time with back story.

Get in and get on with it. Grab your reader and run.

“My book gets great right about page 40,” people will tell me. (And yes. That’s about the number they all say). Common sense tells us that means the story starts on page forty. Someone has some work to do.

While Richard was here, he looked at the first three pages of a novel I’d begun. He asked me two questions, one of which was, “Does this start in the right place?”

I dropped him off at the airport that day and as I drove away I realized he was right about the book. I’d started wrong. I chopped off the first line–a bit of Florida description, I think–and the book began right where it needed to.

“What you doing, Girl?” Daddy said, when the burying was done.

Introduction of two characters, a bit of voice and a problem. Buried because of an extra line. Exposed, front and center when the first line was chopped away.

A great first line won’t save a bad novel. But it can set you up as a writer and point you where you need to go. It can offer a feeling of what you may now do. It can be a promise to the reader.

I’ve not sold this book and it’s been years. There have been two editors interested. And now another editor is looking at that novel. But I learned something from Richard that I’ve tried to use in every book since–get rid of what isn’t needed. Quit meandering.

Write the story and only the story. Readers just don’t care about the rest.

So in this blog? Cut off the first 50 or so words. That’s where this piece really begins.

Now go do that to your books.


Filed under CLW, Exercises, First Line, Voice

Three Things Thursday


One of the biggest problems I have with novels is boredom. The characters all start to sound the same, the scenes all feel repetitive, and it seems like I will never be able to stop typing.
Sometimes it can help to change a setting. If a scene happens in a school, can it be changed to an arcade? If it’s at a park, can it be changed to a hospital?
Just the act of changing a setting can inject new life to a murky middle. It energizes me and gets me excited about writing again. If it were a movie, an entirely new set would need to be built, and as a writer, we need to do the same thing. And for me, that sense of creating something new is what I love best.
What helps you with your boredom?
 I was looking at some gorgeous pictures of The Great Outdoors: snow, autumn leaves, sun breaking through clouds, sun trying to break over the mist disguising — who knows what?  Gigantic and ancient trees, showing the scars of their age. Mountains poking their noses through a morning mist.  Flowers of vibrant colors and various sorts. The occasional rabbit. Waterfalls, up close or at a distance. A distant moon hanging over a darkening landscape.  The design of the wind on hill after hill of desert sand. Rushing water. Still water.
What of nature can you include in your book, in a scene?  How can it change the mood, the feeling, of this scene or even that character?  What memorable marvels of nature could you include for atmosphere, or relaxation, or tension?
Rick is now undergoing the radiation treatments. I’m not sure if he’s on a consistent schedule (every day at noon).  We will let you know what happens late this afternoon or evening.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Time to Write: Questions to See if You Want It

1. Is writing your job? Or is it a hobby?

2. Do you want it to your job? Do you treat writing like it’s your job?

3. How important is it that you publish?

4. Say three reason why it’s important to publish?

5. Do you set writing goals?

6. Do you keep them?

7. Do you sacrifice for writing?

8. What do you sacrifice?

9. What inspires you to write?

10. How do you get through the icky middles of your pieces?

11. What is the main thing you need to change to be a more committed writer?

12. Will you change that main thing so you can write?

13. Do you listen and take constructive criticism?

14. Do you read?

15. Do you love to have written?



1 Comment

Filed under CLW, Exercises, writing process

Three Things Thursday

I recently read an obit for a YOUNG man I didn’t even know that seemed to encapsulate his entire short life.  It said this adventurer and mischief maker was asked at age 3 why he was climbing up onto the washing machine.  “So I can get on top of the fridge.”  When asked why he wanted to get on top of the fridge he answered, “So I can jump through the doorway on to the couch.”  Under similar circumstances, what would you, the author, be asked, and how would you encapsulate your life and attitude toward it in 2 or 3 short sentences?  What would you ask your MC, and what would his/her answers reveal?

I read somewhere that an apprenticeship in writing takes ten years. Ten years from your first serious written word. Ten years to really absorb the intricacies of writing novels. 

I “published” my first book at eight years old. It was bound in scrap cardboard covered with wrapping paper and stapled computer paper inside. The story, you ask? An illustrated collection of horror stories, the most memorable being a killer doll.
My 28th birthday was on last Monday, so if that was my first serious attempt then I’m already ten years behind. However, I generally consider my start in writing to be when I entered Carol’s classroom, which is only seven years ago. Three to go.
I better start writing….
Just when I think it can’t get any worse for those I love, it does. Yes, more news that’s bad news. It seems that all I hear.

As writers, we can use good news and bad news to help us as we write. Those words can ease the pain around us. Touch the hearts of those who rejoice or mourn. Change a life.

This is our job.

We get to do it as novelists or picture book writers.

So dig deep, tell the truth, reach out.

You may be the only one there.

Leave a comment

Filed under three thing thursday

Today is the Beginning of Summer

For me, I mean. School’s out. I just have to submit grades.

And, as with any beginning, I have my goals.

The biggest goal of all is to enjoy.


I’ve never allowed myself to just live.


And I haven’t had the best of times the last few months. I’ve let this influence me. The sadness. The heartbreak.

Before me now is five months–with WIFYR ( stuffed in the middle–of enjoying being with Carolina. Taking a trip with a few of my girls. Polishing and organizing. Visiting Rick. Catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while. And writing.

How I love writing. And hate it, too.

And how I love rewriting.

How I love sexy new projects.

I’ve got all that before me.

Plus, guess what? I even jogged today. Not very far. And real slow. R-E-A-L slow. So slowly that Carolina walked beside me and said “Mom. ” And I was like, “Run. A. Head. Pl. Ease.”

I have second hand smoker’s lungs (thanks southern family o’ mine) and so I can’t breathe easily. Is this why I’ve had the cough now for years? (This better not be serious–but the allergy pills didn’t help. The asthma stuff didn’t help. The cough medicine didn’t help.)


What’s before you?

Is it dark?

Can you find light in that darkness?

Is it joy?

Does it include children? Lovers? Books? Friends? Food? Serving? Being served?


Perhaps is should include all of that.

And a good dog.



1 Comment

Filed under CLW, Depression