Author Archives: CLW

Well . . . ?

How did you do on your July writing goals?

Unfortunately, I had a computer malfunction and so I couldn’t write on my work-for-hire piece–the 1000 words per day. (Dang it!)

So I failed at that part.

However, I wrote with Ann Dee (though we changed our project and began a massive rewrite of our first book) and we did that consistently.

I found my lost notes for my murder mystery and did the impossible for me: I wrote a blurb–just a few paragraphs long (after a failed synopsis that I felt very proud of) and the first 10 or 15 pages of the book for the proposal.

I sent to my agent.

He liked the package.

We’ll see what happens.

I also read. I finished two books and began another.

And I met with Sherry Meidell ( and we discussed a nonfiction book idea together.

What was your success rate?

What do you feel good about?


So you all notice, of course, that this is Monday.

And today is August One!

Which means A New Month to Work Your Goals Over.

I just read this:

What do you think?


I had hoped to take this semester off as I’ve been exhausted. Unfortunately, I have to teach. And the department has raised my class load from 15 to 20 students (in creative writing classes) and 5 more bodies (living ones) added to all other classes. Don’t get me started on how I feel about this. What it means is, my students won’t get the care and attention they have in the past.

Anyway, as I approach the fall, I want to give my all to three things: my family, getting organized and writing. One more big push.

What about you?


Here’s a writing exercise.

This one is for voice. Voice is the sound of your novel, the way you say things that shows these words are yours, it’s the distinctive stamp that allows a reader to know–in a few words–this is your book.

Sometimes the best writing my students do is when we start the class and I give them five minutes to write something.

They’re moving quickly, working through the prompt, with little time to correct themselves or think in fancy ways.

They are more themselves.


Spend no more than 5 minutes on this exercise.

On day one, first thing, allow yourself to write from a your main character who is in a chilling situation. Get into that character’s head. Write as fast as you can. As much as you can. Be that character.

The next day, do the same thing, but from another character’s voice. Same situation. Different POV.

Keep going for 7 days.

Look through the eyes of a dog.

The neighbor who is nameless and passes by.

Don’t reread until this exercise is completed. Each new day is a different voice but it’s the same chilling situation.

What do you learn in this 5 minutes?

How is each telling the same?


Who do you discover?

What do you discover?


Happy writing. Even in the Icky Middles.




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Sweet Friday with Lisa

Carol has asked this question.

Others have asked.

I’m sure more will in the future.

But I thought I’d pose the question yet again.

Why do you write?

Not why you wrote yesterday, or maybe got a degree in writing, but right now why do you right?

I always posed the same answer to that in the past—I have something to say, a story to tell.

Today, that answer changed.

I jumped on a plane this morning—DC to Houston. A guy sat next to me watching reruns of The Simpsons on his IPad sipping a Jack Daniel’s.

I could smell it.

The plane dipped to descend. Houston spread below us like a patient on an operating table—streets crossed like stitches and highways like open veins pulsing with blood and life.

The plane was an hour late into Houston.

And my flight out of Houston was a four-hour delay.

When they called that Salt Lake was ready to board, I jumped out of my seat and threw my hands in the air. No one else shared quite my same sentiments. Squishing into my seat, I tried to make small talk with the middle-aged man next to me and he wasn’t interested. I turned to the window, to pen and paper, and my thoughts.

As the clouds morphed from plankton scattered in the sea to the belly of a wave just crashing, I thought about why I write. And today, this is why: It puts back the pieces of my life I can’t figure out any other way.

So why do you write today?

Maybe it’s the same as yesterday.

And maybe it’s not.

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Three Thing Thursday

From me:

Look what I found!

I’m getting ready to rite a mystery novel.

And here’s a site that says more than, Just Do it.


From Cheryl:

Lately I’ve been writing short stories, which is nice, because I get to try out different styles of writing. The first was action, the second was horror, and the last is contemporary. For the first two, I used first person present tense, but for the last, it just didn’t work. The main character is a man, after all, and I really struggle getting into the thoughts of men. But when I went to a close 3rd person narrative, all of a sudden it came together. I could focus on the behavior of the character, because I knew that. He needs to always have a plan, and keeps from getting overwhelmed by focusing on just his next step. He doesn’t focus on appearance, but is aware of its importance to other people. He cares about his sister, but doesn’t say it. However, every choice he makes is with her in mind.

First person really helps to get into the head of the person. It makes that character come alive, and makes us care about them. But sometimes 3rd person works, if we need a wider perspective. In this case, I didn’t want my reader to immediately connect with the character. I want the thoughts in his head to be a mystery. I want people to wonder about his motives and his desires.

Do you have a preferred point of view? Do you ever change for certain stories?
From LoriAnne:

Fear of Finishing

“Are you finished writing that book yet?” Uughh… I’m sick of that question. For me, as I get closer to finishing this first book, why don’t I instinctively “lean for the tape” and just finish the blasted thing?

Carol likes to compare the beginning of a story to having a new boyfriend – it’s exciting, it’s sexy and you spend a lot of time with them. When you’re not with them, you think about them.

Endings are like some middle-age marriages. It’s often about endurance.

  I get caught in the whirlpool of revision, even with small phrases. To keep pushing forward, you must let that first draft be ugly. Just write and don’t allow yourself to stop and polish. But how?

1.       Show up – set the time aside, sit down and turn do NOT open your browser.

2.       Set a timer and write something about anything for five minutes without stopping, even if it has nothing to do with your book. Just get your fingers moving.

3.       Open your file and read just the last line where you left off and write for five minutes in that scene. The next day make it ten minutes. The next fifteen. You will build writing stamina and a habit.

4.       If you are stuck, skip ahead for little while and write a scene in your book that you are really looking forward to writing. Then go back and see if your brain has worked out a path for how to get your MC where you want them to go.  Then go back and write the weaving in-between those scenes.

So, if I know what to do, and how to do it, let’s see how well I listen to myself. I’ll give you an update next week.

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Three Thing Thursday

How can I already be behind?
Why aren’t I rich and why don’t I have someone to run my errands and clean my house and pull my weeds?
Why isn’t there someone to cook my meals?
To force me to write?
As I was collecting snails (and pulling weeds, much to my neighbors’ happiness), I saw Ann Dee.
I showed her cute kids the snails in the WWE cup.
The, after talking with Ann Dee and begging the Ellis children to take the snails,
I came inside and I remembered an article I read yesterday.
(I read this article instead of writing, BTW.)
It was about writing 5000 words a day.
I decided, “Ummm. Nothing new here. Nothing.”
In a nutshell, the author said Do It.
Just do it.
Not one bit of new info.
Want to write 10,000 words a day?
Write them.
Go for that.
The most you can physically do in a 24-hour period?
Rock on.
The fact is, you choose to write or not to.
I drove people around.
I went grocery shopping.
I read a book.
I watched House.
I cooked meals.
Now I’m behind.
This is life.
It gets in the way.
But it gives us something to write about.
Seeing Penny Ellis look at those snails in the WWE cup? Her cheeks pink from the sun? That look in her eyes like, “Why are you, an adult, showing me this? Why are you making me look?”
That was part of my life today.
It was precious and beautiful and worth 500 words.


It’s been a month since WIFYR, and I’ve been revising problems with my MC. During the critiques on my WIP, specifically the first chapter. I had to stand way back and see my MC how the readers were perceiving her. I hate to admit it, but she wasn’t that likeable.  Even though the reader could feel sympathy for her situation, she came off as peevish and whiney.

Obviously that wasn’t the personality I was trying to write for her. The notes I took in Peggy Eddleman’s class at WIFYR have helped me help her to be a MC the reader wants to root for. Here are some hints Peggy gave us:

1.       Make them good at something

2.       Give them friends

3.       Make them rational, but still make stupid decisions sometimes

4.       Give them a conflict that is very personal to them

5.       Make them proactive, not just reactive

6.       Put them in jeopardy, or their goals at risk

7.       Give them hardships and unfairness. Force them to make sacrifices

8.       Have them love others and be loved by others.

9.       Make them active but vulnerable. Make them the underdog

10.    Characters are cool because of their strengths, but interesting because of their weakness. Make sure there is balance between strength and weakness.

We like characters because we are like them, or because we want to be like them. That’s essential since we spend so much time with them, and are asking our readers to do the same.


Worldbuilding is not just for fantasy novels, but also for contemporary ones. Here’s the thing: the world is slightly different to each person. 

One person might have family roots that go back to the town founders, while another might move from place to place so often they don’t even bother to completely unpack. These two people will see the demolition of a local landmark in very different ways.
Another example is that of economic status. A wealthy person might walk through a store and notice nothing but disorganized displays and sticky spots on the floor. A poor person will likely be more focused on sale prices and whether or not the price tags on the food show the price per unit for easier comparisons.
It’s important to view the world through the eyes of your character. If you’re describing a real place, don’t focus on how it looks to you. You don’t matter. Focus on what your character would see. What are their priorities? Where do their emotional attachments lie?


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Monday, Monday–Are You Writing? Three Hints.

I mentioned last week Ann Dee and I came up with the 25 words that our story is about. Here’s the thing. Having an idea, knowing what your story is about, makes it easier to write.

Hint–Know what your story is about. Knowing this Major Dramatic Question (which is answered with a yes or no) gives you the direction to take your story. When you know this then character can move the plot.


Each morning, I’ve tried to give myself time to complete a project I MUST finish.

Like having the MDQ, I’ve set a specific word count for myself.

Having a word count gives you a concrete goal.

Hours sitting at your computer is NOT the same as putting words on the page.

Hint–What is your concrete goal? Have you reached it each day since you started? Can you see progress?

A few places to land after you have written to see what other people have done with their word counts:

FYI–There was a third article for you to read  from someone who jumped up their daily writing word count from reasonable to far too much. I read the first lines of this author’s first pubbed book and it was pretty crummy. So.

(I am not endorsing anyone of these. Just giving you something to read to keep you from writing. Ha! Read AFTER you write!)


Don’t rewrite now.

Not yet.

In our new book, Ann Dee and I can already see what will need to be done, but we want that Dirty Draft down.

If we edit and rewrite and fix and change, we won’t be putting down the new words.

Hint: Allow yourself that shitty first draft that Anne Lamott talks about.

Here’s something to read.

Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity

So keep going.

Are you having fun?

It’s nice to reach goals, huh?

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Freaky Friday with Lisa

My palms still sweat as a side effect.

It happened seven years ago.
Scars on the back of my right hand and one on the knee.
I keep the sweatshirt I wore even though it has a hole.
I didn’t get to see my grandmother one last time before she died.
One night in the hospital, no stitches, and a pile of tests. No broken neck or knee. .
One fire truck, one ambulance. A stack of cop cars and civilians trying to help.
The car spun and rolled.
My friend was the driver, she looked down at her cell phone, headed straight for the guardrail.
I didn’t think I was going to die, I knew I was going to die. And in a way, I felt ready.
A few weeks ago my friend and I went to a park, a beautiful spot off the Potomac in Alexandria, Virginia. We sat on a bench, and he pulled out a book of writing prompts. The one I just did above is to tell about an accident or injury, but backwards. I noticed things I never had before. Think of your MC and something traumatic they’ve gone through or will go through. Now tell it backwards. What details do you notice then?

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Three Thing Thursday

From Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

After a revision deadline of seven days, starting yet another new job {this should it be for while} and revising the end of my novel twice, I have a moment to breathe. And get back to the blog. 

Thought I’d give ya’ll three little tips this Thursday on revising. Since we’re talking about it 👊🏽 

  1. Sometimes cuts need to be made. If even its something you may not want to change. If your editor, or even sometimes your writers group, suggests something…. A lot of the times they may be able to see what you can’t. Maybe a part isn’t working, or might work better with the change. 
  2. Read out loud. If you’re revising, reading to yourself out loud can help you know if what you’ve just added connects well with your voice or character. If you’ve not read your novel in over a year, and then start edits, there’s a chance your voice may have changed a little. Or you still have a different character hanging out in your brain. It’s good to make sure it’s all cohesive. And reading to yourself out loud helps. 
  3. Give yourself time. Sometimes meeting a deadline can make your work feel rushed. You’re writing a novel, not running a race. It takes time and you should allow yourself that. Think about what you’re putting in the page, even if it is just a rewrite. Someone’s going to read that someday. It’s better to have a perfected novel than to make a deadline.         That’s all I have for now. Hope it helps you all with your rewrites !!


From Cheryl!

Did you guys hear that Brandon Sanderson is recording and posting his lectures on YouTube? Check it out!

My favorite part of this lecture is when he talks about how others react to hearing you’re a writer. For many, the automatic response is, “So, when are you getting published?”
But when you think about it, this response doesn’t actually make sense. There are plenty of people who get together with  buddies and play basketball once a week, but no one asks them when they’ll be starting for the NBA. They play because it’s fun, relaxing, and a good hobby. Why can’t we have the same attitude about writing? Who cares if we’re a New York Times Bestseller, or if we make enough for this to be our only source of income?
Write because you love it. Write because it’s good for you. Write because it exercises your mind and invigorates your soul. All the professional stuff will fall into place or it won’t, but what matters is that you’re creating something for you.
From LoriAnne!

Imagine how you’d feel if a reader said your book “helped me get out of the beat-myself-up cycle.” All the staring-at-the-empty-screen, revisions, and rejections would be worth it to know that something you wrote, a story that you created, was like medicine for a reader’s soul.

That’s the kind of help and hope bibliotherapy claims to be.  An article in the June 2, 2016 Deseret News explains how it works.

I’d never heard of the term bibliotherapy. It’s a  common service offered in the United Kingdom, free of charge, through a charity and a librarian society. They have prescribed books for half a million people. It’s now gaining notice in the United States. They claim that by “prescribing” specific books for specific symptoms, they’ve been able to assist adults and teenagers as they work their way through anxiety, depression, bullying, eating disorders, and exam pressure. They report that 90% of the people who participate in bibliotherapy say it helped their emotional state, and 85 percent stated that the “books helped their symptoms feel manageable.”

The article cite studies that show that reading fiction coincides with “a heightened sense of empathy in adults and children.”

How lucky are we to be participants in something that is more than entertainment or education! We create something that shows that things can work out even when things seem broken. Reading a book can change a reader. Imagine what writing it does for the writer.

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