Author Archives: CLW

And Then . . . .

I think in my writing I say, “And then,” too much.

Turns out, I had a too many ‘and thens’ this weekend.

First, I’ve started trying to write at least a thousand words a day. Last week I completed just over 4000 new words plus some editing on the mid-grade I’m working on.

And then

The agent for the conference had to drop out.

(He may have found us someone amazing though, to take his place. But I had a few days of panic.)

And then

you all know the book me and Ann Dee are working on? I love this book. Ann Dee is a fantastic writer and nearly every chapter she writes makes me laugh.

Anyway, last week, was a good editing week for us. I’d say we rewrote at least 10 chapters. Maybe more.

And then

I wrote my original Writing Exercises for Friday. I must admit they were pretty good.

And then

I thought I’d just clean on Saturday. So I worked 12 hours straight because I knew if I sat down, I’d be out. (You know that feeling when you’re legs are trembling and you just keep going because watching House Hunters, just once, means staying on the sofa the rest of the night? Anyway.)

Cleaning, recycling, yard work. Cooking, food storage, taking care of Mom. Laundry, vacuuming, and managing (?) the dogs.

Felt  good when I sat down at last–because I had just paid attention to the house. And man, the house needed attention.

And then

it was time to finalize my Sharing Time lesson.

I went to bed knowing what I was gonna do, having a rough draft planned out, ready to go.

And then

I forgot about Daylight Savings Time.

And then

I was ill, too.

Got to feeling a fever coming on while I was in the middle of the 2nd Sharing Time. Chills. Got out of there quick so I wouldn’t infect the nation.

Came home.

And then,

I was SICK all day.

And I slept all day and then all night.

And then

when I got up this morning, I  still feel like crap. But a better crap. One that isn’t as sick. Yippee.




BUT–last week? It was a good writing week.



PS Carolina now has what I had. Not good. Not good at all.



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Free Friday!

Seven Writing Exercises

Let each of the following inform you as a writer.

1. Write your character’s horoscope. In fact, write two or three characters’ horoscopes. Have your MC get a fortune cookie with an odd fortune. What would it say? If each chapter heading was an odd fortune, what would they say?

2. Have your character write her own obituary.

3. Have your character write a letter for you, talking about herself and her situation and trying to convince your potential agent or editor to take this book on.

4. Imitating Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, take a look at religion and its importance in your work, even if it never shows up in your book. Write a scene where this belief system is shown. No preaching.

5. GROUP WORK. Each writer will need a completed novel and a detailed synopsis. Planning for several hours, go to the library with four of five other writers. If you want to hear from each person on your novel, divide time evenly. Each person gets one book to critique that is not her own. Read and critique. At the appointed time, switch novels AFTER the critiquer has written–in 25 words or less–what has happened up to  this point. When you pass off the books, the new critiquer reads the synopsis (not to edit but to inform her) and the 25 word note then continues critique where the previous reader stopped. Read until time is called. If you have five books and six hours, every person gets 72 minutes with each novel.

6. Getting to know the plot and subplots of your book, write each as news articles,  journal entries,  headlines, from the voice of a local newscaster, as an announcement over the intercom at school etc. Make them as detailed as needed.

7. Okay, this one isn’t that unusual, but going through your book cut every ‘ly’ adverb you can–cut every well, that, very, started, began you can–change every was-ing word into one word (I was running becomes I ran)–make sure every pronoun works and isn’t confusing–replace all weak verbs with strong verbs–get rid of as many adjectives as you can–and cut all cliches. Take one day to do this work (it will take at least that long). Don’t read for anything but these seven things. Set the book aside for a week. Now read again. How does it sound?


This, Friends, is gonna be fun.

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Three Things Thursday!


When I edit my dialogue, there are a couple easy things that I check. 

First- greetings and farewells. Hellos and goodbyes rarely add to character development or plot. They drag down the writing and mess with the rhythms.  Readers are smart. They know that if you answer a phone or the door or run into someone on the street, you probably said hello.  Skip it and move on.

Second- beating around the bush. Let your character jump to conclusions. We figure things out long before the person we’re talking to says what they’re thinking. If someone has something “important” to tell us, we probably have a pretty good idea what it is. And while in real life we might let the conversation drag on, it’s miserable to read. So skip all the polite small talk and gradual lead-ins. Have your character guess what will be said before the other person says it. Not only does it cut down on word counts, it adds tension.

What have you found are other quick fixes for dialogue?



An interesting writing experiment: Some years ago, I was challenged to come up with 3 separate and disparate memories.
1st memory: a black 2-foot plaster statue of a young girl my mother had purchased— thinking it looked like me as a teenager with a long pony tail. Later, she gave it to me, but then died at age 63, when I was only 27.  Moving from one apartment to another, the base was broken off and she had a chip in her elbow; I had no heart to throw her away.  Stored in a boxes for several years, in multiple homes, I found her under the Christmas tree one year when my husband and then teen-aged son had recast the base and repainted her to look like new.
2nd memory: I woke up one winter morning with the sun glowing gold, casting its color throughout my bedroom.  We’d had no snow that year, but the weather had been foggy and quite cold.  I pulled on some clothes and ran outside to see all the trees up and down our circle painted with sparkling fairy dust — the “fog” frozen on limbs, bushes, even parked cars all of which glowed golden as the sun rose.
3rd memory: In the old ZCMI uptown in Salt Lake, I walked past the Tiffin Room, a nice, well-appointed dining area, with models showing off the store’s wares on Tuesday luncheons.  Suddenly, a shaft of sunlight poured through a skylight, illuminating a woman who sat at the head of a table with several other women.  The light awakened her silvery-gray hair, which crouched over her otherwise brown locks, and my breath caught in my throat: she looked like sister to a beloved cousin of my father’s, and my own mother’s dear friend, even down to the two-toned hair.  Both she and my mother had been gone for years.
The rest of the assignment: group the three memories together into one piece.  In my case, I wrote an only slightly exaggerated or fictionalized version into a narrative non-fiction piece.  It could have been a fairy tale, part of a current WIP, a news article, or whatever.  Try it: Three short memories; then bound together in a single piece.  You might find Magic!
PLEASE post here if you come up with something wonderful.
And Carol!
A Few Important Questions to Ask Yourself if You aren’t Writing
1. What stands in your way?
2. What are you afraid of?
3. Do you really want to publish?
There are always excuses if you want to write–even the “I have a full-time job” excuse. But if you really want to write, you’ll make the time. Give yourself 30 minutes a day. At the end of the year you will have written almost 11,000 minutes.
Writing is scary. It’s hard. But the reward, the finished product, the great line–those can all be worth what you put into it. Look fear in the face and just write. Or, let those stories hound you until they finally fade away or, possibly, drive you crazy.
I meet people who are always waiting for the tight moment to write. Unless writing is a paid, full-time job for you, there’s hardly a right time. If you really want to publish, write.

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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee!

I haven’t been posting and I’m sorry. I got swamped with work, my pretend boyfriend going back to Florida, writing, new roommates, and a buncha other stuff.
But I will do better.

Isn’t that something we always say? That we’ll do better? I guess the only way to do that is to actually try. So I will try. Trytrytry.

It’s March and I have blue hair and there was a big snowstorm and I still can’t get inspired. Although, my  new roommate gave me an oldschool typewriter for my writing days that I’m doing with my favorite friend. The typewriter is gorgeous and amazing and I think it actually works. Just needs some tweaking. Now I can say that I’m almost a real writer.

I  know it’s already the four days into March, but I have some goals I would really like to accomplish this month.

One of those goals is to finish my novel. I’m about twenty thousand words in, and I sort of feel like it’s not very good. But all I can do is keep on writing!

How’s the writing for all you guys? Better than me, I hope!

One good thing I have to say is the WIFYR conference is just a few months away and I can’t wait! I think this will be one of the best years. So let’s get our novels finished and ready to submit and critique and all that other good jazz.

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The Month Started on Sunday Again.

And I’m ready to try and write. Hard writing. Lots of words. Exercising, too.

Weird that this morning I woke up really sad.

Almost crying sad.


Why so much?

Why so long?

What are YOUR March plans?


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Three Things Thursday

Writing exercise: copy a page or two from a favorite writer or book you’ve loved. Get into the author’s rhythm and tone. Looking for ways to change up the WIP you’re stuck in.

I decided to give this a try myself.  I copied two pages of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  It had me laughing and crying by the time I got through.  Have you read it?
A great book for older MG or younger YA, Spinelli nailed the speech and thoughts of upper junior high students — and I should know, having taught them for a number of years.  It was funny, with realistically young dialogue, as told through the eyes of a JHS boy.  The most captivating character is the “new kid” in town who is quirky, strange, an outsider.  And what JHS boy OR girl hasn’t felt that way before?  Called Stargirl, she wears a string of peculiar outfits: bib shorts, shoulder straps and all, a 20’s flapper dress, a kimono, an Indian buckskin or a denim miniskirt with an enamel ladybug and butterfly pins crawling up her long green stockings.  Her “normal” was long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses or skirts.
Stargirl lives with abandon, does outrageous things: brings a ukelele to school, plays it wandering table to table in the cafeteria and singing Happy Birthday to her victims by name on their actual birthdays.  How did she find out who and when? A girl named Hillari orders Stargirl NOT to sing to her on her birthday; so she sings for Hillari, but does so into the stunned face of the male narrator of the story.
What JHS girl wouldn’t dream of living with such abandon?  What JHS boy wouldn’t dream of finding her on his arm on graduation day?
THAT’S a voice I’d like to capture.  That’s the quirky person who’s missing in my story.  Try it.  Maybe it will help get you unstuck too!
People at the extreme end of any spectrum always cause problems. 

Who is the angriest person you know? The loudest? The dumbest? The most gentle? The flakiest?
Try creating a character who is extreme in just one aspect of their personality. How does it change the scene? Or the storyline?
Just one character can make all the difference in a story. Look at Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. He should be a secondary character, nothing more than the roommate of the main character. But he is so eccentric that he becomes fascinating. He steals every scene and I’ll go so far as to say the show would fall apart without him.
Try playing around with the edges of the spectrum with your characters. You might be surprised at what you find.
While you’re reading this, think good thoughts about Thomas Edison, inventor of so many things and, without whom, you wouldn’t be centering so much of your world around electronics.  Yesterday would have been his birthday.
My favorite quote of his: “I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
There are days I feel that way about my writing.  “Edit away,” I say!  “There’s one more way I’ve found that doesn’t work.  I’m bound to get it right eventually!”  So I keep at it.
Here’s another good one:  “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A few more pithy words from this man who kept at it:
“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
“There is no substitute for hard work.”
” Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Thanks to good old Tom, I don’t need to feel I’ve failed.  I haven’t failed if I haven’t yet given up!  How about you?

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Dean Hughes Teaching at WIFYR

and here’s an interview with him! BTW, I think he’s written a million books. AND had them published. Woot woot Dean!


How did you begin writing?

I’ve always written. At four I started scribbling on paper and telling my mom to read my “story.” (Too bad that I didn’t know all my letters.) She would pretend to be read what I it back to me, and I would say, “That’s not what I wrote.” (In case you’re wondering about POV on that story, I must admit, I don’t remember the whole thing. Mom told me about it later.)

I wrote a play in fourth grade, became a devoted reader, and by junior high was telling people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher who taught me the basics of fiction writing, and I got serious about trying to publish. I wrote a novel the year I graduated from high school (rejected), another in college (rejected), another when I first began my career as a professor (rejected), and then a fourth, which was intended for young readers. That one sold. By then I was thirty-five.


The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

I’m afraid I would stand in that bookstore, catatonic. The attackers would find me and shoot me down. I could never choose one book. I guess I’d take my Kindle, with a small library of recent reads, but that would be very satisfying. I’ve been reading books all my life and I’d miss hundreds of them. For one thing, I love many genres—fiction, history, non-fiction on all sorts of subjects, etc.—and I don’t even know which category is my favorite.

So who started this “favorite” thing anyway? When I used to visit schools, kids would ask me what my favorite color was, and I would say, “Blue,” because I’d been saying that for a long time. But then I realized, I had only chosen blue under duress. I was supposed to like one color more than all others. Does that actually make sense? I want the whole rainbow and chartreuse, mauve and ordinary old tan besides. I like colors; that’s what I like. I can’t choose one color, and I can’t choose one book.


When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

I read a lot, of course. I love movies and my wife and I go off to afternoon films, when the prices are lower and the theaters are empty. (There are some good things about getting old.) I keep trying to learn to fly fish. I’m getting a little better at it. I live ten minutes from the Provo River, so I keep telling myself that this year I’ll fish a lot more. I just had back surgery, so this year I can’t ski, but I still plan to return to hills next season (I live about fifteen minutes from Deer Valley ski resort). I play golf (have a course in my back yard); I watch BBC series on Netflix; I teach an adult class at my church. I also clean house. Kathy and I have always divided that sort of work, and sometimes scrubbing a toilet actually seems more appealing to me than looking at more words on my computer screen. For Kathy and me, our big thing is travel. Lately we’ve made trips to Italy, England, and we took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic. We have some other trips in mind. We also do lots of family stuff. We try to attend events our grandchildren get involved in, and we gather once a month if we can to celebrate the birthdays in the family.


What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

Does it tell you anything that I had to Google “spit-take” to find out what it is? (Actually, I’m impressed that I found my answer that way.) Now I’m trying to think what has made me laugh lately. I obviously read too much serious stuff. I don’t remember spitting all over the place, but I did reread Catch 22 lately. The book makes me laugh and cringe and worry. It seems more real than the first time I read it.


Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

I’m known for being “prolific.” That’s really a back-handed way of saying that I’m a drudge who really “cranks them out.” I hate that image, but I will say, I have worked hard all my life. I’ve published 102 books in about thirty-five years. For most of my career I tried to be at my computer by 8:00 a.m., and I stayed there most of the day. But I have a good process, and I think I write efficiently, so I do find time for other things. And lately, I’ve begun to change. I’m afraid my new image may be that of the self-indulging artiste. I get up later than I used to, exercise before I write, and usually get to my computer about nine-ish, or some days, not at all. I’ve been writing a history lately—not just historical fiction, but actual history—and that gives me the excuse to read all day, sometimes for weeks. And since my wife and I are traveling more these days, we escape work altogether and run off to see the world, or we drive to California to see grandchildren. The fact is, I have no real schedule anymore, and I rather like that.


You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

All of these questions call attention to my age. I went from the foxtrot and jitterbug to the twist, the pony, the mashed potatoes—all that stuff. And then it all got away from me. I tried to jump around for a few years, but I was always amazed at what people called fast dancing, which was a little too “free-style” to get my head around. Somewhere in time I gave up most dancing, but when Kathy and are at a party or dinner dance, we usually revert to our old high school foxtrot, and we throw in a jitterbug a couple of times. But no head bobbing—absolutely no head bobbing.


What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

Spend 20 percent of your time composing and 80 percent revising. And when you publish, enjoy the moment, but don’t conclude that you’re now a big deal.


What’s the number one writing tip you can give aspiring authors?

Don’t ask too much of writing. Getting published rarely brings you fame and fortune, and you won’t walk around in a state of euphoric bliss from that day on. Write because you like to write. If benefits follow, enjoy them, but don’t focus on the benefits and forget the hard work of working until you “get it right.”


And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”?  Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era.

When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out.  When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs).  That became “our song.”  But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.”  I know.  I know.  Those are really old songs.  But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?
“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”? Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era. When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out. When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). That became “our song.” But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.” I know. I know. Those are really old songs. But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

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