Category Archives: Ann Dee

Writing a Book Together: An Opening Line Every Day of January and February

So what’s happened since last week? Have you gotten a first line? Found a way to start this new adventure? Has anyone stepped out of the dark, taken your hand and led you toward a novel that feels to have lots of promise?

I have an exercise I’ve shared here about opening lines. It’s one I do every few months. For thirty days, every day, I write a first line to a new novel. Every time I start  I think, “This time it will be easy.” And every time I find out an opening line is hard.

Why? The more days I play with openings, the harder they become. I realize I need to think more about characters–where they are in their lives, their situations, who they are. I worry over what would be the best line for that person I’m writing this book about.

These are not throw-away words. They need to mean something to me.

At the beginning of last year I played this game with myself and came up with more than a month’s worth of first lines, including this one: “When Momma finally died, me and my sisters weren’t surprised.” This line came several days into the exercise, but as I kept writing , day after day, it called to me. I listened.

Last November or so I finished the book about three sisters who lose their mother on page two of the novel. It’s now on submission. Here’s a bit of the synopsis:

“Momma is dying and Mister Paisley wants the land Iris, Ella, and Rory have grown up on.

It’s 1960-something and death isn’t the only thing complicating life for the Flynn girls. Daddy is gone and has been since before Rory’s birth. There are unwanted evening guests who creep around the house, angels who tap at the windows, and the meadow is dangerous to all, including the girls, after dark.”

Here’s a first line Ann Dee came up with when we were teaching a workshop class together:

“My dad ate an airplane one bite at a time.” We’re almost done with the novel. Don’t ask us what we’re doing. We have no idea.

Here’s what I do know about first lines–they have to have enough promise, intrigue, worry, feeling and wonder that you, the writer, can keep going.

So let’s do this together. For the rest of January and all of February come up with a line for a new novel every single day. I write my lines in pencil on a large blank calendar. For me, it’s an easy way to see my progress. HINT: I find I actually end up with more than one sentence. So write small if you choose to do the challenge this way. ANOTHER HINT: If you find you have an emotional connection to your line, this may be the book you want to follow.

PS My daughter just gave me my first line for my novel. It’s from her own life and she texted me this earlier: He wants me to dust the plants. All the plastic plants.

I think I now have a story.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Exercises, First Line, Uncategorized

Writing a Book Together: Ann Dee Ellis and Her Inspiration

Last week we talked about how you have that moment, that idea, that one second when you know you can proceed with writing a novel. I asked Ann Dee to tell us a little of what she does. She’s talked about it before, but since we are looking at this a tiny bit more closely, here’s what she says:

“It takes me forever to figure out what to write next. I just write first chapter after first chapter until one of them feels like I know the MC and I want to follow her/him.”

I asked, “Is it like constructing the main character, or is it more like finding her?”

“Finding her. That’s why I wrote so many first chapters.”

everything-is-fine.jpg

I have several friends who write like Ann Dee does. She doesn’t mind throwing away words. I’m like, Wait. We wrote that. And she’s like, Pfft. There are more words where that came from. And I’m like, But I like my words.

But she gets how to write clean, startling prose for kids.

Everything is Fine is one the must read books in my class this semester. I love this novel. No words are wasted. Nothing is lost. It’s clean, to the point. I think Ann Dee is one of the best middle grade writers in the US of A. Really.

Here’s this about her: http://anndeeellis.com/

And here’s this: http://anndeeellis.com/category/8mm/

So what are you discovering about how you begin a novel? Have you figured anything out about your process? Is it hard? Easy? Is it different than the last time you tried to write a book? the same? Scarier? Easier?

PS Don’t forget the January 11 kickoff at the Provo library. Go here  for more information!

https://goo.gl/forms/NgPm8PuwnAZrfk1P2

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2018–Goals–HAPPY NEW YEAR

Gosh, I love a new year. Don’t you? There’s something neato about being together in the pot. Sharing goals and etc. Like suffering together during NaNo!

Now, I have some not-so-good news. I don’t have last year’s goals. That means I need to figure out how to go back one year (here) so I can find what you all wrote and so we can see what you did. When I figure that out, I’ll post your goals so you can see whatcha done good.

BUT–we must not let that deter us.

What are your goals?

What are your plans?

What are your dreams?

One thing my dear Rick Walton told me was to make goals I was in control of. I love this. It’s so smart.

“I will sell five books this year.” Ummm. I can’t make S&S or Harcourt buy a book. BUT I can write  five books.

Also, making goals attainable is a good thing.

Read this, by the amazing Claudia Mills. It’ll teach you a thing or two. I swear.

https://claudiamillsanhouraday.blogspot.com/

And read this, too! It’s Cheri Pray Earl’s blog about goals.

https://dustingforfingerprints.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/the-year-of-the-writer-thats-me/

So. I’ll give you three of my writing goals for the year–or writing related goals.

  1. Start a REAL, OFFICIAL business. It may be small, but I have been putting this off for some time.
  2. Make that danged website of mine shine.
  3. Write a draft of a new book every three months. IF I sell something and rewrites take up new writing time, I will make adjustments.
    If I break that down, it turns out to be four new books. By the end of the year.
    If I break it down even further, it’s about 1000 new words a day. With play time in between. And time to rewrite.

EVENTS For those of you who want a jumpstart for this year, we have these two events coming up:

WIFYR NEW YEAR KICKOFF!

Provo Library

Third Thursday of this month (6-8 pm–I think!)

Potluck fun!

 

FEBRUARY AGENT/EDITOR RETREAT

Editor Sarah McCabe (Simon and Schuster) and agent Jenna Pocius (Red Fox Literary) are visiting BYU campus. Both will speak on Feb 28, 2018 from 5:30-7 pm. (Room number TBA)
This event is open and free to the public.

For those who write for children and young adults (and those interested in writing for adults), March 1st, March 2nd and March 3rd, will feature Sarah and Jenna in one-on-one critiques with paying attendees.

$119 will include a day of learning with published authors as well as critique time with either the editor or agent. We’ll talk good writing, writing with humor and even glance at marketing your work. We’ll discuss query letters, the important pitch and truly knowing what your book is about–and being able to express it. Each $119 registration includes ONE day.

www.agentretreatutah.wordpress.com

 

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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Kyra

Merry Christmas Day 13 & 14 & 15

Merry Christmas day 13

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. We never really know what to expect. And that can be pretty darn crummy. Another thing that is crummy is when you can figure out  what is going to happen in the novel from page two or three. There’s no reason to read a book when you already know the ending from the beginning.

Look carefully at your  novel. Is it too easy to see who done it? Wha? You’re not writing a mystery novel? Well, you sorta are. All novels should have something that  has to be figured out. Giving that surprise away too soon, or writing poorly so there is no surprise, or just plain being lazy in your writing leaves the reader wanting more.

How can you change up your book so there are plenty of curveballs? Plenty of surprises?

Merry Christmas day 14

For me the name of the character is really important. My editor at St. Martin’s Press said, “Carol! I cannot believe you named your characters after your daughters.”

Well, I do. My daughters. Or other family members.  Or people I love. Or people I hate. They all wind up in my books. (I joke I should have given them each three names not just a first and middle name.)

In my newest novel, MESSENGER, I used all of my grandmother’s sisters and brothers names. That’s a family of 10. Because I love my extended family, the book became that much more  important to me.

So who would you write about?

Why?

How did that person change you?

How is that person complex?

We all know we can’t use our relatives exactly the way they are, but what are 15 things you would write about this person?  What are 15 things you would keep the same about their personality? Their mannerisms? Their speech? Their loves and hates?

I always, or almost always, have Nana smoking, drinking beer, cleaning house, wearing polyester, and laughing. Those are just a few of the things Nanny did.She died almost 25 years ago.  I miss her. When I write about her, she lives again for me.

Merry Christmas day 15

I just saw a post on Twitter about not using adjectives. And I have to admit that I am one of those people who is trying to trim my overuse of them. Or at least I’m trying to do as Lance Larsen says and turn them on ears. (We’ll talk more of this next year.)

Anyone can talk about the Christmas season in cliché ways. It’s snowy. Glittery. Cold. But using adjectives in new and different ways will make your prose sing. It will make the reader stop and pay attention. Yes! That’s what we want!

Take one chapter of your novel and mark  all the adjectives. Now go through and look at the ones that you can cut.  Which ones you can change and make more special? How can you use them in unique ways?

Ack! It must be the season. I used the word special. I really don’t like that word.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, Life, Revision, Uncategorized, Voice

NaNoWriMo, Lemon Trees and Blossoms

A few weeks ago my youngest and I transplanted my lemon tree into a new pot. Every year we get one HUGE lemon from this tree and I was excited that the one lemon I had-pollinated, still clung to the branch.

Low and behold, when Carolina and I moved our tree, it rejoiced and burst out in blossoms all over!

Yahoo! More hand-pollination for me to do! The promise of more lemons!

But this growth got me to thinking. I take very good care of my southern plants. I have two orange trees, a clementine, a lime and two lemons. I have a couple of hibiscus and I’m even growing ginger (three pots full). Still, my lemon needed more love than I had given it. It needed room to breathe and stretch. And when I gave the tree what it needed, I was rewarded with blossoms.

This is sorta like our stories. Here we are, writing with our heads down, trying to get a specific number of words each day. This is exactly what we should do during NaNoWriMo. And at this point, we should be in the just-after-the-beginning of the middle of our novels. That  horrible awful icky yucky-ducky place that I slog through every time I write a book. We might be feeling a little stuck. Or root-bound.

Why not shake things up a little? Loosen the roots of your book. Allow your story to blossom. How? By asking yourself a few questions. Here are a few that may shake things up for you.

  • Am I allowing my character to move the plot or an I forcing the story to go the way I want it to?
  • Am I adding far too many characters? Too many subplots? Too many useless words just to make word count?
  • Am I feeling a forward movement in the story or have I gotten stuck because of wrong moves made in previous pages?
  • Do I trust myself, my story idea, my creativity, my characters to move the story toward the climax of the novel?
  • Do I know where I am headed? (By now, I think you should know what the climax of the story will be.)
  • For the sake of numbers, am I adding useless bits and pieces that may throw me off course during revision?

Hopefully these questions will give you an idea of how to grow a bit more during this exciting month of NaNoWriMo. And I mean that. This month should be a growing month, an exciting month, a frustrating-but-I-did-it, fun month!

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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, Family, Kyra, Life, Uncategorized, Writing Marathon

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

On Thursday I wrote a long list of things we could do to prepare for NaNoWriMo and for some reason, when I went to post, it wouldn’t.

I pitched a fit and stomped off.

Went to the TH evening party and it was a lot of fun.

Never resent.

You have today and tomorrow to think about a few questions so you can jump into NaNo a little more prepared.

BTW, if you want to play with WIFYR, email Bruce here: wifyrdoesnano@gmail.com and make your goals. Bruce will add you to the list. The goal is 1,000,000 words as a group! Woot woot!

Novel questions:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What does she want?
  3. Have her write a note to you.
  4. Ask her 25 personal questions and write this interview down.
  5. Who are her friends?
  6. Her enemies?
  7. Her family?
  8. What is she afraid of?
  9. Can she sing?
  10. Dance?
  11. Is she funny?
  12. Snarky?
  13. Does he have a crush?
  14. A true love?
  15. What is the scariest thing that can happen to her?
  16. Will it happen to her?
  17. What do you see as the climax of the story? Do you have a general idea?
  18.  Name three things she will lose during the telling of the story.
  19. Are you trying to teach a lesson?
  20. What are you willing to give up to complete your 50,000 words?

Also, every Thursday evening, from 7-10 pm we will meet at Kyra Leigh’s house, eat and write.

Last year this was a lot of fun. This year it will be even more fun because I won’t have to clean every TH in anticipation of people arriving at my home. YAHOO, KYRA LEIGH! Anyway, if you want to bring potluck (which is what gets you into the house) and write for a few hours with fellow NaNoers, let me know. We have room for about 15 people.

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Exercises, Kyra, Plot, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process

YAHOO!!!!

You did it!

You are amazing! Did you accomplish 32 hours of writing? Did you take weekends off?

Did you reach your goal?

While I didn’t write every day, man, I tried. And I accomplished two big things. (I had hoped for three, but I am thrilled with the two.)

So, how do you feel?

Share your goals, if you’d like. What did you do? How would you have changed this challenge? How did you get your time in? What was the easiest part of the challenge fo you? What was the hardest?

I can tell you the hardest part for me. Even though I told my family for days that I was taking the hour in the mornings, they still intruded on the hour. I whined about this with the first interruptions, then I figured out I was going to need to figure out how to work anyway.

What was the best part for you?

The best for me was knowing out there, somewhere, other people were giving an hour a day to their writing. I loved the idea of community.

Ann Dee, Kyra and I will let you know where we’ll eat. Would you love to do a potluck? That might be great fun. Go to Olive Garden again? Whatever we decide, let’s make this an annual tradition.

And remember this–YOU ROCK!

PS Guess what awaits you? REVISION!

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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Kyra, Revision, Writing Marathon