Category Archives: Family

Friday–What’re We Gonna Write Today?

#20

You spend 24 hours with your main character.

What do you do?

What do you talk about?

What do you notice as quirks?

How does she make you cry?

What stories about her past does she tell you?

You go shopping. What does she buy?

What does she eat?

Can she cook?

Name three nice things she does for you.

What does she want you to do for her?

What does she read?

How does she surprise you?

Worry you?

How does she sleep? On her back? Curled up? Does she toss and turn? Snore? Talk in her sleep?

Does she want breakfast?

At the end of the day together, does she thank you for telling her story or curse you?

 

 

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Filed under Character, CLW, Exercises, Family, Life, Plot, Uncategorized, Voice, writing process

Three Thing Thursday on Friday. Again.

CHERYL SAYS: I remember the story of a speaker at a conference I attended. She related the tale of a man who had married an incredibly beautiful woman. A few months into the marriage, he came to his mother, feeling like he was at his wit’s end.
“She doesn’t work, she doesn’t cook, she doesn’t clean, she doesn’t do anything, Mom. What should I do?”
His mother responded, “You married her for her looks. Go home and look at her.”
Do you have sentences and paragraphs like this beautiful wife? If they aren’t pulling their weight, you have to cut them loose. Every sentence needs to move the story forward. Never, ever, alter your story to make your prose fit. The story is king. Everything supports the story, or it has to go.
For me, it’s easier to save these little darlings in another folder, telling myself that someday I’ll find a home for them. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But I know that my story is stronger for having dumped them.
I think part of the reason that it’s so hard to cut these sections stems from fear. What if I never write anything this beautiful again? What if this is the best sentence in the entire novel? What if I’ve already peaked?
Get rid of these thoughts. Every time you write, you become better. You are stronger, you are wiser, and your words will reflect that. Not only will you write something as good as the lost prose, you’ll write something better.
CAROL SAYS: So that idea of planning for NaNo? For sure, I am a pantser. (WordPress wants me to be a panther. My girls want me to be a cougar. But I am a lowly writer who never plans.) It’s hard to plan out what I’m going to write. I just don’t want to. The thought of deciding what goes in chapter one and being smart like Caitlin Shirts?
So here’s what I am doing. A Carol Plan. Easy and not restrictive.
I’m jotting down every idea of what COULD happen in my books.
Everything.
Night before last I couldn’t sleep.
Wrote thought after thought of what could happen to my Wrasseling Gals. The more I thought about it, the more possibilities came to me.
The truth is, I know I won’t make it in NaNo without forethought.
We’ll see if this helps.
AND:
Martine Leavitt‘s YA novel CALVIN has won the Governor General’s Literary Award of Canada in the category of literature for young people.

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Monday, Dreary Monday

Rick’s funeral was on Saturday.

My friend Rick.

For some time I’ve wondered how I’ll get along without him. Rick of the last 18 months was so sick. It’s selfish for me to want him back. Still.

When I cam home from the funeral, there was a package waiting for me from my publishing house.

One of my daughters wanted to open it, so I let her.

And inside was a letter from the Junior Library Guild saying MESSENGER ‘has been awarded the designation, “A Junior Library Guild Selection” for our fall 2016 span.’ They sent along a lapel pin and a certificate, too.

A lapel pin!

I thought, “Rick. Rick, did you have something to do with this arriving today?”

He and I told each other when we sold books. Sort of casually.

“Oh, I sold a book to Candlewick,” he’d say again. And again. And again.

“Of course,” I’d say. “I’m so proud you.” I’d cheer and tell him he was a genius.

He knew he was a genius. But he loved for me to cheer for him and tell him how wonderful he was. I loved that job. Telling him that I loved him and that he was wonderful.

Ha! Good ol’ Rick.

He was so prolific that he had an average of four books a year all the while we knew each other.

I was going to say this at the funeral but forgot.

Once, early in our friendship, Rick called me and said, “Hey, a bunch of people wanted to see my office. You wanna join everyone?”

Are you kidding? “Sure,” I said. I couldn’t wait for the tour.

All these years later, I remember walking around Rick’s home office. There were piles of books and bookshelves of books and a desk and pens and papers and lists. I thought, “This office looks like my office. There’s nothing that amazing here.”

Years later I realized it was Rick the Genius who made that office rock. He would have written all those books, and published them, had he had to write in a car (he did), at a school (he did), in  writers group (he did), at church (he did), on a walk (he did) on a drive (he did), in the middle of a sentence talking to someone (he did)–you get the picture.

Rick was what was amazing in that office.

He didn’t get to see my latest novel MESSENGER. But I choose to believe Rick will watch over my career now. That will make it easier to go through the days because I will miss him.

I will miss him.

 

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Be Very Afraid

So a week plus ago, Ann Dee and I sent in the book we wrote together to our agents. The rewrite. It’s ready for submission. Woot woot!

Before we started our project, way back when, we decided we would write something we had never done before.

We would take some risks.

We had three pages (maybe) of a dark dystopian with elements from history. (That we still need to write. And we will. I think.)

Then Ann Dee sent me a new beginning and we wrote a middle grade novel exactly like the things we would both write on our own.

I love it.

It’s hilarious. And sad. And delicious. There’s lots of talk of food.

(Ann Dee is one of the best writers in America. Yes, I believe that. How did I luck out getting to write with her?)

GingerBelle Co. That’s the title. For now.

For me, it seems perfect for a sequel.

And a sequel to this kind of book is exactly the kind of thing Ann Dee and I write.

We’ve spent plenty of time giggling about how we were going to write something different and how we did exactly what’s comfortable to both us.

 

As we got closer to the end of the novel, I started bugging the lady with the five babies under the age of four, about our next book.

We sent each other ideas.

Brainstormed.

Wondered out loud.

Went for a treat and talked.

“It has to be different than what we’d normally write,” Ann Dee kept saying.

And I kept saying, to every idea, “No. We write that already. We write that already.”

 

Why should it be different?

My dear friend, a writer I love and admire, Matthew J. Kirby, told me that I should write the book I’m afraid of. Matt knows I’m terrified to even think a thought that may include a fantasy element.

He’s right.

Fantasy? I can’t even think a fantastical thought. (And when I shared my one fantasy idea with Ann Dee she said, “My heart’s just not in that.” She wanted to laugh. I could tell.)

Fantasy is different for me.

It’s scary.

 

I’ve done it a few times. Written what I was afraid of: THE CHOSEN ONE.  GLIMPSE. THE HAVEN. Those topics all terrified me.

What happened when I let myself explore these scary ideas?

I ended up writing books in new ways. At least new ways for me.

That meant anguish. Fear. Tears. And some joy. Joy because I succeeded.

 

After going back and forth for about a month, throwing ideas at each other and keeping Matt’s suggestion to be afraid of the next thing we write, Ann Dee and I may have found it.

Our new project.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

Historical. A terrible time in history.

A different culture.

I’ve been thinking of this idea less than 24 hours and I am afraid of it. Really afraid of it.

But if we add a dose of what we love, things Ann Dee and I are comfortable with, we may be able to pull this off. Things like family. Love. Sisters. Humor. Sorrow.

 

So what absolutely frightens you?

I really want to know.

 

 

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Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Family, Life, Plot

Spring!

I love spring. I love the weather warming up, the flowers, the longer days.

I love the newness of life, baby birds, calves, baby babies. Spring is a good time to be alive.

This spring finds me working with Ann Dee, celebrating my divorce and my anniversary with my agent. And working on a book of my own.

A mid-grade.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a mid-grade on my own.

I have two characters I love and four adults I quite like.

Plus a teacher (based on my own 4th grade teacher, Miss Emery. She told the scariest stories.).

And a true life wrasseling star from the Olden Days.

Those are the players.

Then there has to be a plot. (Why? Why-oh-why must there be plot? Why can’t lovely words just make the story?)

So there’s the ‘borrowing’ of cars. Doing ‘naughty’ things. And a baby coming pretty darn quick.

And the wondering that I must do–what do these girls really want?

Will Miss Emery show up again wearing a wrasseling outfit?

Will Grampa Jo and Nanny find love?

Will Etta and Kat find themselves in the wrasseling ring?

Just what is going to happen?

We all know character moves the plot. What will my little girls and their grandparents do to make a story happen?

I’m ready to let them lead me.

There’s a murder in my next book and I gotta get words down for that.

But first.

First there’s the spring.

And a new baby in a book.

A new plot.

New characters.

Then the dark.

 

 

 

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Filed under Character, CLW, Family, Life, Plot, writing process

15 Minute Monday

These past few days have been really good for me.

My agent, Steve Fraser, was here. He gave a terrific talk on Wednesday night to a crowd who sat on the floor and up the stairways and all around the room (INCLUDING sitting in chairs!). He spoke of joy. It was lovely and inspirational.

I’ve been thinking of my writing life. What I want to do with it. How I need to change things or not change them. What is important to me.

And there has been this other stuff.

And the other stuff has gotten into my very heart and stabbed at it with ice picks and as the stabbing has gotten worse, I’ve begun to build this wall around me and how I feel.

Can a writer do that?

Well, yes, they can. I have.

Should they?

I’ve got all these new, weightier things to think about. Personal things.

Most times I don’t want to think about them. Feel them. Hurt from them.

But

but the deal is, all this stuff, will, in the end, influence my writing.

So I have to be available emotionally. Not just for the good of my life and the people in my life, but otherwise, what good am I as a writer?

We write Truth. That means we have to be willing to feel all things icky and hard and gross and awful and happy and joyous and amazing because our readers need that Truth.

As I have peered sideways at things going on lately, even when I see I don’t like me very much as I gaze on these weightier things, I can see that this has been a good few days.

Sad. Hard.

Emotional.

Yes. Good.

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Filed under Agents, CLW, Family, Life

What Matters Most

Have you noticed time streaming, screaming past? Like water through your fingers? Like sand through the hourglass?

Yes, these are the days of our lives.

And once again, I have been reminded how sacred and fragile life is.

A late Sunday night when a child announces a friend is dead.

An email with someone telling me the cancer is back.

A call from a dear friend saying the chemo isn’t working.

Mass shootings.

Mass murders.

Kidnappings.

You know (oh, you know) I could go on.

But this morning, for just a moment, I want to share what my writing life has done for me.

When I mailed that first novel off so many years ago, I had no idea how my world would open up. At the time I had three babies and was so very shy I couldn’t talk to people. (Really.) I’d worked on the novel called Me and Kelly for several years until I’d realized how it needed to end. When it was very nearly ready to be published, I was on bed rest with my 4th pregnancy and I got a phone call from a guy named Rick Walton. He’d heard about me from a writer named Louise Plummer. Did I want to talk about books and writing?

Yes! I did.

Every day, Rick called me. We spoke for a couple of hours. By the time I went to the critique group run  at his home, Rick was my friend. And at that group I got to know several other people who changed my life. Made my life amazing. I wrote books with some of them. Ran the first really successful writing conference in the Provo, UT area with two of them. Became fast friends with nearly all of them.

The other day, after the telephone call from my dear friend, I realized just how far-reaching my writing life has been. I’ve met teachers in other states who’ve become my friends. Other writers from all over the country who have changed who I am. I’ve gone to school in a place hot as hell, watched my writing career completely stop for seven years, lost loved ones, a marriage, hope. I’ve made more and more and more friends, had my heart broken more times than I can count, agonized over family situations, known editors who I’ve known–without a doubt–wanted me to succeed. Who helped me make my books better and better. I’ve gotten letters from adults about my books. From children. Spoken to translators who have lost children. Learned to love people I thought I would never have anything in common with. I’ve run conferences, been to conferences, accepted awards, been passed over for awards, and all along what has mattered most are the people behind it all.

The people.

You.

I am not who I was when I started that lonely process of writing a middle grade novel. I am better because of the people I know and love.

The best part of my life is my religion and my family. But a very close second is my writing world because it has afforded me so much–the friends I would have never met. Those people who have made my life richer. The people who have been my example. Shared experiences. Shared their love. Who have cared for me, no matter what.

How grateful I am for the people I know.

You all have made me better. I am touched to know you. So grateful I do.

 

 

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Filed under CLW, Editors, Family, Life