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I’m a really good cleaner person.

When I pick up I tend to put things in my pockets. Legos. Coins. Socks. Lint balls.

I also put things on my head. Barrettes. Elastics. Hats. Headphones.

And on my body. Sweatshirts. Towels (around the neck). Belts. Sunglasses.

And sometimes I put things in my mouth. Skittles. Half a pancake. An orange slice (healthy). Bread.

Cam might walk in the room and it will be clean at that point. So very clean.

He’ll look at me and say: Wow.

And I’ll say: Thank you. Yes. I deserve a medal.

And he’ll say: You know you just put the entire room on your person.

And I’ll say: Look around. Have you ever seen this place so spotless.

And he’ll say: What are you going to do now? It’s time for church.

I’ve been thinking about this habit and how maybe I do the same thing with my writing (when I treat it like a gift (or maybe a battle?) and actually do it). When I revise, clean up a manuscript so to speak, I collect a lot of things. Beautiful scenes that have to go. Pages of research that end up not mattering. Entire plot lines that lead to nowhere. It can be painful to cut and carry all these things. Or at the very least, heavy (a lot of sweatshirts and coats lying around these days).

But the beauty of it is that those things aren’t thrown away. They aren’t for nothing. No no no. Instead they go on my body. They go in my pockets. On my head.  And even into my mouth.

I have found that weeks or months or even years later in some cases, those scenes, those hours of research, those unused plot lines have inspired or reappeared or helped me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. When I thought, I don’t know how to solve this writing problem, or I don’t know how to write this scene or I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m going to quit, I’ve been able to reach into my pocket and pull out something that is exactly right.

The moral: Embrace revising. Embrace cutting. Embrace making your manuscript better even if it’s painful. Embrace “time wasted” for the good of the book. And put all those bits and pieces and hours and sweat on your person. You’ll find their place later.

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A few weeks ago my niece who is also my virtual trainer and one of my best friends, she texted me and asked if I had done the workout I was supposed to do for the day.

I laughed.

I hadn’t done the workout for the day in about two weeks.

I texted back: Wearing the same clothes from last Tuesday. Not exercising. Not eating kale. Just stepped on a banana.

A few days later, a box arrived in the mail.

It was a small stair stepper. The kind you can keep under your bed. The kind from infomercials. The kind that would make all my dreams come true.

I was thrilled.

Here are the reasons:

a. it was new.

b. it looked so easy.

c. I could do it in my bedroom where no one could see me.

d. it meant I was going to become fit and get dressed regularly and start eating kale.

Um.

Guess what happened?

I kept waiting for a chunk of time to do it. I kept looking for my sports bra and my dumb yoga pants. I kept waiting for the kids to be occupied. I kept waiting for the perfect time and the perfect atmosphere and the perfect feeling in my heart and soul to begin my journey to physical fitness.

Today I took the stepper out of the box. Finally.

I also got on the stepper. In my nightgown and underwear and barefeet and no bra (don’t picture it–please) and for ten interrupted (but I did squats during the interruptions) minutes, I did the stair stepper.

And, I felt amazing. I looked awful. My hair kept getting in my mouth. I didn’t have a protein drink hand and it wasn’t for sixty minutes. But amazing.

I still feel amazing. Ten minutes! It’s a start.

I sometimes do this with a new project. Or even an old project. One that I love. One that has so many shiny prospects. It’s going to be so easy! It’s going to be the novel of my dreams!  I would write and it would flow out of my  fingers and I wouldn’t stop until it was done. 2000 words a day just like Mr. Stephen King!!!!! But first I need time to write. I need a place to write. I need to feel like writing. I need everyone to LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!

But then . . .

Two weeks later.

Three weeks later.

And a new piece of workout equipment or novel idea looks so much better, so much more promising

I’m going to try ten minutes a day on my new stair stepper.

I’m also going to try ten minutes a day on my book that this killing me and that I’m a champion at avoiding. Ten minutes! Ten interrupted minutes even! Without wearing a bra!

I think I may be the only person with this problem. Oh well.

 

 

 

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What Makes a Best Seller?

So I started Eleanor & Park for a moment on Saturday and went to bed last night early so I could read. I finished at 3 am (and was awakened by a daughter just a few minutes later. I slept in this morning.). I rarely do that. Read a book in one sitting (or, in this case, in one lying down). But three chapters in, Rainbow Powell  had me.

As I flopped over in bed, the book complete, I thought about what makes a best seller. (The copy of E&P I had was on it’s 27th printing. 27! That’s a best seller to me! Plus I remember being excited when I saw a book I’d written had gone to a third printing.)

Here are a list of questions I wondered. Was it . . .

The way the book looks on the page?

Two dead-on voices?

A romance?

The slow reveal of character development, problems, bullying, nicely contrasted families etc?

Heartbreak. Laughter. Kissing. But not-too-soon kissing? Stress? Aching?

Language? Could strong language grab readers?

Lots of accolades, including A Printz Honor?

No book is perfect, and I didn’t quite believe the ending (this is how I feel now, I may change my mind after I have a few more hours to think), however I love the possibilities that the book leaves the reader with. Was that it? The ending? The hope?

What makes a best seller for YOU?

http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/overview.html

 

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Three Things Thursday on Saturday

I have to be to school early on Thursdays, and I try to remember to post on time, but I always forget. :(

So here we go. A post on Saturday.

 

Carol:

The gig at the Provo Library last night was a blast.

Christian McKay Heidicker did a terrific job AND got a tattoo.

There was food.

Prizes.

Chatting.

And writing prompts.

Make sure to mark your calendar for next year.

 

 

Brenda:

Re-reading a blog from Randy Ingermanson (“the Snowflake guy”) I came across his thoughts on breaking Big Projects into small Chunks.  I think we all do this — nevertheless, it’s a good reminder. We all feel pressured by time, or the lack thereof, for our writing.  Randy was suggesting taking YOUR OWN longest, PRODUCTIVE chunk of time.  Let’s say, you think you can write for an hour without losing momentum.  Set a timer for 50 minutes. Ban looking at Facebook, or emails, or answering phones, or whatever your daily interruptions are.  When the 50 minutes is up, STOP!  Take 10 minutes to walk around, get a drink, do anything BUT go back to the writing.  Feeling somewhat refreshed?  Good.
If you get one page done, swell.  A whole scene?  Even better.  A chapter?  WOW ! ! !
If you found you began to flag a bit before the timer went off, use even smaller chunks: 40 minutes of intensive work and a 7 minute break?  That works.  30 intense minutes and a 5 minute break?  That’s OK too.  What can YOU do in a finite amount of time?  What is your OPTIMUM amount of time at such an intense level?  It will be different for everyone.  And that’s good, as well.  The problem is to find out what works for YOU, and under what circumstances. And part of the process is letting go when the timer goes off.
If one hour is all you can spend on the writing and you’ve made it productive, you’re done for the day.  If you can do a second hour, with the same kind of intensity, go for it.  The point here is to restrict that chunk of time to intense, concentrated writing.  And to take the break, so you’ll feel renewed, revitalized, ready to move to the next “chunk” of your day, whether that’s throwing in a load of laundry, or sitting back down to the computer.
Cheryl:
I read a book this week. A good book. But I’ve been depressed ever since, because it could have been a GREAT book. 

It wasn’t the writing, or the pacing, or the characters. All of that was very well done. The problem was that the strongest aspect of the book was the backstory.
By the time the book started, the most important character development had already happened. It felt like starting the Harry Potter series with book 5. If we didn’t already love him, we’d never have put up with what a miserable little pill he was then.
That’s how this book was. The backstory was so well done that I could see what the first chapter would contain, what the climax would be, how the story would resolve. It was beautiful. Granted, it would have been a character-driven novel versus the plot-driven, action-packed summer blockbuster that it was, but it would have been so worth it.
Check your novel. Does it start in the right place?
Then check it again. Are you sure??

 

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Three Thing Thursday

Cheryl:

Carol:
PARTY!
NEXT WEEK!
January 15, 2016. Provo Library.
7-8:45 pm
Cost–potluck dish and, if you’d like, a book donation.
Christian McKay Heidicker is our speaker.
Go to http://www.wifyr.com to register because seats are numbered.

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Happy New Year?

Your goals last year, exactly as I saved them.

BLOG PEEPS 2015

Kim Woodruff:
Happy New Year! I made 50 goals yesterday. I’m going to narrow them down today. Last year my goal was to be more consistent with my writing. This year I want to be more “hardcore” like Shannon Hale said in a recent post. I plan to write and read more, waste less of my writing time on brainstorming/trying to figure out how to get it right before I start, and learn to let myself write really bad drafts before I start trying to perfect things. And I want to keep querying agents and attend conferences (yea for WIFYR!).

Carol Williams:

more interviews with authors, editors and agents
finish revising with Ann Dee and send the book off–done in April

Oddstuffs:
My goal this year is to learn self-discipline and do something productive every day! I’d prefer to make significant progress on all my major projects every day, but I’ll settle for doing something productive every day. :) Although, writing every day must happen. That’s the other condition. Some writing, and something else productive.

Brenda:
1. Write something (significant) every day.
2.  Read something (significant) every day.
3.  Do some (significant) exercise (AT LEAST) 6 days a week
4.  Clean or put away something (major) every day.
(I should really clean out some of the boxes from when I moved here.
Almost 5 years ago.
And from when Herb moved here.
Almost 3 years ago.).
5.  Do something (noticeably) (kind/good) (to/for) someone every day.

And my check list will be even simpler:
1.  Write
2.  Read
3.  Exercise
4.  Clean
5.  Kind

Ann Dee:
1. Feel like a writer again.
2. Feel like a person again.
3. Eat more fish.
4. Get a space heater of my very own.
5. Finish the short story that is due.
6. Write one novel.
7. Not get a full facial wax.
8. Write a short story.
9. Learn how to poach eggs. Maybe try Eggs Benedict.
10. Read a book.

 

 

Only 5 of us played.

How did you do?

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Post Christmas Pudding

My dear friends,

Today as my kids were fighting and my baby crying and my dishes piling, I wondered if it might be a good idea for world leaders like Putin and Obama and Isis and Kim and all of them to take three weeks and watch five kids (or more or less even) full time.

All day long.

Change poopy diapers of kids who hate getting their diaper changed so they twist and scream and try their hardest to run away half wiped.

Mitigate fights over of legos and lego handbooks and lego instructions and legos being thrown all over the room and lego sets being destroyed and GET SAMMY OUT OF HERE HE’S BREAKING IT!

Have piles and piles of laundry that never get done and sometimes they get folded but they don’t get put away and then the dirty get mixed in with the clean and then there’s no distinction between the two so it’s start over time.

Spend time reading stories and chapters and novels.

Lose socks and mittens and favorite minecraft figures and hair clips and coats and the flour (???) and  jeans and keys and phones and the youngest child and homework and wedding rings and the book you were reading and an entire bag of potatoes.

Have people sit on your face at three in the morning.

Go sledding in the backyard.

Have other people brush your hair while you try to help someone else do a puzzle while the baby is throwing oatmeal.

Listen to one child say Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Over and over and over again with no regard for any answer you give them. Yes? What? How can I help you? Doesn’t matter.

Have a birthday party with ten boys where they make paper airplanes and run around the house and scream and you say things like, let’s keep it down. Be careful of the stairs. Don’t break your face!

Go to the bathroom with one or more kid standing next to you talking to you, asking what you’re doing, trying to climb on your lap, etc.

Lay in bed in the morning with five people wrestling and laughing and kicking your stomach and yelling and wanting cereal and pancakes and bacon and milk.

Feel a general ache in your bones because you love your children and you want them to be happy and work hard and learn and eat healthy food and get a lot of fresh air and become responsible adults and kind people who aren’t jerks but you also know it might not matter so much what you do or maybe it does matter but you’re tired and you’re kind of a jerk too so good luck to them.

Feel another less general ache. One that is centered right above your heart where your creative center beats and you want more than anything to be able to write. To read. To think. To take more than ten minutes at a time to spread your thoughts out. To let them marinate and connect. To write without it having to amount to anything because you have the luxury of time. Time to let the crap out and the good out and time to figure out which is which. Which ideas should rise to the top and which are just stepping stones to getting there.

Do you think it would change them? Would they be different? Would there be less wars? More wars? More compassion? Less compassion? Would they curl up in beds? Take the kids to museums, Bjorns and all? Get the bathrooms clean using environmentally safe cleaners and dinner made with grass fed beef all while cutting health care? What would it be like?

Someone is crying now that’s it for me.

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