Tag Archives: Ann Dee Ellis

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean It. (Part 2)

I’ve had the chance to listen to Lance Larsen  speak several times about writing jaw-dropping sentences. If you ever have a chance to hear Lance speak or read or speak and read, GO! You’ll not be disappointed.

Why do you read?

I read, not just for story, but for the way the sentences of a novel sound. I read to see the way an author puts words together. To see the way I am surprised–not just by plot–but by sentence structure or word choice.

Lance has several suggestions for jaw-dropping sentences and I’ll share one: turn the adjective on its ear. Here’s what I think he means. If every word must do work, then that includes adjectives. Lance suggests making adjectives work in new ways, in ways that paint pictures the reader isn’t expecting. Easy writing isn’t always the smartest, best, clearest, most beautiful etc. It tends to be filled with cliches and overwritten and weak. Good writing, of course, takes place in rewriting. BUT if you’re thinking as you write (some people do), you can put better words on the page the first time through and refine as you rewrite.

Exercise: Look at your first five pages. Trying not to love what you’ve written, start trimming. Adverbs. Adjectives. Weak verbs. Weak words. Cliches. Was-ing words. The words I put up on Monday. Description that’s stale. Etc.

What do you have left? If you’ve been honest, your story should be far thinner.

Exercise: Using these new five pages, write this beginning over in short, choppy lines. (If you need an example, look at my novel GLIMPSE. Or read any of Ann Dee Ellis’ novels.) This is just an exercise, so enjoy the line breaks and be intentional when you add or take away words. Make each stanza have hard-working words so you accomplish more with less.

Exercise: Look at your rewritten five pages (which should be far longer, page-wise). Is there sense of place? Strong dialog? Description that is fresh? Are your words working hard? Is there emotion?

Exercise: Lay this rewritten piece aside for a week. When you go back, see how to change it into regular prose. How do the five pages read now? Can you keep writing this way? Can you do the same thing with the next five pages and the next and the next?

Exercise: Read a book that is known to have strong writing. (I suggest The Road. Or at least part of it.) What do you learn from this author? How does s/he make sentence sparkle? How can you imitate her/him.

So, Writing Brothers and Sisters, have fun. Remember writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. But there is joy in having written. There is excitement in finding a fresh way to say something. Enjoy the experience!



Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

Three Things Thursday

The weather out here in California has been so beautiful lately…Not too hot, not too cold, and of course, no rain–ever. 

When I was younger, my mom would always push me to go outside at times like this. For me, of course, that meant finding a comfy spot outside to read a book.
Now I’ve discovered that having an occasional day to write outside can also help. Take a break from the computer. Grab an actual pen and pad of paper and just write. It can break up the monotony, and it always helps me focus on sense of place. Inside, all my senses are dulled, but outside, everything comes alive again.
Write to Done, an online blog about — well, blogging, often — put one up on Monday about improving your writing skills by traveling. As I am now “on vacation” in Alabama I thought I’d mention the idea here. Travel gets you out of your rut, gives you a chance to get some distance from your everyday experience with a new perspective. Almost anything can work: a change of address, a vacation, a day trip  And what if you only took the day trip to a place you’ve never been n your own home town? Still can’t “afford” it? How about spending some time in the library reading about some place you’ve always wanted to go, looking at pictures?
The first time I came to Alabama three years ago, I experienced breakfast at a Waffle House. A PECAN Waffle!  Scrumptious! Needless to say, we’ve already been twice during this trip. Still scrumptious! But I’m also noticing the people. The “family” working there. On the crowded Sunday Mother’s Day breakfast crew, the job of two men was to keep on cookin’; another one gathered all the sales slips and called out the orders –as they came in— to  the cooks who were ready to handle the next order. One fellow kept drying the knives, forks and spoons hot out of the washer. This well-oiled machine seated the waiting crowd efficiently, quickly, and took orders as soon as the customers had time to decide — and while they sipped on their first cup-a-joe! Another guy handled the cash as each party prepared to leave. ALL the workers were friendly, to each other, and to customers. Numerous asked if we “had everything” we needed as they buzzed past. This was a small, narrow diner with AT LEAST 11 workers working in harmony AND with a jaunty, jovial air about them. It was THE place to be on that wonderful day.
And it gave me a new appreciation for working together, living together, getting along, and making the trip FUN as it progressed. How can that NOT affect the way I feel, act, write, think and appreciate today and EVERY day for some time to come?
Where/when are you “going” next — and how will it inform your writing?
You’re worried as you work with your writing partner:
1. She’s leading you in a way you didn’t expect. Should you follow?
2. He’s making your character seem a little silly or angry even. You don’t want that.
3. You can’t force the story to go the way you want because whenever your partner steers the car, you start going east instead of west.
4. Your partner doesn’t ‘get’ your character.
5. You don’t ‘get’ your partner’s character.
6. Now you don’t ‘get’ your own character.
7. Your partner isn’t picking up the clues you’re leaving behind.
8.  His clues are weird.
I remembering reading King’s On Writing and when he discovered the importance of blood in his novel Carrie. He’d left so many bloody hand prints (his own) that when he went to rewrite he emphasized the natural place his storytelling had taken him.
This is going to be the biggest clue I can give you as you write with your friend. Trust her and yourself and this odd process.
One of the funnest parts of writing with Ann Dee was when I allowed myself to just experiment. If she mentioned screaming at my character’s house, I got to decide if it was a man or woman screaming. Or a kid. It could have been a kid. (It was a bird.) Ann Dee was great at leaving cliff hangers for me to leap from.
About three or four short chapters in, Ann Dee said, “What are we doing? I say she hates dogs, you have her with dogs. I say there’s screaming, you don’t mention in. You said they’re making out and I said there was only a hug.”
This trip is one about you both steering. No one can force the story. If either writer does, you may end up with one unhappy person. Or you may end up with two people struggling for control.
Then you’ll have two stories that won’t work together and you won’t succeed.
Look for the odd clues left behind by your partner. How can you change it up from what she might have meant? Can you make that clue your own? Twist tears out of it? Laughter?
Understand that much of the worries you have will be taken care of in revision. And when the book is done, Like Stephen King, you’ll see what you set up that you didn’t realize you had. In our books it was fathers. I knew my character’s was sick and Ann Dee’s was absent. But then there was one that was dead and a couple others I didn’t even see until I read through the novel.
Ann Dee probably knew.
She’s smart that way.
So–to answer the statements above–trust yourself. Trust your partner. Trust the process.
Talk to each other.
Have fun.

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Preparing for 2015 with Writing Goals

Every year I write about goals and sometimeswe collect them here and see how everyone has done at the end of that year.

The truth is, I talk about goals all the time–NaNo goals, First of the Month goals, Whim goals, Goals Because the Month Started on a Sunday, I Feel Like It goals, Novel Deadline goals, The Night Before I Go to Bed Goals for Whatever Reason . . . You get it, right? I like making goals. I love accomplishing what I set out to do. But the truth is, I always overshoot. Always.

This past NaNoWriMo found me changing rules because I had a book deadline. Here’s what I wanted to do:  rewrite a novel for an editor. Ann Dee and I would finish our book. AND I would rewrite and finish the book I was 10,000 words away from completing from an earlier NaNo. It didn’t all happen.

But I don’t beat myself up when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do. Guess what? Life gets in the way. Always. And while writing is my job, sometimes caring for Mom or being with my girls takes me from my job. I’m blessed to be able to leave my home office and walk in to where there are.

To be successful as a writer, we have to get comfortable with our goal making. Maybe you don’t feel okay when you fail at what you’ve set for yourself (I had a friend who was overzealous like me. This was back in the day. She charted her goals on graph paper and posted them on her fridge, just like I did. She went to a therapist who told her this was bad for her because she always felt like crap when she complete all 250 goals a year!).


here are some ways to set about making your goals. You know, so you don’t end up going to a therapist!

1. Aim at a reasonable target. I knew when I made my November goals they would probably not happen. I was okay with accomplishing only 1.7 of what I set for myself. Make your goals reasonable and achievable. Could I have accomplished what I set out to do November? Yes. However, I made choices that kept me from doing this. Keep Shel Silverstein’s Melinda Mae, who ate a whale a bite at a time, in mind. She’s a good example of winning.

2. Stretch yourself. The idea of a goal, for me, is to stretch. I want to be a better writer, a faster writer, a more thoughtful writer. I shoot a little higher so I have to stand on my tippy-toes to reach the prize.

3. If you’re a writer, don’t make writing your reward after a day of chores accomplished. Instead, make it your habit. Too many times we reward ourselves with writing. When the car is cleaned out. When the house is straightened. When the mile is run. Writing, itself, is the prize. Why put it off? There’s always something that will take your time. Give yourself to writing first, if possible.

4. Set yourself a word count to reach, not a number of hours of Butt in Chair. I can sit at my computer all day, for eight hours, and write nothing. I can research, watch YouTube, read blogs, check Facebook–You’ve done it yourself, right? If you say I’ll write 2000 words today and won’t get up till I’m done, then you’ll run the chance of writing almost ten pages in that writing session.

5. As Anne Lamott says, allow yourself to write shitty first drafts. Here’s where she says it: http://wrd.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/1-Shitty%20First%20Drafts.pdf

Good, strong writing takes time. Thoughtful writing takes time. And stories are perfected in rewrite. Give yourself permission to write as fast and dirty and drafty as you can. Ignore the voice that tells you that adverb has to go. Write on. Then, in rewrite, begin the amazing work of perfecting the story.

6. Give yourself reasonable goals that YOU control. My dear friend, Rick Walton, taught me this and I have repeated it here many, many times. I will sell three books this year is a much harder goal to accomplish than say, I will write three books this year. You control your writing, but the publishers? Not so much.

7. Tell Writer’s Block it isn’t real. Then believe it. If you’re having a hard time with a novel, you’ve probably taken a wrong turn in your story. So back up and read to see where you’ve gone astray. Don’t wait for the Muse. She may never show.

8. We do what we love. Learn to love writing. Even if you hate it at the same time. Enjoy the struggle of making a passage work, developing a character, working through a difficult plot. Remember–good writing is work. My goal for any novel, once it’s done, is to love that I’ve written.



Filed under CLW, Exercises, Life, writing process

Three Things Thursday on Friday

First Thing from Carol!
We’re back. It’s been a very long month and a half with many thousands of miles put on a couple of cars. I am still tired. But almost everything I did these last few weeks was worth it. I may have even come up with a scene for a book. What book? I don’t know. But maybe I know the climax of that unwritten, un-thought-of book.
So next week we start in full swing back with the blog.
And we have several fun plans. Plus, we’ll need to set up a meal at Olive Garden for sometime in August!
I have a few goals for myself and the rest of the summer.
Number One–The girls and I are spending lots of quality time together. Dinners. Movies. Game time. Laughing. Arguing. Etc.
Number Two–I am gonna read like crazy. So far I have read THE END OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT and I am halfway through Chris Crowe‘s book DEATH COMING UP THE HILL and halfway through Robin McKinley‘s ROSE DAUGHTER and I have  Ilima Todd‘s REMAKE and Courtney Alemeda‘s SHUTTER and Jandy Nelson‘s I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. Plus I’m reading THE BOOK OF MORMON each day. 🙂
Number Three–I am going to finish four books in various stages of edit and writing.
I will also get my Dyson fixed.
And then vacuum really well.
AND I’m decluttering and preparing for my fall class and working on my website and learning twitter.
But One, Two and Three are most important and I intend to do what I love most the rest of July and August and September AND maybe the rest of my life.
Cheryl Van Eck says:
On my first attempt at writing a novel, my MC was a teenage boy with superpowers who was in love with a girl.
It sucked.
As a woman, I struggle to write like a man, particularly like a man in love.
It goes both ways, too. There’s a certain YA series out there by a man who pumps out about ten books a year.
I was about 50 pages in, doing pretty well, reading about this hardcore, James Bond-type main character with tons of action.
Then suddenly, the MC starts talking about how attractive this other guy is. My first thought: They’re gay?
Really, I considered that the MC was gay before I considered that the MC was a girl with a masculine nickname. She didn’t think like a girl or act like a girl. It was poor characterization.
Are you trying to write like the opposite sex? Do you feel you are successful? And if so, how do you do it?
Brenda Bensch says:
I love cool quotes from cooool writers about cool, writerly subjects. This oldie but goodie is from Ursula K. Le Guin back in October of 2000: “There are a lot of people who will say I’m the exception, the only good science fiction writer.  That’s nonsense.  I do seem to be somebody who has carried people from realistic literature to fantasy and back.  I’m happy to do that.  If I’m a steppingstone, walk on me, for heaven’s sake.”
That was then, this is now.  And I know plenty of writers who have been steppingstones for a lot of us.  Some of the leaders of the pack are Rick Walton, Dave Wolverton/Farland and, of course, Carol Lynch Williams.  If we’re lucky, we’re “walking” — if not on them — at least in their well-worn footprints. Thank you all for leading the way!
(Thank you, Brenda!)


Filed under CLW, three thing thursday, writing process

For Yesterday

Some days you just can’t Write Like  a Writer.

It’s impossible.

Like this past weekend.

A 4-day migraine.

No Mother’s Day on Mother’s Day.

And I still feel like crap.


Today is the release date for my book Signed, Skye Harper.

And my head feels like a sponge filled with water.

A sponge with bulging eyes.



Ann Dee has a book launch at The King’s English.

May 15, 2014.

7 pm.



I have a book launch at The King’s English, too.

May 17, 2014.

7 pm.



Next time we’re signing together. Maybe for the book we’re working on. 🙂

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Three Things Thursday

from Brenda Bensch
Camp NaNoWriMo will be held in April and July. Pick a month . . . or do both if you’re bored, tired, need cheering up, crazy or clinically schizoid.
Chris Baty, NaNo’s founder, said in his book No Plot? No Problem! that even as early as the first year ever of NaNo (1999) the six of twenty-one friends who completed the 50K challenge all learned something. All who finished NaNo that first year agreed: they’d ONLY been able to write so well because they wrote quickly and intensely. “The roar of adrenaline drowned out the self-critical voices that tend to make creative play such work for adults.” [Maybe that’s what keeps Mette Ivie Harrison writing like a fiend!]
Baty took these realizations as the “plus” in doing NaNo that first year — and I think they’re pretty standard for now too:
1. Enlightenment is overrated.
2. Being busy is good for your writing.
3. Plot happens. (Trust the process long enough to get to week 3)
4. Writing for its own sake has surprising rewards.
Who’s willing to give it a shot with me?
from Cheryl Van Eck
“Defining details” is a term often used in photography to describe something that is small but significant to a person’s life at that time. For instance, the ink left on a newborn’s foot after the nurse stamps it.  It’s a simple and easily forgotten detail, but it can symbolize an entire era in someone’s life.

We see these same defining details in many of the popular books today– Harry Potter’s scar, or Katniss Everdeen’s mockingjay pin. Tiny details that symbolize an entire movement.

Think about the defining details of your own  life. Is it an apron, covered with flour handprints? Scuffed and battered running shoes? A notebook exploding with loose papers and only held together by the memory of a spine?

Now think about your character. Whether they love it or hate it, there is something they see every day. There is something that represents either who they are, who they have been, or who they are becoming.  Tell us in the comments what you’ve come up with!

 from Me!

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers is filling fast. So fast, I can’t believe it. If you are interested in getting in on a session, come on down.

For those who want to try something different, I’d encourage you to look at the mini workshops. There are several to choose from and each focuses on a specific skill set.

Worried about having a true voice in your writing? Sign up with Ann Dee Ellis and spend four hours learning, writing and polishing this important quality editors are always looking for.

Jennifer Nielson is leading a four-hour workshop on developing a strong plot.

Robison Wells will tell you how to develop a strong, real character, one you can recognize on the street.

Wondering how to strengthen your world building? HINT–ALL novels need world building. Not just fantasy.  Brodi Ashton is the faculty directing this year’s class.

Are you an illustrator? Sherry Meidell will spend four hours with you and your classmates, helping you to learn how to sell your picture book.

For more information, email me at carolthewriter@yahoo.com or visit http://www.wifyr.com


Filed under Character, CLW, three thing thursday, writing process

Day of Accountability

So, how did you do this week?

What happened in YOUR writing life?

I spent yesterday getting to listen to authors Chris Crowe, Ann Dee Ellis, and Martine Leavitt.

The day before I was with author Laurel Brady.

Today I will see Julie Berry and Alane Ferguson.


For those who are interested, Alane is doing a one-day conference tomorrow. Email me for information on signing up. Do it quick!


Tonight Julie Berry will be at the Provo library.


And Ann Dee and I MAY have decided what book we will write together.


This week I finished the book–and sent off a real draft to the publisher–that Cheri Earl and I are working on.

And Laura and I finished our book, too. And sent it off. Yippee!

I still haven’t started really writing. My computer has been doing weird things and when I took it to the shop to be repaired, they said it’s fine. I hope! I’d like to start writing a new book. And preparing for NaNo.


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