Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fools For Books Giveaway Hop

Mommy's Always Write will be giving away a signed author copy of

Growing Up Gracie

1) All you have to do to enter is become a follower of my blog. And if you already are a follower, you're already entered!
2) If you want one "extra" entry, leave a comment answering this question:

Do you plan to "fool" anyone for April Fool's Day?

Giveaway Time

Growing Up Gracie was recently reviewed by Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. Check it out if you want.

She also hosted a giveaway of the book and the winner is Aydrea Rykert. Congrats Aydrea! I'll be mailing you a signed copy of the book soon.

Mommy's Always Write will also be participating in another giveaway starting tonight at midnight. It's the Fools For Books Giveaway Hop and it's an awesome chance to win tons of awesome stuff.

How it works is you hop from blog to blog (there are hundreds and I will have links to them all on here starting tonight) entering contests and hopefully you win some things! This is a short hop--only two days--so don't wait! Good luck

The details for my hop will be posted late tonight, so check back in if you want to get your hands on a copy of my debut novel.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When is a novel really--no I mean, really--done?

When is your novel really done? Is it ever done? Do seasoned authors go back through their final-version book on the Borders shelf and think, oh I should have fixed that?

When is the right time to just let it go?

I've been working through revisions on Letters Never Sent for the past few months. My critique partner definitely thinks it's ready to go, but there are still things I can't quite let go of. Then I do a little blog surfing and I read so many revising suggestions: read your novel backwards; get rid of all the that's that aren't necessary; go through your MS just looking for awkward dialogue. You know what I mean.

A writer could literally revise for years and STILL not be done.

When I was a newspaper reporter and my articles averaged 700-1,500 words, I had an easy way to know when I was done. I would read through it aloud again and again until I had gone through the entire article once without making any changes. When an entire read-through only takes 15 minutes, this is doable. But with a 92,000 word novel, this is darn near impossible.

I guess today's post is more about questions. When do YOU (personally, not all authors in general) know your MS is done and ready to send out?

Monday, March 28, 2011

I dare you to put your manuscript to this test

One of the best editing tools I've found in Microsoft word has to be the "find" button. I can't imagine revising without this tool. In my most recent revisions of Letters Never Sent, the tool has become even more handy than I'd ever thought before.

I was informed my WIP had an over-abundance of adjectives and adverbs and I put the "find" button to use to get this issue dealt with. The simplest search I could think of was an "-ly" search. No, not all adjectives end in -ly, but many of them do. When the search stopped I nearly fainted: 2550 "ly's" in my manuscript.

Then I remembered my main character's name is Lily, so her name took a huge chunk off that number from the get-go. Then there are other words like "only" or "finally" that often can't be replaced. Still, that left a plethora of -ly words for me to wade through. Well, I did it. And guess what? It took about two days, but I think it strengthened my manuscript. I improved my verbs and slashed tons of unnecessary adjectives (550 to be exact).

Some other recent word searches I've done are "made their way" or "make their way." I realized my characters never just walked anywhere. Oh no. They "made their way" everywhere they went. Talk about annoying! I did a search for "babe" and "baby" because my terms of endearment were a bit too frequent. I did a search for "!" because yes, my characters were yelling a little too often.

Editing with the find button can be time consuming. But I think the effort is fantastic for improving your writing.

What searches have helped improve your manuscript? Or what words do you know you use WAY TOO MUCH?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Check it out!

Two items of business today.

1.) Hooray, I hit 100 followers! Thank you so much to my readers and the amazing group of supporters I have. If you like what you've seen on my blog, please feel free to go buy your copy of Growing Up Gracie!

2.) Here a Christian author asks the question: why do Mormon authors experience such success? It is a great post. Go check it out and comment!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When A Critique Makes You Want To Cry

We're human, right? So a tiny (or sometimes not-so-tiny) part of us wants this from every critique of our manuscripts: "Oh my gosh. It was fantastic. I can't think of anything I would do to change it."

Would that critique improve us as writers? No.
Would it make for the absolute best finished product? Probably not. (Unless, of course, you really ARE that perfect already).
Would it make us feel good? Dang right.

But being critiqued isn't necessarily designed for "making us feel good." The whole concept is designed to help us improve our craft. My full-time critique partner has been so very helpful to me as I've mentioned time and time again. Switching manuscripts has been the tool that has improved me the most.

I didn't have a critique partner on my first novel, and now I often wish I did.

Last night I received a critique from another author of my WIP. This critique--if I'm honest--made me consider taking my current WIP to the trash bin, lighting a match and never donning the title "writer" again. These thoughts actually went through my mind: "What am I doing? Why am I spending so much time on this if I suck so much? I could definitely stay on top of laundry better if I weren't writing so much."

But then, I knew that was flawed thinking. I don't want to be a writer who only wants the good news. If things are wrong with my work, I need to address them to have a final novel I am proud of.

So, starting tomorrow--hey, I deserve at least one day of total self-loathing don't I?--I will drag myself up by the bootstraps and dive back in. I thought I was finished with revising, but I now know I am not. Wish me luck on Revisions/Take 3.

To me, having a good book is better than finishing by a certain date on the calendar. I'll get there, I know it, just probably not by April 1, like I hoped.

Please, someone give me some uplifting news... Have you ever had a hard-to-swallow critique that greatly improved your manuscript?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are you the tortoise or the hare?

In writing, there are such a variety of methods people use to extract their book from the recesses of their brain to the pages of a manuscript.

There are "pantsters" those who write by the-seat-of-their-pants. These folks fly through the story at break neck speed without a thought for the quality of what they are turning out. Pantsters wouldn't even consider going back to read or revise until that all important first draft is done. They can log an entire manuscript in a month (think NaNoWriMo) or a few months.

There are planners. These people brainstorm, outline, or plot out their stories before they delve into the writing process. While they may sway from their original plans, it keeps them on target.

Then there are writers who need perfection so much that they write a page only to keep one sentence. Writing a novel may take them 10 years, but you can bet it will be a masterpiece when they're finished.

I think of the pansters as the hares. The perfectionists are definitely the tortoises. And the in-betweeners? Hmmm. I'm not sure where they fit in.

All of these ways have been successful for different authors at various times.

I am not a huge planner. I usually just delve in and write until I can't write anymore. When I hit a snag I may outline a bit or create a time line or even, gasp, go back and read what I have so far. Mostly though I'm a hare. A book usually takes me about four to six months to write and then another three to revise.

I'm definitely not the fastest hare out there. My critiquing partner once told me of a writer she knows who pumps out like eight novels a year. Now that is a gold medal hare! I'm attempting to be a one-book-a-year hare.

Where are you in the tortoise and the hare fable? What's your perfect writing pace? Are you speedy? Slow and steady? Or somewhere in between?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Making reading easier

Hi readers. I talk a lot on this blog about being a reader. I can't say enough about how much we NEED to read in order to be successful writers. But today, I'm going to talk about a different type of book we should all be reading.

The scriptures!

I found a fantastic website to help us with our scripture reading goals. Let me share:

All you do is set up a super easy--AND FREE, OF COURSE--account and type in your scripture reading goals.

As most of you know, I am a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Our scriptures are The Bible (Old and New Testaments) as well as The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. On this website, you can create custom reading plans for any of those scriptures (as well as Ensign articles or Sunday School lessons).

I know many of you are not Mormon, but ARE readers of The Bible, this site would work great for you too.

The best part about the site is they email you every day the verses you need to read to keep up with your goal. It keeps track of your progress and even sends you an audio version if you want to just listen to the scriptures. At their site you can highlight verses and keep a personal journal about your thoughts while you read.

Although we remember family scripture study every day in my home, I often forget my personal study. However, I NEVER forget to check my email, so I think this will be a great tool to keep me on my toes.

Good luck and check it out!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Finding the Jewel every day

Last night I attended a wonderful church meeting where the teacher reminded us that while every day presents a myriad of challenges, we can find a "jewel".

She said if we steal little snatches of joy, or little jewels each day, soon we will have a huge collection of jewels to carry us through the hardest times.

I often lament over the hardness of day-to-day life, so I am so looking forward to this challenge. This morning I already found one jewel. This morning after I put the breakfast in front of the kids, I forgot to have one of them say the blessing on the food. From the other room, I heard this:

From 5 year old to 3 year old: "We forgot to bless the food."
3 year old. "That's okay."
5 year old: "No. We better say it. Saying prayers is a really good way to talk to Heavenly Father and tell him what you're needing."
They then proceeded to say their own little prayers.

What a sweet little jewel.

What jewel have you found in this day?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New review and interview

Kaylee Baldwin, author of Meg's Melody, reviewed Growing Up Gracie and interviewed me.

Check it out on her blog here!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bucket List and GIVEAWAY

So I've been seeing a lot about Bucket Lists lately. Maybe it's the stuff happening in Japan, maybe not. Either way the term is out there a lot right now.

Even more exciting than that is this, author Melanie Jacobson is giving away some awesome stuff on her blog and creating your own Bucket List will get you an extra 10 entries. Wahoo!

Here's my Bucket List
Take my kids to Disneyland
Travel the United States
Serve a mission with hubby
Publish several novels
Go on an individual date with our kids every month (Dan or I)
Learn to wakeboard
Go to a writing conference

Wow, thinking of these things is seriously hard for me!

What's on your Bucket List? Go here to check out the giveaway!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So you're dying to know, right?

Last week in a post about book titles, I told you I was reading a good book, with a bad title. In case anyone was wondering what the book was, let me fill you in...

The book is Strangling Your Husband Is Not An Option by Merrilee Boyack.

The non-fiction book is a self-help marriage read about the importance of maintaining an environment of courtship after the wedding. With a heavy dose of humor it covers The Five Do's and Five Don'ts of Wifehood, as well as ways to be a fun and smart wife, and ways how not to "loose the real me" in your marriage.

Although there were a few times I found the author to come across as a bit arrogant, I really enjoyed this book. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Laura's The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I'd categorize this book as a Mormon version of that must-read manual. Whenever I notice myself becoming a particularly naggy or ungrateful of a wife, I pull Dr. Laura off my shelf. I'd definitely do the same with Boyack's book.

My favorite point in the book was Boyack's discussion of complimentary gifts. Quoting someone else, Boyack said, "Every family has all the spiritual gifts it needs to reach exaltation." She said that we as wives often measure our husbands against our own spiritual gifts (think: why doesn't he plan FHE when he's the patriarch of our family?). Instead, we should realize the complimentary gifts our husbands have that we may fall short of. In my family, Dan has the humility. Dan has the easy-going demeanor. Dan has an attitude of "of course, we'll do what we've been asked to do," while I at times question things. Dan and I have total complimentary spiritual gifts, and I'm sure you do too.

Now to the negative aspect of this review. The title! Seriously, I found myself hiding the book while I was reading it because I didn't want my husband to think I wanted to strangle him.

Most ladies who read marriage books only want to improve. The title of Dr. Laura's book conveys that feeling of wanting to be a better wife. This one, not so much.

On the whole I recommend this book. Since reading it I've already scheduled babysitters for more dates for us. I'm confident following Boyack's guidelines could do nothing but improve your marriage.

(Just feel free to "x" out the title to save yourself some embarrassment).

Have you ever had to hide a book because you didn't want someone to know you were reading it? (And I'm not talking naughty books here). Ha Ha!

***By the way stop by Janette Rallison's Blog for some awesome giveaways this month!***

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ahh, the classics

Okay, I have an admission to make. I haven't read many of the great classics in the world of literature.

Some of the ones I have read are, The Great Gatsby, Catcher In The Rye, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Pride and Prejudice. Except for Pride and Prejudice, I read the other novels way back in high school.

But over the weekend I picked up my daughter's copy of The Secret Garden, and oh my goodness, I couldn't put it down. I have about 40 pages to go, and I must say, I am in love with this book. How could I not have read it before?

This makes me wonder what other great classics have I missed? Are any of you avid readers of the classics? And if so, what are your absolute favorites? Give me your MUST READ list of classics.

Friday, March 11, 2011


We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to shout from the rooftops.

Pre-Pregnancy Weight!
Pre-Pregnancy Weight!
Pre-Pregnancy Weight!

I made it. Six pounds to go to my goal weight.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Good book, bad title

I've been reading a fun little non-fiction book I will be reviewing soon. It is insightful, quirky and worthwhile, but the title is horrible. Seriously, horrible.

This got me thinking about book titles. A Google search of crappy book titles nets some of these:
You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of Wisdom Sure to Ruin Your Day
Book by Whoopi Goldberg
Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School
The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories
Fancy Coffins To Make Yourself

Okay, now those are really bad. I can honestly say I have no desire to read any of those books. Their titles shot them in the foot for me. Okay, except maybe the lesbian horse thing... I'll admit that pricks my curiosity.

But a bad title can crush a book. Did you know, for instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was originally called Trimalchio in West Egg. Do you think this classic would have had the success it did with that title? I doubt it.

The importance of titles to me dates back to my newspaper days when we weren't working with "titles" but "headlines." In newspaper, reporters don't pick their headlines. Instead, layout and design people select the headlines based on what fits. Not necessarily what fits with the story, mind you, but what literally fits in the column widths available on the page. Nothing is more discouraging to a reporter than writing an awesome story and having a clueless layout fella put a lame headline on it.

In the publishing industry, most authors do not pick the title for their novel but have a "working title" they submit with their manuscript. In some cases, as was true with Growing Up Gracie, the publisher keeps the working title.

Because it just might end up on the cover, an author's working title should be good. No, really good. Here are a few books that I have a great desire to read, simply because their titles rock.

Hotel On The Corner of Bitter And Sweet
I've Heard The Vultures Sing
Where The Sidewalk Ends
Winning Mr. Wrong

So, what are some do's and don'ts for title writing. Here is a small list.

1. It must capture attention. For instance, Book by Whoppi Goldberg does zilch to capture my attention.
2. It must match the feel of your book. If I write a serious romance set in the 1920s and then name it, Funny Fredrick Finds Fantastic Friendship, I've seriously shot myself in the foot. Growing Up Gracie, uses alliteration, but still matches the feel and subject of the novel.
3. It must not make readers feel dumb saying it. Now this might not be a criteria for everyone, but for me, it's a serious one. I'll tell you why. At IHOP there is a delicious looking dish called Rooty Tooty Fresh And Fruity. I've salivated over it many a time. Have I ever ordered it? NO! It may be prideful, but I just can't bring myself to repeat it to the waitress. If I'm on the fence about referring a book to my friend, and repeating the title makes me feel like a clown, I'll probably pass.

If you're really stuck, I would suggest finding a good list of current books similar to your genre. See what works. Which titles spark your interest? Which are only ho-hum for you. Also, look for strong scenes, phrases or characters in your novel that would make for a great title.

Good luck title writers. Now it's your turn:

What book titles do you love? What titles do you hate? Any other title writing suggestions?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two-Question Tuesday

You can nary read a writing blog these days without a post about e-readers. I'm still not converted. However, that's not what we're talking about today.

Instead of covering the ins and outs of which e-reader is best, or what e-readers are going to do to the publishing industry, I have just two questions to pose to you.

1. If you're a writer, can and do you use your e-reader to read over your manuscript or beta read someone else's manuscript? I'm thinking this would be a huge plus for me.

2. If you're a reader, how have e-readers changed your reading life?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Value of Sharing Your Manuscript

I've never met an author who said, "No one reads my manuscript before it goes to the publisher."

Now, I'm sure there are writers out there who operate that way. However, I think it's safe to assume that few of those writers make it all the way to publication. Why? Because getting outside readers before you submit your work is SO important.

There are many names for other folks who read your manuscript before it becomes a real book: critique partners, first readers, beta readers, etc. And at different times in your writing life, you may need different things from each of them.

The sharing of my manuscripts goes this way:

1. My writer friend and critique partner reads the manuscript throughout the first draft process. We "switch" manuscripts about every 20,000-40,000 words or so. This is important to me because if I start going way off course, or seriously change my POV or something major, she can catch it before it's too far gone. I put all her suggestions in a folder to tackle when the rough draft is complete.

2. When my rough draft is done, my critique partner reads it all again. Her feedback is absolutely invaluable to the success of my novel.

3. When my revisions feel mostly done, I send the MS to my "first readers." These are a group of five or six ladies who enjoy reading. Yes, they are friends, but I trust their opinions. I ask them for specific feedback: Not just, "great job." If they like the manuscript, they tell me why. If things didn't work so well for them, they tell me why. I take their feedback very seriously and make necessary changes.

4. When I feel my novel is as polished as it could be, I send it, along with my query letter, to my critique partner one last time. We then help each other with line edits and give final feedback.

I also recently was asked to be a first reader on a novel based on a subject I have specific expertise in. This is also a great idea. If I were to write a book with a setting in the medical field (which I know nothing about), I would ask someone who knew about that to read it. This helps the writer confirm their jargon sounds realistic, and they didn't make any embarrassing mistakes.

I recently sent out my novel to my first readers and critque partner. It's getting really close to the submission stage, and I am super excited. The feedback I got was overwhelming. All of my readers loved my book, but still, they offered helpful suggestions, and I was able to make appropriate changes.

By the way, this awesome author's first book is being released today, so go check Melanie Jacobson out!

Thank you wonderful first readers. And thank you amazing critique partner. Your help means so much to me!

Do you use critique partners and beta readers? What do you look for in your pre-publication readers?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Review: Between Parent and Child

I recently read Dr. Haim G. Ginott's Between Parent and Child. This book left me with lots to think about and talk about. It's sold over 5 million copies, so I'm hoping some of my readers out there have read it and we can have a little review/discussion here. ****Do read this post, it gets juicy here****

This book came highly recommended from an LDS counselor. I went into the reading with very high expectations. In many instances, I was surprised and disappointed by the book. I know, I know, he's sold 5 million copies, he must know what he's talking about, but I'll share my opinions on what I disliked here.

Advice I didn't agree with:
1. The belief that praise needs to be given with utmost caution. He says never say something like: "You are so beautiful." or "We are so proud of you." Because these statements may conflict with what the child thinks of themselves, so then they will distrust you. Instead say things like, "That hairdo must have taken a lot of patience to master," or "The way you dealt with that situation was very patient."
*I praise, praise, praise. I'm sure there are reasons I shouldn't do this, but when my kids do something I'm proud of, I don't think it does irreversible damage to tell them that. I also agree with Dr. James Dobson who says that fathers should tell their daughters ALL THE TIME how beautiful they are.

2. Instead of every "losing it" as a parent. Tell your child how you feel. "I feel angry." This will usually deflate their action.
*When I tell my children "I feel angry," they could care less. This does not deflate their actions at all. (I'm not advocating losing it by any means, just saying I don't feel this technique is realistic.)

3. The idea that "less is more" when we speak to our children. He says don't ask them questions. Instead just restate how they feel.
Kid: "The teacher hates me."
Mom: "You feel like your teacher hates you."
Kid: "She is so mean."
Mom: "It must be hard to be a student to a teacher who makes you feel bad."
*I understand sympathizing with their feelings. But if my child thinks their teacher hates them, I could not refrain from asking them why. Maybe it's the journalist in me, but I am constantly asking my children questions.

4. The theory that after first grade parents should have nothing to do with homework.
*Really? First grade. Every night I tell my daughter when its homework time and this hasn't caused any harm. If she wants me to, I sit with her to work on it. I actually like this bonding time.

5. The idea that responsibility comes from within, not from chores, animal care or musical lessons.
*I believe chores have helped my family.

6. Adolescents should be allowed to wear whatever they want, even if it differs from parental standards. He says, you should ask your child, "Do you want to be seen as sexually available to all who see you?" And leave it at that.
*I feel many teenagers, are internally hoping for a parent to stop them from walking out the door being seen as "sexually available."

7. Parents should allow their children freedom from parental views on sexual morality. Here is an conversation he praised. Charles was home from boarding school:
Charles: I have the greatest girlfriend.
Dad: Hm.
Charles: I really like her. I'm going to see her tomorrow.
Dad: You have a date.
Charles: I met her last week in school. I went to bed with her before I actually liked her but now I know her and like her a lot.
Dad: (stunned by the outpouring of more information than he cared to hear): Oh Charles, you met a girl you really like. How exciting!
Charles: I can hardly wait to see her again.
Dad: It sounds like your last week in school was a really happy one. I bet you've had many new experiences this year.
*Wow, this is how we are supposed to talk to our kids about sex? To me, this is called SWEEPING IT UNDER THE RUG. While my mom is about the BEST MOTHER in the world, she suffered from "sweeping it under the rug syndrome" when I was younger. And as a teenager, I know I wanted her to talk to me about important issues (not necessarily sex, but everything). I wanted her to ask questions. This Dad avoided serious issues they need to discuss in my opinion. And as a parent, of course, I am going to teach my children about my personal beliefs and values on something so important as premarital sex!

SO, there are the things I disliked. Here are the things I liked:

1. A new language to talk to kids. The main point of this book is using sympathetic language to build a better relationship with our children. When they cry and say "Everything went wrong today," The parent would respond with "Oh man. It seems like nothing went as you wanted it today." or something like that instead of, "Well, what did YOU do to fix the crappy day."
*I've been trying this tactic all week and I must say it has helped.

2. Giving children a choice. "Would you like pb and honey today or grilled cheese." This makes a child feel more involved in their own lives and less like you are controlling them.
*My only problem here is when I give this choice, my kids would 9 times out of 10 say, "I want chicken nuggets" or something I didn't offer. :)

3. Grant in fantasy what you can't grant in reality. He says when a child begs for a toy say, "Oh I wish I could get you that truck this time," instead of "No! Stop begging!"
*It's a little bit less harsh of a let-down.

4. This statement: "Parents set the tone of the home. Their response to every problem determines whether it will be escalated or de-escalated..."
*I do agree with this. It's hard for me to swallow because that means in many of our household blowups, there was something I could and should have done differently. This also makes me want to try harder to use a language that "de-escalates" our problems.

Overall, this book was worth reading. I am working on the new "feeling accepting" language and hopefully it will help in our home. However, many of the points were at odds with my beliefs, and most of the example conversations were far too simplistic.

I think with self-help books its important to take what works for you and not worry about the rest. That's what I plan to do with this one.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Resolution CHECK-IN

The doctor is back. It's the first of March, time to once again be held accountable for what we've done or haven't done to accomplish our year-long resolutions.

Here's my check-in.

1. Revise The Letters Never Sent and submit it to the publisher.
-This goal went great! At the beginning of February I literally tuned out the rest of my life and went nuts over this. I cut, pasted, reworded, etc. etc. I read the entire manuscript aloud. It was revision at its best (for me at least) and I hope my changes were worthwhile. My final word count ended up at 90,ooo. Then my manuscript went out to my first readers. I am anxiously awaiting their feedback.

2. Finish a rough draft of Danielle, Never The Bride. I am at 20,000 words (out of 75K).
-Because of my work on Manuscript Number Uno, this didn't see ANY of my attention last month.

3. Get started on our long-term savings.
-Tax return. And at least this year it isn't spent on paying off debt.

4. And finally the only resolution that is really related to health: See a number on the scale that I haven't seen in a couple years.
-I ate really well for two weeks of the month. I only lost one pound in February though. Not great, I know. I actually lost two and gained back one. Still, I am down about five-eight pounds since the dreaded Christmas weigh-in. I have nine pounds to go to my goal weight. I am confident March is going to go better.