Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stuck? Try this


My critique partner and I have been feeling a little stuck with our writing lately. Words aren't flowing and writing just isn't feeling as fun.

I know this happens to all writers from time to time. So, I searched the web, as well as the cobwebs of my brain, for some ideas on how to get over the hump. Here's what I came up with.

*Interview your characters. Ask them about their favorite pizza toppings. Their most embarrassing moments. Why they hate Aunt Ruth. How many children they plan on having. This might get the creative juices flowing.
*Freewrite. Remember doing this in college? I do. Turn on the timer for 15 minutes or so and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). No stopping until the timer beeps. Maybe there's nothing coherent in your ramblings, but maybe something will spark an interest or be the start of a new scene/character in your novel.
*People watch. Take an hour reprieve and head to the mall or park. Bring a notebook. Grab an Orange Julius and sit on a bench. Now just people watch. I'm serious here. Check out the passersby and jot down their stories in your notebook. Is that couple celebrating their fiftieth anniversary? Is that woman dying of breast cancer? Is that man having an affair with the nanny while she is secretly stealing from their retirement account? You get the idea.
*Read. You probably know what genre you want to write in. Or at least, you should. Go pick up a stack of those books from your library. I would love to get lost in family sagas for a week. There's no doubt in my mind that new ideas for my stories would crop up.
*Gather with other writers. Yeah, so maybe I can't afford the cross-country writing conference I would love to attend this week. But that doesn't mean I can't use my connections to other writers to inspire me. Go out to breakfast with a writer friend and have a brainstorming session. Or you could open up a dialogue with a crew of writers online. (And you can bet I'll be blog stalking all of you Storymakers attendees in the upcoming weeks for your tips!)
*Head in new direction. Is there a rule that we must finish one book before starting another? Well, if you're under contract, then yes, there is that rule. But for the rest of us, there's no reason we can't lay something aside if we just aren't feeling it and dive into something new.
*Take a break. If all else fails and writing is still feeling like a total chore, take a break. Go to the park with your kids. Go for a run. Watch a movie. And try again tomorrow.

Now I'm off to follow some of my own suggestions. I'd love to hear yours!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'm Not The Mother I Was Going To Be



I was chatting with a group of friends a few weeks back about how we had turned out as mothers when one friend said, "I'm definitely not the mother I was going to be."

It made me think. Who was the mother I was going to be?

One who...
*Always looked beautiful
*Got skinny right away after having babies
*Read to my children everyday
*Had six kids
*Never watched my kids play at the park, always played with them
*Cooked nutritious meals
*Rarely turned on the TV
*Kept my children busy with a steady supply of activities
*Never yelled
*Never spanked

I started out with the best intentions. In fact, I remember when my oldest was 18 months. I said to my husband, "I've gotten this far without ever yelling. I'm sure I can get through the rest."

Wow, was I naive. Seven years (and several hoarse evenings later) I am definitely not the mom I planned to be. Don't get me wrong, I do my best, but I'm still learning.

When my first baby was two weeks old I started taking her to the library in the stroller. I took her to story-time. I took her to puppet shows! Seriously, a two week old baby? Yes. When she turned one I took her to the grocery store so she could "pick out" her own cake mix. I thought she was so BIG. I spent hours and hours with her attached to my little fingers to help her learn to walk. Nearly every milestone was photographed and videoed.

Now I'm on kiddo number four. He's one and I wouldn't have dreamed of having him pick his own cake mix. He's a baby for heaven sakes! He learned to walk just as fast as his sister without me walking him all over the countryside. There isn't a single video of him. Do I love him just as much? Oh my gosh, of course! Have I changed as a mother? Yes.

Then there was the time a woman with four kiddos brought them over for a play date to my house. She said to us mothers that one of her daughters could be such a "naughty brat" sometimes. I was shocked. How dare she think that about one of her own children? If she called her naughty, that would make her naughty! Right? I vowed to never let negative words about my children's behavior leave my lips. If I had kept that promise, and never had vented exactly what my children were being to my husband, I may have exploded by now.

Now, how does this all relate to writing? I guess it doesn't. But, my blog is called Mommy's Always Write, so I feel I reserve the right for today's post to be just about Mommyhood.

The silver lining to this post, though, is this: Even though I'm not the mother I planned to be, I have also found motherhood so much more rewarding than I planned it would be. It is harder. Oh man, it is harder. But the love I feel toward each of these littles is amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

How are you a different mother from who you planned to be?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What are your favorite books about writing?

My birthday was Friday and hubby got me an awesome gift. An Amazon gift card! Yay!

I would love to spend this money on all those novels out there I've been wanting to get my hands on. However, I will be buying some new books on writing. Boring? Maybe. But it's an investment in my talent.

So, what should I get?

I loved Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and On Writing by Stephen King (both of which I haven't read since college). I already have Strunk and White. So, are there any other awesome "mastering your craft" books out there on writing that you absolutely loved?

Friday, April 22, 2011

10 Things That Would Make More Financial Sense Than Becoming A Writer

Just for a Friday laugh...

10. Selling Avon. Hey my grandma has done this for like 50 years! Do they still have "Avon ladies" or is it all online now?
9. Collecting Boxtops. Well, maybe not, but at least it would help my kids' school.
8. Selling things on Craigslist. Like my computer, printer, and all those books, books, books on my shelves.
7. Using my writing time to work at a minimum wage job. (Honestly, the hours would really add up.)
6. Writing anything but books: for newspapers, technical journals, company p.r. stuff.
5. Teaching people about writing. Even a teachers' salary would make most novelists drool.
4. Getting hired by my daughters' lemonade stand. They can earn some hefty cash on a hot day!
3. Returning to my previous hobby. Portrait Photography is much more lucrative.
2. Becoming a babysitter. Do you know what we pay for a night away from four kids?!!
1. Joining a multi-level marketing scheme. In the words of Michael Scott of The Office "It's not a pyramid scheme, it is a... it's not even a scheme per se, it's... [Jim draws a triangle around Michael's diagram] ... I have to go make a call."

Good thing I don't write for the money :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Every High School Had This Couple


You know the one I'm talking about. For our sake, we'll call them Lovey and Lovette. This couple was a permanent fixture in every high school.

They met their freshman year. He was a jock. She was a cheerleader (or in my school a partier, because cheerleaders just weren't cool at all). Their whirlwind romance was hot and heavy from the get-go. Before first semester finals, they'd both said "I love you" and were well on their way to true high-school-love bliss.

But wait. Then there was that mid-freshman year fling Lovette had with sophomore Hot Stuff. So, a damaged Lovey dumped the man and was set to move on with her life. Lovette was a smart fellow, though, and he wanted Lovey back. He commandeered the high school PA system to confess his undying love. How could Lovey resist?

The next summer Lovey met Sweetheart Darling on a summer vacation to the beach and dumped Lovette for a few weeks. His never-ending stream of Shakespearean texts won her over, and in no time, Lovey and Lovette were back in each others' arms.

This drama played out for the next four years. He dumps her; they make up. She dumps him; they make up. They opt for a mutual, no-fault break-up; next week she's wearing a promise ring. You get the picture.

And everyone else in the high school was saying this: Oh, give it a rest already!

This on-again/off-again high school romance is annoying for so many reasons. On many levels, we must be thinking, it will never work. If Lovey and Lovette have tried and failed so many times, their relationship just probably wasn't meant to be.

But then, there are a few of these seemingly doomed relationships that appear to get over their trials and mature into happy-ever-after-dom.

***Right now my journalism professors would be beating me over the head because that was the longest intro into my topic ever conceived.*** But, I digress. Stay with me now, there is a point.

Me and my current WIP are in a major high schooley, love-hate, Lovey-Lovette relationship right now. Phew, I got there. See, I told you there was a correlation.

Seriously though, we started out hot and steamy, but then fizzled quick. We gave each other some space. Maybe too much space. We tried to pick back up where we left off, but we both decided the chemistry just wasn't flowing. We went from 20,000 words to 15,000 words to 8,000 words. We split up again, and I considered making our break up permanent. Really, I thought, this relationship (errr, book) just wasn't meant to be. My Lovette begged and pleaded his way back into my word processor though, and now here we are at Take 3. This is the last chance! I swear. I will dump this MS faster than Lovey dumped Lovette if it disappoints me one more time.

Here's to on-again/off-again relationships. Wish me and my WIP luck.

And now on to you. Have you ever had an on-again/off-again relationship with a WIP OR in real life? Did it work out or was it just better to part ways?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You have to read this!

Wow, if you're a parent of girls... Or if not, but you care about the future of the female race (okay, I've included everybody now, right?) You HAVE TO READ THIS ARTICLE.

Check it out. It's called Parents Don't Dress Your Girls Like Tramps.

I thought it was great, and I'd love to get your feedback on it here. Don't comment there :), chat over at my place! wink. wink.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pre-reading for our kids' sake


If you've glanced over at my sidebar from time to time, you've noticed I have a daughter who is quite the reader. Her 2011 goal is to read 250 chapter books, and she just passed number 100.

For the most part, the books she reads are very innocent. They include titles from the Cam Jansen series, Babysitters Club series, and Judy Blume classics. But occasionally she picks up ones from the library I am unsure on.

She's only seven, so I want to make sure the things she reads are appropriate. If I've never heard of a book, I usually do a couple of things:

*Ask her how old the characters in the book are. If they are twelve or under, the content is usually (but not always) pretty clean.
*Flip through the book. The dialogue usually gives me some kind of an idea on the appropriateness of the book.
*Check the book out on Goodreads. I've found almost every book I've looked for on that site, and the reviews usually fill me in on a book's content.
*And if I'm still not sure, go ahead and read it myself.

She recently brought home a book called Stone Horse, which is in the Mustang Mountain Ranch series. She told me the main characters were sixteen and had boyfriends. For me, that sent up a red flag. I informed her I would be reading it first.

What did I find? A really enjoyable read.

The book was free of inappropriate language. It had a few elements that were a little scary, such as wolves hunting wild horses, but I thought she could handle those excerpts. My main concern was the boyfriend/girlfriend issue. There were only two references: one where the boyfriend kissed the girl's forehead and another at the end where they kissed (it spared the reader any details).

By reading it myself, I was able to determine that this book was fine for my daughter. I think it's important to put forth the time and effort to stay informed on the media choices our children make.

I've had friends ban the Captain Underpants series from their homes, and I know a few who don't let their kids read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. (My daughter avoids boyish things like the plague, so she's never been interested in these books yet).

Have you ever pre-read a book before letting your child read it? If so, what ones have you had to say no to?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh-Ver-Whelmed

Oh-Ver-Whelmed. Or, overwhelmed to those of you who are interested in spelling.

It happens to all of us, that feeling that we're sinking in a pile of to-do's and just can't seem to find our feet.

I know my husband is feeling overwhelmed right now. He's taking his first semester of school since high school (let's just say more than 10 years ago). He has a full course load on top of working 40 hours a week in his job. He usually only has spare moments to dash home for a to-go meal or quick change of clothes.

I am doing okay on the home front. The past several years have been about my "stuff." Me building my photography business; me writing and trying to get published; me and my ever changing list of obsessive hobbies (baking and running were two of them). Now it's time for my focus to be about supporting him in this endeavor. I'm so proud of him. I've scaled back on photography. I've kept my morning writing time the same, but am majorly scaling back a few other "time suckers" that revolve around the writing world.

But, although I'm doing okay right now, there have been many times I've been completely overwhelmed. As women, here are a few of the things we're supposed to be doing on a fairly regular basis: praying, reading scriptures, reading for enjoyment, exercising, flossing, making healthy meals, scrubbing, dishes, laundry, providing learning experiences for our children, keeping up on shots and dental appointments and vision screenings, magnifying our callings, being a good visiting teacher, preserving our memories, attending the temple, serving in PTA, voting, attending church meetings, doing family history, keeping a budget, learning frugality, doing family history work, and, of course, looking good while we do it all! This doesn't even take into consideration some of you amazing women who do all of this while maintaining work outside the home.

Now, if that list doesn't make you wince, I don't know what will. Let me be the first to say, I only accomplish about one percent of the items on that list.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Remember you are doing an amazing job.

Here is my question for today: What are the first things to go down the drain when you start to feel overwhelmed?


For me, it's healthy eating and a clean house. What do you let slip?

Monday, April 11, 2011

What ruins a read for you?



Lately the writing blog world has been frequently focusing on the annoying problems we encounter in our own writing: too many adjectives, using "smiled" too much, and so forth. Today, I'm focusing on a similar topic.

As a reader, what annoys you? What problems do you encounter that pull you from the story and, essentially, ruin the read?

They may be the same things. In fact, I read one LDS novel where all the characters "noted" everything. No one "said" anything, they were too busy noting. And it drove me insane.

But usually, as a reader, my complaints aren't quite so specific to one word or phrase (let's face it, we judge our own writing harsher than other people's). Here are some of the things that bug me or "ruin a read" for me.

*Dialect. Oh, how frustrating to have to wade through long paragraphs of Cajun speak. A reader is forced to dissect each sentence to understand what the characters are trying to say. For me, it's too much work to ask of the everyday reader. My current WIP has several Scottish characters, and I'll admit, at times, I was tempted to do all their dialogue in true Scottish words--I'd researched it for heaven sakes! But in the end, I only utilized a few sentences here and there.

*Foreign names. I hope this doesn't sound prejudice, but if I can't pronounce a foreign name, it becomes very distracting while I read. Last year I read a novel about a Korean family. There were probably 8 characters with traditional Korean names. I absolutely could not keep the characters straight and I finished the book not really knowing who did what. I don't know how to remedy this because many wonderful books include foreign names. Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this type of book.

*Overuse of big words. A book I read early this year had a character with an impressive vocabulary. He would regularly spout long streams of sentences that most readers wouldn't understand at all. Now, this was a great book, but I often found myself skimming over any dialogue from that character. This extensive vocab was paramount to that character's image, so it was essential, but still, it often took me away from the story.

What takes you out of a story? What bothers you or "ruins a read" for you?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Walk Through The Blogging World

I've come across a few great posts lately and I wanted to share.

*This one from writer Keli Gwyn is super helpful and I've bookmarked it to use over and over again during revisions. It's called 12 Weak Words We Can Turn Into Strong Ones. If you're revising, check this out!

*Author Deborah Andreason has recently had her debut novel released. It's called The Gifted, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

*Cedar Fort Publisher has recently issued a national call for submissions. I know I probably shouldn't share this, since they are my publisher, and I don't want too much competition :) but I think authors and writers should do all they can to help each other out.

* One of my favorite parts of this website: LDS Women's Book Review is looking at their sidebar. It has two link lists I love. The first is "Awesome Authors" and the second is "More Awesome Authors." These are a great resource to check out LDS writers and link to their blogs.

*Definitely going to add that one, Jolene. 7 Things Your Characters Do Too Much Of


I always love finding new resources for writing online. Have you seen any awesome posts lately or some old stand-by sites you love? Please share!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April Check-In Catch Up


Okay, so it's April 6 already, and we haven't done our monthly check up yet. Shame on us. You know, timely appointments and early detection are of utmost importance!

Well, here we go. Go ahead, put on that embarrassing gown, and the Dr. will be right in.

Where are you at with your New Year's Resolutions?

Here's my rundown.

1. Revise The Letters Never Sent and submit it to the publisher.
****Hooray! This goal is complete. I mailed my manuscript off on April 4!

2. Finish a rough draft of Danielle, Never The Bride.
****This hasn't seen the light of day in a long time. It's just about time to drag it out again.

3. See a weight on the scale I haven't seen in a few years.
****March was wonderful for this goal. I lost seven pounds in March. I am just two pounds from my goal weight. And I am six pounds from my oh-my-gosh-I-feel-great weight.

4. Get going on long-term savings.
****Kind of went backwards on this one. Shucks. But, for good reason. We had to pay tuition since my husband started college.

Now where are you at? Are you still plugging along at those pesky New Year's Resolutions or have you given them up altogether? Check up time!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Feels so good.


Do you know what feels so good?

Walking out of the post office today.

The past several months have been spent in revisions on my family saga: Letters Never Sent. I've been reading; re-reading; sending out for critique; re-arranging; search and destroying; etc. etc.

I've read it aloud. I've read it on the computer. I've read it in paper form.

I de-adjectived it. I punched up my verbs. I took out all the yelling--I put back all the yelling.

I've agonized, memorized, and definitely, over-analyzed. And finally, today, it was time for that baby to go. (Besides, I think if I told my husband--or my critique partner--I was going to go through it "just one more time," they may have divorced me.)

Well, it's all buttoned up and in the mail. Now comes the waiting and praying and finger-crossing!

WINNER!

And the winner from our Fools For Books Giveaway is...


hense1kk


Please shoot me an email with your address so I can get you your signed copy of Growing Up Gracie. Thank you everyone for participating!