Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is NaNoWriMo Right for Me?

by Katy White

This month, I'm working on NaNoWriMo and am a few hundred words short of crossing the 50,000 word mark. It's an exciting feeling, yet the thought of editing this particular first draft is giving me a bit of anxiety I don't normally have. This draft isn't as polished as my others have been. I didn't prepare well enough for NaNo (I switched projects only a few days before November), and I can feel that all over the place.

When I'm working on a WIP, I typically plan a little with the use of a beat sheet. I do a fair amount of research, which I organize in Scrivener (the best writing tool EVER--I'm not an overly detailed or ultra-organized person in regular life, but I am as a writer). Then, I write. I add more research as I need to, and every day, I start my writing time by reading and gently revising what I did the day before. The result is a fairly clean first draft (though it still needs editing and round upon round of critiques from my incredible critique partners).

With NaNo, though, I don't have the luxury of time to go back and revise what I did the day before. I rarely even read much of what was written the day before. I just start writing. When I reach a point that requires more research or very careful wording, I just write something like, "XXX--comic book joke," then come back to it later. That means that revisions are a bear. At least this time.

So...why do it this way? I'm wondering this a lot this month. I tell myself that it's a good exercise to learn to write using different methods. But is it really? I felt great about last year's NaNo novel and about the Camp NaNo novel I did this year, but both of them were very, very well planned in advance (much to my surprise). So even if I hadn't had a time constraint, I still would have drafted them quickly. Hmm.

What do you all think? Do you have any experience with something like this, when the WIP just feels clunky or a method stops working for you? Is it the idea? The lack of planning? Or is maybe NaNo not the right style for me right now? I'd love your input and advice for this stage in writing life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Writer's Toolbox

By Nikki Wilson
(Sorry to those who were hoping to read one of Merry's wonderful blogposts today, but alas she is out of internet for now so you are stuck with me!)


A writer has tools like any other craftsman. Sometimes our tools are prose, analogies, or even spell check! But other important tools include writer's conferences, writer's groups, writing classes, and even Nanowrimo which helps us hone our skills in ways that are unparalleled. Here at Mormon Mommy Writers we try to keep as many tools as we can just a click away for your convenience.

That's why we have a resource page up above in the tabs. On this page you will find many different resources like American Night Writer's Association.
Which is a writer's group for LDS women which also holds an annual writer's conference in AZ. (It also happens to be my favorite writer's conference and not just because it's close!)

Another wonderful source is a Write About Dragons, in which some amazing person recorded two semesters of Brandon Sanderson's creative writing class that he teaches at BYU, onto the internet for FREE! How awesome is that?

There are many other wonderful tools for writers on our resource page including blog entries about publishing, and self-publishing and writing query letters. So be sure to check out our resource page today and leave comments below of any links that we could add to the page to make it even better!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Windows of Heaven

Today, as I sat in the celestial room of the Phoenix Arizona Temple, I felt the sweet peace and strength of the Spirit of the Lord sweep through me.  I sat with my husband and my three oldest children and participated in the second dedicatory session of this House of the Lord.  The talks were wonderful, but when the choir sang I felt the windows of heaven were opened.

I thrilled to each note, and as we joined the choir in singing the powerful hymn, "The Spirit of God", I knew that the Lord had accepted this holy house.  I knew that angels in heaven were rejoicing with us.  I was reminded of my Heavenly Father's love for me, and I was reminded of my deep testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

In preparation for this temple dedication, I spent some time this morning reading and pondering Sister Linda K. Burton's most recent General Conference talk, "Prepared in a Manner That Never Had Been Known."  I loved how each of the talks in the General Women's Session were about covenants.  Making and keeping covenants--sacred promises with our Father in Heaven--brings us spiritual strength.  Making and keeping covenants helps to open the windows of heaven in our individual lives, so we can receive divine direction and heavenly healing.

Sister Burton references the parable of the ten virgins; she has us "consider this parable as a pattern for temple preparation."  Reading her talk inspired me to renew my efforts to consistently add spiritual oil to my lamp of testimony.  Being in the temple gave me a renewed desire to encourage my children to prepare themselves daily to make and keep sacred covenants.

I invite each of you to experience more fully the power of the Lord in your lives.  Sister Burton states, "As we consistently and diligently add oil, drop by drop, to our spiritual lamps, doing these small and simple things, we can have our lamps 'trimmed and burning' with astonishing preparation." When we are consistent and diligent in living Christlike lives we become a light to others, shining examples in an ever-darkening world.

With our lamps burning brightly we are prepared to receive the blessings that will be poured out upon us.  The temple is a sacred place where we are blessed with inspiration and endowed with power.   Today I felt my light grow brighter as I united my faith with that of those around me. Today I was reminded of those blessings as I felt the windows of heaven open.

I echo Sister Burton's words, "May we prepare to worthily receive saving ordinances drop by drop and keep the associated covenants wholeheartedly." I promise that as we do so we will be armed with the Lord's power and we will be surrounded by His angels and His love.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Half way there!

By Lacey Gunter

Hallelujah, we are half way through the month of November.  For all you NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo participants, you just have to put in another 15 days and it will all be over. Don't give up now, you can do it!

I have been able to come up with 16 picture book ideas so far. That puts me one day ahead. Which is a good thing, because I also decided to do SkADaMo this year, Sketch A Day Month. It has been quite challenging.

I am not a professional illustrator. I like to draw, and illustrating my own picture book manuscript one day would be a lovely dream. But I am nowhere near the skill level of a professional. Despite all that, I told myself "So what. Just try it." Honestly, it has taken a large amount of time and effort,  but I am glad I signed on. I have been pleased with the progress I am making, while at the same time humbled and inspired by other participant's amazing talent.

One of my SkADaMo drawings. You can find the rest of my  SkADaMo drawings on my Facebook account.

Obviously, finishing a novel, coming up with lots of great ideas for stories and improving your skills are great benefits to participating in these events. But another benefit I've discovered in the past two years of doing them is the relative ease of networking with other writers and illustrators. These activities allow for natural interactions with people of a variety of skills levels, without having to pay to go to a pricey conference or join a writing association. That alone is worth at least one attempt.

I would love to hear how things are going for everyone else who is participating in one of these activities (see easy interaction). 

Wishing you the best of luck in finishing November. Write on!

Friday, November 14, 2014

One Step at a Time

by Mare Ball @ ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK

I hit a marker this week I thought I might never reach.

I finished my book.

As finished as I can make it, until an agent, or publisher wants it, and then I understand I'll be writing it again.  Or, at least editing it to the point that it will feel like rewriting the thing.

One of my favorite quotes regarding writing is "A writer doesn't finish her work; she abandons it."  I love this quote because it has proved true for me with every project I've ever written.  I would edit endlessly, if I didn't, at some point, just decide I've done my best, I've done all I know to do, and besides, I'm kind of tired of this project.  I've come to that point with the book I've been working on for three years.

I was surprised this moment was kind of anti-climatic.  I think it's because I now have to decide if I want to find an agent, or directly pursue a publisher, or self-publish, or take my ms to Staples and just have a copy printed for myself.  Truth be told, this last option appeals to me the most.

I'm dreading the next step - selling myself.  I wrote a non-fiction book, and with those, publishers want 20-50 thousand blog visits a week to feel confident in your following, your engagement with prospective buyers.  I have about 250 blog followers.  You see my dilemma.

I'm an unknown, unproven writer.  I think my book is unique and well done, but 20 thousand other people don't think so.  They don't even know I exist.

So, I'm reading the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents.  I'm researching publishers online. And I'm saving up all my Staples coupons and rewards points just in case. 

I'm also praying that God will make it clear to me what He wants me to do with my three-year project.  On any given day, I feel confident about one direction, and then, the next day...another option seems better.  It's been a roller-coaster ride since the summer.  Every night I place my book in God's hands and say, it's yours, Lord.  What do you want to do with it?  Whom do you want it to reach? 

I have my ideas, but I'm learning I don't know enough about publishing to choose a path without some divine guidance.  I've never felt comfortable in the business world (I've always worked in the non-profit world), and publishing is a very competitive, massive business.  I'm a little guppy in a big, rough, swirly ocean. 

Having said all that, I'm moving forward in my research and hope to choose a path by the spring.  My book is about Christmas, so my goal is to close the deal, one way or another, by June 2015.  This will give me six months to market before Christmas 2015.

I had hoped things would be in place by this Christmas, but fibromyalgia intervened, and then health issues with my dad, and then I sustained an ankle injury, so "the book" ended up on a back burner more often than I had hoped.

I have to tell myself, it's OK.  It will come together when it comes together.  Otherwise, I'd be in the loony-bin.  It's so easy to stress over my writing.  I have to consciously remind myself that my writing is not life or death. 

I've written a book.  And I've finished it.  That's why I'm celebrating today.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Made-Up Words

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

We’re writers, right? And writers make things up, right? So today, just for fun, I thought I’d regale you with some of the made-up words that have come into common usage in my home. (I didn’t make them all up, though; some were my hubby, and some were other sources.)

Nebdenhall (interjection). When someone sneezes, you say, “Gesundheit” or “Bless you.” But what about when someone coughs, burps, or hiccups? What then, you wonder? Well, wonder no more. You say, “Nebdenhall.”

Zoogle (interjection). And when someone says, “Nebdenhall,” the correct response, naturally, is, “Zoogle.”

Whuff (verb). We have Cory Doctorow to thank for this one. In his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the world’s monetary system is essentially based on reputation—how cool people think you are, how well you’re respected, your kindness, etc. And the term for this “money” is “whuffy.” So around our home, when we do something that is good and helpful, we often call it whuffing—particularly by contrast with the next entry, “fluff.”

Fluff (verb). Fluffing, as opposed to whuffing, is when you do something that’s just for relaxation or when you’re just being lazy. So, in general, there are two behavioral options: you can whuff, or you can fluff.

Foo (noun). Okay, in all seriousness, this is the one that I think really should be adopted into common usage (if not this particular word, some other word with this meaning). Yes, I know there’s already a slang “foo” out there, but this one is different. “Foo” stands for “family of origin”—which is the family you came from. So, for example, I have my foo—that’s my dad and my sibs. I have my extended foo—that’s my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. And finally I have my family—that’s my hubby and my kids. When I think of the word “family,” I think of the one I have created, the one that takes priority over the foos.

I’m going to pull out my inner therapist for a minute here. In-law relations can be a major cause of marital tension, especially early in marriage. Even when your in-laws are awesome, there’s still an adjustment that must be made, where you shift to membership in this new unit, the marriage. I know way too many people who struggle because their parents/in-laws are prioritized over the spouse. Hey, we’ve even got a scripture about this problem! (You know, cleave unto spouse, etc.) Since I believe in the power of words, I think there’s power in changing the word you use to describe your family of origin and your new relationship to them.*

I also highly recommend not calling your parents’ house “home” anymore—where you and your family live is home, not where you used to live. When we go to Utah to visit the foo these days, we love to see them, but we’re not going “home”—that’s when we get back to Maryland.

Okay, soapboxy lecture over.

And also, my list of made-up words is over.

What about you? Any made-up words you use and love?


* Don’t even get me started on how frustrated it makes me when people talk about “starting a family” only when they’re starting to having kids. . . . Grrrrrr . . .

Monday, November 10, 2014

So, what are you going to do now?


by Kasey Tross

Last week I got an e-mail from the agent I met with at the writing conference- she very kindly (and with some helpful constructive criticism) rejected my manuscript. I was fine with it- I knew that the chances of happening to find an agent to represent my book on my first try (and picked from the few agents at a single writing conference) were slim. So really, I was okay.

So why couldn’t I bring myself to tell my mom?

Ordinarily, I tell her everything, and yet this time I was hesitant. It’s not because I thought I would disappoint her- she wholeheartedly supports me, and if anything I knew she’d tell me the agent was a moron (she’s not) and couldn’t tell a good book if it hit her in the face (also not true, I’m sure). I couldn’t quite figure out why I didn’t want to share the news with her.

I knew I should tell her, so to try to figure out why this was so hard for me, I went through the conversation in my head first- and that’s when I realized that the part I wasn’t ready for was the question:

“So, what are you going to do now?” 

My hesitancy stemmed from my lack of an answer to that question. What am I going to do now? It was a perfectly valid question- so why did it make me so anxious?

I had been in this position where all year I’d been preparing this manuscript for this conference and my meeting with the agent. My goal was to complete it, and while I didn’t do that, I did get a much clearer vision of what the book needs to be and how to get there. If I wanted to, I could plow through this thing and get a decent novel out of it within the next few months.

If I wanted to.

To be honest, I’m getting a little bit burned out on this MS, and I was almost happy to find out I wouldn’t be under pressure to finish the thing anymore. But shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I have one finished book under my belt that I feel really good about?

I started thinking about my other options:

1. I could go back to my book of Fun Poems for LDS Kids. It’s a project I’m passionate about, and I would love to see it in print (and so would several of my friends who love the poems as much as I do). It’s mostly finished- I just need to find a publisher or self-publish.

2. I could take a break from the big projects and focus on seeing if I could get some articles published in national magazines. This would be a huge financial boost for my family, and I think I could succeed if I worked at it, but it would require a lot of research.

3. I could start on a new manuscript- I have an idea for an LDS fiction story that has been swirling around in my head and in note form on my computer for quite awhile now, and it would just be really fun to write.

4. I could start on any one of the SEVERAL children’s books I have in note form on my computer. There are a lot. I could probably get through those fairly quickly and have the satisfaction of completion of several manuscripts.

Right now, I just don’t know. So many projects, so little time. Maybe I should pay attention to the order I put them in- could that be my subconscious trying to tell me something? I’m kind of thinking #1 because it’s so close to being finished, and one of my goals is just to FINISH something!

*sigh* What do you think? What should I do now?

I told my mom over the weekend, by the way. I preempted the question by telling her that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do now. (And she did tell me the agent lost out on a great book.) :-)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Be a Light!

I got the privilege of helping out with the Super Saturday for the Phoenix Temple Cultural Celebration today. For those not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, when we build a new temple, it is always a long-anticipated and celebrated event. The youth prepare for months, and the night before the dedication they put on a cultural celebration full of music and dance. The First Presidency of the church is there, and they are literally dancing for the Prophet of the Lord, praising God and worshipping Him.

Today was a sunny, warm day, and the kids were practicing and getting familiar with the field, for hours and hours. The people who have planned and taught and planned some more were out there with them, working their hearts out all day long. Some of the adults were setting up last night until after midnight. This truly is a labor of love.

I drove a vanful of teens, and after dropping them off went to my designated helping-out place. As I watched and, well, helped occasionally, I was struck by a few thoughts about life, talents, work, and yes, even writing. I do think about writing a lot--especially right now, during National Novel Writing Month.  I am sunburned and more than a little tired--not complaining, just explaining why this might seem a mite disjointed as I try to express what I'm feeling. Here are three things I remember:

1)Oh my goodness. I think I cried about 15 times today. Something like 5,000 kids on that field, sometimes together, sometimes in groups--and even as they were being teens, they were being AMAZING teens. You could feel their spirit--feel their light--even when they were being too loud to hear directions, or walking "left" instead of "stage left" (which in this case was actually right).  I was just honored to be in their presence.
                       **Takeaway from that--these kids weren't perfect, but their light SHONE through, and they weren't necessarily "trying" to have it shine. They have been becoming who they are their whole lives, and what they are, is enough. It's the same for all of us. We don't need to put forth this huge effort to show the world our light--in fact, we shouldn't be doing that. We should be improving ourselves, preparing ourselves, and then the light just shines. Who we are is enough.  Our light--our example--is a natural result of the progress we are making in becoming who God wants us to be.

2)The program had choreographed numbers, with people needing to be in a certain place at a certain time.  But, a lot of the time, the kids were not exactly where they were supposed to be. And it was O.K. I saw some weird holes in the lineups of kids where they didn't fill in the field evenly, and the people who were in charge of those things noticed them. I guarantee that the audience, President Monson, and the Lord, really are not going to see those little gaps. The effort doesn't have to be perfect in order to be acceptable to the Lord. The kids were doing their best and that was awesome!
                       **Takeaway: Well, just what I just said. Our efforts don't have to be perfect to be acceptable to the Lord. We just have to be doing our best.

3)Some of the people leading the kids were.... less nurturing, while others were amazing. The magic potion seemed to be that some people were very caught up in everything going smoothly, and others were okay with the gaps, people being a little late or early on their marks, or whatever the little foibles and perdiddles were that happened. With that many kids, it was inevitable that those things happen. It occurred to me that the kids may or may not remember the oopsies that happened here and there, but they WILL remember the feeling they got from the leaders.
                       **Takeaway:  Our own lives, efforts, and writing adventures will go much more smoothly if we can be okay with misadventures. In life, we don't know which twists, turns, and perdiddles are necessary to get us where Heavenly Father needs us to be. We will trip and fall, be late or early on our marks, and have our own "oops" moments. Those things are inevitable. Our lives can be happy in spite of those things, and maybe even because of them, depending upon OUR attitude in how we handle them.

So, I did not write a single word on my new NaNoWriMo novel today. I'll have to catch up next week. But I wouldn't have traded all 1,667 words of my daily goal for the experience of today, and the insights I received while being able to have some tiny little part in this wonderful celebration that our youth have prepared for the Lord.

PS:  DO NOT MISS THIS CULTURAL CELEBRATION!!!   You can find it online at 7 pm (Arizona time... is that Mountain now? Stupid Daylight Saving)..  www.abc15.com, or if you are local you can see on on ABC 15.2 (their "HD 2 channel).  Really. You will be uplifted.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Walk Among the Inspiration

              Let’s go for a walk together.   

We step-off down the trail at the beginning of a lovely autumn day.  The sun is bright and warm still, but the season lends itself to cool breezes.  As we emerge from a petite copse of fir trees, we find ourselves walking down a gently-sloping meadow of huckleberry shrubs, brilliant red and dusted with early-season snow.

As we descend further along the slope, we dreamily fall into the cooling shade of an overhang of red cedar that trellises a clear, cold water stream.  Along the banks are clumps of vegetation which include scruffy-headed black sedge and honey-centered partridgefoot.  We pause to rest and admire the matting of green fescue with blades bent in all directions because of the soft, downy lops that were playing on them in the moonlight the night before.  Nearby, the fan-leaf cinquefoils seem to all be pointing accusingly at the damp communities of bark streaked mushrooms and splattering of jelly fungi hugging the base of the Engelmann Spruce nestled in couples and small families surrounding this little Eden.

Refreshed of mind and body, we journey forth, this time with an incline towards a forest zone of ancient old-growth sentinels.  We soon trek our way into a swaddling of Pacific silver fir.  At a distance, we thought the silver-tipped highlights were just the accented needle tips of the seasonal makeover, but soon discover the silver treasures are really the cylindrical cacoons of next year’s babies, poised for their earthward plunge at just the right moment.  You pick up a cone and hold it close to your nose, inhaling the pungent pine fragrance, then drop the outsized seed back onto the nursery of old needles.  We trundle onward to our destination.

As we crest the rise we had been laboring to climb, the elevation drops once again. This time, however, our gaze falls upon a beautiful, pristine lake of shamrock green and teal water.  A light breeze is sighing its way across the basin causing ripples to corduroy across the glossy surface.  A small, sandy beachhead near a moderate waterfall that is feeding the lake is our destination.  Once again, we begin our descent into splendor.   
           
A friend of mine mentioned a blogger who writes like this as a form of exercise wherever she goes.  If she’s sitting in her doctor’s office, the drafts short stories full of rich imagery and finite detail about the doctor’s office waiting room wherein she is sitting.  If she’s by the pool while her children swim, she scripts the experience in the richest prose you might imagine.  When she flies in an airplane….  Well, you can just imagine what ethereal mini-masterpiece she creates in that environment.  To her, it’s all just practice; just exercise; just a mental warm-up for the really big race of the NOVEL marathon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Handling Criticism

by Katy White

Recently, the internet has been abuzz with the story of an author who chose to cyberstalk (then physically stalk) a reviewer whom she felt had been particularly harsh in her review. While I don't want to get into the details and, truthfully, wish I'd never heard about it in the first place, I've thought a lot about why this is resonating with the writing community so much and why I feel the way I feel about it. And in doing so, I've come to one conclusion:

I don't want to be universally loved. Not as an author. Not even as a person.

Sure, I wish I lived my life above reproach and offense (which I completely, unquestioningly do not), but even if I did that, people would still have a problem with me. The Savior lived His life perfectly. Yet look at how polarizing a figure He was and still is in our day! Even Christians view Him and His teachings differently. Heck, even Mormons do. Sometimes within our own families. All of life's beauty and heartache have agency at its center, and with agency comes different experiences and opinions.

I recently had my two best friends read my new WIP. One of them is a therapist and the other is a nurse. My therapist BFF gave me the feedback that one of the characters should be darker and consider suicide, as it was not only consistent with the character's mental illness, but it would also lead to an important revelation to my main character that would give her the growth she needed. And, in my perspective, her feedback was bang on. I made the change, and I think the story is stronger for it.

Yet my other best friend, the nurse, read the revised version and said that was the only part she had a problem with. Based on personal experiences, she has a problem reading about suicide and couldn't connect to the character as a result.

And you know what? I'm happy about that. I'm happy that she had a strong emotion about it, even if it wasn't the emotion I intended in writing the character or scenes. Because she's a human being reading her book through the lenses of her own personal experience, not mine.

Think of it this way: if everyone who reads my book responds exactly the way I want them to, that obviously means the world has been taken over by automatons who have all been created in my image.

Holy shnikes, is that ever a terrifying thought.

So the next time you write something, remember to actively hope that people react differently to it. Because otherwise, you're in a weird Doctor Who version of reality that's probably going to end with you being harvested by your own automatons for spare organs.

Or something.


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