Tuesday, April 21, 2015


by Donna K. Weaver

So you've wondered if punctuation is important?

Check out the meaning of the following two Dear John letters, the only changes being some itty-bitty punctuation alterations.
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?

And what if we put the punctuation in different places?
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Um, yeah.

Source: all over the place. I came across it years ago in an email that was going around.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Save the Date for the most EPIC retreat yet!

We are having another retreat in September. When we are in the early planning stages, we always choose a theme to use to help us focus on classes that our previous attendees, and those who comment are asking for. This time we did it a little different, we choose the theme from a book. What book (series) could we choose that could help us learn and have a blast?


Hunger Games?

Lord of the Rings?

Nope. Nope. and Nope.

Drum Roll please. . . .

The theme for the September iWriteNetwork Retreat is . . .

Harry Potter!

Class schedules and menu will match the theme and will be announced at a later date.
The retreat will be September 17-20th in Heber, UT

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Story Beats

One of the activities we have at retreat is a movie night. We sit together in the theatre room and watch a film, identifying the story beats as we go. This helps us clarify what the beats look like and how we can recognize the transitions between them. There is always a huge setting change between beats. We use a sheet to record the events as the story unfolds and clarify what each of the story elements contribute to the unfolding plot.

Although this book is written for screenwriting, it follows the Hero's Journey, which is the basis for much of novel writing. Of course, storytelling is storytelling!

While studying this book, I took a few notes to help me consider while writing. We don't do a lot of outlining, but we do jot notes for each major story element. A picture of the simple organizer we use is at the bottom of this post. We start with identifying what the character most wants and go from there.

Here are the elements:

Opening Image & Set up
Hook the reader with emotion, action, or character/voice
Every character introduced or hinted at
Plant character ticks
MC has 6 things that need fixing (we don't always have 6--but we try to)
Foreshadow main events
Theme posed to MC in conversation


Life Changing Event
This leads to the happiness in the end

Asks question that will focus the story around the evidence of your argument for the answer you give at the end of the story
“This is Crazy”
Other choices that could be taken
Yes, and why
No, and why

Break into Act 2
Choice is made
Leaves the “old” world
Opposite world (features or why is it opposite)
MC makes a clear decision to do this

B Story
Meet someone new
Love story (romanic, friends, family, self…)
Goes slightly of theme
MC to be nurtured, taught, advised and prepared
Confides in this person
Draws strength from here
New characters are opposite from set up scenes

Fun & Games
Some play, fun, fascination
Personality shines here
Take a break from the stakes
Lighter tone, think musical montage here

Is the situation going Up or Down for the main character?
Up—living in a false peak or success over antagonist
Down—world crashes in false destruction because of antagonist
MC shares this moment with other Main characters
Stakes raised a LOT in win or lose situation

Bad Guys Close In
Bad Guys regroup
Heavy artillery External
Heavy emotional artillery
Leading to a reversal of the midpoint in the next section
MC is on her/his own now

All is Lost
All aspects of MC’s life are in shambles
Whiff of Death (mentor, acquaintance, or some random event)

Dark Night of the Soul
MC is beaten and knows it

Break into Act 3
MC digs deep
Finds last piece needed to save or solve

Makes a new effort with lessons learned
Tics are mastered
Hero/Protag figures out how to do what must be done
Showdown with major and minor characters are involved
Minor villains are neutralized before the villain
A-Story resolved
B-Story resolved

Final Image
Creation of new “world” for the MC
Opposite of opening image
Proof that change has occurred
Back to the theme in some way

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Always Learning ...

One of the great things . . . and frustrating things . . . and great things about writing is that there's always more to learn. There's no such thing as a book being perfect, there's no such thing as knowing everything there is to know. The writer who understands that and accepts that will be a much happier writer because they will be able to say, "When I wrote my first book, I did my very best with what I knew then. Now, I'm doing the very best with what I know now."

When I'm working, I always have Merriam Webster up on a tab. I check spellings, but also hyphen placement. When you put a word into the site, scroll down and see all the uses. Here's an example from this last week: "stage whisper," when it's a noun, is two words. "She spoke in a stage whisper." However, when you look that up in the dictionary and scroll down to where it shows the verb form, we see that it's hyphenated. "She stage-whispered."

I also keep Google up. Any time I have a question, I just pop that puppy right in and find whatever it is I need to find. You can even type in "do you hyphenate stage whisper," and up will come information. There's no reason not to know the answers.

There are also some great websites that are fabulous resources. I recommend:

Grammar Girl
Purdue Owl
Writer's Digest

And just for fun, you can sign up for daily writing tips here.

Just remember - learning is fun. Knowledge is power. And this journey's exciting.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Start Writing Your Novel: the Five Main Things

I do a lot of thinking before I start writing
There is much debate about how you should go about writing your novel. I'm a pantser, someone who does not outline, but that does not mean I don't do a lot of planning before I start a book.

What is really needed before you start your first sentence? 
I can't tell you what you'll need, but I can tell you the 5 things I need to know.

1.  Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist...and most likely, who is the love interest? We all need a little love, right?  This is where my character bible begins. I've started making a file at the end of each of my manuscripts for this. I name it, just like I would a chapter so I can search for it quickly. I add pictures and important information as it comes to me while writing the story. That way I don't forget all the little details

2.  What is the normal world for my protagonist? What is life like for my protagonist before the catalyst comes along? Of course, there must be this catalyst (some call it the inciting incident) or else I have no story, no conflict.

3.  What is the upside down world for my protagonist? What is life like for my protagonist after the catalyst occurs? What is the debate?

4.  What makes my protagonist decide to act? After the catalyst occurs, my character must decide to act or to take matters into his/her own hands. The debate is over.

5.  How my story will end? It should be the opposite of the beginning, the proof, if you will, that my character has changed.

Once I have a basic outline in my mind of these five things, I start my book. The rest shows up as I write and revise.
-Cindy M. Hogan

What do you need in order to start your book? 
Just an idea? An entire outline? Lay it on me.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Life Is Short

by Donna K. Weaver

Since this is St. Patrick's Day, I had been planning to write a post about the holiday. But yesterday, at my day job, I had an opportunity to help a family who was going on a Make A Wish trip. I didn't ask for details. It was none of my business, but as the family (there were many children) interacted I gleaned that the oldest was the reason for the trip. He'd just turned sixteen and was quite proud to have his own drivers license.

Make A Wish is a foundation that grants wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses.

I haven't been able to get that young man out of my mind. He's a cute kid and the oldest in that large family. I loved watching how he interacted with his parents and younger siblings.

So what does this have to do with writing? I don't know. Except, perhaps, that we want our readers to link with our characters, to make powerful emotional connections with them. Like this boy's story has done to me, so much so that I haven't been able to stop thinking about him and his family all day.

Maybe it's my mind telling me I need to tell a story like his.

What I keep thinking is: Life is too short. So, I'll leave you with a couple of thoughts and encourage you to go make something of the time you have.

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand,
and melting like a snowflake.”
~Marie Ray

“Be patient and understanding.
Life is too short to be vengeful or malicious.”
~Phillips Brooks

“Life is too short to be little.
Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply,
acts boldly,
and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just For a Moment

I've been thinking for a while what I wanted to write about for this post and I've actually written and erased a couple different things (sound familiar? :) ) but I keep coming back to doing your own thing.

When I first started writing, I didn't know anyone who wrote a book or even wrote stories for fun. It was a little thing of my own. As I've written, I've gone to workshops, conferences and retreats and met many of you amazing authors who have helped me refine and redefine my writing skills. I have had amazing critique partners, editors and sprinting buddies, brainstorming sessions and cheering each other on from the sidelines of facebook.

Four years ago when we started iWN we first thought that we wanted a place where the basics of writing were taught and shared, but also a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of religion, level or location. I am so appreciative of all you who have made it a great place to be. The comments, participation, and recommendations are exactly what we hoped we would have when we first started.

Authors are a weird bunch of amazing people. :) We build characters and grow to care about them so much we fret over how best to kill them off, and places that don't exist except in our minds--that we really wish we could go visit. But I'm happy that this tribe has my same weird vibe. :)