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. :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Character Voice

I've been reading a book this week that grabbed me right from the start! I'm a sucker for character voice, and the main character's voice was three dimensional. I settled in for a fun ride!

As more characters were being introduced, I noticed they all had terrific voice, BUT they all had the same voice. I couldn't tell them apart.

Why does that matter? Good voice is good, right?

No. The main character was diluted by an echo of sameness from every other character.

BOO! Everyone was energetic, confident, independent, capable, desirable, helpful, dependable, powerful...(yes, the list goes on and nauseatingly on)

Voice comes from the personality of the character. To have diverse voices, we have to have diverse personalities. Here's some food for thought...think of your own characters, look over the personality traits at the bottom of this post, then come back and consider these questions.

Which traits would you circle for each character? 
Then ask:
• How would those traits show up in their actions and body language?
• How would those traits color their dialogue?
• How would those traits influence their attitudes and self-talk?
• How would those traits intensify problems for them?

Voice is essentially part of "who we are." 
Voice is revealed in the characteristics of each cast member in our stories.
Unique characters = Unique voice
seek stimulation


View Others
seeks others
self reliant

even tempered

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

An "Ing" Word in a Past-tense Sentence (not to be confused with a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court)

A week ago at LTUE (which is an awesome writers conference, and if you have the chance to do next year, you should) I taught a class called Creating Snazzier Sentences. I posted a sentence as an example - I don't recall the exact sentence, but here's one that is similar in structure:

She walked into the grocery store, her purse dangling from her arm.

My point was that whenever you have an "ing" word (also known as a gerund) in a sentence, you need to be able to do that thing while you're doing the other things in the sentence. (I'm sorry - that was confusing. I shall further explain.) Her purse can dangle from her arm while she walks into the grocery store, so this sentence works. However, if the sentence read, "She walked into the grocery store, putting on her shoes," she can't possibly walk and put on her shoes at the same time, so that would be incorrect.

A gentleman in the class had a question - "dangling" is present tense, and the sentence is past tense, so he wasn't sure how that could work together. We were running out of time and I couldn't give the kind of in-depth answer I wanted to, so I thought I'd take that opportunity here and hope that maybe word would leak back to him.  :)

Yes, the sentence is in past tense. But look at when her purse is dangling. It's dangling while the past tense sentence is taking place. It's happening in that sentence's here and now, while the walking is going on. Therefore, the "ing" word is all right to use in this sentence. It shows something that is happening concurrently with our main action.

I hope these explanations make sense ... if you have any questions for me or if you'd like me to check out a sentence for correctness, send it on over to me at tristipinkston@gmail.com. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are Writers' Conferences Worth the Money?

by Cindy Hogan

The answer is a resounding YES!

A huge turning point in my writing career occurred when my sister invited me to attend a local writers' conference. I didn't even know such a thing existed at the time (it's true, I was that clueless about the writing community and what was available). This writing conference changed my life and opened my eyes not only to the possibilities of a writing career, but also to a whole new world of friends and information.

I get asked all the time by people who want to become a "writer" what they should do to achieve their dreams. My answer? Go to writers' conferences. I've been to a lot of conferences and I haven't found one that compares in price and value to the one I attended with my sister about eight years ago. No matter where you live, I suggest you consider going and taking the opportunity to learn the craft of writing.

Here are the details for the LDStorymakers Conference. It has the potential to change your future. Hurry and register. Prices go up on Feb. 28th.

Learn Write Publish Writers Conference May 15th 16th   2015
Utah Valley Convention Center 220 W. Center Street Provo, UT 84601
Thursday May 14 Bootcamp / Publication Primer
May 15 16, 2015 Friday Saturday Conference
For all published and pre-published writers
Fri/Sat: $200
Fri Only $110
Sat Only: $90
*Prices increase after Feb 28th
2015 Keynote Speaker
Martine Leavitt
National Book Award Finalist (Lady Keturah and Lord Death) and winner of the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year (My Book of Life by Angel)
Meet Agents and Editors
Agents: Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency Jennifer Rofe, Andrea Brown Literary Agency Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary
Editors: Lizzie Poteet, St. Martin’s Press Heidi Taylor, Shadow Mountain ● Kathy Gordon, Covenant ● Liz Alley, Deseret Book
Instructors include: Margie Lawson, Anne Perry, David Farland, Sara Zarr, Jennifer Nielsen, Rachel Ann Nunes, Lisa Mangum, Dan Wells, Amber Argyle, Mette Ivie Harrison, Jolene Perry, Robison Wells, Courtney Alameda, Sarah Eden and more!

Have you been to a writers' conference? 
Which one? Would you recommend it?

For more information on why I suggest you go to writers' conferences go here.