Thursday, December 13, 2012

iWriteNetwork Winter Workshop

Sign-up now!
The 2nd annual iWriteNetwork Winter Workshop is here! 
January 26th 8:30am- 3pm at the Orem Mall conference room
(Registration tab on the right of this blog -only $35-lunch included!)
You'll never believe who's presenting-the most amazing authors on the most amazing subjects- Check it out!

The fabulous Sarah Eden, author of 9 bookswill be teaching about writing Humor.I took a researching class from her and she even made that dry subject hillarious!
An Unlikely Match
Her latest book

Gregg Luke, author of 7 books, the master of suspense will teach us just how it's done. Be prepared to be scared!
Deadly Undertakings
His latest book

Michele Paige Holmes, author of 4 novels, will help us all get the right romance into our novels...ahhh!

Her latest novel

Elana Johnson, author of 5 books, will teach us the easiest way to map out your novel using beats- She rocks this class and she may even change you from being a pantser to a bit of a planner with this easy system.
Surrender (Possession, #2)
Her latest

Donna K. Weaver, author of one book, A Change of Plans, coming out June 2013 will teach us how to write a one-page synopsis.

Incredible DEAL!

Register now.(Top right side bar) Only $35 for the whole day. Lunch included. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Question of the Chat Room ...

Dear Members of iWriteNetwork,

 Many of you have noticed that we've started experimenting with the chat feature on Facebook for our sprint sessions. I'd like to take a minute to explain why, explain how it works, and then open the floor for discussion.

IWriteNetwork is a nonprofit organization. We offer two free online workshops per year, and we offer two live conferences per year - a smaller one in January, and a larger, two-day conference in July. For each of these events, we strive to keep the cost as low as possible, charging just enough to cover expenses. Our desire is to provide high-quality instruction and a supportive system for writers without breaking anyone's bank. To this end, we are looking at ways to run the organization as inexpensively as possible--hence why we shut down the website, for instance.

We decided to try holding our chats on the Facebook page because Facebook allows us nearly the same features as the Ning chat, but Facebook is free where the Ning ... is not. Several of our members have been playing with the Facebook chat and have questions about how it would work, should we choose to go that route permanently. I'll explain, and then we'd like to hear from you in the comment section of this blog post.

How Do We Use Facebook Chat?

Let's say I am ready to write and want to initiate a sprint. I would start by going to the iWriteNetwork Facebook page. I would post something like, "Hey, I'd like to chat. Who would like to chat with me?" If you saw my post and would like to chat with me, you would just reply, "Me! Me!" I would then see you say that, and I would go over to the right-hand side of my screen, where all the people who are currently available to chat show up with little green lights next to their names. I would see your name, I would click on your name, and up would pop a chat box. You and I can start chatting with each other, just like we do on iWrite.

Then along comes Cindy, and she wants to join us. She leaves a comment in the trail - "I would like to sprint too!" So I go up to the top of the chat box, where, in the blue bar at the top, are three icons. The center one looks like a gear, or a daisy, depending on your mood. I would click on that, and up comes the option to add friends. I type in Cindy's name, and presto! Cindy is added to the chat. You can add Cindy to the chat too, if you want - it doesn't have to be me. We can add as many friends in to the chat as we want to add.

How Do We Get Out of the Chat?

Now, let's say that Cindy needs to leave the chat, but she's still on Facebook. She doesn't want to see us popping up on her screen all the time - we, in our awesomeness, are too distracting. She would go into the icons there on top of her chat box and click on the blue daisy-gear-thing. She would click on "turn off chat for ..." whoever initiated the chat. This way, she can be on Facebook, but we won't be popping up all the time.

What If We Don't Want to Chat with All of Facebook?

 But then, here's this ... what if Cindy wants to chat with us, but she doesn't want to chat with anyone else? She doesn't want her old college roommate popping in to complain about her latest romance gone sour. Cindy would handle it like so. She would go down to the bottom left corner of her screen - the whole screen, not the chat box - where there is a light gray tool bar with another gear-daisy-thing. She would click on that, and up comes the option "advanced settings." She would click on that, and then choose "turn on chat for only some friends." This allows her to chat with whomever she chooses, and to her other less-fortunate friends, she still appears unavailable to chat.

What If the Chat Window's Too Small to Read?

If you don't like the little chat box and want to see it bigger, click on the gear-daisy-thing (which James now informs me is called the cogwheel) and choose "full conversation." This will pop up the chat window to about the same size as how we view it on the Ning. If I keep the chat box little, I can hit "enter" to post. If the chat box is big, it's automatically set up to where you have to hit the "reply" button to post, and that slows things down. However, there's a little box that you can click that says "press enter to send." If you click that box, it works just the same as the little chat window.

Facebook's Distracting ... 

Now, what if you don't want to see the ads and stuff on the sides of your chat window? Try this. I haven't downloaded it myself, but I'm told it will probably take care of that little issue.

Are We Using Facebook Chat Forever, Then? 

We haven't made a final decision yet. We would like to ask our members to experiment with the Facebook chat. It took us a little while to get used to using the Ning, and I'm sure there's a learning curve with the FB chat as well, but we'd like to give it a good try.

Do You Have Other Suggestions? 

We would also like to hear from you, if you know of any free or very-close-to-free chat sites we could use that will enable several people to be on at once. If everyone really hates the FB chat and we can't find another good site, we can retain the Ning, but again, our goal here is to keep costs down and to keep providing you with free or low-cost instruction, so that's our focus, in addition to keeping the chats running smoothly.

Okay, I'm opening up the floor for comments. Have you used the FB chat, and what were your thoughts? Did my explanation above of how to change the settings address the concerns you might have had?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lots of Plots

I've been doing some pretty heavy revising on a story lately, we'll call it Book A, and I thought I'd share the experience with you. Book A has been done for a while now and we (I co-write with my mom, Canda) thought it was fine but there was always the same feedback from beta readers and critiques. There was a big part of the story missing but we didn't know how to fix it. Everything we thought of was just wrong. Ever had that experience? Where you knew something had to change but you couldn't figure out how to do it? We were stuck there for quite a few month, meanwhile revising another book( B ) but always going back to Book A thinking HOW?
We were working on Book B,  figuring out all the plot points and reworking them and we decided to do that in-depth to Book A. We used all the suggestions from Save the Cat and other writing books, and learned that we were trying to push the WORNG PLOT! How could we have been so blind?
 I know what you are thinking here, you are the writer and you don't know your plot?!? Yea, I know.... *shrugs, hangs head in shame* We are, as writers, pantsers and outliners. But sometimes the story gets away and has a life of it's own and before you know it, it's not a rivalry, it's a romance and you just sit there blinking your eyes going: What? When did that happen? There sure is a lot of kissing in here.
Anyway, the point here is simple. Learn from our mistake. When revising, look to your plot for guidance. There are simple steps in each type you can follow to stay true to the plot of your book, or in our case, find the true plot of your book.
In related news, Book A is a lot better now. Revisions aren't quite over yet, but things are looking brighter each day.
How do you revise?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Free Online Workshop!

Be sure to mark your calendars for October 20th for the Fall online workshop, from nine to noon. You'll need to be a member of the ning to participate fully.

Check the right column for details.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Being in the industry I'm in, I have a lot of friends who write. They're all in different stages of the process - some are published multiple times and have found homes with really good publishers. Others have had slightly less success and are perhaps looking for new ways to publish. Still others are just getting started with their first published books.

Most of them, though, are waiting to get that first contract. I have a number of friends right at this moment who are in negotiations to make that a reality. It's exciting for me to watch them, knowing that they've been working on their craft for years and years and are now getting to reap the rewards of their work. Many of my friends have yet to reach this stage, and sometimes wonder if they ever will.

There are a lot of similarities between the people in the first category and the people in the last category. They all study their craft and work hard to improve their skills. They all attend conferences, read helpful books, follow up on leads and connections.

The most important commonality they should all share is perseverance.

Some authors seem to hit the jackpot and make millions of dollars right off the bat. For most authors, though, it's a long, hard road to get where they're trying to get. If they have perseverance, they will eventually move from unpublished to published. If they give up, they never will.

I have some friends who have been writing for more years than I've even been alive. It takes a lot of guts to keep pursuing a dream for that long, and yet, they do, because they want it. Your ability to persevere is directly related to your desire. You've heard me talk about desire a lot - that's because I believe it's the key to just about everything. When you want something badly enough, you will have what it takes to persevere.

Hang in there. If writing is what you want to do, don't give up. Often the winners are the ones who held on to that rope the longest. And when that moment comes when you realize that you've reached whatever level of success is the most fulfilling to you, you'll know it was all worth it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Do I Get Published?

There is one question I hear the most at signings from aspiring authors. 

The question is, How do I get published?

Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer to this, but I am able to lead people in the right direction. (We are of course, talking about traditional publishing, because if you are self-publishing, the way is a bit different.)

Here are the top ten things to do to be published.

1. Finish a complete novel

2. Have that manuscript critiqued by at least five people chapter by chapter and make the necessary changes

3. Send the changed novel to 5-10 others who will look at the book as a whole within a two week period of time. Make the necessary changes.

4. Send the changed novel out to 5-10 others. If you aren't getting plot complaints, move onto step five. If you are still getting plot complaints, repeat step 3 until you don't.

5. Pay a plot editor go through your book. This will cost you $2-4 a page. Make changes.

6. Once those changes are made, give it to a copy editor. This will cost you $2-4 a page.
7. Set up an account with and scope out which agents you'd like to query.

8. Use Elana Johnson's query book to write your query.

9. Follow the directions on query tracker and submit.

10. Once an agent picks you up, they do the work of selling your book to publishers. Yay!

The biggest thing that will increase your chances of an agent picking you up?

1. Do all of the above and then go to writers' conferences. They put you in front of the agents who are actively looking for clients.

Another big factor?  Luck! So, Good Luck, may the powers of the publishing world be at your fingertips.

If you want to self-publish then stop at step 6 and publish it.
Don't be tempted to cut corners. You need to do steps 1-6 for sure.

Is this list different than you'd imagined? What do you think?

In other news-- I'd love you to come check out the cover of my latest novel here. Thanks!!

Story Structure

I'm studying story structure (via the book "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder)
and trying to see how it is used. It's funny how it's starting to pop up everywhere! Like I was watching Disney's Tarzan and recognizing the elements I was learning about. Here they are--as I see them:

•Opening Image(s): The ship is sinking off the shore and a young family is saved in a life boat. The gorilla family's baby is killed by a leopard. Tarzan's parents are also killed by a leopard.

•Theme: Is supplied by the song playing in the background, Phil Collins singing "Two Worlds, One Family"

•Set up: Tarzan is not accepted by Kerchak but wants to be

• Catalyst: Kills a leopard and presents it to Kerchak, still not accepted

•Debate: Tarzan is upset that he's not like the other gorillas

•Break into Act 2:  The sound of gunshots lure Tarzan to discover people, he enters the human world

•B Story: He meets Jane, rescues her, begins to learn about the human world and speech from her, finds he is accepted

•Fun & Games:  Slide show and dancing with Jane, Tarzan's friends mess up the human's campsite

•Midpoint: Jane is leaving, Tarzan wants her to meet his family

•Bad Guys Close In: Kerchak discovers Tarzan led humans to gorilla family putting them all at risk; Tarzan decides to go to human world with Jane

•All is Lost: Jane and Tarzan are captured and Gorillas are caged by Clayton, Kerchak fights to save family and is killed

•Dark Night of the Soul: Tarzan realizes that he failed his family, humans are going to take them away

•Break into Act 3: Tarzan escapes the ship, fights for his family

•Finale': Tarzan battles Clayton, overcomes him through the talents he has developed by living with Gorillas, Clayton's own violence ends out killing himself

•Final Image: Jane stays with Tarzan, Tarzan leads his family in Kerchak's place; two worlds--one family is perpetuated with humans and gorillas in the same family

The story structure lessons from Save the Cat are giving me some handles to grab onto as Deanna and I rewrite a story that we've just felt "something was missing". So far we have found many things that are missing and we are working to plug those holes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Setting the Stage

My WIP #1 began as a dream that is now the middle of the story, and I had to work backwards to figure out how the MCs ended up there in the tale. But I also just winged it when I began writing it. What started as an exercise to see if I could write anything that was novel length led to me cranking out 80,000 words in a month, so I guess the exercise worked.

I'm normally very organized, and as I look back at that experience I'm still a little surprised that I just jumped right into it with no plans at all. Not that there's anything wrong with winging it; there's a wonderful kind of energy that comes from just jumping right in. But I'm finding that there are a lot of things I might (all right, should) have considered, when I was doing all that leaping.

Since then I've picked up a few books on writing. One is called Make a Scene - Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld.

The information has been very informative for this new writer, and I've had a several epiphanies as I study it and stew upon the information--especially in conjunction with input from my critique group. One thing that I've been really interested in relates to my work on description and the Show/Don't Tell issue.

Rosenfeld talks about how important it is to set the scene to ground your characters and keep them from becoming talking heads, that it may seem like mere background but is more like rich soil from which your story can grow.

The scene we set can be initally like stage directions for a play. It doesn't have to be perfectly established at first, and you can make notes to yourself--something like your characters being in a specific location like a restaurant with a reminder to yourself to research foods and smells unique to it. Your setting may not come to you all at once because some settings can and should have depth.

**light bulb goes off**

I realized something that could help me with my descriptions--using the five senses. Another 'duh' moment for me, but it was one that really excited me because it seems doable.

How do you set your stage? Are you able to juggle it all in your mind and don't have to take notes? Are you one of those writers who has maps drawn of your fantasy world? How much prep work do you do before you plow into the actual writing?

Friday, August 3, 2012


At our Summer Writers Workshop this past weekend, the iWriteNetwork Directors had a brainstorming panel where we each demonstrated our style of brainstorming.
So here's a quick recap for all you.
Cindy talked about how she likes to go on walks in the morning and she finds that she can work through rough spots and get into the characters head if she takes along a voice recorder and talks it through. Sometimes she just does plot work or scenes an other times she talks to the recorder as though she is a certain character.
Tristi likes to think in the shower but that doesn't work well to demonstrate in public so she had us all pick a character in a WIP and work though how they think and feel. Then how we would think/feel if we were in their shoes.
Donna likes to use the chat room on the NING. Asking others to help her think up lots and lots of ideas that may fit into the WIP. Like: What would two sisters close in age fight about? then everyone that's in the chat room can respond and she takes notes. These are a lot of fun!
Canda shared a sheet that she made up that she calls a beat sheet. It has a bunch of boxes all labeled with different words like: see, sounds, questions, actions, weather etc.. and you fill in the box with the appropriate things then work them into a scene that need to be clearer, longer or just more detail for a better mental image for the reader. This beat sheet is available on the NING for download.
I (Deanna) use music and photos for inspiration when I write in fact, I can't write at all with out music. I make a folder with pictures of places my character can go, or what they might look like and I build play lists for each book to listen to while I write. I played some songs and had people think about how the music makes them feel or could make their character feel and think about how the images could fit into their WIP too.
So what things do you use to brainstorm?

And to join the NING click here. It's our writers social network. No spammers allowed. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Scene Focus

That moment before sunrise,
right before sunrise
is vivid and memorable.
There's a focal point of significant action. Eyes are drawn to the yellow ripples wafting above the peaks and the blazing spot rising from the ridge. The surrounding elements frame the moment, giving it texture and balance. There's a feeling of anticipation veiled in a hint of mystery. Details that only minutes before were swallowed in the grey night are illuminated, showing rich composition and depth.

It's a breaking-through moment. A glimpse. Scenes in stories share these qualities.
•Begin a scene at the moment where conflict and drama ignite. If I start too early I just have the great mass of night. Lovely in its own right, but not compelling.

•The scene begins and ends in anticipation. Even if the next scene doesn't follow the same character or timeline, each scene carries the seeds of new plot developments.

•Texture and balance are exposed relative to past scenes. Those pieces take on elevated importance. What will have light in the new scene? What will still be in the shadows? Reveal the complexity of the situation and the humanity of the characters. There is a full scope of emotions and motives at play. Subtle actions or words allude to interpretation or misinterpretation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sharp Dressed Man

I've been reading a lot of Regency Romances lately, and I think it's showing. I loves me some Scarlet Pimpernel.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I love words! 
I love the feel of new words that roll around in my head before they feel comfortable enough to pop out.
I love the  subtle difference in personalities each one has, even from its closest relatives.
I love that they run the full gamut of human experience. Anything we do, of feel, or want, or act on--we can twist words to wrap it up.
I love that we can line them up and march them across a page to inflict joy or sometimes sorrow into another mind through a story we create together, causing readers to question or gasp or cry. 
I love that it only takes words to create new people, civilizations, worlds.
I love words.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


While on Twitter the other day I came across something that @ozzywood said: The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar. So I followed the link and here they are:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How you'd rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
Can I just say how much I love this simple list? There are 22 simple sentences that say how to write a story and hey, if it works for them, maybe it will work for me. (You too.) So I printed it out and now when I feel stuck I pull out the list and read through it and inevitably there's a sentence to get me back writing.  :)

And here's the link if you want to see the full article for yourself:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inspiration by Neil Gaiman

This video's a little long, but I think it's worth every minute. Neil Gaiman does a wonderful job in this commencement address for the University of Arts, Class of 2012.

Click here. Sorry the embedded video won't show up.

Seriously. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bit of Indie Advice

One great advantage you have if you indie-publish is the ability to get your work out as fast as you can produce it. There is no wait time like in traditional publishing. I have a couple of friends who just signed deals with big publishing houses and their release dates aren't for two, count them, two years.

That seems like a long time to wait. 

With indie-publishing, you get to choose when your book is ready to publish. You could publish a whole trilogy at once if you chose to.

The question becomes, is there an optimal time to publish your PERFECTED novel?

Yes! Absolutely. 

The answer is now! Go for it. Just don't do it before it is really ready.

Once you have one novel published. Get the next written. Once it has been edited and is perfect publish it. The best time to do that?  Right then. 

Every moment you wait, you are losing money.

When a customer reads your first novel on their digital device and like it, they immediately look for anything else you've written. How do you satisfy their craving for your work? You write and then you publish your well-written, perfectly edited books, over and over and over again.

That is the secret to indie-publishing success.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Writing Multiple Genres

Hi there,

Thanks for joining us at iWriteNetwork for Spring on the Ning. This blog post is the information you will need for the class on Writing Multiple Genres. After you're done reading it, come join me in the Chat Room for a discussion of what you've learned and to ask any questions you might have.

Notice anything about these books, besides the fact that they were all written by me? They all belong in different genres. Nothing to Regret is historical fiction. Agent in Old Lace is romantic suspense. Bless Your Heart is a cookbook. Secret Sisters is a cozy mystery. Million Dollar Diva is a financial book. In addition to those genres, I've also written inspirational nonfiction, a how-to for virtual book tours, and I'm releasing my first YA contemporary next month. How did this happen?

When I first started writing and published Nothing to Regret, I thought I'd never write anything but historical fiction. I absolutely, totally loved it. I wrote three historical fiction novels, and then I started getting ideas for other stories, and they were definitely not historical. I didn't know what to do. I believed that the way for me to be successful was to choose a genre and stick with it, and build my brand as a historical fiction author. But these other stories wouldn't leave me alone.

So I wrote Agent in Old Lace, which was my venture outside the familiar waters of historical fiction. It went over really well. Some of my readers said, "We like your historical fiction, but we loved your romantic suspense." That really surprised me - I'd put so much time and effort and energy into the historical fiction that to me, it was only fair that it should be the favorite. Then when I wrote Secret Sisters, which is a cozy mystery, everyone went crazy. "This is your best ever!" they told me. I almost wondered if I'd been wasting my time with historical fiction, and that bothered me because I had really invested myself in it. 

Also in the back of my mind was the question of my brand. I wasn't just a historical fiction author. I wasn't just a romantic suspense author. I wasn't just a cozy mystery author. What was I? How would I create a brand, when I was doing so many different things?  Then one day it hit me. I'm a Tristi Pinkston. And the most wonderful thing about Tristis is I'm the only one. (apologies to Tigger)

What I mean is this: I'm branding myself as a person now, not as a genre. My readers know that I have many different tastes and that I like to write about many different things, and so far, they've been excited to try out the variety. Like I said, some prefer the cozy mysteries while some prefer the historical fiction, but no matter what they are reading, they know they can expect certain things because it's a Tristi Pinkston.

1. They know they can count on it being a clean read.

2. They know I research and ask questions and make each book as realistic as possible.

3. They know I edit and edit and edit and try to make each book as good as it can possibly be. Sure, there's room for improvement, but the consistent drive to do better with each book is something that also goes into my brand.

These are all things that are extensions of me as a person, and are not limited to a genre. This is why I say that I am my brand.

Perhaps right now you feel as though you've found your niche and you can't picture yourself ever leaving it. That's how I felt in 2008 after I released Season of Sacrifice, my third historical fiction. But darn it if these cute little old ladies didn't show up in my head, demanding that I tell their quirky story, and so I had to start writing Secret Sisters. You just never know where the muse is going to take you, and your very best writing will take place when you follow that muse.

So, how do you write multiple genres?

The first piece of advice I have is to write about the things that interest you. I'm sure you've figured out by now that I have a ton of different interests. I'm a little bit "squirrel" when it comes to things I want to learn about and experience. For some reason, I spent fifteen minutes on the Internet last night reading up about Jack the Ripper because I'd heard him mentioned and I wanted to learn more ... while I watched the season finale of Fashion Star. Yeah. So, if you have wide and varied interests, there's no reason why you can't write wide and varied things. But write what you're interested in, because that's where the passion comes into play, and passion makes great writing.

The second thing is that you should learn what the requirements are for each genre. Every genre there is has certain hallmarks, and if you don't meet those hallmarks, your reader will be disappointed. For instance:
Romance - boy meets girl, something happens to keep them apart, they fight through it, they end up together. They must end up together, or it's not a romance.
Drama - terrible things happen, the characters fight against them, they might or might not be successful, and someone might die. Lots of emotion involved here.
Dystopian - people are fighting against a system that has gone horribly awry.
If you write a book and label it as a romance, and yet your characters don't end up together, it won't sell as a romance. Understanding your genre is huge. You might think, "Well, I want to do something totally different and step out of the prescribed formula," and you can do that to a certain extent and be unique, but you must follow the basic outline or you will make your readers unhappy, and it will be a tough sell to a publisher.

The third point is be yourself, no matter what. You might be wondering, "How did Tristi go from writing a really fluffy cozy mystery to a hard-hitting nonfiction inspirational?" I mentioned that I'm a little bit "squirrel." The fact is, we all have many facets to our personalities. If we were just one-dimensional, how boring would that be? Tap into the different facets that are uniquely yours, and bring your own voice to them. I am a very lighthearted and happy person sometimes, and others, I'm deeply introspective and serious. One isn't more "me" than the other. They're both "me." I have my own voice and my own perspective in each of my moods, and I use those as I write about the various different topics.

Should you use pen names?  A lot of authors wonder if they should use different names when they publish in different genres. I didn't for a very simple reason - I'd spent a lot of time building up my name recognition online. I wrote for several websites, blogged, networked, and got my name out there. If I were to change my name for another project, I wouldn't be able to tap into that name recognition - I'd have to start from scratch. In addition, even though my books are wide and varied, they can all be read by the same readers.

If you're thinking about using different names for different projects, think about the nature of those projects. Are you writing middle-grade fiction, and then also erotica? That's a situation in which you would absolutely, definitely use two names. You wouldn't want your middle-grade reader to see a new book by you in the store, pick it up, and suddenly learn more about the birds and the bees than he was ready for. Additionally, let's say you write automotive repair books and you also write chick lit. Those two genres are so different that yes, I would use a different name for each.

The main reason you would use different names would be to differentiate yourself in the minds of your readers so they know what to expect when they pick up your book. If your books aren't necessarily meant for different audiences, you're fine to stick with one name throughout your career.

Will the publisher go along with it?  This is where you'll need a game plan. When you first start out with a publisher, they may want you to stick with one genre. Let them know that you have ideas for other things, and give them a quick synopsis of your ideas so they can see what else you have in mind. Sometimes a publisher will ask you to print all your romance books with them, and then give you leave to take your green living books somewhere else, or to self-publish them on the side. Other times, the publisher will ask you to publish only with them, and you may need to wait to branch out. I feel very blessed - my publisher has not only agreed to print several of my books, but supports me in self-publishing titles they aren't interested in, so I'm able to explore these different genres. I suggest open communication with your publisher. Let them know you have other ideas, and then listen to what they have to say. Some of your ideas may need to wait until later, but that's okay - the great thing about being an author is that there's no shortage of ideas out there, and if you need to keep writing romance for a while, you'll get a ton of great romance ideas.

How will you market it?  I have all my books listed on my site and on blog, but I've also set up sites for some of my other books, like Women of Strength, Virtual Book Tours, and The Secret Sisters Mysteries. (That one hasn't been updated for a while ... need to get on that.) You market your other genres just the same as you do your first genre, except you become a little more targeted. You'd ask gardening blogs to review your gardening book, instead of approaching all the same bloggers as before. You'd talk to gun clubs about your gun books. It's really no different from setting up a marketing campaign for your other books, but with a new focus. (I probably said that twice, but hey, I sometimes repeat myself when I'm teaching in person, too.)

In Summary: Yes, you can absolutely write in different genres. Choose subjects that interest you, focus on the hallmarks of each genre and don't confuse them in your writing, and come up with publishing and marketing plans that will work for you, your publisher, and your schedule.

Questions? Comments? Come join me in the Chat Room right now! I will be there from 10:00 to 11:00 am Mountain Time and you can ask me anything you like.

If Tristi hasn't already conveyed her entire life story and you'd like to know more about her, you can visit her website or blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Time for Spring on the Ning!

What is Spring on the Ning? Is it like having a spring in your step? Well, no, but if you participate, you might find your step a little more springy - it's going to be a lot of fun! 

Spring on the Ning is iWriteNetwork's first-ever online writers' workshop. You can attend from your own home - in your jammies, if you want.

It all happens this very Saturday morning. We'll start at 9:00 Mountain Time with a great BlogTalkRadio interview with Heather Justesen, author of romance and family drama.

Then at 10:00, I'll be discussing how to write multiple genres and still keep your brand. I will post the discussion material here on this blog and also on the blog on the Ning, and then we'll all meet up in the Chat Room to discuss it further.

At 11:00, we'll get some great information from Cindy Hogan on setting the scene. That information will be on both blogs as well.

We hope you'll clear some time in your schedule for us - it will be a lot of fun, very informative, and hopefully motivational as well. See you then!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Participation Auction Winners

In order with the number of points, the winners are:
61--Jennifer Jensen
45—Jessica Foster
35—Lisa Robinson
27—Terry Eagleston
25—Jennifer Lunt Moore
22—Jayrod Garrett
18—Scott Taylor
15—Ted Finch
Jennifer will have first choice of the books listed below. Everyone who won needs please email me at
and tell me the order of the choices you have for these books. I'll send you the one that is highest on your list that is still left. Ted, you get the last one. :)
I will also need the address that you'd like the book mailed to.

All are signed copies except the first one and it’s an ARC:
Beyonders Book #2 Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull
Blank Slate by Heather Justeson
Watched by Cindy Hogan
Trapped by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen
Veil of Darkness by Greg Park
Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
Girls Don’t Fly by Kristen Chandler
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Possession by Elana Johnson

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


by Donna K. Weaver

When you think of sprinting, is this what comes to mind?

When you're a writer, however, there's a different kind of sprinting that's available to you. It's when you gather somewhere online with other writers. Someone sets a time, tells everyone when to start, and then off the group goes. At the end of the designated time, people report their word/page counts. It can be a great time to focus on a project--whether it be actually writing or editing/critiquing. It also gives you a ready group of fellow writers with whom you can brainstorm.

That's priceless!

I first started participating in sprinting during NaNoWriMo last year. There's a place on Facebook for members of one of my writing groups where we can go to sprint. I know of writers who also did sprints on Twitter. I finally wandered over to the iWriteNetwork sprints in the chat room where I found the interaction to be more immediate than on Facebook and less cumbersome than on Twitter where you had to use a hashtag with every comment. If you haven't participated in a sprint session before, I suggest you give one a try and see how you like it.

Have you ever participated in a writing sprint? If so, what did you think?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Spring Fling Giveaway Hop

ENTER to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card (US only)

     •Be or become a follower
 (by clicking on the "join this site" button on the right-sidebar)
     •Leave a comment  telling me the next 3 books on your "to read list"
     Leave your email address (in case you win)

If you're a WRITER, click over to the 

and join with other writers in an online community of learning and support for writers and authors.

You can see the other blogs participating in this hop by clicking on this icon.
Or see a list of the blogs by going HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mark Your Calendar

There are a couple of awesome events happening in the next few months and I know you all want to know so here's the scoop:

1st: We are currently in the middle of our participation auction. There's still plenty of time to rack up points so scroll own if you need more info.

2nd: Our Spring on the NING workshop is May 19th. A workshop taught and attended on the NING*. Awesome information and no travel required, what's not to love? :) To vote on classes taught, the poll is on the right hand of the blog.

3rd: On July 27th and 28th we are holding our first annual summer conference in American Fork, UT. Two whole days packed with fun, prizes and tons of amazing classes. Watch for registration and class information. It's going to be one event that you don't want to miss!

4th:  We are planning the Fall workshop for October 20th and it's coming together nicely, save the date and come learn with us. :)

*The NING is an online community we've set up for writers, join by clicking HERE.

Monday, April 9, 2012

iWriteNetwork Participation Auction

Hey, bidder bidder! 
Your cash is no good here.
iWriteNetwork is having a Participation Auction for the next
Here are the books you could "buy".
We have some great books (8 signed copies + 1 ARC)!
Possession by Elana Johnson

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler

Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens

Veil of Darkness by Greg Park

Trapped by  Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Watched by Cindy M. Hogan

Blank Slate by Heather Justesen

And last but not least ( yes, this is an arc of the second in the series...)
Beyonders #2 Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull

How do you play?

Get points just for being part of iWriteNetwork and participating on this blog and on the ning ( ) or in our Facebook group

get 5 points for coming into the chat room to talk during sprints or brainstorming sessions

get 10 points for hosting a session in the chat room

get 1 point every time you comment on any of the blogs

get 1 point for every friend you have on the iWriteNetwork Ning

get 3 points for posting your picture to your membership page on the ning

get 10 points for inviting a friend to join the iWriteNetworkNing that becomes a new member (To get these points, you need to message me--Canda Mortensen--on the ning to tell me which new member joined that you invited)

get 3 points for following this blog

get 3 points for joining the Facebook group for iWriteNetwork

get 1 point for posting to the Facebook group page

At the end of the day on April 25th the contest is over! Points will be totaled and the top point winner will receive first choice of a book. All the books will be given away, so 9 members will win!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Do you ever wonder, as you're reading incredibly creative books, where the authors got their ideas?

It's no secret I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Some people can read that series and come away thinking they're books for children.

Um, no.

And yes. Harry and his fellow students grow as the series grows. But even in those early books, there's a depth to the storytelling you might miss if you only read the series once. Before the release of each book, I'd reread the books that had been released. With the new book's revelations, I would find the way I looked at the earlier books had changed--and I'd have to go back and read them again in the new light.

I would love to be able to write with the kind of depth Jo Rowling did there--stories that appeal to  children while providing adults with a rich adventure as well. And believe me there are millions of adult HP fans. On the Leaky Lounge, we had doctors, lawyers, geneticists, writers, professors, physicists, etc. arguing back and forth about whether or not Dumbledore was dead! The caliber of the debate was amazing.

So, where do ideas come from?

Author Dan Wells touched on this last October when he was the guest speaker at the UVU Book Academy. He said he's frequently asked this question, and he said ideas are everywhere. Don't just look at a news report as it is but let your imagination play with it. Do a lot of "what ifs". He said he was watching a science show on PBS one day, and one little tangent triggered by the story led him to his new series.

Let your imagination out of the box. Pull unusual combinations together, and see if you can make them work.

Like in Star Trek, you can let your imagination "boldly go where no one has gone before" (even if that is a grammatical no no).

So where do you get your ideas from? Do you have a process that you use? What kinds of things trigger your ideas?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Holds You Back?

We all get hung up on different things in life, things that hold us back and keep us from achieving the goals we have set for ourselves. Sometimes those things are real - we have to take care of a sick child, we have to work overtime, we become ill ourselves. Sometimes those things are imagined - we aren't smart enough, we aren't brave enough, we don't deserve to be successful.

Every one of us will face those challenges. No one is exempt. The key now is to determine what you're going to do about it.

It's true that you may face a challenge that requires you to give up writing for a time. You may find it literally impossible to squeeze in an extra moment into your day. But we're not talking about physical limitations right now - we're talking about mental limitations. There are never any limits to your goals, your dreams, and your belief system - unless you put them there.

I've been watching old episodes of The Biggest Loser on Hulu lately. I was particularly impressed by contestant Moses, who lost a hundred pounds on the ranch faster than anyone else to date. It's also fun that he is a member of my religion. Anyway, he suffered an injury and he wasn't able to exercise. But his trainer showed him how to shadow box, and he sat on the corner of his bed and shadow boxed every day until he was strong enough to exercise again. He literally could not perform the tasks physically, but mentally, he was taking care of business, and as soon as his body healed, he was right back in the game to go on to set a record. He did not let his very real injury hold him back.

No matter what you are currently facing, whether it be fear of the unknown or doubt in yourself, whether it be a lack of time or poor health - no matter what it is, there are ways to push past it. There are ways to keep mentally in the game. It's when you allow your mind to shut down and to stop working on your dreams that you really miss the boat. As long as you can keep your spark alive with the positive workings of your mind, it doesn't matter what you're currently facing. You are on the path. You are making headway. If you're a runner but you're in bed with a broken leg, you're only defeated when you stop making plans to succeed. If you're a writer who can't find the time to create, you're only defeated when you stop using your imagination.

Think about it - what's holding you back? Then think about it again - how can you defeat that thing? Is it a matter of time, of introspection, of education? And how do you get that thing? You can do it. It's within you to do it. Stop letting those things hold you back, and instead, use them to propel yourself to greater heights than ever before.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I am a firm believer that everything is better with layers. If you stop and think about it I'm quite sure you'll agree with me. Parfaits: layers, Trifle: layers. But it’s also true with music. Yes, a piano or violin is beautiful on it's own, but an orchestra will stir your soul. An acoustic guitar is great but plug it in and add the LAYERS of voice, drums, bass and maybe another voice or keyboard and you have killer sound.

It's what keeps me coming back for more, layers.

This applies to writing. A nursery rhyme is timeless but how often do you go back and reread them? They have a few lines a bit of rhythm. They are great for kids, but as we grow we want more. And as we grow the books we read grow too. They have more plot lines, characters and disasters.

So how does a writer get those layers?
    Strong Supporting Characters
To be honest I first thought of Harry Potter here. Harry is the main character but there are so many strong sub-characters. Hermione, Ron, Luna, Prof. Snape, Dumbledore etc... the list goes on. I'm sure you're naming others I didn't. But that's exactly the point, the story wasn't only about Harry. It was about how to be yourself no matter what others thought: Luna, fighting for equality: Hermione. And the characters goals should expand and grow in each book over the series. Give those supporting characters a character arc, and your readers will thank you.
    Relatable Emotion
Characters don't always have to look on the bright side, cup half full, stiff upper lip and all that, allow believable break downs, anger outbursts and an occasional case of the giggles. Readers often read to be drawn in, as a species who empathizes with each other, write-in moments for your reader to connect emotionally with your character.
    Multiple, Interwoven Plots
Allow multiple problems to come up at once. The huge geology presentation gone wrong, then a car accident all while fighting between friends. In real life problems don't take turns, they shouldn't in your book either.
    Believable Try/Fail Cycles
Try to really make your character suffer and not superman all the time, even the hero fails and the bad guy gains the upper hand. The fool can get it right and the damsel is the one doing the saving.
    Symbols and Motifs
A symbol is representative of something else and a motif is a repeated image or phrase. They can be either literal or symbolic. Think charging river symbolizing change, or a serene field as safety or peace.

As you write and rewrite, think about how you can pull your reader deeper into the layers of your story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To bling or not to bling?

I’ve always thought of style as personal decisions about fashion.Which trends to follow? How much or little of the trends to follow? Classic. Retro. Fads. Who to listen to–Vogue?–Elle? So many choices: sweaters, shorts, shoes, earrings, hair, lip colors. . .
Wait, where was this going? Oh, right–Style.
In writing, I think of style as being my personal writing wardrobe. On the first draft, I just try to knock the storyline out. Who, what, when, where, why and how. There are even gaps in that when I declare the first draft done. The fun for me is in the revision.
I know, some people write beautifully on their first draft. I secretly hate them.
When I have a basic story I go back through it several times to work on images and style. This isn’t that unusual–lots of writers do this.
One of the things I try to notice is the sentence fluency. Long and short. Variety in the beginning words. Sentence structure matches the meaning and emotion. Artistic sentences that add depth through simile and metaphor or repetition.
I’m reading a YA book right now (Heist Society by Ally Carter–very fun by the way) that has a lot of examples that make the sentences interesting to read. Sometimes they enhance the story. Sometimes they deepen a character. Here’s an example:
Hale (very cute, rich boy) is talking to Katrina (protagonist, long time friend of Hale)
“That’s sweet, Kat. Maybe later I’ll buy you a university. And an ice cream.”
The author used hyperbole to show us the playful nature of their relationship.
Here’s another example of style in a conversation between Kat and her uncle (Their family has had a little falling out, and things are still awkward.)
“I’m here,” Kat said in a softer voice.
She didn’t say, I can hear you.
She didn’t tell him, I came home.
She didn’t promise, I’m not going anywhere.
In this passage, the author uses a parallel sentence structure for the three sentence to simulate pleading, and the paragraph spaces between sentences to enhance the isolation the main character is feeling.
Style is the way an author uses sentence structure and meaning together. It’s the intention and expression of meaning that makes the sentences memorable. It’s the sentences that make the reading natural. Style looks and sounds right.
Style in writing separates one great story from hundreds of good ones.

Like Yves Saint Laurent said,“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”