Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Storymakers Highlight: Top Ten Habits of Successful Writers

One of the best classes I attended was The Top Ten Habits of a Successful Writer in which Julie Coulter Bellon and Robison Wells debated two complete opposite top ten habits lists. Things like, "write whenever you can" vs. "write in big chunks of time," or "research heavily" vs. "make it up as you go." They each presented why they thought their way was the best, though they did say that perhaps they weren't really as adamant in real life as they were for the debate. I have to say that I was totally inspired by Julie, as she is the mother of seven with another on the way, and has six published novels! Anyway, the point was that we all write differently. We were supposed to come up with our own top ten habits for successful writers, so here's mine (some based on the lists from the conference, some of my own creating):

1. Take yourself seriously. You are a writer. Believe in yourself.
2. Write every day, whenever and wherever you can.
3. Finish what you start.
4. Have at least a light outline to follow.
5. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound).
6. Network online and in real life, but not so much that it overwhelms your writing time.
7. Learn all you can about the craft.
8. It's okay to edit as you go. This saves a lot of revision time later. But don't let it stop you from finishing.
9. If you want to get published, you must submit! Don't fear rejection.
10. Write from the heart. Don't let anyone tell you that what you love to write just won't sell. If you don't love it, no one else will.

So, there you go. Take it for what it's worth. What's on your top ten list for success?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Worth Getting Up For

I had to get up at 5 am on Friday and Saturday to get to the LDS Storymakers boot camp on time. I don't get up at 5 am. Ever. That's the middle of the night as far as I'm concerned. (My husband gets up at 5 almost everyday. That's insane, but he has a long commute.) I wanted to do the boot camp, though, a critique group led by a professional author. How could I pass that up? So, I dragged myself out of bed at 5 am, and arrived at the conference at 7 in the morning, when I am normally still asleep.

It was terrific. So worth getting up early for. Our instructor was Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer.  He also does the Writing Excuses podcast with Brandon Sanderson and Howard Tayler. Wow. I was so excited to learn he would be our instructor. Ordinarily, the thought of reading my own writing out-loud in front of an author I respect and admire would turn me into a jittery ball of nervousness. I probably wouldn't be able to talk. But that wasn't the case this time. Yes, I know the reason for this (thank you, Tracy.) Anyway, the other members of the table were Devon, Terra, Shallee, and Luisa. We took turns reading pages from our chapters and then giving each other feedback. I really loved how Dan made us feel that all of our comments and thoughts were valuable. He acted like just another critiquer and not the big know-it-all author. That really put me at ease. I got some great feedback about what worked and what didn't in the first chapter of my current project. It was valuable for me to know how the book is working as a sequel with people who have never read the first book. It seems like I really can make it stand on its own, which is what I hope for. I only got about 6 or 7 pages critiqued, but it was well-worth it. It was worth getting up at 5 am for. I would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I plan on doing it next year. I think I might get myself a hotel room this time, though. Then I won't have to get up until 6. :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Angie's Writing Conference Survival Guide

LDS Storymakers conference is this weekend! I'm going to Storymakers for the first time, but I've been to several writing conferences lately, so I feel qualified to post this handy, dandy survival guide. Please note, this is my personal survival guide. Your survival may require something different.

Before the Conference:
1. Arrange for childcare. Practice believing that even though there are about ten major family events going on this weekend, the family will not fall apart in your absence. Your hubby's an amazing, capable guy. Your kids are independent. You gave up co-dependency years ago. Really. Your recovering, remember? It'll be fine.

2. Decide what to wear. Shopping may be required at this point.

3. Get a good night's sleep, especially since you'll have to get up at an hour you normally consider indecent.

4. When you get up at that indecent hour, don't forget to pray. 'Nuff said.

At the Conference:
What to bring:
A backpack (it's easy to carry around)
A notebook for taking notes
The notebook with your novel in it (who knows, you may get to write)
Copies of the chapter for the Bootcamp critique group
Lots of pens

What to do:
1. Remember why you are there. You are there to have fun, to meet new people, to reconnect with writing friends, to get excited about writing.

2. Remember what you are not there to do. You are not there to compare yourself to others. You are not there to feel like a dork. You are not there to have people pay attention to you.

3. Listen to your body. Have a snack when you need it. Take a break when you need it. Try to stay relaxed. Use relaxation techniques if necessary. This will hopefully minimize the sheer exhaustion at the end of the day.

4. Forget about yourself and look for ways to make other people happy. It's not about you anyway.

5. Be happy. Remember you are awesome, 'cuz you are.

Well, there you have it. Looks like I'm going to have a great time! Can't wait to see a whole bunch of you there!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Is That Show, Don't Tell or Tell, Don't Show?

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W. Somerset Maugham.

At my writing club meeting yesterday, we discussed the oft heard rule, Show, Don't Tell. I really believe that the first rule of writing is There Are No Rules. Really. There are however, some really good suggestions that maybe you ought to pay attention to. When I became a submissions editor for Mindflights, I realized why writers harp on the show, don't tell thing so much. One of the most common reasons stories get rejected by me is too much telling and not enough showing.

What's the difference between telling and showing? I once heard it described as scene (showing) vs. summary (telling). Most of your story or novel should be told in scene, not just summarized. Scene brings the reader into the story and lets them experience the action along with the characters. Summary distances the reader from the narrative.

That said, there are times when telling is better than showing. For instance, if you need a transition between parts of the story, but nothing important is happening during that transition, just tell it. For example: They drove to the ranch. If nothing happens during the drive to the ranch and you try to show it, it'll just be boring. An excess of showing can be just as detrimental to the story as a lack of showing.

There is also another more subtle kind of telling that can creep into your writing when you think you are showing. That has to do with sentences like this:

She was tired.
He felt scared.

These examples merely tell something about the character instead of showing something. For example: She came in the front door, collapsed on the couch and groaned. She didn't want to move again until morning. This sentence shows us that she is tired without even using the word tired.

Spotting this kind of showing brings us to another one of those "rules." Eliminate all "to be" verbs from your writing. Well, in my opinion that's impossible and just plain stupid, BUT when you have a sentence with a was, is, am, were, etc. in it, there's a good chance you are telling rather than showing.

Showing will engage the reader in the story more than telling will, but telling is necessary at times too. Deciding which to do is just a matter of practice. Yes, that's right. Practice Good writing requires practice just like any other skill. Here's the practice exercise I gave to the Loafer Ladies:

Take the sentence, "Gary was afraid of heights," and write a short passage showing that Gary is afraid of heights without using the phrase "afraid of heights," or even "afraid" or "heights." Our group came up with some great little scenes revealing Gary's fear of heights. Go on and try it for yourself. Post it in the comments if you want. I'd love to see what you come up with.

Monday, April 12, 2010

So...Did I Finish It or What?

I had a great Spring Break. We did a bunch of fun family stuff including camping in the Valley of Fire and going to Shark Reef Aquarium inside Mandalay Bay hotel.

See? If you look close there, I've got my notebook in hand!

I took my notebook with me everywhere we went, and I wrote quite a bit (13 pages, which is more than my normal weekly output), but it wasn't enough to get me to the end of the novel. Sigh. I have come to grips with this fact: I do not write fast.  Even given a large chunk of time in which to sit and write, I don't produce a huge word count. Is this a problem? I don't know. It's the way that I write, though. I will say that when it comes to revisions, they usually go pretty quick. So anyway, I'm still plugging away on that novel. Really, I have to finish it at some point right? It's kind of the same feeling as being 9 months pregnant, and a week overdue, and though you know intellectually that the baby has to be born eventually, in your heart you are convinced that you are going to just be pregnant forever. That's how I feel about the novel right now. Will I ever reach THE END?  Yes. Yes I will. And it better be soon, because I can't take being pregnant with this novel much longer!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Off For Spring Break

I'm leaving today for spring break, so I'll be unplugging. I have decided to finish my novel over the break. That gives me a week and a day. Wish me luck! See you when I get back.

In the meantime, don't miss "Soul Singer." (See the post below.) Or feel free to read any of my other stories. The links are over there in my sidebar.

Have a terrific Easter weekend, all!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Story Feature: Soul Singer

First of all, I have to say:

Pop over there and wish her a happy day.

"Soul Singer" first appeared in The Sword Review in September 2006. The story was inspired by a headline that said, "Black Hole Strikes Deepest Musical Note Ever Heard." Of course, "heard" is not quite the right word, since human ears couldn't hear a note that low. The article stated that most things give off natural, musical vibrations. I love music. I love the thought that nature sings. I wondered what it would be like to be able to actually hear it, and "Soul Singer" was born.

Sixteen-year-old Maiya Lemesa first noticed the man at the back of a crowd of mourners around the deathbed of old Mr. Winters. Perhaps it was the unusual intensity of his presence that drew her eyes to him when she should have been concentrating on the dying man. . . . But it was not his appearance that attracted Maiya’s attention. It was the rhythms of his body, the harsh tattoo of his heartbeat, the tension in his muscles, like something wild and ferocious barely held in check. His song coursed through the room, twisting its way through all the other melodies.

I hope you enjoy "Soul Singer." Click on the story's title or the picture to download the PDF. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.