Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Writing Goals

Ahoy there!

So what are your writing goals for 2011? Got plans to attend workshops and conferences? Will you be trying something new with your craft? Are there new books to begin or old ones to revise, or both? Lay your plans out on the table so we can all cheer you on as you go for it!

This year I'm planning to attend my local SCBWI conference, to get the book I started last summer drafted, revised, and ready for submission, to read at least one book a week and review the ones I like on my book review blog (posted a new review today!) and to start saving up to take myself and the cabin girl to the 2012 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop.

So how about you?

Oh, and if you're going to kick off the new year with some submissions, I came across these amusing Submission Guidelines from author David Lubar.

Pass-Along Descriptions: Suprise

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

I am in a writer’s group with some wonderfully talented writers, one of which is Leisha Maw. We meet once a week to critique each other’s work.

Now, when I write, I tend to use some words over and over, not even knowing it. They are my Jonene-isms. I often catch them when I proof-read, but just as often, I don’t. Thank heavens for my awesome critique partners. They know me and my ‘isms’ and can spot them quicker than a freeway cop outside the Indy 500.

And then there are my physical descriptions for an emotional response. I don’t even mean to, but say, when someone is surprised, my first description is always the same one: pounding heart and sweating palms. I have to keep changing it up, and am always looking for another, better way to explain it.

So, during our writer’s group, we came up with the idea to turn this into a pass-along-author-help-dictionary of physical descriptions.

Do you want to play?

Here’s how it goes. Every once in a while, Leisha and I (and anyone else is welcome to do the same) will put out an emotion, or situation. What we’d like from you are fresh physical and mental descriptions – the more descriptions from more people, the better. These descriptions are open to any and all to take, steal, copy and otherwise overuse in their own stories.

So, if you’re okay with that, let’s get started. Today, I’d like to start with your description of SURPRISE.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

A Merry Christmas to all crewmates and them that be tied up at our dock! Here's to bloggin' with ye in the new year.

LDS Publisher Christmas Story Contest

Hi all,

Figured I'd post the link here, since many of us are in the LDS community (though you don't have to be to vote in this contest.) Every year, LDS Publisher, an anonymous member of the LDS publishing community, runs a Christmas story contest. Details on how to vote are here:

I have not entered this, but one talented writer friend of mine has. Have any of you entered? Even if you haven't, it's worth going to peruse the stories and cast a vote. Just another way to support other aspiring writers!

I apologize for posting this on the last day of voting. I've been in the hospital for a week, but I got a healthy baby boy out of the deal so I'm happy :-).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hello, Shiny New Idea! You are so purty ...

I want to write a new novel.

Go ahead, laugh. Never mind that I just completed Draft3 of my YA paranormal novel, which will require substantial revisions in the new year before it is ready for querying. Ignore that I have another MG novel that probably needs to have the first 10k completely rewritten before I query further with that one.

The shiny New MG novel beckons to me. My kids don't help either. "Mom, when are you writing the Evil Fairy book??"

Questions for you lovely ladies:

1) Has anyone tried Scrivener? How about the beta version of Scrivener for Windows? I'm a PC girl, but if I'm going to start a new novel, it's a good time to consider a software change.

2) Who has a process for outlining that they would suggest? Sure, I have a process. But with this novel, I promised myself I would outline in earnest. I highly value pantsing, but I'm trying to bring a little more backbone to my creative pantsing routine. There are pros and cons to the Snowflake method. The Three Act Structure has always been hopelessly vague to me, eventhough my stories usually end up fitting nicely into that pattern. I'm going to dig into this 49 page free PDF from Jordan McCollum on plotting as well, but I thought I'd ask the lovely Cove members what is your favorite method (if you have one)?

And a Merry Christmas to everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yes—You. Submit.

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

This week, I called a good friend of mine who is a wonderful writer. She answered the phone, screaming bloody murder.

Several thoughts shot through my mind:

Her house is on fire.
Her house is flooding.
Someone is dying.

Instead, she told me she’d just barely received her first full-manuscript request from a great literary agent.

It was time to celebrate! I asked her to e-mail over the request, because this is writer’s gold. She did. I read and reread it, smiling, imagining my friend doing the same.

Then I read the first ten pages she submitted. I had been through them several times before as her book morphed from beginning to now. She’s been working very hard not only on the story, but on refining her craft. This piece was polished, catchy, funny, hinting at romance and many dark adventures to come. I am a bit biased because I know her, but this was impressive. It was dang good! The best part is I’ve read the rest of the book. She’s ready in every way to submit.

What is most impressive is that she actually did. And someone else recognized her talent.

This summer, at several writer’s conferences and workshops, the panels of agents, editors and publishers all said the same thing. At each convention, they request anywhere from twenty to forty manuscripts. Usually they get two to three.

Why is that? Are we scared that someone will see through us and find out we’re actually frauds pretending to be writers? Are we in the middle of our fourteenth revision and realizing that our story needs at least five or ten more before it’s ready? Are we sure that that particular agent, editor, or publisher will turn us down?

I guess there comes a time when we should just submit. We must.

Yes, the work should be polished. No, we shouldn’t send in our first draft. But if so many of us aren’t submitting, that’s not a good thing. The world needs to meet the literary geniuses hiding behind word processors and mounds of old manuscripts.

So, to my friend, thanks for being brave! You’ve given me a much needed boost. And yes, my ear drums are fine now. And I’m hoping to return the honor.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What to do With an Advance?

In the olden days, when I first began to write, I used to dream of what I'd do when I got my first advance. I know we're not supposed to think about things like that. We're in this for the love of writing, not for money.

But a little money would be nice. A lot of money would be even nicer.

At first I thought I'd buy myself a new harp. I love the little harps I make myself, but I could use a bigger one. A modest Lyon and Healy would look lovely in my living room.

Then I read on the internet that an author should sink the first advance into ADVERTISING THE BOOK! Oh, gosh, could that be true? Oh no! There goes my harp.

A year or so later, I went to my first writing workshop and asked my teacher, "How much money did you spend on advertising your first book?"

"Not a penny," He said. When I told him what I'd read about using the advance to promote the book he chuckled and said that the average advance would be utterly inadequate to fund an advertising campaign. It would be like throwing the money away.

Phew! That was a relief.

But I didn't go back to thinking I'd buy myself a harp. No, I have decided to invest my first advance in my writing career another way.

I'm going to use it as travel and tuition money so I can go to more conferences and workshops!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Story # 1

Posted by: The one and only cabin girl!!! You haven't forgotten about me, have you?

I had no idea what I was in for that morning.

I didn't think I wanted to be a writer. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a farmer. Then I wanted to be a singer. Then a teacher. I tried to write stories, but I could never get very far. Well, until two years ago.

It was a normal Wednesday morning. We were watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the part where the woodsman failed miserably in killing Snow White, I wondered out loud what happened to him. Does the queen lock him in her dungeon? Does she kill him? My brothers and I came up with a solution while the queen was making the poisoned apple. It wasn't particularly ingenious, but it tied in well with the story, and somehow, it got me started thinking...

For the rest of the movie, I didn't pay much attention, and when the movie was over, I went upstairs to the computer in the library, sat down, and started typing. I didn't even know how to do quotation marks, and I used commas three times a sentence. But once the words started coming, they didn't stop.

They poured out. My main characters grew up, made mistakes, learned, and lived. The princess's evil aunt ordered the death of her own sister, and finally the death of her neice. My other main character refused to kill the princess, and instead, warned her that her aunt was after her and told her to run away into the forest. In revenge, the evil queen turned him into a crow. Seven dwarves took the princess in and made a pet of her (literally), the evil aunt came to kill her neice and my other main character came to the rescue in a flurry of black feathers just before the princess took a bite of the poisoned apple.

I had always loved to read, but it was nothing like the roller coaster that writing took me on. I wrote all day, stopping only when I absolutely had to, and then wrote into the night. (My mom, for some strange reason, didn't even tell me to go to bed. She just told me to go ahead and write.)

I finished the story just before midnight. I printed it out, clicked the save button several times (just in case), and went to bed. The next morning, I gave my story to my mom. It might just be me, but I thought she seemed impressed by it. After that, I knew I was going to write. It was the most amazing thing I had ever done, and I intended to do it again... and again.

After that, I was in. And here I am, two years later, well, two and a half, and I'm still writing, and still loving it!

And I don't think I'm ever going to stop. Scary, huh?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Like Being Struck by Lightning

posted by Rebecca J. Carlson

A friend of mine told me about her first experience at a writer's conference. With her eyes wide and a laugh in her voice, she said, "I had no idea how hard it is to break in. They made it sound like getting published is like being struck by lightning!"

Yes, very true. It is not something inevitable. Not something you can make happen.

But there are ways to increase your chances:

1. Become a storm chaser.
Go where the lightning strikes. Attend conferences and workshops, especially ones that invite the sort of editors and agents you'd like to work with.

2. Climb to the top of the hill.
Perfect your craft. Work your hardest. Learn to present yourself well.  Invest in your education as a writer. Be the best you can be.

3. Bring your lightning rod.
An electrifying manuscript will definitely improve your chances.

4. Wait.
This may take a bit. Bring a lawn chair. While you wait, you can start working on your next book. And your next book. And your next book...

Good Luck!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Power in a Word

Posted by Jonene Ficklin

Elbow. Windowsill. Pickle relish. Cinderella. (If you're into old Cinderella movies, you may remember that line.) Don't you just love the way those words roll off your tongue?

Words have a lot of power. Not only do they tickle our senses by the way they feel and sound, but they trigger a picture or a memory.

Take pickle relish for instance. The minute I hear it, I'm back by a campfire, toasting a hot dog on a stick, giggling with fellow campers over horrible scary stories. It's a silly word, yes, but most people instantly associate it with something memorable.

And when we write, those are the kind of words we're always searching for. The great thing about living now is we have easy access to master-word-turners, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss for instance. Dumbledore, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs with Ham, Hermione. (Did you take forever to learn how to pronounce it properly like I did?)

So I'm on the search for more powerful words. What's your secret? Do you have a particular word that tickles your funny bone?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Acts of Creation

posted by Rebecca J. Carlson

A couple days ago I skipped my writing time for a jam session with a bluegrass guitarist, the father of a friend of mine who had come to visit Hawaii for Thanksgiving. After we'd tried for a while to find the place where Celtic Harp meets Mountain Music, he and his wife harmonized this song for me. I listened with tears streaming down my face. I'd like to dedicate this to all my writing friends:

Acts of Creation
Lyrics and melody ©1993 by Catherine Faber:

You can tell it on the mountain, in the valley far below,
But you needn't tell the craftsmen what they already know,
From the author at her keyboard, to the woodwright at his lathe
Every act of creation is an act of faith!

From the rancher mending fences with the wire she has found,
To the farmer on his tractor putting seed-corn in the ground,
In this world of hate and anger, when it's easy to destroy,
Every act of creation is an act of joy!

So we work on art and music, though we know it will be flawed.
Yet in striving to do better, we are reaching out to God.
We are reaching for perfection, and it's not beyond our scope:
Every act of creation is an act of hope.

Though you work with words or music, living things, or stone or glass,
If you don't love what you're making, it will never come to pass.
From the paintings of a child, to the works of God above,
Every act of creation is an act of love.

Success Comes to those who Don't Quit

My wonderful friend and critique partner Sherrie Petersen just landed an agent! Right when she was ready to quit.

It's a great story - here's my post about her, and her post about getting her agent.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facing Down The Morning

By Leisha Maw

Do you ever have one of those mornings? You know the kind that make you wish Mondays came every day because they are so much easier to deal with that the morning you just had. Well, today was my Kid C's morning.

What made it so bad? Well, to start off with he had to get up. Harsh I know. It was like this:

Me: Good morning!

Kid C groaning and hiding in his covers.

Me coaxing him out: Where's my Bug Man?

Kid C growling at me like a rabid dog.

Me dressing Kid C like an overly large rabid dog/doll and helping/dragging him upstairs.

Kid C flopping on the ground like a dead man getting over rabies.

Me rolling my eyes and setting his breakfast on the table: Dead people get hungry. Are you sure you don't want to eat?

Kid C growling at me. Again.

Yup, it's been one of those. What's he doing right now? He's still playing dead.

What does this have to do with writing? Well for starters, I've been feeling a little bit like Kid C when it comes to writing lately. I growl and mutter at the computer and want to play dead. Why? Because I know I have to make some changes to the end of my WIP, and I don't want to face that. Again.

Funny thing is Kid C just got up and went to school. As he walked out the door with a biscuit in his mouth he smiled. Sigh. I guess the only way to beat this thing is to fortify myself with food and get to work.

What stalls you out your writing projects and how do you beat it? Do you shove a biscuit in your mouth and face it head on, or do you hide under the covers and growl? Or both like me?

Now, where is that last biscuit?

Leisha Maw