Thursday, May 27, 2010

Finishers Wanted

I am a craftsman, or craftswoman, if you will. I love to create things. I have started many, many projects. I am not so good at finishing them, though. I have lots of unfinished objects in my studio. In knitting and quilting terms they're called UFOs. I don't want to give the impression that I never finish things. I do finish things, just not all the things I start, and I often start new projects before the old ones are finished. I am trying, rather unsuccessfully, not to continue this trend in my writing projects.

I also have trouble finishing cleaning up the house and the laundry (really, it never gets done at our house, as we dirty two loads each day). I am sure it doesn't help that I have seven children. My mom claims that the best way to keep your house clean is to marry off all of your children. I'll have to try that some day.

At any rate, I was thinking about reading in the want ads once the term "finishers Wanted," and I decided that it would be very nice to have someone come and finish all my well-begun projects. I could have all the fun trying new things and someone more responsible than I care to be could come and finish them for me. I know it's not going to happen, but it is a nice dream.

I have also lately been a bit down on myself about all the ways I don't measure up to what I should be. I'm sure we all do this. I wish I were a better mother, wife, writer, friend, etc. I am unfinished in these areas as well.

Fortunately, there is help for this latter state of needing finishing. I found it in the scriptures. It says there that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. To me right now, that means if I do my very best, my Savior will make up the difference. So, I actually do have a finisher in my life, and as The Creator and the son of a carpenter, I am sure He knows how to finish things very well. I think the real trick for me is making sure I do the very best I can.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shyness and Writing

When I was young I found that writing was the very best way I could express myself. I was painfully shy; scared of strangers, the telephone, crowds, new situations, you name it. I hardly spoke at all to people I didn't know well. I really believe this is what started my writing journey.

For many years, I faithfully kept a journal as a teenager. It has been fun, recently, to revisit these journals and rediscover my teen-aged self. It was much less embarrassing than I feared it would be. I read one entry that spoke of being complimented by a high school English teacher, who said I expressed myself well in writing. I wrote in my journal that I wanted to become a writer when I grew up.

After graduating high school, I went to BYU, where I majored in English. I had this idea that someone had to give you permission to be a writer, and I hoped that by earning a degree in English, I would have that permission. I loved all the classes I took, from English literature to creative writing.

Fast forward a few years. I did the unthinkable and served an LDS mission. To this day, I can't believe, as shy as I was, that I actually did it, but it has been a tremendous blessing in my life. One thing it forced me to do was talk to people--even people I didn't know. For 19 months (I extended) I actually talked to strangers on a regular basis--and survived! I didn't melt, throw up, pass out or die. I found I could actually talk to strangers and verbally express my thoughts. I was, however, still a faithful journal keeper on my mission.

After my mission, my main focus was marriage and motherhood preparation. So, I went back to BYU and changed my major to Human Development. I learned some very valuable skills that I have been able to use as a parent. I met my husband before I graduated, and decided to quit school and get on with the business of marriage and raising a family.

22 years and seven children later, I find myself with a little bit of quiet time during the day. When my children grew old enough to begin serving missions (last December), I re-read my mission journals and felt a burning desire to write my mission memoirs. I started a few times, switching from first person to third person, and from memoir to fiction. Maybe, I thought, I need a little writing refresher course to figure some of these things out. I found a community class offered by UVU. Turns out, the class was designed mostly for writers of fiction, and my memoir plan didn't seem to fit too well with that. I came up with an idea for a novel, and have been working on it ever since.

Now, back to the shyness issue. I learned on my mission to put myself out there, to speak to people in spite of feeling shy. But, it is still not my nature to be outgoing. Deep down inside, I'm still the shy little girl who doesn't like to talk to strangers. And, maybe that's good, because it means that my best method of communication is still writing. I can save the other skills for promoting my book, right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

League of Utah Writers Spring Workshops

I just got back yesterday from the spring workshops sponsored by the League of Utah Writers. It was awesome! I am learning so much.

Clint Johnson (author of Green Dragon Codex) told us anyone can write and get published. He taught us that story writing is comprised of the inter-connectivity between these of three things:
  1. Setting the scene
  2. Revealing Character, and
  3. Advancing the plot.

He went on to explain what each of these things were and how any one without the others makes for boring reading. He referred to the blending of these three concepts as "Triple-Duty writing."

For the hands-on portion of his presentation, Clint gave us a choice between I think five different writing prompts and had us take about 10 minutes to write about that prompt, trying to use triple-duty writing.

The writing prompt I chose to write on is a father taking a child to a baseball game and it's the first time the two have been together since a divorce. For me it was quite a challenge, especially with the time limit. My perfectionism kept getting in the way and I kept wanting to go back and change the way I said something, but then there was that time limit to deal with.

But, no excuses. This is what I wrote. Yes, I would change some things on re-writing it, but I'm giving it to you the way I wrote it:
Cindy held her father's hand tightly as they walked from their car to the stand at the baseball field.

"I wish Mom were here,"Cindy thought, "What if I need to use the bathroom?"

Dad got the two of them settled on the bleachers.

"Are you hungry?" Dad asked, "I can go get us hot dogs."

"No," said Cindy, even though she had missed breakfast because she had to be ready so early.

"I'm starving, but I don't want to be left here alone," she thought.

Cindy looked up at her dad, tall and strong, with his favorite New York Yankees baseball cap on. She remembered how he always used to wear that cap when he mowed the lawn at home. Mommy hired the teenager next door to mow the lawn now.

"Daddy?" said Cindy.

"Yes, Hon?" said her father.

She wanted to ask him why he didn't live with her and Mom anymore. Instead she said,

"Do you miss us?"

"Of course I miss you," said her dad, "That's why I wanted us to spend time together today. Are you having fun?"

Cindy put on her best smile and looked out to the ball field where men in tight pants and dark shirts were throwing balls back and forth to each other.

"I hope it gets more fun than this," she thought, "I wish I were home with Mom.

"Sure Dad," she said, "This is great."

Soon the announcer made everyone stand up for The Star Spangled Banner. Dad took off his cap and held it over his heart. Cindy looked at his hand....

So, that was my little attempt. He then made us go back and re-create the scene from the Dad's point of view. That was harder because it was not the natural choice for me. Clint said that doing exercises that stretch us in that way is really good practice and helps us become better writers. He also said that all writing is self-discovery.

As I have time, I'll report on the other workshops. The other presenters were Dan Wells, Elana Johnson, Ben Behunin, Bert Compton and Angela Eschler.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mystery and Action

I've subscribed to Dave Wolverton's Daily Kick in the Pants emails. I am getting a lot out of them. Yesterday's was about the first chapter. He said if there is no mystery or action created in the first chapter, nobody will finish the book. Now, I've known my first chapter needed help, but I thought I'd deal with it in the first re-write. Well, Dave's kick made me change my mind. I added a chapter before the chapter, which will add some intrigue into my story from the get-go, and hopefully leave the reader wanting to know more.

Today I signed up for the League of Utah Writers' Spring workshops, happening this Saturday in Orem. I am way excited for this! It looks like a lot of fun. I kind of feel like an interloper, though, since I haven't joined the league yet. They meet on Wednesday nights and that's the night I have mutual. I'm the Mia Maid advisor in my ward. So, chances are I wouldn't be able to attend the meetings. There are other chapters whose meetings are on a more convenient night, but I'm not sure I want to do the extra driving. Hm. Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, I have become quite enamored of the lyrics to the song, "One Clear Voice." Here they are for your enjoyment and inspiration:

The whole world is talking
Drowning out my voice.
How can I hear myself
With all this noise?
But all this confusion
Just disappears
When I find a quiet place
Where I can hear

One clear voice
Calling out for me to listen
One clear voice
Whispers words of wisdom
I close my eyes
'Till I find what I've been missing.
And if I'm very still, I will hear
One clear voice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Transitions in The Storyline

I've been plugging along with my novel, Bookgrinders, and have often found it to be very hard to get from one scene to another. Does anyone else have that problem? I know where I want to go, and I have the ol' outline, but getting from one scene to the next is just kind of like torture!

How do you other writers deal with this?

One thing I've done to break up the torture routine is to start a second project. This one is more autobiographical. It's called The Beekeeper's Wife. Yes, we used to keep bees and have some great stories about that time in our lives. It so far is flowing much easier, so it gives me a little bit of a break.

Still, I always make sure I write some every day in my first project. I'm quite proud to have started chapter three, and the chapters are working out to be about 10 pages, which is a nice length. I do have to curtail my editorial side, though. I keep wanting to go back and re-write everything, but I force myself to continue because I've gotten in trouble with that tendency before and got stuck. Not going to happen this time. I will persevere!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finding/Making Time to Write

It is my understanding that finding time to write is not the right approach. We have to make time to write. At the Storymakers Conference, Dave Wolverton suggested writers get up early to write. He sited evidence that the creative side of one's brain is most active during the early morning hours. I decided I would give it a try.

Mind you, I don't get up that early, but I have been getting up about half an hour earlier than I customarily do. This is my writing time. It seems to be working, though I might have to get up even earlier so I have more than just 1/2 hour. My writing is going very slowly, and it seems I'm just starting to get into the flow of things when I have to stop and get my kids off to school.

All of my children are now in school, which means I have the house to myself for several hours most days, and I should have all the time I want to write, right? It never seems to work out that way. Something else always seems to demand my attention. Perhaps I need to simplify my life a little, or maybe I should do as I suggested in the paragraph above, and get up earlier.

I admire all the young moms I see who write. I have no idea how they find time. Having seven children myself, I don't think I could have done it when my kids were young. Perhaps, though, it is for them the way knitting, gardening or reading has been for me; it's an escape and a break from the stress of being Mommy.

So, here's to all you busy mommies out there who write against all odds and are successful at it. My hat is off to you and I hope I can find what works well for me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


We had cheesecake for dessert tonight. My husband texted my cell phone to tell me it was time to come downstairs and enjoy some. Only, what the text actually said was "cheesecale." His phone, like most, has a feature that finishes words for you as you type them. I have no idea what cheesecale is, but that's the word that came up. Cheesecake is not in the phone's dictionary. I thought this was odd, so I tried it on my phone. So did my son. And my daughter. All of our phones did the same thing! They all finished the word as "cheesecale."

So, here's your challenge for the day. See if your phone does the same thing. And, if anyone knows what in the world cheesecale is, please enlighten the rest of us, will you?