Simplify life by combining blogs.

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you. ~ Leo Babauta

To the few readers who visit this site, I ask that you track me down at Writing My Life a new title for my primary blog that I’ve maintained for nearly 2 years.

I think you know I LOVE to write, and I write a lot, BUT I am NOT accomplishing the goal I’ve set: to write and publish a book by me.

I LOVE blogging, but it’s sort of getting in the way of that book goal of mine. You see I also host a THIRD blog: Link2Literacy. I created it as part of my day job working as the secondary literacy specialist for a school district. Something HAS to go, and so I chose to say adiós to The Write Groove as it receives very little attention AND the hits it does receive usually come from a spam source that promotes male enhancement products.

By combining blogs, retitling the resulting product, and broadening the focus, I think I can find more time for my writing goals that include blogging.

With that said, this is the last time I will post here, but I will keep this site enabled until the 5 or so consistent readers find me at my new place. In the meantime …


NaNoWriMo: What I did NOT write.

Step back for a moment, and take an objective look at your writing life. Are you failing because you’re simply not writing?  Are you failing because your family keeps you too busy to do your research or editing? Are you failing because you’re weary, depressed, or despondent? ~ Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

My response to Ms. Pawlik-Kienlen’s questions is “all of the above.”


I wrote ONE freakin’ page during NaNoWriMo. That’s it! PA.THE.TIC.

It is not that I did NOT or am NOT writing.

I am.

I am just not writing my “dream book.”

What am I writing? Well, let’s see …

  • Email replies by the 100s
  • Blog posts – and not even many of those!
  • Blog comments – a few
  • Book reviews – a couple
  • PowerPoint presentations – big whoop.
  • Google Chats – mostly to my boss Carolyn  – and her friend Amy, who pops in every once and a while
  • Social networks – Facebook and Buzz status updates
  • Texting – mostly family members, but a few friends and colleagues
  • Notes from meetings and/or presentations
  • Well-wishes in forms of birthday cards or thank you notes, etc.
  • To-do lists
  • Calendar updates
  • Forms – from those required to buy stuff online to work reports
  • Reminders to self, family members, and others who help me survive

What did I do INSTEAD of writing my novel?

  • work, Work, WORK, WORK!
  • Commuting- 100s of hours, but at least I enjoy listening to audio book tapes by the score!
  • Hang out with hubby – which usually means watching more TV than I like to
  • Sleep – about 7 hours a night – absolutely necessary for someone my age!
  • Visit or escort my cute mom here and there – wouldn’t give this up for the WORLD! She is so dang fun to be with.
  • Attend plays (a couple of winners at the Hale Centre) with Mom and sister Connie
  • Worry – SO unproductive!
  • Read – NOT a much as I like! Still enjoying my year of UTAH authors.
  • Attend meetings – mostly work and CHURCH! (Yes, I am a Church Lady!)
  • Shopping – as in groceries or Christmas
  • Surfing the web – research for work, writing (a little), shopping, curiosity
  • Talking on the phone – not much now that I can text
  • Good deeds – like visiting neighbors and other Church Ladies
  • Cooking – a bit
  • Eating – a lot
  • Preparing for and enjoying the holidays, as in Thanksgiving when the whole fam was here and Christmas, as in decorating the house, shopping for and shipping gifts
  • Exploring BOSTON for a week in November! So super FUN!
  • Looking for lost items

I could go on, but I think you get the point! However, as one of my favorite procrastinators Scarlett O’Hara is so often quoted, I add my confirmation ~

After all … tomorrow is another day.

How about MiNoWriMo???

Writing every day, however, does more than simply instill the discipline to write at will, rather than just when inspiration strikes.  ~ Dana Mitchell

I know, I know, I know!!! The last time I posted – which was awhile ago – I committed to plunge into NaNoWriMo, but common sense intervened. I realize EVERYONE is busy, and MANY busy peeps still find the time to write 16,000+ words a day, but I HAVE to be realistic. I AM busy, but I am NOT organized. I am committed to writing, but I am NOT insane.

Yes, dear readers, I hear you mocking my commitment and will view my statements as pathetic excuses, but excuses or not, I cannot ignore the fact that writing 1600+ words a day on a novel might just …

  • cost me my job – which I still need for 3 more years or more until I retire;
  • strain my marriage – G.E. already thinks my computer is another of my appendages, and although he supports my talents, he also likes to spend time with me every once in awhile;
  • frustrate my 10 grandchildren who like to hang out with GrammaNae as often as possible – which has not been as frequent as it used to be;
  • disappoint my 85-year-old mother – who looks so forward to daily phone calls and at least 3 visits a week;
  • ruin my trip to Boston in mid-November – it’s my first time to that historical city, and I’m danged excited, even if I am going there for work;
  • hamper my Church calling – which is kind of a big one, but hey how else do I show gratitude for more blessings than I deserve?;
  • stress Soledad, my Chilean neighbor, who needs tutoring to help her wade through a community college writing class;
  • push me over the edge – it only took a straw to break the proverbial camel’s back, you know.

BUT I have looked forward for to the craziness of NaNoWriMo, realizing the benefits that may come of it. I recently read a blog – can’t remember whose – that claimed the hostess was ready to send off last year’s NaNo book to an agent. And I thought, “that COULD be me!” But when my blogger friend, Catherine Winn, over at The Writing Room, shared a comment on my last post, I took pause! (I know that’s a cliché, but I think it’s rather a classy one.)

Catherine wrote that when she participated in NaNo last year, she ended up with C.R.A.P. (She didn’t really say it exactly like that, but I read between the lines.) So this year she is still diving in, but she does NOT plan on winning – I think winning means you finish the 50,000-word goal. I like that idea – enter to enjoy the fervor of the event but lower your expectations.

MiNoWriMo: a sane approach to November Writing

I decided to go just a little further and create my own November contest MiNoWriMo – sadly, someone else came up with the “word-crunch” or whatever it’s called when writers cram together parts of words to come up with a new word. While I can find the word in a search, I CANNOT find an explanation or definition of MiNoWriMo. Any ideas?

Anyway, here is my version of a MiNoWriMo: I plan to write a Mini-Novel, hence Mini-Novel-Writing-Month. I’m cutting the goal in half to 25,000, and adding the challenge of writing EVERY day. I’m even going to create a MiNoWriMo badge of some sort – in a day or two.


All 2 or 3 of you readers?

Jumping off the NaNoWriMo cliff.

Deadlines are powerful things. With only a month to write your novel, you’ve got to get 1,667 words written per day.  There’s no time for an inner-editor, you’ve just got to write, write, and write some more. This is the perfect chance to throw up words.  It’s fun.

~ Melissa Douglas


No turning back!


I’m standing atop a cliff, looking at the bottomless abyss that makes my stomach turn inside-out and my brain gasp for air. The last time I felt like this was October 2007 when I had two weeks to write three MAJOR research compositions for my comprehensive exam to earn my M.Ed. in literacy.

Why has this nauseating feeling of fear and trepidation returned? Because I have committed myself to jumping into the NaNoWriMo frenzy. This is SO creeping me out, but I know I decided a LONG time ago to do it – as in a year ago after I participated in NaBloPoMo.

Posting a blog every day was an exhilarating experience but NO WHERE as challenging as writing a novel in a month. After I pledged myself to the effort AND registered, I realized the obstacles I would have to overcome to make it to 50,000 words: a week-long trip to a conference in Boston AND Thanksgiving AND Mom’s 85th birthday party! Yikes! And I’m not even counting family, church, and work obligations! WHAT AM I DOING?

My first thought was to BAG IT, but then I decided to read up on WriMo tips, start thinking of ideas, and just dive off or in or under and start swimming. I won’t cheat and work on my WIP, but I’m contemplating writing to prequel novel to the one I’ve started.

As I’ve pondered, I’ve wondered: Can I do anything historical without the temptation of stopping to do research? Can I play around with formats without delving into various novels to check out various and unique layouts? Will I be FORCED to write about something I know?

I guess we’ll find out.

I HAVE to DO this because I need to KNOW I can start and finish a novel. I know it’ll be C.R.A.P., but it needs to be done. Right? And if there is anything redeemable from the pile of poo, I’ll adopt the John Green plan: revise over the next 3 (or more) years and MAYBE come out with something worth reading!

Wish me luck, and check in after November 1st to find very BRIEF updates as to how I’m surviving. Feel free to cheer me on, too.


P.S. Check out my latest UTAH WRITER review of Mistborn.

The interesting sense of power that comes with creating characters

“… the heart of any story is its characters. They deserve to be every bit as polished and well-crafted as your plot.”

~ Jason Black

I KNOW I’ve been a little derelict in posting the past couple of weeks, but darned if that day job of mine hasn’t interfered with my avocation!!! Nevertheless, I’ve THOUGHT often about The Write Groove and wished that I could post telepathically. Just think how cool that would be! As I perused an idea here and another there, I could send the creative thoughts to the telepathy hotline and BAM the clever reflections would ZAP themselves into a unique post.

Enough fantasizing – back to the point ALREADY!

Okay, a day or two ago as I was working on my WIP, I decided the mother should be a single parent, but I didn’t want an ex-husband OR Disneyland daddy around to complicate the plot any more than it already was. Nor did I think a deadbeat dad was needed because even when fathers abdicate their roles and responsibilities, they are still a big part of their families’ lives because of the baggage they leave behind.

So, presto-change-o, I killed off the poor dad in a trucking accident thus making his wife a widow and his children fatherless, BUT it was NO FAULT OF HIS OWN! So sure, there would be other problems, but feeling UNloved and abandoned by the papa wouldn’t be one of them.

No sooner had I buried the poor guy when I decided: “No, I think the main character’s basically happy personality and fun sense of humor may be too dramatically affected by the death of her parent – even 4 years after the accident.”

This means when I tackle the work tomorrow, a resurrection will occur: Daddy will be back! Now that’s going to produce a different set of challenges, but right now he will be a good father who is on the road a lot. The mother will still be one focus of friction for the MC, and that may be exacerbated because Mom is forced to shoulder most of the parenting responsibilities.

But who knows? All that could change by chapter 15.

Oh, what a rush to have such control over people’s lives! Wahahahaha!

Evil Author! A Flickr Image!

Why I need a face 2 face writing group.

If you live in the state of Utah, you are in luck…there is plenty of support for both the new and the experienced writer alike. Joining a group that is especially for writers can be a very helpful thing. Not only do you get support, but you can network and learn new things from others in the field.

Upon leaving WIFYR last June, I was all excited to write AND to help create an online writing group that included all the friends I’d made during that fun week. BUT here I am 3 months later, and I have NOT helped with the writing group that the kind and talented Jared organized. I have to ask myself WHY NOT.

It’s not that I don’t want to be part of a writing group because I really do, but I realized I want to meet face 2 face, NOT computer 2 computer. Even though it means adding one more meeting to my busy life, traveling to who-knows-where through wind, rain, snow, sleet and occasional sunshine or moonlight. That didn’t appeal to me in June, but it does now.

So these are the reasons an online group doesn’t fit the bill for me:

  • I need DEADLINES – not just write-and-submit due dates, but show-up with-manuscript-in-hand-and-face-your-peers kind of cut-offs.
  • I need to HEAR someone besides MY inner or outer voice read my writing to see if it sounds as good or bad as it does in my mind.
  • I need feedback THAT VERY MINUTE, not when an online buddy can get around to looking it over, because if they are as pathetic as I am, they will NEVER get to it.
  • I need living, breathing bodies to interact with because I spend enough time staring at a screen, and as much as I love listening to i Tunes or Pandora, I crave the energy of human beings. I like to see their faces, not just their Gravatars.
  • I need people to laugh at my craziness, to encourage me when I miss the mark, and to share ideas that are better than what I glean from Me, Myself, and I.

With that said, this is what I’m looking for – a group that …

  • meets once a month
  • includes experienced AND INexperienced writers
  • experiments with a variety of genres – from sci-fi/fantasy to contemporary; from paranormal to mysteries; from romance to historical.
  • includes Millennials as well as the Geritol Generation, and
  • can laugh out loud.
  • is willing to take risks with their writing and who encourage others to do so.
  • can give constructive suggestions without making the writer feel inferior, and can receive suggestions without becoming all defensive.

I don’t really want much. But if you know of such a collection of aspiring writers, please let me know. I’d love to land there!

Epiphany at WRITING for CHARITY

Found on Flickr

When August 21st rolled around, and Writing for Charity (WFC) along with it, I had completed 13 pages of my work in progress (wip). I was EXTREMELY anxious to share my first page (cuz that’s all you are allowed to share at this event) as I was experimenting with a multi-writing-genre format.

The protocol for most writing groups requires that someone OTHER than the author reads the draft. The writer CANNOT say ANYTHING. This is difficult for me, and I slipped when my reader Ann Dee Ellis couldn’t figure out a weird contraction.

“Ah, ah, ah, Renae,” she said. “You need to listen to the way readers might say this word.”

Of course she is right, and such a read-through revealed several issues that I immediately recognized. I started to point them out, and Ann Dee stopped me again as I needed to see if our group members identified the same problems FIRST. And they did.

I had hoped my writing experiment wouldn’t appear gimmicky, and that it would introduce readers to a WHAM-BAM first line; SUPER strong voice; and an INTRIGUING plot set-up.

If those areas were graded, I’d say I received a D, B, and D. And this is why.

  • The first line introduces 2 pieces of the plot that I wanted to emphasize, BUT one part overshadowed the other to the point that my readers didn’t even notice the second detail. And that one was THE most important! This problem deflated both the WHAM and the BAM.
  • While the first page does a decent job of creating a YA voice, the experimental format doesn’t help readers get a real feel for the character’s voice. THIS is critical. Without it, we don’t understand enough about the MC to decide whether or not we like him/her, and if we don’t like that him or if we aren’t intrigued with her, why read on? (I just talked myself into reducing the “B” to a “C”.)
  • While I think I have an intriguing plot idea, I failed to clearly introduce it. My peer readers had to go back and re-read the first part to figure out what had just happened. (NOT a good thing.)

So with those flaws in mind, my group discussed what I could do to “fix” the problems. Ann Dee led the discussion, and she helped me understand the limitations of the format, and she also threw out an idea that could improve the ALL-IMPORTANT first line.

Other group members asked good questions that helped me recognize additional holes.  And so, I went away with concrete ideas that should strengthen that first page and, hopefully, the rest of the manuscript.

The question I asked myself was this: Shall I revise OR start over? I remembered that Carol Lynch Williams challenged followers of Throwing Up Words to toss out the first 5 pages and reCREATE them – NOT reWRITE them. I believe recreation means I come at the story in a different way; and while I like the multi-writing-genre idea, I think I need to scale it back some. BUT I will NOT even look at those first 5 pages when I reWRITE/CREATE them!!!

The point is I walked away from the workshop experience rejuvenated because I remembered this quotation from Writing Simplified:

Writing alone isn’t enough to help you improve; you need FEEDBACK.

Crazy Fun at WRITING for CHARITY

The best thing about being a writer is I’m my own boss, and the worst thing about being a writer is I’m my own boss.

~ Rick Walton

These are some of the best chunks of craziness I picked up at Writing for Charity (WfC). I encountered some from the question and answer sessions, some from the author/writer workshop, and some from eaves dropping! 😉

  • Most surprising discovery: Once you publish, don’t be surprised if your book cover shows up on one OR more other books. Check THIS out.

What makes this a little more surprising is that both authors live at opposite ends of the Wasatch Front – Wendy Toliver, who penned Lifted, lives in Davis County and Ann Dee Ellis, author of Everything is Fine, calls Utah County home.

The books couldn’t be more different, but I’m thinkin’ the cover girl fits both main characters in some ways. I believe Toliver’s Poppy could be an older version of Ellis’ Samara. (Of course, I’m basing this opinion on having read Everything is Fine in its entirety and Lifted’s entire SUMMARY. But this book IS on my Utah writers’ to-read list.)

Both Wendy and Ann Dee attended WfC and were good sports about the double-take. They explained that publishers use stock photos for book covers, and Wendy said that this same cover is on yet a 3rd book. The authors added that they have NO say, whatsoever, in the choice. While their opinion is asked, it’s not really heeded.

Wendy told her agent about this, but the publisher said, “Oh, well.”

  • Best Twilight Zone experience for an author goes to Anne Bowen, picture book author who is trying her hand at writing a YA novel. She decided a LONG time ago to name her main character Kendra Anderson. And so this summer when she started working on the novel featuring Miss Kendra, guess what! Anne started receiving MAIL address to – yup, you guessed it – KENDRA ANDERSON. (Insert the “do doo do doo” Twilight Zone theme here! 🙂 )
  • Strangest coincidence award goes to Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived and her new book, the April release of Back When You Were Easier to Love. After the publication of her first novel, she received a message from an aspiring author who said, “I’m jealous of you.” Of course, Emily thought that was pretty cool until the author of the message continued, “because back in high school you went to prom with my husband.” (Not that the couple was married then – oh, you know what she was saying.)

The coincidence lies in the fact that this guy DATED an aspiring YA author and MARRIED another aspiring YA author – who, unlike Emily, is STILL aspiring. Interesting.

  • Craziest silent auction prizes. Author of I’m Not a Serial Killer, Dan Wells, offered to kill you off in his next book. This is crazy at so many levels:
    1. Dan is NOT a serial killer nor a hit man, and so this is a fictional killing. (Sorry, insane people, this won’t help you bump off your in-laws or anyone else for that matter.)
    2. Someone actually entered a $500 bid online, and I’m thinkin’ Dan’s mom, dad, or brother might be the author’s  next FICTIONAL victim because who else would pay that much to be knocked off in a fledgling author’s book but a relative? I mean $500???
    3. BTW, Dan doesn’t seem to be serial killer-crazy and yet he’s written a YA novel about a kid who is a potential serial killer and is fighting it. (I don’t think this is the Edward fighting his vampire-hood kind of story. I just started reading it, and I don’t suggest it for bedtime reading.)
  • Most far-flung event goes to fellow aspiring writer Brodi Ashton’s maniacal purse that knocked my copy of Dan Well’s book from my hand and sent it sailing across the room barely missing two WfC staffers. And Brodi was totally unaware of her bag’s shenanigans.

Only when Dan opened the book to sign it and commented that the title page was all bent out of shape did I say, “It was Brodi’s purse’s fault.” Upon which, Brodi felt all bad, but Dan wrote a fun message that will bring a smile to my face for years. So it was worth it, Brodi! Seriously. 😀

Brodi Ashton totally beat this book and owes you an ice cream cone. Daniel A. Wells

  • Most surprising good/bad news was finding Ann Cannon at the event – NOT as a participating author but rather as a cute King’s English Bookstore sales dude. At least I was able to say hello, give her a hug, and line her up for a guest spot at a Jordan Council International Reading Association meeting. 😉
  • Insanity personified is awarded to someone’s statement I overheard while eating my delicious sandwich: “I have STARTED 13 novels.” (Oh please don’t let that be me in a few months!)

If anyone reading this wonders what helpful insights I learned when workshopping my WIP, stay tuned for the next post. In the little time we had, I gained what I went there for, thanks to the AMAZING Ms. Ann Dee Ellis.

As for my writing friends who couldn’t attend, I MISSED YOU! SERIOUSLY!

Just plotting along.

If an author writes, ‘The king died and then the queen died,’ there is no plot for a story. But by writing, ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief,’ the writer has provided a plot line for a story.

~ from The Elements of Literature

If it were just that simple! You have this story running amok in your brain, and you know point A and point Z, but getting there is when you enter the crazy maze. Before you know it, you are totally lost! And so are your characters.

What SHOCKS me is how quickly it can happen. I’ve found that STARTING the novel is NOT a problem for me, BUT just a few chapters in, I feel like that little lost mouse or hamster in search of the BIG CHUNK ‘o CHEESE or the exit, whichever comes first.

So, I did something I didn’t want to do. I solicited the help of my eldest son, the screenwriter. Chris has written about a dozen screenplays over 13 years, and has yet to sell one or see one produced. Nevertheless, he PERSEVERES, and he is close to seeing his dream come true – at least we think so. At any rate, his scripts are outstanding – seriously – and I’m not just saying that because I am MoM. Enough credible people have critiqued them to support my assessment.

So the other day I chatted with him about my latest WIP. (Even though they are all very encouraging, I don’t like to do this with family. Not sure why.) Because Chris has a lot of writing fiction experience, I decided to take a chance. Besides he might want company in his misery in pursuing the big break.

As anticipated, he asked the hard questions about my plot, including these …

  • What is your overarching theme?
  • I am an English teacher and must admit I didn’t even think about the theme! For shame. I guess I thought it would just “show up.” But Chris said that having a theme in mind helps guide the plot’s development. It doesn’t have to be one of those super deep messages that only an English professor will recognize, but rather something simple that holds the story together.

    And so I am thinking about this and have come up with a theme that is reflected in both the content AND the text structure. It has to do with the ways and means beings try to communicate with each other. Got that? Really intriguing, huh? But I hope it makes sense once this project is completed.

  • Who is the antagonist?
  • While this might not seem like a plot-related question, we discussed how characters drive the plot. If I don’t have a good idea of who my characters are and how they contribute to the unfolding of the story, I will most likely end up with a loser plot.

    Although I thought a lot about the main character, I hadn’t really decided upon a bad guy or girl or “thing.” But I threw out a couple of ideas, neither of which could really work into much of an enemy. So Chris shared 2 suggestions: that I look beyond the MC’s immediate circle of family or friends and that I introduce that character early in the book.

    He also mentioned some possibilities, including a teacher, but I could NOT bring myself to turn an educator into a villain. Teachers have enough problems right now without capitalizing on the few miscreants who give good ones a bad name.

    Shortly after our conversation, I thought of a perfect foil, and I had even met such a person. It was a TERRIBLE experience!

    Chris’ last suggestion was to consider studying Michael Hauge’s “Six-Stage Plot Structure.” This structure was created to help screen writers, but Chris thinks it will work with novels as well. Here is what it looks like:

    (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

    I haven’t “played” with this structure yet, but I am anxious to. I’ve written 5 chapters of my WIP, but I’m feeling the effects of wandering in that maze. I think I better give this a try.

    So, writing friends, what do you think? Have you ever tried anything like it? I’d love to hear from you.

    “You like me. You REALLY like me.”

    It’s a major award!

    ~ Mr. Parker from A Christmas Story

    I have been presented with my first blogger award EV-er! And I love the title of award: The Circle of Friends. That’s one thing I truly enjoy about blogging – the creation of a circle of friends, most of whom we meet in the blog-o-sphere. And these friends are often very different from our “reality” buddies – our neighbors, our colleagues, etc. This circle of friends like to reflect, write, and comment about lots ‘o stuff that is ofttimes of little interest to your face-2-face friends. My family, including my husband, rarely reads my blogs – any of them. Sometimes I “force-read” a post to the big guy, but most of the time I don’t. Sniff, sniff.

    My colleague/friend/blogger buddy Amy Jo Lavin at Ramblings of a Novice Writer presented me with the much appreciated award. She is seriously amazing. She has written 1 1/2 novels; she hosts a blog that is fun to read, and she even issues challenges and hosts contests; plus she teaches school and mothers little boys – her own! Now my job is to present this award to 5 more bloggers, and so here are the recipients I have chosen:

    I visit these blogs often, and all the creators have either responded on my blog or replied to my comments on their blogs. These women are talented. They represent a range of ages from youngsters to oldsters. But they all love writing, and I love what they bring to my life. Visit their sites and see for yourself!