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!


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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!

    After reading this, you’ll think I’m bi-polar.

    If you’re down and confused
    And you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to
    Concentration slip away
    Cause your baby is so far away.
    Well, there’s a rose in a fisted glove
    And the eagle flies with the dove
    And if you can’t be with the one you love
    Love the one you’re with
    Love the one you’re with

    ~ Stephen Stills, 1970

    I am clueless as to what the first two lines of the chorus means, but “a rose in a fisted glove” and “an eagle [flying] with a dove” are pretty cool images. If I understood the symbolism, I could probably tie them into this post, but since I don’t, I’m going with “… if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one your with.”

    Naturally, I’m NOT writing about a former boyfriend or a clandestine lover – I’m a happily married blogger – but I am thinking how this applies to my writing doldrums of the past few weeks: To abandon a potentially great idea because it is NOT really I’m not REALLY into it. When I ventured to write up a character bio, as I committed to do, and found I couldn’t even complete that, I decided it was time to admit momentary defeat and hang with the NEW idea “on the block.” But what exactly was that?

    I know all this sounds too familiar, BUT I promise this ends on a more positive note. For awhile now, I’ve toyed with an idea that I liked but couldn’t solidify, and then …  (Is the anticipation significantly building?) …

    I watched NEW MOON!!!

    For the first time.

    Do NOT – I repeat – do NOT panic. I have NO intention of whipping out yet another vampire novel, but watching 2 freaking MISERABLE characters MOPE over each other added substance to my nebulous idea. And I decided I LOVED it. (The IDEA, not New Moon.)

    Because this story is lighter than Not That Way, the working title of the “other” novel-in-the-making, I’ve been able to “throw up words.” Something I wanted and needed to do but couldn’t because the subject of Not That Way was SO heavy, and the character-arc SO wide that INTENSE thinking prohibited puking on paper.

    This is a truly lame comparison, but I felt like I was TRYING to love deep and dark Edward, but I’m NOT obsessed and depressed Bella! I was forcing a relationship that wasn’t there. NOT to say it will always be that way, but for right now, I’ve ditched the … . Well, you know what I’m sayin’.

    The point is that for a first-time novelist, I need (I was tempted to write “Jacob” but controlled that urge) something different. I’m not sure of all the reasons why, but this new thing feels right.

    “… about to take that trip again …”

    I know what it’s like to write a hard book. Just remember–every book gets to a really hard part … .  Anne Dee and I are both in hard parts of our novels. So–keep in mind that every novel can get really, really crummy.

    ~ Carol Lynch Williams

    I KNOW that I listed several reasons to abandon the novel I started, and some of those reasons were dang good, but then I commented on CLW’s “Danger! Danger!” post. The next thing I know she’s giving me good advice about writing “hard” books, and one line zaps me like a freakin’ cattle prod:

    “This is the reason so many people have so many starts and so few finished books. Just a heads up … .”

    So, for better or worse, I’m continuing on with this HARD write because IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAT I FINISH IT THAN IF IT’S GOOD!

    Does that make sense? I’m thinking it does, because if I don’t finish THIS one, I’m afraid I won’t finish any at all.

    I’ve also decided to follow a plan – NOT an outline, but a P.L.A.N. to help work through the “hard”. Here are just a few steps:

    1. Write a synopsis of my WIP – a better one than the one I created at WIFYR. (You see, I misunderstood that assignment and wrote a “blurb” that a prospective author might write for an agent. DuH!)
    2. I already carry around a notebook where I record lots of random things, but now I’m going to dedicate a section to ideas I may discover while living my life that might just work in my “once and future novel.”
    3. Write biographies for my main characters and include the all-important “character arch.”
    4. Learn to write to a timetable – to write SOMETHING everyday – whether it is H.A.R.D. or not.
    5. Whistle, sing, or hum while I work; and this is one of the songs that I’ll whistle, sing, or hum:

    Here I go again, I hear those trumpets blow again.

    All aglow again , takin’ a chance on [you].

    Here I slide again, about to take that ride again.

    [Bleary-eyed] again, takin’ a chance on [you].

    Now what am I going to write?

    Now for the bad news. While there are those who will tell you they simply start writing and keep going wherever the story takes them (Stephen King and James Clavell are just two), for us lesser mortals we need a bit more help.

    ~ Steve Manning

    After having such a great day writing last Saturday, I was haunted about whether or not this is the novel I should be writing at this time. While trying to put a finger on the reasons I felt this way, I created a list of reasons this might be the case. I thought others may benefit from my experience, and soooooooo I created the following:

    The Top 10 5 Signs You Shouldn’t Be Writing This Book

    1. You are not in the mood to write this happy/sad/inspiring/depressing novel. In my case, I have been writing a tragic story, but I’m wondering if I can really do this. Tragedies in my life are minimal – some wouldn’t even consider the dramas as tragic. I am basically a “good-mood” girl. Rarely am I grumpy, sad, or pessimistic. In fact, many think I am pretty funny, and so if you should write what you know, shouldn’t I really be writing something in the realm of good natured, optimistic happiness? But who wants to read that?
    2. You can’t find the forest for the trees. (Sorry about the cliche’.) Your mind is filled with dozens of details, but they don’t add up to the picture you imagine – or in this case, the story you want to create. You love the details, but you get lost in them, and the next thing you’re asking is, “Now, what is the point?”
    3. The more you write, the more you don’t like the story, the characters, the setting, etc. While I love my character, she’s not moving in the direction I envision. Maybe that’s because I haven’t created character bios or developed the character’s arch. But I don’t know what a character’s arch is! I asked another novice writer to define that term for me via a blog comment, but she didn’t respond. So I’ll Google it, and figure it out, but I’m afraid after I go to all that trouble, I’ll still feel uncomfortable with this story.
    4. You find yourself thinking about another possible character/plot line/idea. While some writers are strong enough to put aside these invasions, others (like me) consider them as possible hints that you’re engaged to the wrong guy, or in this case, engaged in the wrong project. So rather than 2-time your significant other, you’re thinking of giving the “let’s just be friends” speech in hopes that later on you’ll pick up the relationship again. In the meantime, you can “play the field” by experimenting with other relationships/genres. (Okay, I think I’ve beaten this metaphor into the ground. Moving on.)
    5. You’d rather be blogging/napping/cleaning/shopping/fill in the blank __________________. While every writer gets distracted at times – at least that’s what I’ve been told – it is another thing to LOOK for distractions. This was a biggie. Even though ideas for this book swam around my brain before falling to sleep and throughout the day, I didn’t feel excited to sit down at the computer and weave them into the latest chapter. Instead, I decided I really better organize that closet or search for that missing tube of make-up. By the time I finished all the items on this “must-do” list, I had either forgotten about the inspired ideas I’d been mulling over OR convinced myself that they weren’t all that great in the first place.

    I talked with Ann Cannon once after reading that she decided she needed to change the viewpoint of a book she was writing. I asked if she had done that, and she said no. I can’t remember why, but I do know she decided to abandon it – at least for the moment. I know that many writers abandon partial AND whole manuscripts, and so I don’t really feel too bad about dumping the 3 chapters I’ve written. But I sort of feel like the girl who breaks up with her boyfriend without having another possibility in sight, and she’s one of those chickies who HAS to have a guy in her life.

    Oh well, I guess I’ll play around until something surprises me. In the meantime, I have 2 partial novels waiting in the wings until I make up my mind.
    I would love to hear how others of you know you’re going down the wrong path or following the wrong plot line or spending too much time with a dead-end character. Please tell me your story! 😀

    And then I started writing!

    If the ideas are flowing, stay put and get them down while you can. NEVER interrupt the flow of words.

    ~ Jennifer Stewart

    Saturday morning.

    C.r.a.w.l.e.d. outa bed at 9:00 A.M.

    Brushed my teeth while perusing list of blog favs.

    Sorted AND threw a batch of dirty clothes into the washer.

    Cleaned myself up.

    Took a phone call.

    Peeled fresh peaches and topped my frosted mini wheats with them.

    Looked for a book to read while eating breakfast; decided to just enjoy the food.

    Answered the door to a borrower of a needed water jug.

    Sat down at the computer.

    Dialed up Pandora and my Michael Buble’ station.

    Started WRITING!

    1116 wonderful words added to the 701 words I wrote A MONTH AGO!

    I don’t know if they are wonderful, but they are on my computer screen.

    Safely saved.

    Five more pages to equal 8 total.

    I just typed away.

    No revising or editing – well, maybe just a little, but not much.

    The only thing/person to interrupt the flow of words was my husband who came in to cool off from working in the hot sun: mowing the lawn, weeding flowerbeds, etc. And to see how the wash was coming. He has this thing about clean clothes. But he also told me last night that he was going to ask me EVERY DAY how many pages I had written on my novel. Cute.

    Got a long way to go, but hey, today I feel great!