Saturday, March 28, 2009

Author In the House

I went to the Provident Ladies Book Night and meet Rachel Nunes!  I didn't read the book picked for book club, Eyes of a Stranger but I did read her Whitney finalist book, Fields of Home
I gave my daughter another of Rachel's books, Daughter of a King which has sold over 70,000 copies!
Rachel told us how she writes a book: FAST!  Her books go through at least 10 revisions/edits before being published.  She filled us in on her next two books...they sound very interesting!  I decided to buy Flying Home and had her sign it.  Rachel is a very nice, funny, down to earth lady!  
Go to the Pleasant Grove Library Book Festival to met Rachel and Tristi among other local authors!

PS Karlene, I 'borrowed' your picture.  Mine didn't work out! Hope that's ok!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Contest Time!

Here is a great contest from Anne Bradshaw, author of Not Entirely British blog! 

A Celtic Music CD by the Fiddlesticks! Who can't use some new music

Monday, March 23, 2009

Conflict in your story

Another GREAT post from Nathan Bransford:


When I said I was going to blog about conflict on Tuesday, I'm sure at least some people assumed that I was going to say that you need conflict everywhere in a book: on every page, from start to finish, in every scene, passage of dialogue, etc. etc. etc.

I don't actually believe this! Sometimes a character needs to just stare at the water and contemplate the meaning of life and other great imponderables, like stock derivatives. Novels have quiet moments where there's not a hint of conflict that are serene and beautifully written and I wouldn't ever urge a writer to rip those out to introduce a gun battle.

But conflict is essential. I think of conflict sort of like a book's oxygen:

1. Your book needs it to survive. It doesn't need it constantly, but a book without conflict is pretty much DOA. It's not even really a book without conflict. It's just paper with words printed on it.

2. If any stretch your book goes too long without it it will also die (or rather, your reader will die of boredom).

3. You can use a lot of conflict to create a bright flame of a book that is relentless and charged, or you can create a slow burn that is more muted. You can also vary the degree of the conflict to do the same thing.

On this last point, some might also say that thrillers and other genre novels tend to put a lot of intense conflict on the page and the conflict comes fast and intense, whereas literary fiction tends to have less conflict. As a general rule this may be so, but it's not always the case. When you look at Ian McEwan's books, for instance, ENDURING LOVE in particular is a book where every word, exchange, moment... everything on the page is intensely filled with conflict. The characters are constantly in conflict with each other and with themselves, and it's an extremely intense reading experience as a result.

Now, there are two types of conflict in novel. There's conflict that happens above the surface, demonstrated through the actual actions and thoughts of the characters, and then there's conflict beneath the surface, which is more implied and unsaid. By way of example, there's the gun battle that happens above the surface, but there's also the character who is, say, freethinking in a 1984-type world. Even when he's not explicitly thinking about the world he lives in he's in implied conflict with the rest of that world.

So. Does your novel have enough conflict?

I personally feel that unless you are intentionally and specifically choosing to have a quiet moment you should always look for ways to introduce some degree of conflict. A character at peace with their surroundings and the characters they're interacting with is, well, completely boring.

A lot of times in novels it becomes necessary for things to happen that connect Plot Point A to Plot Point B, or to otherwise provide background information or motivation. Sometimes Character A just has to have a conversation with Character B where a certain thing happens so the rest of the book makes sense.

Too often though, writers focus on connecting the dots in a way that gives the reader the information they need to know without trying to tie the threads in a fully-realized scene that's interesting and engaging. Almost always it's best to try and introduce conflict to a scene in order to make it interesting and advance other aspects of the plot.

Ultimately, conflict is the reason we read novels. It forces characters to make decisions, it tests their strengths and weaknesses, it reveals what makes people tick. Conflict, ultimately is revealing.

A man serenely walking down the street is not a story. It only becomes a story when he is captured by space monkeys who try to force him to root for Duke. Now that's conflict.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Contest Time!

Another FUN contest courtesy of Anne Bradshaw on her 'Not Entirely British' blog.  This contest ends on March 25th.

Win a copy of Annette Lyon's new book:  "Tower of Strength"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Do Your Characters Want?

I found this great post on Nathan Bransford blog:


Motivation. It's the powerful emotion that inspires people to get off the couch and grab a tub of ice cream. It's the only thing that is strong enough to pull me out of a very warm bed when it's still dark and cold outside. And it's what inspires Mario to save the princess, despite all sorts of finely rendered cartoon characters standing in his way.

How does this relate to books? Every good book begins with a protagonist who wants something. 

I know that this kind of seems obvious (and it probably is), but there's a reason you don't generally see books about characters cast about by the whims of fate without any sense of purpose or desire whatsoever. Even Odysseus, essentially a powerless character blown about by the gods, has a rock solid motivation: he wants to get home. 

Now, your character doesn't have to know what he/she wants on page one, but it should be conclusively clear by page 30, preferably earlier. And then, every step your protagonist takes after that point should be a step toward that goal, only they are thwarted at every step by obstacles and characters who have their own set of desires. 

Many novels, especially genre novels, have a built-in motivation. Think: "save the princess" fantasy novels. It's built into the plot. The protagonist wants to save the princess. There's your motivation. 

But better yet is a novel where a character wants more than one thing, and these two things are at odds. The main character might want to save the princess, but he might just have his eye on the king's throne as well, so he has to decide by the end of the novel which is more important to him. Better still is a character that wants things that are internally contradictory so that they not only have to battle the exterior obstacles to get what they want, but they have to battle conflicting desires within themselves as well. 

Here's a way of illustrating that, Super Mario Bros. style. 

Good: plumber wants to save the princess.
Better: plumber wants to save the princess while besting green-clad brother with similar goal
Best: plumber wants to save the princess while besting green-clad brother with similar goal, but although he is brave he is plagued by the creeping sense that the gamer controlling his every move might want him dead

Every time you introduce something your character wants, internal or external, whether it's saving the princess, acceptance from their parents, or snaring a white whale, you're introducing aplot arc. The main arc should open at the beginning and close conclusively in the climax of your novel. Smaller arcs may be introduced and closed somewhere in between.

Every single character you introduce, major or minor, should also have their own plot arc(s) with defined goals and motivations. The more important the character the longer and more complex the plot arc(s): i.e. your main villain's plot arc is probably introduced toward the beginning and closed at the end, and we probably have a rather nuanced sense of their own desires and contradictions.

This is often where writers miss opportunities: every character, big or small, has to show motivation, agency, and desire. They have to have their own plot arcs. And it's important that the arcs have a beginning, middle, and end. Unless you're under contract for book two, make sure those plot arcs are closed!

At every step of the way, on every page, with every exchange of dialogue and every action, characters are trying to achieve their desires but run into obstacles, whether internal, external, or because they're encountering characters who want something different than they do. This is conflict. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Contest!

Another contest!  Over on Not Entirely British is a contest to win Children's Tiny Talks

Annette Lyon is in the middle of her contest.  There are many prizes to win at her blog!

Go forth and win, my young padawan readers!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What books are on your bedside table?

Here is my list for the week...or longer!

When Christmas Comes Again WWI Diary by Beth Seidel Levine
The 13th Reality by James Dashner
Chalice by Robin McKinley
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (LOVING IT!) by Mary Ann Shaffer
Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman
A Sever Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Go over to Annette Lyon's blog for a week FULL of giveaways!  She is promoting her newest book release, Tower of Strength.

Link to the contest:

Link to the book trailer:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Writing update

I will have to write more on the WWI story BECAUSE I do not have enough words! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Writing update

I have been writing...just not on my books.  

When my laptop bit the dust I was too frustrated to get back on track with the stories but I felt I still needed to write something to keep up with my author spirit.
I gave Triond a try and have written an article or two.  It has been fun and a good change from novels or short stories.  And I have made at least $2! :)

I didn't realize how much I used my laptop.  Total portability in 9 lbs of technology.  I could sit on the couch and type away or take it to the library where I wasn't as distracted. Most nights found me cozy in bed with my laptop.  (And most nights my DH had HIS work laptop cozy in bed with him!)

After my laptop broke I tried working on my PC.  Guess what I found out?  I had backed up my most recent revisions on the laptop. 
I found two jump drives and found the stories!  But! They were on Microsoft Word which I had used on a trial basis and since the trial expired I couldn't edit or save or copy. DRAT!

So I sort of started over with my WWI piece and actually liked the beginning better than the other 50 I tried.  But I felt overwhelmed by trying to start over with a story that was almost finished.
Yesterday I was determined to get my WWI story off Word so I could submit it this week.  So I spent the afternoon upgrading and reading and upgrading. And FINALLY! I got the story! Hallelujah!
Today I am doing a few revisions (killing off a couple of characters) and I am going to email it off. I'm so excited.  And nervous. My goal for this month was to submit the WWI story by the end of the month and I am going to do it before the end of the week. Phew.

I am feeling the familiar excitement of being able to sit down and work my stories! All is right with the world again!
This blog may not get updated this week.....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Quotable Monday

On July 3, 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members. I quote it in part; I hope you will get a copy of the full statement for your files. In part, the statement reads:

. . . Communism is not a political party, nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government. . . .

Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism.

To our Church members we say, Communism is not the United Order, and bears only the most superficial resemblance thereto. Communism is based upon intolerance and force, the United Order upon love and freedom of conscience and action. . . .

Communists cannot establish the United Order, nor will Communism bring it about. . . .

Communism being thus hostile to loyal American citizenship and incompatible with true Church membership, of necessity no loyal American citizen and no faithful Church member can be a Communist.

We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [and shun] Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America.


President Heber J. Grant
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
David O. McKay
The First Presidency

Monday Motivation ~ First do no harm, and second to try to do good

"I think we all, as parents, readers, writers, teachers, editors, whatever, have a responsibility to first do no harm, and second to ...

Writer Website in A Weekend

Writer Website in A Weekend