Monday, July 9, 2018

Learning as you go

Today Carol Williams posted some great questions about "The Vehicle of Character" in her writing blog. I'm basically finished with Joy to My Love but sometimes I'd like to rewrite the whole thing! Not really. There are some good parts. I actually like my characters though the plot is not fast moving. So I hope the sequel and the other two books I'm working on will benefit from those questions. 

I'm going to concentrate particularly on this:

  • Make your character relatable. “I get that!” “How do you know how I feel?” “I’ve been there.” When we connect with a main character, we’re interested in sticking around. Write a list of 50 things about your main character. Now do that for each of your other major players. Think outside the box. Think backstory. Think, “Who is she, really?

My problem is that I want to write those 50 things and backstory! It's particularly hard when you're writing historical and you have to give explanations of the culture both from a different country and from the past! I have too many conversations giving background and I need to find another way of adding this stuff without an information dump. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

House Clutter and Draft Revisions

The last couple of months have been busy and for that reason, the house (and even the yard) have taken back seats. And so, it's time to have a declutter and tackle the weeds too. But I also need to do a final revision on Joy to My Love before I send it to a professional editor. It just seems to be dragging on and on. It's beginning to feel like clutter!

This is the definition of clutter from Brooks Palmer, a professional organizer. I don't know where I found this (shame on me for not citing my source immediately!) but I like the philosophy.

Clutter : things that exist in your outer life to distract you from the inner things that you're avoiding. If you avoid something, it grows.... The great thing is, the reverse is also true: when you honestly look at something, it shrinks. When you see the situation for what it is, bypassing the emotional layers that coloured it and made it into a clutter monster, it becomes simple. That's how peaceful clutter busting is. You're honestly looking at each layer of distraction, questioning the thing, letting it go, and realizing what's underneath. Looking directly at something has the power of a magnifying glass in the sun. The sun is you; the glass, your attention ~ Brooks Palmer

As I'm so involved with revising my first novel right now, this seems to be a metaphor for revising: the distracting scenes or words, questioning meaning or relevance, deleting those words I want to hang on to, and connecting to the core of the story. AND connected to house clutter, there are all those printed pages with various comments by different critiquers and files of various drafts on my computer. For some reason, I don't seem to be able to let go of those until I've completely finished.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Images of Creation

The Gospel Doctrine teacher asked the ward to send an image of creations that "blew you away." I sent a link to photos of nebula that are absolutely stunning. Here's the link to 50 Deep Space Nebula And I thought of Psalm 8 that goes along with it.


1 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
So what does this have to do with writing? Awe of creations great and small inspires sublime words. 
Right now for book group, we're reading A Gentleman in Moscow, a beautifully written literary novel that would drive the majority of readers at Utah Valley Writers crazy as it's extremely slow and meandering. But the language! It's no good my being jealous--I'm writing a different genre--but I'd like to have a few sublime sentences in my novel nonetheless. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Vision Board 2018

So, here's what I finally ended up with for my vision board. I have it on my laptop and will print it out to put on the fridge. It's interesting that on my laptop it's usually hidden because I have other things opened on my screen. So I need to close programs every day so I'll see this first thing when I open the computer. And just that practice will give a sense of "completion" to my day. I always have "stuff to do" niggling at the back of my mind. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matt 6:34) Mindfulness seems to be a popular mantra these days. But Jesus already told us this: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." I'm sure He's not saying, don't plan, but fretting about tomorrow today, makes today less productive, less enjoyable.

What the different pictures/words mean: I have a lot of ordinances, especially sealings to do that have been sitting around for a couple of years or more. Writing looms large including revision and publishing, and, of course, the focus on Effie and Calum's story, hence the picture of Pittenweem. The picture of myself as a 12-year old with a suggestion for a different kind of New Year's resolution by the church. Why my 12-year old self? I look eager, happy. I was a form leader/prefect for my class and doing well in school. The other photo shows me about 20 when I was at my optimal weight. I don't expect to get down to that size at my age now, but to lose at least 10 lbs to a more healthy weight by the end of the year. And, I do need to get out into nature more frequently, even if it's just spending time in my garden, even in winter, and taking the dogs for a walk around the block! When putting this together, it was hard to get the vertical lines completely straight, but for some reason that's also inspiring in an odd way: "tell it slant" as Emily Dickinson has said.

I'm in the process of adding new links, especially to writing blogs. (I'm keeping the Science link because there may be information that could be the basis of a new story, even a historical story though I don't read it as frequently as the writing links.) I intend to use these blogs as I get ready to publish with Amazon. And, the other thing---and this is a big step for me---I'm going to share this blog more than in the past. I've given only a few people links to it but now I'm getting bolder to share thoughts, ideas, musings.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


I'm in the process of putting together a Vision Board instead of a list of resolutions. I've been working on it on and off for the past couple of weeks, not really knowing what direction to take. I do need to cover family, friends, family history, and, of course, writing. I often feel overwhelmed with things--though why I should since retirement from work has released me to do things at my own pace--which is why a vision board appeals to me instead of feeling guilty about not keeping those good resolutions.

Today I read the email from the English Department for English majors--something I rarely do---and a short admonition from Lance Larsen, now Chair of the Department, resonated with me. He shared a poem by a Norwegian poet, Olav Haugue, that came to him as he impulsively picked up a book from his shelf, not having read it through. I don't know if this is plagiarism, but I'm going to share the poem and his thoughts because it's what I needed to hear/feel now today. I've included the poem in my vision board because it relates to writing, revisions . . . re-visions . . . not just for today but for the whole year.

Don’t Come to Me with the Entire Truth

Don’t come to me with the entire truth.
Don’t bring the ocean if I feel thirsty,
Nor heaven if I ask for light;
But bring a hint, some dew, a particle,
As birds carry drops away from a lake,
And the wind a grain of salt.

(translated by Robert Bly)

We might consider this a revision, or at least an updating, of Dickinson’s savvy advice: “Tell all the truth but tell it 
slant— Success in Circuit lies.”  She ends her own thimble-sized poem with these plain but oracular words: “The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.”

Lance went on to show how this idea relates to students' studies. We often want some great truth or knowledge to find us. But sometimes, it's the little things that shake us to the core. He went on to say: "Nibble, experiment, explore. And let this new alertness leaven all aspects of your life. Who knows, perhaps that thing you most need is already within your grasp, as it was with me." This idea seems to relate to a phrase about ordinary things. I can't seem to come up with it at the moment . . . on the tip of my tongue . . . on the edge of my mind. I can almost "see" it written down on the page. Ecstacy of ordinary things? No. I can't quite conjure it up. I'm sure it was a poet who said it, though my mind's eye sees in in a piece of prose. But in trying to find the quotation, I came across this poem which is lovely. I just need to read more poetry which distills experience to its essence.

The Patience of Ordinary Things
Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare.
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish.
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs,
And what is more generous than a window?

From Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amhert Writers and Artists Press, 2005) 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Writing Biographies

I've been trying to write four biographies: my two grandmothers and Peter's grandmothers. It's been slow going. Part of the problem is having to scan old photos that had been lying around for years, especially those from Peter's side of the family; I don't have that much, especially on Mary Rees, my father's mother. Then comes certificates and dates and places some of which I have because of doing family history/genealogy for years. And those were a mess because I had to redo my filing system after getting new carpets and the files and contents got out of order and I didn't have time to refile things in order.

After looking through a plethora of photos, I had to decide on which ones to use to represent that person's life. And then I needed to fill in the gaps with historical and geographical information because our ancestors did not live in a vacuum but were affected by their immediate surroundings, politics, and international events as we are today.

I thought I'd finished but then a new piece of information pops up and I decide to add that. And so the biographies don't get finished. It comes to a point where I have to stop and say, "That's it; it's the best I can do." When I decided this I had déjà vu of the time my thesis committee told me that my thesis was good and sufficient and I wanted to tweak and add more things. "No," they kept saying. "You're done. It's fine." I need to remember that experience more frequently to help me finish stuff.

(It's not just the biographies but also the novels I'm writing. They've been read multiple times and revised multiple times. I could go on ad infinitum. Though I've got a few more things to fix in Effie's story, I'm at the point of contacting a copy-editor to read the first in the series then I can move on to the sequel. I think knowing when to call it quits and know that you've done your best, makes the difference between people who write and never publish or don't even share their writings, and those who get published or self-publish.)

I need to get some people to read the biographies; only part of them have been read by others. And then, I'll put the finishing touches and add all the photos, etc.  

I suppose if I did want to add things later, I could do a "2nd edition" in print, but if I also publish an e-copy, which Blurb gives me the option to do, I can add or change things afterwards. But I want to start on new biographies of my father and father-in-law so unless something major comes to light for the four grandmothers, I'm done.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Love Among the Ruins

I don't know why I'm more embarrassed to share the contemporary romance novel than the historical romance with Utah Valley Writers (UVW). The historical romance has taken a lot of research and is more serious in tone so it seems a more "worthy" genre as though romance is a sappy, easy-to-write genre; it's not. The first chapter I shared with the two Michelles didn't go well. They had some good comments and I fixed their concerns. The main problem was that I was not connected to the characters. I keep changing their names for one thing. Once I settle on a name it's as though they come to life for me and I can visualize them better. Last Thursday I dared to take the first chapter to UVW and it was generally well received. I do need to do some tweaking, but not a lot. So, while I'm reading Michelle Stoddard's manuscript and editing Effie's story, I'll return to LATR as a little break. One of the people at the critique table has several unfinished novels and that seems to be the way it is for others too. Ideas come faster than the writing and we don't want to lose the idea so we begin writing a new book. But, the important thing is that we actually finish a manuscript.

I'm impressed with Shaela Odd who I met through UVW. She has published two books already through Amazon publishing. I'm also impressed how well she is promoting her book. Most writers seem to want to publish with bona fide publishing companies and that really is more prestigious. But I want to be like Shaela and have something published! I honestly can't be bothered going through writing pitch letters, though it is a good exercise. I've only done one for the Pitch Wars contest so I really haven't tried very hard. Part of my reasoning is that Effie's story is a cross between a historical novel and a historical romance and publishing companies are more likely to publish something that fits a particular genre. I've decided to finish the edit and get it looked at through the agent who read my pitch and first chapter. I wasn't chosen by her, but she has a professional writing service in Los Angeles and offered a discounted service. I'd like to get feedback from professionals and then go from there. Then I will get a copy edit done and publish it through Amazon. That's the plan.