Making Progress

Now that baby boy is getting slightly more independent and I’m getting more rest, I’m working on things. I’m still not great about reading books, but I’m determined to keep on trying. It’s hard because some of them are good, but not great. For me, it’s hard to find a book that really enthralls me. It doesn’t even have to be the best well-written, just if the story is good and moves well. So if you have any MG recommendations, throw them at me.

I’ve started writing the sequel to my “Tower” book. It’s a MG Fantasy. This series has been crazy, it’s like it possessed me and I wrote outlines for several books. I have been editing the first one, but that gets a little humdrum after awhile, so I decided to start writing the second one. I had planned to do it for NanoWrimo, but it just didn’t happen. But I’ve realized I’ve got to spend time writing, even if just for my own mental health. You feel really cut off from the world as a SAHM. Especially in our covid times. It’s hard to keep reaching out when it’s not reciprocated.

I don’t blame them, it’s hard enough to reach out in the first place as a mom. Kids really take over your whole world. And it could be they have family in town, whereas we really don’t. So it gets lonely. But somehow crafting stories can help fill that void.

I just wanted to brag a little about making progress. And I’m submitting a small portion to my writer’s group again. They are so good with helpful feedback. We all critique each other’s stuff and make each other better writers and it’s so great to have that.

How are you doing? Are you meeting writing goals? Or maybe just having fun? What kinds of books are you reading lately?

Writing for Charity Conference

Last Saturday I attended the Writing for Charity Conference. This is my second year attending it and I found it just as helpful this year as I did last year. It’s only a one-day conference, but lots of published authors attend. Some give advice on your manuscripts and some give forums. And since they usually have a bunch of great authors come, it’s a worthwhile event.

Some of the authors in attendance included Ally Condie (Matched), Lisa Mangum (The Hourglass Door), Tyler Whitesides (Janitors), Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One), and of course Shannon Hale (Austenland). At the opening of the conference, all of the authors were on stage in a sort of introductory forum where attendees could ask questions. Shannon Hale was the MC, which if you’ve ever been around her before, you know is a wise choice. She’s hilarious!

Since I purchased a bluetooth keyboard a few months ago, I took it along with my phone to take notes. There’s something wonderful about being able to get things down via typing I’m much, much faster at it. Thanks to Open Office, notes were a snap.

Okay, so the microphone was passed along a group of about 20 authors, so I’m not sure who all said what, only that Shannon was running the mic back and forth across the stage as well as making little jokes.


All of them agreed one of the most important thing aspiring writers can do is have a critique group. Whether it’s friends you trust to be honest, CPs you trust over email, or your writer’s group—GET FEEDBACK. This will help your story and writing out immensely. Many authors also agreed reading your work aloud was extremely helpful with editing, especially when it comes to dialogue. In fact, one author even went so far as to say read it aloud with someone listening because you become even more self-conscious and will catch mistakes better that way. Another author says she has her husband read it aloud to her, stating she finds hearing it in someone else’s voice helps point out the flaws.

They said make sure every scene, every moment, every sentence, every word is doing something for your reader and not just the story. The point is to create an emotional experience for the reader. One said when you edit, read your story with a particular thing in mind. For example, read for humor, to see if the humor is working or not. Or read to see how pacing is flowing. Or read for certain characters to see if their motivations line up. Etc. Etc.

But the biggest point of all: Never stop revising.


What’s the hardest thing about writing? These authors say: rejection. It never stops. You never really make it to a point where you’re not getting some kind of rejection. Whether it’s selling your next book, harsh feedback from an editor, a bad review—rejection is part of the cycle of being a serious writer. The point is to understand that and keep your goals in focus.

The best moments are when you know that the dream you’re choosing right now is the right dream. Shannon Hale, I believe, said she felt like she tried out a bunch of different possibilities and realized this was her dream. Another author said if she hadn’t made it as a writer, she’d probably be a librarian. But not the good kind, the reading-all-the-books and not-helping-the-patrons-kind. 😉

They also gave words of caution. Sometimes we writers are looking for some kind of magic formula, but there’s just not one. There’s no perfect plot device. There’s no shortcuts. It’s just going to be grueling, difficult work—but work that’s worthwhile.

Their advice on naming characters? When it comes to names, look at what you’re writing and have those names fit the book/setting. A lot said they used baby names books or websites. Once suggested a helpful resource: The Social Security popular baby names site. You can look up any year and found out what the most popular names were to give you an idea of what kinds of names you should use, especially if you’re doing historical fiction. But also if you’re writing contemporary YA, you can look up the year your character was born in and see what names were popular in that year. Fantastic!


Well, that was the first forum. There’s plenty more to come tomorrow and next week. Hopefully you’ll find some helpful tidbits among these notes. I know some of you have a difficult time getting out to conferences because of personal circumstances. I took these notes with you folks in mind. Maybe this can be a kind of vicarious attending of the conference. Enjoy!

Getting Back to Business

Fridays are usually reserved for movies, but I feel like enough has been going on lately it’s time for an update. No big news as of yet, but lots of upcoming plans and projects to be had.


First of all, I’m officially querying out SHADE. Thanks to help from a lot of you good people out there, I finally got together a good query letter. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report soon. It feels good to be back in the querying game. I certainly feel a lot more prepared this time around.


I have a couple upcoming conferences, both Utah-based. The first is one I attended last year called Writing for Charity. Last year the big name attender was Brandon Sanderson, this year it’s Shannon Hale. But there are other authors you may have heard of as well. It’s not a huge conference, it’s a one-day event only. But you can get feedback from published authors on your stuff as well as attend forums. I found it super helpful last year, so I’m attending again this year. This one is at the end of April.

The other is LDS Storymakers, and this one does have a few agents attending. The big name author for this one is Anne Perry. There are a few agents attending. The one I’m hoping to catch the eye of is Hannah Bowman. I have a few workshops with her, so hopefully something might come of that. Plus they have a sort of writer’s bootcamp which I’m looking forward to taking SHADE through. Never hurts to have some extra polish. This one is longer, I think from Thursday to Saturday. This one is the first week in may or so.

I’ll definitely post notes from both.


I think I’m going to fill a lot of my query response waiting time with seeking out and entering contests. I plan to enter something in the big Writer’s Digest Contest, but I intend to do a little flash fiction and short story writing. I think building a little clout while you’re waiting is always a good thing, don’t you?


While I’ll occasionally edit SHADE as things progress, and certainly after novel boot camp. But I’m going to see what contests I can put Trick or Tree in and I’ve got a short story that needs finishing I’ve tentatively titled Dog Shy. I think it was inspired by my Ray Bradbury reading stint. Well, probably both short stories are.

I’ve also got something from a much older WIP—this piece I think I’ll enter in the Writer’s Digest contest. I was going to use a newer project I’m working on, but I don’t think it’ll be ready in time. My older WIP I already know the characters really well, so it will be easy to take a selection and use it as a short story of sorts (or I guess I should say easier, because I know their motivations). I’m taking that to writer’s group next week.

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How to Write a Novel – Pt 7: The End is the Beginning

My drink of choice is Raspberry Coke.

Did you get it all out?  Have you finished that first draft?  Toast yourself with your drink of choice and let’s say it together: Cheers!  Put that first draft away, at least for a few days, but I’d say a week and give it a chance to rest.  In the meantime, do whatever.  Go on vacation, play video games, read books, revisit your social life, etc.

Okay, now that you’ve enjoyed yourself and patted yourself on the back repeatedly for getting it done, here comes the hard truth: your first draft is only the beginning.

One of the first lessons of being a writer is learning that your work is never finished.  Even when it’s published there will be things you wished you changed.  At some point you have to let it go and be finished.  But now is the time to make sure what you let go is the best you can make it.

The reason you put the novel away for a few days is for the chance to let it get cold.  When you’ve had a few days away from your baby and the crystal clear vision of your story has dimmed a little, you’re more likely to see what you’ve done with actual clarity.

I plan to get into the details in an upcoming polishing the novel series in early October.  This month will be mostly occupied by my vacation in:

Hawaii beach

That’s right, I’m heading out next week.  I know, I know, it’s a rough life, but somebody has to live it.  On the docket is snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, boogie boarding/surfing, and whatever else me, the BFF and our friends can cram in.  I intend to blog from there whenever possible.  We usually pack it in tight and I’ll only have my portable keyboard and phone, but I promise to share delightful pictures of fantastic Hawaiian wonders and maybe sum up with scribbles and videos after we’ve returned home.

I’m going to try working on my novel while I’m there, though I suspect most of the work will be done on plane rides and not on the beach.

We’re going to the Big Island and Kauai, so if you’ve been to either two, recommendations are welcomed below.

And of course I’d love to hear what you thought of the How to Write a Novel series overall.  Anything you would like to see more of in future series?  Any topics you’d like covered in the future?  Let me know below.

Writing for Charity Conference…

Today I attended the Writing for Charity Conference down at the Provo City Library.  I met a lot of great Utah authors and aspiring authors.  I was never really a fan of networking before, but now I love it!  There were a lot of great forums from Lisa Mangum, J. Scott Savage, and Brandon Sanderson to name a few.

I’ll share my notes from the forums and advice from the authors here over the next few days.  For any of you uncertain about writer’s conferences–especially those where agents are not necessarily attending–please know they can be tremendously helpful if you understand what you can gain from them.  More details on all of that coming soon.

Great conference!