Welcoming New and Returning AML Blog Contributors

Hi folks,

I think everyone can agree that while the conversation here continues to be enjoyable, our numbers are fewer than we’d like. I’m therefore pleased to announce several new (and in one case returning) contributors to the AML blog! These include:

  • Michael Austin, a longtime Mormon literary scholar whose posts on how various critical approaches could be applied to Mormon literature were one of the high points of the AML-List shortly after I joined in the 1990s
  • Sarah Dunster, a published poet and novelist
  • Sheldon Lawrence of BYU – Idaho, the new AML president
  • Shelah Miner, whose student papers from the class she teaches on Mormon literature have been featured here from time to time
  • Eric Samuelsen, noted Mormon playwright, teacher, and reviewer, back after a hiatus

I am also going to be taking a monthly slot covering the Mormon sf&f beat, in addition to serving as blog moderator.

Please let me know any additional suggestions you may have, either for regular or guest contributors. I can be contacted either by responding to this post or by emailing jonathan AT langfordwriter DOT com.

And a warm welcome to all!

Welcome to the new home of Association of Mormon Letters

Over the last several years, as you know, the blog at blog.mormonletters.org has had a few flash fires, but they always got extinguished and new curtains put back up. By last week, though, new curtains weren’t sufficient to keep the illusion that all was well. There was a condemned sign on the front door. Continue Reading →

Solving the Mystery of Writing Step #4 and Farewell

In a previous post, found here http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4064 we discussed Solving the Mystery of Writing and Step #1 Finding Your Voice in my 6 Steps for Writing Success and Step #2 Write Every Day http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4700.
Today I’m continuing with #4 Join a Critique group
Tip #3 I talked about in this post http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4440

#4 Join a Critique group
If you’re serious about writing, attend writers conferences and classes, join a great critique group, read novels in your genre of interest, and write, write, write!A critique group is vital to a developing and seasoned writer. I’m so thankful for my critique group and how they have helped me grow as a writer.
When you’re looking to join a critique group, it’s helpful to find writers with varying skills—not all beginning writers or all advanced writers. If the group has a good mix of skills that will serve you best. By this I mean, if you are a beginner, you need to get in a group with other beginners and a few writers that have more experience. If you’ve already been part of a critique group, written several novels, attended many classes, you might look to a group with few beginners, more middle-ground writers, as well as some advanced writers.
Take into account personality, work ethic, drive, etc. because these will make or break the critique group’s productivity.
Also, learn how to take criticism and know when to apply it to your writing and when to chuck it out the window. This is a hard line to find because many times we hear criticism and our first instinct is to disregard it—you have to give the feedback a chance, mull it over, decide what you can take to improve
your writing and decide if you need to hold onto it or let it go.
Let me tell you a little about how my critique group works. We do all of our editing online. For short pieces, we each choose a specific color (mine is purple) and reply all in an email with our feedback typed in. For long documents, I use the track changes/editing features in Microsoft Word and then email the document. This works well for me because I have a young family. I hope to someday evolve into meeting regularly with a live critique group as there are specific advantages to this—such as hearing others read
your work aloud, getting instant feedback, having a regular time which drives you to accomplish your work so it can be critiqued.
When I receive feedback, I always read through it first and immediately change the things that resonate with me. Some things I will read and I’m unsure as to how to fix it or if I like what was suggested. If that is the case, then I make a note and come back to it in a couple days. Giving feedback a chance to percolate is helpful because many things will come to the forefront and you’ll be able to see more clearly what you need to do to make your writing better.
A critique group is important because it keeps you writing and stretching to improve your writing. Revision is what makes excellent writers and practicing this regularly with a critique group will help you hone your craft.

Sadly, this is also a farewell post for now. I’ve been doing a lot of extra work lately to help pay off medical/dental bills and with my young children, I had to let some things go. I’ve enjoyed being a part of the AML blog family and learning from each of you. If you are interested in a PDF of my steps to Solving the Mystery of Writing, I have prepared a document which finishes out the steps I’ve been sharing over the past year with you.  I’d be happy to email it to you, just send a note to rachellethewriter@gmail.com. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m doing, please stop by my blog here http://rachellewrites.blogspot.com/ where you can also sign up for my free newsletter.

I hope that you have many happy writing days ahead and enjoy this beautiful holiday season!

Tips for Bringing your Setting to Life

 David Farland often teaches writing workshops, and has trained a number of people who went on to become international bestselling authors—people like Brandon Sanderson in fantasy, Brandon Mull in middle-grade fiction, and Stephenie Meyer in young adult fiction.  He’s also the lead judge for one of the world’s most prestigious writing competitions for science fiction and fantasy.

Here’s a lesson on setting.

Years ago, I was reading a book on writing by a teacher from the American Film Institute.  She said near her opening something to the effect of, “Here is a list of the top 50 bestselling movies of all time.  Look it over, and see what elements they have in common.”

I quickly scanned the list, and in a matter of moments found three similarities, but to my astonishment the author followed her list by saying, “See?  They have nothing in common.”  She had failed to observe what was instantly obvious.  The first thing that these films had in common was that they were all set in another time or another place.  By that I mean, whether they were science fiction, fantasy, or historical, they all worked hard to transport their audience out of their chairs.

Continue Reading →

Writing Compelling Characters

This post is a blast from the past on my blog. I originally delved into this topic two years ago, here. Since I’m still doing revisions on my next novel, I’ve been looking at each character, examining them to make sure they have their own motivations, quirks, unique personalities, and mannerisms. This was a great reminder for me. Hopefully it will help you when you place your characters under that magnifying glass.

Continue Reading →

Making More Time to Write!

I invited best-selling author and motivational speaker, Connie Sokol, to guest post today. She graciously agreed to share her secrets for making more time to write! I love her ideas and insight and hope you will too.

For most female married-with-children writers, finding a matched pair of socks is a time-challenge, never mind create, type, and polish The Best-selling Manuscript Ever. Over the years I’ve used a few fabulous tips to carve out hundreds of free writing hours. Because you’re likely short on time, I’ll share five.

1.10,000 hours.  Malcolm Caldwell, author of Blink, studied experts in their field (i.e. Michael Jordan in basketball) and discovered that 10,000 hours of focused and proper practice made them legends. The great news for moms is Continue Reading →

Solving the Mystery of Writing Step #2

In a previous post, found here http://blog.mormonletters.org/?p=4064 we discussed Solving the Mystery of Writing and Step #1 Finding Your Voice. Today I’m continuing my 6 Steps for Writing Success with #2 Make Writing a Priority/Write Every Day

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to make a decision based on the importance of this goal. Are you willing to give up something to attain this goal? Are you willing to sacrifice? As mentioned before, many people want to write a book, but only a scant portion of those are willing to give up their free time to buckle down and do it and then keep working to get it published. You don’t have to give up your life and become a hermit and live in the woods by yourself, but you probably will have to rearrange how you spend your time.

For me, I’m choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t watch much TV and I’ve learned to complete tasks quickly. I’m a stay at home mom with four young children and I like to garden, sew, make cards, attempt to keep a clean house, teach my six and nine year olds piano, and complete my church callings. I also help kids with homework, cook/prepare three meals every day, blog, promote my books, dabble with my website, READ, do laundry, change diapers…you get the picture, this is nothing new. But where do I find time to write? I have to create those writing windows because writing is a priority for me.

If writing is important enough to you, you’ll make a space for it in your busy life. If not, then ten years from now you may not have finished that book you started. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want. If it isn’t, then decide where your priorities are and move on to the next step of this writing tip.

Write Every Day
You’ve probably heard this before. You must write every day! Well, guess what? I don’t always get to write every day. In fact, last week I didn’t write anything on my new novel because I worked to finish up another revision on a different book. Does that mean I’m suddenly going to fail as a writer? No, it means that life has been a bit crazy and I’m working back into the groove of writing daily. The point I want to make here is that if you miss a few days of writing, don’t consider yourself a failure. Turn the computer back on, pick the pen back up and begin writing. You will hear so many rules in writing and sometimes I think people get bogged down by the rules and feel insecure if they’re not doing everything “right”.
Yes, you should make a goal to write every day. When I’m working steady on a novel, I feel a compulsive need to write every day and I can’t stop thinking about the thread of the story and where I want it to go. Often, my characters haunt me to finish their story and I’m compelled to run back to the computer and type out a few more lines. I love meeting my goal of 2,000 words a day, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it doesn’t happen because that doesn’t do me any good. I also allow myself a day off here and there. I don’t work on my novels on Sunday, instead I try to focus on journal-keeping and family history, but it’s amazing what that bit of writing exercise does for me!

So for this part of the tip, I’d like to suggest that you write every day or work on your story five days a week at least, be it research, outlining, revising, whatever–just work on your writing every day. If you can’t do that, stay positive and ask yourself what is possible for you at this stage in your life. The most important thing to remember is that every book is written the same way–one word at a time.
Writing is hard work! I wish you the best and encourage you to discover and complete your goals. Good luck!

How do you make writing a priority? How do you motivate yourself to write?

The Mystery of Theory to Practice

For this month’s installment of Mysterious Doings, I’ve invited Braden Bell as a guest. I think his viewpoint is wonderful and I hope you enjoy what he has to share with us.

Braden Bell

I’ve always been intrigued by the apostle Peter—particularly the episode when he walked on the water, at least for a few miraculous steps.

Continue Reading →

Too Much Mystery: The Fine Line Between Intriguing and Annoying

I’m happy to have a guest blogger this month–welcome Michael Young!

Too Much Mystery: The Fine Line Between Intriguing and Annoying

by Michael Young

No matter what genre of story you are writing, you probably want to throw a little mystery in there. It’s one of those things that keeps readers turning pages.

There is, however, a fine line between leaving a mysterious trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow and leaving them hopelessly confused.  If you make your story too mysterious, then you risk losing the reader altogether.

Continue Reading →

Getting a Book to Press

I’ve been wading through edits and revisions for the past few months to prepare my next novel, Caller ID to go to press.

It’s heading out next week so my publisher will be ready to get it on bookstore shelves March 13, 2012. Hooray!

There are so many steps involved and because they vary a bit from publisher to publisher, and from book to book, I thought it might be interesting to highlight my process. I will give you the condensed version, not the “I revised this book so many times that I see the words in my sleep!” version. Continue Reading →

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