2013 Everyday Mormon Writer Events

It’s a new year, and that means a new set of contests (and a class) through Everyday Mormon Writer. We’ll be holding a second Mormon Lit Blitz, a master class devoted to issues in Mormon writing, and a contest for work that uses scripture in interesting ways.

Hope you’ll join us for one or more of this year’s events.

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 →

The Mormon Ibsen: A Tribute to Eric Samuelsen

When I discovered that Eric Samuelsen was retiring from BYU as the playwriting professor, I have to admit a little bit of my heart broke. In many ways it may the best decision. From what I understand, Eric’s battle with polymyositis, a degenerative auto-immune disease, has been tough and painful and has limited his freedom to do what he would like to do. So retiring from BYU may have been inevitable. Yet the good he has done there, the good he has done Mormon Letters, the lives he has impacted along the way–I had hoped that he would still be forging the way for Mormon Drama at BYU for many years to come. He is not only one of Mormon Drama’s best representatives and talented pens, but also a man fierce intelligence, warm hearted kindness, and integrity. It is a great loss for BYU not to have him on their active staff anymore. Continue Reading →

Solving the Mystery of Writing

Did you know that when asked, an estimated 75% of people will say that they want to write a book?

But 75% of people aren’t writing books, are they?

There are probably a good number of people who are closet writers that we don’t know about, those who say they want to write, but aren’t able to produce a measurable word count, and those who are actively pursuing their dream.

It’s wonderful to want to write a book, but I’d like to share some advice for those people who REALLY are going to write a book. It’s for those people who aren’t content to just think about writing, they are willing to get down in the depths of that bottomless pit of writing knowledge–that black hole of possibilities in which you can change one word, turn around a sentence, and find the heart of your writing.

Continue Reading →

Why I Spent Years Trying not to Be a Mormon Writer (and How I Got Over That)

In 1992, back when I started my freshman year of college, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I also knew (or at least thought I knew) that I didn’t want to be a “Mormon writer.”

The only Mormon literature I’d seen back then was pretty cheesy. It seemed to aim for sentimentality, and if that’s what Mormon art was all about, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I decided that “Mormon writers” were hacks, cloistered minds who cranked out sappy tales, like those seminary videos my friends and I found such glee in mocking. (Does anybody else remember the Tom Trails filmstrips? I found all of them here.  Classic stuff.)

A QUICK NOTE: I’m revealing the inner thoughts of my eighteen-year-old self in this post. It’ll become apparent pretty quickly that my eighteen-year-old self was an ignorant, deluded, misguided, arrogant, little punk. It’s okay if you don’t like him. I’m not too fond of him myself. Continue Reading →

Class Update and AML Conference Thoughts

Class Update

My creative writing class continues to be very fun. Two weeks ago student  s were to write sonnets that played with the conventions of the form in some way: one student chose to write one “backwards-sonnet” with the rhymes at the beginning of lines opposite a traditional sonnet: each giving a different side of what a girl sees when she looks in a mirror. Another chose to bend the conventions by writing extremely conversational/casual iambic pantameter. Her poem started with the line: “You know, this sweatshirt–no, the one with stripes.” It was cool to see her work with the language and layer in each of the five senses in succession as the speaker addresses her beloved–about how different things remind her of a previous, now-absent beloved. Fun work.

I think using the four areas of inquiry (rules, shape, insight, and audience) has helped workshop by letting it be descriptive before it turns prescriptive. Honestly, I think it’s most helpful for writers simply to hear the different ways in which class members are reading their work first before we turn to any suggestions.

AML Conference Thoughts

Last month, Margaret Young announced that the theme for the 2012 AML conference would be “Going Forth Into All the World: Mormon Literature in an International Church.” I’m definitely excited: most of the people who can make the AML conference live in the Intermountain West, so it’s nice that the theme will push participants to look past the Rocky Mountains.

I think it’s worth noting, though, that in this age of Diaspora, it’s hard to tell where “international” is going to come from. I grew up in Columbus, OH: a brother in my old ward named Sylvester Lamin wrote a book called The Coconut Bond which is set in Sierra Leone, where Br. Lamin grew up. I also think about award-winning author Enrico Santiago Stone–who lives in Utah.

So: when we look for International Mormon letters, let’s not overlook the USA. 😉


Post Navigation