On Writing, Mom-ing and Critics: An interview with Danette Hansen

What do you write? Tell me about your published fiction, and your current work-in-progress (if you don’t mind.)

CoincidenceI have two historical novels published; one under the title Coincidence. With a strong Christian tone, the past and the present resemble each other in my tender WWII mystery where Annaliese risks her future career in her search for answers. It has a deep family history theme. Here is a quote taken from the story, “It’s the legacy our loved ones leave behind that is important, not how many years they actually lived on the earth.” The book is set in the Netherlands where my husband’s grandfather is from which gave it a personal feel as I wrote. 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!

The Mystery of the Muse

The guest post today was provided by the talented author, J. Lloyd Morgan. He shares his thoughts on a great creative topic–the muse–which I’ve often found must be treated gently. Mine at times requires chocolate. 🙂


The Mystery of the Muse by J. Lloyd Morgan

I was confused by the term “muse” when I first heard it—especially when people claimed to have one. Was it like a pet? Or a best friend? Perhaps it was more like a boss. From how I see it, none of these are good analogies.

So what is a muse? I think you’ll get a different answer from each person you ask. To that end, I can only give my opinion, but in doing so, I hope that will help others recognize their muse.

To me, a muse is a little voice inside my head that whispers “what if?” questions. It’s imagination, but more than that. It’s inspiration. My muse is also shy. He (yes, my muse is a man. I have a wife and four daughters, so I guess by default he’s a guy.) won’t come out and whisper the “what if?” questions if my mind is busy with other thoughts.

When I tell people I write books, a common response is, “How do you come up with the ideas to fill a whole book?” My answer? “I don’t. I come up with ideas for stories and then as I write, the ideas come.” You see, I’ve found that my muse is more willing to come out and play when I’m in the frame of mind to write.

I’ve been told that there are two types of writers: Pantsers and Plotters. A Pantser writes by the seat of their pants, hence the term. Meaning, they just sit down and write without an elaborate outline, pre-written character descriptions and such. A Plotter does the opposite. They have to plan out the book in advance before they can start writing. Which is the best way? Again, you’ll get as many answers to that as writers you ask.

Where does the muse fit in with these two types of writers? I would argue that both types of writers use a muse, just in different ways.

A Pantser relies on their muse to help them as they go. The possible upside? Once the creativity starts to flow, it can be an almost magical experience. It’s as if the book is writing itself. The possible downside? The story can sometimes lack direction, and possibly, theme. (Granted, the writer can also go back and adjust things.)

A Plotter may say they don’t use their muse as much—but something inspired them to come up with the basic idea in the first place. And in order to fill in the rest of the outline, even more ideas are needed. Hello muse! The possible upside of plotting? The work can have a cohesive feel—like everything belongs. The theme is present. The possible downside? A writer can ignore when their muse whispers a “what if?” question because it doesn’t fit with the outline.

So, how do I write? I’ll admit I’m a little of both Plotter and Pantser, leaning more to the Pantser side. I have a general idea of the story, the main characters and which direction they are going. However, when I write, I find my muse is doing a jig inside my head. He’s in his comfort zone. He’s more apt to whisper “what if?” to me, and I’m more willing to listen.

A perfect example of how this can work is in my second book, The Waxing Moon. Roughly two-thirds of the way into the book, one of the characters summarizes the mess they are in. She asks the other main character, “What are we going to do?” His response? “I have no idea.” The funny thing about this? At that moment in time, I, the writer, had no idea as well. I did have an idea how the book was going to end—however, I wasn’t sure how I was going to untangle the mess my muse and I had made.

I kept writing with the thought, “Okay muse, you got me into this mess. It’s time to get me out of it.” And it worked. Granted, I was a bit anxious for a while, but we made it happen.

Since this is a blog on a Mormon website, people might question how all this ties to our beliefs. I’m sure that there are those that scoff at the idea of a muse—that it’s contrary to what we know to be true. (I would argue that these people have locked their muse in a dungeon with thick chains—but, I digress…)

I believe that our Heavenly Father has given all of us different gifts. Some people are athletic. Some are amazing singers. And some of us have active imaginations with the talent to put them into words.

Just as when man first looked up into the sky and gave names to star formations in a way to relate and understand them, I think the same is true with the concept of a muse. People recognized that imaginative part of their brain, and in a way to understand it, gave it a name: a muse.

At least that is how I see it. And because I see it that way, I believe my muse is a gift—one I need to share with others.


Biography:  J. Lloyd Morgan is the author of two published novels by Walnut Springs, The Hidden Sun and The Waxing Moon. The third book in the series, The Zealous Star is scheduled for release in early 2013. Morgan has written a book in conjunction with international recording artist Chris de Burgh called The Mirror of the Soul which is slated for a fall release 2012. Morgan’s short story, The Doughnut was one of the top five winners in the Parables for Today contest. It will be released fall of 2012. Morgan is an award winning television director and author. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and four daughters.

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 →

Writing and Community Building

For the last several months I have been the editor of my ward’s monthly newsletter. This experience has been interesting in many ways and I wanted to share a few thoughts about it in this setting. First of all, I fully acknowledge that the existence of a ward newsletter is a luxury of being in a large, fairly active, geographically close ward. Although I have come to see many benefits from having a well-written ward newsletter, I still think it should be low on the list of priorities for any church unit. I live in Utah County and our ward boundaries are fairly small. This is one of the only wards I’ve lived in during my lifetime that has teachers come around to each home to collect fast offerings each month, and as part of their duties they distribute the newsletter to each household (I know that they also distribute it to everyone who lives in ward boundaries as well). If printing and distribution of the newsletter were more difficult I’m not sure it would be worth it, but from what I’ve seen thus far it is one of the tools we have available to us to foster better unity among our ward family and in our ward it seems to be working. 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 →

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 →

The Balancing Act

As a writer, I’m reminded daily of the amount of discipline it takes to get those words on the page. It’s tough to carve out time to write each day. Frankly, it’s tough to carve out time to get a shower but it’s a priority for me so I do it. The same goes with writing–it’s a priority. But guess what? My family is my ultimate priority and in order to be a good wife and mother I need to take care of myself so that I have the physical, emotional, and mental strength to get through each day. And that’s where the balancing act comes into play. Continue Reading →

Mystery of NaNoWriMo Unveiled

This month celebrates the frenzied craze of writing known as NaNoWriMo. I’m a WriMo and some of you might be asking, What is a WriMo?

Let me share. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place each November. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month. To call yourself a NaNo Winner, you must complete 50,000 words in 30 days.

Last year was the first time I accepted the challenge and stepped up to the NaNo plate. My husband kept asking me how I was doing with the ‘Rino’ thing—he loves to tease me, but he was supportive.  His support was so important Continue Reading →

From the Writer’s Desk: Making Time to Write

Where does one find the time to write? Where do Mormons find the time to write? Over the years I’ve heard Mormons complain about this. The complaint usually goes like this: “I’d have a great novel to my credit if it wasn’t for the church. My family and my calling and scriptures and prayers and family home evening and genealogy—it’s all too much. That’s why I never write.” What they seem to be saying is, “It’s not my fault.”

At the risk of offending a lot of people, let me just say, “That’s bunk!”

Continue Reading →

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