Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Reader, First

By Nichole Jarnagin

I think every writer remembers books from their childhood that were life altering; books that made us love reading, long before we ever became writers. Let me start by saying I’m probably the odd-ball here. As a child, I didn’t immediately love reading. I was active (probably hyperactive) and I had far better things to do than to SIT STILL and read a book. Yet somehow, a handful of books made it past my limited attention span and pickiness in general. In particular, three books changed my life. They had such a profound influence on me as a reader that I’ve never forgotten them. I still love them. In fact, I bought used copies off of Amazon with the exact same covers—just like the ones I used to have.

I NEEDED to eat cinnamon toast every time I read The Trouble with Miss Switch by Barbara Wallace Brooks. I yearned to scientifically prove that my teacher was secretly a witch. I was enthralled and maybe even jealous of Rupert P. Brown’s science experiments, his eggshell collection, his methodical deductions and his talking guinea pigs.

Like Lorna and Jamie, I too dreamed of living in a farmhouse called Windy Hill (The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla) with its six bedrooms, a springhouse and a tower for spying. I wanted to toss coins to Bruno who begged on the side of the road and I was afraid of his mean father. I loved being scared—just enough—wondering who or what the ghost might be.

Whenever I’d read The Boy Who Saw Bigfoot (Marian T. Place) I’d wish for my own Bigfoot sighting. I’d get lost in the Washington woods, hiking and fishing with a woman named Sara Brown who wore flannel shirts and loved her foster kid, Joey.

While these books are somewhat obscure and pretty darn old (and more than likely came from a garage sale) they are part of me. As a writer, I think I revert to those things that originally intrigued me as a reader—mystery, humor, adventure, believing good would prevail. And even though it’s silly, every once in a while when I crave that time in my life when things were simpler, I reread one of my favorites and remember how good it felt to be nine.

What books from your childhood have left an imprint on you? How have they impacted you as a writer?

Those First Million Words . . .

By Jocelyn Nash Carlin

There is a popular quote in the writing world (though Google has shown me that the proper attribution is somewhat disputed) that goes something like this:

“Your first million words don’t count – be prepared to throw them in the trash.”

I’m sure you’ve all seen variations of this quote, and at different times you’ve probably had different reactions. One day you might think, “My first novel needs a little revision, but it’s mostly great.” Other days you might think, “More like two million.” And most days you’ll probably be somewhere in between.

Recently I stumbled across another quote from novelist/freelance editor Erin Bow, and I think I like this quote a lot better:

No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Franciso is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfranciscensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better. (emphasis mine)

No writing is wasted.

I love that idea.

Does it contradict the idea that it takes many (most) writers a million words of practice before they get published? No. But those words do count. They aren’t just trash. They are the words that till, cultivate, and fertilize your mind. They are the words that hone your skills, pump up your writing muscles, and train your word-craft until you can perform before a crowd without fear of falling down.

Even better, your first million words don’t all have to be in your genre. Do you want to get published in young adult fiction, but you write a blog on cooking just for fun? Guess what – if you put care and effort into those words, they count! So do your journals, your personal blogs, your fan fiction, the practice character or dialog sketches that never made it into a story, or all the discarded stories from your creative writing assignments in high school and college.

Every one of those million or more words have cultivated an ecosystem in your brain that will make your new writing tastier than ever before.

Will it take you a million words to get published? Maybe, maybe not.

But no writing is wasted.

Writing Snippets Classics: Podcast on Writing Around Your Full-Time Job, featuring Mark Forman

On this beautiful spring morning, we bring you a classic podcast featuring one of our favorite guests, Mark “M.L.” Forman, author of the Adventurers Wanted series. Jocelyn hosts, while Lauren and Mark talk about life at a full time day job when you are also a writer.

Enjoy this lively discussion all over again.

(about 17 min.)

Download here (right click and select “save link as” to download)

The Slipper effect

As writers we tend to take things that don’t seem to fit and MAKE them fit. Like Cinderella’s step-sisters, we’ll chop off toes or heel to make the silly slipper fit what we need.

When in reality, maybe what we should be doing is stretching the slipper.

Human beings like their comfort zones. We like knowing precisely where everything fits and making sure that our world does not get out of control. Controlling our writing, making it fit, is a natural extension of that.

But sometimes making it fit will just make it that much more difficult to send the story where it needs to be rather than where we want it to be.

I’ve experienced that many times. Sometimes I get an idea of where I want a story to go, and I try to force it into that mold. In essence, cutting off toes to make sure it fits in the slipper. It mangles the story and it’s not as good when it’s finished–I usually end up going back to the point where I went off base and trying to reconstruct.

So the next time that your story starts to veer off from where you’ve determined it should go, maybe instead of chopping it down to size you could explore the new angle and see if it fits.

It might be much less painful, in the long run.

Rage – and a self-publishing warning

By Ava Mylne

Last Saturday something horrific happened to a dear friend of mine, our Writing Snippets colleague, Lauren Ritz. Lauren has worked tirelessly for more than a year to finish and polish a book for submission. She quit her day job to write full time–something most of us would never have the courage or trust in God to do–and she is living from minute to minute on the remains of her savings. She has written fiction for years, has a degree in English from the University of Utah, and has studied all types of publishing. She learned from her own study how to format her work to different media options, learned web design and maintains three blogs. She offers professional editing and reviewing services. She is doing what she loves more than life.

A week ago, she put a book of short stories up on Smashwords and Amazon, alongside an LDS Suspense novel she had just finished. She said she was “learning the system”.

On Saturday, March 28th, in the middle of a family party, I heard a noise from her that I hope never to hear again; a choking, garbled sound that made me sit still for a moment in shock, then get up to go see what was wrong. No, no death. No gory dismemberment. Not physical, anyway.

Someone had stolen her book. They took her story, her cover art–which was also her own work, an original painting—her title; they didn’t even bother to change her name. She had offered the book for free, but they had changed the price as well. They were charging $2.99 for the book she had offered for free. Her blood, sweat and tears, her passion, her effort and sacrifice, her love of writing, hijacked to put money she desperately needs in the pockets of some subhuman toads.

Happens all the time, you say? Maybe. In a five minute search we found two other authors who had the exact tag-lines and symbols added to their books. Lauren contacted one of the violated authors, and she said the same thing. “It happens all the time”. This author has numerous books on Amazon, and said it has happened to her before. No biggie.

I beg to differ.

This is what I have to say: First, if you ever considered putting an electronic submission up, be aware, “It happens all the time”. If you have a book on an electronic site, cross-reference your title, your name, etc. Do a search for similar titles. Keep an eye on things there. Don’t let this happen to you.

Second, (and yes, this is a shameless plug!) go check out Lauren’s blog. Find her on Twitter! Look up her books on Amazon and Smashwords!! Her book title(the un-plagiarized one) is listed below. She is a magnificent writer, and my own muse in all things literary. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing for her. Maybe her friends can help make it positive.

Lauren, I’m cheering for you!

Without a Voice, Contemporary Suspense by Lauren Ritz on Amazon and Smashwords. LAUNCH DATE IS TODAY, April 1st! (And no, this is not an April Fool’s prank…)

Connect with Lauren Online (right click and edit hyperlink to get the address, or just paste them as they are):

Twitter: laurenritz1
Facebook: LaurenRitztheWriter
Amazon Author Page: Lauren-Ritz
Smashwords Author Page: LaurenRitz
Blog for writers: Eclectic
Blog for readers: Welcome to the HalfWorld