Tag Archives: Lilly

The Art of Finishing Novel One

One question I would get from my students when I taught creative writing was, “Will you read my book?”

My response was always the same, “Is it finished?”

98% of the time the answer was, “No, but it’s really amazing… etc.”

I won’t read an unfinished book from a first time novelist. Mean? Yes, I know it sounds very mean, but there is a method to this madness, I promise.
There are people who will try and write one novel their entire lives… statistically those people will never finish it. They have their rationalizations of why they will never finish it. Trust me I know them all, it took me ten years to finish my first novel. Here are my favorites; I can’t write the next part without editing what I have already written. It has to be perfect. I have too many novel ideas come to me so I have ten or so novel beginnings, and I try to work on them when the muse tells me too. I don’t have enough life experience/ haven’t suffered enough. I am not intelligent enough to work on it. I must be brilliant. Every word a stroke of genius. Etc.

It wasn’t until I shut all the voices in my head down and joined a writers group that I felt the strong desire to pick one of my many brilliant (sarcasm) beginnings and run it through to the end. Even though I had published some poetry and a few articles, it wasn’t until I ‘finished’ my first draft that I truly felt like a writer.

Why is finishing a first draft a game changer? Trust me, you don’t even know what your book really is unless you finish it. What you thought or had tried to plan sometimes takes a detour to something better. Not to mention that there is a lot to learn about your strengths and weaknesses with your first novel. It’s like walking through a dark and scary cave alone without anyone to hold your hand. You’ve just got to hold your breath, suck it up and do it to see what is on the other side. You come out learning so much about your own writing style, (or lack thereof) and you also get to put The End on your first draft.

Now I have finished more first drafts than I care to stop and count, I have a pretty good handle on what my talents are and what pitfalls I need to watch out for. For instance, I love to write as I go, but I also have learned that I need a general direction and not a full outline. I also have to have my character lead the way, so I need to have my character solid before I start. If I don’t have a solid character, I may as well be writing a Dick and Jane book. You know, See Dick run. See Jane run. Run Dick. Run Jane. Etc.

These are not specific to me, and I have seen people who struggle with the aspects I am confident at and pull out an amazing story.

So tell me… how did writing The End on your first novel make you feel?

If you haven’t finished a project, why do you think that is?

Happy Writing!

By Lillian J. Banks

Looking Back and Moving Forward – Another New Year for the Writing Snippets Crew

Hello wonderful followers! This post marks the two year anniversary of Writing Snippets. We’ve gone through lots of changes in these two short years, and we’d like to send a hearty THANK YOU to anyone who was along for the whole ride, and an equally hearty THANK YOU to anyone who hopped on board more recently. We love you all!

In the new year, due to time restraints and logistics, we’ll be spending more time blogging and less time podcasting. We hope you’ll enjoy our written words as much as you’ve enjoyed our spoken words.

As this anniversary passes and a new year begins, members of our crew are looking back over what they’ve learned this past year and what lies ahead for them. Here are their thoughts – please share your own in the comments.

Ava Mylne

I think the single thing I have learned this year about writing is that there is no single thing I need to improve on. But my biggest lesson is this: I have more to learn than I have learned in the past, and I know when I have learned everything I think I need to learn right now, that I will have miles more to go. I want to start learning how to logically follow a story, so that I can find plot holes and character inconsistencies — big picture problems — that I haven’t been able to see before.

I think it odd that when we are learning to write, most of us focus first on grammar and punctuation; but grammar and punctuation are the last things to be fixed in a serious edit. If you fixed the grammar first, you would have to fix it again with every subsequent edit. Why torture yourself? I want my stories, my characters, my thoughts, to live and breathe in book form. That means I have to perfect the characters and the story before I perfect the words that create them. It feels backwards somehow.

I can read your thoughts. You’re thinking, “Good luck with that perfection thing.”

Oh, well. I’ll never get there in this life, but think of everything I’ll learn along the way.

Alice Beesley

What I’ve learned in the last year:

Some of the things I’ve learned this year are how to plot a novel. I was more of a pantser to begin with but I’ve found that I end up having to do too many revisions that way and I’m not a super fast writer so it takes too long. I tried several plotting worksheets I found on line and they’ve helped me do loose outlines of my stories. I also started doing character sketches to help me get to know and develop my characters better since that’s one of the things I struggle with and it’s made a difference. For me character development usually comes last after I’ve got my plot and story figured out and have done several revisions. Emotion is another thing I’ve worked hard to portray in my stories this year and I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it and be able to incorporate that more into my stories.

Writing goals for 2013:

Publish a novel and find an agent. I have two novels out with editors who have expressed and interest in them. I’m doing a revision on one of the novels, and I’m going to start querying agents for another one. I’m having a third novel critiqued by our writer’s group and some other writers I trade books with. After that I’ll do more revisions on it, then I’ll query agents with it. I also plan to plot out and write sequels for two of my novels.

Jocelyn Nash Carlin

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned this year is that I don’t function well as a writer unless I have a structure – and after having a baby a year and a half ago, my structure completely fell apart. If I don’t have a fixed writing schedule and goal, the work doesn’t happen. If I don’t have an outline, the work is three times as hard. That novel I wanted to have finalized by Christmas 2011? Still not done. Why? Because I wrote it by the seat of my pants. Every time I go to work on more edits, I curse myself for not outlining beforehand.

I’ve also learned that I enjoy writing short fiction from time to time. I’ve completed several short stories this year, which are making their way through the rounds of submission to various publications and contests. Writing them was a wonderful palette-cleanser from my endless novel edits.

In this new year I’m working with my spouse and children to get back on a fixed writing schedule that works for the whole family, and that the whole family will respect. I plan on trying my hand at more short fiction, redoubling my efforts at submitting regularly, and outlining my next novel before diving in too deep.

My only measure of success will be: Am I happy with what I write? Sometimes, after writing slumps, that’s the goal that matters the most.

Lillian Banks

Lilly decided to share her thoughts in a vlog:

Nichole Jarnagin

In 2012 I learned a valuable lesson — or at least that’s when it finally sank in. The concept is this: From the very first page you set up an expectation for your reader, a promise, and it’s a promise you must keep.

For example, if you’ve written a blossoming romance set in regency England, you can’t introduce aliens in chapter five. Okay, that’s a big jump but you get the point. In the case of my work in progress, I was aiming for a YA paranormal romance but in trying to add depth to my characters, I’d inadvertently written a gritty contemporary. The “issues” my main character struggled with were distracting and prevented the story from moving forward. I’d mislead my readers, switching the focus entirely. Readers couldn’t get past my main character binge drinking and cutting herself to focus on the important parts of the story — the discovery of a gorgeous male siren. Forehead slap. I had taken my story in the wrong direction because I failed to keep the promise I’d made. The good news. Once you’ve grasped this concept and stop fighting against it, it’s much easier to delve into your story and take it where it needs to go.

In light of the New Year my writing goals for 2013 are as follows:

1. Schedule and honor time to write as follows: every other Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00am -noon. Every Friday from 7:00am- 10:00am OR 10:00am-1:00.
2. Edit and polish Allure by March 15th
3. Submit query letter to dream agent C.D. by March 30th
4. Research and compose list of backup dream agents just in case 😉

Now you’ve seen our New Year’s thoughts – don’t forget to share yours in the comments!

A Lesson From Poetry: Writing Emotion

This month I was pleased to attend the Utah Poet of the Year concert. This is a prestigious award given by the Utah Poets Society, of which I am not a member. The event was orchestrated professionally and the winner Dawnell Griffin, was sophisticated and regal in her graceful acceptance of the plaque and the reading of her poetry book, On Judgment Day.

She, with her skilled way of putting the right words on paper, had the entire body of the audience in tears. The book itself, a masterpiece, and a glimpse into the moment of tragedy in a relate-able way, was at it’s core nothing but pure honesty. That unabashed honesty made me think.

As writers we can’t help but put our viewpoint into our books. We build characters based on our perception of others, and ourselves. Sometimes that perception is wrong, or skewed, but it is how we see it. The best writers I know take experiences from their own life and inject those emotions into situations that require that depth in their novels. After all, isn’t that how we generate a believable character? To fill him/her with human emotions?

Dawnell Griffin was able to put her emotions on paper without fear of being judged and claim them as her own.

As a novelist, I get the luxury of having characters present my emotions in a less scrutinizing way. The brilliance of that maneuver is my characters can sift through the feelings I give them and I can discard them as I move onto other types of experiences.

You may not have to write as bravely as Dawnell did, but the most important lesson in this to me was that emotions not only help your reader to relate to your characters, but also to validate the reader’s experiences in life. I will always feel very fortunate to have been at that concert because Dawnell’s book of poems made me feel. Emotions and ideas that I’ve had in my life could relate to her emotions she shared. Her traumatic moment was still full of hope and her true character, without being bogged down by self pity or martyrdom, shone through.

May we all be so brave.

By Lillian J. Banks

Getting Back in the Saddle

Getting back into the writing saddle can be difficult. I just finished a writing break and I found the hardest part about saddling up the writing horse was not getting up and falling off, but that I wouldn’t ride with the skill I once had. I feel writer’s block is more of an emotional issue than a physical problem, and usually that emotion is fear. Fear. I heard this acronym once, and it stuck with me. False Evidence Appearing Real.

In my case, my fear stemmed from a belief that I had lost my writing skills from lack of use. Could I prove that as a fact? No, because I hadn’t tested that theory, I was too scared. Losing my skill felt like it could be real. Haven’t you heard the saying, Use it or Lose it?

Based on that belief system, I am right.


Aside from letting go of that belief system and choosing a new one? Preferably the one that states it’s just like riding a bike. In other words, once you get going, it all comes back to you.

Don’t buy into the fear, get writing. Write when were and how you can. Don’t let you stop yourself with excuses. I have heard this one a lot lately, “I don’t have the right equipment.” Go outside, find some dirt, pick up a stick- equipment- and write.

Write for yourself, write to change the world, write for fun, write to get the voices in your head out on paper. Just write!

How do you know if you are improving?

I am here to tell you that the more you write the more you will improve, but not without some sort of feedback. Moms and significant others don’t count. Sorry. They are great for support, but don’t count on them to be completely honest, or even trust them to know the writing business or what they are talking about. And in some cases, they can do more harm then good. One aspiring writer I spoke with gave a worst case scenario where family took her story and tried to make it their own and she lost her voice in the process.

I don’t let my supportive hubby read my work. I bounce ideas and brainstorm with him, and he is great for that, but he is not my critiquing buddy.

Honestly, the best choice I ever made for my writing was joining a writers group. I actually have a hard time reading another aspiring writer if they have never been in a writers group. The difference can be staggering between novice writers that are in a group and a writer that has never dared show another person what they write.

Find a good writers group. Whether locally or online. Try a few of them on until you find the right fit for you.

I am lucky to have an awesome writers group. One where each person actively tries to improve and learn more about the craft and trade. We get together and share our knowledge. We find strengths in each other, and find weaknesses too. I learned by being critiqued what they have an eye for, and I rely on their eye if it is in an area I need improvement.

I’ve learned that anyone can get published, as long as they are trying to improve and they never give up.

Don’t let FEAR ever stop you. Keep writing and keep smiling, and for the record, it is like riding a bike.

By Lillian J. Banks

Episode Five: World Building 101

Jocelyn is Mc in this episode. Your hosts are, Jocelyn, Lilly, Alice, Ava, Lauren

(about 22 min)

A few examples that nailed world building. You’re welcome!

Robyn Mckinley

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Lois McMaster Bujold

Scott Westerfeld

Grace Lin


Lois Lowry

Jim Butcher

Suzanne Collins

Shannon Hale

Chaim Potok

Jan and Stan Berenstain


Writing Snippets Episode Four: Writer’s Block

Join today’s hosts, Jocelyn, Lilly, Ava, Lauren, Alice, and Nichole as we discuss Writer’s Block.

Writing Snippets Episode Two: Writer’s Groups

Join your hosts, Alice, Ava, Elissa, Jocelyn, Lauren, Lilly and Nichole as we discuss Writer’s Groups. Have you ever thought about starting, or joining a writers group? Listen as we share our experience with writer’s groups, what works and what doesn’t and how our  writer’s group evolved into the manuscript-making machine it is now- with a lot of laughter along the way. Write in the comments section below your Writer’s Group stories, the good, the bad, and THE ugly, and what has worked for you.

****Leave a comment about your New Years Writing Resolutions to be entered in the drawing to win a Writer’s Digest Writing Planner. The winner will be announced on Monday, Jan. 31st.