Thursday, May 31, 2012

Excuse the dust. . .

I've mentioned in a previous post that exciting things are happening at Mommy Authors this month!

First is our brand new blogger, Heidi Schulz.

"Hi! I am a writer, reader, homeschooling mama, happy wife, and fan of the Oxford comma. You probably have a dog named Heidi but I don't need to hear about it.
See my site:"

As soon as I figure out blogger I'll get her profile added to our list->  Her first post will go live Monday, so make sure you check back.

Also if you haven't joined our goodreads group, what are you waiting for?!?  Our first Writing prompt is up, and the winner not only wins a coveted spot here on Mommy Authors, but will also get a 25$ Amazon giftcard!  Woot! Woot! 
(you don't have to be a mommy to enter, or married, or even a girl for that matter)

Check it out at:

Next Friday will be our official Grand Re-Launch of the new Mommy Authors website hosted by the fabulous Ranee.  Please make sure to check back for some fun contests and prizes we will be running this month.

Thank you all so much for your comments and love, we always appreciate the support!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 27: Second Turning Point

Congratulations!  You've officially reached the final quarter of your novel!  From this point until the climax (second to last scene or chapter in most novels) the energy level is just going to be cranking up higher and higher and things will be moving quite quickly.  Because of the rapid pace it's important to remember that now is not the time to philosophize, wax poetical, or close up secondary plot lines.
"This area is really just about the protagonist making the movement toward final mastery at the crowning glory of the entire project, which is the climax" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
In other words,
"The main character is usually forced into making a decision...  This way, he actively creates the events of the story and gets involved in setting up the final climax" (Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Book in a Month, page 181).
It's all so exciting!  Are you ready to get started?  Great!

Quick Recap:
In the previous step, the threshold, the character had some time to sit and ponder over how his life had come to such a mess (the "mess" being all that he's just gone through during the "all hope is lost" moment).  Now that he's had a think, he has come to realize that he, himself was part of the problem all along.  That somehow his own weaknesses or lack of understanding has kept him from taking the right course to achieve his goal.  (I am addressing character-driven stories here.  For action-driven stories it is more likely that the hero gets new insight or knowledge as to how he can best the antagonist).  

The Second Turning Point:
It is important to note that this turning point is the last time you are allowed to add new information to the story.  The character must already have been introduced to whatever they will need to conquer in the end, with this point being only the final piece of information they will need to succeed.  Often this final piece of information isn't new information at all, but a skill the protagonist had at some point but lost (aka inner demons).  For example the protagonist is a great swimmer, but after witnessing his father drown, has never been in the water again.  This would be the point in the story where the hero realizes he's not subject to his fears, but can and must conquer them in order to obtain his goal in the end.

The main purpose of this scene, however, is to show the protagonist recommitting to his goal or redefining it in some way.
"Because of what happens at the crisis [the character has] sort of redefined their entire lives...  That's why it's important to redefine the goal so that we understand who the protagonist is now, what is important to them now that they have sort of been awakened into who they were meant to be" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
At this point in the story the heroine has one of two options: either she can commit with more zeal to the goal she has had from the beginning of the story, or she can abandon her goal in favor of a new one.  

Your heroine has quite recently gone through a dark moment in her story where everything she thought she'd gain was taken from her and all her power was handed over to the antagonist.  While wallowing in misery it's easy for your heroine to decide that there is nothing left for her; that the only course of action is to give up, throw in the towel, and let the antagonist have their glory.

But after going through the threshold your heroine realizes there is something she can do.  She comes up with a game plan and (at the second turning point) begins to take proactive steps to bring about her own victory.  It is important for both the heroine and the reader to take a minute and restate what the heroine's goal is for the rest of this journey.  
"The protagonist re[commits to] their goal... so that there is no confusion about what they are doing... [and] the reader is really aware and... can viscerally take part in the story.  [The reader] get[s] to feel every step forward, every fall back, every time the protagonist is successful, or sit on the edge of their seat in horror when they see the bad guy coming up behind the protagonist" (Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay).
I like to think of this moment as the protagonist's vow that she will see her dreams achieved and will never again consider the possibility of surrender.

As Martha Alderson mentioned above, the hero's dark moment prior to this scene should have had a profound impact on him, changing him and maturing him into a new and better person.  So what if this change makes the hero realize that the goal he's been shooting for the entire time is actually a hollow one?  That becoming popular and having the gorgeous girl like him doesn't mean as much as learning to love himself for who he is (and of course his nerdy little girl friend whom he's never thought of in that way before suddenly turns into an ultra-babe, so it's a win-win).  If that is what happens to your hero, the this is the scene where he's going to need to redefine what it means to succeed.  Often in scenarios like this the hero is actually presented with the opportunity to achieve his original goal, but he turns it down in favor of the newer, higher goal.  One glaring example of this is in the movie Legally Blonde where Reese Witherspoon's ex-boyfriend, the one she's been trying to snag the entire movie, tells her he wants her back and she lets him know that she's realized he's shallow and she can do better than him.  

You will also want to redefine the goal in stories where the hero actually achieves his goal prior to the second turning point. I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating.  In David Warfield's article on story structure he points out that the second plot point often answers the surface problem, or as he terms it, the "dramatic question." The problem that was plaguing the hero from the beginning, the one that kept readers wondering "Will he ever be able to solve this?" gets solved right here.  If the hero's goal is already solved, what is he to do for the last quarter of the story?  Get a new one.
"Example[s]: In Seven, at the end of Act II the Serial Killer comes to the police station and turns himself in! Mystery solved! Dramatic Question (will the detectives stop the Serial Killer?) answered. Story over? Not quite… In Wedding Crashers, the hero’s sins are exposed (by the antagonist fiancĂ©) and the girl he loves now hates him: she’s sure to marry the fiancĂ©!" (Story Structure in 17 Steps, Warfield).
Alright people, figure out your character's goal and really bring it out in this scene.  Good luck!

MY DAY 27:  Just picked away at the book.  One thing I've learned through all of this is to recognize when it's time to take a break.  If you start surfing facebook because you're having a tough time thinking of what you want to write, then get up and do something else.  Don't sit on the computer.  Give yourself a 10-15 minute break and you'll come back feeling refreshed.  Or you have the option to force yourself through the next 10 minutes forbidding yourself to look at facebook until your done.  Either way don't waste your writing time by internet browsing.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'm Avoiding Writing

I'm not quite sure why. I'm in the middle of querying, of course. And I wrote a whole post about waiting, waiting and what you should be doing. Writing. Which I did. I mentioned that I finished a draft. It's been through the first stage of my editing process and is sitting quietly on a proverbial shelf for a month or two. I started another fun project and that's why I'm not writing. It's guilt. Weird, I know.

I usually always have a bunch of things in the works, but I've really tried to get away from that. Things tend to not get finished. And once I started concentrating on finishing things, things DID get finished. So I have some happy documents sitting in my "Finished Drafts" folder. (And still far too many in my "Unfinished Drafts" folder.) 

So the thing is, I'm about 15k words in (a trouble spot for me if you've been paying attention over the last six months), and the couple just got together, and I need, you know, some happy stuff to happen before all heck breaks loose. Only--I'm having a really hard time with the happy stuff. My mind is blank. Totally. Utterly. Blank. 

I've been breaking my rule, too. Going off and cheating with other projects, only I keep feeling guilty about it. So I come back to my WIP. Stare at it. Check twitter. Check my email. Stare some more. Send off another query just to feel productive. Stare. Stare. STARE.

Then I give up and snuggle up with Gerogette Heyer. Cause she's a genius. And while it gives me absolutely no inspiration--though I wish I could pull off romance as witty and effortlessly and charmingly as she does--I giggle quite a bit and feel a tad bit less guilty. Not by much, but I don't seem to care when me and Georgette are hanging out. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Writer's Life For Me

            I have never considered myself a very good writer.  I never liked reading as a child and slept through English classes in junior high. High school was a joke. I never paid attention. It was just not my thing.  But when I was 12 years old, I attended a church youth group workshop on journal writing. I wrote in my journal all the time.  Little did I realize it would be the beginning of my writing career.

            After college, I married my eternal companion and we started a family.  I continued to write in journals and by the time I had my fourth child, I had completed four journals.  I didn’t think much of my writing until I was pregnant with my fifth child.  The school district where we were living had decided to implement year-round school and there was a large number of parents who were opposed to it.  With pen in hand, I started to write petitions and a speech I was to present to the Board of Education.  I put a lot of emotion and passion into it and discovered that it was very therapeutic.  I knew writing in my journal would help me to feel better at times but this was different.  Other people would be reading what I wrote and my feeling for writing changed.  With the power of the pen, I had the chance to change people’s minds about what was going on in the school district.  I could rally the parents together for our cause and possibly change the school district’s mind about year-round school.  That experience gave me a sense of empowerment and I wanted to keep writing. I wrote what I knew about best which was the family.  I wrote page after page of family stories, antidotes and wisdom I had learned over the years.  Now that I had all this writing what was I to do with it? 

            After Caleb was born I felt a strong prompting to keep writing.  We moved across country from California to Alabama and I still felt the "call".  I then decided to divide up my writing by subject matter and submit the writings as articles in a column for the local paper.  The editor liked what I wrote and asked me to add more researched information and my first column Where the Heart Is was born.  I only had 10 pieces published when a new publisher bought out the local paper and my editor quit. Unfortunately, the new editor did not like what I had to say and decided against publishing my column. This was a frustrating setback and I had to start all over again.

            Did I give up?  No.  Did I keep on writing? Yes.  I continued writing my column in hopes to find a market.  By the time I wrote article number sixty, I had already submitted my articles to every market and small paper on the East coast, I decided to ditch the column idea and publish the whole sixty essays in a book myself.  If the book was as successful as the feedback from my column, I would be very happy.  I knew people liked reading about families and how important they were and I also felt strongly that I should share what I had to say. I found the best time for me was at night when every one was a sleep.  I could concentrate on what I needed to say and it was quiet.

            Then a friend of mine told me about a writer’s group she belonged to on the internet.  It was an all women’s group who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  We all had the same ideals and beliefs and we all supported each other with our writings. (American Night Writers Asscociation)  I could submit something for critique and they gave honest, helpful opinions on how I could improve what I wrote.  I also did the same for them.  The culmination of belonging to this group came when I was able to attend a retreat up in the mountains of Arizona for a weekend.  Twenty-five of the one hundred members showed up with laptops and writings to share and boy did we share.  It was the best time I ever had with a group of writer women.  We listened to workshops and critiqued each other writings without hurting feelings and I left there with the motivation to finish all of my writing projects.  Belonging to a writer’s group is so helpful in keeping to your long term goal of getting published.  Being motivated by a real live person as opposed to reading about being a successful writer can give you the great motivation you really need to persistently write every day; especially when you are blocked or discouraged.

            I continue to write all the time and it has been twenty three years since I started writing that petition.  There are challenges (like raising nine children) that take up my time but I persevere.  Persistence is a great tool for writers and the payback is well worth the effort.  I have attended numerous writer's conferences improving my writing skills and listening to other successful writers. I now have 4 nonfiction books published with many articles syndicated all over the internet.  I write for two ezines regularly and up until six months ago I had my own newspaper column I had written for 4 years. I wrote 9 children’s picture book stories and I’m pursuing an agent for publication.  I love writing and I love the publishing world. I love that I can stay home with my children and do something that I feel so motivated to do and leave a legacy behind.
So to sum up:  To be a successful writer you should--
1. Start writing what you like and what you know.
2. Join a Writer's Group
3. Don't give up when discouraged
4. Attend writing seminars and workshops to learn all you can about writing.
5. Write every day

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get yourself on Goodreads

We have some fun things a comin' here at Mommy Authors, and the first is our brand spankin' new Goodread's group.  We take Mommies and Writers in all shapes and sizes (metaphorically speaking)!

I firmly believe Mom's who write have the hardest part of it, so we at Mommy Authors wanted a place where we could buoy each other, and celebrate even the most mediocre of successes.  
Literal or otherwise.
It's also a place to chat books, vent about kids, and make new writing goals.
We'd love to have ya'!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 26: The Threshold

On Day 23 we talked about the Reversal to you character's Temporary Triumph.  Whatever power your character had has been stripped from him and all lies with the antagonist.  This is what brings your character to his knees and has him entering the "dark night of the soul" or "all hope is lost" moment.  Do not be fooled, however, into thinking this moment is a cheap trick used by novelists to keep their readers guessing at how the story will end.  No, the reversal has a much more significant role: it brings the character to the threshold.

What is the threshold?

The threshold, as defined by the absolutely amazing Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson in her YouTube series "How do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay,"
" the threshold between the middle of the story and the end of the story.  This is where the character has to assess 'how did I get into the mess that I'm in right now.'"  
It is the point just between the reversal (character has reached the lowest low) and the second turning point (character is now ready to become heroic in his efforts to resolve the problem), where the action slows down and the character must reflect back on the choices and behaviors that have led him to this point.  It is where the character stops placing blame on others and begins to take responsibility for his own role in his recent defeat.

Why is that important?

Every person has a flaw.  And if you're doing your job correctly, your character's flaw should be glaringly obvious.  In real life there are not a lot of occasions in which we are confronted with our own flaw and forced to acknowledge that the flaw has contributed in some way to our personal downfalls.  That's probably why we're not heroes in any novels.  A hero - which I assume is a role your main character will take on before the end of the story - is someone who sees what they have done wrong and, instead of blaming others, takes the responsibility and decides to change.  It is the character's development/ change/ transformation that makes him a hero, or at least makes him worth reading about.

What now?

Now that your character has sat around and had some time to think, he's ready to make his move.  He's come up with some kind of plan to overcome the antagonist, but he knows it will involve sacrifice.  Particularly the sacrifice of his flaw in favor of more heroic and selfless personality traits.  Can he do it?  Leave behind a trait or an incident in his backstory that has defined him to this point?  We've got a fourth of the book left in which to find out.

MY DAY 26:  Not much to report.  Wrote a good, solid scene and was proud of it.  Now the question remains: will it survive through all of the edits and make it in the final draft?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing Book Reviews

If you're a writer, chances are you're probably also a reader. If you're not, you should be. But that's a lecture for another day. (Hmmm, I should write that down.) And if you're a writer, you're also probably a blogger. (Again, if you're not . . .) So many of us feature book reviews on our blogs, but sometimes I put myself in a quandary. What do I do about those pesky two and three star books? (I don't finish one star books, so that's not a problem.) 

On the one hand, there's honesty. If a reader comes by my blog and picks up a book recommendation from me, I want them to trust me. Heaven forbid they read the book that should have been a two star and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote the review. On the bright side, as a free-lance editor, I haven't picked up a manuscript or book yet that I couldn't find a few good things about. It's easy to play up that. But playing up the good things does not for a good book make. 

On the other hand, there's "if you can't say something nice" and plain old karma. I don't like posting bad reviews, period. While a reader would appreciate my honesty, I'm sure, the author might not. Oh, sure, we're all working on getting that tough skin, but it doesn't feel good to be on that side of the criticism. So far my solution has been to only post reviews of books that I give four or five stars. But does that help? Certainly not if everyone did it! I know one person on Twitter who removed all his reviews from Goodreads because he didn't want to post negative ones and didn't think it helped to only post positive ones.

So what's your take? What reviews do you post?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Art of Writing in a Journal

My earliest writing memory is of keeping a journal.  My Young Women leaders encouraged us all to write and I just took to it. It has been a great stabilizer for  me over the years since then.  Many who would love to keep journals are intimidated by this idea. One day I did a class for the Young Women at Girl's Camp to pass along the same encouragement for them as was done for me. This next part is what I taught them in the class. I hope you can revitalize your writing dreams from some of these ideas.  I really like some of the prompts below as it helps me to remember things I can write about.  Happy Writing!!!

 What kinds of things might be included in your journal?
·         1. Important events, impressions, and personal feelings
·         2. Personal counsel, promises, and blessings received and the circumstances surrounding them
·         3. Deaths, births, marriages, baptisms, and endowments
·         4. Personal triumphs, failures, and struggles and how they are met
·         5. Current local, national, and world events that impress you or influence your life
·         6. Simple occurrences in daily life

     We Can Choose How to Keep Our Journals

·         1. Date each entry; the day of the week or even the time of day may be important to note.
·         2. Number the pages.
·         3. Set aside a block of time either daily or weekly to write (perhaps a Sunday afternoon).
·         4. Keep the journal nearby or take extra loose pages on trips and to special church meetings.
·         5. Use first and last names when writing about individuals.

Ideas or Prompts for writing journal entries:
1.       Write about a memory that you associate with your favorite holiday.
2.       Create a journal entry that details the one aspect of your life that you would not want to change.
3.       Write down the worst thing that can happen to you today.
4.       Create ten reasons why the worst thing may have been a blessing in disguise.
5.       Write about a difficult challenge you went through in your life.
6.       What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
7.       What is the most memorable moment from your childhood?
8.       What is your favorite love song and why?
9.       What is your most cherished possession?
10.  What is your favorite childhood memory?
11.  If you could have any care—what would it be?
12.   What is your dream job?
13.   What is your favorite music band?
14.   What person do you admire the most and why?
15.   What’s the most memorable historical event to you?
16.   If you had a million dollars—what would you do with it?
17.   What was the happiest day of your life so far?
18.   If you could write a book—what would be the title and what would it be about.
19.   If you could have any super power—what would it be?
20.   What was the last time you helped someone?  What happened?
21.   If you could be anyone in the world for one week who would it be?
22.   If you could have lunch with anyone –alive or not—who would it be?
23.  What’s your favorite meal and why?