Monday, December 15, 2014

This week I joined the frenzy of signing up on the first day for my favorite writer's conference, LDStorymakers. Being on Pacific time, I even set my alarm to make sure I had things ready to go on time. The system had an overload or something, but shortly after that was fixed I had registered and signed up for the pre-registration intensive class I wanted most. Hooray! (The regular sessions do not need pre-registration.) This was my main reason for signing up early--last year the intensives filled before I registered. Others scrambled to get pitch sessions or manuscript consultation.

Great things (including but not limited to) about having a favorite conference to attend each year:

  • Connecting. Seeing old friends and online friends in person.
  • Networking. Getting your face and name out there, finding collaborations, meeting agents and publishers.
  • Familiarity = Comfort. Being comfortable with the way things are run, fewer surprises, appreciating subtle changes.
  • Repeats. Taking the class(es) you missed out on last year.
  • Fun. Rejuvenation. Getting pumped up again.
  • Audience. Attenders at this conference are among who I read and who will read my books.

For more information on this wonderful conference held in Utah May 15-16, 2016, visit

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Bumpy Road to Publication

It's been a week of highs and lows for me. If I could have foreseen the bumpy road to publication, would I make the same choices? Before I answer that, let's take a look at my week. 

The High: I asked, on short notice, three authors to read Secrets of the King's Daughter for the back cover blurb reviews, and all three came through for me with wonderful reviews. Great news, right? Even better, was the fact that I just had to ask one of these authors for the favor because, well, it's H. B. Moore--as in the researcher and writer of LDS historical fiction and Whitney Award winner! How cool is that? I felt so grateful that I had the courage to ask a busy author who probably gets a lot of requests from unknowns like me. To have her endorsement is HUGE. Feeling grateful; feeling good.

The Blow: Friday I learned that my book's release date was moved back from February 2015 clear until January 2016. What? Eleven months later!?! Instant deflation. How can I wait that long?

But I understand the publisher's reasons. Scriptural fiction sells better if it's the Gospel Doctrine topic of study--three to four times better, some say. 2016 is the year for Book of Mormon study. It might make sense to wait. One who wasn't emotionally attached to the situation would have to agree. (Disclaimer: This is not to say they won't change their minds again. I'll keep you posted.) 

I've given up my control to a publisher who holds the best market niche for my type of book, rather than self-publishing how and when I want. Do I regret that decision? No. I don't need a psychic consultant; I'm trusting in a marketing team with experience and emotional detachment. I have a great editor that I didn't have to seek out. I believe that sharing the same publisher was a contributing factor to Heather Moore taking time to write a back cover review. I just need to be patient. It's kind of like preparing a glorious feast and then finding out the guests have been caught in traffic. Delay mode. Don't worry; I've got some things to work on in the meantime.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Puzzling Over Plots, Part 3 of 3: Middles

I've been using a puzzle analogy to talk about beginnings, ends, and now middles in plot planning. Just like a puzzle, the middle is often the hardest part when writing. The easy stuff is already done and the hardest pieces lay overwhelmingly in view, waiting to be connected. To keep your interest in the puzzle strong, narrow your focus to a specific section. Work on those trees in the shadow or that brown train car. Expand from there. Focus on the next complication that blocks the path to your main character's goal. Interesting stories must show struggles and how they are conquered, or how they alter the MC's route or his goal. What is at stake if they don't succeed? This creates tension and tension is exciting.

Sometimes we tire of looking for a certain puzzle piece and want to switch gears. If you are tired of writing a scene, work on something else. If you aren't feeling it, loving the scene, your reader's won't either. Come back later when you are fresh. In the meantime, what else excites you? Are you tired of putting train car after train car together? Break it up with a different setting or type of scene. Maybe it's time to throw in a little romance or mischief. Move the group to a different venue or introduce a new character. Just make sure that it connects somehow later on.

In writing Secrets of the King's Daughter, there is a middle part where the the people of Ishmael become converted to Nephite ways--except for princess Karlinah. Now no one wants to marry an unbeliever--no one except the worst possible candidate. It would be boring if I showed scene after scene of suitors rejecting the princess or her avoiding a certain someone. Middles especially need some variety along with the tension. Something new has to happen. The fun is putting something in that your readers won't expect.

No matter which part of your plot's puzzle you are working on, write those scenes that currently excite you the most. Other sections will generate new excitement for you as you see where and how they connect. Fill in the whole puzzle this way for as long as you can. Embrace your story. Go work on that exciting end, middle, or beginning. You need to have something to work from before getting specific help later, so go for it. Refinement comes later as you check the whole thing during revisions. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Puzzling Over Plots, Part 2 of 3: Endings

Today I am jumping from plot beginnings all the way to endings. Why? Because it often helps to envision where your story ends before you write too many scenes. In the puzzle analogy that I've been using, we take frequent glances at the picture on the box that represents the final product. Each glance can remind us of the position of that tree or train car. Having the end in mind, keeps us from piecing sections into the wrong spots.

Knowing your ending can be a good starting point in your planning. Maybe you know a few things that happen and how it ends, but you aren't sure of your opening scene. Work backwards. Ask yourself how the character got to the end point. What happened right before? What happened before that to get him there? It's like connecting puzzle pieces in a row from right to left instead of left to right. A piece's indentation needs a certain nob that fits. What are your connecting factors that got you to the end?

In imagining your ending, make sure you are aware of the overall goal that your main character (MC) has been trying to achieve. The adversary or events that keep blocking the MC's progress now throws the worst at him that can happen. The reader thinks that all is lost until the MC figures out a way to get himself out of his predicament. He will triumph after all

In writing "Secrets of the King's Daughter", Karlinah's goals change, but her overall goal to find love and joy is taken from her when the love interest leaves the city and a kidnapper snatches her away. I had to rewrite the resolution to the climax so that Karlinah was more involved in getting out of her predicament and someone else's.

Don't leave any puzzle pieces out or you will have plot holes; the picture will not be complete. Everything must be connected and all the loose ends tied up by the end. You can resolve these in revisions, if needed. For now, get your best ending scenes onto paper. We will examine middles in the next post.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Puzzling Over Plots, Part 1 of 3: Beginnings

The plot thickens...eventually. Novel writers need an idea to start with first. Let's say that you have your idea--one that inspires you (you better love it or you'll tire of it), has unique elements, and marketability. Now what? Let's think Beginning, Middle, and End-- with today's focus on the beginning.

One good way to put a puzzle together is to start by turning all the pieces topside. For our plot analogy, we need to visualize or imagine the pieces that make up the story. Take a few notes because this is no easy puzzle. Where is the story set? What characters do you know you will need, and what are they like? What theme do you wish to convey?Which event propels your main character into her initial action toward achieving her goal? What are the pieces you know you will need, even if you don't yet know where the pieces will go? Write down everything that comes to mind.

We might sort the puzzle pieces next into colors that go together, or begin the structure by finding the edge pieces. Start sorting out the things you know you want to happen in your story by putting them in the order that makes the most sense for now. A few will be shuffled around later on. For example, if your main character's goal is to have his horse win the championship race, you know that training comes in early. Put as many of the things that you wrote down into an order. This is a loose outline--whether or not you consider yourself an outliner. This planning step will save time later.

Now you want to put a few pieces together on paper. Go ahead and write those scenes that you've been dying to start on, the ones you already visualize strongly. It's like putting one section of the puzzle together. It doesn't matter yet how this section will connect to another. It's stimulating to see something emerge, to show progress. Yes, pieces of the section will still be missing, but you're writing! Remember, this is a rough draft.

For those who like more structure to their outline before writing, there are all kinds of helps beyond the scope of this post. Time spent gaining knowledge will save time in the long run. Other writers have written good stories with strong plots without using any certain story structure formula. You may have taken some classes or read enough stories to recognize some basic steps. Plot beginnings will include something that happens to make your character want something she doesn't have. This is her first goal. Keep this in mind and start writing. If you later decide that the scene where the boy buys the horse is not the best beginning, you can fix or cut that later. You will have both learned backstory that may be worth weaving into the novel, and practiced your writing skills. 

When I wrote Secrets of the King's Daughter, I started with a scene that was vivid in my mind--the scene where King Lamoni's daughter learns she was offered as a wife to "an enemy", Ammon the Nephite. For a long time I thought it was my beginning chapter, but no. New ideas developed and I learned what my plot needed after figuring more things out. I didn't have to toss it, just insert earlier scenes.

In summary, start with the pieces that you imagine and begin writing them down, first as notes and then as scenes. My next post will consider the end of the story. Part three will discuss middles. Until then, happy writing!