Apr 30, 2008

Stories are Everywhere

Beginning writers often wonder where to get ideas for stories. The first place most writers turn is to their own life experiences. But remember, real-life experiences should only be idea-generators, not the whole story.

Ideas from Pictures

Pictures can stimulate your imagination, leading to great story ideas. Ask yourself questions when looking at photos. What are the people doing? Feeling? What happened before and after? Are they trying to hide something? Don't overlook group shots; look for people in the background who weren't meant to be in the picture. What is their story?

Ideas from News Events

Newspaper headlines are full of story ideas. Without reading the whole article, what does the headline make you think of? The following are headlines taken from the last few issues of the Daily Herald. See if any of them spark an idea.

-AF man celebrates gift of life
-Hundreds flee wildfire in L.A. foothills
-Pit Bull --Ticking time bomb or trusted friend
-Indian tragedies trouble early Springville colonists
-Return to Vietnam
-No remains found in dig for Parley P. Pratt

You can also get ideas from reading the whole story and asking, what if something were different. What if the fire was arson? What if the robber shot the teller? What if the person in a car accident was your babysitter with your children in the car? What if the terrorist were your son-in-law? In these questions the only real news facts are the fire, the robbery, the car accident, and the terrorist. What you do with a fact, and the story it could possibly turn into, is up to you.

Ideas from Observation

You will know you have finally arrived and become a writer when you see a story in everything around you. A backpack left unattended on a playground could be filled with a myriad assortment of things; an abandoned baby, a million dollars, a ticking time-bomb. A person walking quickly down the street could be fleeing a crime scene. A couple hugging could be saying goodbye or reuniting after a long separation.

Observe the people around you. Listen to their conversations. Characterize them in your head and try to figure out their story. The likelihood is that their real story isn't as spectacular as what you will create.

How do you generate story ideas? I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Apr 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

Names are important. Think about Rumpelstiltskin. Do you think the story would be the same if his name were something simple like John?

Have you ever had a character's name picked out and as you're writing, something about it just bugs you? For some reason it doesn't fit? If you think about it, you've probably met real people who's names don't seem to fit either, and wondered, what were their parents thinking?
I've been reading about naming characters and below are a few pointers I've picked up along the way:
- Have your characters' names start with different letters, unless there is a specific reason not to.
- If your characters' names have a different number of syllables, they will be more easily distinguished from one another.
- Give your main characters more unique names (but not too unique) and your secondary characters more common names so your main characters will stand out.
- Names can suggest ethnicity and open up all kinds of character possibilities.
- Avoid names that end in 's'. They are awkward in the possessive form.
- Use names that fit the period you are writing about.
- Avoid unusual spellings.
- When making up names, make sure they are easy to pronounce. You don't want your reader to stop and struggle every time they see it.
Your character's name is a very important part of who they are, but don't stress about it. Give them a name and if it doesn't feel right, you can change it later.
There are tons of places on the internet you can search for names. Writingworld.com has a large list of links you can check out the next time you find yourself struggling to think of the perfect name.

Apr 23, 2008

To Outline or Not to Outline

Ah, the age old writer’s debate—to outline or not to outline?

Some people say they can’t write a single sentence until they know what the end is going to be. Others feel an outline stifles their creativity and takes the spontaneity out of writing. Outlining obviously works for some and doesn’t for others. I believe every writer should write in whatever style works best for them. It is more a question of personality than functionality.

Personally, I like using an outline. I create a spreadsheet which includes columns for the Chapter, Scene, POV, Summary, and Word Count. I also include a notes section to leave reminders about things I want to change or go back and fix later.

I start out by planning the overall progression of the story. I like to think of my story in thirds. I put the beginning, middle, and end in their appropriate places on the spreadsheet and then start filling up the space in between.

My basic structure looks something like this:

1) Set up the conflict and introduce the characters.
2) Complicate the problem.
3) Resolve the problem.

After deciding on a beginning, middle, and end, I plan each chapter by jotting down notes about what events will happen. Then as I write each chapter, I break it down further into scenes and enter a row on the spreadsheet for each scene. My main reason for doing this is to make sure I’m keeping the POV straight. It also helps as I go back through to make sure every scene helps move the story forward.

My outline is by no means rigid. I’m very flexible and move things around all the time. As I’m writing and new ideas come to me, I’ll add them in or replace ones that don’t seem to work. My outline helps me know what to do next. It helps me defeat the overwhelming blank page.

I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to hear if you outline, and how it works for you.

Apr 22, 2008

Enjoy Yourself

After a week off for Spring Break, my kids are back in school. This means I have more time to write.

I've been thinking a lot about why I enjoy writing. I've decided it's the same reason I like to read. I like the escape it gives me. It allows me to leave my life and problems behind and temporarily be in someone else's.

Something unexpected has happened to me since I started writing. I'm discovering things about myself. Things I don't think I could have discovered any other way. It allows me an emotional outlet for what's inside, and it's helping me grow as a person.

Ultimately, I hope to influence someone through my writing. I hope it will make them want to be better, to do better. I'd like to create something significant to pass on to those I love and care about. But in the meantime, it's helping me learn and grow, and I'm having tons of fun!

Never lose sight of the real reason for writing; sheer enjoyment. Keep in mind that if writing can bring pleasure to you and your readers, you will have made a difference in the world.

Apr 19, 2008

Tag, You're It!

Tristi Pinkston tagged me, so I have to share seven things about myself and then tag seven other people.

The rules are as follows:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

This was hard for me. I asked my family members (since there are seven besides me) for suggestions, but there’s no way I want to publish what they all said. So, here goes.

1) I got married when I was seventeen. (I definitely don’t recommend it!)
2) The one thing I always wanted, but never got—a sister. Although, now that I’m older, I don’t know if I’d want to share my mom with another girl. It’s kind of nice to have her to myself.
3) My entire family runs marathons, so I’ve made a long-term goal to run one with them sometime. I’m tired of always being on the sideline.
4) I had four kids by the time I graduated from college. I got an accounting degree by taking independent study and evening classes.
5) I hate to miss the beginning of a movie. If I miss the beginning, I'd rather not watch it. I'm constantly driving my family crazy telling them to be quiet so I can see the beginning and understand what's happening. It's like starting a book in chapter 3. Don't do it.
6) My kids say I snore, but I don’t believe them.
7) I sold over $100,000 in products on eBay last year, so if you have any questions about eBay, I’m the one to ask.

I’m tagging:








Sorry if any of you have been tagged recently. It was hard to find people who hadn't!

Apr 18, 2008

10 Rules of Critiquing

Rules of Critiquing:

1) Critique the writing, never the writer. Never say, "You are..." or "You should..." Instead say, "The writing is..." or "The story should..."
2) Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong.
3) Don't say, "This is how I would write it;" how you would write it isn't the point.
4) Remember that subject matter is personal. You don't have to like a story to give it a fair critique.
5) Remember that real people wrote this stuff, and real people have real feelings.

Rules of Being Critiqued:

1) Listen. The person who is speaking has taken the time to listen to your work, and wants to help you find ways to make it better.
2) Take notes.
3) Explain only if necessary. Don't rebut just for the sake of arguing.
4) Realize that everything can be improved.
5) Be willing to make changes. Conversely, don't change anything you feel must remain in order to make the story yours.

Apr 15, 2008


Woohoo! I met my writing goal on Monday, so I get to use this cute sign. Thanks Tristi!

The Writer's Oath

I promise solemnly:

1. to write as often and as much as I can,
2. to respect my writing self, and
3. to nurture the writing of others.

I accept these responsibilities and shall honor them always.

Writing Magic - Gail Carson Levine

Apr 14, 2008

The Perfectionist in your Head

Most of you have them—the internal voices in your head that say you’re messing up, that your writing is worthless. Sometimes, it makes you wonder why you even bother.

Most beginning writers worry about whether or not they have any talent. They wonder whether all the effort they put into their writing will be worth it. There’s only one way to find the answer—write.

If you want to be a good swimmer, you have to get in the water and swim. It’s the same with writing. If you want to grow as a writer, sit down and write. The more you write, the better you will become. Reading will also help. Once you begin to write, you will never read the same again. As I read, I’m constantly looking for interesting phrases, plot twists, catchy dialogue, and creative characters.

You can also talk with other writers, join critique groups, and attend conferences and workshops. But none of these will improve your writing as much as plenty of practice. Only through writing will you discover for yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer.

Most writers do their best work if they don’t worry about technical correctness as they write. Getting caught up in details can distract you and slow down your momentum. So, instead of trying to fix every little mistake as you write, focus on what’s most important—getting the words onto the page.

So, what do you do about those pesky voices in your head? Just write in spite of them. Over time, they will get quieter. They may pop up again unexpectedly, but if you keep on writing you will triumph in the end.

Apr 12, 2008

What If?

Have you ever been stuck and couldn’t think what to write next? I’m sure we’ve all been there, done that. Whether you’re writing poetry, science fiction, mysteries, romance, fantasy novels, or your family history, don’t just look at things as they are. Also consider how they might be.

Take any one element of your manuscript and ask yourself—what if? What if this were different? What if the protagonist were twenty years older, or less confident, or stuck in traffic ten minutes longer? What if the plane never arrived? What if the scene was written from Jack’s point of view instead of Jill’s?

You may be surprised at some of your answers. It just might spark your imagination and lead you down a whole new road, or it may just get you over the latest speed bump. (Thanks for that term, Annette!)

Questions can especially be helpful when you don’t know where you’re heading, or when the story seems to be losing its energy.

So, next time your stuck, just remember to ask….What if?

Apr 11, 2008

Blog Tours

There is a unique new marketing tool sweeping the internet—the blog book tour. The concept is quite simple. The author “moves” to a series of blogs, usually over days or weeks, answering questions from the host. The blogs’ readers can comment and ask more questions. Ideally, they will follow links to the author’s website or to an online retailer like Amazon.

A blog tour requires work from the author. They have to reach out to bloggers and find hosts for their online visit, but the concept definitely makes sense. We are living in a time where readers are just as likely to find a book through a google search as they are by browsing bookstore shelves.

A blog book tour potentially exposes the author to a larger audience than a retail bookstore signing would. And there is the added benefit that you don’t have to worry that no one will show up and you’ll have to sit there feeling stupid.

I’m excited to participate in two upcoming blog tours.

J. Scott Savage is kicking off his new series, “Farworld”, with a blog tour. I’ll be reading an advanced reader copy and then doing a review of the book and a Q&A session with Jeff. I have two young readers at my house who will be helping me come up with questions, so it will be interesting to get the perspective of readers who are the actual target audience of Savage’s book.

You can read more about the Farworld series by clicking here.

I’ll also be reading and reviewing Tristi Pinkston’s latest book, “Season of Sacrifice”. It is a historical novel of the hole in the rock pioneers, including the story of Tristi’s great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Perkins. My blog will include a Q&A session with Tristi.

You can read more about “Season of Sacrifice” and order your copy by clicking here.

Apr 9, 2008

Critique Group Etiquette

My favorite class at the LDStorymakers conference was the class on Critique groups. It was taught by Annette Lyon, Heather Moore, James Dashner, Jeff Savage, Luann Staheli, and Michelle Holmes. The content they taught was very helpful and informative, but the way they taught it was what gave class members great insight into how a critique group is really supposed to work.

You know the famous writing adage—show, don’t tell? Rather than standing at the front of the room and telling us how a critique group can be successful, they showed us. They sat around a table and took turns reading from their manuscripts, and then listening to critiques from the other members.

The instructors have been together in a critique group for several years, and you could tell. They had it down to a science. I’ve been trying to decipher my scribbled notes so I can share them with you. Here are the main points of their class:

1) Group size: 7-8 people. Ideally, writers on similar writing levels. Some variation is okay, but try to avoid a huge disparity.
2) Bring a scene 6-8 pages long. Bring enough copies so each person has their own.
3) Each writer is allowed six minutes to read the manuscript they brought.
4) Each participant is then given three minutes to critique. Rotate to the left around the room, starting with the person to the left of the reader. This is so each person can comment, but the quiet person in the group (that’s me) isn’t always last.
5) Write your name on the top of each manuscript you critique so the author can contact you with any questions they may have later.
6) Remember, critiquing is not only about pointing out the bad things. Put smiley faces by the things you like too and be sure to mention them.
7) Things to look for when critiquing: motivation, feel, dialogue, grammar, punctuation, voice, etc.

That’s a quick run-down of the process. It was amazing to watch the critique group and see how well they function.

I’ve recently started going to a critique group. We use some of the above suggestions and have implemented a few of our own. I’m the baby of our writing group. All the other writers have more experience than I do. I’m studying hard to learn as much as humanly possible, so I can offer valuable insights and help them as much as they are helping me.

Apr 8, 2008

Reflections on Motherhood (and writing) from LDS General Conference

I enjoy conference time. Our family has many fun traditions that make it a memorable experience. We start the day by having a hearty brunch and then we all watch conference in our pajamas. We even have traditions for the kind of food we serve. We always have waffles with strawberries and whipped cream on Saturday, and homemade cinnamon rolls on Sunday. For the October conference, we make caramel apples dipped in white chocolate—yummy!

My favorite talk this past weekend was given by M. Russell Ballard. He was speaking specifically to mothers. Below you will find his direct quotations (in quotes of course) followed by my own ramblings on the subject.

First of all, “There is no one perfect way to be a mother.”

I think we all look around us and see amazing traits in others and wish we were more like them. We usually do this in areas where we're personally lacking. Anytime you compare one of your own weaknesses with someone else’s strength, you are sure to come up short. Don’t do it! Don’t try to mother the perfect way, just do it your way.

“Each mother has different circumstances…….different children.”

No matter how trite the saying, you don’t know how another person feels until you’ve walked a day in their shoes, it’s true. We can’t judge others' mothering capabilities without living in their situation, coming from their background and experiences.

“Some are full-time mothers, some would like to be.”

Choose the situation that works for you and your family. Don’t feel guilty if your situation requires you to work. But, if you would rather not work, do all you can to stay home. The Lord will bless your efforts.

“What matters is a mother loves her children deeply, and prioritizes time for them.”

For most mothers I know, their children are the top priority in their lives. In fact, some of us need to take more time for ourselves. So….

“Find time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests. Water cannot be drawn from an empty well.”

I’ll bet you wondered if this blog was going to have anything to do with writing. Well, there you have it. Spend time developing your talents. I know lots of you out there are amazingly talented writers and it is not selfish to spend time cultivating that talent. If it’s important to you, make the time to do it. You’ll come back refreshed and more capable of loving and serving your family.

My favorite quote from the talk was actually by the author, Anna Quindlen. She says, “Treasure the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

As mothers, we have to be task-oriented or nothing ever gets done, but it’s okay to lighten up occasionally and take the time to listen, laugh, and play.

Good luck with your writing this week. Make sure you take some time for yourself.

You can listen to Elder Ballard's entire talk here.

Apr 7, 2008

Trash It? Never!!

I’ve been reading “Writing Magic” by Gail Carson Levine, the Newberry Honor author of Ella Enchanted. It is one of the best writing books I’ve read. In the book she gives seven rules of writing. The seventh rule is as follows:

“Save everything you write, even if you don’t like it, even if you hate it. Save it for a minimum of fifteen years. I’m serious. At that time, if you want to, you can throw it out, but even then don’t discard your writing lightly.”

She goes on to explain why this is one of her rules.

“I used to think, long ago, that when I grew up, I’d remember what it felt like to be a child and that I’d always be able to get back to my child self.

But I can’t.

When you become a teenager, you step onto a bridge. You may already be on it. The opposite shore is adulthood. Childhood lies behind. The bridge is made of wood. As you cross, it burns behind you.”

Keep in mind this book says it is written for children ages 10 and up. Since I love this book that probably says something about me—but we won’t explore it too closely. Most of us are already past childhood and teenage years. If you’re not, lucky you! If you've been writing since you were a child and have saved your work, I’m sure it’s a treasure.

I entered the first chapter contest at the LDStorymakers Conference. It was an interesting experience for me. I had no intention of winning, which I didn’t, but I did think my writing was good. I learned a lot from the comments I received from the judges. My first reaction was to go home and shred my manuscript. Not because I was mad or discouraged, but simply because I’d learned so much and knew I could do it better. I’m going to save that manuscript and all the others I write in the future, so someday I can look back and see how far I’ve come.

Apr 5, 2008

All About Me

I've been contemplating starting a blog for a while now. Well, with a little urging from Tristi Pinkston, I've decided to start one. I'm new to this blogging world so be patient with me and I'll learn as I go. I guess I'll start by introducing myself.

I grew up in Orem, Utah and have basically lived in Utah all my life (not counting the short stint in Florida, where I couldn't stay because there were too many big bugs). I've been married for 18 years and I have six children ranging in age from 4-15. They are the greatest blessing and the biggest challenge I've ever faced. I'm homeschooling two of them this year, which brings it's own set of challenges and new things to learn.

I'm an aspiring LDS fiction writer. I'm fairly new to the world of writing, but I've been caught up in the whirlwind. It's hard to find time to write, but once I sit down and start, it's hard to stop. It's almost addicting. I recently attended the LDStorymakers conference for the first time. I made some new friends and learned lots! I've also joined a critique group and I can already tell my writing has improved from the things I've learned so far.

I also have an online scrapbooking business that I run from home. I sell discounted scrapbooking supplies. So, if you love scrapbooking like me-check it out: www.kimsscrapshack.com

Well, it's way past this mom's bedtime, but I'll write again soon. Bye for now!

About the Author

I was born and raised in Utah, the middle child in a family of three children, and the only girl. I attended Mountain View High School, but graduated from Alpine School District Adult High School—that’s a story I’ll tell you more about later.

I attended Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University (back then it was still Utah Valley State College) where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. By the time I finished my degree I had four small children, which made obtaining that diploma feel like a minor miracle. I later had two more children, making six total—three girls and three boys. Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life.

After a difficult 18 year marriage and divorce, I met the love of my life, Scott Job. I now know what it means when people say, “You’ll just know when you find the right one.” We were married in August of 2009 and combined our families, now totaling 10 children! We have seven boys and three girls. They keep us busy running between ballroom, soccer, basketball, and football.

Combining two families is an adventure, bringing many struggles, lots of giggling, some inevitable fighting (after all we have five very active boys between the ages of 8 and 12), and immeasurable happiness. Needless to say, there's never a dull moment at the Job household.

I work at Brigham Young University as a transcriptionist for the deaf. It is an amazing job and feeds my craving for new knowledge. In addition to reading and writing, I like to cook, scrapbook, hang out with my kids and their friends, and spend time doing pretty much anything with my husband.

I have always loved to read. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with my own life, I like to escape into the lives of the characters in a story. I tried writing throughout my youth, winning a few small awards along the way, but never taking it very serious.

I met a friend who was a writer and mentioned that I had considered writing a book someday. Through his encouragement I decided to attempt writing my own novel. I soon realized I knew very little about the craft of writing. Learning new things has always been pleasurable for me, so I embraced the challenge. I studied many writing books, attended conferences, and joined an amazing critique group.

Now, almost two years later, my first novel I’ll Know You by Heart is being published by Valor Publishing Group. At times it seems surreal, but I’m very excited about this new venture in my life and look forward to the personal growth I know it will bring.

To read more fun, goofy, and interesting facts about me, click here.
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