Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Aging Rhubarb is Like Finishing a Novel?

I weeded my strawberry patch this morning. It's beginning to really take shape. There's some bare spots, but in another year or so it will fill in. This year we were able to pick enough to have Strawberry Shortcake a couple of times. And the berries were so yummy.

But that's not my main goal.

See, I have a plan.

When I was a little girl my mother had a strawberry patch and a place in her garden where she planted rhubarb. She let it grow for three years and then made awesome Strawberry-rhubarb Pie that was to die for.

And I have the recipe.

But no rhubarb.

After hearing me complain that I didn't have rhubarb, a friend of mine gave me some of hers. And I was so excited. Her rhubarb plant was only a year old, but it looked fine to me. So I made a pie.

It looks pretty good, doesn't it?

My mouth watered, and I could hardly wait to have a piece. However, I was sadly disappointed. The rhubarb was woody. And that was when I remembered my mother saying that rhubarb had to grow for three years before it would taste good in a pie.

Three . . . long . . . years . . .

So, I decided to plant a rhubarb plant of my own. It's really taken off. This is the first year and if it keeps going I'm going to have some awesome rhubarb (though I do see a hole in one of the leaves. Hmm.).

Anyway, I'm hopeful that in 2016 I'll have rhubarb and strawberries to make my own home grown Strawberry-rhubarb Pie . . . just like Mom did.

What does aging rhubarb have to do with writing a novel?

Sometimes writers are so anxious to become published they send their manuscripts off to publishers before making sure the book is ready.   Or worse . . . the writer decides to epublish a manuscript before it has been thoroughly critiqued. In other words, they pick the rhubarb before they should.

Here are three steps I go through before sending a manuscript to my editor.

1) Once I finish a manuscript, I read through it with a critical eye looking for plot holes, character motivation gaps, and punctuation and grammar errors. This can take several days or several weeks of reading and rewriting. And I hate to admit it, but yes, I find a ton of errors.

2) Next I have a couple of  people, whose opinions I value, read through the manuscript. This is invaluable. They can see things that I've missed and help me firm up my story.

3) Once I've made the corrections my friends have suggested and that I agree with, I read the manuscript once again. Believe it or not, I still catch typos.

Following this process I've had much better luck selling a manuscript. Like waiting for rhubarb to age, it takes a lot of patience to finish a good, solid manuscript.

But it's so worth the extra effort.

What is your process of making your manuscript shine before sending it out into the world?



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pioneers, Family History, and Writing?

Pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley

July 24th is a big deal in Utah. It's Pioneer Day, the day we celebrate the pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. Their journey started in Nauvoo, Illinois and ended in Salt Lake City.

And it wasn't just one group of people. Between 1847 and 1868 over 300 companies made the same trek, though not all came from Nauvoo. Some came from places like England, Italy, and various other locations. But they all crossed the plains and hiked over mountains. Many lost their lives.

Each pioneer had an amazing story to tell once their journey was through. For example here's an amazing story of courage.

Imagine being a descendent of such brave people.

What if you are and you don't know it?

As I grew up, I remember watching my mother work on family history. That was back in the good-old-days before computers. She spent hours and hours researching, writing letters, and gathering names. She was able to trace our family tree back to the 1700 century. And she found some inspiring stories that she was able to pass on to our family.

Today it's much easier to research your family tree. Family Search makes it very easy. And here's the thing, the stories you find can help inspire your fiction writing as well.

Researching family history can be rich with events that you can fictionalize and use in your writing. The added bonus are the characters you find. You can use character traits, flaws, occupations . . . the options are many.

A word of warning: make sure no one will recognize you're using "Uncle Harry" or whomever you choose. Just pick character traits from several different people to create your own fictional character. (I know you know that, but I just wanted to make sure.)

The point is . . . researching your family tree can be very rewarding on many levels.

 Do you have an ancestor you'd like to write about?
And if so, what appeals to you about their story?

Below is a tribute to the Mormon Pioneers.


Have a great week.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Making/Writing a Cake/Story from Scratch

I like a challenge, so last Saturday I decided to try and make an Angel Food Cake from scratch.

I did my homework and found a wonderful recipe in Cook's Country magazine. I have subscriptions to several cooking magazines. I love to read about wonderful food and see how it's made. Do I cook all the recipes I like? Sadly, no. But every once in a while a recipe catches my eye, which was the case of the Angel Food Cake.

After collecting all the ingredients, I whisked the flour and salt together, processed the sugar in a food processor, aerated flour and sugar, whipped the egg whites to soft mounds, folded the flour into the egg whites, and then carefully put it in the pan to bake. And this is important, the pan was not to be grease. It was a special tube pan for Angel Food Cake.

Guess what? To my surprise the cake tasted wonderful. There's a world of difference between cake made from scratch and cake bought at the store.

Now looking at key steps in making a cake from scratch, we can use a few of them to help write a novel from scratch.

Whisk the characters . . . 
You need several different types of characters in a novel for instance: hero/heroine, reflection character, villain, and romantic character. Each character needs to be fully developed. the hero should have a friend (reflection character) and their relationship should be well established (whisked together). Your main character will have a character arch in the course of the novel. The process of layering information about your main character's attributes throughout the novel is all about timing. When would be the best time for key elements to be revealed? At what stage will your main character learn certain things? Your character's identity is in the process of growing as the story enfolds until the main character is able to realize his full potential.

Whip the story . . .
The plot of your story needs to move in a linear fashion. It needs to make sense and flow naturally. Be careful and don't put the cart before the horse. Use logic. Map out your plot so you can see that as the story grows so is the tension and conflict. Your job is to keep your reader reading so load your book with as many hooks as you can.Keep the tension whipped up.

Fold together characters and plot carefully . . .
Remember your main character's arch is growing along with your plot arch. They should peak close together or even at the same time as the climax of your story. So fold characters and plot carefully together.

Writing a novel from scratch is a lot of hard work, but so worth the effort. Sure you could use stereo-typical characters you've seen in other novels, but they will read like store-bought cake tastes. And you don't want that. You want your characters and your plot to be original. You want them made from scratch by you.

Do you like to make cake from scratch?
Do you like to write from scratch?
What has been you biggest success . . . cake/story?


Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Lake, the Moon, Lizziebear, and a Book Review.

I haven't posted on my blog for a while. Hubby and I went to Bear Lake for our anniversary. It's beautiful up there and the raspberry shakes are to die for.

For the 4th of July holiday we attended Glenn Beck's Man in the Moon event. I was extremely fortunate to have met him and have my picture taken.

And then the next day I met David Barton. His knowledge of the Founding Fathers is amazing.

 The main event happened on Saturday. We were worried that it might not take place because it rained and rained, but look what happened just before showtime. A double rainbow appeared.

And so the show went on. And what an experience! I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I came away grateful for all who have done so much for our country.

So this last week has been all about my little Yorkie, Lizziebear.

She had to have a mastectomy, which was very scary, but I have to tell you, she came through the surgery and is doing so much better. What a relief!

And then last Sunday I received a wonderful surprise. A review of my new novel, Wanted appeared in the Deseret News . . . and the reviewer liked it. Sweet!!!  If you'd like to read the entire article you can check it out by clicking here.

I hope you have been having a great summer full of all the fun things you like to do.


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