More NaNoWriMo Tips

Here are a few more links to NaNoWriMo Tips.

Just don't get so involved in reading about tips that you forget to prepare yourself for the WRITING EVENT OF THE YEAR!

Found other tips that you think are awesome? Put a link to the site in the comments.


NaNoWriMo: Plot and Conflict by Danyelle Ferguson

The count down is on. One week left before your sprint to 50K begins. Are you ready?

If you're like me, then the answer is, well, not quite.

You see, I've been going through my story files and it's taken forever to narrow the choices down to THE ONE. But now that I have THE ONE, I'm looking at it and all I have is a blurb about the main character and a couple of scene ideas. Which means I'm so not ready for NaNoWriMo.

What to do? What to do?

The answer: PLOT & CONFLICT

To succeed at NaNoWriMo, you need to have at least a general outline of the book's plot. Just to know where the story is going. This outline is not set in stone. In fact, it will probably take some twists and turns you weren't expecting as you write and get to know your characters better. But believe me, that general outline is a life saver when you're getting ready for a word sprint, but you aren't sure where the next scene needs to lead you.

I did some Googling and found some excellent resources to develop plots for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Plot Development and Profile Worksheets, Visualizing Collage and More by Iconclastic Writer
  • This blog post has AWESOME worksheets you can download for free. Isn't free such a happy word?
Tools to Help You Plot Your NaNoWriMo Novel by Jennifer Blanchard @ Procrastinating Writers
  • On this blog post, you'll find a bunch of different plotting techniques, including using index cards & the fabulous Larry Brooks Story Structure series.

Now, on to conflict - the wonderful device that drives your story. This is when you call up your writers group and host a brainstorming session. Write down gobs of conflict ideas - both internal and external. Josi Kilpack once said (and I'm totally paraphrasing & adding some of my own words - but it's her concept) that you need to put your character up in a tree. You start off by throwing rocks at him, then even bigger rocks, until you bring in a catapult and launch boulders at the poor sucker. Bring in the soldiers and shoot arrows at the dude. And just when you think he might surrender - set the tree on fire!

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict.

That is what you need to keep your story moving, flowing, and interesting. And if you need some inspiration, check out this sweet little puppy.

Now, I need to get moving on my plot outline and call some friends to set up a brainstorming session. How's your plotting going? Are you ready?

Danyelle Ferguson is the author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ. She's also a public speaker to churches and disability groups, freelance editor and book reviewer. She lives in Kansas with her hubby and four angels-in-training. For more information, you can check out her blog (www.QueenOfTheClan.com) or her website (www.DanyelleFerguson.com).


Let's Go NaNo!

I decided to turn this into a NaNo week—all week long.

Why? Because as I've said a bazillion and a half times over the past 5 years, if you want to be a writer, you have to write! And NaNo is a great way to do it.

Have you signed up yet? No? Well, let's do it together.

  1. Go here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

  2. Click the Sign Up link & enter your information.

  3. Under My NaNoWriMo, click on each of the links. Set up your account, author and novel info. Set your region, so you can get info on live events near you.

  4. Then go here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/webbadges and get yourself a web badge. Put it on your blog, website, facebook page or wherever you have an online presence. (See? Mine is already on my sidebar.)

  5. Hopefully, they'll have the Writing Buddies page live soon. When it's ready, go find your friends. (Leave your NaNo name in the comments trail so we can all be friends.)

  6. Then spend this week getting ready. (Read these posts by Danyelle Ferguson)


NaNoWriMo: What's Your Goal? by Danyelle Ferguson

[Stepping up the NaNoWriMo posts because it starts in a week! Sign up HERE.]

I love National Novel Writing Month. It's a great way to kick your tush into gear and challenge yourself. The traditional goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

But what if you already know life isn't going to cooperate so you can achieve it. Does that mean you should just ditch the challenge all together?

No way!

Set a goal that works for YOU.

If something major is happening that will require the majority of your time and attention, then adjust your word count goal. Maybe it will be to hit 25K. Setting a goal and putting a word counter on your computer desktop, blog or website, will motivate you to take 30 minutes to get out a couple hundred words. If you do that four times a day, you could average 800-1,000 words a day. Multiply that by 30 and you've reached your goal! If that still sounds like too much, then adjust the word count.

If you don't set a goal, then you may put your writing aside for the whole month. Give yourself the opportunity to take on the challenge.

What if you just finished another manuscript and don't have another one plotted out yet?

Well, you have two options: 1. You've got about 10 days to do some plotting and brainstorming, then just jump in and see where it leads you, or 2. You can set your goal to edit, rather than write. That's perfectly fine.

The important thing about National Novel Writing Month is to be working on your novel. Whatever stage your in, set a goal to give you a kick in the pants.

So, what's your goal for NaNoWriMo?

Danyelle Ferguson is the author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ. She's also a public speaker to churches and disability groups, freelance editor and book reviewer. She lives in Kansas with her hubby and four angels-in-training. For more information, you can check out her blog (www.QueenOfTheClan.com) or her website (www.DanyelleFerguson.com).


About the Book of Mormon Stories...

I've got some bad news...

First a bit of explanation. I was clear across the country from my PC when some of you informed me you had not received the critiques on your Book of Mormon short stories. I got back to my PC the first week of this month and I immediately looked for the files.

They weren't where I thought they would be. I continued to search to no avail. Then I remembered—and realized they were probably casualties in the great computer crash of Spring 2011. I went back through my offline storage files, but they weren't there either. The only thing I can think is that I moved them from my main computer to the PC and the crash happened before my weekly back-up.

Unfortunately, the score sheets and line edits are probably lost forever.

However, I was able to recover the file where I gave each story a score of 1-5 and a brief summary of my thoughts. I will send that info to those of you who've requested it. I know it's not the same but it's the best I can do—and I sincerely apologize for both the delay and the lack of in-depth feedback.


Prepping Your Family for NaNoWriMo by Danyelle Ferguson

I consulted with my hubby, John (aka John Waverly), before writing this post. You see, last year he was the one who picked up the slack and took care of our family while I wrote like mad. He had some very good points that NaNoWriMo participants and their families should consider before November 1st hits.

Be Realistic

If you already schedule 4-5 hours a day for your writing, then you can probably stop reading this post right now. But if you're like the majority of writers out there, your writing time is probably more sporadic. Achieving your NaNoWriMo goal of 50K in 30 days takes a commitment equivalent to adding a part-time job into your schedule.

Think about it: If you write an average of 500 words an hour, then it will take 100 hours to hit 50K. But wait! We need to add in time for writers block, brainstorming, and, if you attend any write-ins, potty breaks and socializing. Let's say that's about another 20 hours of time. So now we're at 120 hours to achieve your NaNoWriMo goal. Which equals a 4 hour time commitment every day. Now me, I don't write on Sundays. I leave that day for church and family, which is especially important when I'm cramming so much writing time in the rest of the week. I try to write about 6 hours a day during NaNoWriMo.

Reprioritize Your Schedule

If you already work a full-time job - and face it, we all do no matter whether it's inside or outside the home - then you, personally, need to be willing to give up a lot during those 30 days.

  • No TV
  • No books
  • Cut back on the gym
  • Take the month off from volunteering at kids' schools
  • Postpone any Girls or Guys Night Outs
  • No movies (yes, this includes the next Twilight movie. Trust me, it will still be playing two weeks after the release)

You'll find a good chunk of writing time just by doing this. But it's still going to take more. And any free time you do have, should definitely be spent with your family and helping around the house.

Get Your Family on Board

During the writing challenge, you'll spend a lot less time with your family. The further you get into the month, the more tired, frustrated, and emotional your spouse will get. Trust me, I know. My hubby is THE most supportive writer's spouse I have ever met. Last year, I started out November by hosting a writers retreat out-of-state. I was gone for a week. Then the rest of the month, I went to write-ins 3 times a week and had online write-ins the other nights - not to mention the writing I did during the day. I slacked on laundry, have a very dim recollection of helping clean, and it was a happy day if I remembered to put in a meal in the crock pot. By the time the 20th hit, he was totally read for November to be over. Here's how we survived without getting a divorce. =)

Before NaNoWriMo kicks-off, sit down with your spouse to go over both of your schedules together. Keep in mind that you don't get to take over the schedule just cause it's NaNoWriMo. Your spouse has commitments, too, and needs support as well. My hubby is the Cub Scout Master for our church. Each month he plans a pack meeting, hosts a committee meeting, and has a district meeting to attend. I made sure to be home to take care of the munchkins so he could fulfill those important commitments.

Both of you need to come prepared with lists of activities. For you, that will be regional write ins you want to attend, work schedules, and commitments you can't cancel. You'll need a list of activities for your kids and your spouse, too. Now figure out how you can juggle home and family responsibilities in a way that's agreeable for you and your spouse. Be sure to plan time for family time and work out a meal schedule. Our family budgeted extra money to eat out. Each week, we planned two crock pot meals, ate out twice, had two left-overs/whatever nights, and made pancakes each Sunday for dinner. We tried to make things as simple as possible to keep stress levels down.

If you have older kids, get them in on the meeting too.They are much better with schedule changes when they've been in on the decision making and are more willing to help out with extra chores. Usually. If the moon and the stars all align just right . . . or if you provide the right incentives. Which brings me to the best part . . .

Set Goals & Rewards

No one wants to mess up their happy routine, but they'll grin and bear it for someone they love . . . especially if you create rewards that include your spouse and kids.

Pull together a family meeting and together set rewards for when you hit certain word count goals. For example, when you hit 10K host a root beer float party. Might I also suggest that when you hit the halfway point (25K), that you let you kids have a movie & popcorn night while you take your spouse out on a celebratory date night. Both of you take a break - no talking about writing or schedules, just a night of fun and laughter. And of course, there's the big pay off when you hit 50K. Plan something that your family loves, but doesn't get to do very often. Maybe it's a night at the movies, a new family Wii game, or taking a weekend vacation. Make NaNoWriMo as fun for your family as possible.

The Most Important Things

Communication is key. Talk often with your spouse and munchkins. Express your appreciation for their support. If someone is stressed out or upset, be willing to set aside your writing for a few minutes and let them vent. Give them hugs. When things are settled again, get back to work. Nothing is more important than your family, but your family can accomplish anything when they work together.

Danyelle Ferguson is the author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ. She's also a public speaker to churches and disability groups, freelance editor and book reviewer. She lives in Kansas with her hubby and four angels-in-training. For more information, you can check out her blog (www.QueenOfTheClan.com) or her website (www.DanyelleFerguson.com).


Facebook Ads

Do you think it's worth it to place an ad on Facebook?

Readers, I'm going to need some help on this one.

I don't really know a lot about Facebook or Facebook ads. As anyone who is my friend already knows (and if you aren't my friend, come friend me), I had someone set my account up to include my posts there automatically. I try to log in every couple of weeks and see what's going on, but I don't usually post anything. So my advice is do what I say and not what I do.

Every author should have a Facebook Page, which is different that a basic account or a group. My understanding is that it allows you to have more friends, a vanity URL, and the ability to use fancy promo widgets. Make sure you have images of your books, links to your website and blog, and other info. Remember, this is a page for fans, so think before you post things.

As to Facebook ads, anybody out there try one? Did you feel it was successful?

(P.S. If you are Facebook savvy and you'd like to do a guest post here on setting up and using Facebook fan pages as a marketing tool, PLEASE, read this and send me an e-mail.)


Writing Devices by Rebecca Talley

You can change the feeling of your writing by employing some writing devices.

For example, if you are writing a tense scene where the protagonist is being threatened, short, choppy sentences will enhance the feeling you’re trying to create. Fast-paced scenes need shorter sentences to convey that quick movement. Think of a quickened heartbeat and you get the idea of how your sentences should be constructed.

Conversely, if you’re writing a love scene you’ll want to have longer, more flowing sentences to add to the romantic feel of the passage. Draw the scene out by using more words, even flowery descriptions, to communicate a sense of love and romance.

Other writing devices include:

Alliteration: using several words with the same beginning sound/letter. Example: “Across the arid Arizona desert she argued with herself for allowing him to confuse her again.”

Onomatopoeia: the word consists of the sound it makes. Example: “I heard the whoosh of the water a moment before it hit me.”

Anaphora: using the same word or phrase to begin three or more consecutive sentences. Example: “He knew she loved him. He knew she couldn’t live without him. He knew it was only a matter of time and she’d be his.”

Asyndeton: when using a list of three or more items, omit the conjunctions. Example: “I was happy, jubilant, carefree, innocent.”

Polysyndeton: using conjunctions, such as “and” or “or,” multiple times in a sentence. Example: “She talked on and on and on.”

Epistrophe: using a key word or phrase at the end of successive sentences. Example: “She opened the front door, afraid he might be there. She tiptoed to the bedroom, afraid he might be there. She checked the basement, afraid he might be there.”

After you’ve written your first draft and it’s time to edit, you may want to include some of these writing techniques to enhance your writing.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, CA. She now lives in rural CO on a small ranch with a dog, a spoiled horse, too many cats, and a herd of goats. She and her husband, Del, are the proud parents of ten multi-talented and wildly-creative children. Rebecca is the author of a children's picture book "Grasshopper Pie" (WindRiver 2003), three novels, "Heaven Scent" (CFI 2008), "Altared Plans" (CFI 2009), and "The Upside of Down" (CFI 2011), and numerous magazine stories and articles. You can visit her blog at www.rebeccatalleywrites.blogspot.com.


Did You Just Call Me a Dinosaur?!?

I am an LDS author who announced last year I would embrace the new eBook phenomenon and self-publish 12 Books in 12 months (#11 is due for release June 1st)
With traditional publishing going the way of the dinosaur (if they won't agree to a massive makeover) how does this affect you and your work?

Did I answer this question already? It seems familiar but it was still in my questions folder. So if this is a repeat, sorry.

First, good for you! I'm glad you're meeting your goals.

Second, as I've said before, and I will now repeat, the biggest issue I have with self-publishing and cranking out those e-books is the lack of quality control—particularly in the areas of editing, book production, and targeted promotion and marketing.

It's really hard for me to believe that someone can write and publish a book in one month, twelve months in a row, and have the end result be a quality reading experience. I'm willing to be wrong on that, but I seriously doubt that I am.

I don't believe traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur, nor do I believe it needs a "massive" makeover. Yes, there are definitely things that need to change to keep up with technology and consumer expectations. But a savvy publisher is going to be doing this anyway, all the time. None of the big publishing houses are still doing business the way they did back in the early 1900s.

But to say that self-publishing and/or ebooks will put publishers out of business implies a basic lack of understanding of what a publisher does. A book is always going to need good editing. It's always going to need someone to design and typeset a visually appealing product. It's always going to need marketing to bookstores and to readers. It's always going to need someone to make the initial monetary investment, create a solid budget, figure out how to recoup the cost, and track all the other numbers that determine the success of a book.

Most of the time, an author succeeds because they are good at writing; they have a talent for stringing words and phrases together to create a captivating story. This is an entirely different skill set than the one a publisher has. In fact, in most publishing houses, there are multiple people, each of which has ONE of the above mentioned skill sets—all of which are required to produce and market a book that will sell well.

It's not that some authors can't do it all. It's that most of them aren't highly skilled in every single aspect of producing a quality end product that will compete with products created by a team of people, each of which is (theoretically) highly skilled in what they do.

And for self-pubs and indies who say, "Well, I hire people to do what I'm not good at..."—then aren't you, in effect, creating a publishing company?

Bottom line, how will it effect me and my work? It doesn't. Not if I'm good at what I do.


NaNoWriMo: It's Time to Step Up and Accept the Challenge by Danyelle Ferguson

It's that time of the year when the air is crisp, roads are lined with a gorgeous flaming foliage, and writers worldwide prepare to be thrust into the hellish adrenaline rush of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo.

30 days of scraping every single spare moment to reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.

What? You think this doesn't sound like that big of a deal? Did you miss my reference to hell?

My friends, we're talking about a brand spanking new manuscript. A novel the writer has done nothing more than (hopefully) plotted out. When November 1st hits, writers everywhere glue their fingers to the keyboard and create the very first sentence that will lead them on a journey to fill over 100 typed pages. 100 pages! When was the last time you heard a student complain because he had to write a 10 page report in three weeks? They are wimps compared to the awesomeness of NaNoWriMo competitors.

But . . . but. . . . but . . .

No excuses! You CAN do this! And over the next few weeks, I'm going to blog about HOW you can reach, conquer, and surpass the NaNoWriMo 50K goal. Now, repeat after me:




Now get your mouse over here and click on this link to sign up for NaNoWriMo!

There are a few important things you need to do while you're on the NaNoWriMo site:

  1. TIME ZONE: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Edit User Settings". It's very important that you set your Time Zone. If you don't set it correctly, it can totally backfire on you. Especially if you're in the final hour of NaNoWriMo and finally hit your 50K goal, then go to verify your win on the official website . . . and you realize you put in your time zone wrong and your account is closed. I know people who've had this happen and it's major, major suckage. So do it now, do it right, and then you can do the Happy Happy Dance and claim all your fabulous prizes at the end of the month.

  2. YOUR REGION: "Set My Home Region". Here you can choose the region closest to you and join. There are a couple of reasons to do this. It's fun to see how many writers are in your area. You can also track how many words your area has written compared to other areas. The best part is your region sets up Write Ins. These are locations where the region captains have talked with businesses, libraries, etc to set up times for NaNoWriMo participants to come together. There's quiet writing time, a bit of socializing and - my favorite part - writing sprints! Last year, my goal was to attend two Write Ins each week - and they were totally worth it!

  3. NOTIFICATIONS: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Set My Notifications". The automatic settings have you unsubscribed to all notifications. I recommend that you subscribe to the Prep Talks, NaNo Videos, and your region emails.

There are some fun things you can do while on your NaNoWriMo account, too. You can fill out your author info, give a blurb about your book, and connect with other Writing Buddies. Towards the end of October, check out the Fun Stuff tab. There you'll find updated badges to post on your blog or website, a word count widget, and other great stuff.

Update from NaNoWriMo website:
Drumroll please.... On October 7 at 10 AM Pacific, we are merging the user databases of the old and new websites in preparation for Monday's launch. (Ten Ten! Fist pump!)

That is a fancy way of saying that if you update your profile, novel info, or user settings after 10 AM Pacific on Friday, your changes won't show up when the site launches on Monday.

So, if you haven't signed up for NaNoWriMo yet, wait until Monday morning. Be sure to put it on your phone's calendar, sticky note attached to your monitor, or whatever works best for you to remember to get it done! =)


Danyelle Ferguson is the author of (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ. She's also a public speaker to churches and disability groups, freelance editor and book reviewer. She lives in Kansas with her hubby and four angels-in-training. For more information, you can check out her blog (www.QueenOfTheClan.com) or her website (www.DanyelleFerguson.com).


How Do I Get a Book Review?

I've self published a book [XYZ for ABC'ers] because there isn't any books in the lds market for this age group. I couldn't get Deseret Book, Covenant Comm or Cedar Fort interested in my manuscript because they said the niche was too small. Any suggestions on how to get a book review out there in LDS magazines or?

First off, I'd suggest a blog promo tour. (Click here for great tips on doing your own blog tour from Danyelle Ferguson.)

Or you could hire someone to help you set one up. (Another regular guest blogger here, Tristi Pinkston, coordinates virtual book tours.)

If you do it on your own, first set a budget. You'll need to send out review packets which should contain a copy of your book AND a press kit. Determine how much it will cost you to create and ship each packet and the number of reviewers you can afford to send it to.

Then, make a list. Include both LDS print magazines (Google: LDS magazines) and LDS bloggers who do book reviews (Google: LDS book reviewers). Go to their websites, particularly their information pages, and see if they review LDS non-fiction. Read some of their reviews to see if you like their style. Read their guidelines for submitting a book for review. (It seems like I'm giving the same advice to everyone this week.)

Find magazines that have a wide distribution and review blogs that have high traffic and hit counts. Cross off any reviewer who expects you to pay for the review or who requires you to run an ad. Then sort your list in the order of preference. You're looking for reviewers who do an in-depth review, who are honest and fair, and who seem predisposed to enjoy the type of book you've written. (For example, if they only review fiction, your non-fiction book might not be a good match for them. Or if you write fantasy, don't send your book to someone who has never given a fantasy book a positive review.) Once you've got a good list, you're almost ready to go.


Send an email to the magazine/blogger first. The email should be a customized version of your cover letter (as described here). Ask if they'd be interested in reviewing your book. Ask about their review schedule—if they can't get to your book for six months, they're not a good option. For bloggers, you can give them a time frame of when you'd like the review to post.

Once the reviewer has said they're interested and they have the time to review your book on your schedule, THEN mail the packet. Follow up in a week to make sure they got it.

One very important note about asking for reviews: Do not assume you'll get a glowing review. You might—and if you've done your homework well, you've stacked the deck in your favor. But, no matter what the review, do not argue with it. Do not fight. Do not leave nasty comments on the blog or send mean emails. After the review prints/posts, simply thank the reviewer for their time. If it's a print magazine, send them a nice thank you note in the mail. If it's a blogger, leave a nice thank you comment on the review post.

Readers, other ideas or advice?


Where Do I Submit a Story with a Taboo Topic?

I have just finished writing a book about the true story of placing my baby for adoption. I wrote it hoping to go through an LDS publisher, and it's completely clean and has many spiritual aspects. I still wonder if LDS publishers would find the topic of teen pregnancy too taboo, even though it sends a great, positive message. What do you think?

Another reader asked:

I am currently preparing a proposal for a Book I am writing about conversations with Heavenly Mother. It is the first of it's kind that I know of. Any suggestions?

Both of these topics deal with what might be called "taboo topics."

What do I think? I whole-heartedly agree with Brigham Young who said:

Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed and how to shun it. (I don't have the exact reference for this. If you do, please leave it in the comments.)

I think this also applies to literature. Personally, I don't think any subject should be taboo—in and of itself. If it's happening out in the world, there will be members of our Church dealing with it on some level, great or small. If members of the Church are thinking about it or dealing with it, then they would probably appreciate a book on the topic.

How it's handled, however, is where I draw lines.

If a story is well-written, avoids use of things that would be offensive to most LDS readers (like gratuitous violence and language or detailed intimacy), and the main message supports the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I'm good with it.

Unfortunately, not all LDS publishers are open to "difficult" or "unusual" topics. While individuals within the company may fully support books that deal with these tougher themes, the powers-that-be may feel the company reputation would be damaged by delving too deeply into the ways of the world or topics that aren't quite middle-of-the-road-Mormonism.

If the big three (Deseret Book, Covenant, Cedar Fort) reject you, you'll need to search a little harder to find a publisher who is willing to push the line a bit. They do exist.

I'm giving you the same advice that I gave on Monday. Make a list of LDS publishers. (I have a partial list here but no info or links yet, sorry.) Go to their websites and look at the books they publish. Have any of those books addressed themes similar to yours? Do they say in their submission guidelines that they're willing to consider and/or actively seek books that address your topic or theme? These would definitely be publishers who would consider your book.


And Speaking of Jamie Ford...

You remember Jamie Ford, right? The LDS author whose book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a 2009 Whitney Finalist and who was featured as a question on Jeopardy?

I was catching up on posts over on Pub Rants and found a link to this in the sidebar. I thought it might be fun for you to see the query letter and comments that caught the eye of his agent, Kristen Nelson.

(Above the *** by LDS Publisher)


(Below the *** stolen from Pub Rants, a blog by literary agent Kristen Nelson. )

Jamie Ford’s Query for

As promised and with Jamie’s permission, here is the query he sent me for his manuscript which was originally entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL.

For me, that title didn’t really capture the essence of the manuscript so we spent a lot of time kicking around alternatives before we went out on submission. It was quite a process but after sharing several forerunner titles with a variety of reliable sources, we agreed to HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.

One of the fun things about this submission is that many editors loved the title and couldn’t imagine the novel being called anything else.

That means we did a good job. Random House hasn’t mentioned changing it so as far as we know, this will be the title for the book.

Dear Ms. Nelson:

I must admit I hate Asian stereotypes. You know the ones. Good at math. Hardworking. We all look alike. Come to think of it, that last one might hold water. After all, my father once wore a button that read “I am Chinese,” while growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown during WWII. It was the only thing that separated him from the Japanese, at least in the eyes of his Caucasian neighbors.

Sad, but true. Which is probably why my novel has a little to do with that particular piece of history.

I was really caught by his personal connection to the history he plans to explore. I've never heard of the "I am Chinese" buttons, which is kind of fascinating.

Anyway, the working title is The Panama Hotel, and when people ask me what the heck it’s all about I usually tell them this:
“It’s the story of the Japanese internment in Seattle, seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old Chinese boy, who is sent to an all-white private school, where he falls in love with a 12-year-old Japanese girl.”

I've never seen a novel about a Chinese boy falling in love with a Japanese girl during such a volatile time period. I have to say that I was pretty much hooked by this story concept. Simple but there's a lot of weight behind it. I did happen to know that the Chinese and the Japanese had long been at war before the advent of WWII so I knew of the general animosity between the countries--but I knew nothing of how that might have played out on American soil.

Click here to read the rest of the query letter and Kristen Nelson's thoughts about it.


Is There a Market for LDS Reference/Study Guides?

Hello. Thanks for creating your blog. I just have a few quick questions. I've put together an [XYZ] reference guide. It's for [a certain area of study] and has about 45,000 entries, in an [particular] format. Is there still a market for [this type of] reference book, and which LDS publishing companies would you recommend?

Yes! I think there will always be a market for LDS reference and study guides.

What you need, however, is a twist—something unique that sets your book off from those already published. What you need is a reason why someone would buy yours, as opposed to the ones produced by the Church itself, or those written by noted LDS scholars.

  • Is your guide perfect for children or teens?

  • Is it extra easy to understand?

  • Does it include something the other guides don't?

The format you described (which I deleted to keep it private) may be enough of a difference to give it a selling point.

As for choosing a publisher, make a list of LDS publishers. (I have a partial list here but no info or links yet, sorry.) Go to their websites and see if they sell similar items. Look at their submission guidelines and see if they're interested in reference books or study guides. Then custom tailor your query so that it clearly states why your product is compatible with, yet unique from, their existing products.


November Is For Nano

NaNoWriMo starts next month and I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE every single writer or writer-wanna-be to participate on some level.

What is NaNoWriMo? "National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30." (Read more)

Every year, I sign up to do NaNo. Every year, I fail to reach the 50,000 word count. So why do I keep doing it?

Because every year, I get a little further along in one of my WIPs. And I write more words in the month of November than in any other month of the year.

This year, I decided I needed to plan ahead. I'm starting now to prepare for next month's writing blitz. Every Friday during October, I'll be posting info and guest posts on how to prepare for NaNo, as well as short personal experiences and testimonials from my blog readers. If you have a NaNo story or tip you'd like to share, send me an e-mail.

In the meantime, here are some links to check out:

Official NaNoWriMo site: The place to sign up.

The Official NaNoWroMo 2010 Preparation List: An awesome in-depth, step-by-step list of things to do to be prepared for November 1st!


Is Your Book Really Ready for the Public Eye? (or Your Turn to Tell Me I'm Up in the Night)

I read a lot of books.

And by "a lot," I mean I easily read 100-150 complete books a year (first page to last), and probably twice that in sample chapters, which I then do not finish because I can tell in the first few pages that the book is not my thing.

I have a Kindle, which makes reading so easy. I can carry an entire LIBRARY of books with me wherever I go.

When I got my first Kindle, back when it was newly released and one of the coolest gadgets on the market, eBooks were somewhat limited. It was a frequent experience to go to Amazon looking for a title, only to find it wasn't available for Kindle yet. This was especially true with LDS fiction.

Now, though, eBooks abound and I can often find the digital book available before the print version. eBooks have also become the low-risk way to enter the market for small publishers, indies, and self-publishers.


Well, not always.

What I'm finding (based on a lifetime of reading and years in the publishing industry), is that the easier it is and the less expensive it becomes to produce a book and bring it to market—and let me tell you, compared to the "old days," print-on-demand and eBook production is E.A.S.Y.—the lower the overall quality of that production.

See, if it's going to cost someone $10,000 to produce a title, they are going to make sure it's as close to perfect as they can get it! A manuscript will go through multiple readers before its accepted for publication to make sure it's a viable story and that a reading market exists. It will be read carefully by professionals who edit books on a daily basis, and who are up on what's selling and what's not. It will be edited for content and for grammar, multiple times. Professional artists, graphic designers, and typesetters will be hired to create an appealing cover and interior design, to encourage a browsing reader to pick it up and give it a consideration. And then, before going to press, it will be proofed again. Once it goes to press, those files will be coded for digital readers—usually hand-coded by professionals who know how to customize the code for individual e-readers. The end result is a beautiful product that enhances reader enjoyment.

But, when things get cheap and easy, and a book can be brought to market for $100 or less using print-on-demand and one-size-fits-all eBook coding, an attitude of casualness sometimes creeps into the production process. I'm seeing this attitude most in smaller indie presses and self-publishers. People who have no idea of design try to create their own covers. They "typeset" their books using Microsoft Word, trusting that the grammar and spellcheck will catch their mistakes. (Impossible!) Others hire their aunt who teaches English in high school. (Entirely different skill set.) And they use Smashwords to create their eBooks.

While some authors also have a great eye for design, and Word and Smashwords can be used successfully if you really know what you're doing, and some aunts who teach high school grammar actually have professional editing skills—99%* of the books created this way are never going to reach their full potential. They will end up in people's "books to finish reading someday" pile. And the second book by this same author or small press is going to get a pass.

Yes, yes. I know all your friends are buying your eBook and telling you honestly that they absolutely love it. But think for a minute... Do they really love your book or do they love you? And do their feelings for you color their perception of the book? (If they're human, it will.) Do they have the skill set to accurately assess your writing? Are they mediocre readers who are satisfied with a less-than story? Can they produce something with impeccable grammar and tight writing themselves?

Unless you are getting lots of sales and rave reviews from people who have no idea who you are—they've never met you, don't follow your blog, aren't your friend on Facebook, have never tweeted you, aren't participating in a contest about you or your book, and do not have any other vested interest in your success—then you cannot fully trust the feedback you're getting.

Authors. I'm not saying don't self-publish and I'm not saying don't go with a small indie press. Just please, please, please have your manuscript professionally edited before you offer it up to the public. My heart just breaks with the number of authors I've seen lately who have gone this route and had AWESOME ideas, that just weren't ready to be released to the general public.

And the end result for me? I'm actually purchasing fewer books. Where I used to buy a book with an interesting backliner, feeling that even though I may not love it, it will be a decent read and I can trust I'll get a quality, professional product, now I hesitate. Now, I download the sample chapters on my Kindle and if they don't grab me, that's it.

Readers, are any of you feeling the same way or am I just entirely too picky in my reading habits?

(Feel free to comment anonymously if you like, just be polite)

*Okay, I admit this statistic was pulled out of the air and completely based on personal experience rather than scientific data.


2011 Christmas Story Contest Winners!

Are you ready for the 2011 Christmas Short Story Contest winners???

These winners are guaranteed a spot in the next Christmas collection, to be released in fall of 2012. Other stories from the contest will be included, as well.

So here we go...

And we're starting with a TIE!

Reader's Choice—Published Author Category
Milkshakes and Mittens
by Brenda Anderson


The Two Hundred Forty-fourth Ornament
by Jennifer Ricks

Publisher's Choice—Published Author Category
Third Strike Christmas
by Brian Ricks

Reader's Choice—Unpublished Author Category
Savanna's Christmas Miracles
by Kasey Eyre

Publisher's Choice—Unpublished Author Category
Foreign Exchange
by Teresa Osgood

Congratulations to the winners! You did some good work.

Before I Post the Winners...

I'm done! I've read and evaluated every Christmas story submission, tallied the scores, sent emails to all the authors and I'm ready to post the winners.

(Authors, if you didn't get your emails, let me know ASAP!)

Thank you to everyone who came to the site, read the stories, left comments, and voted. Your honest comments are very important to the authors as it gives them a sense of where they connect with the reader and where they miss. That type of feedback is crucial to learning the craft of writing.

Although the authors have received a score sheet evaluating various aspects of story and a partial line edit on their actual story, I've only posted a brief critique for each story highlighting what I feel are the weakest points. The reason for the limited online critique is it takes a lot of time—up to an hour—to read and evaluate each story. It would double my time were I to include line edits in the actual posts—and honestly, I don't believe anyone but the author will actually go back to those stories to see those evaluations—and they're getting them in a personal email. (If I'm wrong, you're welcome to correct me in the comments and maybe I'll reconsider, but it would require much groveling and begging from multiple readers to change my mind.)

We had a voting issue, but it was resolved to my satisfaction. We were able to determine exactly when the email was sent and discounted all anonymous votes after that time, plus some votes that the author recognized as family, leaving her with 7 counted votes. I believe the winner to have won fair and square.

There was another voting issue that has occurred in every short story contest I've held. Once again, SOME OF YOU DID NOT VOTE FOR YOUR OWN STORY! I just don't get that!!! Did the fact that a story got zero votes effect my critique? No, because I didn't look at those votes until after I made my own evaluation. But still, PEOPLE! Can someone explain that to me????

And lastly, some good news—I now have enough quality stories to do a second Christmas collection. It will be available for the Christmas season of 2012. I still need to go through and make the final determination on which stories will be in the collection. Authors, if you're selected for the new collection, I will email you directly with instructions and a contract—probably some time in January.

Now for the big reveal...


October 2011 Prize Sponsors

Last month's prize winners announced HERE.

Please take a moment to learn more about this month's wonderfully generous sponsors.

The Alias by Mandi Tucker Slack

Jacey Grayson is an average, young, divorced mother struggling to build a new life for her son, Blaze. After a long and difficult divorce, Jacey thinks the worst is over. But when the FBI discloses some disturbing information about her ex-husband, Jacey's life becomes anything but average.

At the risk of losing her identity, her future, and her heart, Jacey and Blaze flee to Utah, hoping to hide and start over once again. But no matter how far she runs or who she pretends to be, her past is always lurking nearby, bringing old fears with it.

*The Alias for Kindle is currently marked down to $3.99

Mandi Tucker Slack: I am the mother of three wonderful children. I grew up in Orangeville, UT, where my dad worked as a coal miner for eighteen years. I love the outdoors and spending time exploring new, exciting places with my family. I was a very imaginative child and that love of imagination carried into my adulthood. I love writing novels, especially romance and suspense.

Visit Mandi at her official website or her blog, Mudrock and Pink Nail Polish. Or send her an email.

The Armor of Light by Karen E. Hoover

Sequel to The Sapphire Flute

Ember has been accepted into the mage academy, but not without cost. She has gained a new enemy whose entire purpose is to destroy all white magic and her along with it. After nearly losing her life in a brutal attack, DeMunth is assigned her guardian, and the keystone he wears, The Armor of Light, begins the transition that will make it a true power.

Kayla has lost most everything of importance to her—the people, the prestige, and all she fought for the past ten years. With nothing left to lose, she continues her search for the birthplace of The Sapphire Flute and the Wolfchild she believes to be its player.

In a showdown full of betrayal and heroic loss, Ember and Kayla finally meet on the battlefield, fighting a war on two fronts—against C'Tan and her people, and the mysterious enemy bent on destroying all magic—the shadow weavers.

Karen E. Hoover has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. Her favorite memory of her dad is the time he spent with Karen on his lap, telling her stories for hours on end. Her dad promised he would have Karen reading on her own by the time she was four years old ... and he did it.

Karen took the gift of words her dad gave her and ran with it. Since then, she's written two novels and reams of poetry. Her head is fairly popping with ideas, so she plans to write until she's ninety-four or maybe even a hundred and four.

Inspiration is found everywhere, but Karen's heart is fueled by her husband and two sons, the Rocky Mountains, her chronic addiction to pens and paper, and the smell of her laser printer in the morning.

The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry

Leigh Tressman has been known as a lot of things – the girl who sings, the girl who sews, Jaron’s little sister, and last year, the girl with cancer. With her body still recovering from the cancer treatments, she’s determined to be independent and convinces her parents to let her follow her overprotective brother, Jaron, to BYU.

With an ever expanding line of young men ready to be in love with her–not to mention physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas–Leigh almost misses the opportunity to be with the man who has been quietly falling in love with her since they met. The Next Door Boys proves that even with (or maybe in spite of) independence, love can be found in comfortable, but delightful places.

Jolene B. Perry: I write almost nothing but love stories. I think it’s because I enjoy my own so much. My husband made a suggestion one day when I mentioned always wanting to write and never taking the time - why don’t you just get an idea down. Just for fun. I did. A few months later I had a whole novel. Wow, I thought. That was pretty awesome. I can write a whole book. The next one went faster. I now get to sit down in front of my computer, live in a story, and call it “work.”

Visit Jolene at her blog or send her an email.

The Outer Edge of Heaven by Jaclyn Hawkes

Montana truly is heavenly. Especially those handsome cowboys.

When her "all-powerful" parents actually choose her future husband, who just happens to be a divorce lawyer named Elroy, Charlie opts out and heads for Big Sky Country. After all, who marries a divorce lawyer? She and her best friend Fo, who have been buddies since the third grade, go to work on his cousin's sprawling ranch in the heart of the Montana Rockies.

She has the time of her life, but her heart may never recover.

Jaclyn M. Hawkes grew up in Utah with 6 sisters, 4 brothers and any number of pets. (It was never boring!) She got a bachelor’s degree, had a career and traveled extensively before settling down to her life’s work of being the mother of four magnificent and sometimes challenging children. She loves shellfish, the out of doors, the youth and hearing her children laugh. She and her fine husband, their family, and their sometimes very large pets, now live in a mountain valley in northern Utah, where it smells like heaven and kids still move sprinkler pipe.

Tangled Hearts by Roseanne Evans Wilkins

Serra Lanning, known as the Chaste Mormon Model Kara Kukaanei, grew up in Salina, Kansas. She is living a lonely life. Her parents have died and her sister, Brooke, hasn't spoken to her in years. When Brooke shows up with her son in tow and asks Serra to watch him while she and her husband go on vacation to France, Serra's whole life is turned upside down.

Serra's decision to hide from Brooke's in-law's create problems she doesn't anticipate. When the tires to her new SUV are slashed, she knows she has more to fear than having her nephew taken.

Roseanne Evans Wilkins: was the second oldest of 9 children, so I grew up in a house full of noisy kids. Craig grew up in a house with just 2 quiet kids. Opposites attract lol. Since I'm the one home, we filled the house with kids. I'd go crazy with silence. Craig manages the noise level by traveling all over the U.S. teaching other adults how to audit.

With 5 kids in sports, I keep busy running them to their practices and games. After hectic days running kids everywhere and taking care of three pre-schoolers, I find quiet time after everyone is in bed to write. I hope you enjoy the results :).

You can visit Roseanne at her blog, Roseanne's Spot.

The Upside of Down by Rebecca Talley

Natalie Drake certainly has her hands full raising a large family, dealing with her difficult mother, and maintaining a relationship with her rebellious teenager. Just when things seem to be going smoothly, she finds out another unexpected surprise—she’s going to have a baby. Faced with so many challenges, Natalie must learn to trust in a plan that isn’t what she imagined and discover that every situation has an upside.

Beloved author Rebecca Talley carefully creates this touching and heartfelt story that is sure to inspire you. With true-to-life characters and situations, The Upside of Down will reignite your faith and remind you of the importance of family.

Rebecca Talley grew up in Santa Barbara, California and now lives on a ranch in Colorado with her amazing husband, 8 of her 10 creative children, horses, goats, and a llama named Tina. She is the author of a children's picture book, Grasshopper Pie. Her stories have been published in Story Friends, Our Little Friend, The Friend, and Stories for Children. Cedar Fort released her YA novel, Heaven Scent, in spring 2008.

Besides writing, Rebecca enjoys eating chocolate by the pound, dancing to disco music while she cleans all the messes that seem to multiply and replenish her house, and contemplating all the craft projects that still need to be completed. You can find Rebecca at www.rebeccatalley.com.

CLICK HERE for details on how to win these books.

CLICK HERE for details on sponsoring the contest.

September 2011 Prize Winners

Here are the randomly selected winners of last month's Comment Contest.

Thanks again to our sponsors. Please take a moment to read their info here.

Double Deceit


Stephanie Humphreys

Winner: Zanna

Commenting on: "09 Chaos at Santa's Shop, Earl's Misadventures"

Hang 'Em High


Tristi Pinkston

Winner: Katie Parker

Commenting on: "Publishing Artwork"

Pumpkin Roll


Josi S. Kilpack

Winner: Thoughtful Reader

Commenting on: "11 Milkshakes and Mittens"

Ribbon of Darkness


Julie Coulter Bellon

Winner: Betsy Love

Commenting on "I'm Really Not Sure How to Answer This..."

To claim your prize, you must e-mail your mailing address to me by Friday, October 7, 2011.

(Unclaimed prizes will be up for grabs later.)

Click here to learn how you can win a copy of one of our sponsoring books.

Click here for details on sponsoring the LDS Publisher blogs.


Voting Is Now Closed

Voting for the Christmas Story Contest is now closed.

You may continue to leave comments on the stories if you like (and feedback is muchly appreciated by the authors), but they will no longer be counted in the voting.

Contest winners will be announced on Tuesday, October 4th.

FYI: I assume that all authors will vote for their own story. (And they should. Because if you don't believe in your story enough to vote for it, why bother submitting?) I also know that spouses, close friends and writers groups may have seen the story in its early stages and recognize it, or they may recognize the voice of the writer. That's why I give everyone TWO votes in each category, to help overcome that natural tendency for bias toward people we like.

One of the stories received some votes that will not be counted. A well-meaning friend who recognized the story sent out an email to other friends, asking them to go vote for this particular story. They did not realize they were breaking the rules. When the author found out, they immediately contacted me about making things right. We will determine to the best of our ability which votes are legit and which are not, and adjust the total votes accordingly.

Authors in the Unpublished category will need to wait for the official announcement to determine if they've won the Reader's Choice award or not.