One Writer’s Journey

December 5, 2016

Rough Draft: Word Count and Reading Level

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:45 am
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wordpress-923188_1920I have a new contract with Red Line.  This one isn’t for  Abdo but Norwood Press.  The reading level is lower and the book is much shorter than the ones that I write for Abdo.  The elements present in each chapter are also somewhat different.  This means that I’m going to have to make adjustments to how I normally write.  But that’s all part of the business so I’m okay with that.

That said, it is going to be a fairly serious adjustment.  I’ve gotten used to what Abdo wants and can hit close to the word count and the reading level with little adjustment.

So far I have just over half of chapter 1 written for the Norwood Press book.  My first drafts are always something of a hot mess but that’s okay.  I can’t fix it until I have it down.

Each chapter needs to be something like 750 words total.  With slightly over half of the chapter drafted, I have something like 600 words. My first section is WAY too long.  That’s okay.  I’ll cut it back once I have a full draft of the chapter.  First I’ll smooth things out.  Then I’ll print the chapter out and start cutting.  Cutting is always easiest on a hard copy.

Just for fun, I checked the reading level. It is supposed to be 5.5 – 7.0.  I had forgotten so that it could run as high as 7.0 so I panicked a bit when the ATOS test gave it 7.3.  I prefer to be closer to the middle of the range so I’ll play with that once I have the word count right.

Making it shorter may fix part of the reading level issue.  Shorter sentences tend to have a lower reading level.  I’ll also look for complex sentences and simplify them.  Then I’ll take a hard look at the vocabulary.  Some of it I can’t help.  Unfortunately, I have to include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Too bad it wasn’t Yale.

Fortunately, I like playing with this sort of thing.  For me, it’s a game to hone my work to fit a series and an audience with a particular reading level.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish blowing my word count on this chapter so that I can begin fixing it.


December 2, 2016

Voice: Capturing the Specifics

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:53 am
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pick-upI’m 1/2 way through my scene outline for Iron Mountain and I have to admit that I’m getting jazzed.  I really want to get started writing this book!  But I’m going to have to do some work to recapture the voice.

I started another draft of this novel something over a year ago.  I had the perfect voice going.  It’s a bit like my own voice but not entirely.  My son lovingly tells me that I sound like a well educated pirate.  When cornered, almost literally, he explained that I have a tendency to combine grand-dad’s earthy commentary with the vocabulary that comes with a masters.

I don’t want the novel to sound entirely like me.  After all, each book should have its own voice.  So like me but not quite.  I think of it as how a poem sounds when recited by different readers or, as Lee Wind explained in his post, a song sounds when performed by different artists.  The example that Wind gives is “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”  He encourages readers to listen to various versions of the song and note how each artist makes it distinct.  He provides links to Marvin Gaye, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Slits and more.  What is it that makes each performance unique?  Figure that out and you’ve got a grip on voice.

The tricky thing is that I know the voice of this book when I hear it.  It is in the tones and sentence structure of the people I know in southern Missouri.  I heard it in the pages of Winter’s Bone.  I wanted to find it in a TED talk by JD Vance but he’s gone polished and loss that homey edge.  I know it when I hear it.  So as I get ready step into this world, I’ve got to hear it again.  I seem to remember the music in O Brother Where Art Thou nodding in the right direction.

Sounds like I’ve got some listening to do.


December 1, 2016

Twitter: A Game of Roulette

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:20 am
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rouletteSocial media and marketing are two book related things that closely resemble roulette.  You know that there’s a small chance that you may win. You have to believe this or you wouldn’t bother to play.  You place your bet, making the pick you think will be a winner, and then you spin.  Where that bouncing silver ball will land is anyone’s guess.

I’ve been fiddling around with Twitter since some time this summer.  I have an account (@SueBEdwards) and for months I would post about once a week.  I knew that wasn’t enough but between blogging and having an author page on Facebook, the thought of finding enough brilliant articles and blog posts to post more often than that was daunting.

Then someone said something that caught my attention.  People view their Twitter feeds on their phones.  They don’t want to do a lot of lengthy reading.  This is the place for quirky quips and visuals.  Thus the escalation of the selfie.

I’ve taken one selfie in my entire life.  One.  Where to point the camera (aka phone), how to angle my big fat head . . . ack!

But I can do visual.  I’m actually getting pretty handy at snapping photos of other things with my phone.  And I can always visuals online that  draw attention — in a good way, people!  In a good way!

I am now ten days into posting daily images.  I’d love to say that I’ve caught the hang of what will be popular and what won’t.

A post about the SCBWI Winter Reading List (no image) brought 426 impressions (seen by) and 12 engagements (took an action).

“What I’m Reading” plus the cover of Anything but Ordinary Addie by Mara Rockliff with a link to my review brought 218 impressions and 6 engagements.

“What I’m Reading” plus a photo of my reading pile and compliment for my local library system complete with their twitter name, 540 impressions and 15 engagements.

These are my three most popular posts to date in spite of the fact that I once strayed into politics (hot button issue? not necessarily) and once posted about professional gaming.  Given the number of people who game, I thought that would be a hit.  Not so much.

Suffice it to say, that although I see trends — post something you can link to an organization — I am definitely still trying to figure out what will be popular and what won’t.




November 30, 2016

Finally Fall: Writing in the Gray

ginkgo-1804045_1920Here in Missouri we had an unseasonably warm October.  Fall weather would bob into view and then bob away again.  It didn’t settle in until about a week before Thanksgiving.  But now the days are more gray than sunny and we’re getting those fall rains.  Personally, I love the sound of rain on the patio roof.

But I’ve also noticed that after a day or two, I’m not as productive.  I’m a little droopy and just don’t move as fast.  Part of the problem is that this is just a super busy time of year.  No matter how much I get done, there are dozens of things that I still need to do.  It can be overwhelming.  Here are a few tips to keep your spirits up and keep the words flowing.

Get outside.  As long as it isn’t a torrential downpour, spend a few minutes outside.  Weak sun is better than no sun.  And, as my grandmother would have pointed out, you aren’t going to melt.

Get moving.  Yes, you are super busy.  But be sure to take the time to move.  Twice a week, I go to yoga.  I am one of the most frugal people on the planet.  If I pay for yoga, I will go to yoga.  This is different from going to the gym because yoga meets twice a week.  There’s a schedule.  I also use my treadmill and my husband’s rowing machine.  I set a “calories burned goal” six days a week.  I am much more civil when I meet it because it means I’ve had to move.

Turn on the lights.  It gets dark earlier and cloudy days mean the house or office can be gloomy all day long.  Turn on an extra light.  Light a candle.  Put up a strand or two of holiday lights.  I’m not saying add holiday decorating to your to-do list, but make sure you have plenty of light.

As much as I love the sound of rain, too many gray days slow me down.  Fortunately I have a plan for how to deal with it.


November 29, 2016

Advice I Rarely Follow, or Write What You Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:15 am
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guard-1816311_1920Last week, I got a message from a RedLine editorial assistant.  Would I be interested in working on a series about E-sports?

I happened to be on the treadmill when the message came through but I hopped off and ran upstairs.  “E-sports?” I asked my son who was playing CS:GO. (As was explained to me, that stands for Counter Strike: Global Offense.  “It’s an acronym, Mom.”)

Anyway, I bugged the boy.  “E-sports?”  He looked over his shoulder at me.  “What about them?”

“Does that mean FIFA-type games or professional gaming?”

“Professional gaming.  Why?”  I showed him the list of possible topics and he pointed to the first one on the list.  “That would be the best match for you.”  I quickly dashed off a reply and got back on the treadmill.

Write what I know?  I could follow that advice but it would be pretty lean around here.  Instead, I adapt it to write what I’m willing to research.  It doesn’t hurt that I have an enthusiastic gamer in the house.  And I do play a handful of games — mostly various versions of Call of Duty.

I know about gaming as a hobby but professional gaming?  There are tournaments.  You can win prize money.  You can gain sponsors.  I can name a handful of games but that’s about it.  Two days ago I didn’t even know that South Korea is the Hollywood of professional gaming.

How do you proceed when you aren’t writing what you know? With research of course. So far I have 3 sources and 5 pages of notes.  This isn’t a particularly long book — less than 4000 words — but I’m going to need a lot more information.  I have about 6 more online articles to read, 3 print articles from the library and two books to pick up.  Research is, not surprisingly, key.

But just in case I am taken in by a faulty bit of information, I’ve got a consultant lined up.  His grandfather asked if he was getting a consulting fee.  “Nah, but she’ll take me out to dinner.”  Giving birth to your consultant certainly has its benefits.


November 28, 2016

Creating Spot-on Characters

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:29 am
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teens-629046_1920As I do the various bits of prewriting necessary before I start writing Iron Mountain, I’m spending a lot of time noodling over my characters. My story is science fiction but I want me characters to seem real to my young readers.  Here are some tips on how I plan to accomplish this.

Abandon Being Mom.  Most of us who write for teens are not teens ourselves.  I’m actually the Mom of a teen.  Ours is the house where anywhere from 3 to 13 kids may gather on a Saturday.  Suffice it to say that because I’m the Mom on duty, I get in a lot of Mom hours. “Don’t do that, do this and seriously? When did that seem like a good idea?” When I write for teens, I cannot be even a cool mom.  If I can’t put that aside, I’ll sound like a mom.  According to my son, we moms have a distinctive voice.  Hey, he’s the son of a writer.  He also comments on my motive and on subtext.  For my characters to sound like real teens, I have to give them free rein.

Listen In.  I also have to listen to how real teens talk.  Teens today sound different from teens sounded even ten years ago.  They use different phrases.  Not that I want to load my dialogue down with authentic jargon, but I want them to sound real.  The teens in my living room use terms that originated in texts.  I may know what they mean when I see them but hearing them sometimes throws me.

Know How They Differ.  Some things are very different from when I was a teen.  Where we worried about AIDS, that’s a non-issue today.  Yes, it still exists but it isn’t the death sentence it was way back when.  They grew up with high levels of technology.  A microwave oven and VCR were a huge deal when I was a teen.  I helped my father program our first computer.  Now everyone carries their own phones which are essentially mini-computers.  There are sports leagues that don’t involve any kind of ball but instead center on online gaming.

These are some of the things that I have to keep in mind as I create my teen characters.  I’m sure I’ll discover more, but this is where I am today.


November 25, 2016

Holiday Writing: Do You or Don’t You

pumpkin-pie-1041330_1280With Thanksgiving behind us we are heading hard and fast into the holiday season.  Decorating. Shopping. Events and more.  How does a writer find the time to write?

For some of us it isn’t entirely a choice.  This is how I keep the lights on.  I like electricity and water and all the other utilities and food is amazing too.  Since none of this is free, I have to work.  In the past three days I have agreed to write another series book for Red Line. It isn’t nearly as long as the majority of the books that I’ve written for them so I suspect that it will be due before Christmas.  I also just received a rewrite request from e-future in Korea for the early reader that I sent them.  I write to pay the bills and I also write because I have editors who want my work, but even if you are still trying to break in you should keep writing too.  Here are a few tips.

  1.  Decide to write.  I know it sounds goofy but step 1 really is making the decision to do it.  And thinking “I’ll write if I can find the time” is not what I mean.  Decide that you will write.  Set specific goals.
  2. Be realistic.  This is a busy time of year so be realistic about what you can get done.  You may not be able to draft a chapter but what about a page or two?
  3. Train your family.  It may not be easy but if someone interrupts you, send them on their merry way.  Seriously.  My son learned early on that he could come get me “if it is on fire, has stopped breathing or is bleeding.”  Of course that means he didn’t come get me when he knocked the mirror off the wall but no system is perfect.
  4. Do the holiday thing.  Don’t pass over the holiday fun.  After you’ve given yourself time to write, celebrate.  You need to recharge your creative batteries!

Now that I’ve met my writing goal, you’ll have to excuse me. There is Thanksgiving dessert with my name on it.


November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:12 am
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thanksgiving-vintage-1772596_1280For those of you who celebrate, I’d like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  Take the time to recharge your creative battery.

I don’t know if this is just a MidWest thing but our Thanksgiving day tends to stretch into Thanksgiving Weekend.  Thursday, we have dessert with my Dad and dinner with my sister and her family.

Friday (don’t tell anyone), we have no plans.

Saturday we’ll be putting up Christmas decorations at church, going to lunch with the crew, and then cooking our own Thanksgiving dinner.  This is how you deal with it when you are the only people in the larger family who like the traditional dishes.

Sunday after church we will have dinner with my husband’s turkey-despising family.

I will eat.  I will knit. I will hang greenery.  And hopefully I will come back ready to write!  Writing is a career that I love but you definitely need to take a break every now and again so that you have the energy to create.



November 23, 2016

Developing a Story: Do you talk to others about your work or not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:22 am
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space-and-freightI’ve been gathering the material for the story I’m calling Iron Mountain. It is a science fiction novel for teens. Since it hasn’t entirely come into being, I don’t know yet if it is middle grade or young adult. I think it may be young young adult but there is a “thank you but no” love interest.  
Anywho, I’ve been reading up on historic iron mining and noodling over the related ghost town that my character finds. What I had in my head was 100% Earth.  That’s a problem because the story isn’t set on Earth.  Yes, it is an earth-like planet and in fact it was colonized from Earth.  But it has to be different from Earth in notable ways.  Otherwise, I might as well set it ON Earth.
Because of this, I’m rethinking the building material used in the miner’s cabins.  It can’t just be wood or stone.  These people weren’t rich so I’m thinking they patch things with whatever is available.  Since the iron is shipped off planet, that might mean shipping containers.  I brought this up to my husband.
“You mean containers used for the ore?  Or the iron?  They would probably use magnetic containment not containers.  That’s what they’re talking about with asteroid mining.”  Um . . . what?  My husband and I both read science but clearly we read very different things and this is something I’m going to need to read.
But people would need supplies until they get farming and whatever up to speed.  Things from Earth or wherever.
“No one likes to dead head,” says he.  Okay, that might not have been exactly what he said.  Face it, I’m having to puzzle through the “shipping and freight” lingo in addition to asteroid mining.  Goods may be shipped onto the planet but if they use something other than containers for the ore, they aren’t going to want to bring back empty containers.  That means that whatever gets dropped planetside will be “disposable.”  
Normally I don’t discuss my writing with other people when it is at the prewriting stage.  But I’m starting to second guess that decision.  I think I need to pick this man’s brain.  Oh, honey!

November 22, 2016

Plot Planners: Making Writing Advice Your Own

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:44 am

As I write this, I’m still in Chapter 4 of Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer.  One of the things that I was supposed to do way back in the beginning of Chapter 3 was make a plot planner.

A plot planner looks a lot like the graphic for acts and rising tension in a story.  Something like this (see below).


It isn’t really exciting at this point in it’s existence but once again I had to fiddle with what Alderson asked me to do.  If you know me, you probably realize that this is a major part of my personality.  “Do it like that? Why?  Because this would be better.”

Alderson’s instruction would ideally be great for a visual person like me.  Take a 6 foot long piece of paper and draw the line from bottom left to up near top right.  Include two peaks and one valley. Eventually you are going to be adding colored post-its with scene titles/brief descriptions.  Yes!  I could so get into this.

Easy peasy.  I even have a roll of paper I could use.  The problem comes with what to do with said planner.  I do actually have a six-foot stretch of wall in my house.  Actually I have closer to 15 feet of empty wall.  The problem is that it is in the hallway.

Leave a six-foot long piece of paper in the hallway for . . . weeks.  The thing is that I don’t even think the boys would argue with me.  It would just be another strange mom thing.  But broad shoulders would brush against it and away would fly my post it notes.  Then there are those times I get up in the middle of the night and don’t turn on a light because I don’t want to wake anyone up.  On the way to the kitchen and back, I tend to bump into a wall or two.  How long before I ripped the planner?  And I’m sure the cats, God Bless their pointy little heads, would consider it a challenge to grab if anything had the nerve to flutter.

Honestly, I would love to do this the way she describes but it would drive me nuts trying to keep everything in tact.  So once again I am doing it on Adobe Illustrator.

Writing advice is all well and good but don’t expect it all to be a perfect fit as is.  Be ready to mold and shape it to fit your own circumstances.  When you do, you’ll discover a variety of tools that you can use to shape and mold your writing.


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