One Writer’s Journey

March 22, 2019

E-Books: Why Young Readers Love Them

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:18 am
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I may be the last person on the planet who doesn’t like reading on a screen.  But I don’t.  I think it is simply because I work on a screen and when I relax I want something different.

But I was watching an interview the other day and the person was discussing why so many young readers, especially those who have trouble reading, like e-books.  When the whole class is reading a print book, anyone and everyone can look around and see how quickly or slowly someone reads each page.  Classmates can see if you are only 1/4 of the way through the book when others are nearly done.  This isn’t a problem I would have had but it makes sense.

Young readers who have trouble reading can also select the “read to” feature on many devices.  Then the text is read to them.  My son would have loved this.  He is still a fan of audio books.

A young reader can also use their device to look up a word they don’t know, see where X country is located or check into any number of other facts.  And this is what I would do.

A friend’s granddaughter also has an issue where she can’t read on a white background.  She has to have a light blue background (I think it was light blue).  But it is easy to set this up in an e-reader.  Otherwise she has to remember to take a sheet of blue transparent film to class and read through that.  I find myself wondering how many sheet of blue film are scattered around our city.

Not sure what I’m going to do with this information but it has been rattling around in my head for the last few days.

–SueBE

March 21, 2019

Inspiration to Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:04 am
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Its always interesting to hear from other writers which childhood books/authors inspired them to write themselves.  I had many authors I loved and many books.  Meg Mysteries.  Marguerite Henry.  The first Box Car Children book.  The Little House books.  Marguerite de Angeli’s Jared’s Island.  A book of children’s poetry that included “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.”

But I’m highly visual and I have to wonder if my first steps into this world were based on my love of National Geographic.  My Uncle John and Aunt Mary ordered  National Geographic for my parents for Christmas every single year.  And each month I skulked around the mail box, looking for the magazine to come.

To bad for everyone else if I got to it first.  I’d have it for days.

I love the brightly colored photos of far off places.  I wanted to see all of the animals and the science and the history.  Space, ocean and jungle. It was all mine.

Of course, I also knew that I better get through it before my mom got ahold of it.  Because if there was one “nude,” I would lose access.  My father was much less concerned about this.  He was a school teacher and considered National Geographic educational.

But it wasn’t only National Geographic.  All of my parents plant guides, coffee table books and even cook books. Books about West Texas history.  Books about the buffalo soldiers and old forts.  If there were photos or drawings, I would claim these books as well.

Reading was important and I was an avid reader.  But I was probably drawn into this world first by the brightly colored images in National Geographic.  

–SueBE

March 20, 2019

Shrunken Manuscript: The Nonfiction Proposal

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:35 am
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This week, I decided to try something new in terms of a shrunken manuscript.  I did it with a nonfiction proposal.  I don’t know about you, but when I write a proposal it is easy to get lost in the details.  A friend pointed out that I needed to keep my slant front and center.  I went through my proposal again but wanted to really be certain this time I had it right.  Because I thought it was right before I showed it to my friend.  Thus the shrunken manuscript.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this technique, Darcy Pattison details how to work with a shrunken manuscript in her book Novel Metamorphosis.  In short, you reduce your font and margins, make it single-spaced and get the whole thing on about 30 pages.  That number is pretty flexible.  You want the font to be large enough to read but you want the page count to be small enough that you can stand back and study what you’ve marked up.

Sometimes a shrunken manuscript is used to study your balance of dialogue, action and narrative.  In this case you highlight each in a different color and spread the pages out.  The three should be fairly balanced so if you have pages of narrative with no action, you’ll need to make a change.  The same for huge patches of dialogue with no action or action with no narrative.

This time around I printed out my proposal in six pages.  Then I took a highlighter and marked all of the places where my key terms appeared.   Then I discovered that once I spread out the pages and tried to scan for yellow highlighter it was too hard to see.  I went back over it with greenhigh lighter and tried again.

I’d done a great job working the key terms, and thus emphasizing my slant, in the overview and most of my outline.  I had the appropriate materials in my bibliography. My sample spreads?  Not so great.  So I went through and added a bit more to both my outline and my sample spreads.

If you have questions about how to use work with a shrunken manuscript, look up Darcy’s book or ask here.

–SueBE

March 19, 2019

Questions to Ask an Agent

You might think I’m a stunning conversationalist.  After all, I’ve done dozens and dozens of interviews.  I ask questions.  I listen to answers.  I ask more questions and respond. But I get to plan these interview-based conversations ahead of time.

Yeah.  It makes a huge difference.  That’s why I’m noodling over what I want to ask when I hear from a potential agent.  This is me being positive and when I hear from that agent, I want to be prepared.  Because, if I don’t prepare, when the phone rings, I’ll just sit there like a lizard.  Unblinking.  Still.  I base this observation on past experience.

So I’ve been noodling over the questions I want to ask.  Here is what I have so far.

  1. Do you see yourself as an agent who helps writers develop individual projects?  Or is your goal to help build a career?
  2. What makes you want to represent this manuscript?  Me as a writer?
  3. What publishers do you think will be a good fit for this project? How many publishers do you approach at a time? How long will you try to sell a project?
  4. How do you prefer to communicate?  E-mail?  Phone? How often should I expect to hear from you?
  5. How do you feel about clients doing work-for-hire?
  6. Are you opposed to clients submitting work you have no interest in representing?
  7. When the time comes to revise a manuscript, how do you work on revisions with your writers?  What does your process look like?
  8. How early do you want to be involved in a new project?  During idea generation?  After a solid manuscript has been drafted?
  9. How many manuscripts will you shop around per client at any one time?
  10. What happens if you leave the agency?

So far I have two agents reviewing my work.  I’m looking at others and weighing who would be a good fit.  Hopefully I’ll soon have my work out to a few more.  And then . . . well, I’ve got my questions ready.

–SueBE

March 18, 2019

Be Back Tomorrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:01 am

My apologies for the lack of a post today!  I have a chapter and outline to turn in today, this weekend we celebrated my son’s birthday, and this week is spring break.  Many good things but . . . many things.

I will be back tomorrow.  In the meanwhile, enjoy a good book.  Read something new.  Read an old favorite.

–SueBE

 

March 15, 2019

Why I Keep Multiple Projects Going

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:42 am
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“I don’t know how you can work on so many things at once.  I can only focus on one project at a time.”

Periodically, new writers say something like this to me.  And I admit, I generally have a ridiculous number of things on my weekly to-do list.  Each week, my list takes up two pages in my bulleted journal.  There are blog posts, Facebook posts, and various volunteer efforts.  There’s whatever book I’m contracted to work on at the moment and more.

But this is also how I work around whatever blocks come my way.  I realized this after reading Terry Whalin’s post, “Use the Writer’s Pivot When Stalled.”  As an editor at Morgan James Publishing as well as a writer, Terry often finds himself stalled on a specific task because he is waiting for a phone call, an email or whatever.  Instead of sitting and/or fussing, Terry pivots, moving to a different task.

This describes how I work.  When I get stuck trying to come up with the right phrasing on a picture book spread, I leave it and read research materials for my next contracted book.  Or I write a blog post for later in the week.  Often times the post relates to whatever I’m working on, “The Importance of Playful Words” in a picture book or how much research you have to do to write a nonfiction book.  Can’t string together a sentence?  I walk on the treadmill and watch a video lecture or search for CC0 (creative commons 0/copyright free) images for my blog posts or other graphics I’m working on.

The fact that there is always something on the list that I can do keeps me moving forward and reduces my frustration level.

Research, reading, graphics, and writing.  A variety of items make up my weekly to-do list.  I may only be working on one big writing project at a time, but numerous smaller projects are also on the list and they give me something to work on when I’ve temporarily stalled out on any given task.

I pivot to use Terry Whalin’s term.

–SueBE

March 14, 2019

Titles: Choosing the Right One for Your Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I get Shakespeare’s point but I’m not sure I agree.  Character names and book titles are, unfortunately, important.  Why unfortunately?  Because I’m not all that great at creating titles for my manuscripts.  It is a struggle.

Monday I finished roughing out a humorous picture book manuscript.  As I finished, I looked down at the title.

9 Things to Remember about Surprising Your Mom.  This was the title that popped into my head and inspired the manuscript.  But by the time I was done drafting the manuscript the title no longer fit.  It was still about a surprise and the surprise was still for Mom but . . . no.  I just didn’t work.  I needed a new title.

Cake Is Good. As my teen would say, “Well, duh.”  Cake is good.  And that’s a line out of the manuscript.  But I don’t want the emphasis to be on the cake from the start or it is no surprise what they make for mom.  And since one spread is about debating what to make . . . can’t give it away in the title.

Think, Think, Think.  True, the characters do a lot of thinking especially when one plan or another doesn’t work but . . . not quite.  I wanted something that placed a greater emphasis on what the book is about.

Doing Something for Mom. Ugh.  Boredom would set in from the title alone.  This book is both fun and funny.  This title?  Neither.

Surprise!  Hmm.  That’s what the whole gang yells at the end when they surprise Mom.  While using a line from the book isn’t a bad thing, do I want it to be something from the last spread?

Finally, I settled on Think, Think, Think. As the manuscript stood, the title didn’t quite work.  So I tweaked the manuscript here and there. Think, Think, Think became not only the title but a chorus throughout the book which strengthened one of the themes which in turn created a STEM emphasis.

Not only can the right title help sell your manuscript, it can help shape it.  Sorry, Shakespeare.  I get what you’re saying but finding the right title can be vital.

–SueBE

 

March 13, 2019

F&W Media Filing Chapter 11

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
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Sadness.

If you haven’t seen the news yet, F&W Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 10.  This is the company that annually publishes The Writer’s Market, The Children’s Writer’s Market, The Guide to Literary Agents, and The Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market.  They also publish a wide range of magazines including Writer’s Digest, Popular Woodworking and other hobby magazines.

What a strange feeling.  Back when the majority of my sales were how-tos for other writers, I wrote heavily for Children’s Writer newsletter and regularly sold a piece per year to The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.  But when my editor left, so did steady interest in my work.

I think I’m kind of glad because now I’m not wondering about getting paid.

That said, that allegedly isn’t going to be a problem according to the story in USA Today.

“F+W Media plans to pursue a sale of its assets during the bankruptcy case, CEO Gregory Osberg said in a court filing…

“The company intends to ‘continue to operate the businesses under normal course during the reorganization process,’ he said in a statement.”

For more on the story you can check out this story at Publisher’s Weekly.

I do hope they find someone to take on the writing end of things because Writer’s Digest and the various markets really are assets even now that so much information is available online.  My heart goes out to everyone whose livelihood depends on this company.

Sigh.

–SueBE

March 12, 2019

Characterization and Dialogue: Keeping Things Real

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:57 am
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One of the most fascinating parts of writing fiction is creating characters that sound real in every way.  This means that their dialogue has to sound real and they have to be three-dimensional.

Dialogue can seem false when it is straight forward and oh so linear.  Character A asks a question.  Character B answers it.  Another question. Another straight forward response.  Back and forth again and again.

Zzzzzzz.

No one answers every question that they are asked.  Sometimes it is simply because each person has their own agenda.  One person is trying to have one conversation. Perhaps they are trying to find something out.  The other person also has an agenda.  Perhaps they are tying to get a point across.

Keep that in mind and the conversation might look more like Character A asks a question.  Character B gives a tiny bit of information but segues into something else.  Character A asks more or less the same question.  Character B may give a bit more information but again goes off on their own conversational tangent.

This is, of course, assuming that Character B isn’t intentionally hiding something.  We all have things we don’t want to talk about.  It could be something embarrassing (weight, debt, a bad grade), something we are simply tired of discussing (politics, a health problem, a failure), icky emotions (envy, lust, anger), things we are afraid of (heights, flying, storms), or past failures (losing a job or friend).

If Character A asks about something or comments on something that Character B would rather keep hidden, Character B might . . . dare I say it? . . . actually lie.  All of these things, the things the character wouldn’t want to discuss as well as the failure to always be straight forward, are going to make the character more realistic and more believable.  The dialogue will be less robotic and more realistic as well.

Just a few things that I’m thinking about as I draft my mystery.

–SueBE

March 11, 2019

Adults in childrens books

Recently I read an interesting Twitter thread from David Bowles.  You can read the thread here.

In this thread, Bowles discusses how, when writing middle grade fiction, he needs to give full agency to the child characters and somehow prevent the parents from parenting.  He can make the parents bumbling fools or otherwise do away with them, and all is well.  But if he creates families with well-intentioned adults who do their best to do well by their children, people complain.

The problem, as stated by Bowles, is that he can either write stories with realistic LatinX families or he can get the adults out-of-the-way.  He can create stories in which LatinX readers see themselves and their families represented, or he can get the adults out-of-the-way.

So which is it?  Do we want fictionally absent adults or stories that will cause young readers to think, “That’s my family?”

I have to admit that this is one of the biggest problems I have when trying to write fiction.  My parents were not helicopter parents by any stretch of the imagination but I was expected to solve certain problems for myself.  I was the same way with my son.

Yet, I was involved.  I was a den mother, made almost every swim meet in 5 years, and still host gaming nights for his college crew. But he typed up his own Eagle Scout paperwork and did his own science fair projects and more.

I think that’s part of what I loved about Merci Suarez Changes Gears.  Merci’s parents have to make a living.  They are also having to help care for a parent with Alzheimer’s.  As a parent, I really questioned some of their decisions but I never doubted that they loved their daughter and were working hard to do right by her and everyone else in the family.  It was real.

But Merci had to find ways to solve numerous problems.  She changed and she grew.

Realism vs absent parents.  The choice you make will depend on your story as well as the characters you are working to present to your readers.  But the important thing is that we as writers continue to have that choice to make.

Realism vs absent parents.

–SueBE

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