Putting work aside to resubmit later

“Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age.  Nothing does — except wrinkles.  It’s true, some wines improve with age.  But only if the grapes were good in the first place.” ― Abigail Van Buren

Are you one of those writers who put manuscripts away until later when the market improves?  Waiting for the day when editors are again buying picture books, talking tea pots or problem novels?

We all do this to some extent, putting a manuscript aside when it has earned a certain number of rejections, determined to again try our luck at a later date. And that’s fine.  If the problem in trying to sell it was simply timing.

But before you send your darling back out into the market, give it a good hard read.  Not long ago, I was going through some old files and pulled out several old manuscripts, hand-written on notebook paper.  Were they worth finishing?


They were awful.  Simply.  Awful.  Bad, bad grapes.  From plot to character to story, I had made every mistake known to accomplished writers.

This isn’t to say that everything that won’t sell is absolute trash.  Maybe you need to deepen your characterization.  Fix that plot hole.  Tie up a subplot.  Or take your setting from general to specific.  After all, it is almost certain that your writing has changed and grown since you set this piece aside.  Take a look at it and see what is what.

You may find that it was as good as fabulous last time and it really was a timing issue.  But you may also find that growth in your craft means that problems you never noticed are not only obvious but fixable.

Why not take a look before you send it out and possibly give yourself a better chance at making the sale?


Characterization through food

Here is another characterization exercises from my workshop.

Daily Bread:

Especially when we write for children, our characters seem to spend an awful lot of time eating.  So put some thought into what your character eats.
It is so easy to simply pick what we consider to be “typical” foods.  Set a story today, and, depending on your character’s background, it would be super easy to have your character eating chicken nuggets or  tofu  turkey.  But why not get a little creative?   My son went through a spell where he constantly wanted a turkey leg.  This was a time when the turkey leg was bigger than his face.  What about a kid who only eats salami and peanut butter sandwiches?
Here are some other food related things to consider:
  • When you give your character a favorite food, think about what it means.  Why is it the favorite?  Are there emotional ties to someone special?
  • What does your character eat in public when she is trying to impress her friends?  How does this compare to what she eats when no one else is home?
  • What is their #1 comfort food?  Why?
  • What meal would they fix for someone special?
  • What is their guilty pleasure?
  • What food is completely and totally disgusting to them even if they have never tried it?  Why?

If your character is from a region that you don’t live in, you have some research to do.  At the very least, look at restaurant menus from that region.  You’d be amazed what you can find online.  If you can, actually visit a restaurant that specializes in cuisine from that region or make a couple of simple recipes at home.  You’ll get a much better feel for what the food is like and you will be able to employ taste, smell and even touch in describing it and have your own first hand experience to strengthen your writing.

Happy sampling!


Some of My Work Online

Want to see some of what has been helping me build my word count  this summer?  Then check out some of my work online.
First, here are two of my prayers that just went up on Prayables.com,
You can also find an additional prayer at the end of each blog post that I develop for the Prayables Team Blog.  My most recent post there is Prayer Isn’t One Size Fits All.
And I have another article up at WOW! Women on Writing.  “Creating Scenes” is in the  July/August issue.

That’s it for now.

Anyone else have anything online where we can see it?


Back up your blog

How much time will it take to resurrect your blog?

Recently I read about a blogger whose account was hacked.  The mischief maker deleted the original content, added content and just generally messed things up.

“I should back up my blog,” I thought.

Unfortunately, I’m not terrifically inclined to figure these things out.  I want it to be easy.

Fortunately, back up your blog is if you have a WordPress blog.  Log in to your blog and then look at the menu on the left hand side of the screen.  Scroll down to Tools.  Click on “Export.”  Select all dates, all content, etc and you will have it all backed up in a matter of seconds.  Literally.  Seconds.  It took me longer to find the “Export” button than it did for the content to be saved.  It is now on my hard drive under Downloads.

I found out how to do this after reading a blog post on Chuck Sambuchino’s blog, Guide to Literary Agents.  He also includes directions on backing up a WordPress.org blog and Live Journal and Blogger.

Why wait until you have a problem?  Back up your content now.

Special thanks to Chuck for giving me the nudge I needed to figure it out.  It was super easy.


Goals: End of July

How did the word count go last week?  I came in just under my goal of 6000 for the week at 5500 words.  Not too bad given the amount of time I spent on research.

  • I have a fairly solid draft of one of the nonfiction picture books done.
  • I also drafted about the first half of a preschool picture book while I was waiting to have an eye exam and pick out new glasses.  Obviously, once they dilated my eyes, I was done writing for several hours.
  • And I got some more prayers written.

There is a lot I hope to get done this week too but I’m not sure I can manage the 6000 words for the week.  More on why in a later post.  But I do hope to:

  • Get  more done on that nonfiction picture book.
  • Finish a draft of the preschool picture book.
  • Maybe do a rewrite on the circus setting picture book that I worked on last month.
  • I may also try to write a bit on my YA idea.  Last night we read part of a middle grade story about Hades.  It included a myth about Hades that I didn’t remember.  I’m going to see if I can find a less modernized version of the myth because it might play into my novel.  Cause I need another active project.

Hope everyone is happy and healthy!


Remember to have fun

Figuring out what went wrong.

“What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it.”
–Mark Twain

I love writing.  Really.  I can’t imagine leaving it behind for any other job in the world.

But there are days that I’m working on something and the going it tough.  It is not, no matter what Twain thinks, FUN and I still need to get it done.  That was the case Monday when I was slogging through a new draft on a picture book project.  S-L-O-G-G-I-N-G.

Slogging occurs for a variety of different reasons.

  1. I hate the topic. Not the case here.  I picked out the topic and STILL love it.  So there.
  2. I’ve taken a wrong turn and am forcing the character to do something out of character. Nope.  Nonfiction with critters and they are all being themselves, snacking on each other and the like.
  3. I haven’t done enough research. Bingo. That was the problem here because I was having to research a bit at a time.  Research to see if I could find enough to make that animal usable.  Make a decision about what animal to feature next (trying to chose a good variety) and then do more research.  Its tough not knowing what is around the next research corner.

How did I rediscover the fun?  I took breaks in my research.  Research one beastie, than write up said beast.  Research the next beast, than write it up.  That seemed to work so much better.

If you find a project to be nothing but drudgery, see if you can find a way to breathe life and fun back into it.  It will show in your writing.


Defining What You Write

Write with a goal in mind.

If you’ve been writing for a while, there are certain questions you get again and again.  “How do you know what you’ve written?” is one of them.

On the face of it, things seem pretty easy.  An essay, a picture book and a young adult novel are remarkably different.   The first two may overlap in that a picture book can be nonfiction as are all essays.  The essay, the picture book and the novel may also share the same topic or theme.  But they are also distinct forms.

Part of knowing what you’ve written is knowing something about the form in which you wish to write.  You learn this by reading.  If you want to write picture books, read picture books.  The same goes for essays, early readers and magazine articles.  But also read about writing them.  You’ll get hints and tips from both authors and editors that will make your work much easier.

When you start writing a new piece, you should have some idea what your goal is.  Sometimes this goal is very well defined.  “I am writing a nonfiction picture book about orangutans in captivity, focusing on a particular ape that was hand raised by keepers.”  Other times it is much more vague.  “I am writing a blog post about visiting the Churchill Memorial.”

Either way, when you are done, you should take a good, hard look at what you’ve written.  It may be what you planned to write, but then again, it may not.

Having written for Prayables, I thought I’d try to expand into other religious markets.  “I’ll write devotionals!”  But every single devotional I’ve tried to write, has turned into an essay.  Every.  Single.  Devotional.   Without.  Exception.

This week, it took me four tries to write my next blog post for Prayables.  Not four drafts of one piece but four different topics altogether.  The first, turned into an essay and not even one for a religious market.  The second could be a blog post, but is probably more of an inspirational article or essay.  I’ll know when it gels a bit more and I can rewrite it.  The third was just a  horrid, preachy failure.

Sometimes you simply have to tell the story and then see what it is.  It took several incarnations for Elaine Marie Alphin’s A Bear for Miguel to settle down as an early reader.  Linda Sue Park thought that See Saw Girl would be a picture book.

Write the story.  But when you are done, take a close look.  You may not end up with what you had expected, but you may end up with something even better.  You simply have to recognize it for what it is and market it accordingly.


Colorful Characterization

This is one of the characterization exercises I gave out in my workshop two weeks ago.


When someone tells us to think about our character and color, we normally consider descriptives (what color is their hair or eyes) and what is their favorite color.
Ho hum.
Very few people dress completely in their favorite color or decorate their homes in their favorite color.   Get more specific with your character’s color preferences and/or how you can use color to tell your reader about your character.
Would there be a difference between how they decorated their home?  Their office?  Think about it.  What colors do they think pe0ple who take them seriously professionally would expect to see?  Now compare this to the colors they actually enjoy.
Be adventuresome, meaning this:  Go beyond your favorite colors.  Actually visit the paint aisle.  Bring home color chips.  Think.
How does your character dress?  If their clothing is new, visit online catalogs and see what colors are available.  What do professional catalogs feature vs casual wear catalogs.
A calm character might go for cool colors — greens, blues and violet.  A vibrant character?  Warms like orange, yellow and red.  Or you can shake it up and have the guy who lights up the room be a Goth in head to toe black.
You can use color to tell us a lot about your character but don’t be afraid to deviate from what is expected.  Surprise us!

Desk Yoga — Part 5

Here is post #5 on Desk Yoga, brought to us by the Yoga Center and HomeMakers.com.   This is on breathing, specifically how to breathe with awareness in order to reduce stress.

This is a little different from the yoga relaxation technique that I learned, but I found the explanation very helpful.

I’m really enjoying this topic, so I’ll look around and see if I can find some more yoga or other health related posts for writers or other desk jockies.


July Goals: Half Way There

After two weeks where I more than met my goals, I guess it isn’t particularly surprising that I didn’t do as good last week.  I totaled 4540 words in 5 days which really isn’t too bad but it is just under 1500 words short of my weekly goal. Will try to do better this week!

I did get two queries submitted so I have one more query to go.  I also got really into one of the nonfiction picture books but made very little progress in terms of the writing.  What I did accomplish was making decisions about the shape of the book which lets me know what I need to finish researching.  I’m hoping to accomplish a lot on that this week.

It would also help if this week could be crisis free — not that last week’s crisis was truly a crisis for anyone but our son (and my bank account).  We found out that he has to get braces.  He was oh so cool in front of the doctor but oh so not cool for me that night.  Still trying to convince him that life as we know it has not come to an end.  When this is a bit further behind me, I’ll probably get an essay out of the experience  (see comment about my poor bank account).

Happy writing all!