About five days before the retreat, I got my manuscript back from the editor. There were some comments and boy oh boy did some of them look helpful.
I know that many of my peers rushed to get a rewrite done before meeting with the editor. Not me. Instead I arrived with a list of questions.
If you rush into a rewrite, the changes you make will be mechanical. Done it. Got it. Taken care of it all. You’re just going down the list and checking things off.
I always take my time writing from an editor’s comments. Even if the advice immediately strikes me as on the mark, I take time to mull it over. How will the changes ripple throughout the manuscript? I also think about why the editor asked for a particular change. If I understand why, I can come up with something that not only works but fits well into the whole and doesn’t feel tacked on.
One editor I heard speak at a retreat said that she didn’t want to see anything in less than 4 months. She didn’t care if the manuscript was a picture book or a novel; she wanted us to take the time to make the changes our own and let them ripple throughout the manuscript as a whole.
I’m just home from another wonderful Missouri SCBWI writer’s retreat. After I take a few days and process all that I learned, I’ll be writing up some blog posts to share a few tidbits with all of you.
Until then, here are some basics to keep in mind if you are planning to attend an event.
Be sure to actively participate. Even if it is a writer’s retreat, don’t just lock yourself in your room. Writing is such a solitary business. If there are sessions, participate! Lock yourself in your room during the writing periods.
When you take part in critique sessions, be sure to listen. Every critique group works a bit differently from every other. Listen and get a feel for a how the group leader does things before you jump in.
Have a good time. Part of having a good time at something like this is going into it with a flexible set of expectations. When you do, you’ll be able to take advantage of the opportunities before you.
Yesterday, I shared a few tips on how to break a block and get going on your fiction writing. Today, we’re going to discuss nonfiction.
There are a variety of reasons that I get stuck when I’m writing nonfiction. Generally, it has something to do with getting overwhelmed by my research. Either the topic feels unfocused or I just have too many amazing facts to share. How will I work it all in and get where I need to go?
The first step is focusing on where it is I need to go. What is my goal in writing this piece? While I have that goal in mind, I write it out. Okay, what do I need to do to get there? I make a quick outline. Does what I have written correspond to this outline? It doesn’t have to be exact but I have to be honest enough with myself to see where I am off. That is, after all, how I will get back on track. It is a bit like starting at the end but with the goal in sight I can find my way.
Sometimes I have my goal, but I still feel a bit lost. This often happens when there is just too much information. When that’s the case, I take a moment to consider my goal and my topic. With both of these things in mind, what is the most important thing for my reader to know? What is needed for my reader to understand this? Once I have that in mind, I’m ready to write.
The third and final thing that can bring me to a stop is when I have forgotten to have fun with my topic. In fact, I’ve probably started to sound a bit like an encyclopedia or a college lecture. When that happens, I need to consider what I love about the topic. What is fascinating or surprising? What is more than a little strange? Which of these will appeal to my young reader?
Goal, topic and reader. With these things in sight, I am ready to get back to work on my nonfiction project. Which reminds me. I have chapter 9 to finish.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction or a little bit of both, there are days when the writing just won’t flow. It might have been going great yesterday or you might be at the beginning of a new piece, but right now nothing is happening. The words are stuck. You need to get them going again. How you do that depends on whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.
When I get stuck writing fiction, I reread my most recent paragraphs. Is the voice still on the mark?
If I’ve lost the voice, I go back a few pages and read a section where the voice rang true. Then I open a new file. Yes, you read that right. Open a new file. This will keep you from rereading the bad bits again.
With the new file open in front of you, try to write that section again. Sometimes all I need to do to fix the problem is get the sound of the voice in my ear and quit looking at the bad section. After all, if the voice is wrong, I’m not fixing it, I’m replacing it.
If this fix doesn’t work, then I get out a notebook and leave my desk. Sitting outside or in the living room, I open the notebook and then address a letter to myself. What does my main character need to tell me about the story? What is it that he mosts wants readers to know? What secret hasn’t he told me? What am I missing?
I know. It sounds hokey, but it works for me. This gives me a feel for my character’s voice and the plot and characters in my story. Once I have the letter in hand, I’m once again ready to write.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a few tips on how to get going again when you get stuck writing nonfiction.
If you have a book that is listed on Goodreads, market it by joining the Goodread Author Program. If you have an author listing, a reader who clicks on your by-line will find a list of all of your books. You can post events and videos and even quizes on your topic as well as hold contests. I also have One Writer’s Journey posted on my profile.
Joining is easy. First, sign in to Goodreads. If you aren’t a Goodreads member, you’ll have to register first, If you are, log in and then search for your book.
When you pull it up, you will see your by-line. Click on it.
This takes you to your author profile page. If you aren’t part of the Author Program, this page is going to be pretty scant but you can fix that. Scroll to the bottom and click “is this you? let us know.”
This will let you send a request to join. Easy peasy mac-n-cheesy. They say it takes them a few days to process requests. I think it took one day.
I’ve already removed my birthday from my listing, added a photo of my book cover, and linked my blog into my new profile. There are tons of things that I can do, now I just need to decide what to do next. Any suggestions?
I’m not sure what it says about me but I probably get more excited about the ALA banned books list than I do about the Newbery Awards. Maybe it’s just that with my sense of humor and personality, I could one day have a banned book. The Newbery feels must more remote.
Anyway, the ALA (American Library Association) just put out their list of the most challenged books for 2014. Not surprisingly, there are some old favorites.
1)The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence, and depictions of bullying.
This is one of my favorite books. In fact, I gush so much over it that my son read it for lit class. He highly recommends it because the characters are real. When I asked him to elaborate, he explained that they weren’t too good to be true. “There’s a character for everyone in there.”
2)Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, racially offensive, and graphic depictions.
3)And Tango Makes Threeby Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and promotes the homosexual agenda.
I. Love. This. Book. Of course, I think it is hilarious that three penguins are being accused of promoting anything let alone “the homosexual agenda.” We won’t even go into my view points concerning that phrase — just remember that if I am never banned, it will be surprising. If you haven’t read it, this is a picture book about two adult penguins in a zoo who raise a young penguin. Yes, they are two adult males but this is a book about family and caring, not about sex. And the penguins aren’t at all religious so if you’re an atheist, don’t worry. They won’t offend you with their viewpoint. I’m not sure what religious viewpoint the banners were griping about.
4)The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, and contains controversial issues.
I haven’t read this one but my sister adores this book. It is an adult book, but we assign adult books to teens all the time. Huck Fin. Tom Sawyer. The Grapes of Wrath. All adult books that my son has read in class.
5)It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris. Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and “alleges it child pornography.”
Well, it is a nonfiction book about sex. So, yeah. It’s going to be in there. I love that someone picked this book up and then freaked because it was sex education. That is kind of the point. That’s like ordering halibut in a restaurant and griping because you hate fish.
6)Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
I haven’t read this one but it’s an adult graphic novel. I really do wonder about the anti-family bit since the description reads like interracial Romeo and Juliet in space. So, you know I’ve requested it.
7)The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence.
Again, it is an adult book. We assign them all the time. But it has some pretty hard to handle stuff in it — stuff that we don’t seem to be concerned about weeding out of the real world. Ahem.
8)The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
9)A Stolen Life Jaycee Dugard. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
10)Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Reasons: sexually explicit.
The only objection to this one is that it’s sexually explicit but it is a graphic novel for middle graders. Hmm. Not going to pass judgement without seeing it for myself so I’ve requested this one too.
Here are two opportunities that you might want to examine.
MeeGenius is an app for iPad, Android, and other mobile devices. The stories are for readers ages 2-8 and combine a reader reading the text, illustration and sound. The Acquisition editor, Ashley Fedor, formerly worked at Penguin Books. MeeGenius is looking for stories that are 15-20 pages in length with 20-70 words per page. Writers do not need to provide illustrations. Find out more and submit online here.
I have a piece that I’m considering for MeeGenius. It was accepted by a publisher who then went out of business. Sad, but sad happens. I like that MeeGenius has books that have been published in print by other publishers. And, no, I don’t mean fly-by-night. These books include Frog and Toad, Fancy Nancy and Biscuit. That’s company I’d definitely like to keep.
The other opportunity is with Nickelodeon. Apparently they have a new program, Script First!, to develop new programing. They are looking for scripts that are 3-5 pages long and is a self-supporting story. To be eligible, the script must be original, have relatable characters for the core audience of boys and girls ages 6 to 11, and be something that can be animated. All genres are welcome but it has to be funny. Find out more about this opportunity here. The deadline is May 15, 2015.
That’s it for now. I hope that someone has a manuscript that will work for one of these markets.
I love to research my latest and greatest book topic. Ferreting out treasures is a treat but it is a treat that can get expensive fast. Fortunately, if my topic involves art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made 422 of their books available for free download here at MetPublications. Yes, you can still buy the print copy for many of the titles but you can also download an e-copy for free. Given the fact that my current bibliography is up to 145 and counting, this could mean a huge savings when it comes to ordering books that aren’t available through the library.
The books that immediately caught my eye included:
Al Andalus: the Art of Islamic Spain ($175.00 POD)
Along the Riverbank: Paintings from the CC Wong Family Collection ($100 POD)
The Armored Horse in Europe
The Art of Illumination
The Art of Ancient Egypt
You can either browse the catalog as I did or search by topic or key word. The offerings are diverse including books on a wide range of topics. Take some time to browse and you may find a little not-so-light reading to illuminate your evenings.