One Writer’s Journey

June 9, 2017

E-books vs Print

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:24 am
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To more chapters to go on my rewrite, so today’s blog post is another infographic.  This one is from Ebookfriendly and features the top reasons that readers in the UK gave for choosing a print book over an e-book.

I’ve encouraged my son to buy print books next year when he starts college.  Yes, they cost more but I’ve seen studies that show that students process and retain information better if they read it in print vs an e-book.  Yes, e-books are convenient but they don’t engage our brains in quite the same way.

And, as my MIL has pointed out, it is a disaster if you drop your e-reader in the tub!  I also had a good laugh at posing — people who pose with books, “look at what I’m reading.”  Leaving your Kindle on the coffee table doesn’t have quite the same impact as a stack of academic books or several New York Time’s Best Sellers!

Enjoy and I hope to be back to regular posts soon.  Happy writing all!


June 8, 2017

World Reading Habits

As of Wednesday afternoon, I was half way through my rewrite – 4 chapters done and 4 to go.  Woo-hoo!

I took some time off to read a few blogs and found this oh-so interesting info-graphic.  What did I find interesting?  That 40% of American readers read print only.  I have to admit that when it comes to relaxation, I read print and only print.  I work on a screen so I’m not really very interested reading on it.

Then there was the list of best-selling books world-wide.  How many of them have you read?  I’ve read 13 of the 21.  Not bad but there are definitely a few on that list that I should pick up.  Like Don Quixote.

I was also pleasantry surprised to see that books have a larger share of the US media market than games.  Not what I expected, but an oh so pleasant surprise.

Anything on here surprise you?
































































































































































This infographic is courtesy of Brendan Brown of Global English Editing. Visit them online at or on Twitter @geediting.

June 7, 2017

Workman Publishing Expanding

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:06 am
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I love, love, love it when I see news that a publisher is expanding.

Workman, an indie publisher of adult and children’s books is expanding their children’s list.  Although the new hires who are going to help this happen have not yet been named, changes in terns of existing staff have been reported.

  • Daniel Nayeri, director of children’s publishing, was named publisher.
  • Nathalie Le Du moved from senior to executive editor.
  • Justin Krasner, previously an associate editor, is now editor.

I have to admit that I popped over to their children’s list and was immediately a wee bit intimidated — Jamie Lee Curtis.  Seriously.  She can act.  Does she really have to write too?  And do it well?

Ah, well.

Not surprisingly, one of their featured new titles is a STEM book – The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science: 54 All-Star Experiments by Sean Connolly. He has written a number of science books for Workman.  Does that mean there is room for no more?  I don’t think so.  Here’s what publisher Susan Bolotin had to say about the expansion and the editors, sales staff, marketing staff and publicists at Workman:

“Working together, we are redefining the middle school study guide, keeping kids smart all summer long, and making every children’s bookshelf more interesting and lively. And so, it is with great energy and even greater optimism that we are expanding the Workman children’s group.”

Smart books.  Fun books.  If this sounds like your kind of book, check out the submission guidelines on the Workman site.  Also, be sure to read the full article on the expansion.


June 6, 2017

Writing Plans

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
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I had a plan for the week.  In fact, I posted about it yesterday.  I even updated my to-do list and printed it out.

Then I checked my e-mail.  From: My publisher.  Topic:  DAPL, at last.

One month after she told me she would send me the rewrite request, one week before I have another book due, it arrives in my in-box.  Sigh.  No, I’m not complaining about her.  She and I have been chatting back and forth.  This wasn’t her delay.  She was also waiting . . . and waiting . . . I’m just fussy because a perfectly good to-do list was just blown out of the water.

That said, it is important to have a writing plan.  I have a tendency to work with both monthly goals and weekly goals.  The monthly goals cover big picture things like “submit to X agents/month” and also contracted projects.  The weekly goals help me meet the monthly goals. The weekly goals also remind me to do things that have to be done on a weekly rotation (what goes up when, when I have to have X done for my students,  etc.)

Without goals I tend to drift about aimlessly.  I know people who are okay with this but I’m a goal oriented person.  I find it unsettling in the extreme and I don’t mean unsettling in a freeing, creativity inducing kind of way.  It just feels off.

With goals, I get things done.  That said, I clearly need to be flexible.  And with that in mind, I had better get to work.  I have two books due next week!


June 5, 2017

The Rough Draft: Only Step 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:57 am
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Today I am finishing the rough draft of the book on advertising.  Or at least the rough draft of the main body of the book.  I’ve got about half of the back matter roughed but I’m going to let the remainder wait.  Why?  Because the rough draft is only Step #1.

In the rough draft, I cover the material in the outline, leaving no blanks.  I come in as close to the word count as possible.  In fact, sometimes I come in a little low but I do my best not too come in too high.  I also check the reading level and make sure that it is within the correct range.

But it can be hard to judge the flow in the rough draft.  Part of the problem is due to the various components in a chapter.  I have the main text, two sidebars and up to two other features per chapter.  I know that the sidebars and extras fit into the chapter but I don’t know how one chapter flows into the next.

This means that once I have the rough in hand, I print it out and read only the main body of each chapter.  Does one flow into the next?  If not, I make repairs as needed.

Then I go back and make certain that each chapter covers the material listed in the outline.  That’s important because my editor okay’ed the outline.  Although some changes may be required, I don’t want to go too far afield.

Once this is done, I make sure each sidebar or other material expands on the main text.  It can’t repeat it.  And it has to tie into the main subject matter fairly closely.

It sounds like a lot but really this part goes fairly quickly if I’ve done a good job of following my outline.  But this is a great opportunity to tighten what needs to be tightened and then add even more details.  Kids love facts and editors love it when these facts blend well into the main text.

But the rough draft is only the beginning.


June 2, 2017

Parents in Children’s Literature

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:39 am
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Early in my writing career, we used to joke that you definitely did not want to be a parent in a Sharon Creech novel.  Something bad was sure to happen to you to get you out-of-the-way of a great story.

And that’s one of the toughest parts about writing for children and teens.  You have to find a way to work around the character’s parents.  You can’t let them shield the character from whatever is needed to get the story rolling.  You can’t let them say “no, don’t go in there because it seems like a bad idea.”  And you definitely can’t have them solving the story problem.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to bump the parents off.  Orphans, you see, are free to have great adventures as did Harry Potter and the Baudelaire’s in a Series of Unfortunate events.  Without a caring adult presence they can get into and out of mischief with impunity and no one is there to say no.

Sometimes parents and children are forcibly separated through no fault of their own.  That works especially well in dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent in which society separated parent and child.  In Matt de la Pena’s The Living, an earthquake causes a tidal wave.  Teens working on the ship have no way of knowing who back home may have survived but for the time being their greatest concern is their own survival.  And?  There are no adults capable of saving the day.

This doesn’t mean that you need to write a dystopian book or bump off mom and dad.  Drug addicted parents.  Clueless parents.  Hard working parents who put in a lot of hours.  All of this and more can put a young character in a position to solve their own problems.

Smaller problems,   such as those encountered in picture books, often don’t require drastic measures.  After all, David Shannon’s No David books all revolved around Mom and Dad telling David what not to do.

All you have to do is make sure that your characters are free to get into just enough mischief to make a great story.  How you make this happen?  It all depends on your story.



June 1, 2017

Character Arcs: Four Ways You Can Go

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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“Your character needs to grow.”

That was one of the pieces of writing advice that I repeatedly received early in my writing career.  The problem was that not all characters grew at least not as I defined it.  Changed, yes.  Grew, no.

Recently I stumbled on a blog post by Veronica Sicoe that explained it better.  According to Sicoe, there are several types of arcs.  She numbered them as three.  I’d go with four.  They are:

The Change Arc.  The hero has always had some special quality, something that makes him unique.  But in the course of the Hero’s Journey, he changes immensely.  He goes from being Normal Guy to Guy Hero.  Think Luke Skywalker in the early Star Wars movies.  He was a guy with a dream stuck on a backwater farm.  He reluctantly answers his call and becomes a Jedi.  This is also the type of change that occurs to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Tris Prior in Divergent.

The Growth Arc.  In the Growth Arc, the character does grow but is still essentially the same person although a better version of himself.  Sicoe refers to this as Protagonist 2.0. In The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Gilly is the terror of foster care.  She decides to set up situation where her mother will come rescue her; that doesn’t happen but Gilly realizes her current family may be where she is meant to be.  She has grown.  (Ta da!)

The Shift Arc.  This one is very similar to the Growth Arc.  The character has a changing understanding and may develop a new skill but is essentially the same person.  Maybe she has discovered a new talent.  In Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Astrid learns that she can grow into her own interests and still be friends with girls who are following other paths.  She’s changed but not grown dramatically.

The Fall Arc.  I have to admit that this is my least favorite arc because your character fails in whatever it is she has et her heart on doing.  That said, I really enjoyed The Shattering by Karen Healey.  Keri is determined to prove that her brother was murdered.  There’s no way he committed suicide.  Obviously since this is a fall arc, she fails but you can’t help but love this unreliable narrator.  She doesn’t lie intentionally.  She wants to believe it is true.

So, not all characters grow.  Some change.  Some shift.  Some fall.   Which one will depend on your story.


May 31, 2017

Writing Humor: Know What Your Reader Thinks Is Funny

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:37 am
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Whether you plan to write humorous fiction or work humor into your nonfiction, it pays to know what your audience finds funny.  Part of that is a matter of personal taste.  Even when his classmates were rolling around on the floor over the latest antics of Sponge Bob or Captain Underpants, my son couldn’t be bothered with either.  That said, he loved Cyberchase and Veggie Tales.

But another element of humor is development.  A preschooler may laugh when you laugh but that doesn’t mean they get it the same way that preschool humor doesn’t always make sense to adults.  We drove from LA to San Diego with our son, who was then a preschooler, making up knock-knock jokes.  They were funny not because the humor was funny but because he just didn’t get what made a knock knock joke funny. “Knock Knock.”  “Whose there?”  “Potato.”  “Potato who?”  “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

Picture book readers love extremes and things that are over the top.  That’s why cumulative stories appeal to them.  My favorites include One Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova and The Mitten by Jan Brett.  There’s another one but I can’t think of the title but it is really hard to look up a picture book sans title!  Puns in picture books are for older readers.  That works because not all picture books are written for preschoolers.  Puns appeal to elementary aged readers and the parent who may have to read the picture book 467 times in one evening.

Slightly older readers like bathroom humor – thus the wild popularity of Captain Underpants among the early to mid-grade school set.  Adults may find the books disgusting and offensive but many kids find gross wildly hilarious.  Thus the humor potential found in farts.

It is important to keep in mind what your reader understands about the world.  Humor often works because something is out-of-place and doesn’t quite work.  The surprising  and the jarring can be wildly hilarious.

Humor can also be used to diffuse a tense situation.  One of the best examples of this is the bogart scene in The Prisoner of Azkaban. The students each see the bogart as whatever they fear the most.  One student sees Professor Snape.  This same student defeats the bogart by making it laughable, in this case picture it in his grandmother’s favorite outfit complete with handbag.  A harsh professor?  Acceptably scary.  But a bloody corpse would have been taking it too far.

Although every writer must know their audience, the changing developmental levels of children makes this especially important.  Know where your audience is in life so that you can write fiction and nonfiction that cracks them up.



May 30, 2017

Know Your Audience: Write What They Know

My library shelf contains the latest haul from the St. Louis County Library.

“Write what you know.”

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to make your first sale, collect additional clips or having problems with writers block.  Sooner or later someone is going to give you this bit of advice.  Someone other than me.

I’m much more likely to advise you to write based on what your readers know.  This doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself to what they know.  Young readers are curious, often more curious than adults.  But what they know will help you determine what they understand and how to explain things to them.  If you write fiction, knowing what they know can help you shape your plots.  So what do they know?

Preschoolers:  Just about everything is new to this audience but that doesn’t mean that everything goes. They are still exploring things close to home which is why books about colors, noises and basic routines are so popular.  Take a look at Sandra Boynton’s books which include Blue Hat, Green Hat; Moo Baa La La La; and Pajama Time. 

Kindergartners and Grade schoolers:  Developmentally this is an extremely broad range.  They are exploring an expanding world.  At the younger end, this includes school which accounts for the number of kindergarten stories.  There are also a lot of books about friends and family and a wide range of nonfiction concept books, animal books, and books about all of the things they are touching on in school including both history and STEM topics.  These are readers who are beginning to understand how broad and diverse the world is and they want to explore it in fiction and nonfiction.

Middle School:  These readers are pushing boundaries beyond family and school.  What they discover often does not coincide with what they’ve been taught.  Books about people who don’t quite fit in or who challenge what is accepted are popular.  So are books about discoveries and break throughs.  These readers are also exploring good and evil often through fantasy or mysteries.

Young Adults:  Teens are exploring and heading out to find their place in the world.  They are challenging, questioning and demanding answers.  Because of this, the books that they love often make adults cringe because their lit often feels “no holds barred” to established adults.  Check out authors like Matt de la Pena and A.S. King.

Knowing something about where young readers are in the world can you help you understand when an editors critiques your manuscript and tells you that is sounds too old or too young.  But the best way to understand, is to read.  I always have a stack of books from my local library.  Use published books to help you learn what young readers need and what publishers are buying.

Isn’t it great that reading is “work” when you’re a writer?



May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:00 am
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I’m not sure what it is about Memorial Day and rewrite requests.  Last year, I had to tell an editor that I couldn’t have a rewrite done as early as they wanted it because I was taking the weekend off.

Right now, I’ve got three book contracts: The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); Advertising Overload; and Pro and Con: The Electoral College. Any day now, I’ll have the feedback on the DAPL book and have a rewrite to do.  It is such a complex topic that I doubt it will be easy peasy.  As much as I want to get the feedback and get it done, I didn’t want to get it this weekend.

Lucky for me, it didn’t arrive.  But the feedback on chapter one and the outline of Advertising Overload did!  Fortunately, I’ve got several weeks to finish that very short book so I’m not worried about letting it sit for a few days.  Besides, the changes are either minor or the “don’t forget to keep this in mind” variety.

I hope that those of you in the US are managing to get some time off and spend it with your family.  I’ll be visiting with my Dad, a veteran, today.  See you again tomorrow!



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