One Writer’s Journey

February 6, 2017

Submit Smarter, Not More Often: How to Increase Your Writing Income

balancing-marketsIf you’re anything like me, you’d love to earn more writing income.  Although I make my living as a writer, I’m to the point that I’d really like to make a “good” living as a writer.  In her newsletter Funds for Writers, Hope Clark recently told readers about a new approach that I’m going to try — the 25/50/25 tool.

Google “25/50/25 writing” and you’re going to find several different versions.  The way that Hope uses it is related to income.

25% of your pitches should go to easy markets.  These are your sure things, the ones that almost never turn you down.  For some people there are non-paying markets that simply give them a byline.  For me, they pay but not especially well.  But they give me exposure and they are sure things.

50% of your pitches should go to markets that pay better and are a bit more challenging but are in reach.  Not everything that you submit to these markets is a sure thing but you do get acceptances.  They pay a little better but probably aren’t going to pay the mortgage.

The final 25%?  These are your dream markets.  Want an agent?  Or a Highlights byline?  Then some of your work needs to go to these markets — 25%.

Keep submitting this ratio to each type of market — 25% to sure things, 50% to harder solid opportunities, and 25% to long shots — and slowly but surely you will find yourself getting more and more acceptance from better paying markets. That’s the theory anyway and I’m going to give it a shot.

In the need for more markets?  Spend some time looking through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators market listings if you are a member.  Or you can check out the list of Children’s Book Council Members.  Or Evelyn Christensen’s educational markets for children’s writers listings. If you want a specific type of market, Google “Children’s magazines” or whatever.  Then look for the guidelines on their sites.  If you want to see what markets are buying, Google “Writer for Us,” “Writer’s Guidelines” or something similar.

I checked my submissions and pitches for January and had 3 sure things, 2 pitches to maybe markets, and 3 long shots (pitches to agents).  That puts me at 38/24/38.  Not sure what that means at this point but I’ll have to see how this works out over the next several months to a year.

–SueBE

February 3, 2017

Online Housekeeping

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:28 am
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android-1869510_1920Not long ago, one of my writing buddies reminded all uf us to change the copyright dates on our web pages.  With the New Year, they all needed to be updated to 2017.  It took me a few days, but I finally got around to it.  First things first, I was shocked to realize my site designer hadn’t included a copyright.  That meant that while I didn’t have to update what was there, I did need to make this addition to every page.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long.  While I was at it, I poked around and found several other things to update.

It’s easy to let what we have online stagnate, here are nine things to check and update if need be now that we are a month into 2017.

The copyright notice on your site.  Yep.  I already talked about it above, but do check.

The book list on your website.  What has come out in the past several months that you haven’t yet added?  I had to add both my November 2016 and January 2017 releases.

Class dates.  If you teach a class, like I do, you probably list start dates on your site.  Check them.  I refuse to admit how out of date mine were.

The photo you use on Facebook.  Do you have an author page on Facebook? If so, is it time to update your photo?

The banner you use on Facebook.  Again, check your Facebook author page.  My banner is my first book.  I’m still trying to decide.  Keep it or change it to my most recent release?

The “about” section on Facebook.  I know, I know.  While your udpating Facebook, you could have thought of this one on your own, but did you?  It doesn’t come up on the main screen so I tend to forget about it.

Twitter.  Your Twitter account also has a photo, a banner and profile information.  Does something need to change?

Blog.  Again, look at your profile.  And check the graphics.  My blog includes graphics for several different programs I participated in that are over and done with.  Obviously, I put them there.  Now I need to make them be gone.

LinkedIn…Do I really need to list it all?  Go have a look around and see what is out of date.  I bet there’s something!

It looks like a lot but if you can do one online destination today and another tomorrow, you’ll be done in less than a week.

–SueBE

 

February 2, 2017

The Fuzzy Barrier Between Pre-writing and Recharging

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:30 am
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yogaWhen I set goals for myself, I have a tendency to over do it.  Let’s just say that my t0-do list has a tendency to look like a six year-olds Christmas list.  Most weeks it is two plus columns long.

More often than not, I’m working on multiple projects at a time. This week I’m reworking the outline on my young adult SF so that next week I can get some writing done.  I finished the research on and drafted a picture book. I pitched a manuscript to an agent and came up with a query for a magazine.  And I still have a devotional to write.

When I have this much going on, I have a tendency to spend too much time at my desk.  Yes, yes.  It is rather obvious. If I’m going to get that stuff done, I need to put my butt in the my chair and write.

But to get ready to work on something new, whether it’s a picture book draft or a query, I need to spend some time away from my desk.  I call it pre-writing because it is something that HAS to happen before I write.  It is part movement and activity and part-time to let my mind wander.  Because of this, it helps if it is something not particularly brainy.

Walking is good.  Rowing is good.  But the best of all may very well be yoga class. Why yoga class and not just yoga?  Because in class, Leslie puts us through our paces for 1 hour.  I can’t hurry through relaxation or skip a pose that I don’t much like.  There’s accountability.

That said, me being me, although we are supposed to be present and not let our minds wonder, that’s pretty much what happens.  I’ll be stretching up with one hand in triangle and then my brain says, “Hey, I’ve got the perfect transition into the next picture book spread.”  Just as I’m exhaling into a bend, the best possible way to describe my character is suddenly THERE.  Lucky for me, Leslie knows all about wandering minds.  “When you mind strays, and it will happened, just gently draw it back.”

And once I’m done with whatever physical activity I was able to work in, I am much more capable of sitting down to write.  After twenty minutes or half an hour, my mind may start to wonder but I simply draw it back to the task at hand.  After all, I’ve worked off enough energy to focus and I have a solution or three ready to apply.

–SueBE

 

 

February 1, 2017

TED: Learning about Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
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tedMost of you already know that I’m something of a TED Talk fan.  TED talks were originally about Technology, Education and Design.  They have expanded and cover just about every topic you can imagine including story.  Here are some of my favorites that, as fellow writers, you might find interesting.

Sisonke Msimang’s talk on the power (and limitations) of story.  Click here.

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s talk about the dangers of only hearing a single story about a given place.  Click here.

Eman Mohammed’s talk on telling hidden stories and gender norms.  Click here.

How Tracy Chevalier looked at a painting and wrote an entire novel.  Click here.

Film maker Andrew Stanton on the art of storytelling.  Before you click here, TED warns viewers about graphic language so I shall too.

Director Shekhar Kapur on creative inspiration.  Click here.

Writer and director J.J. Abrams talks about his love of mystery.  Click here.

Novelist Amy Tan on where creativity hides.  Click here.

The next time you need a bit of inspiration, click on one of these talks and see how someone else works.  I always come away ready to write and I get you will too.

–SueBE

January 31, 2017

The Storyboard: The Best Way to Outline Your Picture Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:16 am
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cave-below-outlineFor about two weeks now, I’ve been researching a new picture book tentatively titled “Cave Below.”  No, I didn’t do all of the research in two weeks.  This one has been rattling around in my head for a couple of years.  I just finally got serious and decided to get it done so I’ve been reading about the history of a cave, the geology and the chemistry involved.

With pages of notes, it was time to outline.  One of the best ways to outline a picture book manuscript is the storyboard.  For those of you who have never worked up a storyboard, it is a worksheet, or board, that allows you to mock-up a picture book so that you can see the entire thing on one page.  I don’t like working on something as small as a sheet of printer paper.  My storyboard is a piece of cardboard that was used to cover a mirror in shipment.

Why bother with a storyboard?  The great thing about using a story board is that I can see right away if I have enough scenes for a whole picture book.

But before I can lay things out, I need to transfer some of my notes onto post-it notes.  I fill out a post-it note/or part of a note, for each scene.  Then I take my storyboard and put everything in place.

Some people prefer to do this on a worksheet.  I like this post-it note approach because I can re-arrange things as needed.  When you’re writing a nonfiction book about a process, the order of the scenes is determined by the process itself.  The problem is that no single source talked about the entire process depicted in my book.

Because of this, I’m having to mesh what one source gives me with another.  In this case, it meant shifting what was initially scene 2, or the second speadk down the board so that it becomes spread 5.

Now that I have the storyboard, I’m ready to write.

–SueBE

January 30, 2017

#MSWL: One Tool to Help You Find an Agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:13 am
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Do you wish you had a crystal ball that would tell you what potential agents really want to see?  If yotwitter-848528_1920-croppedu have a Twitter account, you do.  All you have to do is search #MSWL.  If that doesn’t look familiar, it should.  It stands for Manuscript Wish List.  Agents and editor use this tag to help writers find the clues that will lead them to the right agent.

Sometimes what they ask for is pretty general.  “Still looking for middle g
rade and young adult novels.”  Other times it is much more specific. Janine O’Malley recently asked for books that foster empathy and compassion.  Another tweet asked for commercial fiction that handles family secrets with compassion in the vein of Tell the Wolves I’m Home.  

If you have a market to place, be sure to sign into your twitter account and check out the postings on February 8, 2017.  That’s the next Manuscript Wish List Day.  Throughout that day editors and agents will tweet about their dream manuscripts.

Maybe just maybe it will be something that you’ve got in your files.  You won’t know until you do that search — #MSWL.

–SueBE

 

 

January 27, 2017

Ten Minutes a Day: When You Don’t Have Time to Write, Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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ten-minutesAbout two weeks ago, I blogged about not being able to find time to work on two new projects — a novel called Iron Mountain and a nonfiction picture book about a cave.  Since then, I’ve worked on these projects 10 minutes per day, Monday through Friday.  Has that little amount of time been worth my while?

For the cave book, I’ve read 7 or 8 sources and have 8 pages of notes.  I have two or three more sources on hand and a friend just told me about an applicable NPR broadcast.  I don’t have quite enough material to start writing but I am very close.  The manuscript is starting to take shape in my mind and has already changed a bit from what I had originally imagined.

What about the novel?  This post went up on Friday, but I wrote it on Wednesday.  At that point I had 1700 words of text.  Yes, it is rough but that’s 1700 words more than I had just fiddling around and complaining about not working.  I’ve roughed out almost a complete first chapter.

No it isn’t following my outline but it is definitely taking on a life of its own.  As soon as I finish roughing chapter 1, I’m going to make an outline of the pivotal points in the story.  What do I consider pivotal points?  My character’s call to action, the climax, the darkest moment and various points where the antagonists actions change things up.  I’m 98% certain that these points are still solid and I want to review them before I get much farther into the story.  I also need to do another Character sketch since this character now makes an appearance in Chapter 1.  He is definitely going to have a much bigger part than I originally conceived.

Ten minutes a day.  It doesn’t sound like much but I have two new projects steadily gaining ground in just two weeks.  Kind of makes you wonder where I’ll be in another two weeks, doesn’t it?

–SueBE

January 26, 2017

Manuscript Tracking: How Fancy Do You Get?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am
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keeping-trackWay back in the olden’ days, translation: the early 2000s, I had some spiffy manuscript tracking software.  It was written by someone in my critique group and had fields for manuscript title, editor/agent, and publisher/agency.  It also pinged mercilessly to remind you when you needed to follow up on something.  Unfortunately, my friend decided that it was a huge hastle to update the software every time Windows updated.

What was I to do?  I looked at various programs and services but I’m notoriously frugal.  Okay, some people might say that I’m cheap.  But I wasn’t going to throw good money when I already had Excel.  That’s still what I use today.

Whenever I send something out, I make an entry in the Excel file that is oh-so creatively named Tracking.  I know!  Isn’t that an awesome file name?  And I still get reminders because I mark my calendar with when I should hear something.

If making up your own spread sheet doesn’t sound appealing, Writer’s Digest currently has six different spread sheets available to help you keep track of what is where.  They are:

•    Freelance Pitch Tracker
•    Literary Journal Submission Tracker
•    Freelance Payment Tracker
•    Agent Query Tracker
•    Direct-to-Publisher Query Tracker
•    Agent Submissions to Publishers Tracker

To link through and get them, visit the Writer’s Digest announcement here.  Keeping track of what is where doesn’t have to be fancy but it really is something you need to do.  If one editor or agent makes an offer, you want to know who else currently has your work.  Otherwise you might find yourself in an embarrassing situation!

–SueBE

January 25, 2017

Agents: The Great Agent Search, Who Wants What and How to Pitch

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:47 am
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Agent HuntI currently have queries out to two agents.   They’ve had my work for almost a week and my patience is waning.  Yep, I’m a total three  year-old that way.  I’m pitching Puke-ology (chapter book nonfiction) and am eager to get a pitch out to another agent who represents picture books.

But wait!   I just read advice for an agent who says that you should not pitch two different projects at the same time.  The worry is that one agent will want one manuscript, but not the other, and another agent will want the other manuscript but not the first.  Ideally you want to find an agent who will like both manuscripts.

poutAnd, I get that.  I reeeee-eeeeee-eeeeally do.  But have we covered how like a three year-old I am?  This agent is only taking work through the month of January.  Pbbbt.  In reality I should look and see if she’s a good fit for Puke-ology. I know she reps picture books but if she only reps picture books, she really wouldn’t be a good fit for me. See how nicely I’ve argued myself into agreeing with the agent.  Yep.  I knew she was right all along but my inner three year-old had to get a word or two into the discussion.

Here is an agent who is currently looking for work:

Christa Heschke is an agent with McIntosh and Otis.  She represents picture books, middle grade novels (coming of age) and young adult (unreliable narrators).  Unfortunately for me, her nonfiction focus is on picture book biographies.  You can check out a detailed list of what she wants here.

Patiently waiting while prepping a few more letters to go out pitching Puke-ology.

–SueBE

January 24, 2017

ALA Announces 2017 Winners

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:52 am
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Monday, January 22, 2017, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the latest winners of their much coveted awards.  Without further ado, here is the list of winners and honors books with a few comments.

the-girl-who-drank-the-moonJohn Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:
Medal winner: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
Honors: Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly (Dutton Children’s Books)
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Children’s Books).  In all honesty, it is hard to imagine that The Girl who Drank the Moon is better than Wolf Hollow which I am currently reading.  But I’m putting in my request today.  

radiant-childRandolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
Medal Winner: Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown and Company)
Honors: Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol (Roaring Brook Press)
Freedom in Congo Square illlustrated by R. Gregory Christie, by Carole Boston Weatherford (Little Bee Books)
Du Iz Tak?  by Carson Ellis (Candlewick Press)
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle Books LLC)

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, recognizing an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:
march-book-three-cover-100dpiMedal Winner: March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions). Can I have a big YAHOO!  I’m was especially happy to see this one since our President singled Lewis out for criticism. 
Honor: As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds (Caitlyn Dlouhy Book)
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan” by Ashley Bryan (Caitlyn Dlouhy Book).  When a book takes honors in two categories, sit up and take notice.  Also checking this one out.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
Medal Winner:  Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown and Company).  This one took two medals.  Yet another book to request. 
Honor: Freedom in Congo Square illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, by Carole Boston Weatherford (Little Bee Books).  Two honors!   My list is growing.
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan” by Ashley Bryan (Caitlyn Dlouhy Book). This one is now up to three categories!
In Plain Sight, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, written by Richard Jackson (Neal Porter Book)

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award:
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte Press)

Michael L. Printz Award:
Medal: March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions).  And now this one is up to two medals!  
Honors: Asking for It by Louise O’Neill (Quercus)
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte Press).  One medal, one honor.  One library request in!

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.  Winners named in three age categories:
Medal: Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov (Alfred A. Knopf)
Medal: as brave as you by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
Medal:When We Collided by Emery Lord (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst (Harper Voyager)
The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead)
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford (Henry Holt and Co.)
Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart (Dey Street)
Arena by Holly Jennings (Ace Books)
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor Book)
Romeo and/or Juliet: A Choosable-Path Adventure by Ryan North (Riverhead Books).   This one intrigues me because . . . really?
Die Young with Me: A Memoir by Rob Rufus (Touchstone)
The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar by Matt Simon Penguin Books)
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach (St. Martin’s Press)

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award: 
Medal: March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions).  And now this one is up three medals!  
Honors: Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann (Neal Porter Book).  Already read this one and LOVED it.
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson (Carolrhoda Books)
Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin (Alfred A. Knopf)
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman (Clarion Books). Just read about this group in another book. 

I didn’t include every award.  That was pages and pages long.  If you want to see the full list, visit the ALA site here.

–SueBE

 

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