One Writer’s Journey

April 10, 2017

Deadline Dead Ahead

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:01 am
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I’m doing hard copy edits on the book that’s due today. I have two more chapters and the backmatter to go.  This gizmo to the right has been my best friend.

It is my mom’s typing stand.  Mom was a graduate of Miss Hickey’s Business School. She worked in accounting but, to my knowledge, she was never a secretary which is kind of sad because this is one handy-dandy stand.

I generally only do one hard copy-edit per manuscript, unless a section is giving me troubles.  When that happens, I print it out, go into the dining room and work on paper.  Then I come back into my office and prop the manuscript up on the stand.

I hope that all of you take the time to do a paper edit when you write something.  I’ve already been through the manuscript 3 or so times on-screen.  And I’ve listened to it read by Speak.  I find mistakes via Speak that I don’t find on-screen.  I find mistakes on paper that I didn’t hear and sure didn’t see on-screen.

Given the fact that we want to give our editors the best possible work, I would definitely recommend doing a hard copy edit.  But you’re going to have to find your own typing stand.  This one is mine.



April 7, 2017

Rewriting, Revising, and Using Things in New Ways

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:38 am
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If you are anything like me, keeping your desk organized is a challenge.  There is no shortage of pens, markers, highlighters and pencils floating around here but finding what I need when I need it is always a challenge.

Given my love of color, your standard desk organizer simply is not sufficient. For quite a while now, I’ve had it all in a ceramic bowl.  Technically it is a planter that my BIL made so that they could share them with people at their wedding.  The plant has long since gone to the great beyond but I loved using the bowl on my desk.  Except for one thing.  It is bowl shaped which means that the markers and pens tend to sprawl.  Eventually they plop out on the desktop.

At right is my new pencil holder.  Technically it too is a planter but this one has straight sides and looks like a pair of books.  The top one is Mark Twain.  My dad is a huge Twain buff and this has been broken and glued back together. I decided that the gaps made it unsuitable to be a planter so – markers!

This week has been spent rewriting.  What does that have to do with a planter serving as a pen holder?  Sometimes things end up serving a different purpose than what was originally intended.  In my editing today:

A sidebar became a paragraph in the body of the chapter.

A pull out quite became the conclusion of the book.

A chapter 7 sidebar became a chapter 2 sidebar and more.

During the rewrite, you need to take a hard look at everything in the manuscript.  You may have meant something to function one way only to discover that that did not work.  Sometimes it functions better as something else or somewhere else.  Sometimes it just has to go.

If you are willing to make these kinds of decisions, you will have a much better manuscript when it is all over.




April 6, 2017

Nonfiction Research: What If You Can’t Find the Facts that You Need?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:21 am
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Monday I’ll be turning in a book on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Invariably 25% of the comments/questions that I get from my editor will be requests for more information.  Why did this person do X instead of Y?  Where did he get this idea?  Why didn’t he do Z instead?

Most of the time, I can see why she wants me to add these things, and sometimes I actually manage to pull it off.  But there are other times that the information just isn’t anywhere that I can find it.

That’s the wacky things about doing research, especially historic research.  You may suspect that a give fact is out there in the world someplace, but that doesn’t mean that it is indexed or searchable.  Someday, someone may stumble across it but you haven’t managed to find it yet.

When I can’t find the information needed to answer my editor’s question, that’s what I tell her.  “Wow. I’d love to be able to answer that but I can’t find the information.”  Fortunately, that has never been the case for a critical fact.  It has always been something she was just curious about or thought would make a nice addition.

But what do you do if the fact is essential?  The problem with writing nonfiction is that you need to find the facts.  If the information you find says “we talked about how to spend the money” but doesn’t quote any specific dialogue, you can’t write out anything in quotation marks.  You may know that a soldier or a student did X, but have no idea what that person’s name was which means that in your telling, they must remain nameless.

If your story doesn’t work with only facts that you can find, try writing it as fiction.  In your author’s note, you can always explain which information is factual and which was cooked up in the author’s brain.  Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you have to be able to create a solid story.  Which way you choose to go with it depends on your idea, the facts that you can find, and your inclinations as a writer.



April 5, 2017

Anti-Hero vs Flawed Main Character

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:08 am
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“Only villains are evil — antiheros are deluded, damaged individuals.” –David Weisberg

I read this quote today in a Writer’s Digest article and it definitely made me think.  I can’t say that I necessarily agree at least with the part about villains, but that’s largely because we don’t see many true villains any more (Voldemort being an exception).

What is it that makes an anti-hero?  Anti-heroes are flawed protagonists.

I know, I know.  In children’s literature, we put a great deal of emphasis on flawed protagonists.  After all, real people are flawed and we want to create characters that real kids can identify with.  As a result, we have to make sure our main characters are flawed and it is definitely true of some of my favorite protagonists.

Amani in Rebel of the Sands is self-deluded to the point that she misses a very important fact about herself.  I’m not going to even hint at what it is because it is that important to the next book.

Colin in John Green’s An Abundance of Katherine’s is spectacularly socially inept.

Elisa in Girl of Fire and Thorns waffles with a capital W.  In fact, she’s not good at anything but eating even if she is a princess.  This all changes in a rather spectacular fashion but she is definitely flawed as are all three of these characters.  And, annoying though they may sometimes be, the are also obviously good.

In my mind at least that makes them flawed but still fairly standard protagonists.  Anti-heros are something more.  They may not be evil but they also aren’t obviously good people.

Ronan in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle’s Trilogy isn’t the main character but wow.  He is definitely an anti=hero.  There is no rule this boy has not broken. He’s loud, he’s abrasive and to see him in most situations you have no proof that he’s anything but rotten.  At least at first.  Get into the books and you’ll start picking up on a few things but he is definitely anti-hero material.  He is flawed and it is for these flaws that we love him.  Still, you will sometimes hesitate to call him good.  It just seems too extreme somehow.  All of that said, he is one of my all time favorite characters.

Another anti-hero, this one funny, is Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl.  He is a boy genius who is also bound and determined to be an evil genius.  These books are more funny than scary because it is solidly middle grade but he is so obviously bad.  Funny, but bad.

I’d have to say that Nick in The Demon’s Lexicon is also an anti-hero.  He’s cold and calculating and scares the holy you-know-what out of his mum.  But he’s devoted to his brother and a man of his word.  Still, as things unfold you are increasingly certain that he is not good.  He’s not even capable.


In children’s and young adult’s books, I think there is a very fine line between a flawed protagonist and a flawed anti-hero that it can be a rather ragged boundary running between.


April 4, 2017

Crystal Kite Award: It Is Time to Cast Your Vote!

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:26 am
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If you are an SCBWI member, it is time to cast your vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.  For those of you who have not vote before, the Crystal Kites are voted on by your peers, fellow authors and illustrators.  There is an award for each of the 15 SCBWI regional divisions worldwide.

This is Round 1 in the voting.  Cast your vote for one book.  The winners in this Round will become the finalists in the Second/Final round.

To vote, just follow these simple steps.

  1. Go to the SCBWI site and log in.
  2. Once you have logged in and reached your member page, scroll to the bottom of the left hand menu and click on “Vote in the Crystal Kite Awards.”
  3. This will automatically take you to the correct region, thankfully.  I’m in Kansas-Missouri which is part of the Mid-South.  Yep.  Not something I would have guessed.  Any-who, at that point you just take your time and look through the various candidates.  For the Mid-South, there are something like 44 eligible books.  I can scroll down the page and click on “More Info” to find out additional information on any given book.  You can sort the books by Title, Author Name, or Illustrator Name.
  4. Once you have decided which book you want to vote for, click on the “Cast My Vote” button for the book you have chosen.  You will be asked to confirm you vote and then you simply click “yes” or “no.”

Good luck to all of you amazing authors and illustrators out there!  And, may be the best books win.




April 3, 2017

Fact Checking: Finding Out You Wrote It Wrong

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:06 am
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Even when you are writing fiction, your facts need to be factual.  Fantasy, science fiction, whatever.  Your facts have got to add up.  So we research and write and research some more.

But sometimes it isn’t the research that reveals a mistake in your data.  It’s just life.  Just over a week ago, we sorted out a box of cooking stuff in my dad’s basement.  There were baking pans and skillets, including one that wasn’t cast iron but sure looked a lot like it.  My husband snagged that one and a smaller cast iron, came home and started doing research.

What he found included information on skillet sizing.  This one is clearly a #4.  The number doesn’t have anything to do with inches in diameter.  It corresponded to the key hole size on the wood stoves where these skillet were originally used.  Use the right skillet and it fit perfectly in the key hole.

Oh, snot.  Now I have to rewrite part of that scene.  I had done all kinds of research on wood stoves and I even got to check one out in person.  But I had never seen anyone cook on one.  That skillet goes on that keyhole.  This one goes on this slightly larger keyhole over here.  And the covers?  They have to come off.

It seems obvious in hind sight.  But I still have a scene to rewrite.

Do your research.  Do it as well as you can.  But keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when you’re going to hear encounter the information you need to make your facts factual.



March 31, 2017

Counting Books: Thinking out of the box

Just a few days ago, I reviewed Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book about Building by Kurt Cyrus.  It was a marvelous lesson in out-of-the-box thinking.

When I picked up the book, I expected something along the lines of one brick, two bricks . . . up through ten. But Cyrus gives the reader anything but the expected one through ten progression.  There are even numbers, specifically two, four, six, and counting by fives but never one through ten.  It is a book about building perhaps even more so than it is a book about counting.

I haven’t been planning to write a counting book, but now I find myself wondering how I might do it.  A book of count downs?  I wonder if that’s been done.  That could be a lot of fun dealing with space launches and race starts.

Squares?  1, 4, 9, 16, etc.   Hmm. I’m not sure how that one would work.

I’ll have to noodle this over while I’m on the treadmill.  I do have an idea for an alphabet book about trains.  Yes there are already train books but I’ve got a plan that would make this one different.  I hope it is unique enough to be “out of the box.”

At this point there are so many counting and alphabet books as well as books about shapes and colors that you have to come up with something creative to get a positive response.  Why buy your book when they can buy one illustrated by Dr. Seuss or featuring a favorite character.  Especially if you are considering a counting book, take a look at Billions of Bricks and see how your book stacks up next to the competition.


March 30, 2017

Poem a Day Challenge or PAD

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:51 am
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Saturday is April 1st and it marks the beginning of the 2017 PAD (Poem a Day) Challenge.  The challenge is open to anyone, professional poet or novice, and is hosted by Writer’s Digest editor Robert Lee Brewer.  You can find his guidelines for the challenge here.

The purpose of the challenge is to write one poem each and every day throughout the month of April.  Brewer will choose several favorite poems to honor but really the whole thing is meant to be fun and supportive. Many participating writers post their poems on the site and comment on other people’s poems.

Although participants are encouraged to “poem as they wish,” any poems or comments that Brewer feels are hateful will be deleted.  To quote Brewer, “…if anyone abuses this rule repeatedly, I will have them banned from the site. So please ‘make good choices,’ as I tell my children.”

The types of promts Brewer posts vary.  Many of them are subject prompts — a falling apart poem, a visitor poem or a tape poem. Others start with a phrase such as “when (blank).”  One of last year’s prompts required participants to use six specific words within their poem.  I have to admit that I actually do better with these types of prompts vs those that ask for a certain poetic form — tanka, haiku or lymeric.  Although maybe a lymeric would be fun . . . there once was a poet from …

As always there are a many different things we can do with a single writing prompt. Part of what you come up with will depend on who you are and where you are in your life at the moment.  But Brewer encourages us to take a bit of time to brainstorm before sitting down to write.

But most of all?  Remember to have fun.


March 29, 2017

Inspiration: It Comes from All Over, Whenever

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:43 am
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Inspiration can come from some pretty strange places. I found this cap in an antique store about 10 years ago. I spotted it because of the calcium carbide lamp on the front. I knew this was a mining lamp because my grandad used them in the mercury mines but the cap was so small. It is so small that no one here can wear it. I have it propped up on a mint tin, my salt and pepper shakers and a water-glass.  Yeah, I’m all about high-tech.  
Anyway, a bit of research revealed that this was a child’s cap most likely used in the Illinois coal mines. Yes, a cloth cap on a child in a mine.  Sigh, shake your head and read on.  It is definitely appalling.
The novel that I’ve had to set aside to write about the Dakota Access Pipeline is set in a community where the mines have played out. I just re-found this cap cleaning at my dad’s. I should be noodling over pipelines and water rights and the Army Corp of Engineers but I’m thinking about kids in mines and my novel.  
I have a new twist that will help increase the stakes rattling around in my head.  When I don’t have time to write it.  I sent myself an e-mail as a reminder and I’m hoping that will buy me some time.  If not, and the idea just won’t leave me alone, I’ll try to find fifteen minutes to work this into my “outline.”  It seems kind to call the increasingly chaotic jumble of notes an outline but there you have it.
Thank you, inspiration.  Your timing is just a tiny bit stinko.

March 28, 2017

The Chant: Another Poetic Form

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:49 am
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trout trout troutOne of the poetic forms that we studied in Peggy Archer’s workshop was the chant.  The example that Peggy gave was from April Pulley Sayre’s Trout, Trout, Trout!  I have to admit, I didn’t see myself writing a chant so I didn’t take a lot of notes.

Bad, bad me.  Because the other when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else (like choir rehearsal), I started playing with the rhythm’s of bird names.  Single syllable names were slower.  Multi-syllable faster.  I needed both and I was going to need quite a few. Before long I was compiling a list by first letter with different columns for different syllable counts.  That a word list came into play isn’t entirely surprising since Peggy emphasized how helpful create a list can be as she works on a new poem.

In about ten minutes, I had a fair list bit I also had almost no idea what had been going on around me.  Sigh.  I put away my list and decided to pay attention instead of reading more about chants.

When I did get home so that I could do a bit of reading, here is what I discovered:

The chant may be the oldest poetic form.

It is called a chant because of the rhythm formed by repetition.

This repetition can be a single word or a line.

The repetition is important but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of the chant.  Something in the poem has to change.  That’s what makes it interesting.

Rhythm is a bit part of the chant, which could be why I was inspired to play with this form in choir.

Do a Google search and you can find numerous examples of chant poetry.  Some are short while others are quite long.


Me?  What I was playing with didn’t resemble any of the examples I found online. I want to read all of Trout, Trout, Trout! since it was the catalyst.  I just hope I can pull something together without getting totally lost in choir.


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