November 30, 2012

Giving Yourself Permission

In a Parade magazine interview, actress and writer Emma Thompson was once asked: what’s the tougher profession, writing or acting?  She answered, "Writing is a much harder discipline.  It’s terribly frustrating and makes me weep, but once you start getting it right, it’s hugely pleasurable.”  

Writing is hard until you start getting it right, but sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get it right.  Take for instance a manuscript you may be working on.  Have you asked:  Why isn't this story working?  What will it take to make this piece shine?   

These can be tough questions to answer because you feel the pressure of making the story perfect.  This can freeze you up, so you end up not writing at all, leaving your story in literary limbo.     

But, there is a mantra you can repeat to ease the pressure:  it's okay to make mistakes.  Now say it again:  it's okay to make mistakes.

Let that sink in.  How do you feel?  Like a huge weight has been lifted?  Do you feel that freedom has been granted so that you can move forward?  

You will find that when you give yourself permission to make mistakes, you will write without judging what you've written.  You will know that those words may not be the best choice, but they will be stepping stones, the guides to helping you find better descriptive nouns, active verbs, spot-on rhyme, or amazing alliteration in the future.   

At a later date, you will edit.  But not today.  Today, you will write.  You will make mistakes.  And that’s okay.  You will move forward, get something down, and that's what counts.  Your writing will be the very best it can possibly be today.     

November 23, 2012

MG/YA Webinar

Recently, I “attended” a Writer's Digest webinar presented by literary agent Mary Kole.  Here are a few things that I learned from “How to Write Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels that will Sell.” 

MG usually runs about 35,000 words and YA is longer, about 45-90,000 words.  In today’s market, Mary believes a book should have high concept, action, adventure, and fantasy.  Above all, the book must have a quick pace.

If you’re thinking about writing MG/YA, Mary suggests that you start with a big question, and then think about how you would turn that question into a book.  She recommends thinking about the opposite of the big question, and put that into the book as well.

The structure of the novel looks like this:  
* an inciting incident
* turning points
* three attempts to resolve the big problem
* a dark moment
* the climax
* the resolution

Things to consider about the characters:
* The main character has to undergo a change.  
* The main character must have a want and obstacles that get in the way of the want. 
* Secondary characters may bring out other traits of the main character.
* Characters should be allowed to make mistakes.

The information presented in this blog post will get you thinking and planning as you write your novel for children, but there’s a lot more to writing for this genre.  For more, purchase Mary’s new book: Writing Irresistible Kidlit or visit the Writer’s Digest website: 

November 19, 2012

Don't Rush Revision

Most people know that I have two submission pet peeves:  improperly formatted bibliographies and articles that fail to follow the guidelines. But another pet peeve surfaced when a writer asked how soon I'd like her revision.   Pet peeve #3:  a revision sent the day after editing suggestions had been made.

I can’t quite figure it out.  Why do writers feel the need to hurry revision?  Are they afraid that they will earn a rejection if it's not delivered quickly? 

Actually the opposite is true.  I will be more likely to hand out a rejection if I receive a revision too quickly.  It tends to shows me that the writer did not spend enough time on editing the piece.  

Rushing revision is unprofessional and gives the editor the feeling that you’re desperate.  Put your manuscript away for a few days.  Let it simmer.  Then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Edit it again, if necessary.  And again.   Let someone else read it and make suggestions.  

There's no need to hurry the process along.   Even if you have a deadline, don't speedily re-submit your work.  Plan ahead so that you have the time it takes to properly revise. Revision may take weeks, and that's okay.  Give yourself the gift of time.  In doing so, you'll have the opportunity to provide the loving attention your manuscript rightfully deserves.  

November 12, 2012

Where We Find Inspiration

Today, author Kai Strand shares her thoughts on getting inspired.

When a child replies to a question with an unexpected answer, do you scribble that response in a notebook? When you overhear a belly laugh from the other side of the library bookshelf, do you imagine gut laugh-worthy situations? Do you choose to stand in the long line in the grocery store simply to eavesdrop on the conversation between the teenagers?

If you answer yes to these questions, you might be a children’s writer. Sometimes it seems like writers are a dime a dozen anymore. What distinguishes a children’s writer from any other kind of writer is where they find their inspiration. If you have children, then you already have access to their friends, school, and members of any teams they may participate in. Don’t underestimate the value of being surrounded by kids in any of these situations. Listening to how they interact with each other and adults is crucial in character building. Hearing their vocabulary, understanding their hobbies, and seeing their wardrobe is all priceless research.

If you don’t have children of your own, or if yours are grown, I urge you to volunteer in schools, the public library, or after school programs—any place where you will be surrounded by the age of children you hope to write for. You will learn what is important to children, while helping to provide a safe and effective venue in which they can learn or play.

The semantics of writing for children isn’t too different than writing for adults: strong characters, compelling story, and good grammar. However, finding what to write about and how to write it will be most effective if you spend time around your target audience. Plus, you get the extra benefit of having some fun.

Kai Strand, author of:

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November 5, 2012

A Book Review: When My Baby Dreams

After the birth of her daughter Mila, Adele Enersen began a blog of whimsical baby photos to share with her friends and family. Now her blog is enjoyed by millions of admirers around the world:  The photographs of Mila became the inspiration for Adele's first book 
When My Baby Dreams:

Mila can be anything.  She's a bookworm with a long puffy cotton tail (surrounded by books, of course); she’s a bee in a gauzy white flower; she’s a butterfly with wings in a silky garden.  In her dreams, she rides a blue denim elephant and journeys on top of a pink silk dragon. Her dreams take her everywhere—she even travels to outer space and floats back to earth with balloons.

I loved this book and believe you will, too.  Adele's creativity will amaze you.  Take your time as you read this gorgeous picture book.  Linger on each page.  Join Mila and savor the stunning details of each exquisite, wildly imaginative dreamscape.