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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Writing process, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. BIG NEWS from a singing gorilla

Last month, I tweeted this seemingly mundane thing about gorgeous weather, tattoos and farmer's markets putting me into good mood:


But in reality there was more to the story. Way more. I was bursting with a huge secret. "I literally cannot tell you how this day could get better" was my little nod toward that. I mean, don't get me wrong, the farmer's market, the perfect Seattle summer day, and my impending tattoo plans were wonderful, but literally I could not say how or why my day was so freakin' above-and-beyond-my-wildest-dreams amazing. Now I finally can because this announcement ran in today's print edition of Publishers Weekly:


Yeah. My next book is going to be a zine-style memoir (think a bunch of my personal essays from Rookie illustrated and woven together to create a cohesive story of my life from ages um 8 to 25) and it is going to be published by Dutton and edited by the one and only JULIE STRAUSS-GABEL, who I have been DREAMING of working with for YEARS.

Here is a summary of how I've been feeling since I've received this news:





I always thought that that last image of Sally Draper is how I would actually react when I got the call, but here is the actual (albeit slightly blurry) reaction shot taken by my husband:


Yes. That is a gorilla in a tuxedo. A singing, dancing gorilla in a tuxedo. Amazing Agent Adrienne decided that this news was something that a simple phone call COULD NOT cover, especially since we've worked so long and so hard for it. Those of you who have been following this blog or Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere know that for me getting published AGAIN has been an even harder experience than getting published the first time. My last book, Ballads of Suburbia, came out almost five years. It sold six years ago. In that intervening period (i.e since January of 2009 when I finished revisions on Ballads) I've written a couple of YA partials, a full YA novel and an adult novel that haven't found homes yet. I've also been writing for Rookie since it launched in September of 2011.

I signed with Adrienne in October of 2011. She's been the one shopping all of those projects I mentioned above. She's seen me through many moments of writer's block, self-doubt, and full-on crises of faith. She once sent me a copy of The Little Engine That Could to remind me that she believed that I would get through my WIP and I would find my way back to the bookshelves. It was her unceasing faith that kept me writing and pushing through rejection, hard times, and heart break. I'm still working on the words and some sort of grand gesture to thank her. A grand gesture like the one she made on Tuesday, June 17th at 8 pm when she sent a gorilla to my door. I'd told her that I didn't have a proper "The Call" story because I'd received emails not phone calls about my previous two sales. This is definitely "The Call" story to end all "Call" stories and here it is as I told it to my critique partners (who fortunately I was allowed to tell early on because otherwise I would have died). 

A couple important items of note to the story: Scott is my husband and apparently he and Adrienne had been colluding over Facebook messages for a week once Adrienne was aware that Things Were Very Likely Going To Happen (she never told him I had an offer, she said she wanted to send a surprise to "encourage me") and I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago and was icing it because I'd gone running when I got home from work (I showered before this all went down thankfully, but I am sans makeup, hair drying weirdly, and in a random t-shirt--I mean, really, Charlie Brown Halloween shirt, I have to remember you forever?)

But without further adieu, THE CALL as told in some version or other to Tara Kelly, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Alexa Young (ie. the women who along with Adrienne who have continually kept me going for the past 6 years):

So at 8 pm our door buzzer goes off, and I am mystified because you know, packages don’t get delivered that late. I’m in the process of icing my ankle so I tell Scott to answer the buzzer. He says there’s something at the door for me. I’m like, "I didn’t order anything, am I fucking getting served or something?" (Because of course my mind goes to the worst possible thing...) Scott was like, "Well, you better go down and sign for it." At that point, I was almost kind of pissed, like why is he making me limp downstairs instead of signing for me and who is this interrupting Orange is the New Black? 

Then I open the door and there is a gorilla in a tuxedo with an iPod dock boombox asking if I’m Stephanie. 
I was so beyond confused that at first it didn’t even compute when he said, "This is from Adrienne," because I was thinking it was some sort of joke maybe from my friend Eryn or Beth Ellen, who have that sort of sense of humor and knew I’ve been dealing with some shit lately. Also, not gonna lie, there was still a small part of me wondering if this was some elaborate way to mug me (you can take the girl out of Chicago, but…). The gorilla had to ask if he could come in, so I ushered him into the lobby of my building and I guess at that point Scott had arrived and took this picture: 


The gorilla started playing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang (which was my first cassette tape because when the Cardinals won the World Series when I was a kid it was their theme and I was obsessed. I cannot recall if this is in the memoir or was just a lucky bit of fate) and at that point my brain finally put two and two together. Adrienne. Your agent. Celebration. Dancing gorilla. But at first I still couldn’t even let myself believe it. At one point some of the people in the apartment nearest the front door came out and were like, “What is going on? Why are we celebrating?” And I was like, "I have no idea!!!"


I think they somehow comprehended before I did because they said congrats and went inside as the song was ending. Then the gorilla was like, "Congratulations!" and I think he maybe said we had an offer, but I’m actually not sure, he told me that I had to call Adrienne RIGHT NOW. And I said, "I don’t have my phone!" Scott tried to give me his and I’m like, "Dude, I don’t know her number." So then the gorilla gives me his phone which is already cued up and dialing Adrienne and he instructs Scott to video tape it. Good thing, too because the conversation is kind of a blur. Basically, all I remember is saying, “Hi, Adrienne, this is Steph, I’m, uh, calling from the gorilla’s phone?” And I think she said something like “I promised you a good 'The Call' story.” And I said, “So this is it? This is The Call?” And then she told me, “Well, worst case scenario, we're selling your memoir to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton.” And I practically passed the fuck out while Adrienne laughed. Of course she was totally kidding about the whole "worst case scenario" thing--it was actually the "dream come true scenario." 

After more giggling on both ends and me stammering, "Oh my god," we said goodbye to the gorilla. (I did not tip the gorilla! I feel bad about this! I had no wallet though. Maybe Scott tipped him? Maybe that isn’t necessary???) Then I went upstairs, called Adrienne back on my own phone and got all of the details. I also asked, "Is this actually real?" several times. As I mentioned earlier I’ve wanted to work with Julie for years (and for you writers out there, she has passed on more than one of my manuscripts—it really is about right book, right time). She’s edited some of my favorite books including both of Nova Ren Suma’s masterpieces, Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone; Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door (as well as the forthcoming Isla and the Happily Ever After, which I’m currently devouring) by Stephanie Perkins A.K.A. my fellow YA writer named Stephanie with brightly colored hair; If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, and of course, Looking for Alaska by John Green, A.K.A., the book my first agent told me to read when I expressed some shock about her idea to shop my first novel as a YA.

Adrienne also thought Julie would be perfect for this project, so by the next day (right before I posted my “I cannot tell you…” tweet), even though we had interest from other publishers, we were only negotiating with Julie and Dutton and by Thursday, June 19th at noon, we’d officially accepted their offer. The book hadn’t even been on submission for two weeks (it was barely a week when we got the offer). Since it took over a year to sell my first book and I’ve had other things out for even longer than that, I was floored.

I’m still floored.

And I’m beyond grateful.

And now I’ve got about half a book to write, so…. I’ll conclude the same way I did in my recent YA Outside the Lines blog post about the best advice I could give aspiring writer me or any aspiring writer is that nothing will go as expected: “The things you didn’t or couldn’t plan often turn out better than you possibly could have imagined.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and to everyone who is as excited about this book as I am!

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2. The Path to the Sea

Here is the path that we’ll take to the sea. It’s the beginning of our journey. We don’t know where the path will lead us. (We have no maps, no clues.) All we can do is walk toward the clouds ahead and hope we’ll find the sea. The clouds offer a glimmer of hope, a way to go. And we head toward them  It’s a hunch, an intuitive feeling. And we follow that feeling

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3. Confessions of a Serial Novelist (Part 2) by Clara Kensie

Hey gang! Welcome back to the Adventures in YA Publishing series on... serials! Last week, I told you about the surprising pleasures of reading serialized novels. I hope I convinced at least some of you to give serials a try! This week, we’re continuing our discussion by talking about how to write a serialized novel.

Source: Adam Franco https://flic.kr/p/7BKqTL

How, exactly, does one go about writing a serial? While revising my RUN TO YOU manuscripts after my publisher's decision to release them as serials, I learned that it takes more than simply chopping a full-length novel into equal parts. Whether you’re an indie author who decides to serialize your books, or you’re a traditionally-pubbed author whose publisher wants to try it, there are certain things you must keep in mind when writing a serial:

PACING: You must have a strong sense of pacing as you develop the highs and lows that bring the characters and plot to a new level with each installment, but still leave them more to do and learn, giving the reader a breathing point, yet leaving them wanting to know what happens next.

INSTALLMENT BREAKS: One piece of advice writers always hear is, “Never give your readers a reason to put your book down.” But a serial forces your readers to put your book down after every installment! Therefore, it is imperative to end each episode in such a way that your readers must read the next one to find out what happens next. End your installment in the middle of the action. RUN TO YOU is a thriller with lots of plot twists and life-or-death situations. Many chapters end on a cliffhanger. But a serial’s episodes don’t have to end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering if a character is going to live or die. Emotional cliffhangers can be equally as compelling. You want to end each episode in a way that your readers must know the secret the hero is about to reveal, or which suitor the heroine will choose to bring to the ball, or if the hero and heroine’s relationship will survive the latest turn of events. In fact, though many RUN TO YOU chapters end on a life-or-death cliffhanger, all of its installments end on an emotional cliffhanger.

BEGINNING THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: To begin episodes two, three, four, etc, you will want to remind your readers what happened at the end of the previous installment. I recommend keeping this very brief; just a few phrases in the opening paragraphs to help them recall what happened last time and to re-establish the mood and tone. But don’t simply give them a bunch of flashbacks. You want to weave in what happened last time in a natural way. The shorter your release schedule—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly—the less reminders you’ll have to give them. (We’ll talk more about release schedules next week, when we discuss marketing your serial.)

STRUCTURE: Each episode of your serial does not have to be self-contained, but there should be an over-arching plot for the book as a whole: each installment must build toward a satisfying conclusion at the end of the book. While your complete serial should be structured as a typical book, with setup, turning points, climax, and conclusion, you may have to add extra turning points within your overall plot to allow for cliffhanger endings of each episode, or you may have to arrange your chapters so the cliffhangers fall at the installment breaks. I found this to be the most challenging aspect of writing my serials: following the standard structure of a whole novel while putting major turning points or cliffhangers at the installment breaks.

NUMBER AND LENGTH OF INSTALLMENTS: This point is both a writing issue and a marketing issue. It’s important to understand your market before you determine the number and length of your installments. There is no industry standard: the number of installments varies per serial. In my case, Harlequin Teen determined RUN TO YOU would have three parts per book. Each part has between 99 and 120 pages. Other serials have six, eight, or ten installments per book. There may be serials with even more installments, especially on Wattpad or in fanfic. Generally, the more installments in a book, the less pages per installment. You should keep your audience and your price point in mind as you decide the number and length of your episodes. You want to give your readers an installment that’s short enough to consume in a single sitting, but long enough that leaves them feeling satisfied with both the story and the price they paid.

DISCUSSION

So, my friends, now that you are armed with this information, would you ever try to write a serial? If your publisher decided to serialize your manuscript, how would you react: would you run away in tears, or would you be up to the challenge?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today Clara is the author of dark fiction young adults. Her debut series, the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU, is Harlequin TEEN’s first serial. Book One is First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm. Book Two is Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.

Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

Find Clara online: Website   Twitter   Facebook   Tumblr   Instagram   Goodreads  Newsletter

About the books

Good news! The first installment of my serial, RUN TO YOU Part I: FIRST SIGHT, is still free across all e-tailers! 
In Part One of this romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can't even tell him her real name. But Tristan won't be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

RUN TO YOU is Tessa and Tristan's saga—two books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Each book is told in three parts: a total of six shattering reads that will stay with you long after the last page.

Grab FIRST SIGHT now for free, then join Harlequin Teen and a whole bunch of book bloggers and fans at the RUN TO YOU read-along. We're discussing FIRST SIGHT this week, SECOND GLANCE next week, and THIRD CHARM the week after that. We’re having a great time, and we have some fun prizes to give away. Get more details on my blog: http://bit.ly/readR2Y. I’d love to see the Adventures in YA Publishing gang at the read-along!


For more about each installment of the RUN TO YOU series, click here

Find RUN TO YOU at your favorite e-tailers, including:

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4. Like Pinterest On My Refrigerator

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook Friend Jeannine Atkins posted that she was getting ready to tack items on a character's refrigerator in a work-in-progress. I thought, Wow! Why don't I post items from one of my works-in-progress on my refrigerator? It would help keep me in the WIP's world

I suggested in Jeannine's comments that we do that. Someone pointed out that first we'd have to clean off our refrigerators, which is definitely the case.

As you can see in the above picture, I've overdone it a bit with the art magnets. They're now crammed onto the side of the fridge.

Look to the left, and you'll see what I replaced those magnets with--material related to my mummyish book.  I have a timeline for my somewhat real historical figure, Nebetah, daughter of Amenhotep III, leading to my made up nineteenth century Egyptologist family leading to the museum they funded in the 1920s leading to my present day story. I have family trees for the pharaoh's family and for the Egyptologist's. I have a picture of the statue of Amenhotep, Queen Tiye, and their daughters, the only one in which Nebetah appears. I have pictures of the university museum that I'm using as a model for the Elliot Randall Gardner museum.

You might recognize a picture of Nefrititi. She appears to have been Amenhotep's daughter-in-law, which would have made her the sister-in-law of my sort-of mummy, Nebetah.

I haven't worked on this project in weeks while I've been taking care of smaller works. We'll see if having these details in my face every day helps me get back to it faster.

I suggested to a family member that my fridge story panel was similar to a Pinterest board, except that being on my fridge, I would actually look at it. He thought it was more like one of those Major Crimes case boards.

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5. Just Rewards…

There are many people in the world eager to take the back end rewards without contributing effort at the front end. They have the attitude of entitlement. Asking, “What can I get out of it?”

Um…not how the Universe works. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Look at it this way: A farmer earns rewards after the harvest, putting in his or her effort (a.k.a. blood, sweat, and tears) up front by preparing the ground, planting the seeds, nursing the seeds, making sure the seeds are not crowded out by other species, and are properly irrigated. With me so far? Then after harvesting the crop, the farmer collects the back end reward. Having no idea at the start what that final reward may be, farmers know only what might come from their labors if they do everything right. If the farmer messes up or Mother Nature steps in and wreaks havoc, then it makes sense that a lesser reward is taken. The farmer is only entitled to the results of the harvest.

So how does this work for writers?

Simple. All writers should ask themselves, “What can I put into my writing career to get the best possible reward?” Figure out what steps you need to take, and from there follow the farmer analogy above exchanging the word ‘seeds’ for ‘books’. Every author writes for different reasons. To hit the bestseller list, you need to be in for the long haul. Patience is the name of the game here. To make any kind of money in this business—and like farming, writing IS a business—it takes time plus a back-list of about 4 books to produce a sustainable author career. You need a plan if you want to become a professional writer which includes some form of on-line presence like a website or blog (think irrigation). If you’re just writing for you and having a blast self-publishing on Amazon or Smashwords, you’re strategy may not be the same, but you will still earn rewards. So figure out what you need to put into your writing career/hobby and work toward those back end rewards.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you have time, please leave a comment and share what you’re putting into your writing career, and how it’s worked out so far. Cheers!

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6. Are You A Writer?

Can you accept imperfection? Can you accept that you'll need to revise again and again (and still again), that the word you're looking for may not appear until the twentieth or thirtieth draft?  Can you accept that one day your writing will flow like wine and the next day the well may run dry and all you can do is sit at your desk and stare for hours at an empty screen? Can you accept that

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7. The HOW TO of a MIDDLE-GRADE MASTERPIECE!

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Writing a Middle-grade Masterpiece
Ain't Easy!
Originally posted in The Purple Crayon – on "Musings"
by Margot Finke




Libraries, bookstores, and online shops offer middle-grade novels of all types: inspiring, good, bad, and that iffy area in-between. I am sure every writer starts out with the intention of writing a story that inspires as well as entertains young readers. However, it soon dawns on them that hard work, imagination, and dedication are just small parts of what it takes to write a middle-grade book that inspires and entertains.
Like any other job or career, a potential writer must spend time learning the craft of writing for children — an apprenticeship, if you will. The rules are available for those who take the time to learn them. And once you learn the rules, you can take an occasional deep breath. . . and break them with impunity.
.
Secret Ingredients for a Middle-grade Masterpiece:
Trying to write for the older half of the middle-grade range? To appeal to kids on the cusp of adolescence: with raging hormones and today’s fast pace your main competition? From 10 to 13 years of age is the range I mean. However, kids find their own reading comfort level, so some 10/11 year olds might read YA books, while older teens might still be into middle-grades. It all depends on their maturity and individual reading level.



Here’s a preview of the ingredients you’ll need to dig out of your imagination, and your well-honed craft box, if you plan to whip up a great middle-grade book for those fickle 10-13 year-olds:
  • Tight writing.
  • Active and powerful verbs.
  • A plot that’s cool and fast paced.
  • Characters who are alive with authenticity.
  • Dialogue that is true to the characters.
  • A background rich with possibilities or mystery.
  • Your own unique writing voice.
  • Hints and clues that are woven into the fabric of the plot, and tell of past history and things yet to come.
  • End of chapter HOOKS that keep readers turning the page.
When completed, your middle-grade masterpiece needs to be somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000 words. Yes, I know Jo Rowlings upped the ante with her succession of Harry Potter books, and if your plot and characters have the same appeal as Harry, you too might get away with a larger word count. However, first-time authors might be wise to err on the side of fewer words.

Ingredients — How and Where to Find Them:
  • If it’s been a long time since you sat in Mrs. Learnit’s English class, take a basic English/Writing course. You can do this online, through a nearby night class, or your local college. Writers must have confidence in their basic grammar and punctuation skills.
  • Haunt your local bookstores and library. Read every middle-grade book you can get your hands on. Dissect the plots in these books, and the way authors create their characters. Look at the sentence structure, the way they describe events and places. Make notes. If a book grabs your interest, find out what it is the author does that has that effect on you. Is it their richly crafted characters, their sharp and fast moving plot, or their attention to all those small yet vital details?
  • Write as often as you can. Becoming a published author is not for wimps or hobbyists. Sacrifices are mandatory. If it means getting up before dawn, because that is the only time you have to write — so be it. If it means being bleary-eyed at 2 am so you can finish a chapter — suck it up! If it means living with dust bunnies that make your mother-in-law cluck, and teaching your kids to do their own laundry and room clean up — go for it! Most important is a partner who is sympathetic toward your (weird to his mind) need to write, and his willingness to help out around the house when you are suffering from one of your many writing frenzies. Perfect wife, mother and housekeeper, OR great writer? Both demand masses of time — your choice, mate.
  • If you have no middle-grade children in your family, volunteer at your local middle school. Observe these half-baked creatures in their natural habitat. Body language, peer groups, misfits and lunch room behavior: all this is grist for your writing mill. Moreover, you’ll probably have fun doing it. Make a note of what these kids read for pleasure.
  • Network with others who write for the same age. This means joining online lists where writing and publishing information flows back and forth, and you can have your many beginner questions answered. Join a critique group that has some advanced or published members. Their support and encouragement will often save your sanity. Critiquing the work of others is surprisingly informative, and you will benefit from the feedback you receive on your own writing. Below are three of many great online lists for children’s writers, and links to join.
Whenever possible, go to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) writing conferences. SCBWI is well worth joining. They offer many advantages to newcomers, and their branches pop up in every state. This is where you meet editors and agents, and hear them speak about today’s world of writing and publishing. Meeting them often leads to you being able to send your manuscript to a specific editor: and with so many publishers today closed to submissions, this is a real plus. Other writers will also be there, keen to network with you, and share their writing experiences.  

The MAGIC of learning MORE will see you through! 


If you don’t have a college degree, or even a high school diploma, don’t worry. Talent, perseverance, and a slice of luck can make up for these so-called deficits. A dedicated and talented writer, determined to learn the craft of writing, and stick with it until they become published, will succeed. Boost your writing confidence with an advanced writing class. This will take you beyond grammar and punctuation, and into the meaty realm of plots, character enrichment, voice and pace. Perfect these skills, and acceptances rates multiply like rabbits. Below are three links — two links for great writing classes, and the other to terrific books on how to write for children.
  • Recommended Writing Class
  • Anastasia Suen — A wonderful writer. If you want to write for children, visit her Intensive
     
Other Websites That Will Boost Your Writing Knowledge:
  A must browse for beginners and experts alike. A veritable treasure
trove of writing information.

  • CBC  (Children's Book Council)
Information about writing, authors, books and publishing.
  • Writer's Market Research publishers. They update information regularly. They have a program where you can track submissions, but it cost to join. Writer's Market also has a free update site. You don't have to subscribe to the magazine to get the updates.
  • Jan Field's Website
     Chock full of writing help, and kidmagwriters.com is a terrific resource for
    those who want to write for magazines. 
  • CWIM (Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market). This hard copy book is the information Bible for publishers, editors, agents, and what they want from
    YOU in the current year
  • LINKEDIN is a place for serious writers.  Lots of writing lists for every genre`. 
Final Note to Prospective Authors:
Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep researching to find the right publisher. Keep sending out those finished manuscripts. Editors do not make house calls!

HAPPY WRITING MATES!





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Books for Kids - FREE Skype AuthorVisits
Manuscript Critiques


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8. My Writing Process Blog Tour

One of my favorite writers and illustrators, Michelle Edwards, was kind enough to invite me to join the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Michelle has written and illustrated numerous books for children, including the National Jewish Book Award winner, Chicken Man. If you enjoy knitting, you might like to pick up her book on knitting for adults, A Knitter's Home Companion, an illustrated collection

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9. Role reversal: Writing Workshop with Linda Rief at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat

As a writing teacher, I know that I must write – and I do: blog posts, book reviews, a Slice of Life every Tuesday, letters to my students in the reading journals and… Continue reading

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10. Blog Tour: Writing Process

Greetings Illustrator Amigos! Today I am part of a blog tour!


 I was invited by the super talented illustrator and banjo player, Russ Cox! Before I begin, let me introduce you to Russ! 

Russ Cox was raised by a pack of crazed hillbillies in the back woods of Tennessee. Without much in the way of modern conveniences, like a television set or running water, he spent his time drawing and whittling away the hours. All of that drawing paid off. He has illustrated the Freddy the Frogcaster series written by Janice Dean (Regnery Kids). Major Manner Nite Nite Soldier, by Beth and Mike Hofner (Outhouse Ink). A Merry Moosey Christmas by Lynn Plourde (Islandport Press Fall 2014) and his first book that he wrote and illustrated, Faraway Friends, will be released in April 2015 by Sky Pony. 

You can find out more about Russ and see his work at his website, www.smilingotis.com and his blog, www.smilingotis.blogspot.com.



Now on to the questions. This blog tour topic is Writing Process. Here is a little bit about my writing process! 


1. What am I working on? 

I am working on a new picture book- title to be revealed soon- that I have written and am now illustrating. The characters in the book are all sheep and goats set in an ancient (yet strangely modern) middle eastern style royal court. Right now I'm working on character design- it has been a struggle at times, but mostly a blast! Character design sketches to be posted here soon!


2. How does my work differ from others of this genre? 

I have always loved fairy tales and spoofs on fairy tales. My stories usually don't take place in the every day life of a child like many picture books do. I do like to write books that are character driven, but my stories often take place in fantasy or fairy tale- like settings. 

Also a lot of children's illustrations use very flat and stylized and local color , whereas in my illustrations, although stylized, I like to use light and shadow and atmosphere.


3. Why do I write what I do? 

For a long time, I tried to write and illustrate things I thought would work well in the market- what I thought everyone else would want to read. 

But I was not writing what really resonated with me and with who I was.

 So I decided to write and illustrate something that I would want to read, and that's when I really started feeling happy and successful about my work.


4. How does my writing process work? 

When I write my story, I am already thinking of where I can show things with pictures instead of words. I usually write a few drafts of my story before I take it to my critique groups, and then revise it again a few times.  

Then I design the characters and do some other visual development for the book. This takes a while, because I want to get the characters just right for the story. Some of this takes place later in my process- every thing is ongoing. 

Next, I make a pacing book which is 8 pieces of paper, folded in half and stapled together. I tape the words of my story into the book and then turn the pages, and rearrange them until I like the pacing.

After that, I make a storyboard and revise that a few times. At this point I will show the story to my agent and critique group, and do a few more revisions. 

Then I make my dummy book/ more polished sketches, which will also go through a few revisions. 

In other words, write, revise, write, revise, draw, revise, draw, revise, draw again, revise, rewrite, redraw....that's my process!



So now that you know a little bit about my process, I hope you will join my friends next week (July 3rd) to find out about their writing processes. Hopefully hearing from all these amazing talented artist illustrators will give you some good ideas about what you can do to improve your writing craft. 

So without further delay, I would like to introduce you to some of my writer/illustrator friends!



First up, we have Mr. John Nez! I will let him introduce himself. Take it away, John!

I've illustrated over 50 books of every sort, from toddler board books to historical non-fiction. I'm now also writing and illustrating my own picture books and interactive e-book apps, which is a lot of fun.

I draw mostly in a whimsical style with the goal of conveying lots of feeling in my pictures... happy, sad, sneaky, mad, hopeful, afraid... whatever. I'd guess that's about the main point of any illustration.

 I work in Photoshop and Illustrator, which greatly expand the illustrator's toolbox. The combination of traditional and digital mediums allows for amazing new possiblities... and lots of fun.


You can find more about John by visting his website at www.johnnez.com and his blog at johnnez.blogspot.com.




Next up is my food friend, Manelle Oliphant. Here's a little about Manelle:

Manelle Oliphant graduated from BYU-Idaho with her illustration degree. She loves illustrating historical stories and fairytales. She lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

You can see her work and download free coloring pages on her website awww.manelleoliphant.com





And last but not least is another great friend of mine, Sherry Meidell. Here's a little bit about Sherry:

Sherry Meidell loves to tell stories with paint. She is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, Utah Watercolor Society, and  Western Federation of Watercolor Societies.  She has received numerous awards and is a member and illustrator coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She keeps her paint brushes busy painting watercolors and illustrating children’s picture books.
 You can find out more about her by visiting her web site www.sherrymeidell.com and blog sherrymeidell.wordpress.com.






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11. Wednesday Writing Workout: Mining for Nuggets of Gold in Those Stories You Left Behind


Please welcome back Tamera Will Wissinger, author of the 2014 ALSC Notable GONE FISHING (HHM), and help us celebrate her secondbook, the picture book THIS OLD BAND (Sky Pony Press) which released June 3.

Tamara is one of my fellow TA Carmela Martino’s many Student Success Stories.
But I’m happy to report: she’s one of my long-ago Ragdale Picture Book Workshop students too. J
Though she now lives in Vero Beach, Florida, I will always consider her my SCBWI-Illinois kin.

As recent posts noted, most writers’ drawers are crammed full with manuscripts that somehow haven’t found the light of day.
So Tamera’s WWW is more than timely, helping us mine the gold in those left-behind stories.

 
THIS OLD BAND features a ragtag band of cowboys counting and hollering from ten to one, making music with their jugs, combs, boots and whatever else they can find.
In its upcoming July 2014 review, School Library Journal  commended THIS OLD BAND for the “clever use of alliteration and rhyme, as well as laugh-out-loud funny tongue-twisters, that complement the singsong nature of the story, making the book ideal for both story-times and one-on-one sharing.”

Thanks, Tamera, for sharing your book and your know-how!

As always, I'm cheering you on!

Esther Hershenhorn

                                                       * * * * * * *

Mining for Nuggets of Gold in Stories Left Behind

Do you have any stories or poems that you’ve trunked, shelved, iced, buried, torpedoed, or locked in the vault? Work that was once your reason for showing up to write every day, but then at some point stopped being fun or interesting enough to continue? I do. Each piece’s end comes differently – sometimes I move on after barely starting, and other times I write through the end only to find that it didn’t turn out the way that I had intended. After the huge investments of time and energy, it can be disappointing, even heartbreaking.
My first picture book, THIS OLD BAND, has its genesis in in the demise of another rhyming concept book that will probably never be published because I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out how to write it. While I was creating it, though, in my mind it had such potential, such flair! There was going to be a duel! I wrote two (what I thought were) really terrific opening stanzas:
West, out near the great divide
Where bison roam and ranchers ride

Above the town of Twisted Pine,
Lived number one through number nine.

I outlined the rest of the story. I knew where I wanted this poem-story to go and I wrote and rewrote, but it didn’t go where I had planned and eventually I had to concede. I placed the manuscript in a drawer and moved on to something else.
Over the months and years, though, the heart of that story kept tugging at me. I loved that western setting, the idea of cowboys and cowgirls, the bison, the numbers. I had already acknowledged that the story didn’t work as it was, but I began to think in “what ifs” and “maybes”:
  • What if I kept the southwest setting and the element of counting?
  • Maybe these characters didn’t want to duel. What if I didn’t make them?
  • What if, instead, the main characters were cowboy/cowgirl friends who played simple instruments and made silly noises? Maybe they could perform as a band.
  • What if I threw out those “terrific” stanzas that were getting me nowhere and chose an entirely different rhythm and rhyme pattern?
Sifting through that old manuscript to mine those nuggets of gold was fun. Leaving behind the rest of the pieces that hadn't worked felt liberating. Equally satisfying was starting anew with my gold pieces of setting, characters, action, and new rhyme and rhythm. I began to uncover a different looking and sounding story that eventually became This Old Band. 

I believe that every shelved story or poem has valuable nuggets to mine if we’re willing to push past the gate of sorrow and frustration to search for them. Here are ideas for ways to approach a buried manuscript:
  • Which one speaks most loudly to your heart and your brain? Maybe that’s the one to consider first.
  • Do you need to actually read it to know what’s in there that is of value to you? Maybe there’s a gem of a conflict that you know by heart. Or a setting that is exceptional. Maybe it’s a secondary character – or an endearing character trait. With poetry it could be any detail that you found particularly charming. Maybe it’s a wonderful metaphor, a delightful image, or a single rhyming couplet.
  • If you do reread the manuscript – after all this time is it more clear to you what was working and what wasn’t? Go in and grab those nuggets that work; they are gold, and they are yours!
  • Consider what you have – it may not seem like much at first, but no story or poem does in the beginning.
  • Based on what you have, allow yourself to wonder. Say “maybe”…ask “what if?” Follow your beacons of gold and see where they lead you.
 I wish you good luck as you consider mining for your own gold nuggets. Maybe your real story is just waiting to be unearthed.

Tamera Will Wissinger

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12. The Weekend Writer: Very Early Planning

An idea may feel terrific until you sit down to write something about it. Then you suddenly realize how very rudimentary it is. "...what to write or where to go with your idea..." is an initial problem that can put a stop to a writing project.

An Easy Exercise for Coming Up With Novel Ideas at Now Novel's blog is a great description of early planning using what you're interested in to get you started.

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13. Immersion: The Writing Process

We each have our own writing processes, and every book demands to be written differently. While participating in the #writingprocess blog tour last month, I talked about how my current WIP has been a difficult project to wrap my brain around. I said:

“This book demands immersion. She demands focus for hours at a time. And I’m not talking half-assed freewriting or NaNoWriMo first draft word-puke. This novel wants my blood. I do the best I can to keep myself immersed in this novel as much as I can, because she likes to hole up and shut me out for weeks if I’m not diligent.”

I haven’t been diligent. I’ve allowed this project to hide in the back of my mind. I’ve been avoiding it.

So after failing to immerse myself in this novel, I’ve decided to dive in 100% and go for it. There’s no time like the present. I just dropped my fiance off at the airport and he won’t be back for five days. Which means I have five days without distractions. It also means I can turn my writing studio (which happens to be in our living room) into a shrine to this project.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Say hello to my workspace this week:

SAMSUNG

Yup, I’ve covered the walls with all of the brainstorming I’ve done on this project: character sheets, outlines, mind-webs, questions I need to answer and more.

Workspace

I’ve been working through John Truby’s 22 Steps of Story Structure:

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

I’ve collected setting and location images:

SAMSUNG

I’ve created character sheets with photos and lists of controlling beliefs, external goals, fears, moral needs, self revelations, and distinguishable traits.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

As much as I’ve been avoiding this project … I can’t anymore. Not if I have to look at this every morning!

SAMSUNG

Lets hope this keeps me motivated!

I wish you all happy writing this week and the next. And if you have images of your work spaces, I’d love to see them!


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14. Immersion: The Writing Process

We each have our own writing processes, and every book demands to be written differently. While participating in the #writingprocess blog tour last month, I talked about how my current WIP has been a difficult project to wrap my brain around. I said:

“This book demands immersion. She demands focus for hours at a time. And I’m not talking half-assed freewriting or NaNoWriMo first draft word-puke. This novel wants my blood. I do the best I can to keep myself immersed in this novel as much as I can, because she likes to hole up and shut me out for weeks if I’m not diligent.”

I haven’t been diligent. I’ve allowed this project to hide in the back of my mind. I’ve been avoiding it.

So after failing to immerse myself in this novel, I’ve decided to dive in 100% and go for it. There’s no time like the present. I just dropped my fiance off at the airport and he won’t be back for five days. Which means I have five days without distractions. It also means I can turn my writing studio (which happens to be in our living room) into a shrine to this project.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Say hello to my workspace this week:

SAMSUNG

Yup, I’ve covered the walls with all of the brainstorming I’ve done on this project: character sheets, outlines, mind-webs, questions I need to answer and more.

Workspace

I’ve been working through John Truby’s 22 Steps of Story Structure:

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

I’ve collected setting and location images:

SAMSUNG

I’ve created character sheets with photos and lists of controlling beliefs, external goals, fears, moral needs, self revelations, and distinguishable traits.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

As much as I’ve been avoiding this project … I can’t anymore. Not if I have to look at this every morning!

SAMSUNG

Lets hope this keeps me motivated!

I wish you all happy writing this week and the next. And if you have images of your work spaces, I’d love to see them!


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15. Plotting Can Be For You by Susanne Winnacker

Susanne Winnacker is the author of The Other Life series as well as the Variants series, the second book of which, DEFECTOR, comes out June 26th! The first book in the series, IMPOSTER has been optioned for a TV series by Warner Brothers.


Plotting Can Be For You by Susanne Winnacker


Today I’d like to talk about what I learned about my writing process and writing tips in general. As most aspiring authors do, I read tons of blog posts about writing habits and writing tips when I first started writing; I searched author blogs for their writing process. I wanted to find the one true way to write a book. As if there was one right way…

I’m an organized person. I don’t like surprises. I like plans, so it seems only natural that I would be a plotter. When I first started playing around with a book idea, however, I thought I had to be a pantser. I’d read on so many blogs and in countless author interviews that outlining, plotting, planning took the joy out of writing. Many writers said that. At the time it almost felt as if every writer felt that way. So despite the fact that I hated going into things without a plan, I tried to write my book without an outline. It would be fun, right?

It was the way to do it. Other writers said so (not to me personally obviously, but I’d gathered that from their comments).

But for me it wasn’t fun. I stumbled over words. I hated working on the book because I didn’t know what happened next. I wrote at a snail’s pace and eventually I grew frustrated. I decided to follow my instincts and plan the book. Back then I didn’t do extensive outlines as I do them today, but I wrote a short 2 page synopsis and a query letter for the book, and suddenly the words started flowing. And it was fun, even though I knew how it would end. For me, plotting was the right way, even if it isn’t for many other writers out there. You have to find your own way. Once I found an agent and publisher, I quickly discovered that it was an advantage to like outlining because in the publishing industry detailed outlines are often a necessary evil if you want to sell books.

But even after discovering this and after having published my first book, I hadn’t yet learned everything there was about the perfect way for me to write a book.

I still wondered if I was doing it right. Should I create extensive Pinterest boards for inspiration before I began a book? I love to browse through Pinterest boards of other writers, love to see how they visualize their characters, their landscapes and more, and I tried it, but it didn’t help with research or with writing. It took away time from the actual writing and felt like a necessary chore more than anything else, so I dropped it. I don’t need images of actors that resemble my characters or photos of scenery. It can be fun to find them but it’s not necessary for my writing process.

So ask yourself, do images help you develop the plot, do they make your creative juices flow? If that’s the case, then maybe a Pinterest board for your book is the right way for you, but if it feels forced and like one more way to procrastinate, then maybe it’s not worth it.

It also took me a long time to figure out the right way to outline. As I mentioned above, I used to write short 2 page synopses. They were okay to give my agent a taste of what I had planned, but they didn’t really help me all that much. Of course, the synopsis told me the major plot points, but I still struggled with my writing whenever I hit points where I needed to fill in the many scenes that happened between one major plot point and the next, and that bugged me.

So I tried to write a more detailed outline, but as I wrote the outline I kept adding new scenes and rearranged others until I lost track in the word document. I know some writers solve this problem with Scrivener, but I tried it once and couldn’t figure it out. I’m not a person with a lot of patience so I gave up. And then I asked myself: why not do it the old-fashioned way? There’s nothing better than the feeling of real paper in your hands. I rummaged through our drawers for note cards and then I wrote down every scene that came to my mind. One notecard = one scene. And afterward, I sat down on the ground and lined them up in the right order, then rearranged them again, added new scenes on fresh notecards, and so on. It was fun and in no time, I had written a 30-page outline. That was the right way for me. And it felt wonderful.

You have to find the right way for you. I’m not saying that it’s not worth your time to read posts about writing tips. Reading about other people’s writing process helped me figure out my own, even though it took a few detours to get there. But there’s no right or wrong when it comes to writing habits. The most important thing is that you get started. If you don’t write, you can’t find out what works for you.

About The Author


Susanne Winnacker studied law before she became a full-time writer. She lives with her husband, a dog that looks like a sheep and three bunnies that have destroyed every piece of furniture she's ever owned in Germany. She loves coffee (in every shape and form), traveling and animals. When she isn't writing, you can usually find her in the kitchen, experimenting with new vegan dishes.
She blogs for The League of Extraordinary Writers.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book


Tessa has finally made peace with her life as a Variant. She and long-time love Alec are officially a couple, and for the first time, she has everything she wants.

But the air is tense at FEA headquarters. An agent has disappeared, and rogue variant organization Abel’s Army is likely the culprit.

When Tessa is summoned for her second mission, she is unexpectedly launched into a massive conspiracy. Her best friend Holly is kidnapped and Tessa knows it was meant to be her. But who is after her? And more importantly, why?

When the FEA’s efforts to rescue Holly don’t yield any results, Tessa takes matters into her own hands. Desperate to save her friend and uncover the mystery behind Abel’s Army, Tessa launches her own investigation—but nothing could prepare her for what she finds. Everyone in her life is harboring secrets: Alec, her estranged mother, even the father she never knew.

The truth will take her out on the road and out of her comfort zone, with danger lurking everywhere. Summoning all of her courage and strength, Tessa must decide who can be trusted and what is worth fighting for—even if it means going against the life she thought she wanted. Her final decision will leave readers breathless.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

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16. blog hop tour hops to frog on dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Blog Hop is a blog tour showcasing authors and their writing process. I was honored to be tagged by Kristin Lenz, writer of YA and New Adult novels, and all around super fly, groovy chick. (Thank you, Kristin for inviting me!) I tagged another YA writer extraordinaire, Ann Finkelstein, for the next leg of the Blog Hop. You can learn more about Ann at the close of this post.

So, here we go with the Q & A portion of our program.
I hope you are grading on a curve. (And remember, I was promised there would be NO math problems.)

What am I working on now?
I just finished my second contemporary middle grade novel, SHORT CHANGED, at the end of May. Thankfully, as I was wrapping up novel two, ideas for middle grade number three began to percolate. Did I mention Ray, the main character of this novel, is forcing me to learn to knit because he likes to knit? He takes his protagonist role very seriously. I don’t want to disappoint him.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
It has my voice. What would be the point of imitating anyone else? We already have a Jerry Spinelli and Sharon Creech. I like to blend humor with tenderness (tempered with enough references to boogers or puke to make it believable and boy-friendly).

Why do I write what I do?
Writing middle grade is a sweet spot for me–readers are still young enough to appreciate my dorky sense of humor, but sophisticated enough to handle more complex plot lines, language and themes. But I don’t have to write any “content.” (blushing) I know. I know. I’m such a ninny.

How does my writing process work?
First off, you should know, I never ever intended to write a novel, much less two, going on three. I remember showing my grandpa one of my published magazine stories. He said, “That’s good, Vick. Now, where’s your novel?” I told him flat-out, “I’m not a novelist. There’s no novel in me.” (See? Such a ninny I am.) It wasn’t until a friend asked me to collaborate on a novel with him that I ever thought to attempt such a crazy thing. I mean, novel writing was for, sheesh, I don’t know–novelists. But I reasoned that before I co-wrote a novel, maybe I’d better see if I’m capable of creating a one on my own. And so it began.

My first middle grade novel, SHRINK, germinated from a short scene based on a childhood memory. The story took on a life of its own as I began to ask why–why did the main character say that? Why does he feel this way? Why did he make that decision? To whom is he telling his story? And why? Because I was neon green at novel hatching, I pretty much let the characters run the show, which meant I had a lot of clean up to do on the back side. (Kids are not known for their logic or consistency you know.) I still love the characters in that first novel and even miss them when I see a real-world kid who looks like one of them. I must have done something right.

My second novel was inspired by a stupid idea. I thought it would be clever and ironic to write a novel with the title SHORT STORY. But that, I was wisely advised, would get way too confusing. So, I changed the title to SHORT CHANGED, but kept the basic story. I tried writing this novel on my own, like the first one, while trying to avoid the rookie pitfalls. But eventually, I opted to enroll in a novel-writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. The individualized instruction and the built-in deadlines helped me progress. I’d recommend taking an ICL class. If you want to know more, just let me know via my contact page and I’ll get right back to you.

My third novel is unfolding very differently. I want to plot and plan and outline before fully immersing myself in this novel. I am gathering articles and ideas too. And, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve got to take those knitting lessons. I’m also going to “interview” each of my characters in order to create character sketches. I treat characters like they are already fully-formed people. It’s my job to get to know them and create a world for them to live in and circumstances to respond to. (And how “simple” is that?)

Based on what I’ve experienced so far, I love the entire novel-writing process–the first niggling from a new idea, meeting my characters, creating that first draft, revising (ad nauseam), receiving critiques, revising again . . . I love it all. Except when I don’t.

(I hope I got the answers right.)

The next stop on the Blog Hop tour will be hosted by my talented friend and Sock Sister Ann Finkelstein. Ann writes young adult novels in Michigan. She enjoys biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and photographing the great outdoors. Read more about her. You can read Ann’s brilliant answers about her writing process on Friday, June 20. Don’t miss it!

Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. ~ James Joyce


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17. The Path

When we pick up our pen to write, we step onto a path. It’s not a clearly marked path. If we look for it stretching out ahead of us, we won’t see it. No flags mark its direction.  No paving stones or shells indicate where we need to step or warn us when we may veer off the path. For some of us it’s a path that we follow for a week or month, for others a semester or a year.

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18. An End of the Year Writing Check

At the end of the school year, we are often faced with pages and pages of student writing. Most of it may have gone home already, but now is a great time to… Continue reading

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19. Writing Works (For Me) Like This

I’ll feel the pull of a current, and I’ll wait for the current to get stronger. If I pursue the pull of the current before it’s strong enough, I won’t be able to ride the wave of the story because it doesn’t yet have enough force or momentum to carry me. So, I wait and mull and think, letting the wave, the idea, build and gain strength. When I can no longer resist its pull, I let the

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20. Proofing Like a Pro

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by

Erin Bowman

Proofing is one of the last steps before any major writing milestone.

About to send a manuscript to your betas for feedback? Proof it first. Turning in a revision to your editor? Proof it again. Reading through your pass pages (aka ‘your last chance to make changes ever!!’)? Proof it with extra care!

As writers, we read our own book hundreds (if not thousands) of times before it becomes a physical book. Because we are so close to the work, it is easy to skim right over missing words, auto-correct typos in our heads, and completely miss continuity errors. Over the years, I’ve relied on a few key proofing methods to help me catch these errors. The main trick they all have in common is getting away from the computer.

#1 – PRINT IT
I can hear you already. Erin, think of the trees! So I’ll say this: print back-to-back and recycle everything. But trust me, having your words on paper, in front of you, is incredibly different than reading your book on your computer screen. This route helps you catch issues you hadn’t before, and you’ll have plenty of room to jot down notes and edits in the margins. I swear that documenting these edits by hand makes a difference. You’re able to focus your efforts on highlighting what’s broken and suggesting fixes for later, as opposed to feeling pressure to fix errors immediately (which is my main struggle when I proof at the computer.)

This method is good for: Early revision stages, eg: before sending to CPs or betas. I find it most useful for spotting big picture issues like plot holes, character arc inconstancies, pacing flaws, world-building/info-dumps, and so on.

 

#2 — SEND IT TO YOUR KINDLE
Or iPad. Or e-reader of choice. The key here is to read your book in a format that feels slightly more book-like. Holding an e-reader tricks your brain into thinking you’re reading a published e-book. Being able to curl up on the couch while reading certainly doesn’t hurt either. Suddenly you’ll be spotting scene- and sentence-level errors you hadn’t in your previous read-throughs. As you come across these mistakes, highlight them and/or add notes so that you can address them when you’re back at the computer later.

This method is good for: Later revision stages, eg: before sending a requested revision to your editor. As mentioned, I’ve found this great for scene- and sentence-level issues (word echoes, unconvincing dialog, unclear descriptions, and so on).

 

#3a — READ IT OUT LOUD
The down-side to this method is it takes a lot of time and often makes you lose your voice in the process. But I swear this is hands-down the best method for spotting typos. Your brain auto-corrects small issues when you read silently, but reading out loud forces you to focus on every last word. Typos, missing words, incorrect conjugations, wonky punctuation, and more will jump out at you. (I’m proofing my pass pages for FORGED right now–a manuscript that has already been through professional copyediting–and have found at least four typos while reading aloud.) It’s tough work, but worth it. Keep a glass of water nearby and take breaks often.

This method is good for: Final proofing, eg: before turning in your last round of pass pages. Because it’s so rough on your vocal chords, I usually only do this method once per book, and put it off until my last possible chance to make edits.

 

#3b — HAVE THE COMPUTER READ IT TO YOU
Piggy-backing off the previous suggestion, there are programs out there that can read your manuscript to you. The goal is the same: hearing the words out loud will help you catch errors that previously slipped through so you can edit while you listen. I have yet to use this method, but might try it in the future. Writers have suggested different programs to me, such as Ivona Reader (for PC desktops) and Voice Dream Reader (for iPhone/iPad). If you know of and would like to recommend another, please leave it in the comments!

This method is good for: same as above.

 

And that’s it! These are my go-to proofing methods for various stagings of revision. While these work for me, they may not work for everyone. On that note, I’m sure there are other methods that also work wonders. Do you have a proofing trick or tip that I didn’t mention here? Please leave it in the comments!

Erin Bowman is a YA writer, letterpress lover, and Harry Potter enthusiast living in New Hampshire. Her TAKEN trilogy is available from HarperTeen (book three out 4/14/15), and VENGEANCE ROAD publishes with HMH in fall 2015. You can visit Erin’s blog (updated occasionally) or find her on twitter (updated obsessively).

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21. My Writing Process

ImageToday I join the blog tour where writers and authors answer questions about their writing process. Author Rebecca Colby preceded me. Please check out her writing process here: www.rebeccacolbybooks.com/2014/04/writing-process-blog-tour/

What am I working on now?

My present focus is on eight-year-old E. B. Louise, who is determined to save her shredding and too-small elephant slippers given to her by her recently deceased Grandma Hubble. E. B. Louise is precocious and always getting into trouble, which makes her utterly delicious and intoxicating to be around. Especially when you add her bestie, Melvin Fitch, who returns from his summer vacation at Alien World greener than E. B. Louise’s lawn. I work with second graders on a weekly basis and absolutely adore their age group. Oh, that E. B. Louise and her antics! Revising this lower middle grade lets me spend my mornings laughing out loud before I return to my second young adult in free verse, which has a darker and more serious tone, with a plot that gives me chills.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Paying no attention to market trends, I write what I am called to write, what speaks to my heart. If a voice leads to less-explored topics like early-onset Alzheimer’s, stealing, and secrets that turn families upside down, I’m not afraid to go there. I’m also not afraid to push the limits if I wholeheartedly believe that a certain plot point or a particular dialogue exchange is honest to what truly happens in children’s lives.

Why do I write what I do?

As for picture books, I adore them, I always have. And I love the challenge of writing a heartfelt and funny story in under 700 words. In terms of novels, once a voice comes to me—whether in a whisper, a single line of dialogue, or sometimes a scene in which I see the unfamiliar character doing something and wonder why—I have to follow them. For the most part, I write character-driven contemporary fiction.

How does your writing process work?

Because I live a full life—I work at an old-fashioned toy store part-time, regularly watch my two grandkids, volunteer weekly in my granddaughter’s second-grade classroom, and I am an avid photographer—I’ve learned to set aside time in each day to write. As writers, we must do this. Nearly three years ago, right after my father died, I made a vow to become an early riser for the sake of my writing. And now, on most days, I welcome the sun from my writing room where I am head down, butt in chair, giving free rein to Sleepy Mind. This is when my creative juices flow best. Overall, I write up to four hours per day, some days more than that.

A first draft of a novel can take up to three months, while I write picture books fairly quickly. Though I play with the story’s concept and characters for weeks in my mind. I see pictures, like screen shots, and jot those down. The real writing follows after I’ve let the fresh manuscript simmer for a while and then hunker down for revision. Revising is, hands down, my favorite part of writing.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Please visit my author friends who will share their writing process in the next week or so.

SONY DSCDebbie LaCroix is the author of “It’s Almost Time.” We met at Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp in March. Debbie is a book addict. She loves to read, write and even sells children’s books for Usborne Books and More. She is a Mom to 2 boys, and loves jumping into her imagination. She is currently searching for an agent.

 

 

 

A_Denise_Author_PhotoAnika Denise is the author of PIGS LOVE POTATOES and BELLA AND STELLA COME HOME, both of which were illustrated by her husband, Christopher Denise. Her forthcoming titles include BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S (Philomel, August, 2014/ also illustrated by Chris) and MONSTER TRUCKS! (Harper Children’s, 2016/ illustrated by Nate Wragg.) She lives with her husband and three daughters in Barrington, Rhode Island. Learn more about Anika’s books at her author website www.anikadenise.com, and blog http://thelittlecrookedcottage.blogspot.com.

 

 

 


6 Comments on My Writing Process, last added: 5/24/2014
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22. It Got Me Thinking…

State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

Perseverance.

How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

by Jessica Denhart

My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

Read More…photo-of-jess1

Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

Creative Input and Creative Output

by Heather Strickland

I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

Read More…

Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

Thoughts on Being Professional

by Amy Sundberg

“I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

Read More…

 Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

 


1 Comments on It Got Me Thinking…, last added: 5/27/2014
Display Comments Add a Comment
23. It Got Me Thinking…

State of MindI want to share three blog posts that I can’t stop thinking about. These are posts that (like a good book) I kept mulling over days after I read them. They’ve planted seeds in my mind that keep growing and growing.

There’s a theme to these posts and it’s:

Perseverance.

How do we write when we don’t feel like we have the time or the heart? How do we keep writing with all the fear and uncertainty? How do we find the strength to be vulnerable and put the pen to the page? I’ve been struggling with my WIP lately, and I needed to hear all of these posts. Maybe you do to.

Writing Truth and Authenticity Amidst the Noise

by Jessica Denhart

My truth today is that I am afraid. From the white-hot center of myself, I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make my writing good enough. I am afraid, and when I am afraid, I close my eyes to my manuscript, my words, my expression of self, my creativity, and effectively cut myself off from the one thing that I know is my authentic self. All I hear is the noise of fear and self-doubt.”

Read More…photo-of-jess1

Jessica Denhart received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2013. She writes YA and middle grade fiction, contemporary with a magical-realism twist. She is also a member of the SCBWI. She currently lives in the Midwest, with longings for the taste of the salt-air, the sound of the ocean waves, and the feel of sand between her toes. Read more by Jessica on her blog Between the Shadow and the Soul.  She can be found on twitter as @jessdenhart.

Creative Input and Creative Output

by Heather Strickland

I’ve come to think of creativity as a factory. Our brains are motors: if we stop fueling them, they won’t run. Or, more truthfully, if we fuel them with crap and nonsense, they’ll run like crap and nonsense. We have to feed them something delicious, something healthy, or they won’t run the way they’re supposed to.”

Read More…

Heather StricklandHeather Strickland started writing for children when she realized she was probably never going to be an adult. She moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts because she heard there was a shortage of writers in Brooklyn. Now, she likes going for walks past brownstones and peering through open windows to make up stories about the people who live in fancy apartments. Follow Heather on Twitter: @StrictlyHeather

Thoughts on Being Professional

by Amy Sundberg

“I ran across an excellent article on an economics blog I follow called “Amateurs versus Professionals.” It very much applies to what I’ve observed about writing, and I imagine it holds true for many other pursuits and professions as well … After reading this list, it occurs to me that much of the difference between an amateur and a professional is a state of mind.”

Read More…

 Amy SundbergAmy Sundberg is a SF/F and YA writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Redstone Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Buzzy Magazine, among others. She lives in California, and when not writing, she’s either buried in a good book, singing musical theater songs, or trying to add more pins to locations visited on her world map. She is an avid blogger at practicalfreespirit.com and can be found on Twitter as @amysundberg

 


0 Comments on It Got Me Thinking… as of 5/27/2014 11:40:00 PM
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24. Writing Fiction? Author Megan Jean Sovern Provides a Host of Inspiration

Today's interview holds a host of insights into the way in which Megan Jean Sovern, author of The Meaning of Maggie, develops characters, brings themes to the fore, and plans plot trajectory. Suffice it to say, I came away more than a little inspired.

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25. Blog Tour - My Writing Process

Today, I join the blog tour where writers answer questions about their process. I was invited by my friend and colleague, author Betsy Devany. Betsy's debut picture book is forthcoming from Christy Ottaviano Books at Henry Holt in 2016. Read Betsy's wonderful post on her writing process here.


What am I working on?
Right now, I'm revising two picture book manuscripts: one about an unconventional chicken, the other about a middle child who celebrates all the reasons why (contrary to popular opinion) middle is the best. I'm also in the first draft stages of a middle grade fantasy novel involving a boardwalk, magic and time-travel, as well as a contemporary piece about a young biracial girl. So, I'm all over the map as far as what I'm working on—and I like it that way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'd say my picture books have a classic feel. I'm especially fond of bouncy read-alouds and frequently collaborate with my husband, Christopher Denise, an artist whose influences include Ernest Shepard, NC Wyeth, Edmund Dulac and Beatrix Potter—so I'd like to think our books have a timelessness that readers respond to. Baking Day At Grandma's, our forthcoming picture book, very much fits that description. We try to create inviting worlds readers want to jump right intowhether it's a cozy bear cabin in the woods, a bustling kitchen full of pigs, or the softly lit bedroom of a little girl and her imaginary yellow elephant.

From Baking Day At Grandma's (Philomel, 2014)
Copyright, 2014 Christopher Denise

I'm also deeply interested in writing books with diverse main characters. It was very important to me that Bella, in Bella And Stella Come Home, look like our children, who are multi-ethnic. 

From Bella and Stella Come Home (Philomel, 2010)
Copyright, 2010 Christopher Denise

Why do I write what I do?
I suppose I'm drawn to what I loved as a child. Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss had a hold on my heart and still do. When I read them today, it's my mother's voice I hear in my head. She was a brilliant reader. Her inflection drew me in. Our nightly ritual of reading books together honed my ear for rhythm, rhyme and dialogueall of which come fairly naturally to me as a writer. 

How does my individual writing process work?
I have three children ages 3, 9 and 12, and I work as an events-planner for my local bookstore, so my writing time is very limited, and very precious. I try—not always successfully—to write at least five days a week. I realized a few years ago that it's helpful for me to have several projects brewing, particularly on the picture book side. Picture books are extremely hard to write well, and out of hundreds of ideas, only a few will rise to the top. So, I spend a great deal of time exploring them. I often have as many as ten to fifteen picture book drafts in various stages of development. This helps keep things fresh and interesting, and increases my chances of hitting on an idea that will resonate with my agent, with editors, and with readers.

Novel-writing, on the other hand, requires a singular focus—which is probably why it has been such a slow process for me. I'm more accustomed to writing and revising as I go, and I've had to retrain my brain to get the messy first draft down without constantly stopping to edit. I'm learning to be brave, and quiet my inner perfectionist. I often begin without an outline and write a scene or two as a manner of finding my way into the piece. Then I back up and create a rough summary or synopsis, so that I can see the plot and story arc more clearly, and can jump ahead if I get stuck. 

And now, I shall pass the torch to two lovely and talented authors: Kim Savage and Mary Jane Begin.

Mary Jane Begin is an award-winning author and illustrator and an instructor at Lynda.com. Her books include My Little Pony: Under The Sparkling Sea, (Little, Brown 2013) Little Mouse's Painting, Before I Go to Sleep, A Mouse Told His Mother, retellings of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Willow Buds, tales inspired by Wind in the Willows. In addition to writing, illustrating and teaching Foundations of Color for Lynda.com, Mary Jane is a professor of illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. She lives near the sparkling waters of Narragansett Bay, in Rhode Island, with her family. To learn more about Mary Jane's books, illustration, workshops and Lynda.com courses, visit her website.


Kim Savage writes YA Psychological Thrillers. Her debut novel AFTER THE WOODS comes out in 2015 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux/MacMillan. She is currently at work on her second novel for FSG, and is represented by Sara Crowe. Kim lives in a town west of Boston with her wickedly funny husband and their three children, each of whom beg to appear in one of her books. They shouldn’t. Find Kim at http://kimsavage.me


Take it away, Mary Jane and Kim! I look forward to reading about your writing process next week.

Anika

0 Comments on Blog Tour - My Writing Process as of 5/30/2014 1:05:00 PM
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