3

So I'm sitting here biting my lips.... a horrible habit of mine.  It's stress I suppose.....  though sometimes I just do it whether I'm consciously aware of stress or not... and I'm not usually aware that I'm biting until it's called to my attention by my dear husband or children.  Sigh.

I'm reading comments about this letter and reading more sources on how to write a good query letter.  I'm also trying to print out those sources but apparently my computer and printer had a fight and aren't speaking.  🙁   They let me print out the comments from SCBWI and 12 x 12 but won't let me print the blog posts I just found on The Query Letter by Kathy Temean.  I like to have certain things printed out so I can more easily spread these things out in front of me and go back and forth as I use things as references....   I suppose that's what all the windows are for on the computer, right?  Yeah, well, as much as I blog here, I am still what they call technology challenged.  I can not seem to manage going back and forth between windows.  🙁   Plus, the internet seems extra slow today....probably due to the weather here.

Ah well......  I shall persevere.  My silent writing time will probably end soon so I shall make this post brief....include a link to that wonderful source on writing query letters above (it's a site someone recommended on 12 X 12 and is actually her first of several posts on the topic) and attempt once more to edit and rewrite this letter!  Someone pray for me....oh, and send chocolate....  😉

8

I have spent months on this picture book.  I'm not writing here what it's about because I'm not completely comfortable with that... but I'm feeling really good about it.  I have many picture books in the works, actually.  But this is the one that has called out to me the most to complete. I think it's there...  I'm letting it rest awhile and I'll take a look again before actually pressing that "send" button for the query letter to go out.  But I think it's pretty close to being ready. But the query letter!!!  UGH!      

So much anxiety with it, you know?  When the letter is done, and I hit send... well, that's it. Either that editor it's going to is going to like it and request the manuscript or... well.... she will not like it, won't request it and won't ever see the manuscript to even give it a chance.  YIKES!

So the query has to be good.  REALLY good. And it's causing me more anxiety than all the writing and the revision of the actual manuscript did.

So I went to my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI..... still waiting for a response...  need some encouragement and guidance.  This is a big step. So in my 'spare time' this morning, I looked for all kinds of resources on writing query letters, especially for picture books.  I thought I would share some of those with you as I wait for a response from my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI:

Query Letters for Children's Book Fiction

Picture Book Query

Anatomy of a Query Letter

Children's Book Publishers - How to Wow Them With a Perfect Query Letter

Writing a Picture Book Query

There's many more sources, but these are what I ran across today.  Please share with me any other sources  you have found useful and I can add them to the list! As an end note, I found this handy bit of advice on Harold Underdown's site:

One Last Piece of Advice

Once posted, forget about it for at least three months. Begin writing something new. Stalking the postman will not make editors read any faster. Moreover, whatever it says on their websites about when you will receive their answer, plan to wait a minimum of six months. In some cases, it takes twice that long. A short note of enquiry, or a postcard after six months, is permissible. While you wait, take comfort in knowing that most writers feel a sense of inadequacy when it’s time to write a query letter. Join the club!

Okay... I guess I'm not the only one!  Well that helps! (a little)

5

I sent out a manuscript to my new critique group on March 3rd.  YIKES!   Learning to listen to others critique your work is a skill in and of itself, I think.  You have to press down your inner urges to scream, “No!  I can’t cut that part – that’s like – what got the whole story going!” or “What??  How can you not get that?”  and “But that changes the entire plot!??” and so many other thoughts that jumble around in your mind and the wrenching of your gut as you realize that the story is not the instant best seller you wanted it to be !  Haha….such is the life of a writer.

Finding a critique partner or group is an important aspect of the writing process in my opinion.  We writers get very attached to our characters and words we write on the paper and can not always look at our work with an unbiased opinion. We need that 2nd or 3rd opinion to point out things that we may never see for ourselves because we are just too emotionally attached.

But just as important is learning how to critique someone else’s manuscript.  I joined another critique group over a month ago and spent some time doing some major research into learning how to do just that…. And I’m not done yet.  There is so much to learn.  But I did find some major sources to help me learn the process and sources I will consistently refer to as I work on improving.

My favorite sources thus far have been the following:

The Critique:  An Important Tool (Paul Czajak)

The Critique:  An Important Tool Part Two (Paul Czajak)

Perfecting Your Critique (Alayne Kay Christian)

And, of course:  the forums at SCBWI and 12 x 12.  SCBWI doesn’t seem to post manuscripts anymore…at least, not from what I’ve been able to see so far.  I remember years ago that they did that and I learned a lot back then.  On 12 x 12 people can post the first 250 words.  It’s a learning experience just to sit and read the posts and the comments people make.  I can read and see what people make the most comments about – what are they complimenting? What things stick out as quality aspects of a manuscript?  What are the things people react against the most strongly?  Even if it’s not my own manuscript, one can learn a lot just by reading comments on other people’s work.

The biggest pointer I’ve learned is when you critique a manuscript, you should read it first, clear thru – out loud, and then just walk away and think it through before writing down anything or making any definitive comments.  And not just for five minutes.  Maybe a few hours – maybe a day.  Think about it.  Did you like the story?  Did you not like the story?  What is the biggest thing that sticks with you even hours later? Of course that’s not possible if you are in a sit-down group, face to face, but most critiquing seems to occur online these days and gives us ample opportunity to do that.

When you receive a critique, it’s important to do that same thing.  Read it…. Try not to let your feathers get ruffled…. Get up, walk away….  Come back to it later.  I’ve often taken something personal the first time I’ve read a manuscript critique of my work only to come back later and think, “Oh…. I see… yes, they are right about that.”  Take time to digest it instead of feeling those first moments of conflict within yourself because of that reluctance to change what you have spent hours creating.

I also, this month, have taken the opportunity to send a manuscript into this amazing blog site hosted by published children’s authors:  Rate Your Story.  It’s a little nerve-racking waiting to hear back…  I must keep in mind, whether the manuscript rates well or not, it’s a learning process.  It’s a process to make my writing stronger.

So what are your thoughts on the critique process?  Is there a source you like to use?  A service you like to use?  Please share with me and my readers!

 

 

Shannon Abercrombie's Start The Year Off Write Challenge came to an 'end' last Saturday, January 25th. The challenge consisted of 21 prompts or writing exercises to kick-start the new year of writing for children's writers, though many of the prompts could be used by students and adults of other genres as well. Shannon is offering prizes to the participants but those have not been announced yet.

I completed each of the 21 prompts. Some took more time than others. A few were definitely more difficult than others and some left me feeling much more satisfied and full

I wrote my prompt assignments out in here...along with a couple new 'ideas' for January....
I wrote my prompt assignments out in here...along with a couple new 'ideas' for January....

of ideas than others. But all were wonderful exercises for the writing mind!  If you haven't participated and want to see what all the fuss was about, Shannon has a list of the lovely talents involved along with links to their websites and prompts on her webpage!  Check them out here.

I loved that some of them gave me further ideas to develop the ideas I had during PiBoIdMo! I took one of them and developed it into a manuscript - albeit in VERY rough draft form! (I can actually thank Tara Lazar for that particular idea from prompt #8 ~ Title Talk~!)

So now what??

Well, now that the 21 day challenge is over I'll be spending more time with Ann Whitford Paul within the pages of her book on Writing Picture Books and on the forums over at 12 x 12! I am also hoping that a critique group that I signed up for might begin as I'm really itching for some feedback on a manuscript I'm working on about my patron saint.  I'm also looking forward to a little self-writer's- retreat that my husband is giving me -  a couple of days away so I can just totally catch up on some reading and writing without the daily interruptions of life - might try to catch up on some sleep too!  But I'm really looking forward to uninterrupted writing time 🙂

Tell me - what are my other writer friends up to these days?? How are you keeping going after the challenge?

9

My husband got me some books for my birthday back in December, one of which was Ann Whitford Paul's well-known and recommended Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. Since I'm using this as a major tool on developing my writing 'career',  I've decided to journal about my progress through this book.

Product Details

Ann Whitford Paul is a picture book author. She has authored several well-known titles -  Hello Toes, Hello Feet; Eight Hands Round - A Patchwork Alphabet, and Fiesta Fiasco to name a few.  She realizes, as do other picture book authors, that writing picture books does take a unique set of skills and a working knowledge of children and their parents!

Chapter One of Ann's book is titled 'Becoming a Picture Book Scholar'.  Besides setting down the basics of picture books such as manuscript length and age ranges, Ms. Paul covers some important concepts of the average picture book audience.  I enjoyed her advice to remember that children live in the present.  I know myself all too well of her example  of the child continuously asking, "Are we there yet?" on a long trip. This concept and knowledge of children's  strong emotions, short attention spans, rich imaginations and others are important to have a grasp on when writing for children.

In addition to becoming very aware of these concepts, a picture book writer MUST be familiar with ......

PICTURE BOOKS!

Ms. Paul ends each chapter with hands-on assignments and of course the most important one for this chapter and the others is to keep reading picture books.  Being a mother of a 3 1/2 year old makes this one really easy for me.  Our trips to the library are frequent and well spent.  We load up with 12-15 books per trip!

I've made a list of some I'd like to look for next time including an abundant amount of titles suggested by Ann Whitford Paul throughout chapter one and chapter two(I glanced ahead!).  Some of those titles include:  If Animals Kissed Goodnight by David Walker, Old Turtles by Douglas Wood, and Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban.

I enjoy going to the library with my little guy although sometimes it's nice to go without him so I can browse more without worrying about his whereabouts. Like I said, we usually end up with about 12-15 books but the last time we went I had a big list for us and he decided to add quite a few to the pile!  I sometimes experience frustration because I usually can't find all that's on my list in one visit.  I guess that's good though; it means other kids are reading!

In addition to reading about writing picture books, I've been working on several manuscripts.  I actually have started three new fiction manuscripts since doing PiBoIdMo back in November and one non-fiction manuscript (that one is on an Orthodox Saint).  I'm also still revising an older manuscript that I started several years ago.

I've also joined in the Start Write Challenge  (which is over tomorrow) and  a picture book writer's group called 12 x 12.  It's on a blog by Julie Hedlund and it's focused on getting 12 PB manuscripts started in 12 months.... NOT manuscripts that are ready for submission..... 12 drafts and I think this is something I need to help me stay focused on writing.  I'm sure to  write more about that as time goes on.  I love the forum and am hoping to form a nice strong critique group!  I need critique friends!!

So I'm definitely staying busy!      What are you working on??

18

Wow....  things are progressing - I hope that's a good thing!  Part of me feels like I'm in a whirlwind but another part is very excited and motivated.

The blog is doing well.  Today will be my 128th  post and I have over 80 followers.  I'm still enjoying the writing though cramming the time in every day to work on future posts is sometimes daunting - but feels so natural and good! I really must figure out how to make it all work and not be so stressful - and still have time for other things I enjoy like spending time with my family!

I've been doing quite a bit of reading on the craft - though it's hard to drag myself away from the fiction books I love - Doctor Sleep is calling my name and of course I have Laurie Halse Anderson's newest book lying here begging to be opened!  What I've read has encouraged me to learn more and become a part of the whole social media thing.  I started this blog as an outlet for my desire to write and to feel like I was at least working on the goal of being a writer - little did I know that blogs and other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) can actually assist one in making a platform if one becomes a published author.  So I've joined Twitter as well - I keep that mostly for following other writers - and am trying to learn the ropes of that and everything else!

In the meantime, and probably the greater of it all - I have signed on to Shannon Abercrombie's  Start The Year Off Write Challenge of 2014  as well as Julie  Hedlund's 12 x 12!  I am really excited to be doing these!  Shannon gives out a writing assignment each day for 21 days while Julie's Group is a HUGE challenge to write 12 PB manuscripts in 12 months and involves a big group of PB authors - also giving us an opportunity to really get to know one another and offer a ton of support and inspiration!

I have to admit, I was a little hesitant to dish out the money to join the Silverstein group of 12 x 12.... but I've decided to face it... I'm not 21 anymore (no matter how many "It's your 21st Birthday Cards my dear husband has given me - thank you dear) ....  If I'm going to do this, the time is now to BEGIN and begin strong!  So Shel Silverstein and Julie Hedlund, here I come!  Everybody wish me luck and PRAY!!!!

Who else is out there with me for Start The Year Off Write and 12x12??

5

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

~ Benjamin Franklin

This quote makes me laugh.  BUT it is SOOO True!!!

Before marriage one needs to look at every aspect that we can at the mate that we are slecting to spend the rest of our lives with.  There were so many questions that went through my mind before and during the time of my dating my husband.  Is he Christian and does it show in his actions? Does he have the same morals and values that I do?  Does he have goals and aspirations in life and are they goals and aspirations that I can live with?  Does he support me in my own goals and aspirations?  Does he treat me with kindness and love?  Am I a priority in his life?  Does he treat me with respect?

And then Marriage!!  Keep those eyes half shut so you don't notice the little things you didn't see before:  the dirty clothes on the floor, the piles overflowing on his desk, the brownie he ate that you so desperately looked forward to....   because those little things need to be overlooked.  Too much focus on the little things leads to less focus on the bigger things and less memory of why you fell in love and what makes this person truly the right one for you.  Keep your eyes half closed and forget that little stuff.

Random Thoughts on a Saturday:

  • I've decided to join the  Start The Year OFF Write Challenge!  More about this can be found on Shannon Fimbel Abercrombie's website! You can find it here!
  • I'm also considering doing the 12 x 12.....  a challenge to get 12 picture book manuscripts written in 12 months... not necessarily final copies ready for publishing - but 12 manuscripts complete and ready for revision!
  • I LOVE my husband!!!   🙂
  • I am blessed having a toddler write now..... -  you read that right and I didn't make a typ0 -  I mean that having a toddler in the house sparks lots of great ideas for writing!  What a blessing!
  • Organization is key to .....well- almost everything!  I need to get organized!!!

Badge_StartTheYearOffWrite