Lauren’s Quick-Read Crafty Tips: Shiny New Ideas

I had that moment yesterday. The moment when ZING, ZAP an idea flies into your head.

I almost moved on.

I almost ignored the spark.

But, the spark became a full-blown fire and I knew I should listen.

inspire on fire GIF by Motion Addicts

As Elana K. Arnold said last weekend at Letters and Lines (Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference): “You must follow the gift of an idea. It is a gift from the back of your brain. Your idea may lead you somewhere very interesting.”

So I followed the gift.

I opened a fresh page and typed characters, character traits, spread possibilities, visual images, thoughts about narrative arc, voice-y language ideas, ways to increase the tension. I wrote out a “to do” list of topics to research, word banks to create, character sketches to sketch, and the market research/reading I needed to do.

It was exhilarating, unexpected, and inspiring.

This idea, this nugget, this shiny new gift made me think about how to determine whether or not an idea has potential. Here is the list of characteristics that I created in order to help me determine whether this idea had potential. (Spoiler Alert: My idea passed with flying colors!)

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Layers: Does this idea have layers? Are the layers engaging, inspiring, and multi-faceted.

Unique/Fresh: Is this idea unique– or a unique spin on an evergreen topic? Can I think of or find other books that tackle this topic in this way?

Wide Audience Appeal: Will children and adults enjoy this book? Does this book have a place in homes, libraries, and schools?

Visual Images: Can I imagine the action? Can I picture the spreads?

Humor/Resonance: Can I see places where I might incorporate humor in a satisfying way? Can I hone in on the emotional arc in my mind as I imagine the narrative arc?

Agent/Editor Test: Can I think of an editor who might be interested in acquiring this manuscript? Does it fit someone’s wish-list? Do I think my agent will like this concept?

Hurray! YES! My idea has potential.

dance dancing GIF by The Dude Perfect Show

I then took a long walk and realized my debut, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES, fit all of these criteria as well. It made my heart sing!

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves Cover

Layers: Courage, real swimming lessons/skills, friendship, adopting a pet, patience, and flexible thinking.

Unique/Fresh: It isn’t every day you try to teach a dragon to swim.

Wide Audience Appeal: Yes! Precociousness, mischievousness, sweetness, perseverance, patience, heart, friendship, real-life swimming skills, and living courageously are appealing to all!

Visual Images: Nate Wragg’s illustrations far exceeded my wildest imagination. He told me (when he flew out for the launch) that one of the reasons he accepted this project was because of my visual writing. HURRAY! I worked so hard on writing visually and it paid off!

Humor/Resonance: As Cate Berry (outstanding author and humor expert extraordinaire) might say, I truly let my inner clown go when I wrote this book. I saw the potential for humor and emotional resonance from the beginning.

Agent/Editor Test: I wrote and revised this manuscript with agents and editors in mind. I wanted to stretch the funny as far as possible. I wanted to explore friendship. I ended up revising with Deborah Warren in mind because I knew she liked puns, strong characters, humor, and heartfelt manuscripts. It worked! Deborah loved it!

So, catch those ideas.

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Write them down. Explore them fully. Give them a moment to be shiny, new, and wonderful! And then, evaluate them. Do they have potential?

You never know where an idea will take you so…

… enjoy the ride!

Skateboard (2)

“You’ve got this.” – Charlie
Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren

 

#ReVISIONweek 2019: Wrap Up and Prizes

Hello! Hello! Hello! We hope you had a wonderful week and that you were able to harness the #ReVISIONweek energy to continue writing and revising.

Before I reveal the prize winners, I wanted to announce the 2020 #ReVISIONweek dates, and offer a sneak peek into my revision journey with Rosie and Charlie.

2020 #ReVISIONweek DATES

2020 Dates

We hope to see you at all of these revision events!

Spoiler Alert: We plan to have guest posts by illustrators and author/illustrators in 2020 in order to help us think visually as we revise!

A SNEAK PEEK AT REVISIONS

I thought about posting examples of revisions during #ReVISIONweek and then the week got away from me. A few people asked for examples in the comments, so here you go!

Instead of sharing the revision work I did last week, I thought it might be helpful to share a sample of the evolution of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES.

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves Cover

I originally wrote the manuscript that would ultimately become Rosie and Charlie during Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week (NAPIWRIWEE) in 2016. I wanted to challenge myself to write a “how to” book. If you want to read more about the evolution of my book, you can visit Lynne Marie’s blog where she features Rosie and Charlie on “The Story Behind the Story.”

The following is an excerpt of the original “how to” text (entitled: How to Put Your Mommy to Bed) that ultimately morphed into both ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES (June 2019) and the sequel, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Fall 2020).

Original Text (Excerpt):ORIGINAL ROSIE (2)
Four Million Revisions Later:
Here are the first two spreads that my not-quite-yet agent liked enough to ask for an R&R:ROSIE AND CHARLIE TEXT DEBORAH ASKED FOR AN R&RI revised again and again for the R&R and my agent, the lovely and wonderful, Deborah Warren, said, “YES” to my book How to Teach Your Dragon to Swim.

Then How to Teach Your Dragon to Swim sold to the amazing Marilyn Brigham at Two Lions. (It is more complicated than that because Marilyn asked for a complete revision that was more character-driven before she acquired it, but that is the gist.)

Four Million Revisions and a New Title Later:

Here are the FINAL first two spreads of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES
FINAL ROSIE MAKE WAVES (1)

Then… I Revised the Bedtime Book Over and Over Again and…

Here are the (nearly final) first two spreads of ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT (Fall 2020).NEW ROSIE GOOD NIGHT
So, as you can see. The revisions were EXTENSIVE, spread out over a few years, and kept shifting due to input from: critique groups, paid critiques, my agent, my editor, Nate Wragg (amazing illustrator), and the art director. The revisions included switching to a more character-driven story, cutting words, adding onomatopoeia, showing instead of telling, offering real skills/activities that children/parents could try, leaving room for the illustrator, incorporating visual language, and choosing “just write” words that not only moved the story forward, but also added voice and humor. I also tried to make each story as unique as possible. Phew!

I hope it’s helpful to see this drastic evolution. I also hope you noticed that through it all, the original voice and heart remained the same. I did not lose sight of my goal and what I wanted readers to walk away with after they read the manuscript. I just changed the way I accomplished that goal.

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:


PRIZES! PRIZES! PRIZES!

Here are the winners of the 2019 #ReVISIONweek prizes.2019 Prize Winners (4)Sharon Giltrow won the Rosie and Charlie Prize Pack!

Congratulations all!

One of us will be in touch with you via email in order to discuss details regarding your prize!

And finally…

ONE MORE EXCITING OPPORTUNITY!

Don’t despair if you didn’t win a prize! The revisions you did last week, the tips you acquired, and the tools you tried will last forever!

And…

WE HAVE GREAT NEWS!

If you were hoping to win a critique, GUESS WHAT!? Lauren, Katie, Lynne, and Shannon are offering 10% off all critique services for #ReVISIONweek-ers in the month of October! YAY!

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We loved revising with you and look forward to next year!

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren, Joana, Katie, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

 

 

 

#ReVISIONweek Day 7: YOU MADE IT! ENTER TO WIN A PRIZE TODAY!

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WAHOO!
YOU’RE A ROCK STAR!
YOU DID IT!
YOU OWNED IT!
YOU KNOW IT!

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Whether you revised one word, wrote down possible revision ideas, revised one or more manuscripts, or simply read the posts, take a moment to give yourself a high five.

I mean it.

Actually give yourself a high five!

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And maybe, a massage. A professional one! Self care is AWESOME!

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(Excuse me for a moment, I’m still laughing uncontrollably at this gif.
*WIPES EYES*
Okay, I’m back.)

Now that #ReVISIONweek is over, what’s next?

Well, besides pursuing the well-plotted, uniquely voiced, emotionally resonant, engaging manuscripts you revised this week…

you have two more opportunities.

1. COMMENTS

Comment below to tell us how you did this week. What did you accomplish? Where will you go from here? What suggestions do you have for us for next year? What would you like to see less of? What would you like to see more of? What was just right?

2. PRIZES! PRIZES! PRIZES!

Please enter the Rafflecopter below to win one of our 19 prizes! You must have enrolled in the challenge by initially commenting on the sign-up post. We also hope you’ve commented on the posts each day. This is an honor-system giveaway.  The Rafflecopter will be open until midnight on September 25th so don’t delay! We will announce the winners in a blog post on Friday, September 27th.

#ReVISIONweek Prizes
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, for our final exciting announcement:

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WE ARE ADDING AN ADDITIONAL PRIZE!

A ROSIE AND CHARLIE PRIZE-PACK GIVEAWAY. If you’re interested in winning a signed book, fun swag, and other Rosie and Charlie goodies, please enter below!

hudson with book

ROSIE AND CHARLIE PRIZE PACK (Note: Hudson the Dog Not Included)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for spending your week with us! We can’t wait to see you on social media, at conferences, and next year for #ReVISIONweek 2020.

Feel. Write. Risk.

– Joana, Katie, Lauren, Lynne, Michal, and Shannon

#ReVISIONweek Day 6: MAKE YOUR MANUSCRIPT SING

One day more…

west end live one day more GIF by Official London Theatre

Wow! I have truly enjoyed this week. The enthusiasm, ideas, and energy have been more than I could have hoped for. You are all amazing!

Today’s post is by writer, singer/songwriter, generally outstanding person, Shannon Stocker. Shannon’s debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. It is an outstanding must-have! Her next picture book, LISTEN, a biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie (Dial/Random House) was just announced in PW this week! 

Now get ready to make your manuscript sing…

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By Shannon Stocker

Let’s start by debunking a common misperception:

Lyrical does NOT necessarily equal rhyming.

Rhyming does NOT necessarily equal lyrical.

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But just because you might not rhyme doesn’t mean you can’t write lyrically. Some of my most lyrical critique partners do not rhyme. They DO NOT have to go hand in hand.

But they CAN.

So what makes a picture book lyrical? And how can you use these tools to make your manuscript sing during the revision process? Let’s dive right into five of my favorite poetic devices, and how you can use these to improve upon a first (or second, or twentieth) draft.

  1. Repetition – think of your favorite song. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Hear it in your head before reading further.

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Did you start from the beginning of the song? Or did you start from the chorus? People will often remember the chorus more easily than the verses because of repetition. Repetition of the words, the melody, the harmonies, the chords. When it’s done right, repetition makes things memorable. Whether a book rhymes, as with CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM, or is written in prose, as with LOVE YOU FOREVER, repetition can endear a picture book to us for a lifetime. Does your book have a recurring theme, sentence, or phrase? Could it?

  1. Alliteration – Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

How old were you when you first learned this tongue-twister? Have you taught it to your children? Why is it so fun to say? Because of alliteration! All those wonderful consonants match at the beginning of each adjacent (or closely-connected) word in the sentence, making it a pleasure to pronounce! Super to say! Delightful to declare!

You get the picture.

The point is, one of the coolest parts of revising, in my opinion, is going back over a manuscript to find other ways to say the exact same thing, but in a more musical manner (see what I did there?).  Check this out:

“It was hot outside.”

Meh. That sentence is meh. I don’t FEEL anything at all from that sentence. So let’s make it a little better by showing, rather than telling. 

“The hot sun saddened her.”

OK, so now we get a sense that our character is uncomfortable. We’ve even added some alliteration to make it sing a little. But how about this…

“The sweltering sun singed her spirit.”

See? Alliteration can make a sentence sing.

  1. Assonance: I served the bird a gherkin.

Assonance is defined as the repetition of a sound of a vowel (or diphthong) in non-rhyming syllables that are close to one another within a sentence. As with alliteration, assonance can easily be worked into your manuscript after it’s been written. When revising, think of other ways to say the same thing. Use your thesaurus to look for words with the same meaning that might allow for alliteration or assonance. Play with the words and see how they feel to you! For example:

“The girl spun around in circles.”

You get a visual with this sentence, but it doesn’t sing. What if we used words that capitalized on the “er” sound in “girl” and “circle?”

“The girl’s skirt whirled as she twirled in circles.”

Doesn’t that sentence sing?

  1. Onomatopoeia:

BOOM!

Shush.

hummmmm…

WHACK!

Onomatopoeia is a fabulous way to make the reader feel like she’s physically and emotionally inside the story. We naturally connect to sounds and kids love to say them. It’s also a super easy way to show something, rather than telling. And it’s a simple tool to use when revising.

  1. Rhyme:

Last, but certainly not least, we have rhyme. Rhyme is definitely not required to write lyrically, but when it’s done correctly, it can be a beautiful thing. But—to be done correctly, you really need to understand more than just what makes two (or more) words rhyme. If you’re interested in writing in verse or using rhyme to make your manuscript sing, be sure you understand some basic language before drafting:

  • Meter – do you know what an anapest is? Iamb? Do you understand what tetrameter means? Pentameter? If not, do more homework before trying to write in verse. You wouldn’t tackle a book about deserts if you’d never stepped foot out of the rainforest before. OK, so that analogy is mediocre at best…but you know what I mean.
  • Forced/lazy rhyme – are you restructuring your sentence to make a rhyme work? Switching things around to make them rhyme, you are? You’re not Yoda. Don’t do it.
  • Near rhymes – “About” and “cloud” do not rhyme. Neither do “you” and “shoes.” There are so many words in the English language…don’t settle. Find the perfect ones. 

The revision process can be grueling, without a doubt. We find ourselves needing to kill darlings, change plotlines, increase stakes, add heart…it’s daunting. But revising to make your manuscript sing can truly be fun! Play with synonyms, metaphors, and similes. Rearrange sentences, strengthen verbs, and delete adverbs. Little touches like these can make a huge difference in taking your manuscript from lifeless to lyrical. 

Mundane to musical. 

Routine to rhythmic.

You get the picture. 😉

excited shimmy GIF by Sing Movie

————————————————————————-

Untitled presentation

Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. Her next picture book, LISTEN, will be a biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie (Dial/Random House), and several of her nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. To subscribe to her blog, visit her website, http://www.shannonstocker.com/blog/. She can also be found tweeting positive quotes and mantras @iwriteforkidz. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

#ReVISIONweek Day 5: PACING TRICKS THAT STRENGTHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT

Congratulations! You’ve made it all the way to Friday! I hope you’re feeling proud of the work you’ve done so far. It doesn’t matter how big or how small your revisions have been. The fact that you’ve devoted this many days to thinking about revisions is a really BIG deal!

HIGH FIVE!

awesome bear GIF by Studio Flox

Today’s post is all about pacing! As we head into the weekend, it seems only fitting that we take a look at tricks to slow our roll, and tips to pick up the pace.

Get ready. Get set. Go…

mickey mouse love GIF by Disneyland Paris

By Lauren Kerstein

So, you’ve revised and revised, but that pesky manuscript isn’t quite where you want it to be. It might be time to check your pacing and incorporate a few tricks.

Trick #1: Slow Your Roll:
You can slow your manuscript down in order to highlight emotional resonance, increase tension, fuel your reader’s anticipation, or hone in on important details.

happy very funny GIF by Disney Zootopia

Tools to Slow Your Roll:
– Use short sentences.
– Separate thoughts
                   on
                        multiple lines.
– Stretch out the moment with ellipses…
– Maximize your page turns (more on this below).
– Add sensory details that draw the reader in.
– Select words that slow down the moment.

Trick #2: Pick up the Pace:
Similarly, you can speed up your manuscript in order to escalate tension, emotional response, further your narrative arc, or amp up your reader’s excitement.

go faster wallace and gromit GIF by Aardman Animations

Tools to Pick up the Pace:
– Examine your rhythm. Select words that keep it snappy.
– Shorten your sentences.
– Add sounds, alliteration, or phrases that support a quicker pace.
– Remove as much description as possible.
– Slim down your dialogue.

Trick #3: Well-Placed Page Turns
Page turns are critical to pacing.

read texas am GIF by Texas A&M University

Tools to Place Page Turns Well:
– Dummy your manuscript.
– When I dummy, I cut out each page and lay it out on my kitchen table. Then I walk around the table and read each page. As I read, I ask myself:
* Did I set up my page turns in as powerful way as possible?
* Did I walk at the same pace around the table or slow at times and speed up at times?
* Can I imagine the illustrations for each spread?
* Did I create motion in each spread?
* Does each spread create a new scene?
* Did I create intriguing page turns?
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All of these tricks and tools will help you strengthen your pacing as you revise!
For another Quick-Read Crafty Tip about pacing, click here.

 

As Charlie would say, “You’ve got this!”

Feel. Write. Risk.

Lauren
——————————————————————–

Kerstein_013.jpg
Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, two daughters (who are beautiful inside and out) and her crazy, yet lovable dog Hudson. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, exercising, taking her dog for walks, and snuggling with her girls. She is represented by Deborah Warren with East/West Literary Agency. Lauren’s debut: ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES splashed to bookshelves near you on June 1, 2019. The companion volume, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT, is expected Fall 2020. Lauren also has another soon-to-be announced book upcoming in 2020. You can follow Lauren on Twitter: @LaurenKerstein and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/laurenkersteinauthor/.

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves

 

 

#ReVISIONweek Day 4: REVISE YOUR SCHEDULE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS– SAY NO TO DISTRACTIONS

Wahoo, #ReVISIONweek-ers! You’ve made it over hump day.

The revision train is full steam ahead as we enter day 4.

train race GIF by Burger Records

I hope you’ve picked up a few new tricks and feel good about the revisions you’ve made so far.

Today’s post is all about PROTECTING WRITING TIME by the talented and amazingly funny, Michal Babay. Stay-tuned, Michal will be announcing extremely exciting news soon! I just know her post will help you prioritize your writing time. To your writing heart, you must be true…

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By Michal Babay

Last year, after nearly missing a writing deadline because life kept distracting me, I had an epiphany.

It was time to revise…

EVERYTHING!

Well, everything writing related: my schedule, focus, and priorities.  

Here’s what happened:

As soon as I heard about Tara Luebbe’s mentorship program, Writing With the Stars, I couldn’t wait! I immediately pulled up the application page and filled in my name, my dream mentor’s name, and the date. 

Then…my cat barfed. 

On the nice rug.

So I put our three dogs outside (they’d begun “helping” me clean up), wiped down the rug, opened windows for non-barfy air, and gave the cat fresh food/water. 

And since I was already in the kitchen refilling her water, I washed dishes, wiped down counters, ate a sandwich, tripped over a suitcase left by the door, yelled at my empty house, let the dogs back in, called my daughter’s school to arrange a meeting, called my son’s school to arrange a meeting, called my old principal to discuss those meetings, realized it was my day to pick up carpool, grabbed the keys, and I was outta there.

It wasn’t until weeks later, right before the due date, that I realized I’d never completed my application. In desperation, I pulled an “almost” all nighter. And it was miserable.

Time. It all comes back to time. 

As in, how should I spend it?

What are my priorities TODAY?

Where did it go?!

As a die-hard procrastinator and pantser, it takes a few tricks to get my butt in chair (BIC) and stay focused. Luckily, there’s a world of wisdom out there from writers wiser than myself, and I’ve gathered a few to share: 

Trick 1: Make writing part of your daily schedule. 

Writing requires time. We all know this. We’ve read the craft books and we realize those words aren’t going to write themselves. 

BUT… life.

We all have numerous demands on our time (day jobs, kids, elderly parents, etc.). However, we can’t let those demands kill our dreams.

In order to take ourselves seriously as writers, the work must be part of our daily schedule. 

Some ways to do this are:

  • Find a time that works for you, and stick to it: Join the 6 a.m. club (or 3 p.m. club, or even the 11 p.m. club if necessary!). 

Here’s what RJ Palacio says about her writing process for WONDER:

“It took me about a year and a half to write WONDER. The only time of day that I could find to write, since I had a full-time job and two young children to keep me busy during the day, was in the middle of the night, so I got into this routine where I would wake up at midnight and write til 3 am. I did that every night until I finished the first draft of the book.”

  • Now realistically, some days our schedules go out the window. Life happens.

  That just means it’s time for yet another revision!

Look for hidden pockets of time in those crazy days: doctor’s waiting rooms, kid’s soccer practice, while the noodles boil, etc. 

Instead of playing games, write.

A friend of mine revised her manuscript in hospital waiting rooms. And that manuscript? It’s a published book now!

A story written in 5-minute increments is still a story.

  • How do you revise in a hospital waiting room if your computer is at home? So glad you asked! Use Google Docs. This way, as long as you’re holding a smartphone, you’ll always have access to your manuscripts. Revise your stories anytime, anywhere!

But, speaking of phones…

Trick 2: Put your cell phone AWAY! 

When you are able to dedicate a solid chunk of time to writing, that phone needs to disappear. 

Seriously.

It’s time to revise your focus!

  • Turn your cell phone to silent and put it away (FAR AWAY. Like, the other side of your house, in a closet, or under that giant pile of mail). The farther away you are from those distracting pings and dings, the more focused and productive you’ll be.

Psychology Today published an article about this:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/201807/how-your-cell-phone-habits-impact-your-productivity

But, it’s hard saying good-bye for a long time. How long is long enough?

Trick 3: Use a timer

This will vary for each of us. For me, 60-minute writing chunks work best. That way I get into the flow and my BIC doesn’t get too sore. 

And guess what? I’ve found that most days, even after my hour ends (and I’ve indulged in coffee/food/ and some doggy attention) the work has taken root in my psyche and it calls me back to the computer. So I revise my schedule and reset that timer.

My critique partner, Lauren Kerstein, taught me this trick, and it’s been a game changer!

Here’s the basic 60-minute sand timer I use:  

No photo description available.

But, what about those days that you don’t feel like working?

Trick 4: Find an accountability partner. 

Set a goal with an accountability partner for days when you’re really struggling to focus. 

Then …hold each other accountable! 

The knowledge that another author is expecting an email with my latest WIP or revision is enough to get me moving. Now!

To this end, my critique partner, Katie Frawley, and I designed a writing challenge specifically targeted at lighting a fire under our butts.

And we cleverly named it: #FireButtChallenge.

If you’re interested in joining us, write us on Twitter at @KatieFrawley1 or @MicBabay, and we’ll tag you next time we spring a #FireButtChallenge on the world!

Trick 5: If it’s not one of the B’s (bleeding, barfing, broken bones) IT CAN WAIT!

As you saw above, a number of distractions led me away from my writing. So I’ve learned to say NO to anything that takes away my writing time (which explains why I tripped over that suitcase instead of putting it away).

Of course, there are hundreds more ways to revise your schedule and find time to write.

Your challenge now is to identify the key distractions in your life, and work to minimize their impact. 

What’s YOUR favorite tip?

Let’s work together to revise our schedules, and thus, revise our writing!

————————————————————–

Michal and Lauren (2)

Michal Babay was born in Israel, raised in Arizona, and currently lives in Southern California with her husband and three kids. After many years as an elementary school teacher and resource specialist, Michal decided to say “YES” to her writing dreams. She now spends her days wrangling teenagers, telling the dogs to stop barking, ignoring cat barf, and saying “NO” to distractions. Michal is represented by Laurel Symonds at The Bent Agency. You can follow Michal on Twitter at: @MicBabay. You can also visit Michal’s website at http://www.MichalBabay.com.

#ReVISIONweek Day 3: FILTERING FEEDBACK: HOW TO STAY TRUE TO YOUR VISION DURING REVISIONS

Hello #ReVISIONweek revisers! Happy HUMP day! I hope you’ve had two wonderfully productive days of revision, and are excited for day 3!

Ready Lets Go GIF by Leroy Patterson

Today’s post is perfect for a mid-week check-in. Joana Pastro is here to make sure you’ve tackled your revisions in a way that has stayed true to your vision. Joana’s delightful debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NEVER IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Kane Press in Fall/2020.

Throw down your hatchets for just a moment and read on…

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By Joana Pastro

You’ve been working on a story. You’ve revised it a few times. Now you’ve reached that point where you have no idea what to do next, but you know there’s room for improvement. You need FRESH EYES.

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Having trusted peers to guide you along the revision path is essential. So if you don’t have a critique group yet, get one! 

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Then send your beloved manuscript to your new critique partners. 

Once you receive feedback, savor the praise. It might be that they love the premise, the voice was spot on, that they couldn’t stop laughing, or maybe that you pulled on their heartstrings. Hooray! 

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But—and there’s ALWAYS a but—if your new critique partners are doing their jobs, then they’ll also tell you how to improve your manuscript. Maybe they think the stakes aren’t high enough, or maybe there’s not enough heart, or maybe you have two problems. In the end, though, it will always be up to you to put their advice through your personal colander to decide what fits with your vision for the story.

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Feedback can point out issues with:

  • Line edits: grammar, punctuation, word choice.
  • Showing versus telling
  • Voice
  • Heart
  • Structure
  • Point of View (POV)
  • Premise
  • Potential/Marketability
  • Controversial issues
  • And more!

 

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So, how do you start revising? You will probably find that some suggestions resonated with you immediately. I find that to be especially true about line edits. You might be able to incorporate those right away.

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But what about the rest? The suggestions or questions that:

a) resonate with you, but require some pondering.
b) you’re not sure what to do with, but might be worth giving a try.
c) make you want to “kill the messenger” err critiquer. (Don’t.)

Here’s what I do:

I print my manuscript, and write all the comments down using a different color per critiquer. This way I can refer back to the comments at any time without having to go through all the hard copies or files again. My copy will look something like this:
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Now, take a step back.

Really. 

Resist the urge to jump right back into revisions. 

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Let those questions and suggestions simmer, and allow your ideas to bloom. You’ll be surprised at how much work your brain does without you even realizing it. 

Take a walk, a shower, a nap, work on something else.

Eat some chocolate! 

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Let your manuscript sit.

After a few days, come back and read again. Remember this: revisions are fueled by questions. Be ready to ask and answer lots of them.

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At this point, you should be able to start revising with a much better grasp of what to keep from the feedback, and how to proceed. 

  • You might want to give some of the suggestions a try. For instance, write it in a different point of view, structure, or even switch your main character.
  • You should be able to assess how much your story will change if you add that little detail, or change that scene. How much of my story will need to be reworked? Is it worth it?
  • Ask questions. Would my character do this? Does this make sense? Is he behaving and/or sounding like say a four-year-old? 
  • Do I have more than one story problem and/or more than one goal? Sometimes a critique partner will pick one for you and make suggestions based on that. Is this the story I want to tell? What do you want the reader to take away?
  • Does this align with my vision? Is this the story I want to tell? (Yes, you should be asking this question over and over again.) 
  • Sometimes someone suggests something that seems like total nonsense. BUT WAIT A SECOND… that idea that doesn’t work at all, or it might open a different, more interesting path for your story. Don’t discard the nonsense!

Now that you’ve asked and answered all of those burning questions, dive in! 

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Enjoy the ride, and happy revision!

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Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her amazing husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. For as long as Joana can remember, she wanted to be an artist of some kind. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. She had no idea how to start, so for seven years all she did was collect story ideas on a little notebook. Finally, one Sunday afternoon she decided to sit down and write…

Joana is a member of SCBWI and is represented by Natascha Morris with Bookends Literary. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NEVER IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Kane Press in Fall/2020. Much like LillyBelle, Joana Pastro loves a good tea party . . . or any party, really! When not writing, you can find Joana baking (and eating) delicious desserts, singing as loud as she can, or twirling around the house. Visit her at www.joanapastro.com, and on twitter @jopastro. 
      

 

 

#ReVISIONweek Day 2: REVISION TIPS FROM THE PICTURE BOOK MECHANIC

CONGRATULATIONS! You made it through the first day of #ReVISIONweek! We hope you had some quality BIC (butt in chair), or SD (standing desk) time yesterday.

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And now, get ready for Day 2!

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Today’s post is by our very own Picture Book Mechanic. Lynne Marie is always offering a helping hand, sage writing wisdom, and industry support. Lynne is the author of many books as listed below, including her brand-new book Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019), which is funny and adorable! We just know her tips will pave the way to fantastic revision work today!

So, let’s go!

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By Lynne Marie

Think of your manuscript as a car. 

Of course, you want to get your car out of the garage, up and running, and on that road to success where it may take you far! 

But if your car is broken down or missing parts, it won’t run. 

Don’t give up — most every problem is fixable.  

Here’s What to Do

  1. Roll up your sleeves (be ready to work). 
  2. Read the manual (read books on craft, books in the same genre). 
  3. Inspect the body for problems from all directions (with open eyes and objectivity). 
  4. Start the car and listen to what the car is telling you (read it aloud). 
  5. Pass it by a formal inspection (critique group or paid critique). 
  6. Make a list of concerns.
  7. One by one, start tinkering away. 

Tinker Tid-bits

I critique a good amount of manuscripts per week, even per day. You would be surprised at how many have the same issues. So here are some important factors to consider as you revise. 

  1. Is the chassis stable? (Is the Structure sound). 

If not, try installing these components. 

  • Do you have a likeable, but flawed main character? 
  • Is the character a child, or a character with child-like qualities?
  • Does the character have a compelling problem?
  • Are the Character and Problem relatable to children?
  • Is there little, if any, adult interference?
  • Does the character attempt to solve his/her own problem?
  • Do the attempts increase and are there emotional responses to the failures?
  • Is there white space in the manuscript and room for the illustrator?
  • Is there a deep, dark moment where all hope seems lost?
  • Does the flaw, if possible, somehow play a part in the resolution?
  • Is the resolution satisfying and a result of the character’s actions?

 

  1. Is it geared toward the right driver? (Age Group) 

If not, get in touch with your 6-year- old self. With the exception of some “exceptions,” the main character is a child or has child-like qualities, so an adult POV, if any, should be minimal. 

  1. Have you installed the right parts, or do you have extra parts installed that hamper the running? Have you used the right gas? (Language/Text)

Are you using active verbs (not passive like was/is/has/had/have, etc.) and strong nouns? Is it overly wordy? Are you describing things that should be left to the art? Are you stacking prepositional phrases and making sentences long and diluting the visual impact of them? Remember, less is more and you should always convey a line in as few words as possible. 

If a line doesn’t speak to characterization or move the story forward, it usually isn’t right for the story (even if you think it’s a bright/shiny part). If the line doesn’t point anywhere, or veers off the path, you risk losing the reader. Every single line must prod the plot toward its final destination – a satisfying resolution.

This is just one way approach your revisions this week. I truly do hope that I have helped you to make your car (manuscript) run better and further than you ever thought it might! 


 

vNx2_VXh
Lynne Marie is the author of
Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 10/16/2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019)  and her first non-fiction picture book, Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019) and more forthcoming. She’s represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. When she’s not cruising around the world, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. She runs a Critique and Mentoring Service at www.ThePictureBookMechanic.com and is a Travel Agent at www.PixieVacations.com/Lynne. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com.

 

#ReVISIONweek Day 1: NOTE TO SELF: HOW TO CRITIQUE YOUR MANUSCRIPT LIKE A CP

WELCOME TO ReVISIONweek!

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We’re THRILLED you’re here! Each day, you’ll receive tips and tricks from one of our members. We hope the posts will offer guidance and support as you dive head first into your revisions. Please be sure to briefly comment on each post so that you can enter to win prizes at the end of this week-long challenge.

Today’s post is by the talented Katie Frawley, one of the founders of fantastically fiery #FireButtChallenge. Her amazing debut picture book is slated for a January 2021 release.

Without further ado…

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By: Katie Frawley

After I crank out a fresh first draft, I usually feel one of two ways about it:

  1. Wow! This story is amazing! I’m pretty sure it requires only minor tweaks before a Big Five editor snaps it up. (Spoiler alert: It’s never as great as I think.)
  2. Wow! This story is garbage! I’m pretty sure I should throw my computer into a river and put myself out of my misery. (Spoiler alert: It’s never as bad as I think.)

The truth is usually somewhere between these two extremes, but how can I tell? Well, I start by giving myself a little break from my manuscript…about a week or so. Then, I open up my first draft file, and critique it like it’s someone else’s work, by making notes in the margins.

-I look for plot issues. (“Pacing is sloooooow here. Think about cutting this scene.”)

-I ask big picture questions. (“Is this character likable? Does the reader have a chance to root for him? Can we make her blue page even bluer?”)

-I even pat myself on the back when I deserve it. (“HAHAHAHA! Kids will love this!”)

Making notes in the margins helps give me a little emotional distance from the story. We LOVE our stories, our characters, and every itty bitty word! So it can be tough to step back and look through an objective lens. Marking up the manuscript like you would someone else’s work makes it just a teensy bit easier to see with fresh eyes and kill your darlings when necessary.

After I have made all my notes, good and bad, I give the story a second break. In another few days, I’ll be ready to go back into my first draft, read my own critique, and revise.

Only after I’ve completed this very first round of revisions is my story ready for my critique partners’ eyes. The Big Five editors will just have to wait!

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AUTHOR BIO
: Katie Frawley was born and raised in the great state of Florida (GO GATORS!). She lives in South Florida with her husband and four children. Katie works from home, writing (and REVISING!) her picture book manuscripts. She also enjoys testing new recipes with her four miniature sous chefs; defending her backyard garden against the never-ending onslaught of the invading reptile horde (she does not like iguanas); and reading all kinds of wonderful books (whenever her children allow her a spare minute)! Katie’s debut picture book will be announced in trade publications soon and is slated for a January 2021 release date. She is represented by Curtis Russell of PS Literary. To find out more, visit
www.katiefrawley.com or follow her on Twitter @KatieFrawley1.

 

Twas the night before #ReVISIONweek…

… and all through the writer’s community, many creatures were stirring, even a writing mouse.

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Manuscripts were lifted out of their drawers,

dusted off and perused for the revisions in store.

Pens were set out.

Notebooks glistened.

Inspiration crept in for all who would listen.

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Tomorrow’s the day! Let the polishing begin.

And if you’re not sure how to start…

…I have a tip straight from my writer’s  heart.

Write a pitch for your manuscript. Find the emotional center, the essence, the core.

Think about what you want to say. Open your creative door!

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Now, as you can see, I do not write in rhyme. But, I sure had fun writing this post for a moment in time.

Sweet dreams, my writing friends.

And to all, a good night!

We’ll see you tomorrow when we find words that are “just write!”

 

Feel. Write. Risk.

– Lauren