PiBoIdMo Day 4-6… by Tracey M. Cox

piboidmo2014banner

Getting It Going…

Waaaaah? Has it already been almost a week since we’ve started? WOW! I really am enjoying each post. I always find something inspiring and another kindred spirit. BUUUUUT the big question is how are you doing on your ideas? Have you got a few? Six? More?!!!? Me… I have three so far. Yes, three. *sigh* I think I have brain rot. hahahaha! I’m not sweating it though. I know my writing process and I know when NOT to push myself. It will come. 🙂 Here’s what I’ve gotten out of the past three days…

Day 4
Never Give Up

TrainEven  if we feel like we have failed… We have still tried. Things happen, dreams and goals seem out of reach, and you become unsure. That is when you dig deep and pursue. I know you’ve heard, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”. This is so true with us writers. Even when you get published you haven’t reached your goal. There are so many levels to continue on.

Day 5
Steps to Inspiration

stepsWhat are the secret steps to inspiration??? Big hint… There isn’t any. *sigh* I wish there were. I would be on “idea #6” today for sure then. hahahha. BUT there is something, and it deals with you. Everyone has their own journey, their own way of writing, their own spurts of inspiration. You have to decide what your is and work with it.  I have found when I try to push things, I only bottle them up. It’s horrible and I become miserable. By letting things flow freely, I’ve become a better writer and am more open to the experiences I have and how I can work them into my writing. Everyone has their own way.

 

Day 6
Character Development

salt-pepper-md

Adding spice to your character is key to great writing. No one want to read about a character that has one layer. Even in picture books we love to see the main character struggle, grow, and overcome. By adding layers to your character, you add interest. Your readers will care more about them and their situations. Plot and structure are important, but character development is key to having a reader fall in love with your writing.

So that’s my take on the past three days. What have you been getting out of it?

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::
Let me know what you think about character development and how you interweave it into your stories.
What steps do you take to become a better writer?
Have you ever thought about throwing in the towel?
I would love to hear from you!

Until next time…
Happy Writing!!!
~t

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8 Things to be SCHOOL VISIT Ready

authorvisit38 Tips to be School Visit Ready!

Today I’m continuing my posts on…

SCHOOL TIME + AUTHOR TIME = LEARNING STUDENTS

Before you contact a school, as a presenter you need to have several things in order.

Just as in trying to be published, you want to put your best foot forward. I have composed a list of several things I think you need to have to be SCHOOL VISIT ready…

  1. Presentation(s)
    Have several – Just as when you write, you will need presentations to meet the age groups you are speaking to. I have several: a reading level, which works great for the youngest, the writing mechanics, which works really well for the mid range, the business side, which works well with the older range. I also have a writing workshop. You can also develope presentations that will coinside with one particular book or series.Note Cards – Yes. Write down your key points. Keep them handy during your presentation. It helps to have this, even if you have done the presentation a million times.

    Rehearse – Get in front of a mirror and pretend you are talking to the crowd. Notice your facial features and how you move. Time it too. Most people will want to know how long your presentation takes. Take your time and go through all the motions until it feels natural.

    Flash Drive – Back your presentations up on a flash drive. I usually try to send my material a head of time, but sometimes things fail or won’t come up when you need it too. Have your flash drive handy to save the day.

    Have a Back-Up Plan – Even when you plan, things do always go as planned. Computers going down is only one senario. Always have a back up plan.

  2. Forms, Flyers, & Business Cards
    Information is the key. Try to lay everything out for your contacts. I have several flyers that are pdf files.

    • Author Is Coming – This flyer is for them to post on their walls. I have a spot where they can include the date of the visit, as well as a picture of me and my books available.
    • Bio – This flyer should be sent home to the parents. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t like it when I didn’t receive information about the person who was visiting my children’s school.
    • Book Form – This form will be sent home to the parent too. Hopefully, increasing your sales.
    • Agreement / Contract – Yes, you should have one. This puts in words what both parties expect.

    Then I also bring these along:

    • Business Cards – I usually have a few (media specialist, principals, teachers, parents) who will ask if I have one on hand.
    • Mini-Flyer – This is something I added. It tells a story on how and why I became an author and how they can find out more about me (website). I use these to autograph for the children who forgot their money or were not able to purchase a book.
  3. Mic & Speaker
    I request the school to provide one for me, but I have one as a back up. Mics are relatively cheap (under $50). Speakers…. well I’m ‘barrowing’ my oldest son’s electric guitar amp. It works though and he doesn’t mind.
  4. Pens & Cash
    PENS – You need those for signing. And yes, they WILL walk off when you are not looking.Cash – I bring a change bag, because you will usually have someone who forgot the correct change or they may have the wrong amount on the check.
  5. BOOKS!
    Yes, bring extra books. Even when the school does order (which I ask them too, but not all schools will), you will have late orders or the wrong book(s) may have gotten shipped.
  6. Emergency Box
    This is another thing I’ve incorporated, an emergency box. You can your a recipe box or whatever. Some of the things I have inside are:Tissues – teary eyes or runny nose
    Cough drops – dry throat or stubborn cough
    Peppermint – same purpose as the cough drops, but smells better
    Eye drops – dry eyes or allergies.
    Band aids – I’m a clutz and have had to have one at the worse of times
    Eye glass wipes – the better to see you my dearsNote Card of Presentations
    Flash Drive
  7. Carrying-Tub or Bag
    So I will put all my items together, because being organized is hard and I have to do this a head of time.In my carrying-tub I have:

    • mic w/ cord
    • book stands
    • flyers
    • books
    • cash bag

    One day I want to incorporate an easier way to lug all my items. 🙂

    In my bag:

    • Pens
    • Emergency box

    Then I have my speaker too, if and when needed.

    Yes, I have to make more than one trip. Working on that.

  8. Tablet & Projector
    (this is on my want list)
    Tablet – there are so many wonderful tablet out there now that can take the place of your computer. My heart is set on one that have a usb post to hook my flash drive into.Projector – have you seen them lately!?! They are small and compact. By having one of these I’ll be able to showcase my presentation almost anywhere!

 

Here’s a printable list for your convenience too. 🙂

8 Things to be SCHOOL VISIT Ready

:::LEAVE ME A COMMENT:::

Let me know what you include for your school visits!
Have a question? Ask in the comments and I will answer it as best as I can.

Hope you found this useful. Til next time…

Happy writing!
~t

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#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

image

9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

 

Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.

 DON’T FORGET:

You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks Follow-Up: TIPS

Summer SparksTIPS TO FOLLOW A WRITING CHALLENGE

 

My mind is still whirling. What a lot to cover in only two weeks! Sometimes that can leave everything in a jumble. Add several ideas sparking to the mix and you can feel overwhelmed. Here are a few tips I have found that helps me out:

  1. Make a list of your ideas where you can see them all at one time.
  2. Star or check each one that has promise to flesh out into a story.
  3. Look at that group and see which ones are really grabbing your attention.
  4. Pick one or two and start researching, note taking, and writing.

I have found by narrowing them down by importance, I get a better feel for what I want to work on. Of course I have had an occasional loud mouth that demanded attention. When that happens, I KNOW what I want to work on.

Things I also consider before I get too far into my writing:

  1. Has the subject been written about?
  2. Has my angle been written about?
  3. How  can I make my story unique?
  4. What way can I market this idea? (<– Yes, I start that now)
  5. What other layers can I bring into the story to add depth?

There are so many things that come into writing. I have found that the more I do it, the easier steps come. I automatically pull up Amazon and do a search now. My mind starts visualizing ways I can market a book, different ways to promote, and who I can approach, outside of bookstores, to sell my book(s).

The main thing to remember is to BREATHE and enjoy the writing process.

Happy Writing!
~t

 

 DON’T FORGET:

You have three more days to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks and that’s a wrap!

Summer Sparks

Oh my goodness!  What a whirl wind of two weeks.
Have you been inspired? I hope those sparks flew and a few caught.
Not only that, I hope you gathered more information on the writing process and will be able to incorporate it into your own writing to improve.

Did you miss a few days? Is okay.  You have until Friday,  July 11th at 11:59 pm, est. to finish the challenge and qualify for prize swag. Time cannot be extended because it is scheduled through Rafflecopter. So make sure you have them finished and logged in to any of the raffles you want to enter!

So lets look at what you need to do now:

  • Registered for prize swag
  • Have at least 14 new story sparks.
  • Take the pledge:

I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.

No wait,  wrong pledge.   ; p
Now raise your right hand and say:

I promise that I have had at least 14 new story sparks during the Summer Spark Writing Challenge.

  • Now comment below that you have done these three things and include your name too.

I will have two more follow up post during the week and finally,  FINALLY, I will post the winners Saturday, July 12th.

Thank you so much for participating. I hope you have gotten as much out of this experience as I have. Have a safe and fun 4th of July weekend for those of you celebrating!

Happy writing!
~t

 

DON’T FORGET:

You have five more days to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 15 BONUS POST: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Summer SparksWhat Songs Rock Your World?
by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Music can be a powerful tool in our lives, and in our writing. Think about it. We’re always singing or dancing at special times– birthdays, weddings, graduations, funerals. Music can make us feel things that words alone cannot. It wasn’t until my last two books that I realized just how much it could enhance my own writing and how much I loved singing in my own life. While researching a book on women’s suffrage set in California I ran across a suffrage verse written to the well-known tune “My Country Tis of Thee.” My story morphed into an historical fiction picture book, so I had my two girl characters sing this verse as they marched in a suffrage parade. And when I did readings for my book when it was published, I asked the crowd to sing along with me. It also got me thinking about whether other protest groups had written verses to this song.

I am a NF history geek, so for years I had been researching protestors from many races and religions who had stood up for equal rights throughout our country’s history. Had other groups written verses to this song, I wondered? Sure enough they had and before I knew it, I had uncovered a terrific structure for a nonfiction book that I had been struggling with for a long time. Singing the verses at readings and getting others, especially younger people, singing, too, and writing their own verses to the song, has been great fun. Two choirs here in Spokane recorded the verses from the book, and it gives me great delight just to listen to them on my web site.

But enough about me. This is your month to come up with new writing ideas and bring new energy to your work. Since I am the last post of this Summer Sparks series, here is a list of suggestions of how to bring music into your writing life. A prompt follows the list.

 

  • If you listen to music while writing, come up with your writing anthem this month or even an entire play list to get your creativity pumping every day. I need absolute quiet, but before and after the work, a musical interlude brings energy.
  • Think about a manuscript you are working on. Where could you musical details in the story line? Snippets of a song, a character who plays an instrument, a character’s flashback brought on by a song. Even if you write nonfiction, music can be a part of a biography or event.
  • Because music brings me joy and uses another part of my brain, I have decided to join a women’s choir next fall. How about you? What activity, musical or other, could feed another part of your brain and make it stronger when you return to writing?
  • Opera singers use a term called tessitura (Italian for “texture”), to define the most comfortable range for a singer’s voice. Take a look at some of your manuscripts. Has the voice in each one found its tessitura? Or is there more work to be done?

 

Writing Prompt:

Make a list of ten memories from your life triggered by or focused around music. Such as driving along in the summertime listening to the Beach Boys, your worst birthday party, the song at a relative’s funeral. Free write on one of these memories for five minutes. Try to include other senses besides sound – sight, taste, touch, and smell.

Now study your list again and next to each memory, write down a scene you could build into one of your writing projects.

 

As we close up Summer Sparks, let’s sing out for Tracey Cox for her inventive program to encourage us all to dig deeper and find the music in our stories. Thanks, Tracey.

 

Claire Rudolf Murphy

Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

 

Claire is the author of:
My Country Tis Of Thee
&
Wild Garden JKT

FIND CLAIRE:

Website
Blog
Facebook

 

:::LEAVE A COMMENT:::
Do you use music to find inspiration?
What background noise (if any) do you like to have?
What other things do you use that hasn’t been discussed?

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster

Summer Sparks

Hope in your heart
by Carol Gordon Ekster

 

 

Hang in there and have hope in your heart. If you are a writer who has submitted work this could be the day. Okay, maybe not today. It’s a holiday. But maybe tomorrow. There could be a letter in the mail asking you for a rewrite. There could be an e-mail telling you they want to acquire your manuscript. It only takes one such communication to change everything and bring the hope of having your work published. That keeps me going, along with the love of the craft. That must be there. Focus on writing your best story, fine-tuning your words to sing. If you don’t worry about publication, you’ll put your energies where they belong – on the writing.

It’s happened to me a few times– the e-mails and even the letter. “We’re interested. How about rewriting it like this….I’ll take another look if you wish to revise. We want to acquire this manuscript, etc.” And the excitement spills out as happy tears. But it’s the hope of what that will look like…children holding my book in their hands and being touched by my words… that keeps my coming back for more. We must hang in there because this writing process is arduous, at times torturous. And there are so many ups and downs…from the time you hear that good news, until you get the contract, until you see those first sketches and even after your work gets published. Then you’ll deal with issues about marketing, sales, and reviews.

So hope will keep you going for those months, if not years, from this first communication until that manuscript is a bound book. Hope and trust in the process is my mantra and I’m sticking to it, as I wait to see the art work for my third picture book coming out January 1, 2015, as I wait to hear from editors about the many manuscripts I have out in snail mail and e-mail, and as I wait while another book has begun the acquisition process. And with this post complete, I’m off with hope in my heart and trust in the process to work on a revision.

 

Carol Gordon Ekster

Carol's professional photo for books

 

Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for 35 years. Her first published book was, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008. It was an About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, 2010.  A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, was on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011 and was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  Her newest picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, will be out January 1, 2015 with Pauline Books & Media. Retired from teaching, Carol now spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books. She’s grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children.
 

Carol is the author of:

cover-Ruth The SleuthRuth the Sleuth
&
wais bk coverWhere Am I Sleeping Tonight

 

FIND CAROL GORDON EKSTER

Website
Facebook
Twitter

WRITING PROMPT

Oh, but first I must give you a “spark” to ignite your creative juices. And because it is July 4th, Independence Day, it is the perfect time to think of child’s journey to independence. Maybe think back to your own childhood. Or imagine another child showing off their independence or attempting something they feel they are ready for…probably too early if you want to add that tension in your picture book. Everyone always wants to do things to feel older than they are…unless they’re an adult! So if you’re not too busy barbecuing, get writing…with hope in your heart. Tomorrow may be your day.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 13: Writing Your Way To A Spark by: Kris Dinnison

 

Summer SparksWriting Your Way To A Spark!
by Kris Dinnison

 

Ah summer! Sunlight that lasts until long past bedtime, irresistible afternoons of lingering in the warm grass, cooling off with a swim in a local lake. Milkshakes, BBQs, Drive-ins, bike rides…

But where does the writing life fit into this equation? How do we live in the moment and still make time to write about it?

I would love to say I have the secret to this dilemma, but I am, alas, still working towards writerly perfection in this area.

What I do have to offer is three of the most important pieces of writing advice I have ever received. They are not revelatory, they are not even particularly seasonal, but they are, in my experience, always, always true.

  1. Write: “BIC-HOP (Butt in chair-Heart on Page)” (Jane Yolen)

I know, it’s easy to say you don’t have time, or your kids are out of school, or your partner is on vacation, or the sun is shining, or the sky is blue, so you can’t write. But there is a long list of writers who had way more valid excuses than you who found the time to write anyway. William Carlos Williams was a full time doctor during his whole writing career. Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company. Virginia Woolf founded and ran a Publishing Company. The difference between them and most aspiring writers? They wrote.

But the second half of that advice is just as important. Yolen advises writers to let whatever mix of emotions and experiences that are true for them appear in the writing. Maybe not as a literal account of those experiences, but the idea is to write something emotionally true. Especially in writing for children. Otherwise what’s the point, really?

  1. Shitty first drafts: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” (Anne Lamott)

This is literally the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I am a born perfectionist, completely stymied by my own impossible standards and fear of other people’s judgement. The only way I wrote my novel was by telling myself nobody would ever see the writing. In other words, I gave myself the gift of a shitty first draft. (And in my case a few more shitty drafts as well). You can always revise, but you can’t revise what you haven’t written.

  1. Finish something: “You have to finish things. That’s what you learn from; you learn by finishing things.” (Neil Gaiman)

This little tidbit is huge for me. I have lots of little ideas and starts and bits that I get very excited about and then just peter out after a few paragraphs. But committing to finishing something forces me to give it some form. Once I’ve given it a rough shape beginning to end, then I can wade into the tougher territory of the writing process: revision.

But still: it’s summer!” you say. And I hear you loud and clear. Don’t worry, Neil Gaiman also has other advice for writers: “Go for walks. Read a lot & outside your comfort zone. Stay interested. Daydream.” So when you can’t bring yourself to follow the first three pieces of advice, follow that last one. That way you can have your summer and write about it too.

Kris Dinnison

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Kris Dinnison is a former teacher and librarian. She now chases her dream of being a writer.  She lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, daughter (when she’s not off gallivanting in Europe), two cats, and a labradoodle named Charlie. She likes to read and hike but rarely at the same time.

FIND KRIS DINNISON:

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Writing prompt:

Make a list of at least ten of your favorite summer activities in any order. Circle numbers three, five, and 10. Now write a scene about a character who is terrified of doing one of those three activities.

Kirs will be giving away your choice of one:

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

OR

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.

Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Kris’ post!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks 12: Persistence by Donna McDine

 

Summer SparksPersistence
by Donna McDine

 

How can one word invoke a floodgate of emotions? Words are indeed powerful. As a writer persistence is pertinent in establishing a long lasting career, as well with any career choice, school, music, sports, etc.

Honing one’s writing skills through workshops, conferences, critique groups, reading, writing and editing consistently moves one forward to receiving the almighty acceptance through a sea of declines (I know the industry word is typically “rejection” but I prefer the not as harsh sounding word as decline).

Don’t allow discouragement seep into your thoughts, which often times makes room for stalling in mid-sentence of your creativity. Keep the persistence going for your hearts desire with positive affirmations that you are giving voice to what enriches your soul.

A few affirmations I follow on a daily basis…

  • What you expect, you fulfill. Think of yourself as a writer who will publish, and often, who will be respected and read, who will have financial returns for your writing investment.”
  • You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” ~ George Horace Lorimer

 

Your persistence will pay off in the long run don’t give up!

 

Donna McDine

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Donna McDine is a multiple award-winning children’s author. She writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.  

Donna is the author of the following books:

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Find Donna McDine:

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Spark Writing Prompt

 

She hoped and prayed the audience didn’t see through her lies as she made her way to the stage for her speech…

 

Donna will be giving away the following:

Total Funds for Writers Newsletter by C. Hope Clark (1 year subscription) – a $15 value

to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.

Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Donna’s post!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 11: Burning Down the House by Donna Earnhardt

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Burning Down the House (aka Revision)
By Donna Earnhardt

 

In 1958, George Plimpton interviewed Ernest Hemingway and asked about his rewriting process. This is part of that interaction:

INTERVIEWER: How much rewriting do you do?

 

HEMINGWAY:  It depends. I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

 

INTERVIEWER: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

 

HEMINGWAY: Getting the words right.

— The Art of Fiction No. 21,

Paris Review, Spring 1958, No. 18

 

It is my opinion that revision can be just as hard as writing the original story. And sometimes, even harder.

 

The Process

There’s this thing I do that drives my kids batty enough to grow wings and hang upside down in caves.

I don’t make them dissect Hemingway’s work or memorize Shakespeare over the summer. I don’t make them scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush or wash their clothes by hand in the creek.

So what is the terrible, horrible, no good thing that I do?

I ask my kids to listen to all manuscript revisions. It’s part of my process. And they usually indulge me. I pay them in chocolate, so it’s a win-win. But does it really help? Yes… and no.

My early process looks something like this:

1. Write part of the manuscript, reworking it as I go.

2. Finally finish it. Then shuffle a few more things around.

3. Read it aloud to my kids.

4. Watch their faces, then have them give feedback

5. Rewrite parts that were not received as they should have been. Rearranging what I can.

6. Reread it to the kids.

7. Note their giggles… and their silence.

8. Feed them chocolate.

9. Promise I won’t read it but a couple more times.

10. Tweak again, then read it aloud one last time

11. START TRUE/DEEP REVISIONS.

Notice that my true revisions don’t start until after the early revision. And if I’m being honest with myself, my early revision is more like rearrangement.

Rearrangement of my manuscript is the equivalent of moving around my couch, lamp and table in my house. Same stuff, different place. Maybe I get rid of the junk on top of the entertainment center. It feels a lot cleaner. But it’s the same ol’, same ol’.  In my manuscript, (just like in my house), moving stuff around happens all the time. So that can be part of the process of revision. But it is NOT true revision.

My true revisions don’t start until after I’ve already written a rough draft, read it aloud a few times and rearranged some stuff. True revision looks like more like a new couch, newly painted walls and new rugs. (And maybe a few demolished walls!)

Truly, there are days that my revision looks like gutting the whole house. I might salvage the beginning, middle and end. But even those are subject to the recycling pile. I’ve even considered burning the whole thing down and starting from scratch. Unless, of course, I have a perfect first draft.

But let me be honest… that’s never happened.

So while I’m gutting my masterpiece, what are some things that help me work through the process without banging my head against a newly painted wall?

· I ask my critique buddies for honest (and sometimes brutal) critiques. They can see things that I am temporarily blind to. I get a type of “see-sickness”. They help bring my vision back in focus.

· I am willing to hear with my head AND my heart that my story has parts that stink. If my characters are shallow, I need to know. If my plot is weak, I need to strengthen it. If my premise is tired, it’s my job to fix it. I don’t need to waste precious time trying to defend my manuscript. Either it works, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, I need to make it work.

· I read my work backwards. Yes, it sounds weird. But reading the storyline backwards helps me see things that might be out of whack. Reading backwards also helps visualize timeline issues and plot holes.

· If I’m writing a picture book in rhyme, I try to rewrite it in prose. I might end up sticking with the rhyming version, but putting it in prose helps me see where plot issues might be. It also helps me determine if rhyming or non-rhyming is the best vehicle for the story.

· I get rid of characters that don’t move the story along. Even if I love a character, he (or she) might serve only one purpose – such as comedic relief. I can attribute that one characteristic to a more important character, especially if I find out one of my characters is shallow. This could help give that character depth.

· I make sure the beginning, middle and end are solid. If the first page of a book doesn’t grab a reader, the rest of the book might not get the chance to redeem itself. The beginning needs to be unforgettable. The ending needs to make me sad the book is over, but still be satisfying. The middle of the story? It’s like the kitchen. It supplies the reader with the “meat”. Without it, the readers are hungry and angry — hangry. And we know that never ends well.

· I get rid of situations that aren’t appropriate for the story. For instance, in Being Frank, the “carnival scene” was once a school dance. But as my wonderful editor pointed out, this book was aimed at 3-7 year olds. They don’t have to deal with school dances for at least a few more years.

· I make sure my big girl panties are on. This business is tough. We can’t settle for “okay”. We can’t settle for “it’s better than what’s on the bookshelves now”. That is a slippery slope that leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity is not what agents or editors are looking for. I am not suggesting losing your vision in exchange for someone else’s. But we need to be willing to re-vision our story to make the vision come to life.

Some great go-to resources for help with revision:

1. Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell

2. 9-1-1 help for Revising your Picture book by Cynthea Liu http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/revision/revision-9-1-1-for-fiction-picture-books/

3. Second Sight — General Help for all writers of children’s books by Cheryl Klein http://cherylklein.com/second-sight/

 

One last thing… I ran across an interview that Kelly Barnhill gave on John Brown’s blog. She makes a good point that is worth printing and pasting on our computers…

“That’s the magic of revisions – every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.”  — Kelly Barnhill

(for more of her interview, check it out here: http://johndbrown.com/2011/02/interview-with-author-kelly-barnhill/)

 

p.s. And if you’re wondering, I read this post aloud to my oldest kiddo. She’s now demanding chocolate.

 DONNA EARNHARDT
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Bio: Donna Earnhardt is the author of Being Frank, illustrated by Andrea Castellani (Flashlight press, 2012). When Donna isn’t homeschooling her three children, chauffeuring them from place to place, or battling the laundry, she’s writing children’s stories, poetry, songs, and mysteries. You might find her fishing the Pee Dee River, hiking in the mountains with her family (while simultaneously keeping an eye out for Bigfoot) or visiting her hometown of Cordova, NC. She lives in Concord, NC, and Being Frank is her first picture book.
DONNA IS THE AUTHOR OF:
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FIND DONNA:

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Twitter: @Donna_Earnhardt
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Writing Prompt:
Hi everyone. Tracey here.
One writing exercise I like to do is called scenes from the hat. I gather different characters in one pile, different problems in another one, and setting in a third pile. Place your character pile into a hat, swish around, and pull one. Remove the pile and do the same with the problem and setting piles. Now look at your character, his or her problem, and their setting… Now GO!

Characters
King
Chipmunks
Girl
Boy
Farmer
Skater

Problem
Heir to thorn
Winter
Food
Broken ?
Scared
________

Setting
Forest
Beach
City
Moon
Country
Store

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!