1/31/2011

Blog Award Time


Kenda at Words and Such has passed this award to me. Thank you, Kenda! I heart your blog.

Like Kenda, I've been blogging for a little over a year. I started as a book reviewer, but had to give it up due to lack of time. At the beginning of 2011, I switched my focus to that of being a writer's blog. I also started reading other writer blogs around that time, and so I'm in the process of discovering a wonderful new community. Over the coming months, I hope to get to know many of you. I've been asked to tell seven things about myself and to pass the award to an additional ten bloggers. Let me say, limiting the number to ten was difficult. If I missed you this time, there's always next time ...

Here are ten blogs that deserve the Stylish Blogger Award:

C.A. Marshall: Author: Freelance Editor: Lit Agent Intern 
Seeing Creative Stina Lindnblatt
W.I.P. It Lynda R. Young 
Writing it Out Beth Revis
Iggie and Gabi Gabriela Pereira
Rach Writes Rachael Harrie
Caroline by Line Caroline Starr Rose
Persnickety Snark Adele
CYBILS Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards
Plotting and Scheming Dawn Simon

Here are seven things about me:

I’m a long time career woman, but I hope to be able to retire from my full time job in 18 months, at the still wildly energetic age of 60.

I love the legacy I'll leave behind. In addition to the expected job achievements, i.e. the reasons I get paid the “big bucks,” I will have left my mark by being the one who redesigned the children’s area. It's in the old part of the library otherwise known as the Carnegie building. It was the original library, built in 1906.

That being said, I also cannot wait to devote my heart and soul to my writing and all that writing entails.

I am the mother of three grown children and the grandmother of five grandchildren between the ages of 1-9. They all live within 30 miles of me, and so I get to hug and kiss them often, not to mention babysit them!

I live in an area with glorious opportunities for bicycling, which I do as often as possible.

I live on a wheat ranch in Southeastern Washington. My husband's ancestors were pioneers on the Palouse. Our grandson who carries the family name is the sixth generation of this family in the area.

My husband built an airplane, a kit-built Vans Experimental Aircraft, an RV-7, which we hope to begin to fly all over America ... as soon as there's more flexibility in our schedules.

1/30/2011

Writing Buddies Blog Carnival



Melissa at Writing with Style is having a Writing Buddies blog carnival. I thought it was a cute idea, and so I'M IN! Click the link (not the picture) for details.

My writing buddy, Moe, was a puppy when I started writing. She's now an eleven-year-old, outdoor farm dog, and while she doesn't keep me company while I write, she does accompany me on my four-mile jogs.













Moe is an Akita-Chow mix, and very much an Alpha dog with other animals, but sweet as can be with humans.

1/28/2011

Top Ten Blogs for Writers, plus a Few Favorites of My Own

Write to Done has selected the Top Ten blogs for writers. The winners are below, followed by a few favorites of my own.


StoryFix I wholeheartedly agree with this one. Larry is sensational. I read him regularly, and have also downloaded two of his e-books, which deliver!

Men with Pens I'm not familiar with this one.

Make a Living Writing. I'm not familiar with this one either, but from glancing at it, as well as at Men with Pens, both are kick-butt sites geared toward people who want to earn their living from freelancing.

Cats Eye Writer This one appears to be more about building your blog, and who doesn't want that? Truth, I'm currently 99% more interested in finishing my manuscript revisions, but it could be interesting to know more about blogging.

The Renegade Writer. Again, this site appears to be devoted to the freelancer. I've read that there are great opportunities for writing on the web; if interested, you'd probably find great info here.

Writer Unboxed. This is a multi-author blog, among them Jane Friedman formerly from Writer's Digest, and agent Donald Maass.

The Creative Penn. "Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing." I had never seen this one, but it looks relatively interesting.

Victoria Mixon. I'd never looked at her site. In addition to her blog posts, she sells an e-Zine and offers editorial services.

Courage to Create A quick glance at this one looks like one I might decide to subscribe to ... 

Wordplay This is K.M. Weiland's site, which I do subscribe to, and actually read once in a while. Her posts are excellent, and she offers editorial services.

Here are SIX that blow my mind:

The Bookshelf Muse  Read this one for their thesaurus entries.

Adventures in Children's Publishing  Another multi-author blog that is simply amazing. Read it every day, but especially every Friday, for their long list of links on various writing topics.

Jody Hedlund  is a Christian fiction author whose writing blog is second to none.

Plot Whisperer  Martha Alderson has written a book called Blockbuster Plots that I found to be excellent. She also talks about writing through her own YouTube channel, and offers a free monthly plot tips eZine. As with most professional writing blogs, she offers a variety of services including manuscript consultations, but not editorial services. Check her out to see everything she offers.

Jane Friedman  is the former editorial director of Writer's Digest. What else can I say? This woman knows her stuff.

Last, but absolutely not least:

Literary Rambles by Casey McCormick. Casey has some good writing tips, but her true claim to fame comes from her agent interviews. Are you looking to find an agent? Start here.

1/24/2011

Fun with the Lulu Title Scorer

If you’ve never checked out the Lulu Title Scorer, it’s a lot of fun. You type in the title of your book, and then answer some questions about it (the title), such as whether it’s figurative or literal. You select its grammar structure from a drop down list, as well as the parts of speech of the first and second words.

Lulu commissioned statisticians to study the titles of 50 years’ worth of bestsellers. They identified the attributes, at least as far as titles go, that separate bestsellers from other books. They compared these titles with those of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors.

I typed in the title of the first manuscript I ever wrote: Winds of Saint Domingue … and discovered it has a 59% chance of being a bestselling title. Whoop-dee-do. I typed in the title of my first Young Adult manuscript: Star-Spangled Bikini. It has a 69% chance. (I need to revise that baby, soon as I'm done revising my current WIP.)    ; )  

The original working title for my current WIP was When I Fall, but then Lauren Oliver came out with the fabulous Before I Fall. (Too similar??)

I typed in a couple of new possibilities:

5 Reasons to be Unhappy = 26%.
3500 Reasons to be Happy = 26%.

What about: 3500 Reasons to be Unhappy? or 5 Reasons to be Happy?
Obviously, it's the same, and I'm not going with any variation of those titles.
I typed in my second original working title for the manuscript, which has become my default title: Sunshine Girl = 69%. Much better!

If you haven’t discovered the Lulu title scorer, go have some fun with it.
What are your working titles? Have you scored them? What kind of scores did they get?

1/21/2011

Kaleidoscopic Revision


I mentioned a few days ago that I’m taking an online course in revision. It’s self-paced, and so I have all the time I need to complete it, however I’m attempting to do one lesson each week. It’s so much fun, I’m both motivated and inspired to do so. Holly, a former RN, uses medical terminology to describe her process. I would personally describe it as “kaleidoscopic.”

Each week, I view my entire manuscript from a different angle, however I'm not allowed to go in and fiddle with the existing manuscript at all, which is very liberating. It gets you out of the mindset of sentence-by-sentence revision, and it causes ideas to pop like popcorn in a hot kettle.

The second week, we looked at our entire manuscript through the facet of promises made to our readers. My first draft is quite lean at 55,600 words (220 pages), but I did discover many promises I’d made that I never intended to make, as well as places where promises should’ve been made, but weren’t. Fixes will result in word additions and subtractions, once I'm allowed to touch the manuscript.

The third week, we turned the kaleidoscope and looked at the manuscript through the facet of scenes. We identified our scenes and our not-scenes. This was a very time-consuming task, but it laid the foundation for everything to come. My WIP currently has 96 scenes.

The fourth week, we turned the kaleidoscope and looked at the manuscript through the facet of plots and subplots. We identified our major plot and all subplots and not-plots. It was eye-opening to see whether each one has an arc, and if it doesn’t, we generated ideas about how to fill in the holes.

The fifth week, we went back to our scenes and examined each one closely to see if it has strong or weak conflict, and generated ideas about how to strengthen the weak conflicts.

The sixth week, we examined every single character and asked why they’re in the book. What role does each one play? We then looked at each scene and asked what we felt about each character at the end of the scene. More importantly, we asked if that’s what we want the reader to feel. If not, there’s work to be done. That generated ideas about how to improve our characters to make them more fully support the story we’re attempting to tell.

The seventh week, we deepened our story world. We defined the world, the settings within that world, and finally all of the stages within each setting. I have one world, 13 settings and 53 stages. Prior to week 7, the world of my novel was almost nonexistent. Creating my world was especially fun for me, as I discovered latent conflict within a number of my stages. It was fun to deepen each stage, each time it's used. Deepening also pulls out hidden conflict.

Anyway, tomorrow, I download Lesson 8, on Theme.

What started as 55,600 words now has an additional 24,000 words (almost 100 pages!) of notes on possible ways to improve my manuscript … ideas that popped like popcorn ... and I’m not even half done with the revision process. It’ll be ever-so- interesting to see how many more ideas get generated as the weeks roll on.

1/17/2011

The Revision Process

I'm currently revising my second Young Adult manuscript. For anyone who's ever completed a manuscript, we all know that getting those first 50,000+ words down is only the start of a long process. Revision comes next, and after that, line editing.

This is my second YA manuscript, but not the second manuscript I've written over the years. Most writers I know, including me, have a half dozen to a dozen partially to fully completed manuscripts stashed away somewhere--in ancient computer files, dusty three-ring binders. Plus, there's that list of a couple hundred ideas we've yet to explore, and probably never will in our lifetime. Some of them? Yes. All of them? Not unless we're Nora Roberts. It's all part of the process. There are starts and stops. I'm only now writing again, and have been for the past three years, after a break of over five years. And even in the past three years, my efforts haven't been consistent, alas.    

With my current manuscript, I decided to try something different regarding revision. I'd always started with the first sentence and worked my way through to the last, changing a word or phrase here, strengthening a scene there, completing a plot line that was forgotten midway. But it was unsatisfying, in that I always wondered if I was guilty of making the same mistakes, manuscript after manuscript. I know now that I surely was.  

This time, I decided I didn't want to do it alone, but to work with someone who knows what they're doing! I considered hiring an editor to guide me through it, but then I found Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel, a 21-week, online course in revision. It's far less expensive than a professional editor would be, and yet you get access to the wisdom and expertise of someone who's published something like 34 novels, so far.

I just downloaded Lesson 7, and I am thoroughly enjoying Holly's personality and her systematic process, which she makes fun. Her weekly worksheets are excellent. While I'm not even laying a finger on my manuscript, and won't until Lesson 17, I am watching my manuscript transform before my eyes. The moving picture in my brain is deepening and connecting and coming into focus in a way that did not exist before.

How do you revise? Do you have an especially useful tip?

1/14/2011

You Can Get There From Here: Current State of the Children's Publishing Industry

You’ve heard that it’s hard to break into publication. I don’t doubt that. You need to work hard. Learn your craft, write and rewrite your manuscript, maybe a succession of manuscripts, until you’ve got a marketable story. For some talented souls, the journey is short. For others, it takes longer.


But it’s not The Impossible Dream. New authors are being published all the time, particularly in the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets. After the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series and then the Twilight Series, children's--Middle Grade, Young Adult--is the hottest market in the publishing industry ... and a great place to be if you're a Debut Author.

Case in point: Clare Vanderpool, debut author, recently won the 2011 Newbery for her debut novel, Moon over Manifest. It’s a historical novel set in depression-era Kansas that alternates with a narrative set during World War I. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds like a wonderful book. The last time a debut author won the Newbery was 30 years ago. But here it is. It happened this year, in this publishing climate.

What about Young Adult novels? The Story Siren, one of the best book review blogs in Cyberland, runs an annual YA Debut Author challenge. It’s too late to sign up for this year’s challenge, but go ahead, trot on over and look at her spreadsheets of 2011 Debut Authors. The list numbers somewhere around 210 books in the American market alone. There are also spreadsheets for the British and Canadian markets.

I don’t have exact figures as to how many YA novels are published each year, but speaking as a librarian who buys just about everything on the Publishers Weekly semi-annual lists, that number must account for about a third of books published by traditional publishers. I see that statistic as nothing short of phenomenal.

If you have boundless energy, endless desire, and a realistic plan for becoming a published author of Middle Grade or Young Adult fiction, you couldn’t have picked a better time ... So go on, roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

1/12/2011

Snow in the Country


This is the road we live on, and the old, one-room schoolhouse that we own. It's sitting on a corner of the home place quarter-section. My father-in-law went through eighth grade there, and then went to high school in town, five miles away.



1/10/2011

Writing Resolutions

Last month, I started to read writing blogs for the first time since I began blogging a year ago. Being a writer myself, I'd avoided them, thinking they'd be boring. The posts would be all on craft, and I'm not particularly interested in reading about that. Not all the time, at least.

Instead, I'm finding that Writer Blogs are full of wisdom, inspiration and encouragement. Writers are friendly, and posts are frequently beautifully written. They are definitely places where I'm eager to hang out.

I'm discovering too, that writers are huge on making resolutions. It makes sense. People who plan and write 50,000-150,000 word books and direct characters' lives are naturally great planners of their own lives as well.

In an earlier post this month, I wrote that my blogging resolution for 2011 is to get to know this great writing community.

But I didn't specifically state my writing resolutions. In the spirit of sharing, here's what I hope to accomplish in the first half of 2011:

  • Attend the SCBWI-WW conference in the spring.
  • Finish revising my manuscript by June 1
  • Call together my critique partners
  • Do further revisions based on their comments
  • Read up on agents and create a tiered list to query.
  • When the revised MS is strong enough, begin querying
That's where my control over the process ends for a while, and so that's where I'll end my resolutions as well. Happy New Year!

1/05/2011

Snow on the Farm



This is our neighbor's tree and barn. Hubby and I once saw it featured on the cover of a calendar, although a summerscape. We couldn't believe it. A national calendar. Was that really our neighbor's tree and barn? Yes, it was.



1/03/2011

Scholastic Names Trends in Children's Books for 2010

Scholastic recently came out with a list of trends in Children's Books for 2010, based on sales of books by all children's publishers, through Scholastic's school book clubs and book fairs. Here are the results, as pertaining to the Middle Grade and Young Adult market:

1. The expanding Young Adult audience
2. The year of dystopian fiction
3. Mythology-based fantasy (Percy Jackson followed by series like The Kane Chronicles, Lost Heroes of Olympus and Goddess Girls)
4. Multimedia series (The 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek, The Search for WondLa)
5. A focus on popular characters - from all media
6. The return to humor
7. The rise of the diary and journal format (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, Dork Diaries, The Popularity Papers, and Big Nate)
8. Special-needs protagonists
9. Paranormal romance beyond vampires (Linger, Beautiful Creatures, Immortal, and Prophesy of the Sisters)

I recently incorporated a couple items on the list--use of a journal, and a paranormal element--to the manuscript I'm revising. The results have surprised and delighted me.

The manuscript isn't written journal format. Rather, I'm incorporating a specialized journal, more like an object, that moves through the story and enables the main character's internal conflict to be visible. It was a Eureka! Moment when I thought of it.

The ghost element is newer, and one that I think will work, but am not entirely sure yet. The ghost also mirrors the protagonist's internal conflict, but more specifically as Crystal's egoic addiction. Whenever she makes an attempt to change or transform, the ego shows up--the ghost--which Crystal is finally powerful enough to overcome in the end.

 
If you're writing for the Middle Grade or Young Adult market, do you see your manuscript fitting somewhere in these trends? Do you write with an eye for popularity and sales? Are you more interested in literary quality and possibly awards? Or are you interested in a little of both?

I lean toward literary. Over the past couple of years, critique partners have compared my voice and style to Laurie Halse Anderson and Karen Cushman. Should I one day find myself in their company, I would be deeply, deeply honored.

What is your writing style? I'd love to hear from you!

1/01/2011

A New Year Dawns ...


Greetings! I’m back in my little corner of cyberspace. The holidays, those grand events that make winter more bearable, are over. Unfortunately, the cold weather isn't. It's currently 19 degrees outside, but with a snow cover.

I've decided to change the focus of my blog. I'm not going to do much reviewing anymore. If you've been reading my posts for a while, you know that I'm working on a Young Adult manuscript. I'm currently in the revision stage, and am pouring virtually all of my free time into that.

Truth, until I reach the point where I'm not away from home for 50+ hours each week (i.e. until I've retired from my full time job), I don't see myself spending much time as a book reviewer. After fulfilling on my commitments, there aren't many free hours left in the week. I'm choosing now to spend them on my own writing.

Of course, I might still, from time-to-time, review a book. But I've decided that my blogging goal for this year is to get to know other aspiring and published children's writers. I never spent a lot of time reading other blogs--there wasn't time for it. But without the burden of reading and reviewing, that frees some time.

I plan to post twice a week--Mondays and Fridays, and I plan to write about anything that pertains to the writing journey. I might still post at other times, but reliably only on Monday and Friday.
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