Category Archives: Encouragement

What do you really want?

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It’s 9:26 p.m. You’re hungry for something. But what? Celery? (Be serious.) Hummus andDSC06295 chips? Last night’s kitchen-sink casserole? A scoopuh B&J’s Cherry Garcia perhaps? Yum.

Sometimes it can be like that with manuscripts too. You want help, but you’re not exactly sure what you’re after. The levels and type of help varies depending on where you are in the process–mid-draft? ready to revise? preparing to submit?

Maybe these explanations will give you some clarity (sorry, no ice cream included):

Manuscript critique – a critique consists of a compilation of feedback in the form of a letter regarding  pacing, flow of narrative, transitions, voice, structure and other essential elements of stylish prose. This will provide a subjective view of the strengths and current weaknesses of your manuscript. You typically do not receive comments on the manuscript itself, as with a line edit.

Developmental editing – this extensive type of editing allows you to take a birdie’s eye view of your whole manuscript. With this type of editing, you may receive feedback in the form a of lengthy, detailed letter focusing on “opportunities for improvement,” regarding issues such as pacing, flow, transitions, voice, plot, structure, dialogue, character development and more. You may also receive positive observations and suggestions too. Developmental editing does not include the nitty-gritty elements of a line edit.

Line editing – what you have here is the big enchilada of edits, aka “comprehensive editing.” This level of editing, which can vary from heavy to “light” (don’t think fluffy here), consists of a careful combing of your manuscript regarding all of the important elements of fine writing, such as voice, pacing, rhythm, dialogue, character and structure.  Think of it as someone cleaning out the crumbs in your silverware drawer, only in this case, the toaster tidbits pertain to issues like transitions, voice, word choice and character development. You can expect many comments on the manuscript itself.

Proofreading – the main objective here is to ensure your manuscript is as clean as it can be–free of typographical errors, grammatical gaffs, style inconsistencies or other mishaps that will distract or confuse your reader. This article gives you a helpful rundown on what to expect.

Eventually, every manuscript will need all of these interventions, but for now, take a look at your manuscript and ask yourself what would help you take it to the next level, get you unstuck or unravel a plot knot for you. If you’re a visual learner like me, this chart from Yellow Bird Editors may also help you decide.

[Insert thought bubble here–“Sheesh. Isn’t she going to tell us where to find help?”]

So, my little summer strawberries, where can you get help with your manuscript? (I just had a hunch you’d like to know. ) Sources for critiques and editing are often offered in connection to writing workshops, and are also available via SCBWI, professional services like Yellow Bird Editors or even among your own circle of writing friends or critique group. (And about that last one–if you seek the help of an author/friend–unless you are able to reciprocate in kind–pay them, okay?)

My very best shimmery, summery wishes to you, my talented friends! You can do this.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. ~ Jack Kerouac

 

You May Need Professional Help, Part I

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clouds

It’s not a fun thing to admit:

I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Novel writing, I mean.  (See there? I can’t even form a complete sentence.)

No, no. I’m not looking for consolation. I’m simply being transparent about what’s what.

Given that time is lapping me like an Olympian, something must be done now if I’m ever going to achieve my dream.

Somethings I’ve tried, include, but are not limited to:

  • Attending writing-focused workshops, retreats and conferences
  • Completing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature and the UCLA Writing Extension
  • Reading books on writing (if you’d like recommendations, please ask)
  • Paying for critiques from editors and authors
  • Studying novels written by award-winning authors in my genre
  • Participating in a critique group
  • Seeking one-on-one advice from a trusted fellow writer
  • Eating a library’s weight in cookies

To be crystal, I am not saying I’ve tried all of these somethings and they were a waste. Not. At. All. I value these experiences and will return to them again going forward (particularly the last one).

But now, this is the time to try a shiny, new something.

But what?

I made of list of everything from reading a new self-help book to applying to grad school and nothing seemed quite right–either not personalized or too pricey or impractical given my day job.

That’s when a friend suggested I get some professional help.

Now, that’s a true friend!

My friend suggested I contact an editorial service–a business that provides copy edits, developmental editing and coaching.

Eureka! (Time for a celebratory cookie!)

I investigated the particular service she recommended and loved what I learned. So much so that I spoke with the owner, sent in a writing sample, picked my editor, signed on the dotted line, attached my manuscript and mailed my check this week. In about three weeks, I will receive my detailed editorial letter.

Be aware, my little apricot tarts, quality editorial services are not cheap. Nor should they be. But when I compare the cost of a full-manuscript edit to a fly-away weekend workshop, much less graduate level courses, the price is much more manageable. Plus, I will be learning transferable skills I can apply to past and future manuscripts. I also anticipate having this level of personalized help will speed along the process a bit rather than meandering without aim through a writers’ wilderness (aka per usual).

Is there some wink-wink magic hidden door wink-wink connected to such services? In other words, if you use an editorial service, will your work somehow become cover to cover catnip to publishers because the service itself will help you on your way? Mmm. No. It’s still about you and your writing. But because your writing will be stronger, there’s hope your chances for publication are stronger too.

Next time, I’ll tell you what it was like to get the letter and a bit about what I learned and how I’ll use the editor’s input to shape my work in progress.

For now, I feel excited, empowered and energized. And that’s mighty fine by me.

If you think you could use some professional help, let’s connect on my contact page. I’ll be glad to share more with you.

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. ~ Napoleon Hill

 

 

Where’s Your Scary?

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The road is longclouds

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

Do these lyrics remind you of your journey toward publication?

How about words like wandering, wilderness, what-if-it-never-materializes, wondering what’s next?

I hear you.

More important, I feel you.

This journey is tough. At least it is for me. And it’s so much longer than I ever imagined it would be.

You too?

Lately, I’ve recognized one of the things that is making it feel even longer–I’ve tripped into a rut.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Trudging.

Now my journey is as dry as winter elbows.

Know what’s missing?

Scary.

For me, Scary equates to doing something new, putting myself out there for an unpredictable payback and feeling my heart stampede.

Now I’m on the hunt for the right kind of Scary.

You too?

These ideas to inject an element of Scary back into our Writing Life–

  • Enroll in a writing course
  • Apply to an MFA program or another form of formal education
  • Register for a workshop, retreat or conference
  • Send three chapters to a willing beta reader
  • Enter a contest
  • Read at an open mic

I’m going for it. Look out Scary. Here I come.

You comin’?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. ~ Helen Keller

Lyrics by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott

“Rung” in the New Year

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frog-and-toad-and-the-cookies

From “Frog and Toad” by Arnold Lobel

When you’re up high, let’s say on a tall ladder, people always tell you–Don’t look down! But do me a favor, will you? Take a minute to glance over your shoulder. That’s right, look down the ladder the today. Here’s why . . .

When your sole focus is looking up the publishing ladder as you clutch each rung, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never reach the top. But let me encourage you to hold the rung a second.

Pause.

Even for a moment.

Stop craning your neck upward.

Look back down that ladder.

You began at the bottom.

Now, see how far you’ve come!

Today, before you uncork some bubbly or sing that silly “Auld Lang Syne,” make a list. Nope, not a mental list. Compile a REAL list on paper or screen–of all you’ve accomplished this year toward your writing goals. You have so much to be proud of. (I know, I should have said, You have so much of which to be proud, but that sounds kind of snooty for my purposes, and using proper grammar wasn’t one of my goals for 2016 anyway.)

Sure, there’s a lot more you want to do (same here), but treat yourself to a moment to appreciate how high you’ve already climbed. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the view!

What’s that? You say you submitted your work this year, but only have a stack of rejection letters to show for it? Well, that’s VERY rung-list worthy. (Honest. I’m not just saying that to give you something to put on your list.) You submitted your work. (It’s virtually impossible to receive a letter of rejection otherwise.) You wrote, revised, researched publishers and took the leap to share your work for consideration. Okay, so you didn’t get the desired response–this time–but you’re now ready to narrow your search and target other houses for submission in the new year. That’s great. Rung it up!

Happy New Year, my little sticky buns! Let’s “rung” it in together.

Umquam porro. Ever forward, Friends. Ever forward. Rung by rung.

A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. ~ Edmond de Goncourt

Sit down. We need to talk. (Yes, there will be cookies.)

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I know you’re busy. Me too. But, please, sit down a minute.

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Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

We need to talk.

Yes, you can grab a cookie and that pillow.

Comfy now?

Sweetness.

That’s what we need to talk about.

Now, I don’t mean the hazelnut cocoa with an extra dollop of marshmallow fluff kind of sweet (as delightful as that is).

Wait. Please come back. I’ll make you some cocoa when we’re done, okay?

Now,  back to sweet. See, sweet, to me, means empathy, compassion, sensitivity and awareness of others (people, critters, nature, you know, the world around us). It’s one of the best parts of us.

But trust me, being sweet is not for sissies, especially if you intend to stay that way. You gotta be vigilant about protecting your sweetness–now, more than ever ever ever.

Why am I making a fuss with all this “sweetness jazz”?

Fair question. My answer: because children.

You and I write for them. We must sign on to be one of their tenderizers. Through our stories, we can show little ones what empathy looks like, even in–and especially in–painful, challenging, heart-searing circumstances infested with tough choices. We can introduce kids to diverse people and let them see in natural, everyday ways the value of sweetness with each interaction.

Child development researcher L. R. Knost, said, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

I love that . . . “Make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” Amen.

What’s that? Am I suggesting you be a “Polly Anna Pushover Nanny Pants”?

Uh, not sure what that is exactly, but um, no. Staying sweet can take a lot of grit. Don’t be a door mat. Don’t be a cream puff. You know that.

Be you – the best tender, kind, compassionate, welcoming, sweet you you can be. And write the tenderizing stories only you can. And as you do that, gosh, oh my. The world is lucky to have you here. I am lucky to have you here. Children are even luckier.

So, that’s it. That’s our talk. Thanks for listening.

Pardon?

Sure, you can take a cookie with you.

Everyone carries an atmosphere about him. It may be healthful and invigorating, or it may be unwholesome and depressing. It may make a little spot of the world a sweeter, better, safer place to live in; or it may make it harder for those to live worthily and beautifully who dwell within its circle. ~ J.R. Miller

 

Congrats x Four!

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tarzan-2Granted, he doesn’t look thrilled, but Mr. Tarzan Malarkey was honored to draw the names of our lucky Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway. Honest.

He said, “Yes.”

(That’s how he responded when I asked if he had fun.)

Congratulations to these four lucky winners!

Sally Thelen – An idea journal to capture light bulb moments in the New Year

Ann Angel – A surprise! (You’ll like it!)

Lindsey McDivitt – A critique of up to 10 pages – offer good through 2017

Kristin Lenz – Doodle pad and pens (with an original doodle t’boot!)

Piles of thanks to everyone who entered the contest, offered ideas for future posts and shared such scrummy words of encouragement.

My little hand-sprinkled sugar cookies, I wish you all a warm, peaceful and delightful holiday season. Take time to “be,” to loll around in the love that’s all around you and to keep your heart tender. You’ll be ready to make 2017 your most productive, creative, daring year ever.

And then, as if written by the hand of a bad novelist, an incredible thing happened. ~ Jonathan Stroud

Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway

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Can you believe it, my little cinnamon sticks? We’ve reached four full years of Frog on a DSC06765Dime. You’ve made this step of faith (and fear!) so worthwhile for me. My desire to be an encouragement has come full circle so many times, thanks to you, I’m a curlicue (and yeesh, that is quite a sight!)

To thank you for your, well, your YOU-ness, I want to offer you FOUR chances to win this Happy 4th Birthday Giveaway.

Win one of four prizes:

  • An Idea Journal to start your new year.
  • A critique (up to 10 pages) of your picture book or middle grade novel in progress.
  • A doodle pad & pen. (Plus, I’ll draw a doodle just for you to get you started.)
  • A surprise prize!

Four quick as a wink ways to enter:

  • Become a new follower of Frog on a Dime. (Sign up’s on the home page.)
  • Leave a comment under this post on Facebook.
  • Like and retweet this post on Twitter.
  • Share a comment, suggestion or question on this post below.

Your ideas for future post topics, your writing-related questions or nominations for guest bloggers are especially welcome.

Enter by 4 p.m. (EST) on Friday, December 9.

I can’t wait to dole out the prizes. So, hop to it! What are you waiting “four”?

I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ~ Ovid