May 07

Tips to Overcome Writing Procrastination

Writing procrastination

Contributed by Mary Jo Guglielmo.

“If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.” ~Proverb

Procrastination………….who me? I know how to get things done; I also know how to procrastinate. As a writer, sometimes procrastination has to do with feeling lost in a project, other times it’s about not being satisfied with a draft.  Personally, I’m pretty disciplined with my writing time, but I can procrastinate for months when it comes to sending a draft off to an agent or editor.

After having my 900 word manuscript accepted by a magazine, the editor sent it back to me asking that I further develop the topic.  I quickly added the info requested and sent it back.  The editor responded with …”tell me more.”  Again, I added another section and resubmitted the manuscript.  I was sure I was done with the manuscript.  The editor responded with highlighting another section  and once again said…”tell me more”.  Frustrated and not sure what she wanted, I put the manuscript down for three months.  When I finally finished the manuscript it was almost 3,000 words.  I was sure too much time had elapsed and the editor would no longer be interested, but with the next submission to the editor, I received my contract for publication.   Fortunately, my procrastinating didn’t cost me the contract, but it certainly raised my angst about the project.

Now when I find myself procrastinating I apply bookends to the project.   Once I decide what I’m gong to work on, I schedule it and plan a pre and post project incentive. It’s my bookends. I treat myself or do something I enjoy prior to starting the project and again when I finish it. Sometimes, it’s something small like a trip to Starbucks before doing research on a project, other times it’s a day at the zoo or the art institute.

Why do bookends work? I think because the first bookend marks it’s time to start and then the last bookend acknowledges the accomplishment. Sometimes the bookend at the end is something that I’m really dying to do or is time sensitive. This gives me the added push to slug through until I’m finished. So if you find yourself procrastinating, try bookends.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out:
http://theadvantagepoint.wordpress.com
http://facebook.com/DoNorth.biz

Writing for children tipsWhat’s Your Writing Forte?
3 Steps to Querying Publishers and Agents
Balance in Fiction Writing – The Major Elements

Be a children's writerBeing a writer, like being any kind of artist who creates something from nothing, is an amazing ability. It’s almost like magic. And, you are in control. You decide what to create. The only limit you have is the cap on your imagination.

Check out my 180 page ebook that gives you all the basics of WRITING FICTION FOR CHILDREN, finding a publisher or agent, and marketing your books.

This post was originally published at:
http://www.writersonthemove.com/2014/06/if-and-when-were-planted-and-nothing.html

Aug 17

Writing to Get Published – 5 Power Tips

Tips on writing to get publishedAll writers have one primary focus—to get published. What makes each of us different is our slant or perspective on the story we’re telling, and how we tell it.

It’s true that anyone can write, but writing to get published is another story. To accomplish this, there four steps you need to include in your writing. (The fifth tips is a bonus.)

THE FIVE TIPS

1. Write an out-of-the-ballpark beginning

This is the crucial step that will determine whether the agent or editor keeps reading. Your beginning needs to grab the reader; it needs to lead the reader on without him having to think about it.

Here are different slants on a possible beginning:

A. Jan saw blood dripping down the wall. She screamed.

This idea is a beginning that might entice a reader to read on, but the problem is it’s telling not showing. To add showing:

B. Blood dripped down the stark white wall, adding to the puddle already formed on the floor. Jane felt a quiver run down her spine. Reacting before thinking of the consequences, a blood curdling scream issued from the depths of her being.

C. Blood slowly dripped down the stark white wall. A quiver ran throughout Jane’s body. An urgent eruption welled up from the depths of her being and brought forth a blood curdling scream.

D. Blood slowly dripped down the stark white wall, adding to the dark red puddle already formed on the floor. A quiver ran throughout Jane’s body creating an urgent eruption that welled up from the depths of her being—a blood curdling scream issued forth.

Examples B, C and D do a much better job of showing rather than telling. While they can easily be taken apart and reworded for tightness, more description or less description, whatever the author deems necessary, for this article they serve their purpose.

And remember, using descriptive words and adverbs adds to the word count. So, analyze each word you use; be sure they enhance the story and move it along, not weigh it down. In today’s writing world publishers and agents want tight writing.

2. The body of your story

This area needs to fulfill the beginning’s promise. It needs to keep the reader interested in the characters and plot—this will ensure the reader keeps turning the pages. You also need to keep track of everything going on in the story and follow through. Readers don’t want to feel cheated or disappointed.

Some authors use character and event cards or sheets to keep track of each character’s qualities and the details to each event. This will guarantee continuity and help prevent loose ends.

3. Your ending

The ending must tie everything together and tie-up all loose ends. If you wrote a paragraph or chapter about John and Jane contemplating marriage then segue into something else, let the reader know how it ends up.

It’s also a plus if you can come up with a twist at the end, something the reader won’t expect.
But, keep in mind it’s essential that you leave the reader satisfied.

4. Submitting your work

You’ll never know if you’ve written the next best seller if you don’t submit your work. Research publishers and/or agents who work in the genre you write. Choose the ones that you think are the best fit and study their guidelines. Then, follow the guidelines and submit your work. Don’t let fear or uncertainty keep you from moving forward—nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Attend conferences.

If you’re able to, attend writing / pitching conferences, like the one Writer’s Digest has. I know an author who got nibbles from 10 out of 14 agents and publishers. Big enough nibbles that they requested 25-50 pages of her story. And, one requested the entire manuscript.

This is the power of pitching at a conference.

Along with this, it’s important to network as much as you can – conferences are a great place to do this.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Writing with Clarity
Writing Rhyme in Children’s Stories
The Writing Elements Mix – Is There a Right Balance?

Jul 31

Writing – Trimming The Fat

Writing tips on writing tightGuest Post by Penny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz)

If you check market resources both for printed and on-line publications [picture books], you’ll find a number whose word limit is below 1,000 words. How do you trim the fat from your manuscript to fit within the tight confines of those word limits?

First, check your manuscript for “weak” modifiers. These are the words which writers hoping to strengthen another word. The two most commonly used words are “very” and “really.” Removing these words from your sentences will give them more impact.

Other weak, modifying words to watch for are: some, just, so, such, even, certainly, definitely, exactly, and that (when overused).

Second, check your manuscript for “wishy-washy” words. You’ll recognize them by their lack of clear definition. Words which fall into this category are: somewhat, sort of, rather, a little, perhaps, seem, and words with “ish” on the end, such as “shortish,” “tallish,” and “brownish.”

In an effort to create realistic dialogue, some writers insert “well” and “oh” into their sentences. Be sure to eliminate these from your manuscript. If a writer were to capture true dialogue, there would be pages and pages of “um,” “uh,” “well,” and “er.” Fortunately, as writers, that’s not our job. We need to create an illusion of reality, not play back word-for-word a “real” conversation. An occasional spattering of the interjections “oh,” “well,” and “um,” is sufficient.

Although adjectives and adverbs have a clear place in our writing, there isn’t an adjective or adverb that can strengthen a weak noun or verb. If you’re looking for variety in your writing, use a thesaurus instead. Go through your manuscript and highlight where you’ve used these modifiers to fatten up and strengthen ineffective words. Go back to the highlighted areas and replace those weak words with strong, descriptive nouns and verbs.

It’s not easy to trim the fat whether eliminating those yummy chocolate truffles from our diets or cutting out the weak modifiers, “wishy-washy” words, extra “wells,” “ums,” “ers,” and “ohs” from our dialogues, and replacing adjectives and adverbs with strong nouns and verbs. But if we want our human body or our body of work to be fit and desirable, we must trim the fat to achieve tight, firm writing or a lean physique.

While working on my latest release Ghostly Visions, I had a lot of help from my editors in trimming back the “fat.” This middle grade novel is comprised of two books published as one: Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch.

Children's middle grade book

In Ghost for Rent, Wendy Wiles attracts ghosts when her parents separate and she, her brother, and mother move into a haunted house. The story begins in Portland, Oregon and quickly moves to small town, Scappoose, Oregon. Miserable at leaving her friends and beloved Portland behind, Wendy meets her neighbor Jennifer who tells her the house Wendy’s mom rented is haunted. After two of them appear to Wendy, the girls find themselves tracking down the mystery of who the ghosts are and why they “live” in the Wiles’ home.

In Ghost for Lunch, Wendy’s friend, Jennifer, moves away, leaving Wendy sad until new neighbors and their restaurant in St. Helens bring ghosts back into Wendy’s life. She, her brother, and their new friend discover the two cases are connected. Once again, the young sleuths use clues and lots of brainstorming to figure out who is haunting the restaurant.

While on the surface, these two stories appear to be about ghosts and the mystery of solving them, they are also about the importance of family and friends and working together to solve a problem.

Ghostly Visions is available direct from the publisher 4RV Publishing LLC for $15.99 including shipping and handling. It can also be ordered from your local bookstore with the following ISBN numbers: ISBN-10: 0982642326, ISBN-13: 978-0982642320, or through Amazon.

About the Author

Author of Ghostly VisionsPenny Lockwood (Ehrenkranz) has published over 100 articles, 75 stories, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications, and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She is a former editor for MuseItUp Publishing, 4RV Publishing, and Damnation Books. Visit her web site at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com and her writing blog at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/.

4RV Publishing has joined her two middle grade novels (Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch) as Ghostly Visions. She recently released Boo’s Bad Day with 4RV Publishing and has one other children’s picture book under contract with them: Many Colored Coats. She has three romances published by MuseItUp Publishing: Love Delivery, Lady in Waiting, and Mirror, Mirror. Her short story collection, A Past and A Future, is available through Alban Lake Publishing and Smashwords.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper?
Focus, Determination, and Perseverance = Writing Success
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Jul 17

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips to Help You Avoid the ‘I Want It Now Syndrome’

(What’Writing and the I Want It Now syndromes a ‘Wannabe’ Author to Do?)

Self-publishing is a ship everyone wants to sail on. And, for good reason. This publishing avenue is quick and cheap.

Yes, self-publishing is fast. There’s no more submitting to a publisher or multiple publishers and waiting for (possibly) months for a response. Will they accept your manuscript that you’ve been working on for months, maybe years? Or, will they send you a generic standard rejection letter? Either way, the time waiting for an acceptance or rejection isn’t fun. With self-publishing, as soon as your manuscript is ready to go, it goes.

There are lots and lots of places to publish an ebook. And, you can publish with more than one service. And, you can sell that ebook right from your own site. That’s pretty convenient.

In addition to being a quick process, ebooks are cheap to create and publish. If you do everything yourself (aside from editing), it will cost nothing. In the event you need help, services like Fiverr have people who will help you for a very, very reasonable price.

But . . .

While it’s obvious to see the benefits to self-publishing, these benefits have one drawback in particular: everyone thinks they can write a book and self-publish it, whether or not they have the skills to write a book and whether or not it’s a quality product.

Part of the problem, possibly the main problem, is the ‘I want it now’ syndrome that self-publishing lends itself to. New authors don’t want to take the longer ‘proven’ road of learning the craft of writing and having their manuscript edited before publishing.

This ‘problem’ does all authors a disservice. It lessens the validity of self-published books as a whole. Readers (buyers) never know if the book they’re buying was done professionally or if it was carelessly slapped together.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, there are three basic strategies to use when thinking of writing a book and self-publishing:

1. Learn the craft of writing.

The first thing a ‘wannabe’ author needs to do is learn the craft of writing. This isn’t to say you must get a MFA, but you should take writing courses. There are some online courses that are free. And, you should belong to writing groups.

Along with this, you should actually be writing. Practice does make better.

Finally, you’ve got to read and read and read in the genre you want to write and in lots of other genres also. You especially want to read recently traditionally published books.

This will help you get an idea of what publishers are looking for, what quality work is being published, and how it’s written.

2. Join a critique group.

The second thing is for the author to join a genre appropriate critique group. Having your manuscript critiqued by others helps with grammar, clarity, story line, characters . . . you get the idea. Critique groups help you write your book. Those extra eyes will catch things in your manuscript that you glaze over.

3. Hire an editor.

The third thing the author should do, after the manuscript is as ‘good’ as she can get it, is to find a reputable editor and have it edited. It’s easy for an author to think she’s found all the errors in her manuscript, but in actuality, this is almost impossible to do. As the author, you’re much too close to the work to see it fresh and with unbiased eyes.

Self-publishing is an amazing opportunity for authors, but it needs to be done responsibly. Authors need to take the readers and the industry into consideration when venturing into it.

Instead of being one of the “I want it now” authors, be one of the ‘I want it, but am willing to work toward it’ authors.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Focus, Determination, and Perseverance = Writing Success
4 Realities New Writers Need to Face
The One Sentence Pitch for Your Manuscript
How Do You Build a Successful Writing Career? (3 Tips)

This article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at:
http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/2013/07/self-publishing-3-tips-to-help-you.html

May 22

Writing, Submissions, and Working With Editors

Tips on working with writing editorsEvery writer, at least hopefully, will work with an editor from time to time. While, we’d all like it to be on a regular basis, time to time is better than nothing. When in the joyous situation (you’ve gotten something accepted for publication), there are some tips that will help you in your working relationship with an editor.

The first thing, even before you think of submitting your work, is to have your manuscript or article in the best shape possible.

GETTING TO THE POINT OF SUBMISSIONS

1. Be part of a critique group. Every writer needs the extra eyes of writers working in the same genre. Their insights and critiques will prove to be invaluable to you.

2. Revise and self-edit . . .  repeat and repeat . . .

3. When you think your manuscript is in perfect shape, send it to a freelance editor. You may think this isn’t necessary, but it is. Ask around for one that comes with recommendations.

Now, you’re set; off you go on your submissions fishing trip. But, don’t just drop the line randomly; be sure you do research and find the best spot – one where you know the fish are biting. What this means is to look for publishing houses that are best suited to your manuscript, and ones that are accepting submissions.

After you’ve found a few publishing houses suitable. Read their submission guidelines CAREFULLY, and follow them just as carefully. Now it’s time for the infamous query letter. If you’re unfamiliar with queries, do some research.

Okay, you’ve done everything you needed to, and now you cast off. AND, you get a bite.

WORKING WITH EDITORS

Once you’re accepted by a publishing house, you will be assigned an editor. And, don’t be alarmed, but that manuscript you meticulously slaved over, and even paid an editor to go over, will end up with revisions. This is just the nature of the beast—each publishing house has their own way of doing things. They will want you’re manuscript to fit their standards.

Note: the purpose of those long hours of writing work, and hiring an editor is to give your manuscript the best shot of making it past the acquisition editor’s trash pile, and actually getting accepted.
Now on to 4 tips that will help make your editor/author experience a pleasant one:

1. Always be professional.

2. Don’t get insulted when the editor requests revisions. They are not trying to hurt your feelings; they are hired by the publishing house to get your manuscript in the best possible saleable state. They want your book to sell as much as you do.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. If you have a question, ask. If you disagree with an edit, respectfully discuss it. Editors are not infallible; sometimes your gut feeling is right.

4. Take note of deadlines and be on time—this is your career, and in some cases your livelihood.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Book Marketing and the Query Letter
Point of View and Children’s Storytelling
Writing for Children – Character Believability and Conflict

May 01

Freelance Writers and Ghostwriters: 2 Super-Essential Warnings

Freelance Writing and Ghostwriting WarningsI’m a working children’s ghostwriter and get a lot of queries asking about my writing service. Doing this for a number of years, I’ve come across different personalities, different requests, and a couple of ‘be careful’ moments.

The first tip is about your information and scammers.

One of the recent ‘watch it moments’ was from a woman who sounded very genuine. She had a great heart-tugging reason for wanting to have a picture book written.

I went through the process and sent her information on how I work. She agreed to use my services. BUT . . .

When I sent her an initial invoice through PayPal to get started, she told me she had a problem paying through PayPal. She went so far as to say she’d try her mother’s account.

I emailed back that if she still had a problem she could pay by check and regular mail.

She emailed back, very upbeat, that if I’d give her my banking information she’d transfer the money to me – it’d be super quick.

A light went off.

Why on earth would I give a complete stranger my banking information with all the identity theft and scams running rampant out there.

So, I politely explained that a check would be fine. I even gave her my PO Box address.

Well, I never heard back from her.

What would have happened if I didn’t think first and sent her my banking information?

It wouldn’t have been good.

The second tip is about your address.

A while ago, I got a query from a client who wanted me to read his manuscript and rewrite it. He didn’t have email and asked if he could mail it to me.

At the time, I didn’t have a PO Box, so I gave him my home address.

He mailed me the manuscript and when I read it quickly realized this guy was crazy and according to him, he was heading to prison. I politely explained that because of my work load I couldn’t take on his project.

He called me for a couple of months, all times of day and night. And, he had my address.

Fortunately, circumstances intervened and I ended up moving. I also got a different phone number. But, it was a little scary for a while.

These are two warnings to all you freelance writers and ghostwriters out there:

1. Be very careful of the information you divulge to strangers.
2. If you don’t already have a PO Box to use for queries and clients, get one today.

Remember, better safe than sorry.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

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Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Apr 17

How Do You Build a Successful Writing Career? (3 Tips)

Building writing successWriters need to be tough. It’s not an easy arena to be in. Did you know that writers get so many rejections there have actually been studies done on it. According to a Huffington Post article, “96% of authors seeking agents are rejected.” (1)

That’s pretty severe.

Another article at Writer’s Digest says, “don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents.” (2).

But, what if Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen gave up after 100 rejections. They were rejected 144 times before landing a publishing contract.
So, how does a writer become successful?

Well, there are at least 3 characteristics that go a long way in giving a writer a fighting chance.

1. Perseverance.

Perseverance is probably the single most important factor.  You can learn to write. You can improve your writing. You can submit you work more often. But, if you get discouraged when successes don’t come as fast as you’d like or expected, you may start writing less, you may give up.

This is where you need to persevere. Know that it’s not the best writers who succeed, it’ those who persevere.

From personal experience I can attest to this. I work in two niches. I did it for years with not much success. Then suddenly, clients began finding me and hiring me in one of those niches.

More often than not, success is just around the corner. You’ve got to persevere.

2. You MUST set goals.

While perseverance is an essential factor in writing success, without setting goals, what are you persevering toward? You need to be a goal setter.

Your goals need to be specific. What do you really want to succeed at?

  • Getting ongoing publishing contracts.
  • Getting freelance writing projects on a regular basis.
  • Supplementing your income.
  • Earning $50,000 per year. Earning $100,000 per year. Earning $500,000 per year. Being a millionaire.
  • Becoming a New York Times Best Seller.
  • Becoming famous.

I found it more tangible to create monthly income goals rather than yearly ones.

You need to find what your goals are and what strategy to use to obtain them. And, you need to make those goals visible. Create a vision board or write them down and read them every day.

3. Focus

One big pitfall in writing is not having focus.

I mentioned earlier that after years of struggling along, I began to get clients on a regular basis. And, I’ve gotten lots of return and series clients.

One important factor how this came about is I began to focus on one writing niche. I devoted the majority of my time and energy in that area and it paid off.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have more than one writing niche, but if you want to succeed in something, you need to prioritize. You need to focus.

As my writing coach would say, focus on what’s making you money.

Get to work building these three characteristics and see if it doesn’t make a difference. And, let us know how you make out.

References:
(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-hummel/why-agents-reject-96-of-a_b_4247045.html
(2) http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/dont-give-up-until-youve-queried-80-agents-or-more

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Aim for Writing Success

8 Top Fiction Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing

Need Help With Your Story

Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Apr 10

Aim for Writing Success

You can obtain writing successWriting success can mean different things to different writers. Some writers may simply want to get a book or article published; others may want to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List; still others may want to make a living writing; and there are those who may be seeking wealth and fame. The key here is to dig down and really know what your perception of writing success is.

Once you are certain what you are aiming for, take the necessary steps to become the writing success you dream of. Sounds easy, right? Well, we all know it’s not, if it were, there would be no struggling writers.

The first problem we seem to run into is actually realizing how we perceive success, or what we want from our writing efforts. According to Jack Canfield, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul, the number one reason for being stuck and not realizing your potential or goals is the lack of clarity.

Step One: You Must Define Your Goals and Your Perception of Success

It’s not sufficient to state you want to be a published writer; you need to proclaim the specifics. You want to be a self-help nonfiction author of published books and magazine articles earning an income of $100,000 per year. You can even get much more specific than that—the more specific your goals and intentions are the more likely you will attain them.

Step Two: Prepare a Plan

When you finally have a break through and know exactly what you want from your writing efforts, you need to prepare a detailed plan. Your plan, just like your goals, needs to be very specific. Think of a recipe: You plan on baking a cake, but you’ll need more than just the ingredients, you’ll need the exact amount of each ingredient, the proper procedure for mixing them together, the baking temperature, how long to bake it, how long to cool it before removing it from the pan . . . you get the idea.

Now you’re on your way . . . you have specific goals . . . a detailed plan . . . but . . . you’re still not achieving success.

Step Three: Take Action

Think of the first two steps as the foundation of your house. To move forward toward success, you need to build the house. This takes action; it actually takes more than just action, it takes ongoing action and perseverance to carry you through to completion.

Step Four: Projection

You have the other steps down pat, now picture yourself attaining your goals. According to motivational speakers, you will have a much greater chance of making it happen by projecting success. This step encompasses a number of strategies such as envisioning, projection, projection boards, and affirmations.

Take aim . . . shoot.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Ingredients for a Perfect Picture Book
Book Marketing and the Query Letter
Submitting Your Manuscript – 8 Tips

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

This article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at:
http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/2010/05/aim-for-writing-success.html

Mar 20

8 Top Fiction Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Writing mistakes to avoidThere’s a great article in The Writer, April 2012 issue (1). If you’re able to get your hands on a copy or find it online, it’s worth the read.

Delving into this article, I did some additional research and came up with eight elements that are probably the most common fiction writing mistakes.

1. You start your story too soon.

The very first on the list of writing mistakes to avoid is beginning your story too soon.

To give you a rough idea of what this means, suppose you start the story with the protagonist waking up. She brushes her teeth then gets dressed. After that she makes herself breakfast (coffee and a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and almonds). Suppose again that this beginning scene takes a paragraph or two. Then she get a phone call. The coffee mug drops out of her hands. Her knees go weak.

Are bells and whistles going off here?

Do you think an acquisitions editor will bother reading to the good part where the protagonist gets that phone call that shakes her world?

Nope!

Start the story at the phone call. Start your story where the action begins.

This goes for self-publishers as well. You may not have to get past the publishers’ gatekeepers, but you do want to be recognized as a good writer. You don’t want the reader to say, “What the heck do I care about her morning routine.”

For more on the gatekeeper, check out:
How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper?

2. The plot can’t be found. Where’s the plot? There’s got to be a plot.

Every story needs a plot. It’s the reason why the story is being told.

Literary Devices says, plot “describes the events that make up a story or the main part of a story. These events relate to each other in a pattern or a sequence.” (2)

Think of the plot as the foundation of a pyramid. It’s the base of the story. It’s the basis for the other elements, such as the characters and settings to be.

There are five basic elements to a plot:

– At the bottom left point of the pyramid is the introduction, which is called the exposition. You can think of it as a landing.

– Going up the left side of the pyramid will be rising action and enhanced conflict.

– At the peak of the pyramid is the climax.

– Going down the right side is a decline or falling in the action.

– At the bottom right side is the resolution. At this point, the story, all the conflicts and loose ends, are all tied up. (Hopefully, the protagonist is triumphant!)

Keep in mind the resolution evolves from the falling action and could take a while. Or, it can be sudden, like when Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff.

3. The protagonist’s conflict isn’t strong enough.

Let’s go back to Thelma and Louise. Once Louise shot the man who attempted to rape Thelma, they chose to run rather than call the police and face the consequences. After that the stakes and rising action kept on coming. Events kept piling up to the point of ‘do or die.’ At least in their eyes.

Suppose they had called the police. They’d be arrested and go to trial. The story would be about them fighting a murder conviction.

If the second scenario was used, the story wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting and ‘heart tugging.’ The reader wouldn’t have had the same emotional connection with the main characters.

Bottom line, make your protagonist squirm. Put the pressure on. Don’t play it safe.

4. The point-of-view (POV) isn’t clear.

Whose point of view is the story being told from? Is it omniscient? Is it third-person?

The POV helps the reader make a connection to the protagonist. Your story needs one POV. Choose the one you’re comfortable with and the one you think will resonate best with your readers and keep it focused.

If you mix up your POV, your reader will most likely become confused.

There are four basic points-of-view in writing: (1) first person, (2) second person, (3) third person, (4) omniscient.

To clarify these POVs, here are examples:

First person: I should go for a walk. (The protagonist is telling the story himself.)
Second person: You should go for a walk. (The narrator includes the reader in the story.)
Third person:  Joe should go for a walk. (The narrator tells the story.)
Omniscient: Joe decided to go to the gym. Mary also decided to go to the gym. They ran into each other at the gym. (This may be a bit crude, but you get the idea, the reader is privy to everyone’s thoughts and actions.)

According to an excerpt from “Elements of Fiction: Characters and Point of View” by Orson Scott Card, with omniscient “you can show the reader every character’s thoughts, dreams, memories, and desires; you can let the reader see any moment of the past or future.”

In regard to which POV to choose, Robert J. Sawyer puts it best, “The rule is simple: pick one character, and follow the entire scene through his or her eyes only.” (3)

Remember, clarity rules in all writing, so choose the one that will allow the reader to easily know who’s telling the story.

5. Not all scenes are active.

What keeps a reader reading?

Action. Whether it’s physical (the protagonist is running from a barrage of bullets), mental (he’s figuring out a mathematical problem that will bring him closer to resolution), or emotional (the journey or obstacle is causing emotional upheaval), every scene needs to let the reader think the protagonist is trying to answer the current question or overcome the current problem.

6. You’re not taking the time needed to do it right.

While you may want to get your story finished. You need to take your time. When writing my middle-grade fantasy, Walking Through Walls, I took two years. And, I’m antsy – if it could be done yesterday that’d be great. But, some things take time.

First, if you’re an outliner, you need to create your outline.

Next up is your first draft, but this is just the beginning.

You need to read that draft for clarity, tightening (including dialogue), enhancing plot and characters. This will lead to another draft and probably another.

7. You still have loose ends.

This one has to do with subplots or even things you might have mentioned within your 80-100,000 word novel. All loose ends must be tied up.

I’ll use “Walking Through Walls” as example of this. When the protagonist, Wang, reached what he was looking for, a mystical temple, a black bird was circling above his head. The bird was again mentioned in two other scenes.

Why was the same bird in at least three scenes? Even if the bird had been specifically mentioned once, there should be a reason.

In another scene, the Master Eternal, who Wang was learning from, told him, “Today you begin a new life. Take an axe with a purple tip.”

Why did he have to take one with a purple tip? If it wasn’t significant why was it mentioned?

If it’s mentioned in the story, it must be relevant to the story, and any questions or loose ends pertaining to it must be answered / resolved.

8. There’s no take-away value. The theme can’t be found.

After you’re finished with the initial revisions and edits, you need to determine if your theme is clear. If you didn’t have one when you started, see what take-away there is in the story.

If you’re not familiar with ‘theme,’ it’s what gives your story meaning. It’s what the reader can relate to in his own life. According to an article at Writer’s Digest, “Theme is the relevance of your story to life.” (4)

For more on theme, you can check out:
Theme and Your Story

References:

(1) The Writer, April 2012, “9 Writing Mistakes.”
(2) http://literarydevices.net/plot/
(3) http://www.sfwriter.com/ow07.htm
(4) http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/exploring-theme-a-key-component-to-successful-writing

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Submitting Manuscript Queries – Be Specific and Professional
5 Must-Know Tips on Writing a Powerful Thriller (and most other fiction stories)
Characters or Story – Which Comes First?

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700.

Feb 14

Writing – It’s Not Wise to Revise Too Soon

Writing and revsions.Contributed by Suzanne Lieurance

It’s been said many times that good writing is actually good rewriting, and I certainly think that’s true.

Yet I also know from experience that it is often unwise to revise too soon.

Consider this – when you get a professional critique or an editorial letter, do you immediately read the letter or critique, then rush to get the requested revisions done right then and there?

I see many beginning writers do this because: 1) they have a very busy schedule and don’t want to have these revisions hanging over their head, and 2) they feel it’s more professional to get things done quickly.

But here’s the problem with both of those reasons.

First, if your schedule is so packed that you MUST get everything done right away, you need to lighten up a bit. Good writers need time for reflection, even if that means simply reflecting on suggested revisions.

Second, it IS professional to meet deadlines. But again, writers need time for reflection. If you crank out revisions too soon, you won’t have enough time to mull over what the suggestions really mean and consider all the different ways you could make the suggested revisions.

Next time you get a professional critique or an editorial letter, try this:

1. Read the critique or editorial letter thoroughly. Some of the requested revisions will “sting” a bit, but that’s normal. This sting will subside in a few days – so don’t revise when you’re still feeling the sting.

2. Put the letter or critique aside for a few days and move on to another writing project or something entirely unrelated to writing.

3. Keep the requested revisions in the back of your mind. As you’re taking a shower, going for a walk, or just cleaning the house, think about what the editor has suggested and WHY he or she feels these changes are necessary.

4. After a few days – and NOT before – reread the letter or critique slowly, trying to absorb every change that has been requested. You’ll probably find yourself thinking that these revisions won’t be nearly as difficult or painful as you thought they’d be when you FIRST read the critique or letter.

5. Start to make the requested revisions. And don’t be a lazy rewriter. Do the best job you can with the revisions. Don’t try to work at breakneck speed. Take your time. Try to learn from the editorial suggestions and requests you have been given. Remember – writers need time for reflection – even when that means simply reflecting on the changes an editor has requested.

So take some time to reflect before you revise.

For more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge from Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Rewriting a Folktale – Walking Through Walls
The Outline Method of Writing (Are You an Outliner?)
Ingredients for a Perfect Picture Book

Need Help With Your Story
Let me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line).
Or, if you prefer to actually speak to me, give me a call at: 347=834==6700