Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Writing Tips and Books on Craft

No matter what form of publishing writers strive for (traditional, self-publishing or hybrid) or what genre or age group you write for, you need to learn the craft of writing. This can be achieved through college and graduate level courses on writing and studying children's literature. 

But that is not practical advice for many writers. Many writers, I dare say most writers, take online writing workshops, local writing courses at their community college, attend writers' conferences, read writer blogs or read books on craft.

I also suggest joining twitter. There is an active writing community and it's a good source for locating writing workshops. Use the hashtags #WritingCommunity, #WritingConferences  #WritingWorkshops #WritingClasses

Spend time at the library reading, especially, if you are interested in writing board books, picture books, easy readers or early chapter books. I still recommend reading some craft books on picture books so you know what to pay attention to while studying the younger formats.  

For middle grade, young adult or adult, pay attention to the following: viewpoint, dialogue, pacing, rhythm, setting, sentence structure, descriptions, characters, chapter structure, escalating tension, climax, resolution and denouement.

By reading books on craft, in addition to explaining the different elements of writing, you’ll learn how to study picture books and novels with a critical eye.

My favorite craft books for novel writing are listed below:



DIALOGUE by Gloria Kempton

PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell



SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl B. Klein

 My favorite books for picture book writing are the following:


SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl B. Klein. (Cheryl uses a clever device to explain and demonstrate how to write a picture book.)

My last reference book is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman. This book lists the pitfalls and common mistakes on your first five pages. It’s important to note that whatever mistakes you made on your first five pages, you probably made throughout your manuscript.

Remember, writing is an apprentice program. You learn by doing. Read and write often. With patience, dedication, hard work and perseverance, you can become a writer and a published author.




Saturday, August 29, 2020

Cubs In The Tub and Huggle Wuggle, Bedtime Snuggle

CUBS IN THE TUB by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Julie Downing is a story of Helen Martini, who had an abundance of love to give, but an empty nest. One day her husband brought home a lion cub who had been rejected by his mother. Helen bathed him, feed him, snuggled him and tucked him in. The cub flourished, and then one day, he was sent away to a different zoo in another city.

Helen needed to nurture and give love, but there was no little creature, baby or cub, to receive her affections. One day her husband brought home three baby cubs. The cubs had different personalities and played and teased each other, just like brothers and sisters do. She loved and cared for them, until one day, again, it was time to return the cubs to the zoo. But this time it was different. She would not let her babies go to the zoo alone. CUBS IN THE TUB is the true story of the first woman zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo.

Children will love this story about a mother’s never-ending love. They will enjoy reading about the cubs’ antics with each other and the emotional expressions on the cubs’ faces. The art is soft with warm colors and beautiful details fill the pages.

HUGGLE WUGGLE, BEDTIME SNUGGLE BY Della Ross Ferreri, illustrated by Mette Engell is a bedtime board book. The book describes the usual nighttime routine starting with a cuddle, a book reading, bathing and teeth brushing, but the routine takes a dramatic turn when Dad and child have a game of hide and seek leading to animals bouncing on the bed, animals dancing and Dad going Ka-Boom! The text is a fun, read-a-loud written in rhyme.

Toddlers will enjoy this story and the interactions between Dad and child. HUGGLE WUGGLE, BEDTIME SNUGGLE is sure to be a bedtime favorite. The color palette is bold with joyful, expressive faces on the characters, including the stuffed animals!  


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Building Better Characters

At some point in every writer's career, they've heard their characters are flat or one - dimensional or need more development. What does that mean and how does one fix it?

Fortunately, I found this blog.

Kristen A. Kieffer's blog is packed full of writing advice from writing stronger characters to outlining a novel. Click 33 ways to write stronger characters for a discussion with lists on how to improve your characters. That's 33 ways of character development with one click! Once there, you can read her other blogs on how to write a story or how to make revisions, to name a few.



Sunday, June 28, 2020

Tips for Querying an Agent

Always be professional and courteous when sending out query letters to agents. This will be your first introduction to the agent and you want to make a good impression. Below are tips to guide the newbie and refresh the seasoned writers.

1. Address the agent formally by their last name: Mr. or Ms. Smith followed by a colon. You may address them by their first name if you have a relationship with that agent or the agent addresses you by your first name.

2. Remember your query letter is a business letter. Use spell checker, be concise, don’t ramble on about your story or yourself, don’t put yourself in a negative light (listing how many times you’ve been rejected), don’t use flowery fonts, do be respectful. Nathan Bransford's How to format a query letter

3. Follow the agent’s guidelines. If they want the query and X number of pages pasted in the email, don’t send attachments and vice versa.

4. Read their profiles to see what they represent. Don’t send genres they’re not interested in. You are wasting your time and theirs.

5. Don’t get cute or clever with the query letter. One writer turned the query letter into a question and answer format about the writer. The end result was the query letter was all about the writer and very little about the writing project.

6. Do try and highlight your writing voice in your query letter. This can be accomplished by taking text from the manuscript and using it in the letter. Text that is funny, witty or a clever turn of phrase gives the agent a taste of your writing style and hints about the story.

7. After you make your submission, do not call or email the agent pestering them if they received it, did they read it or when will they read it. Believe it or not, reading their slush pile is not their primary job.

8. Be respectful of their time. Their primary job is taking care of their current clients including tracking down royalty payments, getting submission packages ready for editors they want to query, reading manuscripts and making revision notes for current clients, negotiating deals with editors over current submissions and negotiating contracts once an offer had been accepted to name a few of their jobs.

9. When you receive a rejection letter, do not contact the agent complaining that they didn’t tell you why the manuscript was rejected it or how to make it better. 

10. If you receive a detailed revision request from an agent (multiple pages with thoughts, comments or suggestions on how to make the manuscript stronger/more marketable), you owe that agent first look

11. Know the acceptable word counts for your story. Don’t send a 2000-word picture book or an 80,000-word chapter book or middle grade. This is an instant rejection. You can find word counts online. 

12. Pick a lane. Don’t write your story, intentionally or unintentionally, so it straddles the line between middle grade and YA. There are important distinctions between a middle grade story and a YA. Writer's Digest Key differences between middle grade and young adult

13. Always be courteous and considerate of the agent’s time. Never insult, threaten, berate or belittle the agent. Being rude never works in your favor and agents do talk to each other.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Secrets of a Librarian

 1. Librarians love local authors and want to promote their books, usually through book talks, signings, and even local author stickers on said books.

 2. Libraries will accept donated books by local authors. The conditions are the book must have a quality binding (no spiral bound bindings), be edited (no spelling or other grammatical errors) and individual preference (for example, if the librarian feels the book would be a good fit for their library).

 3. If you write nonfiction, you would be wise to pay attention to the state curriculum. The curriculum does change and librarians find a shortage on books relating to the new curriculum. (Contact your librarian for contact names regarding state curriculum.)

 4. There is usually a shortage of picture books relating to current social issues. For example, the coronavirus and children missing grandparents, friends or teachers.

 5. Publishers won’t sell directly to the libraries. Books are purchased through distributors (Baker & Taylor), chains (Barnes & Noble, Amazon) and other consortiums.

 6. After an eBook has been read by only 26 people, the libraries must repurchase said eBook if they want to offer it to the public. Side note: there are a limited number of digital copies /book available. (Who knew!)

 7. If seven people request a book (and the library system doesn’t own it), they must purchase said book.

 8. Libraries cull their inventory by using the following criteria: condition of book, relevance of subject matter, educational value and why would anyone want to read it. You’ll find these books on the For Sale table.

  9. Public libraries don’t ban books. They follow the ALA (American Library Association) rules which state libraries must allow the public access to all books, be open and free to the public. There is no censoring or restricting of books from the public.

10. When a book is not returned (stolen), the euphemism is “borrowed without benefit of card.”

This is a repeat post. Catherine Nuding, a Youth Services Librarian at the East Fishkill Community Library spoke at our local writer’s meeting. Any misinformation is mine and mine alone.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Difference Between New Adult and Adult Books

New adult books bridge the gap between young adult and adult. The protagonist is older than a teenager,18 to 20 (or 25) years old. The setting is usually contemporary.

If the character is in school, it’s college. They could be living on campus or still living at home and commuting. If they live on campus, this may be their first time having to do laundry and light housekeeping. Most likely, they are in debt with student loans, so your character is broke, unless they are a trust fund baby or their parents are wealthy.
For some, it’s a level of independence and responsibility that is foreign to them.
New adult books are about new experiences and freedom. They can decide to join a fraternity, blow off classes or ignore schoolwork. No one is going to call their parents or ask for an absence note. Maybe they’re introduced to hard drugs for the first time. The main character could have their first love or maybe it’s their second serious relationship.
If the main character is not in college or trade school, they may have their first full time job or working the gig economy and probably still living at home or have several roommates.
The issues are more adult like, more drinking, more drug abuse, more sex and more discussing sex. The years spent in college are a time of exploration, they have responsibilities, but are not completely liberated. They have one foot in adolescence and one foot in adulting. It’s an exciting time for self-discovery; they feel like an adult without a lot of the complications.
Adult books have adult protagonist that deal with serious life issues (marriage, divorce, domestic violence, child rearing, bankruptcies, crime, prison, serious drug addiction, extramarital affairs, etc.) and more explicit sex. The adult protagonist is more confident in who they are.
Depending on the genre, the books may end with the answer: the protagonist solved the crime or mystery, or the protagonist made a life changing decision, or the ending expounds on the book’s theme or conflicts.
Bonus link for more explanations and examples:  http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2012/12/28/what-is-new-adult/

Monday, March 30, 2020

Improve Your Writing Through Improv Exercises

As writers, we're always trying to hone our craft. We take courses, we form critique groups, we join online writing communities, we read books on craft, we read within and outside our genre, we write or "percolate" and revise.

Ten Creative Exercises That Will Improve Your Writing is written by Leigh Anne Jasheway, a guest writer on The Writer’s Dig. She is a comedy writer, standup comic, author of 21 published books and teaches comedy writing.

Leigh has discovered that the concepts taught through improv can spark creativity, advance your storytelling, expand your dialogue expertise, help in problem solving and, best of all, restore the fun in writing.

These exercises can be done alone or with a partner. Pick your favorites, free yourself from the writing world of rules and have fun with it!