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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Editing a Picture Book

How do you edit a picture book?

Here are a few of my suggestions.

Read it and see if it fits into the age group you are shooting for.

Ask yourself ---

Does it have a plot?

Does it have a satisfying ending?
(I just read a middle grade novel. I was anxious to see how it ended, but when I turned and read the last page. I thought, What? Is this the end? I was very unsatisfied with the ending.) Don't let your readers down - have a good ending.

Does it use good word choices for a picture book?

Do you use repetition and alliteration to your advantage?

Does it pass the read aloud test? Word, rhythm and sound are important.

Can you visualize the illustrations?

Did you use the senses in your story?

Does each sentence move the story along?

Does it past the so what test?

I've been editing one of my picture books - again. This book has changed many, many times. I like the story and I really want it to go somewhere. So, lately I have been looking at it under a magnifying glass. I recently said to myself, so what. So what that this happened in the text, so what the character did this or that. I decided my story needed more substance. The character needed more incentive. The story just needed something else.  

 So, I went back and looked at it with a more critical eye. I changed it again. In this process I also took out some of my favorite lines, (my babies that I loved), because I realized the story didn't need them. And, you know what, removing those lines didn't hurt me or the story like I thought it would.

I also took it to my writing group again.  Among other minor changes, there was one word that they just did not like. They said they could not associate the verb with the noun I was using it with. One spoke up and said, "Now, Janet, listen to what we are saying. We all agree it doesn't fit. You need to change it."

So, after a little brainstorming we came up with the perfect word. And the best way to reword the two sentences.

So, my last suggestion is to put on your tough skin and get to work!

I end this blog post with this thought, all the above is easier said than done. It may be easy to see what is wrong with other manuscripts, but not easy to see what is wrong with 'your' manuscript. You are too close to it. So let other eyes see it, too.

But, if you love writing for children, don't give up. Be optimistic. Keep writing and improving and some day your dream of being published will come true.

Monday, October 26, 2015


It is that time of year again.

The time of year when we brainstorm and come up with a month of picture book ideas.

The time of year when we let our minds go back to being a child. It is when we sit at our writing desk and let our inner child flow onto the paper and come up with ideas! Some may be great ideas, some may be terrible ideas, but ideas they are. And we must have ideas before we can write the manuscripts. Having ideas is where it all starts.

Are you ready to take the challenge, too? If so click on the PiBoIdMo badge on my sidebar and sign up.

Becoming a successful writer for children is more than I have a memory or an idea and I want to write it down. 

It is making changes to make your ideas and memories into a story that is good enough to be published. It is being persistent and determined and dedicated.

Sometimes this means changing details that you might want to keep in the story. Sometimes this means thinking outside of the block. Sometimes this means working day and night until your story is just right, or as close to just right as you can get it.

But, it always means being dedicated to making it the best story you can write. It means getting other eyes to look at it. It means being open to suggestions. It means growing and learning each and every day of your writing life.

 But, most of all, it means not giving up. Because if you give up, it will never happen.

Writing for children is different than writing for adults. Everyone doesn't have the knack for writing for children. Writing less words, does not mean it is easier, as some people think.  But, writing fewer words means each word is very important. You must brainstorm to come up with the perfect words and the best words for your story.

Happy writing.

This November, during PiBoIdMo, I hope you come up with that one special idea that makes a great manuscript!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Writer's Block

Writer's block - do you ever get it?


I have had it a couple of times - at least!

I have been working on a new middle grade novel, a sequel to one of my other ones I have written. I started on it a couple years ago - at least!

I let it set for a long time, and then recently brought it out, dusted it off and started writing again.

It is moving along at a slow pace. I took it to my writer's group and we put our heads together and came up with ideas on what, when and where.

I write a monthly column for kids. I usually come up with ideas pretty easy. I like to have the subject matter have something to do with the month or time of year.

This gives me more leeway than you think.

One of my April topics was the Pony Express (established in April 1860). Did you know February was National Blah Buster month? You would if you read my February 2011 Column. And, I love giving kids fun crafts and easy recipes to try.

But, for some reason, I was coming up blank for November's column. I have already written about turkeys, how the pilgrims celebrated, that November is National Peanut Butter Lover's Month, the history of pulling on the wishbone, food ate by the Pilgrims and how you (children) can help with the meal, National Novel Writing Month and PiBoIdMo (writing for picture book writers), and how writing letters helped establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday (the many letters that Sarah Hale wrote to presidents) and presidential pets and Tad Lincoln's beloved turkey named Jack.

I thought and thought and thought.
I came up with different ideas and started to write - but nothing clicked. Nothing clicked.

One night when we were walking, I asked my neighbor for ideas. She came up with some good and some not so good ideas. One of her ideas had merit, so I gave the topic a try. It didn't click.

Then an idea popped into my head. I did a little research and found out some interesting fun facts that I turned into a column I thought my readers would enjoy.

What is the topic?
You will have to wait until November to find out. But, like I told my neighbor, it is very different from her suggestion -- very, very different.

Mark Twain's suggestion:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

My suggestions:

Brainstorm, just write and see what comes, write on paper, try a new place to write,  have an idea book - write down ideas whenever they come to you - go to them when you are stumped as to what to write about and googling is always an option. But, my most important suggestion is never give up.

What are your suggestions?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rejection - But, with a personal note

In November of last year, I sent a PB manuscript to a publishing company. I had submitted to them before and knew I would get notified in a timely manner, (usually before 3 months), if they wanted my manuscript or not. I had also researched what they published and my manuscript fit them to a T!

Since then I have been waiting patiently (if that is what you call crossing my fingers when the phone rang and constantly watching my emails). I was that sure my manuscript had a chance.

I even did a no-no. I did a follow-up email after waiting around four months. But, it wasn't so bad. They promptly got back with me and said it had been sent to the owners for a decision. So, I continued to wait.

One day, during the course of my waiting, I checked out my stats on my author blog, I saw where someone from the publishing company had visited my site. (My heart and hopes soared) They are checking me out, I thought.

Saturday, after arriving back from our family reunion, I checked the mailbox. There was my SASE waiting for me. That was not what I had hoped to see.

But, on the bright side, it was a personal rejection signed by the Editor in Chief.

She thanked me for my patience during their evaluation (9 1/2 months), they had given it their thorough consideration, but were afraid they decided to pass due to limited publishing slots available each year. Again, saying she was sorry and apologizing for their delays.


Oh, well. I'll do more research and send it off to another publisher.

 Also, I have another PB manuscript out there that I sent to another publisher after careful research. This one also fits them to a T.

 Keeping my fingers crossed.

What is new with your writing and submitting?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back to Writing

I've taken a needed, but much too long, break from writing this summer. Aside from writing my monthly articles for Two-Lane Livin' Magazine, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to write something new again.

This morning I decided I needed to send out at least one of my  manuscripts. So, I planned to work on my cover letter and zip it out to the world.

The picture book I chose is one of my very favorites that I have written. It has went through many, many changes over the years (yes, I said years). It has been critiqued many times (by my critique groups, a professional critiquer and Rate Your Story).

This past June, it placed second in the annual West Virginia Writers writing contest. I can't complain about coming in second, because one of my middle grade novels placed first!

I thought this would be a piece of cake. It has been edited many times and placed in a contest, so it should be ready to submit. But, I decided to look at it one last time. I opened up the manuscript from my computer and took a look.

Was it ready?

No! I found many small changes I felt I needed to make - and, a couple of big changes.

Hopefully, these changes made it an even better manuscript than it already was.

My advice - never give up on your stories, never think they cannot be improved, always keep an open mind and let suggestions simmer and consider them all.

And - do not get in a hurry. Leave your stories for a while and then come back. I bet changes will pop out at you.

When you have did all you can do and you believe in your story - cross your fingers and zip it out to the world.