10 Tips for Self-Editing Your Manuscript

By Gloria G. Adams

Editing a manuscript is part of the writing process. But isn’t that the job of an editor or agent? Absolutely. But first you have to sell your manuscript to one of them. Give yourself a better chance by taking the time to do some editing yourself before you send that manuscript out.

Here are 10 tips from Gloria G. Adams and Jean Daigneau of Two4One Kid Critiques, a critique editing company.

1.  Cross-examine your main character. What does he/she want in your story? How bad does he/she want it? What is his/her motivation? Have you conveyed your main character’s feelings strongly enough to make the reader want what he/she wants? Is his/her voice consistent? Is he or she too perfect? What is he/she afraid of? What things make him/her angry? frustrated? happy? sad?

2.  Amp up your language. Are you using too many passive verbs? Read through your whole manuscript, searching for weak or passive verbs. Replace as many as you can with stronger ones. Get rid of any overused clich├ęs. Look for “-ly” adverbs (She whispered quietly, he yelled loudly.) Ditch as many as you can. Re-examine your descriptions; can you make them better?

3.  Polish your plot. Have you forgotten any plot elements? Is there a problem to solve? A goal to reach? What do your characters do to solve that problem? When they solve it, what has changed? Does your story have a satisfying ending? Does the conclusion happen too abruptly? Does it make sense?

4.  Don’t rely on Spellcheck. While Spellcheck can be useful, it is not always helpful. Check spelling yourself, as well as grammar. Have someone else look it over for you for spelling or grammar mistakes.

5.  Keep that back story sparse. Do you really need the reader to know every single detail about that flower that is growing beneath the window where your main character lives? Does it have anything to do with your story? If not, you really don’t need it. If it’s crucial to your story, leave it in. Apply this test to everything in your back story. If it’s necessary, find a way to let your readers know, but don’t make your back story so long and detail-filled that you lose them.

6.  Dialogue. Examine every scene. Does the reader always know who is speaking? Have you used dialogue to show what your characters look like, what their personalities are, what action they have taken or are going to take? Can you use it to describe the scene? Check for double tags; eliminate them. (Example of a double tag: Mary turned the crock pot on High, slipped her apron off, and stretched out on the couch. “I’m exhausted,” she said. We don’t need the words “she said” because we already know Mary is the one who is talking.)

7.  Check for sensory details. Read through your entire manuscript and see how many of the senses you have used. They can help your reader relate to your characters and add more depth and interest to your story. Almost everyone uses sight, but what about sounds and taste? Look for ways to use them to draw your reader deeper into the book.

8.  Be specific. Specific details give a much clearer picture of the world you have created. Don’t just say the child carried a balloon. Say the little girl’s sticky fingers clutched the smooth, white string of a cherry-red balloon. Paint a picture with your words.

9.  Be consistent. Make sure you have not changed from past tense to present tense or vice-versa. It can be very easy to do, and to miss, unless you comb carefully through your manuscript. Search for any inconsistencies in your character’s actions. If you’ve told us she’s allergic to peanuts, don’t have her munching on peanut butter sandwiches later on in the story with no consequences. If you’ve created a fantasy or sci-fi world, make sure what you’ve said in one part doesn’t contradict what you say in another.

10. Get critiques from your trusted writer friends. If you don’t already belong to a critique group, join one if possible. Others can spot things you might have missed, or can make suggestions to improve your story.

Two4One Kid Critiques offers a unique service. They offer two critiques instead of one for each client’s manuscript, along with a collaborative summation. Workshops are also available. Check them out at www.two4onekidcritiques.com.

Ode to a Piano


by Lana Wayne Koehler

While I don’t consider myself a poet, every now and then I feel the urge to write something that doesn’t have to be vetted and critiqued by impatient peers and editors alike. To that end, I indulge in poetry.

No one would accuse me of being devoid of ideas, but following Michelle Barnes on her blog, “Today’s Little Ditty”, she invites authors and others to give parameters with which to focus my attentions. And, occasionally, if the poetic muses visit, she likes what I write and makes it a focus of the day.

Her recent challenge by Helen Frost, When My Sister Started Kissing, was to find an object that had no sentimental value but could be described using each of the five senses, one for each line. And, in the end, ask a question, answer a question, or both.

This was my offering for March, 2017. If you want to see it on her blog, here’s the post

ODE TO A PIANO

It was love at first sight: Watching fingers tickle the ivories as
the sound tickles my ears;
Tasting joy,
While the fragrance of the music
Lingers, waiting to embrace
Me.

© Lana Wayne Koehler. All rights reserved.


One of my poems was selected for her end-of-the-year book, “The Best of Today’s Little Ditty Volume I”, but you’ll have to buy it to find out which one it is!  

If you have a little bit of the crazy and want to join me on my poetic diversions, check out, “Today’s Little Ditty”, https://michellehbarnes.blogspot.com.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

An Unexpected Journey

By Kate Carroll

Often the end of a journey signals the beginning of another. This past fall, I ventured out to a Highlights workshop moderated by the award-winning illustrator Eric Rohmann and guest lecturer Lindsay Barrett George. Little did I know that this journey would prompt new steps into new places for me as a writer.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip, but I didn’t feel like that at first. Please understand, I absolutely love attending workshops at the Highlights Foundation. But I dragged my feet on this one because I worried that it would emphasize the illustrator’s role in picture book creation, and I’m “only” an author after all. Since the timing fit for me though, I jumped in - nerves, insecurities and all.

My early thoughts proved accurate, as most of the attendees were illustrators or the gifted author/illustrator types. But, I was there and I would make the best of it. Step 1 of my journey – opening up. Surrounded by the beauty of the Pennsylvania woods and welcomed warmly by the Highlights staff, it was hard to be anything but excited in that place. It was clear that the students came to learn and to grab as much from the experience as possible. And that example proved vital to my learning and growth as a writer.

So often, writers empty themselves out onto pages and find themselves too attached during the post-writing process to make the necessary changes. Never was this more true for me than at this particular event. The piece I brought for critique is a story about a spider monkey. I pride myself on being an economic writer. My manuscript had a mere 535 words when I submitted it for the conference. (Pause for applause.) Seriously, I thought, how much tighter could I write? It has potential for classroom use. It’s funny. It has a diversity component. It’s great. They’re going to jump on this.They didn’t. Bummed, right? Well, yes, but something even greater happened to me and to my manuscript. 

The first assignment was to create a dummy of our books. Ugh!  I’m not a fan of the dummy. And now surrounded by amazing artists, I had to pull off this gruesome task. Step 2 – becoming vulnerable.

At my first one-on-ones, I sheepishly handed my dummy to Eric and to Lindsay. It didn’t take long for them to whack me with some reality. They pointed out some problems with my manuscript. Imagine that!  Lindsay said it was “so long.” Now, I hope you’re thinking, like I was, that it barely exceeded the magic 500-word mark. But she noticed something not working with it. Step 3  - changing perspective. Lindsay’s helpful comments made me look at my words and my storyline with fresh eyes. Soon my own opinion about it started to change.


Then, Eric gave me the best piece of information I’ve ever gotten at any conference, workshop, or critique group. To be fair, I had already heard it many times before. But in his mentoring and artistic way, Eric explained that my words had handcuffed his job as the illustrator. WAIT!  WHAT? How often do we hear that picture book writers SHARE the story with the illustrator? I know I’ve heard it dozens of times, but sitting down with an accomplished illustrator and looking at my story from his vantage point gave me a whole new perspective. Step 4 – gaining new ideas. He pointed out specific places in the manuscript where I had taken away his illustrative creativity. Of course I didn’t mean to. But it was true.

I couldn’t get out of that meeting fast enough!

But it wasn’t to run back to my room and bury my head and project under my pillow. It was so I could get to work! My head whirled with ideas following Eric’s meeting. And get to work, I did.  Step 5 – adjusting attitude. I studied many of the examples of great picture books that were shared with us. I studied my manuscript. I studied with other writers and illustrators. When I felt brave and confident, I pulled out my folder and began the creative process again. With new understanding and fresh perspective, I eagerly approached my revision. When I finished I had a lively manuscript of 335 well-appointed, non-competing words! My next step on this journey is to find a home for it.

So many of my projects gather dust because they need to change and grow in order to go from good to great. The task of revision awaits, but now I approach it with enthusiasm. It’s part of the journey.

Fellow picture book writers, if you have the opportunity to attend training led by illustrators, or even have the opportunity to present your manuscript to an illustrator, go for it! It may change your perspective on how you write and take you on an unexpected and exciting journey of writing with an illustrator’s eye.


Five Things I’ve Learned About Marketing: Part II

By Lana Wayne Koehler

Part I: It’s All About Me
Part II: It’s Not About Me
Part III: I Can’t Do It All
Part IV: I Have To Do It All
Part V: It’ll All Turn Out in the End

Part II: It’s Not About Me

In Part I, I talked about how marketing my book is all about how I connect with other people to promote my book. In Part II, I’ll help you understand how and why it’s really not all about me.

The best relationships with a readership take time. Internet platforms require not only following lots of people, but having them follow you back. To do that, you have to offer something of value. Ideas, advice, and recommendations all require lots of research and time. Take the time to build a solid platform. Which segues nicely into Part II—It’s Not About You…

Have you ever gotten a Robocall? You know what I’m talking about—the call that tells you everything they can do for you—and they don’t even know who you are! My favorite call was the one I got because I bought my daughter some baby stuff on the Internet and they offered me diapers for life! Although I’m advancing in years, I don’t think that I need that yet.

So, they missed the mark. They spent time (and money) sending out something that I had no interest in buying. In fact, I was a little insulted by what they offered.

Don’t want to insult your reading audience? RESEARCH!

Find out who is buying your book. Find out why they are buying your book. Find out why they’re not buying your book.

Who’s buying your book?

Of course, you worked hard to make your book as perfect as possible. You joined critique groups, had it heavily edited, sent it out to the editor or agent and cashed your advance check. Congratulations!

But do you know who’s buying your precious book? Does it meet the needs of teenage angst? Are parents buying it or is your book a “Grandma” book?

When marketing your book, make sure you are sharing what you love with the people who want to hear it.

In my book, “Ah-Choo!”, I thought that parents who had a child with an allergy would buy the book. What I found out was that aunts and grandmothers bought this book for children of parents who had allergies. Who knew?

Why are they buying your book?

I thought that as long as someone was buying my book, it wasn’t up to me to find up why. But, how can I market my book unless I know why someone would buy my book in the first place.

One of the best examples of knowing why someone is buying your book is “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”. Who ever thought that a Dr. Seuss book would be the number one graduation gift? Watch the ads and displays of this book as the graduation season approaches. The Dr, Seuss people know who is buying their book and why. Do you?

Why are they not buying your book?

Have you done any kind of promotion to let people know that your book is here? No one can buy a book that they don’t know exists.

Yes, if your book is traditionally published, your publisher will promote your book when it first comes out, but after that, it’s all up to you.

Did you know that Facebook has an algorithm that only allows 30% of the people on your friends list (or Follow/Like list) to see what you post? Facebook has “campaigns’ that allow you to boost your posts, for a price. They also have demographics lists to help you focus your boosts.

Twitter, Instagram, and Amazon have similar programs. Each individual search engine uses Key Words, sometimes called Meta-tags. Choose your words wisely. For my book, I always choose animals, siblings, and allergies (there are character or word limits for each platform). The order is important, too. Animals probably get more hits than allergies so I put it first.

Amazon rates your book (and you, as an author) based on reviews. Get as many as you can on your site! I highly recommend that you establish an author page, which will give you a lot of information about your sales. It also gives you another platform as an author. Use all of the tools available!

If you’re not tech savvy, you can hire someone to do all of this for you. Or, to save significant amounts of money, you can learn the process yourself. I recommend local library classes or webinars to help you navigate the maze of internet marketing.


The bottom line is that it’s still up to you to market your book. How you do it depends on your time and resources. Use them wisely to target your readership. After all, not everyone needs diapers for life!

Next: Part III--I Can’t Do It All
   

Lana Wayne Koehler is an author, speaker, and teacher in Northeast Ohio. To contact her, please visit: LanaKoehler.com.

Writer’s Workout

By Gloria G. Adams

As I sit here willing myself to get up and do my morning cardio workout (moan), I am reminded that it’s good to work the writing muscles as well.

In addition to working on my current project, I sometimes take some time for some fun/different/silly writing exercises to stretch the writing “muscles.”


Flash fiction stories are challenging, but fun. Tell a story, with an arc, in anywhere from 15-500 words. The shorter, the more difficult.

Poetry offers a plethora of forms from which to choose: shape poems, cinquains, sonnets, palindromes, etc.

One of my favorite things to write is ABC poetry, something I learned about on a site called Fan Story (http://www.fanstory.com/index.jsp).

This is the format:

ABC poetry contains five lines. Begin your poem with any letter of the alphabet.

The next three lines must follow sequence. If you start with the letter "G", the next line must start with the letter "H". The last line can begin with any letter of the alphabet.

The poems can be anything you can think up:

They can be sparse…


I am

Just a fragile

Kite in the sky,                               

Living only as long as

The wind.                                                     Be very

                                                                     Careful

                                                                     Don’t drop those

                                                                     Eggs…

                                                                     Oops!

They can invite discussion…


Always a bridesmaid, never a

Bride,

Could be a blessing in

Disguise,

According to my married friends.


                      
                            Therapy creeps

                         Underneath the psyche’s skin, conducts a

                      Visual inspection, then lays

                    Waste the pretense

                    Of sanity.



They can rhyme…

Procrastination, full of

Quiet hesitation, never

Reached my destination,

Should have made that reservation,

All from lack of…motivation.


They can be funny…


We added a wolf tetra to our aquarium that already had an

X-ray fish, a

Yellow-tailed violet cichlid, and a

Zebra Loach.

He ate them.

Whatever you do with them, have fun. Have you stretched your writing muscles today?

Great Expectations: Ten expectations of authors on the road to publication




by Lana Wayne Koehler and Gloria G. Adams, authors of Ah-Choo!

Expectation # 1: My first draft will be perfect.

   When we each first began our journey toward becoming professional writers, we assumed that the first draft of our work was also our final product. Boy, were we in for a big surprise! Then, we joined critique groups, attended conferences and workshops, and read books and articles about writing children’s books. We each practiced our craft. We learned that there would be many, many edits and drafts before we felt we had done the best that we could. Then, after we sold our manuscript, our editor for Ah-Choo! made even more changes!

Expectation #2: I should send my manuscript out to every publisher.

   All publishers do not take children’s manuscripts. Many publishers don’t take unsolicited submissions; you must submit through an agent. Some publishers are only interested in young adult or middle grade novels. Some only want non-fiction or picture books. Some only publish religious books. It’s very important to thoroughly research publishers to find out if they accept submissions, in what format you should submit, and what they might be looking for. The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is a good resource; publisher’s websites and editor and agent interviews are also great sources.

Expectation #3: I will hear back from the editor or agent in a week or two.

   Today, more and more editors never respond; they will tell you that if you haven’t heard from them in three or six months (or often longer) that you should assume they are not interested in your manuscript. Agents usually respond much sooner than editors. Be patient and keep writing.

Expectation #4: My book was picked up by an editor! No more re-writes!

   Ah, foolish Mortal. There will almost always be re-writes! And more re-writes.

Expectation #5: When I sign my book contract, I will get a big advance!

   Unless you are a well-known writer, advances are either small or non-existent. We feel very fortunate to have gotten an advance for Ah-Choo! It was small and we each only got half, but we still got one. It all depends on the publisher. You might consider having a lawyer look over your contract. If you have an agent, he or she may be able to negotiate a better advance for you. The advance will also have to be recovered by your publisher before you will receive any royalties.

Expectation #6: Now that I have an editor, things will go smoothly.

Of course, having an editor who loves your book is exciting, but our editor wanted to put her own mark on our book. We excitedly worked with her and offered us some great suggestions! She mentioned that she liked squirrels so we added squirrels. She said that she had a great picture of a rooster so we added a rooster. However, when a suggestion changed our meter, we rebelled. In a conference call, we asked her to read the book aloud and when she did, she understood our objections and we saved our meter. However when we received our book, two verses were changed! Moral: Get final text approval in your contract!

Expectation #7: Once the editing is done, my book will be published right away.

Our book, Ah-Choo!, was purchased by Sterling Children’s Books in November, 2013. The original publication date was fall, 2015. In the end, our roll out date was March 1, 2016. Enough said.

Expectation #8: My publisher will manage the marketing of my book.

Well, yes and no. Our publisher has been very generous with their support by supplying posters, bookmarks, bookplates, and note cards. They have also marketed it to public libraries, bookstores, and (soon) to zoos. They have paid for us to attend a conference and have submitted our book to state and local book events. However, it is up to us to publicize our book to schools and libraries through interactive programs and presentations. We also make arrangements with local booksellers for book signings. We are hoping to add newspapers, magazines, radio, and local television in the near future. It’s up to us to manage the “who, what, when, where, and how” of marketing our book.

Expectation #9: I will make lots of money with my book!

Maybe—if you’re a New York Times best seller! Here’s the deal on picture books: the average picture book sells about 4,000 books. A run of books is 10,000. Royalties are split between the  illustrator and author (and as co-authors, we split them again). It's easy to see that in order to make a reasonable living as a writer, you need to write and sell MANY books each year.



Expectation #10: Now that I have an editor/publisher, they will always buy what I write.

Good luck on this one! Our editor asked for anything we write. While we submit our manuscripts to her, we have yet to interest the publisher in any new projects. Such is the life of a writer!

7 Reasons to Belong to a Writing Community

By Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Writers are a unique group of people. We live in our heads, surrounded by characters that tell us their stories and expect us to record them on paper. Sometimes those characters keep us up at night, interrupt our daily chores, and become more real to us than our everyday lives. To outsiders we are loners, a wee-bit crazy, and not always understandable.

1. That brings me to the first reason for the importance of a writing community:UNDERSTANDING Who else is going to understand you missing a meal, staying up all night, or holing yourself up in a locked room? Only another writer. They understand that writing is a consuming, demanding job. They understand that if you don't get the ideas down on paper NOW, that later, when time allows, you may find yourself staring at a blank screen. They are the only ones who get where you are coming from, so join a group! (Check out SCBWI.org, and local writers groups that meet at libraries. If you can't find a group, start one!)


2. ENCOURAGEMENT:  When you hit a glitch, and your characters have taken a long weekend in Neverland. only another writer understands those dry spells. We need encouragement. The great thing is that not only do other writers encourage each other, but when they are gathered together, an energizing ripple effect begins to roll. As each writer discusses their latest project, your own brain's ideas begin to flow and the next thing you know you are excusing yourself to rush home to your computer to write.


3. Every manuscript requires many sets of eyes. CRITIQUE groups are a must. Every time I finish a manuscript, I just know it is an award-winning book. But the reality is that good writing begins with rewriting. Even though the story is clear in your head, the reader isn't always able to see things the way you pictured them. That's where many sets of eyes are helpful. Your peers can tell you the manuscript's strengths and where it needs some work. Fellow writers are your first readers and helpful editors.


4. A good writing community is needed for NETWORKING. I attend as many conferences, workshops, and critique meets as possible. Writers know what is happening out there in the big world of publishing. You hear things about editors who are wonderful to work with, publishing houses that have recently opened their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, and houses that are now requiring a query letter. Go, listen, and grow!

5. Who are you ACCOUNTABLE to? Unless you are under deadline with a publisher, writing
requires you to be your own boss. Some writers are diligent, setting aside a set amount of time to write daily, but many writers are so creatively wired that they get off task easily. I am one of those people. I am a crafter, a nature lover,  a thrift store hunter and a five-year-old at heart. Unless I have someone to answer to, I find it is unbelievably easy to get distracted. My writing community helps me to be accountable.

6. A writing community is vital because they will CHALLENGE you. Many times when brainstorming together, I have challenged my peers by saying, "If you don't write it, I will!" Two friends that I challenged this way ended up with contracts! A challenge can be as simple as setting an amount of words to be written by the next meeting, or getting a manuscript out by a set time, or review a manuscript you put aside. But whatever the challenge, you will better off as a writer.

7. Last but not least, a writing community is valuable is for CELEBRATION. When you get that first publication, who else is going to understand your journey? No one besides another writer realizes the hours you've pored over your creation. No one else understands the angst felt before you turn your manuscript over to the U.S. postal service, or the daily walks to the mailbox wondering..."Will there be another rejection? Did I get an acceptance?"

Other writers get it. They value the days, months, and often years it takes to get from idea to publication. So when it is time to celebrate, your writing community will be full of high fives, balloons and maybe even a glass of champagne.

So don't hide yourself off in a room by yourself. Get out there. Find a group of like- minded creative writers. They will understand and encourage you. They will critique your work and they will help inform you through networking. Your community will challenge you and make you accountable. But the best part is, they will celebrate with you every step of your journey from idea to publication.