Five Ways to Know That Your Manuscript is Ready to Submit

 by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton


 

1.     Does your story have:

One main character?

A setting, using strong sensorial words?

A problem? Quest? Journey? Mystery? Can it be solved by the end of the story?

Attempts at solving or completing the plot line?

Suspense, with each attempt to succeed intensifying the tension?

Character-driven actions for the circumstances or world you have developed?

A plot that must be solved by the main character’s wits, strength, abilities?

A climax where the main character is at his lowest point?

A character’s attempts and failures at solving the problem that add up to the knowledge, talent, strength needed to actually solve the story problem?

Character growth for your main character? Change? Become stronger, better, wiser?

A satisfying ending? Have you wrapped up all the loose ends?

  

2.     Make sure your manuscript has been read by a critique group.

Rewriting is the most important part of writing.

If a critique suggestion rings true to your character, make the change.

If you have more than one person saying there is something missing or needing to be rewritten, chances are strong that you need to rework that portion.


 

3.     Make sure your manuscript has been edited.

 Check grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure.

 

4.     Make sure you know the proper format for submitting a manuscript.

Name, address, phone number on lefthand corner.

Title half way down the manuscript, with your name below.

Second page has a header with you name, title and page number.

The following pages all need the same header with the page number.

Begin your story at the top of page 2 under the header.

Word count in the upper right corner.

 

5.     Make sure you check the publisher’s guidelines prior to submission.

Every publishing house has its own distinct directions on how, and to whom a manuscript should be submitted. Follow those directions, or your manuscript may end up in the trash never having been read.

 Most successful writers spend more time and energy rewriting than they do writing. My father always said, “The harder I work the luckier I am.” The same is true with writing.

 




 


DON’T JUST END IT!

 


By

Kate Carroll

 

            Last month, Six Pen’s author, Laurie Lazarro Knowlton, splashed into spring with seven writing hooks that are sure to capture a reader’s attention. This month I decided to focus on entertaining endings.

            Maybe you’ve already written a perfect masterpiece, but the ending doesn’t measure up. You’re searching for that satisfying stop that will cause readers to reprise, “Again!” Stories that surprise us with a twist at the end, ones that come full circle, or those that drop in one last drip of humor can deliver that marvelous magic for the reader.  Sounds simple enough, but just like all things picture book, penning a winning ending takes practice.

            If story endings challenge you, take some time to study several well-loved picture books and uncover the craft elements that make their endings successful.  Enlist the expertise of a well-read librarian to lead you to some of the best examples.

            Below are endings from both classics and new works that have effective endings and make kids want to read and repeat.  Some employ the use of more than one device that double down on a great pay-off.

 

Repetition and Dialogue

 

              … “Oh, bliss!” says the cow, and she jumps right in.

“Oh, bliss!” says the pig with a happy grin.

“Oh, bliss!” says the duck, splashing in with the rest.

“There’s no doubt about it. Home is best!”

Wishy - washy.  Wishy - washy.

 

Excerpt from ~MRS. WISHY-WASHY’S FARM by Joy Cowley


            Dialogue and Surprise

 

           … “I think we can!” said Cheese Doodle. 

          “How about you Cookie? Hey, Cookie, where are you?”

          “Umm… Cookie?”

 

Excerpt from ~SNACK ATTACK! By Terry Border.



      Humor and Surprise

 

                 … Excuse me, have you seen a rabbit wearing a hat?

No. Why are you asking me? 

I haven’t seen any rabbits anywhere. 

              I would not eat a rabbit. Don’t ask me anymore questions.                          

OK. Thank you anyway.

 

Excerpt from ~I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen

 

 

      Circular, Repetition, Dialogue

 


…A is out of bed, and this is what he said: “Dare double dare, you can’t catch me.

 I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree.” Chicka chicka BOOM BOOM!                                                                              

 

Excerpt from ~CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM by B. Martin and J. Archambault

 

           

            Circular and Humor

 

               ...Seeing the blackberries will remind him of her jam. 

              He’ll probably ask for some. And chances are…                       

              if you give him the jam, he’ll want a muffin to go with it.

 

Excerpt from ~IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN 

by Laura Numeroff

 

 

        Humor and Dialogue

 

       … “That first day wasn’t so bad,” Dad says, feeling pleased. 

“We can come back tomorrow,” Mom offers. “If you want.”

           “Umm,” Pascaline says with a smile...                                                                                      

“Never, not ever.”

 

Excerpt from ~NEVER, NOT EVER! by Beatrice Alemagna

 

Total Surprise

 

 

                           

 This three-act, one word picture book has a brilliant ending!

 

~SPENCER'S NEW PET by Jessie Sima

 

 

 


Seven Spring Hooks

by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton 

 

            Spring is so close we can almost taste it!

 The thing I love about spring is that after so many gray days the sun finally warms the earth, and all the world is made anew.

  Spring also seems to be a time when new ideas flood my mind. Ideas are great, but everyone knows it is how you execute that idea that makes a story.  Good stories begin with a great hook. A hook grabs your reader and gets them to sit down and read. But how do you do that?

  I've pulled together seven types of opening sentences that are guaranteed to make the reader want to keep reading.

 

 


1.      Start with an exclamation!

 “Hi! I'm the bus driver. Listen, I've got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember: Don't let the Pigeon drive the bus!”

                                     ~DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! By Mo Willems

           

2.      Start with a question.

 “Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see? I see a ...”

  ~BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR WHAT DO YOU SEE?  Bill Martin Jr.

 

 3.      Start with a statement.

 “Grandma Ronnie isn't home anymore.”

    ~A YOUNG MAN'S DANCE by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

 

4.      Start by showing the setting.

 “In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

                         ~ MADELINE, by Ludwig Bemelmans

 

5.      Start with Onomatopoeia.

 “Hieronymus Bets has unusual pets. Slurp the sugapotomus is his slimiest pet.” 

                          ~HIERONYMUS BETS AND HIS UNUSUAL PETS, by M.P. Robertson

 

6.      Start with a repeat refrain.


 
“Before John was a jazz giant, he heard hambones knocking on grandma's pots, Daddy strumming the ukulele, and Mama cranking the phonograph.

   Before John was a jazz giant, he heard steam engines whistling past...”


  ~BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT, by Carol Boston Weatherford

 



7.      Start with the main character.

 “Clementine waited until her work in the Big House was done and the twinkle of stars filled the night sky above the Cane River. She was ready to paint.”

             ~ART FROM HER HEART, FOLK ARTIST CLEMENTINE HUNTER, by Kathy Whitehead

 

         Spend some time in the library reading first lines in picture books to make your own list of great ways to hook a reader, then spring into a new season of writing by hooking your reader with a great opening sentence.

 

 

 

 


Serialized Fiction: Is It For You?

 

by Gloria G. Adams


Serialized fiction is nothing new. In the late 1800’s and early-mid 1900’s, many classics like Treasure Island and The War of the Worlds began as a series of chapters published in magazines or newspapers. 

Though this form of publishing never truly disappeared, its popularity waned for a long while. But today, serialized books have found a resurgence through social media platforms like Wattpad, Sweek, and more recently, Kindle Vella.
 

At first blush, you might think it’s only for adult books. But Kindle Vella has an entire children’s collection, and both Sweek and Wattpad publish YA novels as well as adult.

 Kindle Vella: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GR2L4AHPMQ44HNQ7

 Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/

 Sweek: https://sweek.com/write-stories

Besides writing a serialized novel (publishing one chapter at a time), writers also use these platforms to publish stand-alone short stories as well as serials (like soap operas and weekly TV dramas and sitcoms.)

Readers can access a great deal of content for free, but there are also paid options. Wattpad includes some books in their Wattpad Paid Stories, but it’s by invitation only.

What’s in it for writers? Promotion, recognition, and possibly building a fan base. And the possibility of royalties. Wattpad boasts a monthly audience of 90 million users. It’s a great way to connect with readers, especially for new or unagented authors. There are also some protections in place against plagiarism.

Some have found success on these platforms. Over 100 books have been published that had their origins on Wattpad.

One of these authors was Brittany Geragotelis, who tried for ten years to get published traditionally. After posting on Wattpad, she garnered nineteen million readers and Simon and Schuster published her YA book and sequels.

Nikki Kelly’s Wattpad-published romance trilogy was picked up by MacMillan in 2014.

 While these success stories aren’t the norm, the potential is out there.


If you are interested in serialized fiction (or nonfiction), thoroughly explore all of the information on the platforms’ websites. Another suggestion: read one or more how-to books, like How to Write Serialised Fiction by Simon K. Jones. Start reading it right now on... Wattpad!

https://www.wattpad.com/story/86532927-how-to-write-serialised-fiction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Happens Lest First You Dream

 


                               Vision Boards

                                                  by

                                        Gloria Reichert

 

Recently, I attended a webinar about Vision Boards presented by Merrill Rainey, Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI: Ohio North. A vision board is a physical, tactile representation of the goals which someone wishes to achieve. This collection of pictures, words, and phrases is designed to help a person visualize his dreams and goals.

The idea behind vision boards is simple. By placing your vision board in a prominent place where your goals and intentions are highly visible, your mind is constantly reminded of these focus areas, and your subconscious works away at them. Vision boards are connected to the Law of Attraction, which is about attracting into your life those things upon which you are focusing. The idea is that our experiences are created by our thoughts and feelings. Whatever we focus our attention on will be brought into our lives. Vision boards keep the goals we set foremost in our minds and create positive feelings when we look at them.  

Do vision boards work? A body of research says they do. They rely on visualization, which is a powerful tool. A report in Psychology Today states that athletes who visualized their training exercises received almost the same benefit as those who undertook the physical exercises. Oprah Winfrey has discussed the use of vision boards to help her meet her goals.

Merrill suggested four steps for creating a vision board.

Step 1 - Brain Dump: Set a timer for 20 minutes. During that time, write down everything you want to accomplish in 2022, three years, five years – whatever you decide. Focus on your writing goals or whatever you choose. Then categorize the ideas into different columns.

Step 2 - Reflect and Refine. Decide which ideas are the most important. What do you want most to change or improve? These can be either short or long term goals.

Step 3 - Create your vision board. Use white or colored poster board, foam board, cork board, white board, or felt board as the background. Using magazines, newspapers, and computer printings, cut out images, words, and phrases which reflect your goals. Arrange them on your background. Glue or tape them into place. Add glitter or stickers. Draw with markers - whatever you wish. You might play music while you create your board.


Step 4 – Display your vision board. Put your vision board somewhere you can see it every day so that your subconscious can get to work.

Vision boards can also be made digitally. Online templates and directions are available. Once printed, these can be displayed or kept in a planner or journal where they will be easily seen.

Many suggestions for both kinds of vision boards can be found on Pinterest.

You must believe that what you are putting on your vision board will come true, and you must give the work and effort that’s necessary. 

Once I complete my vision board, I think I might make one for some of my characters to see how that could inform my writing. No telling where vision boards might lead.

***************************************************

For more information on Merrill, follow him on Instagram (@littlerainey) or visit his website at www.littlerainey.com.

Remembering Richard Peck

 

by Gloria G. Adams

 

It’s January again, and my turn to write for our blog. I thought about so many things that you often think about as a writer in January: setting writing goals, taking workshops, attending conferences, making a list of all the books you want to write this year or how you’re going to finish writing that one that tugs the most at your mind and heart strings.

 

Then I thought a list of inspirational writing quotes might be appropriate. And when I think about inspirational writing quotes, I always think about Richard Peck.

 

Richard Peck was one of the pioneers of young adult literature, whose books I discovered when I first started working in the library. He won many awards, including the Newbery Award, and the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards award for his “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.”

I was fortunate enough to attend a few conferences where I heard him speak. He had piercing blue eyes and a compelling presence that commanded everyone’s attention. I was even lucky enough to meet him and share lunch and conversation with him at a writing festival in which I participated while working as a librarian.

 But even more than his talent as a writer and speaker was his heart for young readers. He had taught English to middle-schoolers before he began his writing career in 1971, where he witnessed first-hand some of the negative consequences of peer pressure. His message resonates through his books: “You only grow up when you’ve walked away from those people. In all my novels, you have to declare your independence from your peers before you can take that first real step toward yourself.”

 When he read us some of the letters he’d received from his readers, you could tell he had touched many lives through his books and really made a difference. He passed away in 2018, but what a legacy he left us!


 We writers all have authors we admire, respect, and by whom we are inspired; the one at the top of my list is Richard Peck.

 Here are some of my favorite Richard Peck quotes:


 “The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.”

 

“Because nobody but a reader ever became a writer.”

 

“I'm a writer because I never had a teacher who said, "Write what you know." If I'd been limited to writing what I know, I would have produced one unpublishable haiku. Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit. J. K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School.”

 

“[A young adult novel] ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”

 

“Learn five new words a day…You want to use words to create new worlds… If you are going to be a writer, you need to collect words.”

 

“If you cannot find yourself on the page very early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”

 

“I read because one life isn't enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;

I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;

I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I'm just beginning myself, and I wouldn't mind a map;

I read because I have friends who don't, and young though they are, they're beginning to run out of material;

I read because every journey begins at the library, and it's time for me to start packing;

I read because one of these days I'm going to get out of this town, and I'm going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”

 ― Richard Peck, from Anonymously Yours


For more information on Richard Peck:

https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/06/11/life-work-richard-peck-nypl-catalog

https://www.kennedy-center.org/video/education/literary-arts/a-conversation-with-author-richard-peck/

 

 

Manuscript Fixer-Upper

 by Kate Carroll


As a children’s writer, I have files of flawed manuscripts. When I wrote them, I didn’t know they had structural damage, but over time, as they sat in a drawer, and I challenged myself to learn more about craft, I realized these gems could not survive in their current condition.  Now, when I need a change of pace, or new ideas aren’t surfacing, I turn to these old friends and challenge one to a renovation.   

 

Whether you’re a brand-new writer or a seasoned author, you probably have a manuscript that never made it into the world. Dig into your drawer, your files, maybe your own slush pile and pull out something that hasn’t seen the light of day in a while - a real fixer-upper. Grab your tools and try a makeover. I’ve watched builders whip old things into shape on HGTV shows and Food Channel chefs work wonders with leftovers, so why not renew an old story?

 

Here is a checklist that might make your something old, new again.


1.      Get ready to demo!

Read your story out loud. A noticeable something may glare at you. Or it may be hidden in the foundation somewhere. Stay with it, even if you must pull everything apart.                    

 

2.      Exactly how strong is your plot? Will kids care what your story is about? If not, can you twist and turn it so that they will?

What can you do to make it more appealing to kids? We know that the best loved stories are ones that allow a child to think, dream, laugh and grow through the pages.

 

3.      Does your main character need a tune-up?  Consider these thoughts. What is your main character really like?  Is it a character that a child can see and know? If your character isn’t well fleshed out, there’s a chance that it will remain invisible. Spend some time working on the MC ‘s attributes. Is he silly, magical, naughty, lazy, excited, mean, brave, curious, forgetful? Whoever your main character is, he must be unforgettable to the reader.

 

4.      Make tension intentional. No matter what age you are writing for, tension matters. Raising the roadblocks that a character encounters keeps the reader rooting for him. Imposing scenes that keep the reader turning the pages is a good goal.

 

5.      Is your dialogue dynamic? Does your dialogue give information that helps move the manuscript along? Do you create conversations between characters that cause tension? Sophie’s Squash by Pat Z. Miller is a great example of dialogue that increases the angst for Sophie.

 

6.      Employ the right words. Use writing techniques that help pace your story well. Think of a roller coaster ride. Experience the slow chug of the climb (I’m nervous already), the intensity of the peak, and the thrill of the finish. Using language that mimics this progression is one way that you can help your pacing.  Check out Oh, No! by Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann.

 

7.      Be ready to redo if needed. If you’re lucky enough to uncover problems in your story, be prepared to work and rework until the foundation is solid and the details dovetail into a heartwarming finish.  


8.      Inspectors are necessary. Before your work goes into submission, seek final approval from your critique group or a paid editor. Seek honest feedback about your manuscript and accept all suggestions with gratitude. You are not required to use advice from others, but chances are, someone is going to see that one minor flaw that you missed.

 

I hope all your manuscripts are worthy of publication, but just in case they don’t pass inspection the first time, consider a makeover and see what happens.

 


 

                

          BREAKING THE RULES

                                    By

                              Gloria Reichert

 

 

Picture book writers frequently hear they should make their books stand out and sometimes “break the rules” to make them unique. I find myself wondering how we are to break the rules and still have a publishable book. I have a nonfiction manuscript which needs a fresh approach, so I have been on the lookout for inspiration and discovered a new picture book which helped me to have a better understanding of how this can be accomplished.

 

A Vote for Susanna, the First Woman Mayor written by Karen Greenwald and illustrated by Sian James provides a good example of successfully “breaking the rules.” In this biography, the author breaks the rules in regard to structure.

 

The subject of the biography, Susanna Salter, is a little known person who had an enormous impact in her community, the small town of Argonia, Kansas, and attracted worldwide attention back in 1887. The events in the story occurred over a hundred years ago and are told in an unconventional manner. Usually, a biography starts with an event from the subject’s childhood and is told in chronological order. Neither of these occurs in this tale.

 

Instead, the author creatively employs two methods of presenting the information. Sometimes the facts are presented in a straightforward manner, and sometimes Salter’s story is deftly presented in a conversation between a boy and his grandma as the grandma tells the story. The information is accurate and truthful, and the tale has all of the components necessary for a good picture book. A surprise ending wraps things up in a satisfying way.

 

Reading this biography has provided inspiration and has challenged my thinking. It has me considering what, besides structure and chronological order, can be altered and tweaked to give manuscripts a fresh approach. By thoughtfully examining other picture books and trying out some different ideas, I hope to find ways to successfully “break the rules” for my manuscript and hope you are able to find fresh approaches for yours also.

 

 

 

Back In the Saddle Again

 

5 Things I did to get back to my writing—and one or two you might use, too.

 

By Lana Wayne Koehler

 

This has been a strange season of life. First there was COVID, then canceling conferences, then canceling submissions, then canceling publications, now the variant, and on and on, and on. And all the while, we, as writers, struggle to connect with each other and our stories. Do you need encouragement to move on? I know that I did.

 Here are five things that I did to help me get back to my writing:

1.     I started reading again. First, I read for enjoyment—Checking out things like Pinterest and Facebook (don’t judge!). I read some classic children’s books from my home library. Then I found myself checking out some articles and blogs on writing. Before I knew it, I was studying writing again!

2.     The next thing I wrote was something short. I know that as a writer for children’s books that they are naturally short, but this exercise has little to do with that kind of intense writing. Instead, I wrote a congratulatory letter to my granddaughter who managed to finish her degree during Covid. Preparing for and actually writing it started my creative engine going.

 3.     With my engine idling, I went off and proceeded to live my semi-regular life again, without writing anything else. This time I had a level of guilt that I hadn’t experienced in quite a while. After all, don’t we all have some guilt about not writing or not writing enough? I took a deep breath and gave myself some space to linger without writing. It helped me get to # 4.

 4.     I finally opened my computer to write the next best-selling book and found that I had lost the ability to write anything on my computer because I did something dumb when I uploaded a new IOS! (I’m still in denial about what I did and why I did it!). Needless to say, I could only print my manuscripts and read or correct by hand. I was infuriated. After all, I was finally ready to put my thoughts together and the stars aligned against me. Again, I took a deep breath and pushed through. This time with renewed confidence, I finally knelt to the writing gods and bought some new software. Which brings me to #5.

 5.     Somewhere in the dark recesses of my twisted mind a new idea formed. More than one, actually. And they have merit and could possibly be the next best sellers. Or at least something to spend every waking hour thinking about, writing about, and crying about. After all, isn’t that what we writers do?

For one brief moment I thought my writing career was over. Now I can’t wait to get my stories on paper and share them with the world.

 Here’s to all the fabulous stories that you will write because you decided to join me back in the saddle again. And, hey, isn’t the view up here wonderful?