An Imaginary Manuscript World Tour
by Kelly Carey
Writers are constantly advised, “Make sure your manuscript is ready before you submit”. But how can you really know?
You’ve edited, revised, spell checked, and incorporated feedback from your critique group. (If you don’t have a critique group yet, make this your goal for 2015.) You’ve let it sit, so you can have some space from your words, and then you’ve come back multiple times for more revising, found that typo that spell check missed and still you wonder, “Is this ready?”.
I suggest you channel your inner rock star and take your manuscript on an imaginary World Concert Tour. Pretend you are reading your manuscript out loud to massive audiences as many times as Taylor Swift has performed “Shake It Off”. Could you share your story over and over again and still love it? Give your manuscript the World Tour Litmus Test.
I recently spent a week reading a published story to preschool and kindergarten classes. The nerves subsided by the fifth reading in the same week, and I learned to pause for giggles or to build tension, but the excitement stayed high. I wondered, could I keep that level of enthusiasm if I had to read my story 50 more times or a hundred? Then I thought about my unpublished manuscripts and did a mental test run of readings. What would it feel like to read and reread those unpublished manuscripts? If your manuscript is ready for submission, be certain you would be thrilled to share it thousands of times.
After all, once you sell your manuscript, dozens of folks will be spending months and years working to illustrate, edit, publish and market your story. Make sure you have a piece that will continue to excite you, your team, and your audience.
Get back on your imaginary tour bus and when you hit your next venue, put real people in your pretend audience. Would you be proud to share the story with your friends, your co-workers, the folks at the gym? What if you booked a gig to read it aloud at the next SCBWI conference? Would you be thrilled or embarrassed if you looked out into the audience and saw Kevin Henkes or Jane Yolen taking a seat?
If you are dreaming of the concert t-shirts, the multiple city tour stops, and packed venues of screaming fans and you feel emboldened by the strength of your manuscript, then your story just might be ready for its world tour - I mean ready for submission.
A multipurpose carrot
by Amanda Smith
This is my carrot for completing PiBoIdMo 2014.
When it is in my kitchen it reminds me to follow my heart and go write.
When I carry it upstairs to the office, it reminds me of what is essential for writing success.
Heart. Brain. Tea.
When it sits on my desk, it reminds me to get to work!
During 2014 I participated in a number of online writing challenges. When November came around, I felt worn out from a productive writing year. I had numerous manuscripts in various stages of completion and I almost, ALMOST did not sign up for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. Between shopping and packing for a visit to South Africa, and planning for a 14 hour layover whirlwind trip though Paris, I could not foresee room in my brain for 30 story ideas.
And yet, when the time came to sign up, my heart led me straight to Tara’s website. Having participated in PiBoIdMo the previous two years, I knew the joy and satisfaction this challenge brings. During the month I was surprised at how easy the ideas came. PiBoIdMo certainly was not my focus this year, but still, somewhere throughout each day and idea would come knocking and I would jot it down in my notebook, thinking “Well, that’s nice.” Lo and behold, the end of November came and I had 33 new ideas.
On the first day of December, I cleared my writing desk, filed all my works in progress and declared the office closed for December. I somehow remembered to sign the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge. December 8, a mere 4 days before our planned trip, I received an email from Tara announcing I am a grand prize winner. I never win anything. Ever. Except this time! I had a week to “flesh out” five story ideas and submit them to one of her lovely agents for critiques. Can you say tizzy?
We flew out of Boston on a Thursday evening. We whirled through Paris on a wet Friday. We landed in South Africa on a sunny Saturday and reunited with family on Sunday, and on Monday I sat down in a bright corner at my sister-in-law’s dining room table to put meat on the bones of my story ideas.
Here is what I've learned:
Keep writing. And some day, when you least expect it, you might get the “grand prize winner” e-mail.
Click http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/ to find out more about PiBoIdMo. Registration begins the last week in October. Thank you, Tara, for creating wonderful opportunities.
Paying It Forward
By Francine Puckly
Yesterday as I diligently worked to finish my novel at my writing partner’s house, her frozen pipes let loose. Water gushed from three broken pipes, and I was immediately thrust from novel writing into crisis management. The plumber wouldn’t come. The water shut-off valve for the 140-year-old church-turned-home-and-art-gallery was under a crawl space no one could reach, and water from the upstairs art gallery dripped into the downstairs kitchen while another hole in the crawl space below spewed water upwards flooding the kitchen floor. Finally, after 45 minutes and a whole lot of begging, the fire chief and several volunteer firefighters arrived at the scene to stop the influx of water.
Then the sopping and mopping began.
And poof. There went my novel, floating out the door.
As I drove back to my friend’s house last night to sort through soaked paperwork and help her regain some semblance of order, I was reminded of how friends stepped in to help my mom when my dad had a stroke a few years ago. I was only able to leave my life and children in New England for a couple of days to assist my parents; the remainder of the help (managing the daily functioning of their farmhouse, feeding and watering the draught horses my father owned at the time, and prioritizing the influx of medical paperwork) came from neighbors and friends. I was so very grateful for their presence.
And while at the moment I’m desperate to finish my novel, there was never a question of what I would and will do for my writing partner. She has been a rock, supporting my writing endeavors for the past several years. While I’m not paying her back for the writing support she has provided me, I feel I am paying it forward from the crisis management my own family dealt with a few years ago.
I’m struck by how we pay things forward in our everyday lives, but I also believe it is an essential part of being writers and illustrators. A few years ago I had the opportunity to chat with Tomie dePaolo and thank him for attending a Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. When I commented how much his words of encouragement meant to our membership, he said that when he was beginning his career, this type of support organization didn’t exist. Artists and writers were on their own.
True, we are privileged to have a plethora of opportunities to network with other writers and illustrators. Although Tomie and I didn’t have a chance to discuss this further, I’m quite certain he had his own network of close friends and colleagues who encouraged him and bolstered his career. And he has offered that same gift to other writers and illustrators throughout his long, successful career. And those he’s encouraged? Well, I’m quite certain they are helping the next generation of newbies get started.
So as we journey forward in our careers, let us continue to be open to those who encourage us—but also be aware of the small moments when we might be able to buoy someone who needs a special word of encouragement (or a few extra towels to soak up water in a flooded kitchen!). Those individuals might be on the verge of giving up—as many of us have felt from time to time. The whole concept of paying it forward means that we won’t necessarily help those who supported us or help them in the same exact way, but we can bolster those who come behind us and who need our encouragement. We will all achieve our career aspirations—and the journey will be much more enjoyable if we make it together.
Happy New Year!
By Annie Cronin Romano
It is three hours and forty-five minutes until midnight on New Year’s Eve. A clean slate looms on the horizon. A fresh list of writing resolutions awaits me. My email notification chimes but I ignore it. I’m spending quality time with my hubby and kids carefully scrutinizing every act on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Important stuff.
As I head up to bed just after midnight, I glance at my phone and check my email. After all, maybe I’ll jump into the New Year with 20% off at Pottery Barn.
And there is an email from Pottery Barn. It even offers free shipping. But suddenly I don’t care as my gaze drops down to the familiar subject line we writers simultaneously wish for and dread…RE: Query.
As soon as I spot the word “unfortunately,” I know it’s a rejection. A rejection from an agent. A carefully-researched agent. An agent who rejected me at 8:15 PM on New Year’s Eve. One last kick in the pants before I squeaked my way out of 2014. Except I’ve read it at 12:11 AM on January 1st, 2015, so it’s a rejection to start off my new year…with a whimper.
At first, I want to scream, “Really? On New Year’s? Are you kidding me?” (My actual words were less suitable for print and blew resolution #1 right out the window.) Then I thought…Tequila. That will show them. (Resolution #2 crushed.) Perhaps a box of chocolates? I’m sinking fast.
What stinks more than getting a rejection on New Year’s Eve?
Working on New Year’s Eve.
Yup. That’s when I realize it. The agent who’d rejected me had been working on New Year’s Eve. That’s the kind of agent I want. One who gets done what needs getting done. Even on a holiday. (Okay, I realize this agent may just be anti-eve and anti-social, but I’m trying to be glass half full here.) I wasn’t writing that evening, but this agent had been responding to my query. I was impressed. Yes, an offer of representation would have been immensely preferred, but you see where I’m going with this.
I read lots of picture books to keep my mind charged with my genre and my eyes on what’s current. And I have to admit, there are many I don’t care for. I may read ten in one afternoon and truly adore only one of them. If that. I recently shared this observation with Kelly, a 24 Carrot Writing colleague, who pointed out, “That’s similar to what agents say when they reject manuscripts.” This just didn’t resonate with me. (Ring any bells?) Except they’re swamped with queries. Hmm…
So my New Year’s resolution for 2015? Don’t take the rejections too personally. Even if they come on a holiday. Writing is tough. So is being an agent. Hopefully someday soon one of my manuscripts with resonate with an agent who will sing out, “I have to sign this writer immediately!” And if she realizes that on July 4th, I hope she’ll let me know.
Happy 2015! Keep writing. Keep your chin up.
Goals For 2015
Here at 24 Carrot Writing we are strong believers in setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals. This year we decided to share our annual and monthly goals with you hoping to motivate you to set your own writing goals. We all set our goals very differently. Some of us have detailed goals with calendar dates and self-imposed deadlines. Others have a few thoughts scribbled on a sticky note. We all, however, took time to think about what we want to accomplish in our writing career this year. We would like to urge you to do the same.
Please share your annual writing goals with us in the comments.
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