by Kelly Carey
In January, bubbly with champagne excitement and intoxicated by the shimmering crystal ball in Time’s Square, we all set down our writing goals for 2015. Since writers are ambitious dreamers, we probably set very lofty goals. To that I say, good for us! That drive and stamina to succeed will get our manuscripts published.
But did you over promise? Did some unforeseen event steal time and attention from your writing? Did your January va-va-voom sput-sput-sputter somewhere in March? Then I would like to be the first to wish you a Happy June Year’s Eve!
June marks the mid-year point and is an excellent time to track our progress and make sure we are well positioned for writing success. On June 1, 2015 writing goals and resolutions everywhere can be given a solid scrubbing and be reset, recharged and REVISED for success. You set New Year’s resolutions, now is the time for June Year’s resolutions.
As writers, we are not only intimately aware of the power of revision, but we are also experts at revising. It is time to apply that skill not to our manuscripts, but to our writing goals. Read through your goals, keep what is working and toss those goals that just don’t fit or make sense anymore. Maybe that middle grade novel whispered to you on a cold day in March (which frankly could have been any day in March since they were all cold) and you put aside your picture book plans. Perhaps you had a light bulb moment while attending a conference, reading a blog, or while brushing your teeth (true story, just ask Amanda!). Great! Time to make your 2015 writing goals match that reality.
Just reminding yourself of the promises you made and the plans you had will refocus your energy for the next six months. This is not a bash session. Do not beat yourself up over missed goals. You are not giving up, you are revising. What writer would forsake revision?
I’d like to clink a glass with you on New Year’s 2016 in celebration of hitting our 2015 writing goals. The best way to make this happen is with a serious mid-year goal revision.
Happy June Year’s Eve and happy goal revising!
But what if I say Yes?
~by Amanda Smith
Much have been said, written and tweeted about the spectacular line-up of speakers at this year’s NESCBWI conference that took place in Springfield, MA, April 24-26. Congratulations to the coordinators. It was a magical event. As exhilarating as it was to hear Dan Santat talk about The Adventures of Beekle; as breathtakingly amazing as it was to enjoy Kwane Alexander recite his poetry; as tear-jerkingly inspiring as it was to hear Jo Knowles share about the liberation of her voice; as laugh-out-loud uplifting as it was to hear Marvin Terban present about the place of humor in books; the take-home nuggets and practical advice also came out of an abundance of hands-on, practical workshops.
So here, as John Hockenberry would say, is my take away:
· I learned I am not the only person to write a novel non-chronological and maddeningly non-linear. There were enough of us there to fill at least three workshops. Some of these non-linear thinkers even got published, as all three of these workshops were lead by accomplished authors who gave practical hands-on advice about how to structure a jumble of scenes until it is a well-constructed novel.
· I was reminded that since I draft on my computer, I need to use creative, hands on (yes, I need art supplies) ways to order, outline, plot and map. I have done this for longer works, but this year I've made the connection that I really need to do this with Picture Books, too.
· Play! I need to play more, and not get so stuck on finishing a project right away. I need to give myself time to look at the project and characters from all angles.
· Note cards are essential to writing. Note cards can be used for revision and outlining. They help you see the big picture. Am I starting in the right place? Do I have duplicate scenes? How is my pacing? Note cards are also wonderful for keeping track of agents. Katey Howes explains more about it here.
· Multi-colored sticky notes are also indispensable. They are helpful for outlining different characters, settings and conflict.
· Talking about characters – ask your characters questions. They have more to say than you might think.
· Color-code your characters. This is helpful throughout each stage of your novel’s construction.
· Color choices in your book can enhance mood and be used for character building. (A.C. Gaughen)
· Every scene is a mini-story, with its own arc. (Katie L. Caroll) And as “everyting has a purpose” (Dan Santat), every scene should either move the plot forwards or show character development.
· “Don’t let your process – or worry about your process – keep you from writing.” ( Lynda Mullaly Hunt) The pouring of the story onto the page is the most essential part. Always.
· Don’t censor. Learn from other points of view. Don’t censor yourself because, “voice is you writing on a piece of paper uncensored.” (Dan Santat)
· Yes’s and No’s. Kwame Alexander mentioned, almost as an aside, that we have to get the no’s out of the way, so the right yes can come. Jo Knowles encouraged me that, yes, I do have something to say. My voice counts. YOUR VOICE COUNTS. You can make a ripple or a wave and change a child’s life. Kwane said, “If I said yes and walk through the door, I will figure it out.” And Chris Cheng asked us what would happen if we said yes because “If I stay in the box, nothing happens.”
And so, I am saying yes. Yes to more submissions. Yes to different publishing opportunities. Yes to more behind-the-scenes-you-will-never-find-this-in-the-book work. Yes to art and office supplies. Yes to playing. Yes to getting out of my box. Yes. Yes. YES!
May you find the courage you need to say YES.
Leave Stronger Than You Came
by Francine Puckly
“We can’t control the fact that we’re going to leave here today older than when we arrived. But what we can control is that we will leave here stronger.”
This little gem of wisdom came from a friend’s Spinning® instructor. His words have become my mantra, guiding me as I attempt to regain internal and external balance and strength in the many roles I play each day. While I want to crawl into bed each night being physically stronger than when I awoke, I also want to be a stronger writer.
To be sure, physical exercise has regained its place of priority in my life, because I've realized I cannot sustain my writing schedule without it. It took me months without a regular exercise regiment to acknowledge that. I walk long distances each morning, resulting in a stronger body, true, but also a stronger, clearer mind.
With that stronger, clearer mind, I can point my energy toward seeking out the skills I need to complete projects. Last weekend I attended the NESCBWI spring conference. New experiences, new topics, and new approaches. I came away with an arsenal of tools to rejuvenate and strengthen my writing--my arms laden with books and my brain sloshing with information to outline my manuscript, query the next agent, and convert my novel-in-progress to Scrivener.
Besides acquiring skills, conferences provide the opportunity to be richly supported by the people around me. By now, you know how important my 24 Carrot Writing peeps are to me. I leave our monthly check-ins older, yes, but also rejuvenated from the various tidbits of craft information we share.
As each minute passes, I’m aging. I will finish this blog older than when I started writing it. And I can’t control that. But I can make sure that with each passing hour, each passing day, each passing event in which I partake, I leave those experiences stronger.
So, yes, we will finish today older than when we started. But the most important thing is that we must leave stronger!
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