by Francine Puckly
In June I wrote about the benefits of carving out time to contemplate the things you’d like to bring to fruition over the next three, five or ten years (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/anything-but-ordinary). I hope the warm, summer days have provided a restful backdrop for sitting and thinking, because it’s time to dive into Part Two--translating those dreams into concrete goals over the next five years.
Five years might as well be eons from now, especially when you don’t know what you’re serving for dinner tonight! But trust me! Thinking several years into the future helps get our heads out of the sand. When we think beyond our day-to-day minutiae, worries and overaggressive to-do lists, we remove the anxiety and pressure to produce something right now. Instead we think logically about those big leaps we want--and will--make. Just like planning a novel, laying our five-year vision is exciting and energizing. Anything is possible. It’s a clean slate. But just as the novel can’t be written without an outline or a plot, we, too, must write down the details of our plan so that we can march toward the larger goals, one step at a time.
First, we must lay structure to the five-year window. What two or three big things do we want to accomplish in our careers in the next several years? As a writer of longer fiction, I can realistically attempt three manuscripts in a five-year span. That's it. For those of you working on shorter pieces, your five-year outlook might include several completed manuscripts or magazine articles per year, but you might chart career growth by targeting bigger publications over time or ones that you feel are too much of a reach right now but would be doable with a little more growth.
Second, our projects (and subsequent timelines) should take into consideration:
· three or four drafts (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how you write and edit)
· “simmer time” (Our manuscripts need time to rest in the drawer.)
· time for beta readers or critique groups to read and offer feedback
· editor/agent research (Who's right for this style of story?)
· submission tracking
Our last step is to layer on annual conferences, writing retreats, and any specific workshops you want to take to develop your craft. Workshops will vary by project, depending on the skills you require, but make sure to plan for them each year. With these on your calendar well in advance, they are attainable. Time and money are allocated, and you won't be faced with short-notice indecision (or worse--excuses) causing the workshop to inevitably pass you by.
In the next few weeks, seriously consider the direction you'd like your career to take. ANYTHING is possible, especially with appropriate planning. Take an hour or two to put these goals in writing for the remainder of 2015 right on through 2020.
Next month we'll take these goals to the next level - planning your one-year tasks!
Happy dreaming, happy writing!
by Annie Cronin Romano
Every writer needs to be out there on social media. We hear it time and time again. Build that platform. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. A personal writer’s website. Blogging. And what about those online writing classes? And then the online groups which inevitably spring from those online classes? Maintaining your social media presence as a writer is important. It's helps with networking, honing your craft, getting advice and support from other writers, and marketing. But online presence often has a domino effect. It can send you flailing into a black hole of tweets and posts and blogs…and far, far away from your manuscript.
That’s right. Your manuscript. Remember that? The one you mention in those hashtag comments? The one you joined that online writers’ group for so you could get some feedback? That work-in-progress? Have you been working on it? Or just tweeting about it?
How much social media is too much? I’m not really sure, to be honest, and it’s certainly different for every writer depending upon where you are in your writing journey. But I’d venture to say if you’ve spent time checking your Twitter and Facebook accounts today and haven’t touched your manuscript then it’s too much, because it’s keeping you from writing.
Don’t neglect your online presence. Most agents and editors want to see writers have some established social media platform. But try to balance it, placing a priority on your writing. Some tips:
Writing and social media: It’s a balancing act. Try to maintain your equilibrium. Keep your mind on your writing goals, first and foremost. You’re going to teeter. You’re going to totter. And, yes, you’re going to fall. Just remember: you’re building a social media platform to enhance your writing, not to smother it. So head up and eyes focused on that manuscript. And find your balance.
And before you ask...YES! The irony of presenting this topic on this blog, Twitter and Facebook is not lost on me! ;)
Your First Fifty
~ by Amanda Smith
Earlier this year I participated in an online picture book competition where the notion was to enter the first fifty words of your manuscript. I knew just which manuscript I wanted to enter and I eagerly prepared the other requirements of the competition. Then I added my First Fifty.
There, all by themselves, on a lonesome page, those fifty words, were so, well, blah! They were well written, they were important to the story, but as the only part of my story these judges would see, they were so absolutely inadequate. They did not showcase my feisty female character. They did not reveal my interesting premise. They did not hint at the conflict. They offered nothing but a setting.
As writers we have the privilege of knowing the whole story. We even know the back story. We know the characters. We know the inspiration behind the story – the part that initially stirred our passion to write that particular story. This is also our handicap. Because we rely on how good the story is, how deep the passion runs, we don’t always start in the strongest way possible. We know we’re getting to the good stuff.
What this competition taught me is the beginning needs to be the very best stuff. If readers aren’t captured by my First Fifty, they might not hang around to get to the good stuff.
In my case, with some editing, I was able to flip my first and second paragraphs. This simple move brought the heart of my story to my First Fifty.
What should your First Fifty highlight?
2. Main character
6. Universal theme
Let’s look at a few new picture book examples where the authors grabbed my attention with their first fifty words:
STEVE, RAISED BY WOLVES by Jared Chapman (Little Brown and Company 2015)
Steve was raised by wolves. He loved wrestling and hunting and chasing campers. Then one day Steve’s mom walked him through the woods, past the lake and to the bus stop.
“Steve,” his mom said, “I know you’re anxious about going to school. It’s not always easy to get along with humans, but just be yourself…”
The First Fifty in this book unfold across three spreads and give the reader voice, character, setting, conflict, a foreshadowing of the dry humor to come, and a smidge of the universal theme.
TO THE SEA by Cole Atkinson (Disney Hyperion 2015)
This is Tim. One day after school Tim met Sam. Sam lived in the sea, but took a wrong turn and got stuck here. He didn’t know his lefts from his rights. The other kids were too busy to notice the big blue whale. Sometimes Tim felt no one noticed him either.
Here the First Fifty run across two spreads. Can you find which elements are established here to draw the reader in?
I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG by Dev Petty, Illustrated by Mike Boldt (Doubleday books for Young Readers, 2015)
“I want to be a cat.”
“You can’t be a cat”
“Because you are a FROG.”
“I don’t like being a frog. It is too wet.”
“Well, you can’t be a cat.”
“I want to be a rabbit.”
“You can’t be a rabbit.”
“Why not. Look, I can hop.”
In this book three spreads are used for the First Fifty. The text is entirely in speech bubbles. I know you want to read the rest. What drew you in?
After my excursion to the bookstore and piles and piles of picture books, I noticed a trend. Many books started in a less stellar way, and I had to make a choice to hang in there and get to the good stuff. And honestly, with some, I didn’t hang in. However, the books that grabbed me with their First Fifty held my attention all the way through. They were so delightful I had to read them again. And then again to pour over the illustrations. If your First Fifty shine, your book will shine!
Flash Mob Bookclub!
by Kelly J. Carey
Fired up after Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo this past March, the 24 Carrot Writing gang has started going on bookstore field trips.
The bookstore is probably your happy place and I’m sure you go there as often as you hit the library. But have you gone there with a group of writing friends and scoured the shelves together? Have you read and shared your thoughts and opinions on the books that are displayed like a flash mob book club?
Try it! You will love it!
We usually hit the café for a brief chat and to fuel up and then we hit the stacks. You’ll feel a little less out of place sitting crisscross applesauce with a pile of picture books next to you when three other adults are joining you. Then we read. We share books like you‘d share bites of a fantastic dessert at your favorite restaurant.
When we find a book that we love, we can instantly share it and dissect its writing genius. We’ve found comp titles for a critique partner’s work in progress. We have collectively given books a thumb down and recognized that not every book out there will touch every heart. More importantly, we have pooled our book industry knowledge and read with purpose and insight. Annie might know this author’s agent. Amanda will point out that this publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts and Francine will probably have met the agent, author or publisher because the girl is SCBWI plugged in!
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but reading for research can be a fantastic time to enjoy your writing community. So while you are planning your summer trips, make sure to plan a bookstore trip and enjoy a Flash Mob Book Club with your writing friends.
Dancing is optional, but you will not be able to resist buying a book or four!
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