This week's throwback blog was first posted in 2019 and features a gnarly truth about goals. We know it's summer, but you still want to make progress on your path to publication and that means you can't ignore your goals! So crank up your boombox, grab a handful of Pop Rocks, and enjoy as our RETRO SUMMER continues!
By Kelly Carey
Every month, according to the 24 Carrot Writing philosophy, I dutifully set both writing goals and craft goals. Every month I hit most but not all of my goals. That’s okay! We have warned against using goals as weapons. Goals are there for motivation.
When I miss a goal, I push it over to the next month. Sound strategy right? I thought so, until I took a look back over the past few months and realized that the same goal kept getting pushed. Why?
The truth is a bit embarrassing.
I’m avoiding the hard goal.
Yup. That’s what I’m doing. I’m feeling proud and organized when I sit down to work, but as a scan through my monthly goals, I’m picking off the easy targets and leaving the more challenging tasks to languish and carry over from month to month.
The goals that keep getting moved to another month are ones I’m most unsure of – much like I put off doing house chores I don’t like. Laundry or vacuuming? I’ll choose laundry every time. You’ll always have clean socks to wear in my house, as long as you don’t wear them shoe-less on my very dirty floors! I was applying this same dodge and avoid technique to my 24 Carrot Writing goals.
This has to stop!
I can’t keep clicking off the easy tasks on my goal list. Every month I set a goal to read mentor texts. I love that task and so every month without fail (and sometimes surpassing my objective), I was able to put a nice thick check mark next to that goal. But the monthly intention to draft a new picture book? Pushed! But I’m a writer? I love writing! Writing should come before reading mentor texts! But the blank page, the self-doubt, the internal critic all made reading a lovely book that you all have already written seem like a much nicer (aka easier) task.
Time to address this blatant goal slacking.
This month I’m picking one super writing goal and one super craft goal and I’m going to underline them – maybe star them – perhaps circle them with a gold pen – and I’m not going to attack anything else on my list until I have hit my super goals every month. I’m actually hoping that those easier, friendlier, can’t-wait-to-do-them goals, which will sit lower on my list, will act as extra motivation. I’ll want to get to those happy place goals, but I’ll have to tackle my super goal first (aka my do-not-pass-go, go-directly-to-them goals!).
I’m a little nervous, but I think it will make me more thoughtful when I make out my monthly goals and I’ll be leaning on my 24 Carrot Writing crew to keep me motivated. I bet I’ll feel fantastic when I hit those super goals and that will be worth tackling the hard stuff first!
Take a peek at your own goals. Set solid, measurable, and challenging goals. And make sure that you are not hiding behind the easy targets on your list like me! If you were, consider highlighting a super goal, a must do goal, and don’t let yourself avoid it.
And now I’m off to do some laundry – just kidding! I’m off to vacuum! Hard stuff first! I’ve got this!
This week's throwback blog was first posted in 2018. This rad post recognizes that you may be looking to catch a wave this summer, but offers tips to make sure your don't wipeout on those writing goals! Enjoy as our RETRO SUMMER continues!
By Annie Cronin Romano
Summer is here. It’s a time for sun, sand, and sangria! A time for hanging out with friends and family, relaxing vacations, and outdoor fun. So, my fine writer friends, where does your writing fit into the summertime equation? Because, as most of us know, summer is also notoriously known as a time for slacking.
Don’t be a slacker, my writer friends! This is where those writing goals come in handy. Hopefully you included that “forgiveness clause” into your writing goals (see Set Your Writing Goals With a Little Forgiveness, 1/23/18). But if you didn’t, or if you haven’t set your summer writing goals yet, here are some tips for keeping the ink flowing while enjoying this active time of year.
Tip #1. Going on vacation? Take a journal with you and write in it daily. It doesn’t have to be long. Just a few reflections on your day, or perhaps a description of a scene that you don’t want to forget. Maybe you came up with some story ideas. Jot them down. Keep your writer’s mind active even when you’re not working on an actual story.
Tip #2. Read! What better way to become a better writer than to read consistently. Writers hear it all the time and, naturally, love books, so there’s a good chance you read regularly anyway. But in case time is more elusive for you the rest of the year, take some time this summer to crack the spine on a few books you’ve been wanting to dive into. You may notice some new writing approaches or styles along the way.
Tip #3. Use your phone’s note-taking app. Even if you don’t have time to do much extended writing, sparks of inspiration may strike, and you probably won't have your laptop or notebook available if you’re at the amusement park or on a hike. So pull out your phone and type yourself a brief note. Store that idea or inspiration away for another time.
Tip #4. Take pictures, especially of unusual things. Vacations are full of picture taking opportunities, but step away from the selfies and snapshots of family, and take some random “slice of life” shots. Then use those images later as writing prompts. I know. Brilliant, right? You never know what the lens will capture. Your next story gem could lurk in those precious photos!
Tip #5. Enjoy! After all…it’s summer!
This week's throwback blog was first posted in 2021 as part of our Road to Publication series and is chockablock with information about preparing your work for publication. Welcome to RETRO SUMMER!
~by Amanda Smith
So, you wrote something. And now you wonder what the steps are for getting it published.
First of all, congratulations! Writing on a consistent basis, to the point where you have a book, is a huge accomplishment. (If you want to write children's books and aren't sure where to start, this blog by Kelly is for you.) Writing a book, however, is only the first step. Sending a freshly written manuscript to an agent or publisher would be like asking Paul and Prue to judge a cake after you had only gathered the ingredients.
Here are some basic steps towards publishing:
You need someone else's eyes on your work (not family!). Ideally your critique partners should be up to date on the current market and knowledgeable about writing. They will look at content, structure, plot and character development, language use and, if you need, line editing. It is imperative to have someone else read your work. Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of a new project, or have read the same words so many times we don't see the plot holes, unclear details, or glaring mistakes.
Where to find critique partners?
Local writing organizations
Online groups such as Kidlit 411, Storystorm, Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators, 12X12, to name a few.
Craft workshops and courses
If your critique partners are worth their salt, you will receive lots of revision notes. Depending on the depth of the notes, you will have to revise or, in some cases, even rewrite. Regardless of the scope of revisions, you will likely have a couple of critique-revision rounds. Do not skip this step! It is during this phase that your work continues to mature and become the best it can be. It is hugely rewarding to dig deep and polish away the rough edges of your story.
Beta Readers: (Not necessary for picture books)
After critiques and revisions, you need Beta readers, who consist of readers the age of your intended audience or readers deeply familiar with your genre (think teachers, librarians). A beta reader questionnaire is a helpful tool for gathering focused feedback. Another round of revisions will likely follow beta readers.
Once you have completed these steps and you feel that your work is ready to send out, you need to decide whether you want to take the traditional publishing route or explore independent publishing?
The rest of today's post will focus on traditional publishing. Next time we will learn about independent (self) publishing. Make sure you know the pros and cons of each option.
If you choose traditional publishing, you should know that it can take months or even years. Most of the bigger publishers are closed to unsolicited submissions and you need an agent to represent your work.
Some publishing houses however, do accept unagented submissions. Books, such as THE CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, can provide guidance as to which publishing houses are open to unagented submissions. Always check the publisher’s website for their latest guidelines.
While you can certainly do research online and through publishing trade journals to find publishers who are open to unagented or unsolicited manuscripts, it is very helpful if you have a more personal contact with an editor at the publishing house. One of the best ways to make this connection is to attend a class or workshop taught by the editor. Also, editors who attend writing conferences will often accept unsolicited submissions from conference attendees for a limited time, so be sure to look into this possibility when attending these events. Always do your research to be sure a specific publisher publishes the genre/age level you write.
A good literary agent will help you polish and edit your story, send submissions to publishing houses, negotiate contracts, and handle advances and royalties. They are super knowledgeable about the industry, and know what editors are seeking. Your agent is your ally and business partner. Therefore it is important to carefully research agents, not only for what genres they represent or what their interests are, but also whether they will be a good match for you. Once you have narrowed down agents you would like to approach, you need to query.
Places to research agents:
SCBWI The Book
Manuscript wishlist (www.manuscriptwishlist.com/)
Publishers Marketplace (https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/)
Some writing websites also offer a treasure trove of information in the form of agent interviews and guest blogs. A few to browse are http://www.literaryrambles.com/, https://www.pbspotlight.com/, and The 12x12challenge
Most agents are active on social media
Acknowledgements of books you have read
A query is a letter in which writers pitch their work and introduce themselves to an agent. It is a business letter that follows a specific form. Stay tuned for a guest blog regarding query letters by the Query Godmother, Kris Asselin, later this month.
Queries are used for picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as all other fiction. Nonfiction writers send a cover letter, proposal with outline, and some writing samples.
Each agent or agency has their own rules regarding submissions. It is very important that you read and follow each specific agency's submission guidelines. Not only does it streamline the process for them, but it also reflects well on you, their future client, and your ability to take direction.
Be prepared for several rounds of querying. If an agent would like to represent you, they will contact you and usually schedule a phone call with you to further discuss the details. Remember, not only is the agent interviewing you to see whether they want to take you on as a client, but you are also interviewing the agent to see whether they will be a good match for you.
Once you have received an offer of representation and contracts have been signed, you and your agent may go through another round of revisions before they submit your manuscript to publishers. There might be several rounds of submissions before you receive an offer for your book.
At this point the process is out of your hands. You have baked your cake to perfection. You've trimmed and filled and frosted. You've decorated and delicately flavored. Editors, acquisition boards, and marketing departments are your proverbial judges, and once your delectable offering hits the right palate, you will get your Hollywood-handshake: A published book!
Boogie on down to the other two posts in this series, about Independent Publishing and Writing a Query Letter. Catch you on the flip side!
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