By Francine Puckly
All of us at 24 Carrot Writing send best wishes to you and yours for a wondrous holiday season and health, happiness and good fortune in the year ahead. We are grateful you’ve allowed us to accompany you on your creative journeys, and we look forward to great ideas, sustainable motivation and delightful rewards for the hard work that will greet us in 2015!
So raise a glass of cheer to celebrate the gifts of family and friends, but also to honor all that you have brought forth this year. Slap a gold foil star on the top of research pages, drafts and brainstorming notes you’ve completed, and crawl into bed each night with a content heart. You are on the right track for reaching your dreams!
Francine, Amanda, Annie and Kelly
“Every year I resolve to be a little less the me I know and leave a little more room for the me I could be.”
-- Wendy Wasserstein “Uncommon Women and Others”
by Kelly Carey
Many writers began writing when their own children were young and the thrill of snuggling in to share a good book awoke a desire to write a good book. What a wonderful way for your writing self to awaken. But what happens when your kids grow up? How will you still understand your child reader when you have no children in your house?
I stay connected to my target audience by volunteering in the local elementary school. I began by shelving books in the library. It was a natural fit since, like most writers, I love books. During my time checking out books for students, I noticed trends. Who is this Captain Underpants? Why are they fascinated by Ripley’s Believe It or Not books? Look, they still love Corduroy just like I did. No sooner had the Star Wars book gone back on the shelves than someone was checking it out again. They wanted books about fairies and football and yes, even a dog that farts. These books became my study guides. I poured over them like text books.
I watched as the kids reacted to read-aloud stories the librarian shared. Froggy created hysterical laughter. Kids would freeze and stare open mouthed wondering how Wemberly would survive his first day. I watched as they fidgeted through readings from books that failed to really grab them. I studied those books too. My time in the library was fantastic research.
I took it one step further and began substitute teaching in the school. Our school district requires a college education but you do not need any specific teaching degree in order to be a substitute. Getting in the classroom and interacting with the kids helped me to remember how they talk to each other, how they phrase questions and what situations spark what reactions. Every day in the classroom the kids showed me what matters to them, what makes them laugh and what makes them cry.
It’s not enough to connect readers with your writing. To make your writing truly resonate with your audience, you need to make sure that you are connected with your audience. I highly recommend looking for ways to actually interact with your target reader. For me, working in the school library, and substitute teaching have allowed me to keep my dialogue true and my subjects relevant.
Get connected with your audience – your writing will thank you.
by Amanda Smith
The nervous excitement as you hit send. The relentless checking of emails days before the actual due date. The anticipation of gushing praise and lofty love for your written words as you open that attached file.
“What do you mean it’s not perfect?!”
If you have ever submitted your manuscript to a critique group you know this feeling.
As writers, we get so giddy at our own marvelous ideas; the darling phrases we string together in longer even dearer sentences; our clap-it-out-rhythm; our almost perfect rhyme; our totally original, there-has-never-been-another-like-this character. We get so enthralled in our own genius.
And we miss. We miss that we do not have a story arc. Or a problem. Or a satisfactory conclusion. We miss that our amazing alliteration is all tell and no show. We miss the mark. And it is our critique group’s job to gently lead us back to our target – our goal.
So what to do with that critique?
1. Let it rest. At first read, you may think your critique partners miss your point. You may think they are interpreting your story the wrong way. You may think all kinds of unpleasant thoughts. Close the document. Walk away. Get the emotions under control.
2. Re-read. Sometimes at that first read, your emotions can block your ability to perceive. When you carefully re-read it during a quiet, productive time, you can process much better what your partners are saying.
3. Print it out. I am a very visual, hands-on person. For my process, I need to have physical copies of the critiques in front of me. I make notes and brainstorm new ideas on them.
4. Change it up. I take all the suggestions and APPLY them to my manuscript. Yes, without question or prejudice. Every one. If someone says, “Delete all the illustrator notes” I do it. Even if it scares the living daylights out of me. Only when all these suggestions are incorporated in my manuscript, can I see which ones add value, where I disagree, which of my original ideas I want to keep and which I want to tweak.
5. Revise, revise. No, not done yet. Revise.
What kinds of changes can you make during revision? In ONE picture book manuscript, apart from the usual cleaning up, I have made the following changes:
· From present tense to past tense
· From third person to first person narrator
· I rewrote the middle and sent it for a critique
· Then I rewrote the beginning and the end
· I looked at all my verbs. Are they active? Are they vivid?
· I crossed out all descriptions that could be shown in illustrations.
· I searched for places where I could include senses the illustrator cannot show.
· I attempted to add humor
· I amped up the tension
· I changed the title (three times)
One manuscript. Eleven months. A measly 466 words.
Usually, after such major revisions I will send the same manuscript again for critique.
And would you know it? It is still not perfect. But it is beginning to look a lot like a picture book!
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