We are thankful to have such warm, supportive individuals who cheer us on and share the highs and lows of the writing and illustrating journey. Thank you!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!
Francine, Annie, Kelly and Amanda
|24 Carrot Writing||
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and our last-minute preparation lists grow from one or two quickly scribbled Post-its into full-fledged Gantt charts, 24 Carrot Writing would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for joining us on the creative journey—for sharing the twists and turns of the creative life on a road scattered with goals and carrots! This week, may you claim snatched moments of solitude amidst family, friends and feasts in order to pamper yourself, write or sketch a little something just for fun, or maybe just have a quiet chat with a family member you see all too infrequently (and who might have an interesting story to tell if asked the right questions!).
We are thankful to have such warm, supportive individuals who cheer us on and share the highs and lows of the writing and illustrating journey. Thank you!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!
Francine, Annie, Kelly and Amanda
24 Carrot Writing is beyond excited to announce that our blogging partner and co-founder, Annie Cronin Romano, will launch her debut picture book, Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Gratitude, this Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at the Silver Unicorn in Acton, MA.
We’ve been on the writing and publishing journey with Annie for over six years—none of us really knows when we came together, but it was long before 24 Carrot Writing was a thing. Since we convened as a writing support and goal-setting group, we have revised numerous drafts of picture books, magazine articles and MG and YA novels. We’ve deleted a few labors of love along the way, killed off a handful of darlings, and critiqued each other’s many drafts that appeared to us in rough or polished form—and everything in between. The four of us have amassed dozens of rejections individually and hundreds collectively.
Through all of this, Annie has been the model of persistence. Even though writing is the job of her heart, it is her second job. Despite a demanding day-job and juggling three teenagers’ schedules, Annie never stops writing. Her focus is laser-like when we have writing retreat days, and she continues to crank out at least one picture book manuscript a month. Her commitment to writing speaks of true passion.
Annie is also the Goddess of Boomeranging—that noble art of sending out a query quickly on the heels of rejection. On the rare occasion when Annie would be wounded by rejection and we worried she would cash in her chips, push back from the poker table and declare loudly and publicly that she had bet enough of her life’s time and energy on snagging the elusive publishing contract, she would find a ray of hope, cling to a hint of encouragement, tackle another revision, and fling another query out into the universe. Annie’s querying is relentless, and she does not wallow in despair. She painstakingly researches appropriate agents and editors and steadily sends out queries each month. And you won’t find a more organized submitter. Her tracking spreadsheets and detail of publisher data would put Sheldon Cooper’s string theory notes to shame.
If you were to take the time to go through the thread of Annie’s blogs on our website, you’ll find her journey…slogging through the emotionally-draining query trenches; balancing writing with social media when she was trying to establish her web presence; turning harsh critique into positive feedback; being happy and joyful about other people’s successes, but still wondering when her break might come; taking control of her goals, but then giving herself the gift of compassion when she couldn’t hit all the pedals from the demands of life, day-job , and writing.
It is because of all of those qualities that we find ourselves where we are today—announcing Annie’s debut picture book! (Before You Sleep is this week’s Book Pick.)
But over and above those wonderful attributes, Annie is our friend. So, yes—Yes!—we celebrate her publishing success and debut book, but we also raise a glass to honor what we love most about Annie—her bravery, her perseverance, her compassion, her kindness, her sense of humor, and her pluck.
From all of us at 24 Carrot Writing –
Francine, Kelly and Amanda
by Francine Puckly
In the past two or three weeks, I’ve come in contact with nearly a dozen writers and illustrators who are struggling. So this post is part blog, part book pick and suggested reading, and part battle cry for all of my creative friends who have hit the wall and are questioning the pursuit of publishing books.
We are living and operating as artists during a time when we are expected to project a lot of energy outwardly—connecting, marketing, networking. Through the conversations I’ve had with writers in the last month, several of them said they had lost their way, and in all of the cases their energy had been depleted by social media, conferences, and the revolving door of submissions and rejections. As another friend told me today, “I have become a professional student, chasing after classes to inspire me to write. I just need to sit down and write.” We featured Melissa Sweet for our illustrator month, and she spoke of the lessons she learned from E. B. White while writing and illustrating the exquisite book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. While E. B. White might have been eccentric in his need for nature, he can teach us about pulling back, sitting with an idea, and letting nature nurture us as our ideas are developed. Any man who spends a year studying spiders has something to teach me about pacing myself. We owe ourselves a break from the fast lane in order to reconnect to our writing. We can only spin like a top for so long before we lose steam, wobble, and topple over.
Instead I say, let’s embrace and find inspiration in life. If I stop and look around, I can find inspiration in all of my day-to-day surroundings. For starters, I am inspired by my daughter’s 99-year-old dance teacher, Georgia Deane, who continues to teach, dance and sing every day. (Here she is performing in Arizona last month.) And then there’s my critique group member who has spent years pulling together a family tome of photos, family trees and stories, poetry, and Ancestry.com details to pass along to her nieces and nephews. When she shared the book Monday night, we were speechless. The detail and care that had gone into creating it could rival any book written. Big publishing house project? Nope. But what a gift. Another friend faces a recurrence of cancer but remains upbeat and continues to draft her most riveting YA fantasy yet, and I can’t wait to read it! I’ve been on all sorts of adventures this summer with my son as he searches for a new home next year—at a university that will embrace all of his loves. It’s taking over a great deal of my “writing time” but I wouldn’t miss this journey for anything. The writing will have to wait.
This is life. We live it. We embrace it. We feel it. We will eventually create from it.
My friend and 24 Carrot co-founder Annie Cronin Romano said in one of our goals meetings last month that she was going to “throw it at the page.” Her wisdom hit me like a slap across the face. I have been struggling with a complete rewrite of a novel, but I was spending an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to control the direction of the writing. I had lost the love of sitting down with a cuppa, my favorite pens, and a pad and writing for the sheer joy of seeing something new—something never written before—on paper. It had been a long time since I had experienced that oneness with a snippet of a thought or story. Long overdue. So despite the fact that I have a meaningful and immediate deadline ahead, I am reeling myself in. I am going to dip in, splash it, mix it, repeat. I will trust that this is the only viable process if I’m going to deliver something fresh and engaging. I will probably miss my deadline but I'm determined to enjoy this process.
Autumn is here. Nature beckons, as do our creative souls. Go back to the basics. Do whatever you need to truly live and retrieve the joy you once knew when you sat down to draw or write. If you live in a place with seasons, take a hike, play in a pile of leaves, drink warm cider. If you live in a place without seasons, go to the beach or bask in the warmth in other ways! If rain drives you inside, buy a box of crayons or a set of watercolor paints (the kind with only eight colors and one brush). And listen to E. B. White’s wisdom. Explore The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic by Michael Sims and The Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White. And definitely don’t miss out on Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet!
By Kelly Carey
We are abuzz at 24 Carrot Writing, as one of our founders, Annie Cronin Romano, prepares for the launch of her debut picture book, Before You Sleep, due out October 9, 2018 from Page Street Publishing.
I’d like to take this time to reflect on the integral part Annie has played in our writing group and on the way our group has supported Annie on her writing journey. My purpose is to highlight the benefits of joining a writing group, encourage you to become an active and fully engaged member of a writing tribe, and to point out the significant advantages, for all writers, regardless of where they are on the writing path of belonging to a writing community.
I’m Just Starting. What Could I Possible Offer?
When our founding mother, Francine Puckly, first gathered our group of four together and suggested we start 24 Carrot Writing, I wondered what a group of barely published, novice writers, in the infancy of their writing careers could offer each other let alone a larger audience. Luckily, Francine drowned out those concerns with her dogged determination that we had big things to contribute both to each other and to the KidLit industry.
At the very beginning, we offered each other companionship as we set out on our writing voyage. And this has made all the difference in helping us persevere in the face of form rejections, harsh critiques, and self-doubt. Our shared goal, a desire to be successful KidLit writers, meant we brought a unique understanding of how it feels to struggle with plot, manage word count, construct a query letter, and suffer the pain of form rejections. We knew exactly how significant a completed first draft was, we celebrated a revision break through with appropriate verve, and we cheered raucously when publishing success found our group. Our non-writing friends and family were supportive, but our group of fellow writers offered a kinship only they could bring to the table.
That kinship is critical in a career that so often requires you to be alone with your laptop. If you are fortunate, your inner voice can help sustain you along your writing path. But, I would argue that the fresh and often kinder voices of trusted fellow writers are a necessary and crucial component to writing success.
Francine was right. No matter where you are on the path, or how new your journey is, if you want to write, if you are determined to become a KidLit author, then you have an impactful role to play in a group of like-minded writers.
We Can Cover More Ground Together
We could all agree that a single person cannot read every new KidLit book; devour every article in a trade journal; take every workshop; attend every book event; and connect with every single agent, editor, librarian, bookstore owner and KidLit author in our industry. But, if you commit to a group of writers, allow them to get to know your style, show them your manuscripts, talk openly about your writing strengths and weakness, then you will have a team helping you accomplish your goals.
Annie has recommended books that are great comp titles for Amanda’s PB. Francine has forwarded marketing articles to Annie, weeks after her contract was signed, because she knew Annie would benefit from the information. Just this week, Amanda sent me the names of two editors she felt might be a great match for a manuscript I have on submission. There is no doubt that our writing group is giving each of us extra writing focused eyes and ears to help us on our individual journeys.
We are looking out for each other, for our manuscripts, for our submissions, for our writing, and offering targeted advice and help. These informed knowledgeable connections that we bring to each other are only possible because we have freely and candidly opted to share our writing journey. You can certainly go it alone. But, a tribe will facilitate your path to success and you will reach your goal faster and with more joy along the way if you invite others on your trip.
The Friction of Give and Take Sparks Success
As Annie launches her book next month, our writing group will be out in force to help her set up her event, offer a knowing and encouraging wink, and ensure that this special moment goes off without a hitch. For months, we have acted as a sounding board as Annie worked through the steps of planning the arrival of her new book. We offered suggestions, forwarded marketing opportunities, shared Annie’s news on our personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, and helped make sure that Annie heard positive and encouraging voices when concerns or doubts surfaced.
In return, Annie has given us reason to celebrate. We are motivated by her success to send out queries with hopeful abandon. Sometimes the phrase “success breeds success” can have negative connotations, in the case of a solid writing group, I would argue that “success motivates success”. This is a rough rejection filled industry and feeling connected to Annie’s success has given each member of her writing tribe a burst of sunshine.
Having a front row seat to Annie’s success also means we have seen firsthand how a launch works. We may have been helping Annie with her book, but she has given us the opportunity to learn and prepare for our own launches. I know I am grateful that when my debut launches in 2020, I will have been a part of Annie’s journey and she will be a solid advisor who I will rely on.
Don’t Hike Alone
I love hiking because it offers the joy of communing with nature, the gorgeous vistas along the path, and the euphoric feeling of accomplishment when you summit at the end of the trail. But, I have never opted to hike alone. That seems scary and dangerous. So why would I ever choose to travel my writing path alone?
You could choose to hike into the woods, carrying everything you think you could possibly need in your own backpack. When you happen upon a stunning vista, I suppose it is glorious even if you have no one to share it with. But I would argue that the ability to share revelations, successes, and the burdens in your pack make the journey easier and more enjoyable. That is exactly what we did and why 24 Carrot Writing has become a growing and dynamic group.
The benefits of sharing your writing career are vast. Your writing tribe will keep you motivated, remind you to take advantage of workshops, greet you at conferences, buoy you when you hit writing walls, and celebrate your success.
If you are a part of 24 Carrot Writing – congratulations! You have recognized that you have something significant to offer a writing community, you have a team supporting your writing journey, and you will feel the success sparked by our collective energy. I’m so happy you decided not to hike alone!
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!
Guest Blog by Tim McCanna
I wrote my first picture book manuscript in March of 2009. I still have the file in a Dropbox folder where I keep all of my story drafts. Seeing the file’s creation date made me realize that I’m approaching the ten year marker of when I decided to leap into children’s literature.
Ten years is a long time to commit to anything. It’s plenty of time to experience failures and a few successes. You can surprise yourself one day and feel like you’re spinning your wheels the next. Is the 46-year-old me any wiser than the 36-year-old me? Maybe a little. I definitely have more gray hair. If I could give that young whippersnapper some friendly advice, here’s what I’d tell him…
STEER CLEAR OF THE SLUSH PILE
Let me save you some time and heartbreak, pal. Resist the slush pile submissions. You might as well go buy a lottery ticket or hunt for diamond rings at the beach. Yes, it can be tempting. And sure, lighting can strike. But especially when you’re starting out, the odds are not in your favor. You’ve got more productive things to do:
NUMBER ONE: Embrace the industry.Participate! Join SCBWI, volunteer, read blogs and reviews, listen to kid lit podcasts, and attend conferences and workshops so you can gain a pro-level understanding of how all the pieces of this business fit together.
NUMBER TWO: Make friends.Do anything it takes to join or form a critique group. Share your work and your experiences with these people. They will be your life raft in the turbulent kid lit seas. When you’re at a conference, turn to the people beside you and introduce yourself. Then ask them what they do. It really works.
NUMBER THREE: When all else fails, stick to your craft.If you’re feeling lonely or unsuccessful or unsure what to do to move forward, allow yourself some quality time to pursue creativity. Write, sketch, brainstorm titles, whatever.
Do all that and you’ll be too busy for the slush pile! Eventually, exciting opportunities will organically present themselves and propel your career forward in meaningful ways.
CUT IT OUT WITH THOSE 700 WORD MANUSCRIPTS
Hey man, a lot of your early manuscripts were too long. That’s okay. Don’t judge your work in those formative writing days. You have to put in the time to develop a sense of pacing and rhythm and structure. Get that first story out of your system and move on to the next one. While you write, read current published books and figure out why those manuscripts sold. Count the words on each spread, consider the passage of time between page turns, read out loud to a kid. At some point—after years of study and practice—something will click. You’ll see the difference between writing a story and crafting a picture book. You’ll actually treasure the editing and rewriting process. And when you figure out how to tell the same 700 word story in 285 words… that’s when the magic happens, buddy.
PLAY WITH WORDS
Your stories aren’t “leaping off the page” yet? Stretch those writing muscles. Trust your gut! Try something new! Be daring and innovative with letters, words, and phrases. You might discover a voice you didn’t know you had. You might even catch the attention of an editor with a fresh meter or distinctive grammatical style. Watersong started out as an experimental list of onomatopoeia strung together in rhyme. BOING! A Very Noisy ABC is a story told completely in alphabetical order. Recommended reading: Making the Alphabet Dance by Ross Eckler is an incredible book on wordplay. Could you write a novel without using the letter E? Somebody did!
Good luck, you handsome thirty-something aspiring author. Making picture books is a slow process. The industry is slow. It just is. Don’t try to rush your craft or your career. Every day offers an opportunity to practice and learn, so focus on that. Getting published is a great goal, but the journey is where the real achievement happens.
Tim McCanna is the author of Bitty Bot, Barnyard Boogie, Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, and Watersong, which is a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids and a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Notable Poetry Book. His upcoming 2018 picture books include Jack B. Ninja, So Many Sounds, and BOING! A Very Noisy ABC. He lives in San Jose, California with his wife and two kids. Find Tim online at www.timmccanna.com.
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!
Congratulations to Dee Romito with the release of her new middle-grade novel, POSTCARDS FROM VENICE,
a companion to THE BFF BUCKET LIST. We are honored that Dee took a break from the book birthday celebrations to talk about writing timelines.
Guest blog by Dee Romito
One of the questions I’m often asked is how long it takes me to write a book. The thing is, it’s not a simple answer.
My first manuscript took a year to write, and I’ve always thought of it like working on a Master’s Project. I was learning how to write a book with that manuscript. My next one took six months. The next, four months. During that time, I was also exchanging with critique partners. Which means those time frames include waiting for feedback.
Being able to complete a project in less time was definitely good practice for when I’d have actual deadlines. And while you may or may not write faster as you grow as a writer, remember that becoming a stronger writer is really about practicing and continuing to learn your craft.
Most of my books have sold on proposal, which means I wrote sample chapters and a synopsis and was then asked to write the rest. In those cases, I had between 4-7 months to turn in a somewhat polished draft to my editor. And for me, that means leaving time to have my trusted critique partners give me feedback, and then revise based on their notes.
However, my new release, POSTCARDS FROM VENICE, took longer. Maybe … eight months for that first draft? And it took much longer in revisions too.
This book was different. For one thing, I was still at various stages in the process with two other books, so I was essentially working on three books at the same time. It was like a revolving door of stories that I had to keep track of. I couldn’t devote all my writing time to any one project. Not to mention the time I spent working on promotion for the other books.
There was also a lot I needed to learn for this book. It takes place in Venice, where I’ve never been. There’s some Italian in the book, but I took Spanish in school. And there’s an Australian boy, who I wanted to be sure was authentic. And did I mention I’ve never been to Venice?
So it took time. It took Google Earth and Pinterest and Tripadvisor.com’s reviews of tourist sites and travel blogs. It took critique partners and reaching out to friends of friends who had been to or lived in Venice. It took lots of questions and lots of videos of Italy. It took listening and reading and researching. And with all of that to think about, sometimes I needed to step away from the project and work on something else.
So how long does it take to write a book? The real answer is that it depends. Which means it’s up to you to answer that question on your own, without a preconceived notion of how long it should take.
I asked a few published middle grade author friends, and the responses to “How long does it take you to write a book?” ranged from a month to two years.
It takes what it takes, and many factors come into play—the category, the genre, the word count, how complex the project is, if you plot extensively or spend more time in revisions, if there are deadlines, if critique partners or agents need time to read, if you have other books to work on or have other life-related things going on, how fast you can write, etc. The time it takes you to write a book could be years or it could be months. And how fast you write does not determine how good the book will be.
Having a general idea of ranges when it comes to the publishing world is helpful. But always know that you will have your own challenges and goals, and your own path. Finishing a book is one thing, but starting one … Well, now that’s something you can accomplish right now. 😊
Dee Romito is a former elementary teacher and is the author of THE BFF BUCKET LIST, NO PLACE LIKE HOME and co-authored BEST. NIGHT. EVER. Always a traveler at heart, she's sent postcards of Big Ben from London, of snow-capped mountains from Switzerland, and of majestic castles from Ireland. Although she's only been to Italy once for a quick plate of pasta, sending a post card from Venice just might be on her bucket list. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com
Dee is also the Scrivener Queen. For Scrivener advice, writers can head over to her blog
by Francine Puckly
It’s spring! Time to dust off the mantel, shine up the windows, replace the rotting floorboards on the deck, and apply a fresh coat of paint to our nicked-up walls. But spring spruce-up doesn’t stop with our homes. Refreshing our writing spaces and projects before the heat of the summer hits is equally important. This is not a waste of valuable work time. Rather, this is rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit so that we can go forth with extra verve as we tackle our projects. So grab the 24 Carrot Spring Checklist and get your ideas and writing space tidied up!
Clear Away Winter Debris
Just as we strip off heavy, flannel bedding and replace it with light cotton inside our homes and remove dead leaves and stems from our gardens outside, we also need to strip away paper clutter in our offices in order to lighten up for the summer. Spring is the perfect time to clear the unwanted and unnecessary (also known as “managing your papers”). New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield once said, “Tidied all my papers. Tore up and ruthlessly destroyed much. This is always a great satisfaction.” She was right. It feels great!
Be ruthless with your papers.
* Did you forget to file your conference handouts or have multiple copies of critique comments on your most recent manuscript or portfolio review lying around? Clear those papers. (Taming Conference Handouts). Keep only what cannot be referenced online. Remember: owner’s manuals, newspaper and magazine articles, and oftentimes workshop presentations are all available at the click of your mouse. There’s no need to keep the extra paper cluttering up your space.
* Have you been super aggressive with your annual goals and are juggling multiple projects? Make sure each project has its own hanging file with manila folders labeled Research, Marketing, Synopsis and Query Details, Drafts, and any other categories that are helpful for you. Place a cover sheet inside each file that gives a brief summary of the project at the top and then a blank section where you can list what is needed for the project: Do you need to buy or request research books or mentor texts from the library? Do you need to interview someone? If so, list those items here. When you open up the file in the future, your next steps are front and center.
* Keep all of your project files in one file drawer so you can reference them and also quickly refile them so that you won’t add to the clutter in your space.
* Once you’ve gone through all of your papers, compost that “yard waste” by shredding and recycling all of your papers!
Prune Dead or Damaged Branches
Are you hanging on to ideas that are dead? Don’t be afraid to prune out ideas and projects that you no longer have passion for. It’s okay to let go of the 47 versions of the very first picture book you ever attempted. Keep the draft that’s most nostalgic and let the rest go. Did you try a first draft of a psychological thriller and then decide your voice was in quirky middle grade humor? Delete the project and recycle the drafts.
Sharpen Your Tools
Writing with a pen that’s desperately low on ink? Choosing to print in gray scale because you can’t find or haven’t bought a replacement ink cartridge for the printer? Time to restock your supplies! Take a 20-minute trip to your favorite office supply store and refresh your supply of pens, pencils, paper clips, sticky notes, ink cartridges, file folders and paper and pads for your office area.
Wipe Down the Walls
Yup. This is the Lemon Pledge portion of our checklist. Now that you’ve tidied your workspace, it really is time to pull out the cleaning supplies. Be sure to vacuum, dust the corners, check the light bulbs in your desk lamp, and shine the windows. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers or clip some lilacs from the garden. Arrange them in a pretty vase on your desk.
Fertilize Your Lawn
Our creativity won’t grow if we don’t take time to fill our wells with joy and new ideas. Start a summer reading list of genre books or summer beach novels. Crack out the sangria and enjoy a light and happy movie that makes you laugh or possibly dance.
Spring really is the time to lighten up. Take a few hours out to spruce up your space and care for your papers and projects. You’ll go forward with renewed energy as the Summer Solstice approaches!
~ by Amanda Smith
Dear First-time Conference Attendee,
Phew! What a weekend! Is your head still spinning with all you heard and everyone you met? Are you finding yourself alternating between euphoric highs, having walked the hallways with legends, and gloomy lows with whispers of “but do I belong?” haunting your dreams?
Let me assure you, I know the feeling. I attended my first NESCBWI conference seven years ago. I was just returning to writing and not sure of anything yet. The inevitable ice-breaker “What do you write?” stumped me all day long. Because I went to the conference to figure that out! As I shared workshops with seemingly confident people who were much more knowledgeable than I was, I felt my voice getting smaller and smaller. By lunch time I was barely a whisper. Somehow, in my oblivion, I ended up at a table with YA and MG writers who were all either published or on the cusp of getting published. They included me, took interest in my work, encouraged me, gave advice, and showed extreme kindness.
I left the conference knowing this:
So, dear First-timer, here are some post-conference tips for you:
by Francine Puckly
For years I have been revising and polishing one of my manuscripts in order to get it ready for an agent or editor. It’s been a struggle, a journey sprinkled with pockets of both excitement and disillusionment. I’ve had it critiqued numerous times by my critique group members and various other beta readers. I’ve also paid for 10-page critiques, first page critiques, query critiques, more 10-page critiques and back around again. This past weekend I attended a regional conference and had two more industry professionals weigh in on the manuscript. They were in violent agreement. I continue to miss the mark.
I read over their feedback several times. I had a two-hour “therapy session” with a writing colleague who is familiar with the manuscript. Then just this morning I pulled out two files of notes from past workshops and conferences—one on Beginnings, the other on Character Development. The file on Beginnings was a slap in the face. There, dated four years earlier, was feedback about my opening chapters—almost verbatim to the feedback I received a few days ago. Nothing had changed.
So I either A) hadn’t learned a thing in four years, B) don’t possess the skill to fix it, or C) am locked into what has already been written and can’t break out of the word trap to fix the problems with the novel. I’m going with option C.
I’m fiddling, not fixing. I’m tweaking, not writing fresh new prose. I’m trying to force stale, overworked characters to fit a pre-determined plot instead of creating fresh, fabulous characters and then sending them (and the reader) on an exciting journey that incorporates character, voice, and setting.
So I’m following Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s lead. I deleted all of the drafts of that manuscript from my hard drive. (Confession: I’m not crazy. Unlike Lynda, I do have them saved to an external drive. But the drive is packed away in the deep recesses of my office closet and not easily accessed.)
How do I feel after deleting five years of work? I’m scared to death! I’ve consumed every piece of chocolate in the house and thought about opening a bottle of wine at 8:30 this morning. (I opted for a decaf earl grey latte…) But I also know deep in my bones that this was the right move. I won't go back to those drafts on the external drive.
I have work to do. An editor I greatly respect suggested a list of novels to study on character and beginnings. I will. I am. I will go back to the drawing board on creating, sketching and really getting to know my characters. And only after I complete those tasks will I sit down and rewrite the story. With renewed vigor. With soulful characters. From scratch.
The 24 Carrot writers are
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