Manuscript Goals

manuscript

Read. Edit. Revise.

Hello, manuscript. Get ready to work. I have some serious December writing goals. Tomorrow, I will start a new post and update it daily, with notes to myself, in order to be accountable and to reach these goals.

It’s not like I haven’t been writing. I did write in November, I just didn’t do NaNoWriMo. But that’s fine. Honestly, it’s about whether I am writing, not about what or how much. I did NaNo for a few years for confidence and practice and quantity, but I think I need to focus on quality now.

I have three completed novel manuscripts. I’ve submitted one for agent feedback several times, but I’d like to have two others ready to submit. I feel like these two others have good legs when it comes to having strong premises (not just ideas) and interesting, unique characters. They are all middle grade and I feel that’s my sweet spot.

Manuscript #1

So, let’s start with Dare Club.

It has 24 chapters. If I can read, edit and revise 2 chapters a day, that would take me 12 days. I’m already done 5 chapters, so that leaves 19 and I believe I could complete this in 10 days.

Manuscript #2

I don’t have a good title for this manuscript. But the premise is: what happens if a boy who always says the wrong thing finds an iPod that lets him read people’s thoughts?

My pitch is weak. But it’s a start.

“Jace is really good at always saying the wrong thing. When he finds a magical iPod at a flea market, he thinks he has the key to his dreams, starting on the soccer team and getting his first girlfriend. But his life turns into a nightmare when the iPod – and knowing people’s secrets – causes more problems than it solves. Will Jace figure out the real power of the iPod before it’s too late?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in January.

Also, I need a title. Maybe “iSecrets.” No, that’s dumb. Maybe “Open Mouth, Insert Foot.” That’s my working title. Maybe “Shuffle.” Ha.

Outline should take a day, reading and revising 2 chapters a day means at least 2 weeks. And so just this manuscript plus Dare Club takes up all of December.

Manuscript #3

This manuscript also lacks a title. But the premise here is: What happens if the girl who never finishes anything decides she’s going to run a marathon?

The pitch goes something like: “Nobody ever takes twelve-year-old Whitney seriously, mostly because Whitney doesn’t take life seriously. But when Whitney decides to run a marathon, no one believes her. Will Whitney change who she is in the eyes of others or learn who she really is?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in February.

Also I need a title. I’m thinking “Finisher.” Or “DNF” (that stands for Did Not Finish).

Probably the same timeline as Manuscript 2. Can I do three manuscripts in two months? Maybe if I give myself a clear accomplishment goal like “two chapters a day.” That feels defined and manageable.

Short Story Manuscripts

I also need to finish revising “Will Call” and “The Hunter Case” and send them in to the ghost story competition before January 2017.

Picture Book Manuscripts

I want to draft the text for “I Really Love You, Mom, and I Mean It” and bring that to critique group. I also want to craft the dummy for “Digit” and send that on to my selected publisher.

Can I get those short stories and picture books done by February?

Only if I don’t do anything else.

Protagonist v. Main Character v. Antagonist

protagonist

A bumble bee, cousin to my characters, hard at work

 

Protagonist v. Main Character

I’m struggling with characters in my story and their jobs. I think I have one main character and one protagonist. But I was thrilled to find this post from elements of cinema that provides great examples of stories where the main character isn’t always the protagonist, or the protagonist isn’t clear until deep into the story, or even complex stories with an ensemble cast  each going through their own struggle.

I’m working on my bee story and I want my protagonist, the one who chooses, to be my queen been.

I loved finding this post online outlining the differences between MC and Protagonist. The post author says that the main character of The Great Gatsby  is the narrator, Nick (who isn’t even mentioned in the Amazon review!!!!) while the protagonist is of course, Gatsby.

What is the job of the main character? Is just it the narrator? Not exactly. According to another writing blog I found, the main character is the one through which the reader experiences the story. The protagonist is pursuing the story goal.

So with that distinction clarified, I have decided I want my main character to be a worker bee, one who has the job of Forager. She can do tasks that set my protagonist up for the choice that is essential to the story. My main character will also have a choice or two.

Ensemble Cast

I love the idea of an ensemble cast. I’m not looking to create anything as epic as Game of Thrones, but I think I could possibly produce something approaching the Breakfast Club, where the different honeybees come together to save their Hive, which is sort of a character on its own.

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2014/02/17/tips-for-creating-an-ensemble-cast-of-characters/

Antagonist or Villain

Now I have a problem when it comes to antagonist. I had several problems facing my sweet sister honeybees:

  1. Winter
  2. Food source disappearing
  3. A strange new kind of bee that is out to destroying them

But I didn’t actually develop a character as antagonist. I have nameless foes. I have internal conflict and external conflict, but no villain. I’m thinking I need one.

I found this site gives three good elements: vulnerability, believability and invincibility.

Part of me is thinking a drone might make a good villain. A drone would want the natural order of the hive disrupted. A drone is born only to mate with the queen and then lives off the food produced by the workers and then kicked out to die as winter arrives. A drone who likes the sweet life might not want to be kicked out to die as winter arrives. He might look for a queen who is willing to change the way she lives so that he can live his lazy, luxurious life a little longer. He might feed her desire to make her own decisions. I think he could be a good tempter who tries to entice her to give in to her selfishness…which would lead to the end of the Hive. Ok, I think I have my villain.

For more lists about villains, here are five elements. I like intelligent.

Make a Picture Book Draft

I’ve been trying to make a picture book draft once a month, every month, this year. I’m a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 and the focus on productivity and creativity – the art of creating – has been really useful. I know I can come up with an idea once a month and it doesn’t take long to make a picture book draft. These drafts are typically less than 1000 words so it doesn’t take more than an hour to sketch out the first version.

The drafts that seem to work, that could possibly morph into a story for a children’s magazine or perhaps something to bring to critique group and then later to a writer’s intensive at a conference get revised.

As part of the revision process and to test the strength of the story I’ll make a dummy. A dummy is a more detailed draft of the picture book story, laid out with illustrations. Dummies help you see if there are page turning moments, if each set of words can be illustrated, if your story is droning on or getting repetitive.

I’ll also bring my drafts to children to read and critique. My kids are used to being honest about what they like and what they don’t. My kids are also used to seeing picture book drafts that don’t have pictures. But other children aren’t. That’s another good reason to make a dummy.

Make a Picture Book Draft

When you make a picture book draft or dummy, you are working on storyboarding. I have experimented with three different ways of making picture book dummies and storyboarding my tales.

The first is very visual, a traditional storyboard approach. I used this format a lot when planning out the text and illustrations for Dinosaur Boogie.

make a picture book draft

Just needs a story.

 

The second way is a bit more traditional. The instructions come from Ann Whitford Paul’s book Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. She advises you take four pieces of paper and cut them into quarters. Staple them together and you have the pages you need to lay the text and illustrations for a traditional 32 page picture book.

Make a picture book draft

Long and short stories.

Following Whitford Paul’s advice I created books of different sizes and orientations to accommodate different amounts of text. But I innovated a little with this method and used scrap paper. Yes, that means I can’t write directly on these pages, but I can write text on post-it notes and move them around inside the book pages easily. I can also scribble something on a post-it regarding illustration and move that around, too, and experiment with a little bit of graphic design. Do I want the text above the art? Below? Around the side?

Which leads me to my third method that I use to make a picture book draft or dummy: InDesign. I’m no expert, but I can get around in InDesign. So I will create a document with lots of pages, put my text in and then search on Google for free images. I’m not going to use these images for a profit so I could probably use images that aren’t free, but I like to keep things honest. Then I print out a simple version of an illustrated dummy. These are the versions I take into my favorite test classrooms and try out on kids that aren’t mine.

picture book draft

Ready to read.

Not too shabby! And I find bringing illustrated dummies to classrooms helps me get a sense of the kids’ real reaction to story instead of them being confused about where the pictures are. And they love learning the phrase “picture book dummy.”

So how do you go about making a picture book draft or dummy? Do you have a favorite method? Are you hi-tech or old school?

Creativity and Goals

I’m not sure what’s in store during the dog days of summer, but I definitely went through a “spring slump.” In early May after the completion of some big road races and writing conferences. Although I had plenty on my plate and managed to meet the deadlines for client projects, I wasn’t feeling the love I usually need to boost my own projects.

I didn’t fight the slump. I slid into it. And then after an indecent amount of time slumping, I slid back out. Right at the time my laptop suffered water damage. So there I was without my main means of creativity just when I’d managed to wake up my muse.

I’ve got my laptop and my energy back. And I’m tapping into two things that help me make good things. I’m hitting halfway on my book reading goal and it’s day 180 out 185 in the year. I’m running again and boosting my energy. I signed up for an art class called Zentangle that truly allowed me the chance to create a lovely little piece of art and reinforced my feelings of positive accomplishment.

How do you boost your creativity?

zentangle creativity

Getting a little creative

What Goes in Work Bags?

contents of work bags

What’s in your work bag?

Work bags are essential for freelancers. I rarely go places without mine. Not everyone can work at home all the time, even freelancers need to visit the outside world. Sometimes I’m meeting deadlines at soccer practice, cranking out words at a local coffee shop, or strategizing at a client’s office. I don’t mind leaving my home office but I do mind when I’ve forgotten something essential.

So I wanted to put together a standard ‘desk on the go’ that was always ready in case I wanted to head out the door and didn’t leave myself enough to check over the contents of the bag.

So I asked four creative professionals what they always pack in their work bags in order to get things done.

First I asked Susan Paff from Ideality Communications what she carries.

“Believe it or not I used to carry a travel file folder in my trunk. Now dropbox carries everything for me. A laptop, an iPad, an iPhone – I’ve worked from them all. Add Skype for conferencing and messaging and we can work from anywhere.”

Susan sent her answer using voice texting from Siri. I’m impressed at her multi-tasking.

Shawn Graham, who offers marketing services for badass small businesses, brings these items:

  • Laptop (with charger)
  • Tablet
  • Pen
  • Outlet
  • Internet Access
  • Table/Chair
  • Cell Phone (with charger)
  • Coffee
  • Ear buds (personal preference or if people are loud talking around you)
Both Shawn and Susan provide serious creative strategizing for their many clients. I wondered if writers have anything different in their work bags?
So I asked Jennifer Bright Reich, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and
Feeling Great.

This is a great question, thanks for asking! I generally work in my home office, but each week when my boys are in karate, I usually take “the show on the road.” I have a large laptop bag that’s about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage. I always keep it packed and ready to roll! Even though there was some up-front cost, I bought duplicates of most things in my bag so that way I keep the extras in there and don’t forget to pack them!Here’s what’s inside:
Spare laptop cord
Spare mouse and my Disney Vacation Club mousepad (Will work to travel!)
Spare calculator
Pens, Post-it notes, pencils

I liked that Jennifer packs Post-it notes and I think I’m going to add that to my work bag. Local science writer Beth Skwarecki was the only one who mentioned a caffeinated beverage – maybe that’s why we make such good writing partners.

Here’s what Beth keeps in her work bag:

1. My laptop.
2. The knowledge/attitude that if I have my laptop, I have the tools I need to get work done. Even if I don’t have internet, I can draft, outline, or brainstorm.
3. My smartphone – in case I don’t have internet, I can still look stuff up. (Or take a peek at my email without getting bogged down in it.)
4. Headphones, in case people are getting loud; and a playlist that helps me tune out distractions. I like ambient music like God Is An Astronaut.
5. A notebook (and pen), or failing that, a scrap of paper. I write down things that pop into my head that I don’t have time to deal with at the moment; I also use it for brainstorming and organization. It’s like having an extra brain.
6. Extras that are helpful: laptop charger, usb cable to charge phone, caffeinated beverage or means of procuring same.
Of course everybody I talked to has some serious tech in their work bags. But old-fashioned paper snuck it’s way in there, too. It looks like almost everyone uses earphones, too, whether for phone calls or inspirational music. I feel like I’m well on my way to having a useful bag ready whenever I need to rush out the door. Of course I always have a nice selection of pens. They are so crucial to my productivity. But if you look closely at the photo at the top of the post you’ll see a funny little metal rectangle. I have no idea what it’s called but I call it a book stand or book holder. I’ve had it for years and I love it. It is always with me in my work bag, at my desk, wherever I go. It is my essential item.

 

Gardens: Great Idea for Picky Eaters

Planting the seeds of healthy eating

Planting the seeds of healthy eating

Growing a Good Eater

Growing a Good Eater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you live in an apartment with no yard at all, you can grow food in containers and help your picky eater learn to try new foods.

I loved reading about a study from Australia that showed school children who participated in gardening and cooking classes were willing to try new foods and make healthier choices.

When I conducted a Lunch and Learn for Farm to Table, I shared this information and talked about the importance of helping our children grow food, choose food at the grocery store (and by that I mean fresh produce, not their favorite sugary boxed cereal) and prepare food at home. Each of these opportunities to encounter healthy whole foods turns something unknown into something familiar and increases the willingness of the child to try it. And as your child tries new food, don’t forget to help them keep track in My Food Notebook. Kids love sharing their opinions knowing their  input matters!

Here are the details of the study:

A group of investigators from the University of Melbourne and Deakin University recruited a total of 764 children in grades 3 to 6 and 562 parents participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. The program model is embedded in the school curriculum and includes 45 minutes per week in a garden class with a garden specialist and 90 minutes per week in the kitchen with a cooking specialist. The program is designed to give children knowledge and skills in environmentally sustainable gardening along with the skills to prepare and cook 3- or 4-course meals based on available fresh produce from the garden. Different dishes prepared each week included handmade pastry, bread and pasta, salads, curries, and desserts.

According to Lisa Gibbs, PhD, principle investigator, one of the major themes that emerged from the study was children eating and appreciating new foods. She said, “The program introduced children to new ingredients and tastes, and within a short time almost all children were prepared to at least try a new dish. Teachers at several schools also reported that they had seen a noticeable improvement in the nutritional quality of the food that children had been bringing to school for snacks and lunches since the program had been introduced.”

Petra Staiger, PhD, co-investigator from Deakin University added, “Data and class observations also suggested that the social environment of the class increased children’s willingness to try new foods. This included sitting down together to share and enjoy the meal that they had prepared, with encouragement to taste but no pressure to eat.”

From the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Is it your job to get kids to eat?

Do a quick search of “picky eater” and you will discover parents are constantly stressing about picky eaters. But what if we didn’t? What if we served meals and let our children choose whether to eat it – or not? Is it ok, as a parent, to not make my kids eat?

I wish I could do that, but it just annoys me when he doesn’t eat. It bothers me that I (or my husband) cooked food and he refuses to even taste it. It gets under my skin that he claims he doesn’t like “anything.”

Providing nutritious food to my children feels like one of my main objectives as a parent, and because I am intrinsically motivated to complete objectives, I work hard to get them to eat.

Not interested.

I’ve tried these strategies:

1. One bite of each food based on your age. Simple math.

2. If there are 3 things on the plate you must finish two in order to do X activity after dinner. (Fractions are fun!)

3. You don’t have to eat what I cooked but I’m not cooking anything else. (The theory here is he’ll eat a better breakfast).

4. You don’t have to eat what I cooked and there is no dessert or “bedtime snack.” (Motivation. Or bribe.)

5. Reverse psychology! “I’m leaving the table, when I come back, all that food better be there!”

6. When you’re hungry later, I’ll re-heat this dinner for you.

Sometimes I just give up. Even though I feel like it’s my job to get him to eat, I know there is no end-of-the-year review of my performance.

Do you ever give up?

What’s Your Obstacle?

Make each minute count.

Make each minute count.

We’ve made our New Year’s Resolutions. Mine is: Finish, polish and publish that young adult novel you’re writing. I’ve got the desire to achieve this and the support of my family. This is the “Year of the Book.”

But it’s not going to be easy. There are obstacles.

How will I reach my goal? By identifying and eliminating obstacles.

I used to think my obstacle was “not enough time.” But it’s not. It’s “bad use of time.” There are lots of things that can distract me, use up my time and waste my time. Some I can control, some I can’t.

Do you know your obstacles? If you want to reach your goals or resolutions, you need to know what obstacles you will confront so you can be prepared to face them…and knock ’em down.

Be honest. Be specific. Be brave.

What are YOUR obstacles?

Recipe for Success: Self-Publishing

Jennifer Bright Reich is the author of six books – all self-published- including the very popular Mommy MD Guides and owner of Momosa Publishing Company. Here she offers her recipe for success and reminds us that it takes time to bring any big project to life.

Is self-publishing right for you?

Why did you choose to self-publish? My coauthor, Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, and I decided to start our own publishing company so we would have creative control over our books and so that we could create a team of talented writers, editors, designers, and indexers and help to support their businesses as well.

How long did you work on this project from idea conception to print reality? It took us nine months to create The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth from start to receiving printed books—just like a “real” baby.” We stretched our schedule to 11 months for The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years, and The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great, which is “due” September 2013, to give us a bit more wriggle room.

Was there a mistake you made/almost made that taught you something significant about self-publishing?  Our nine-month schedule for The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth was achievable, but challenging. So that’s why we gave ourselves more time for our other books.

 

A Little Magic Helps Picky Eaters

 

Do you adore grocery shopping and cooking?  Who doesn’t love making your way down the same old aisles of thestore, grabbing the few standard ingredients needed to tackle the next chore of cooking and then suffering the whines of our kids as they complain and push their plates away?

Re-discover the magic of choosing and preparing food.

Cooking is like magic – you transform separate ingredients into a complete meal. And we learned that we could transform our picky eaters into willing taste-tests by including them in the grocery shopping and cooking. While it seems like a chore to most adults, to kids it’s brand-new and gives them a chance to experience aspects of food that adults take for granted.

Many times, picky eaters are simply scared of the unknown. We have found that when our kids can choose which bunch of broccoli looks “most delicious” at the store or which “new flavor of cheese” they want to try, they are less intimidated.

It was the Irish Soda bread that opened our eyes. Would our pickiest eater ever touch this? No way – there were 


raisins in the bread! But thanks to his cooking class at our Kindercare, he participated from start to finish and loved the bread so much he had trouble sharing it. He knew what was in it and I believe he felt more comfortable trying it!

At home now, we try to include our kids in as much grocery shopping and cooking as possible. Dylan is now quite skilled at making scrambled eggs from start to finish. It’s one of his favorite foods and I love that he understands how much work goes into preparing food.

We try new recipes together, like the very simple process of making homemade tortillas or family favorites like pizza bagels. Starting with something simple and offering options like pesto or black olives is a great way to encourage tasting new foods, too.

Inspired by this discovery, My Food Notebook has a Notes section that allows kids to record what they would like to buy at the grocery store and paste or write their favorite recipes. My older son likes to use the Notes section to invent menus for different restaurants he would like to open. I’m not sure about some of his ideas, but I promised him I’d at least give his recipes a try!