Showing posts with label critique groups. Show all posts
Showing posts with label critique groups. Show all posts

8 Steps to Take Before Submitting Your Manuscript


Writing is a personal experience. Each writer faces his or her own obstacles and processes. But, one common aspect of writing is it always starts with an idea.

You may take that idea and turn it into an outline. You then take your outline and sprinkle it with letters and words and watch it grow. Words turn into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.

The journey can take months and even years.

It's the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.

Then the day finally arrives. Your manuscript is complete. The query letter is ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again.

But, hold on a minute.

Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?

There are eight steps that every writer, especially those new to the business of writing, should follow before submitting a manuscript:

1.    Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then self-edit your story until it’s the best it can be.

2.    Make sure you belong to a critique group in your genre and submit your manuscript to them. 

3.    Revise your story again taking into account the critiques you received.

Here you want to use common sense in regard to which critiques you listen to. If all your critique group members tell you a particular section of your children’s story isn't age appropriate, listen.

If one member tells you he/she doesn’t like the protagonist’s name, use your own discretion.

4.    Resubmit the manuscript to the critique group again. See if you’ve revised or removed all the problem areas.

5.    Proofread and self-edit the manuscript until you think it’s perfect.

6.    Print the manuscript and check it again. You’ll be surprised at the different types of errors that will be found in this format. You should use a colored pen or pencil for these corrections so they’ll be easy to spot later on.

7.    Now, it’s time for the final corrections. Give it another go over.

8.    Have your manuscript professionally edited.

If you’re questioning why you need to have your manuscript professionally edited after going to the trouble of having it critiqued and worked on it meticulously and endlessly, the answer is simple: An author and a critique group are not a match for the expert eyes of a professional editor.

- Did you and your critique group catch all the punctuation errors?
- How about knowing when or if it is permissible to use quotation marks outside of dialogue?
- Do you know about the Find function on your word program to check for over used words, such as 'was' and 'very.'
- What about ellipsis dots, or the over use of adjectives and adverbs?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Isn’t it understandable why it’s important to take that extra step, and yes, expense, to have your manuscript edited?

If you’re undecided, ask the professional writers you know if they recommend it. You can also ask if they could recommend a qualified and affordable editor.

The powers that be, editors, agents, reviewers, and publishers, all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not.

Every house needs a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing - it will provide a solid foundation.

The number of authors seeking publishers and/or agents is staggering. Yet, the number of publishers and agents is limited. Give your manuscript every advantage possible. One of those advantages is having it professionally edited. It can be the deciding factor in whether your manuscript makes it to the editor’s ‘to read’ pile or the trash pile.

~~~~~

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

And, get your copy of Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 16th century China. Honored with the Children’s Literary Classics Silver Award.



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Fine Art of Asking for Reviews



The Fine Art of Asking for Reviews, Blurbs and Anything Else

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Excerpted and Adapted from the third in the multi award-winning How To Do It Frugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

To find even more support for your book or your career, we often need to get more comfortable with asking. You can put your reporter’s hat on and ask—tactfully—questions that will help your career or for favors that will help you expand your base (including reviews, blurbs, advice, etc.). Make the point that your contact’s answer or help is a gift to you, and that you would be pleased to reciprocate when the need arises. Try some of these possibilities:
  • Ask fellow attendees at writers’ or other conferences.
  • Ask directors of conferences if they offer a review exchange or provide an area where you can distribute fliers or sell your books. If the answer, is no, ask if they have other suggestions or know of other resources that might help you.
  • Ask instructors and presenters if they have a list of pertinent resources or know where you can find one.
  • When you’re on the Web, look at the resource pages of the Websites owned by bloggers and other online entities to glean ideas and help. Use the contact feature to ask questions or send queries.
  • Think about classes you have taken. The instructors may have a policy against reviewing students’ work but may be a resource for other needs; , ditto for your fellow students. (I hope you would try to do the same for them!)
  • Ask members of your critique groups or business/professional organizations.
  • When you read, make a note of books and their authors, columnists, experts in your field. Almost all magazines, newspapers and journals list publishers, editors, columnists, etc. and you might be surprised at how many might say “yes” to a request for a blurb or a mention of your service or book as a resource. 
 MORE ABOUT TODAY’S CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR:

This little how-to article was extracted and adapted from my giant (415 pages) of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.                                                        There is just so much to know about putting reviews to work for your book and endorsements (for your book or business!) Learn more about my books for writers and visit my free Writers’ Resources pages at: https://howtodoitfrugally.com/.                                                                    It’s also easy to use my review blog. Just follow the submission guidelines in the left column at http://TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com.  I am also proud to celebrating the launch of the third edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter which—in its first edition—was the flagship book of my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.  My publisher, Modern History Press, is helping me with the launch with a discount  on his website at https://www.modernhistorypress.com/frugal.



Writers: How to Handle a Difficult Critique


There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation,
 hard work, and learning from failure. Colin Powell

THE FIRST PAGE. The most important page in your entire book. A recent SCBWI Shop Talk meeting focused on the keys to a successful first page, or rather the necessary keys to the first page of your novel or nonfiction book, that will either interest an editor or agent . . . or not.

The text I took was the first page of my second book, Book Two in a middle grade mystery series. It was the best I could do at the time. Was I in for a shock when my entire attempt got kicked to the curb.

On the ride home, I felt wrung out. I allowed myself to feel this way until the garage door opened. Then I put the meeting's papers to the side and took up an enjoyable pastime to ease the tension. It worked. I had a good sleep. The next day I got to work.

This technique has served me well over the years, learned from one of my writing courses upon receiving a rejection. Of course, you're going to be upset. You can't deny those feelings, so you go with them for fifteen minutes, max. Then you either take a short break like I did, or you get back to work. If you're feeling especially low, get out any praises you've collected from editors, readers, and critiquers, and pour over them. Believe you're a good writer. Then get back to work.
 
Same could be said for successes. Gloat all you want, but keep it short. There's work to do.

Heed the Advice of the Pros
Even though it didn't seem necessary to me at first, the leader of our meeting ran through how to accept critique of your work:
  • Do not take your critique personally.
  • Separate yourself from the work.
  • Comments made do not need to be followed. Decide whether you agree with them or not before changing anything.
  • Duplicate comments need to be taken into account. If more than one person notices something, it most likely needs to be changed.
  • Give yourself a day or two before working on the comments.
For the critiquer:
  • Stay positive
  • Be respectful
  • Remember: It takes courage for a writer to share her work.
  • Remember: Someone has poured their heart and soul into their work.
Comments Gathered from the Group
The next day when I began work on my first page, the first thing I did was make a list of the comments. I have tacked it up on my bulletin board in an effort to learn from the critiquers and avoid making the same mistakes again. Interspersed are the positive along with the critiqued comments—to stay as positive as possible while restructuring my first page.
  • Has the tone of a mystery, which intrigues!
  • The two voices are very similar.
  • Save backstory for later—keep us in the action.
  • Seems like an info dump.
  • Has a Nancy Drew feel.
  • Dialogue not realistic—too formal for kids.
  • Thank you for sharing!
  • Deceptive beginning.
  • Cannot tell the difference between the two characters.
  • Likes how it starts with a question.
Am I going to allow this critique to stop me? Not by a long shot. Rather, I am filled with gratitude. I am grateful for the help. It means the difference between a failed novel and a successful one, I am convinced of that. You can bet, I’ll be coming back for more at the next critique meeting.

Illustration courtesy of : www.freevector.com

The quote courtesy of: https://www.brainyquote.com


Needlepoint that hangs on my wall


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be coming out in September. Currently, she is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.









Critique Groups Do's and Don't's

Take the Leap
 
The purpose of a critique is to sift out what's wrong. Showcased is your polished masterpiece, ready for publication. Explore your options until you find the most effective, longest lasting way to vet your work.

While working as a freelance writer, my family moved frequently. Luckily, through membership with organizations such as SCBWI, I found a writing group at each juncture. The information gathered here comes from my own membership in different types of groups.

Join a Critique Group or Start your Own
Gather interested prospective members. Make sure each writer is:
  • Serious: willing to devote time studying her craft while practicing it.
  • Dependable: can be counted on to come to meetings and review members' work.
  • Honest: willing to let members know where she stands, as a beginner, intermediate or advanced writer.
  • Open: lets members know ahead of time what type of writing she would like to have reviewed.
  • Communicative: gives her input on everything from critiquing to helping to run the group.
Rules that Work
  • Establish a leader.
  • Decide how many members are desired.
  • Decide the type of writing preferred, if any. For example:   
  • Open Group: Allows all kinds of writing at any level. The advantages are many.               The variety of different types of writing gives the group widely varying points of view. One of the groups I belonged to had a poet, three article writers, and an adult novelist. The group expanded my world.
  • Closed Group: Offers members who write only in your genre and are at about the same level. Advantages include powerful know-how in your genre. Potential for longer critiques is possible. Partnering among members is possible for more frequent and indepth critiques. Also, members can help each other stay abreast of conferences, webinars, informational books, etc. When I wrote biosketches for Biography Today, I had deadlines which weren't easy to keep because of my daughters' activities. My writing partner spent one entire day helping me crank out one of my assignments so I could meet the deadline. Whew!
  • Agree on one of the following:
  • No Homework: a writer brings a chapter, a section or a few pages of a work to be read on the spot. The writer can read her own work or ask another member to read it. During the reading, each member takes notes on a separate piece of paper. After the reading the members go round- robin to share their notes then give their note paper to the writer to take home.
  • Homework: each piece of writing is emailed to members by an agreed-upon date, no exceptions. Members critique the work at home and share their results at the meeting. Members' copies are then given to the writer to take home. Writer brings her own copy of her work so she can follow along during the critiques. Critiquer is given a specified amount of time to explain her critique and the writer is given a specific amount of time to ask questions or comments. I've belonged to both types of groups and really have no preference. I found both Open and Closed Groups effective as long as they were run productively.
  • A timer: members agree on the amount of time given to each critiquer. Enough time is given so that no one feels rushed. There can be exceptions, along as everyone agrees, if a writer needs more time. However, this is an important rule, especially if the group is large. Everyone deserves a critique. There is nothing worse than having one person take up so much time that the meeting either lasts too long (and everyone gets exhausted, which can weaken enthusiasm), or there isn't enough time for everyone to share their work.
  • Cut the Chit Chat: be firm about saving chit chat for later because it's easy to fall into this trap and lose the main purpose for meeting.
  • Food or No Food: meet at a public place, if possible, such as a room at the library. Meeting in people's homes can be way too comfortable. These kinds of meetings can incur a serious loss of productivity. One of my favorite groups solved this by having two pot luck meetings a year, summer and winter, at lunchtime. We still worked but relaxed and visited. We even brought white elephant gifts for our winter get-together (in someone's home) during the holidays.
Parting Words of Wisdom
Here is a sprinkling of "focus" notes I keep on my bulletin board as reminders of what I am about as a writer.
  • Show, don't tell: spend one (or more) entire revision sit-downs combing your ms for "telling" statements. Turn those into "showing" your readers what's going on.
  • Nonfiction articles: one editor's advice was simple. Answer the W's in the first two (or three) paragraphs. Then the rest of your article is the How.
  • Nonfiction articles and books: Before embarking on your idea (and spending time on it), make sure you have acquired the photos.
  • Write it plain, then make it pretty: I heard this during an editor's talk and have followed it ever since. It's a great tool. The first time(s) "getting it down" you can't possibly expect your writing to shine. All you're doing is pouring your soul onto paper. After you're sure you've written everything you want to say, put your ms for a rest. When you pick it up again, make your writing more interesting; splather your personality all over the page; give it your all.
  • Entertain your reader: Just like being a host at a party; if you're having fun, your reader will have fun.
  • When in doubt, research: if you're stuck (have writer's block) it might mean that you need to do more research. Fiction and nonfiction alike both have to be accurate, so perhaps you need to spend some time looking something up to learn more about it. If you're stuck on a non-research-type problem, then you might need to rest a bit and do a THINK. One of my writing instructors talked about BIG THINKS a lot. We all keep pen and paper with us at all times. Who knows, you might solve the problem by suggesting what you need before you go to sleep at night. The problem could be solved in the morning or in a few days, depending on the size of the problem. If you can identify the problem as a plot problem, a characterization problem, etc., then study the area in question. You might find your answer there. I think we all know, too, that often our answers come while we're sewing, doing a flower arrangement, or on a walk. So sometimes it's best to do something else that's creative to relax your mind. It often kickstarts your imagination into doing wondrous things.
  • Sit your reader down across the table: and talk to him. Tell him your story. You can try this out loud if you've come to a snag.
  • Write while sitting on the edge of your seat: that's how you want your reader to be, so engrossed in your story that their eyes light up and their super excited about your story.
  • Remember this wisdom from Robert Frost: No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
Watch for next month's post: "You, the Writer; You the Critiquer."
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

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