Showing posts with label is your manuscript a quality/best you can do product?; revision. Show all posts
Showing posts with label is your manuscript a quality/best you can do product?; revision. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

An Interview with Author Linda Wilson, by Kathy Wagoner


 

Recently, I joined Southwest Writers, an organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that serves writers of fiction and nonfiction in every genre worldwide. It is an honor to get to know the esteemed members and to be the fortunate recipient of the myriad of online webinars offered by the organization. As a welcome, Kathy Wagoner, a Board member and website facilitator, published this interview in the latest issue of the SWW's newsletter. If you would like to learn more about the organization, please visit https://www.southwestwriters.com/.

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR LINDA WILSON

Former elementary school teacher Linda Wilson has written over 150 articles for children and adults, along with short stories and books for children. Her dream to be a children’s book author came true in 2020 with the publication of Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, the first book of a ghost/mystery trilogy. You’ll find Linda on her website LindaWilsonAuthor.com and her Amazon author page. Visit the Writers on the Move blog where she’s a contributing author.


What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Secret in the Stars.
My fondest desire is to create entertaining stories for young children about nature and the great outdoors. I would like readers to get swept away with the story and come away with a desire for adventure and exploring sports and outdoor activities.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
My biggest challenge in attempting to write a novel was living in a small town with no critique partners. I was a member of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), but because of distance, couldn’t be involved. It took about eight years to finish Stars. The biggest help was moving to Albuquerque and finding critique partners. Thanks to my connection with the New Mexico chapter of SCBWI here in Albuquerque, I finally learned enough to publish the book. I have since finished Secret in the Mist and two picture books.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
In the beginning of Stars, eleven-year-old Abi is anxious to get home from a camping trip with her grandfather. The first day of Summer Art Camp starts that afternoon. But her plans are dashed when her grandpa’s car breaks down and she becomes stranded at an old country inn. Abi, who lives in an apartment two hours away and is not athletic, meets eleven-year-old Jess, who lives in the country and is good at sports. A friendship blossoms based on the girls’ interest in solving the mystery in the story, and also on how much they admire each other. As a budding artist, Abi is aware of the world around her and uses her memory to create sketches of all that interests her. By Secret in the Mist, book two, she has awakened an interest in art in Jess. Jess is a fast runner, a good swimmer, and in Mist she takes Abi horseback riding. By the end of Stars, Abi finds that she can run faster than ever before. In Mist, she finds that she’s good at horseback riding, too. My hope is that Abi and Jess become role models for my readers.

Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
I love this question because Stars and Mist both take place in fictional Pine Hill, a town based on Purcellville, Virginia, a beautiful town where we lived in the heart of horse country near where Jackie Onassis rode horses. In book three, Secrets of the Heart, we go to Abi’s apartment, which I think many readers will be able to connect with.

The country setting is deliberate, written for children who know and love the country, and also for children who do not have the opportunity to spend time in the country. There are personal reasons, too, which include the inn in Stars (based on an 18th century B & B a mile down the road from our house), and in Mist, horseback riders trotting their horses on our road and a marsh across the road where a bullfrog lived.

Where did the story idea come from?
We had so many guests for a wedding once that some needed to stay at the B & B down the road. Before our guests arrived, I paid the B & B a visit. The 18th century white-washed stone building loomed high on a hill, down a long, winding dirt road. Along the way, cows grazed on lush green grass and flowers bloomed in gardens, completing the Virginia country charm.

The proprietress sat me down in the old-fashioned parlor and regaled me with tales of the many renovations her husband had recently completed. On our way upstairs to see the bedrooms, I thought she said, “Oh, here’s my husband now.” I turned, expecting to see her husband climbing the stairs behind us. But I saw no one. Her eyes fell on a silhouette stenciled on the wall. I followed her gaze of a man in overalls and straw hat, lantern in hand, appearing to hurry up the stairs. Without another word, she continued to the second-floor landing. I followed, perplexed.

Where was her husband, I wondered? I asked her, still expecting to see him. She looked surprised and said, “Oh, he died a year ago.” Died? But he’s here. I can feel his presence. He hadn’t yet left her side. I knew that, though how I’ll never know. But I felt the truth of his presence in my bones. She tilted her head in the oddest way and added, “Why, I lost my Herbert a year ago, to the day!” She added, “I painted Herbert’s silhouette on the wall, as he so often looked on his way to bed.” Color rose to her cheeks. “I suppose it’s silly, but it’s my way of keeping him close.” I went home with the idea of her husband’s ghost dancing in my head and then finding his way into my heart. I still get goose bumps every time I think of that eerie encounter.

What was it like working with a cover designer and Tiffany Tutti, the illustrator for the book?
I gave Tiffany my vision of what my characters looked like and the scenes I wanted to see portrayed. I used two to three traditionally published model books because I wanted Star to look professional. I think we succeeded. As a self-published author, I was able to find two terrific companies to format Stars and create the cover using the manuscript and illustrations by Tiffany Tutti, Formatted Books, and 100 Covers. In addition to the book cover,100 Covers also created a beautiful media image, which I’m very proud of.

Tell us how the book came together.
By the time I retired, I had written many articles for adults and children, had been editor of a newsletter, and helped a fellow author interview and write biographies of people who grew up in Westford, Massachusetts where my family lived at the time. I had always wanted to write fictional stories for children. I began by writing and publishing short stories. Stars is my first book. Though like many writers, I have partially-written manuscripts stashed away in my drawer.

The illustrations for Secret in the Stars, and the completed book, were accomplished with what is known as a “vanity publisher.” I worked with a terrific editor, staff, and illustrator while the book was in production. Just days before the book was to be published, I read 10 Publishing Myths by W. Terry Whalin, a fellow contributor to www.writersonthemove.com. From the get-go Whalin advises googling any company you’re about to do business with to check for complaints: “company name + complaints.” Was I in for a shock. I was directed to a private Facebook page of authors numbering forty-nine at the time, who had not received any royalties for their books for over two, sometimes, three years. I was lucky. When I cancelled my account, I was able to retrieve my files right away, both the illustrations and the interior, and was able to publish the book on Amazon. Other authors weren’t so lucky. Today there are many more authors involved and some were never able to retrieve their files. We have retained an attorney who has been helping the authors as well as finding ways to put this company (one man) out of business.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you began your writing/publishing journey?

  • How much revision is needed to create a polished manuscript.
  • How important knowledgeable critique partners are in editing things I can’t see, and also how much I’ve learned and enjoyed by critiquing their works.
  • How long it would take to feel competent in writing fiction. I knew it would be difficult and I had read that an overnight success takes fifteen years. I suppose I’m about at that mark, fifteen years! However, I wouldn’t change my experience as a writer for anything in the world.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift is available in eBook, and the September 2021 paperback copy is available in full color on Amazon. Discounted and signed copies of Packrat’s Holiday and Secret in the Stars are available by ordering from LindaWilsonAuthor.com. Chris Eboch, prolific author and editor from Socorro, New Mexico, says of Packrat’s Holiday, “Children will love this story, where the littlest creatures have adventures and become heroes. Fun language and cowboy slang make for a great read aloud.” My next picture book, Tall Boots, features a 4-H Horse Show complete with the official 4-H name and emblem. Tall Boots will be available soon. You can read about the books on my SWW author page.


Source: https://www.southwestwriters.com/an-interview-with-author-linda-wilson/


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Revision: 5 Tips

“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”
― Anatole France

Now that the first draft of the second book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secret in the Mist, is done, I can get to work. As author Michael Crichton has said, “writing is all about rewriting, which can be depressing, especially when after the seventh rewrite you find that’s still not working.” In other words, “books aren’t written, they’re re-written.”

Most helpful is a study of the charts that Kate Messner has created to use in her revision process. Before I studied Messner's charts, I relied on lists, which is what I’m using for Mist. When I begin the third and last book in the Abi Wunder Mystery series, Secrets of the Heart, I plan to switch over to my own version of Messner’s chart system.

Get the First Draft Down

When I wrote the first book, Secret in the Stars, I spent too much time writing and editing what I wrote, all the way through the manuscript. That process turned out to be extremely inefficient. It made the book take a long time to write. This is what I advise after writing Mist:

  • Leave your editor’s cap at the door and write your book straight through without any interruptions. 
  • Let the draft sit at least five days.
  • Do a read-through or general revision, editing for word choice, obvious additions and deletions; in short, anything you see that needs improving.
  • Let the draft sit.

Analyze your Story: Make a List

  • Get Organized: First on the list is to take stock of ideas that occur to you while writing the first draft.  I wish I could say I made a neat list of my ideas. I didn't. The ideas appeared on whatever paper was available at the time the idea struck. Still, after sifting through the piles of papers in my office, I’m glad I saved them. Examples: Abi hears a faint whistle every time the ghost appears. This "aha" moment came to me while watching a movie on TV and hearing that whistle. I put to use that terrific little scrap of paper.
  • Another example is my note: “Keep personal stakes high,” a reminder I had heard at an SCBWI Zoom meeting. I began a revision with this in mind, and that pass turned out to be the second major revision.

Create Arcs for each Character

Making character arcs are not only fun and informative, but necessary. I like to make diagrams with brief descriptions of how the characters have progressed and grown through the story. The example I like to use is the thirty-five pages in Book 1 where the dog Star was missing. It was a noticeable gap, which I filled in. In Book 2, I've completed the arc for Angel, an antagonist, who doesn't appear in Book 3.

List the scenes

It is, of course, important to make sure the scenes are varied and interesting. Also, keeping track of the scenes helps you make sure the story is moving forward and doesn't contain any "dead" spots. When Chris Eboch, a professional editor and prolific author who happily belongs to my SCBWI-NM chapter, edited Book 1, she came to a lovely chapter near the end about kittens that the two main characters were given. Here is an excerpt from that chapter. Maybe you can see why I wanted to keep it:

        Hidden among the cucumber vines and tomatoes, four kittens of different colors snuggled against 

their mother. Bell gave her visitors a warning look as if to say, Shh, don't wake my babies. Can't you 

see? They’re sleeping. When she moved her head, the bell around her neck made a soft tinkling sound.

Star sniffed at the kittens and lowered his head, his ears down.

    “Bell!” Abi said. Dee gave her a quizzical look. Abi explained, “I didn’t know your cat’s name, so I

called her Bell.”

    Dee chuckled. “You’re right, Bell fits.”

    “Can I hold one?” Abi asked her.

    Dee’s face lit up. “You can have one, each of you. It's my way of saying thank you.” Ryan's bony

 shoulders fell to a slouch. “You too, Ryan.”

    He shook his head. “Nah, my parents would never let me and Jess both have a kitten.”

    A wide smile rippled across Pop's leathery cheeks. “Oh yes they will. Signed, sealed, and parent-

approved. And yes, Abi, your new apartment building allows cats.”

    “Oh Pop, really?” Abi rose to the tips of her toes and hugged his neck.

    A black and beige kitten with a pink nose stirred. Dee handed the kitten to her. She hugged the tiny 

ball of fur to her cheek and felt the kitten’s silky coat. “Oh Pop, she’s beautiful.” She held the kitten out 

and Star licked the side of its head.

    Pop stroked the kitten with a pudgy finger and smiled. “What did I tell you? Something good turned

 up after all.”

But, and that’s a big but, the scene didn’t move the story forward. I had to take the entire chapter out, painful as it was after having a professional photographer take my picture with two kittens at a pet store. The good news is that the photo with the kittens is a fun one for my website, and the chapter can be used in my promo materials, hopefully to help touch children’s hearts.

List Plot Points

For this most important analysis, structure becomes important. I learned how to structure my stories in a fiction writing course I took, which followed Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.”

  • Make a diagram of your plot points using Cambpell's diagram. Make sure your story has the structure it needs. 

Check for Accuracy

Any information included in your book can be true or close to the truth. I mention the Alleghany Mountains in both Book 1 and 2, and made sure the setting was oriented correctly with the mountains set to the west. Many parts of both books needed to be researched for authenticity, such as in Book 1, a sheriff’s and deputy’s uniforms, the color of hard hats worn by different types of contractors; and in Book 2, Quakers who moved from Pennsylvania and settled in Loudoun County, Virginia in the 1800s, studied in order to help shape the personality of the ghost.

Release your book to your beta readers and a professional editor only after it is as polished as you can get it, after you've gone through your checklist of edits. I wrote my December post, “A Story Revision Checklist,” while working on the first major revision of Mist. It is chock full of more comprehensive ways to revise. Today’s post fills in more points I feel are important and wasn’t able to cover in the earlier post. Here is the link to my December post:

https://www.writersonthemove.com/2020/12/a-story-revision-checklist.html. 

Sources: 

www.chriseboch.com

https://mindwingconcepts.com/blogs/news/6-ideas-to-use-with-wonder

https://katemessner.com/countdown-to-chirp-lets-talk-about-charts/

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/01/16/write-book/

Flower photo by: Linda Wilson

Photo with kittens by: https://karinaschuhphotography.com 

Linda Wilson lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She has two daughters, Kim and Tracy, who inspired her stories when they were younger. Linda is the editor of the New Mexico Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators newsletter, and has written posts for the Writers on the Move blog since 2013. She is a classical pianist and loves to go to the gym. But what Linda loves most is to make up stories and connect with her readers. Find out more by visiting Linda’s website at https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?


Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards


“Does Your Manuscript Pass the Quality Control Test?" by Joan Y. Edwards

Is your manuscript a quality manuscript? Is it the/best you can do at this time? Does your manuscript pass the quality control test below?

If your answer to all of these questions is “YES,” you have a quality manuscript. It is the best you can do at this time. Your manuscript is a quality product ready for submission. 

1. Does your writing show your distinctive voice?

Two articles that explain voice are: 


2. Did you choose the best person to narrate your story - First, Second, or Third Person.

Here are two articles to help you decide.
Deanna Mascle. "Should You Write in First or Third Person?"
Ginny Wiehardt. "How to Start Writing in Third Person."

3. Does it have an Unforgettable Character with a flaw and a goal he is willing to jump off a cliff to achieve?

1.       Tell what he wants to do, what he wants to happen. Which characters keep the main character from achieving his goal? Which characters help him? Write so that the reader feels the emotions that your characters feel. Let the readers know the contradictions that go through the character’s mind. Tell the experiences that cause your character great stress, worry, anxiety, anguish, and/or sadness? What gives your main character great happiness? Make your character have to change in order to reach his goal. 
Think about the theme(s) of your story. This will help you determine the flaws of your protagonist. If you know what the character learns from his experiences, your fatal flaw is its opposite. In Liar Liar, the protagonist learns how to tell the truth. Lying was his fatal flaw. When the protagonist learns to be dependable, his fatal flaw was irresponsibility. If a protagonist finally gets up enough nerve to stand up for himself, he gains courage. Fear or cowardice was his fatal flaw.

4. Does it have a complete, compelling plot?  

1.       Does your manuscript have a beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending with each page filled with tension of inner and outer struggles of the protagonist so that reader anticipates the good and bad consequences of this character's choices. 
Ordinary Day
Inciting incident with new goal to solve a really big problem
First failure
Second failure
Third failure
Fight
Win/Lose
What's it like on the new ordinary day

5. Does it take place in an appropriate setting? 

Choose a setting that heightens the suspense of the plot and the problems of the main character. Where does this character have these problems? Why here? Why not somewhere else? Put your character with people, circumstances, and settings that make his flaw more noticeable in the beginning and his strengths more evident at the end. Enhance your manuscript by making the setting an integral and indispensable part of the story. 

6. If your manuscript is not in quality condition yet, revise it. 

Look at it with a skillful eye. Change what you know needs revision. Then send it out for another look by your critique group, writing partner, and/or 3 beta readers. Give them three main things on which to focus.

    Does it have proper formatting and few pet words? Does it have correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure? 

    Would your high school teacher give your manuscript an A or B? Any grade lower than a B is not acceptable. It has to be above average in this area to submit it. Did you repeat pet words or phrases numerous times within the manuscript with no purpose for emphasis, such as: just, real, very,what's up, what do you know, and it's a shame. Use the search and find tools in your word processing software to find words you usually repeat.  Replace with a better word or delete it. 

    Here are examples of words or phrases that might be repeated:
    The box is very flat. The hills are very steep. Her veil is very long.
    I just don't know what I'm going to do...repeated on page 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, and 32.
    What do you know?...repeated on page 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, and 17.
    Here are hints to help you get your manuscript in quality condition:
    Go through 6-7 versions (revise all the way through the whole manuscript).
    Use critique groups, writing partners, and/or beta readers to critique your manuscript.These trained eyes and ears will find and suggest ways to improve grammar and spelling, as well as improve the story, plot, characters, setting, continuity, and believability.

    7. When you have a quality manuscript, you can honestly make the following statement: 
       "This is a quality manuscript. This is the best I can do with this manuscript with the knowledge and skills I have at the present time."  
    After your revisions get your manuscript to the quality condition and it's the best you can do stage, then it is time to submit your manuscript. You are ready to start Week 1 of my Pub Subbers plan for submission. Do all the Steps for Weeks 1, 2, and 3. They take you through submitting your manuscript.

    Week 1 Get final proofing critique. Choose an editor, agent, or contest for your submission.
    Week 2 Follow the guidelines to write necessary documents: pitch, query letter, cover letter, proposal, resume, or bio..
    Week 3 Pub Sub Friday-submission time. Not ready. It’s okay. Submit it when you’re ready.
    Week 4 Write, revise, critique, live, educate, motivate, celebrate.

    8. Did you follow the guidelines of the editor, agent, or contest?

    Don't sabotage your own success. Follow the guidelines.

    Following the directions for the guidelines is the final requirement for a quality manuscript. When you don’t follow the directions, it lowers your grade to a C or lower. If it says, email submissions only and you send it by U.S. postal service, the agent or editor may not even read your submission. It may seem heartless, however, your submission may end up in the trash can. The editor or agent may think if you can’t follow these simple directions, you won’t be able to follow suggestions to make your manuscript a top notch best-selling book.

    1. Alfonso Coley. “Common Writing Problems New Writers Can Face:” http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2421290/common_writing_problems_new_writers_pg2.html?cat=9/
    2. Amanda Patterson. “The Five Most Common Problems First Time Writers Share:” http://thewriteco.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/the-5-most-common-problems-first-time-writers-share/
    3. Dara Marks.  The Writer’s Store. ”The Fatal Flaw, The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life:” http://www.writersstore.com/the-fatal-flaw-the-most-essential-element-for-bringing-characters-to-life/
    4. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Illinois State University.edu. “Common Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation:” http://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/writing.html
    5. E.H. Williams, Hamilton College.edu, Biology Department, “Common Writing Mistakes:” https://my.hamilton.edu/writing/writing-resources/common-writing-mistakes
    6. Gordon Silverstein, editor. University of Minnesota.edu. “Humorous Reminders of Common Writing Mistakes: Advice from generations of Teaching Fellows at Harvard University:” http://writing.umn.edu/tww/grammar/self_humorous.html
    7. Judy Rose.  Writing English.wordpress.com. “Ten Common Writing Mistakes Your Spell Checker Won’t Find:” http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/2006/09/18/ten-common-writing-mistakes-your-spell-checker-won%E2%80%99t-find/
    8. Laura Spencer.  Free Lance Folder.com. “20 Writing Mistakes That Make Any Freelancer Look Bad:” http://freelancefolder.com/20-writing-mistakes-that-make-any-freelancer-look-bad/
    9. Pat Holt. “Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do):” http://www.holtuncensored.com/hu/the-ten-mistakes/
    10. Tom Walker. Get Paid to Write Online.com. “Ten Most Common Writing Mistakes:” http://www.getpaidtowriteonline.com/common-writing-mistakes/

    I hope these ideas help you keep going, even when you feel like giving up.
    Good luck with the publication of your best quality manuscripts!

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    My Books:
    Flip Flap Floodle, even mean ole Mr. Fox can't stop this little duck
    Paperback, Kindle and Nook
    Joan’s Elder Care Guide, Release date June 2014 by 4RV Publishing

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