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Guest Editor Carter Higgins: How to Tackle a Big Revision

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

From a practical (logistical) standpoint, do you have any advice for how to tackle a large revision of a manuscript I haven’t read in over a year? I’ve just had it professionally edited. I’m thinking I’ll read through those edits, then print out the manuscript and read the whole thing. And make changes as I go? Or read it through once and then go through again and make changes? Or read it electronically and then make changes and then print it out? I just can’t decide quite how to approach it.

Sincerely,
J.

CarterHiggins1Carter Higgins has traveled a storyteller’s career path, from librarian to motion graphics designer and back to librarian. She is also the author of the middle grade novel A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2017) and the picture book Everything You Need for a Treehouse (Chronicle Books, 2017, illus. Emily Hughes).

Dear J….

I recently tackled a pretty large scale revision of my debut middle grade novel, A Rambler Steals Home. RAMBLERAnd when I say big, I mean big. Ultimately I rewrote approximately the first two-thirds of the novel, eliminated a beloved character, and changed a lot of intricately woven plot points which resulted in a domino effect through the pacing and structure of the entire thing. It’s a much better book thanks to the wisdom and vision of my editor, and the way I navigated her very thorough and very smart suggestions. Your mileage may vary with these steps, but this process helped me break down what seemed like an impossible and daunting task:

1. I cried. Not because I disagreed but because it was so overwhelming to even figure out how to begin. And not because I was intimidated, but because the warm fuzzy feelings of storytelling had to be replaced with good, hard work. I had to get ready for that.
2. I read my editor’s letter over and over and over again until I could feel it more. I took bulleted notes on it and rephrased chunks of it into my own words to really, truly understand what she was suggesting. I read it on my computer, I read it on my Kindle, and I read it on paper.
3. Then, I reread the current/old version of the manuscript in order to see it through the eyes of that editorial letter.
4. I identified what the story was really about—those were the parts that we were trying to heighten and tighten and strengthen, and made a loose outline of a new sequence of events to reach that goal.
5. Which for me, meant rewriting most of the story. Because I’d reread it before beginning this revision, I knew where I could pull chunks of words that I liked, even if I was re-crafting everything around it.
6. Finally, I read the manuscript again, start to finish, and immediately reread the edit letter. For me, it was all about feeling if I hit those points and less a checklist of sorts. After a couple of rounds of back and forth, once I felt like the draft breathed the same air as the letter (and when I was also happy with it!) I called that revision done.

– Carter

Guest Editor Vonna Carter re: Choosing Online Writing Courses

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

I’ve been following you for the past few years. I fell off the wagon with my children’s writing and am thinking an online class might get me running again. Can you suggest a good class with regular assignments and instructor feedback. Doesn’t matter where the class is located since I’m thinking in terms of online.

Thanks very much,
Cheryl

Vonna CarterVonna Carter—Middle Grade writer and Keeper-of-the-Lists—rounds up info on editors, art directors and agents attending conferences, retreats and workshops, plus online classes and where to get that elusive MFA in writing for young readers.

Dear Cheryl…

This is a question many people are asking. We are fortunate these days to have abundant options for online classes and workshops, but they are not one-size-fits-all. I maintain a list of them on my website at Online Workshops. Before signing up for a course, analyze your criteria for the class. Here are some points to consider:

Level: Are you new to writing for children? Have you completed manuscripts but need help revising? Are you an experienced writer looking for a master class?

Budget: Are you looking to spend $300 or $3000?

Time: Do you want a two-hour workshop, a four- or six-week course, or an ongoing class? How much time can you spend on homework assignments?

Genre and Age Group: Do you write picture books? MG? Romantic YA? Adult thrillers?

Topic: Do you need an in-depth course on voice, plot, pacing or other focus area?

Interaction: Do you enjoy engaging with other students or do you prefer working alone?

Format: Are you open to video conferencing? Are you comfortable posting on forums or engaging in conference calls? Do you prefer one-on-one emails with your instructor?

References: An important consideration is the class’s reputation. Some wonderful teachers use their websites or newsletters to shine a spotlight on their former students who are now published authors, but not all classes make it this easy to see references. Can you contact writers who have taken this course?

Taking an online class can be a great experience. I hope this checklist helps you find classes that are best for you.

-Vonna Carter

Guest Editor Taryn Fagerness re: Did I Just Double-Cross My Agent?

in Guest Editors/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

I have an agent in the U.S, and I’ve been extended an offer for representation in Turkey. I’d heard of authors having an agent for non-English speaking country aside from their agent in the U.S., so I accepted the offer; however, now, I feel that it’s somehow unethical. Can I have an agent in both countries or should I sever ties with one?

Signed,
Double Agent Girl

Taryn FagernessTaryn Fagerness represents foreign rights on behalf of North American literary agents. Before opening the Taryn Fagerness Agency in 2009, Taryn spent five years as the Subsidiary Rights Manager and an Agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She’s sold hundreds of books to foreign, audio, and film markets, and has sold subsidiary rights for New York Times bestselling authors, first time authors, and everyone in between, in nearly all genres including literary fiction, thriller/suspense, commercial fiction, romance, history, self-help, business, and children’s.

Dear Double Agent Girl…

I’m afraid I need to start my answer with another question, and that is: How does your US agent handle foreign rights? All agents I know handle their authors’ foreign rights in some fashion, so that you should definitely not need to form individual relationships with foreign agents. For example, I am a freelance foreign rights manager, and I handle over 20 North American agencies’ foreign rights. I work with foreign co-agents all around the world (like Turkey) so that my agent clients (and their authors) don’t have to deal with the mess and complication of doing that all on their own. Other US agencies have an in-house foreign rights manager who handles foreign rights.

Now, foreign agencies from Turkey and Korea (don’t ask me why it’s these two territories in particular) are infamous for trolling for new clients, and they often contact authors directly saying they want to rep your book in their country. If you have a US agent, you should just forward such requests to them. Your US agent may already have an exclusive relationship with a Turkish agent. If your US agent doesn’t know how to handle such requests, it may be time for a new agent.

So, in short, your US agent should be your main squeeze. They should handle all your subsidiary rights for you (and they may work with co-agents around the world, or in the world of film to do this).

A tip for all writers seeking a US agent: be sure to ask potential agents “How do you handle foreign rights?”

Write on,
Taryn

Guest Editor Sara Sciuto re: Should I Submit My Picture Book Dummy to Agents & Editors Simultaneously?

in Guest Editors/Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

If I submit a picture book dummy to a publisher, may I also query an agent about the same pb, as long as I state it is a “simultaneous” submission? I am thinking of finding an agent. Is this a turn-off to the agent if the ms is out there?

Thanks for the advice!
Lisa

 

Sara SciutoSara Sciuto, today’s Guest Editor, is an agent with Full Circle Literary, representing children’s fiction (picture books, middle grade, and YA) and select adult nonfiction. A graduate of the University of California, San Diego, Sara also completed literature coursework at NYU. Before joining Full Circle, she gained valuable experience working on film and foreign rights with the Taryn Fagerness Agency. Her great passions in life are travel and good food – and good books, of course! (Website: www.fullcircleliterary.com, Twitter: @sarasciuto, Blog: http://sarasciuto.tumblr.com/)

Dear Lisa…

Great question! It does happen sometimes that an author will let me know that their material is currently under review at a publishing house (usually because they had an open invitation from attending a conference), and that’s fine as long as they let us know. However, I wouldn’t suggest planning on submitting to agencies and publishing houses simultaneously while you’re trying to find an agent. Here’re a few reasons why: (1) It could be a deterrent to an interested agent if we learn it’s already been submitted to multiple houses (that’s fewer chances we have to get it sold). (2) Most agents are fairly hands-on editorially (I know I am!) and will work with you to make your project stronger before ever submitting to publishers. You only have one shot with a particular publishing house/imprint so you want your project in its best possible shape before submitting. Having an agent on your side BEFORE you submit will help you make it all the more strong and appealing to publishers. (3) When an author/illustrator (which I assume you are if you’re submitting a dummy rather than just a manuscript) meets an editor at a conference and submits a dummy, that author is typically only sending one project to one publishing house. An agent is able to send the project to several editors at one time in order to find the best match for your project. There you have it—three reasons why I suggest securing an agent before submitting your work to publishers.

Best wishes,
Sara Sciuto

Guest Editor Stacy Innerst: The Risk of Illustration Notes in Picture Books Manuscripts

in Guest Editors/Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

If you have a spare text for a picture book, should you send along another copy of the story with illustration notes? If so, what’s the proper format for the notes? Brackets? Italics?

Sincerely,
Natasha

Stacy Innerst, today’s Guest Editor, is the award-winning illustrator of picture books including The Worm Family, M Is For Music, Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea, Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), and the upcoming The Beatles: They Were Fab and They Were Funny.

Dear Natasha…

An illustrator’s perspective: I prefer to have the opportunity to have an unencumbered first impression of the story, no matter how spare the text might be.  You’d be amazed at how easily an artist’s creative train can be derailed by having illustration notes, especially early in the process—it’s like a hair in your soup, you can’t forget about it.

The first reading of just words on a page, without preconceptions, is where the pictures start to germinate and the enthusiasm for the project takes hold. I can only assume that an editor would feel the same way.

I understand that with minimal text there is a temptation to sell the story by filling in the blanks, but I think if the root of the story is strong enough the pictures will come. A good illustrator will get what you’re trying to evoke without too much direction.

Best wishes to you,
Stacy Innerst

Guest Editor Robin Cruise: When Do You Put “and” Before “then”?

in General fiction/Guest Editors by

Dear Editor…

When you use “and then” in a sentence, is it more clear to use either “and” or “then” versus both? Why would you need the word “and” before “then”?

Thanks,
Natasha

Dear Natasha…

Ah, the best answer for your first question just might be … yes and no! It’s like asking whom you like better—or who is ultimately more useful—your hip, hot aunt Mimi or your deliberate, precise aunt Prissy. Ultimately, it might be that in a pinch each of them is just right in her own way. OK, Mimi-of-the-purple-hair is a little loosey-goosey, and a casual vibe is fine by her. She’s all about rhythm and ease, and she’d be likely to blurt: “I gobbled, burped, and bolted!” As for Aunt Prissy-of-the-sunscreen-and-sensible-shoes? Well, she likes her proverbial ducks lined up in a tidy row—and a clear, linear order for things. From Prissy’s perspective, things don’t tend to happen all at once, in an avalanche, and she prefers a slower, first-things-first mode. Prissy would be more inclined to advise: “I yawned, stretched, and then slowly opened my eyes.” Ultimately, your question is about pacing—and the answer/choice is all yours. You don’t need the word and before then, but … you just might want it, to apply the brakes!

-Guest Editor Robin Cruise
Red Pencil Consulting

Robin Cruise is committed to literacy and has been involved, as both an author and a publishing professional, in creating books for young readers for the past twenty years. Her experience includes more than 15 years with the children’s books division of Harcourt Trade Publishers. Robin lives in Kirkland, Washington, where she is the founder and principal of Red Pencil Consulting. In that capacity she works closely with authors, editors, and others to develop and deliver manuscripts, books, and additional high-quality content for publication and other uses. Contact Robin through her website, www.robincruise.com.

Guest Editor Taryn Fagerness re: Are U.S. Readers OK with International Settings?

in General fiction/Guest Editors by

Dear Editor…

How essential is it to place your story somewhere that’s familiar or, alternatively, exciting to readers? My story demands that it’s placed in either British Columbia, Canada, or Scotland in the UK, but I’ve read that U.S.-based readers mostly want to read stories based in places that they know or are familiar with (anywhere within the U.S.), or they want something exotic (e.g., Thailand, the Philippines). Is this really true? Would an editor ask me to change the location of my story? Has this ever happened to you or anyone you know of?

Sincerely,
Franziska

Dear Franziska…

I think plot matters MUCH more than setting, although, of course, the two are often intertwined. Stephanie Meyers chose Forks for her Twilight series for no other reason than it’s the rainiest town in the U.S. and her vampires sparkle in sunlight. If she had pitched her book solely as being set in Forks, I doubt people would have been excited, but it’s the plot that made the books great. Many authors choose a setting because it’s their hometown, they are familiar with it, and they feel they can write it convincingly. And if you’re writing historical fiction, the setting is chosen for you. But in the end, if you choose your setting for a good reason (and it sounds like you have one), write your setting well, bring the reader there, and your plot is dramatic and gripping, I don’t think it matters if your book is set in a tiny Southern town, Thailand, or Timbuktu. I’ve never heard of an editor asking an author to change settings, although I do know of a Canadian author whose work never sells in the U.S. because the books are just TOO Canadian, obviously written for a Canadian audience, and filled with nuances only Canadians would “get.” On the flipside, as a foreign rights agent, I often hear foreign publishers tell me books are “too American.” For example, YA books set in American high schools tend to get this label—foreign publishers don’t “get” American teenagers. So keep your audience in mind. As long as you write your Scottish/British/Canadian setting in a way that brings your American reader there, it should be fine.

Happy writing,
Taryn Fagerness
Taryn Fagerness Agency

Taryn Fagerness represents foreign rights on behalf of North American literary agents. Before opening the Taryn Fagerness Agency in 2009, Taryn spent five years as the Subsidiary Rights Manager and an Agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She’s sold hundreds of books to foreign, audio, and film markets, and has sold subsidiary rights for New York Times bestselling authors, first time authors, and everyone in between, in nearly all genres including literary fiction, thriller/suspense, commercial fiction, romance, history, self-help, business, and children’s. She has exceptional relationships with foreign co-agents, foreign publishers, and scouts, and she handles all aspects of selling foreign rights from international fair-going to submission, negotiating, and tracking titles through publication and beyond. The territories to which she sells are: Albania, Arabic, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Catalan, China, Czech, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, Ukraine and Vietnam. www.tarynfagernessagency.com

Guest Editor Bobbi Katz re: Formatting a Poetry Collection Submission

in Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar/Guest Editors/Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

My writing partner and I have a collection of poems we want to submit. What we can’t find anywhere is how to format the poems. Should we include a list of the poems in the order they are being presented? Should each poem have line or word counts at the top of the page? Should the pages have a header with the overall title and page numbers? Should each poem simply be presented with its own page number since they might be moved around by an editor? We can’t find any information anywhere to guide us.
Thanks,
Rosi

Dear Rosi…

I’ve done collections of my own poems and anthologies, plus I’ve been an editor. That said, my way of preparing a manuscript may not be to everyone’s liking. My system is to make life as easy as possible for the reader/editor.

After deciding on the order of the poems, I create a title page with, of course, the title in caps and the authors’ names and contact info on the lower right. Each poem should be typed on a separate sheet and be 1.5- or double-spaced. Once you’ve established a working order, number the pages in the lower right corner with a circle around them. If any of the poems has been previously published in an anthology or magazine, print the credit on the page. I usually use a different font and smaller type for that. Then I create a (tentative) table of contents page. In most of my books there is an order created by the subject of the poems. In my anthology Pocket Poems, for example, I used poems to create a day for an elementary child from waking up, getting dressed, going to school, etc., until bedtime. Sometimes just the opening and ending poems act like book ends. That’s the case with a collection of my own poems, A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems. All the poems contain onomatopoeic words. I just tried to imagine which poems might go together very loosely by seasons ending with the palpable silence of a “Snow Scene.” Poets order each collection differently, of course. You’ll have to decide what’s best for your current project. These days I believe that editors receive so much material that the less they have to do to see the possibility of creating a book from a manuscript, the better your chances are. Do not staple the manuscript. A sturdy paperclip is best so that the editor can move the poems about easily. Include an SASE when you do a hardcopy submission via regular mail, but be sure to check the agency’s/publisher’s website for their submission guidelines, as they may prefer electronic submissions or have formatting/SASE preferences.

You and your partner have written a collection. I imagine that these are either poems you’ve worked on together or poems by you and poems by your partner. A brief cover letter to the editor is a must. In a few words explain the collaboration. You may mention that while a few of the poems have appeared elsewhere, you control all the rights, if indeed that is the case.

I wish you the best of luck in finding a home for the collection.

-Guest Editor Bobbi Katz

Bobbi Katz has written picture books, chapter books, and even a biography about her hero, Nelson Mandela, but she is best known for her lauded collections of poetry and rhyming books, such as A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems, Once Around The Sun, Trailblazers: Poems of Exploration, Nothing But A Dog, The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme, We the People, Partner Poems for Building Literacy, Pocket Poems, and More Pocket Poems. Bobbi conducts poetry workshops for children, teachers, and librarians. Her classroom workshops make students and teachers comfortable with reading and writing poetry and discovering the joy of language. For more about Bobbi, visit her website www.bobbikatz.com.

 

Guest Editor Warren Lewis re: Format of Nursery Rhyme within a Play Script

in Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar/Guest Editors/Screenwriting by

Dear Editor…

I’m writing to check with you on the format of a nursery rhyme recited by a character within the format of a play script. Currently, I have the nursery rhyme indented five spaces from the remaining words. Is there a standard way to format this kind of element?

Thanks,
Leni

Dear Leni…

The convention is that the quotation should be in standard dialogue margins, separated by a line break and within quotation marks. I suggest, and use, italics as well. Performers (and directors and readers) will appreciate that it stands out a bit from the flow of dialogue, making it clear that they are quoting and helping them make appropriate choices.

Thanks for writing,
Guest Editor Warren Lewis

Warren Lewis’s credits as a screenwriter include Black Rain (Paramount) and The Thirteenth Warrior (Touchstone). He has worked on assignments for most of the major studios, including Sony, Warner Brothers, and Fox, with over thirty original or commissioned screenplays and numerous re-writes. Warren served an old-fashioned New York apprenticeship in film-making, working on film and commercial sets first as an apprentice and assistant film editor, then in production. He attended New York University and graduated from its film division. He’s worked on over 100 commercials and 15 feature films in various production capacities, including second and first assistant director and second unit director on films directed by, among others, Penelope Spheeris and John McTiernan. For more about Warren, visit screenplaystreet.com, the website of his consultancy for aspiring and accomplished screenwriters.

re: Winner, Wonder, and Week Off

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

Three months ago, many of you made this New Year Resolution: “Finish my manuscript!” It’s likely time for your follow-up resolution: “Revise my manucript!” Revision Week was designed to bring you tips, insights, and inspiration for that very task. Thank you many times over to the fab authors who pulled back the curtains on their revision processes, thank you all for joining in, and congrats to the week’s final giveaway winner, Patti J. Kurtz. Next week DearEditor.com will return to the usual format, with answers to the craft and industry questions you wonder about. Until then…

Happy revising!
The Editor

The Editor is indebted to the authors who made Revision Week such an informative and inspiring event that it will now be an annual event. If you missed any of their posts,click directly on the links below to jump to their insightful interviews…

Cynthia Leitich Smith, bestselling YA gothic novelist, picture book writer, short story writer, and popular children’s lit blogger. http://deareditor.com/?p=3459

Kathleen Krull, author of more than 60 books, especially picture books and biographies for young readers. http://deareditor.com/?p=3570

 R.L. LaFevers, author of the 13 novels for young people, including the popular middle grade series Theodosia Throckmorton and Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist, and now the forthcoming His Fair Assassin YA trilogy.  http://deareditor.com/?p=3517

Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and Theo Baker, popular, bestselling chapter book collaborators. http://deareditor.com/?p=3599

Mark A. Clements, horror/suspense author, screenwriter, and prolific ghostwriter. http://deareditor.com/?p=3552

Nathan Bransford, top blogger and former literary agent-turned-author of the Jacob Wonderbar middle grade books. http://deareditor.com/?p=3531

Rachel Caine, bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the popular series The Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden, the Outcast Season, and  The Revivalist. http://deareditor.com/?p=3696

Revision Week BONUS Interview: Rachel Caine

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Readers…

The Editor is thrilled to present a BONUS Revision Week interview . . . with Rachel Caine! Rachel is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including the YA series The Morganville Vampires, the Weather Warden series, and the Outcast Season series. Rachel’s newest series, The Revivalist, launched in 2011 with Working Stiff, and her stand-alone YA novel The Great and Lamentable Tragedie releases this year.

Please join Rachel and The Editor for the Revision Week finale, and find out how to win the final “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Rachel Caine has been honored with a Paranormal Pearl Award and an RT Booklovers Award, and was recently awarded a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times. She has appeared as a guest at over 100 science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance conventions and conferences over the past 20 years, including Dragon*Con, San Diego ComicCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and the World Science Fiction Convention. Rachel has been featured in several national publications including People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Vanity Fair, and on international, national, and local television and radio. Today Rachel talks about revising when you’re under the gun.

*After Rachel’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

I’m in a very odd position. With a book due every three months, I don’t have a lot of luxury to rework things—they need to be close to the target (very close!) on the first draft. With the schedule I and my editors have, I have to be (somewhat foolishly) confident of my first draft. (Watch Rachel talk about The Morganville Vampires series here.)

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Generally, Version 1.5 gets sent in—I may have time for a fast read-through and tweak, but that’s pretty much it.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

None, until I get her notes; a LOT, after I receive those. I generally do a page one rewrite once I know what she sees as the strengths and weaknesses and problems, and comb through very thoroughly as I make those changes. Then, there are usually smaller questions that arise during copyedits that need solving. (Watch the Last Breath trailer here.)

Do you use critique partners?

Honestly, under my schedule, there’s no room for them. I’d love to have them, and when I have something that *isn’t* under that fierce spotlight of deadline, I do it. Generally, my agent (fellow author Lucienne Diver) also reads my manuscripts and gives me feedback while the editor is reviewing it as well, so I have additional input. I have nothing against critique partners, and have been a member of several groups, but it’s a timing issue now.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

Oh, yes. I just finished copyedits for that book, Two Weeks’ Notice (Book 2 in the Revivalist series). My original first draft was solid, but it had a huge plot hole—I specifically said that a certain virus took a month to incubate and become active, and then I had it happening almost immediately to a second character. That seems like an easy fix, but what the second character did under the influence of the virus was critical … and it seemed like a dead end, because I needed that one-month incubation period for story purposes. I solved it by realizing that what the second character did could be transferred to a third, unrelated character who could plausibly have been infected a month before. And it worked!

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

I once cut out half the book. HALF. Just took everything that happened after the “broken” scene and started over from scratch, because that scene was pivotal and everything after followed the wrong trail. It was difficult, but it worked in the end.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

There’s never a final draft for me, only the one you have to turn in because you’re out of time. But I guess if I had the luxury of having all the time in the world to do it, I think it would be the point at which I was bored with the story, where I didn’t want to play in that world anymore. There’s a certain fatigue that sets in, and I think if you’re reworking past that point, you’re not helping the story.

REVISION WEEK’S FINAL GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away one last FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 11, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 12, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck . . . and thank you for a fun week!

Revision Week: Nathan Bransford

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Readers…

Today was scheduled to be the grand finale of Revision Week, but the event has been so fun that The Editor can’t resist posting a bonus author interview tomorrow. Stop by for that surprise guest, along with a bonus edit giveaway.

For today, we’ve got the wonderful Nathan Bransford, author of the Jacob Wonderbar middle grade series and former literary agent with Curtis Brown. Nathan offers a unique view of the revision process thanks to his experience both as an author and as an agent ushering writers to book deals with publishers.

We’ve also got the promised “FREE Full Manuscript Edit” Giveaway from The Editor!

Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow and Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, the first two novels in a middle grade series about three kids and their planet-hopping adventures. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010, but is now a social media director and the writer of the popular blog about writing and publishing, www.nathanbransford.com.

*After Nathan’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you’ve made?

This is a tricky question for me actually because I tend to edit as I go and don’t typically go through discreet drafts. But the novel is usually done for me after the third or fourth major overhaul.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Whatever draft it is where I can’t bear to look at it anymore and have exhausted every possible idea.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

It depends on the book, but usually two major rounds of revision.

Do you use critique partners?

No, I don’t show it to anyone before I send it to my editor. I’m fortunate to have a really fantastic editor, Kate Harrison, who helps me mold the book into a much better form once I’ve gotten as far as I can go on my own.

As an agent, did you ever work through revisions with authors before submitting them to publishers?

Definitely, I was a very hands-on agent. I always thought it was important to make sure the manuscript was as good as possible before going out to editors.

Do agents work through revisions with writers before agreeing to represent them?

It depends on the agent. When I was an agent I preferred to work with authors on an exclusive basis but without an offer of representation in place. That way we could both see if we were happy with how the revision process was going and our working relationship and formalize the relationship once we were confident in the manuscript. But situations vary.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

When I started Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe I had this particular opening that was how I had always envisioned beginning the novel. But when I wrote it out and sent it to my agent and editor… it just didn’t work. I had to completely re-imagine the opening and start over from scratch. It was daunting at the time and I had to kind of take a deep breath and regain my confidence, but it was definitely the right choice. The revised opening is much stronger and I’m so fortunate I had an opportunity to take a new approach. (Watch the Jacob Wonderbar trailer here.)

What’s the most drastic revising experience you’ve been part of?

I had one client where I advised her to completely change the genre of her novel and revise the plot to match. It was a ton of work for the author but it worked! The new version of the novel ended up selling and doing really well. Sometimes at the heart of a draft there’s a great novel that needs to be brought to the surface and polished. (Hear Nathan’s thoughts about “pitching,” videoed at the 2010 San Miguel Writer’s Workshop here.)

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When my editor says it’s done.

TODAY’S GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away a FREE FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT of your manuscript. The edit will be a “Substantive Edit,” in which the author receives general feedback about the manuscript’s overall pacing, organization, narrative voice, plot development/narrative arc, characterization, point of view, setting, delivery of background information, adult sensibility (children’s books only), and the synchronicity of age-appropriate subject matter with target audience, as The Editor determines appropriate and necessary after reviewing the entire manuscript. It is not a word-by-word, line-by-line “Line Edit.”

Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. Your manuscript must be COMPLETE and SHALL NOT EXCEED 90,000 WORDS. In the case of a picture book entry, the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 10, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 11, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Full MS Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this Revision Week giveaway to get additional entries today. Send an email to DearEditor.com with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title and full name in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Mark A. Clements

in Creative Process/General fiction/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with award-winning author Mark A. Clements. In addition to being a horror and suspense novelist, Mark has ghostwritten numerous books, giving him a distinct view of the revision process.

Please join Mark and The Editor for Day 5 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Mark A. Clements’ first horror novel, 6:02, was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. It was followed by the horror mystery Children of the End and the mystery thriller Lorelei, both of which received multiple nominations and awards. Mark’s The Land of Nod earned the Theodore S. Geisel “Best of the Best” award. All of Marks books have been optioned for film, and he also wrote the script for an original short, Dreamweavers. Mark is widely loved for his tireless work running critique sessions at writers conferences—often staying up to the wee hours to make sure every writer gets the chance to read and field full feedback.

*After Mark’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

For me at least, the use of word processors pretty much destroyed the meaning of the word “draft.” Back in typewriter days I did about four drafts of each novel…now I write 30 or more versions of some portions, and five or six versions of other portions. I insist that there’s a correlation between quality and all the extra dinking around. I insist, I tell you!

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

The one I’m satisfied with. I always prefer to give an editor as little work (i.e., interfering) to do as possible.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

Typically not much.

Do you use critique partners?

“Partners?” No, no, no. I belong to a read and critique group with which I share portions of the work to see if it’s doing what I want, but I never share even slightly rough material and I don’t seek out advice on how to “fix” something. I don’t believe in writing by committee.

How does revision work in ghostwriting? How do you strike a balance between your judgment as a writer and the preferences of the person you’re writing for?

I never did strike that balance; I usually wanted to strike the person I was writing for. So I don’t ghostwrite anymore.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

My current novel features an organism that is alive but does not become conscious or self-aware until a third of the way through the story. I shuffled through two dozen openings before I realized that conscious or not, the organism needed its own point of view in order for the book to work. Getting there was a difficult but in the end very satisfying process.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

Thrown out 75 pages of stuff I originally thought was essential. Big lesson there….

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

There’s no other way to put it: the story feels done.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away one more FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 9, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 10, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Co-Authors Lin Oliver, Henry Winkler, & Theo Baker

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with co-authors Lin Oliver, Henry Winkler, and Theo Baker. All three authors team up today to discuss the part collaboration plays in the revision of series and chapter books for young readers.

Please join Lin, Henry, Theo, and The Editor for Day 4 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Lin Oliver has written several series with her co-authors—17 best-selling “Hank Zipzer” books and now three best-selling “Ghost Buddy” books with Henry Winkler, and the brand new “Sound Bender” series with Theo Baker—plus a series of her own, the “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?” series. These prolific co-authors have learned a thing or two about revision. They’ve joined forces once again in an insightful tag-team interview for Revision Week.

*After the interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

How does revision work within a collaboration?

LIN:  The first step in revising with a collaborator is to agree on what you want to revise. Even when working with someone with whom you’re very attuned, you will always have differences of opinion, or differences in ear—how you hear the words. A lot of back and forth conversation is involved in deciding what changes you want to make in your manuscript, and often, one of the two partners has to compromise. It helps to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can fairly adjudicate your differences of opinion. Working with Theo on Sound Bender, he thinks I tend to go for the funny rather than the dramatic. He’s right, and knowing that helps us realize my limitations. I think he’s sometimes too long-winded, so I always want to trim his material. (He calls me Dr. Scissorhands.) You have to be very flexible in your negotiations so both parties come away feeling ownership of the final draft, and also very sensitive not to make it a critique of your partner’s talents but a decision of what works best at any given moment in the manuscript.

THEO: It’s completely different than working alone. For one thing, you always have a nominally sympathetic reader waiting for pages—so there’s no need to put drafts in a drawer to try to forget about them before revising. But while revision is sometimes much more difficult flying solo, revising with a collaborator can often be much more painful! If something doesn’t work for your partner—even if it’s something you love—it skips the drawer and goes directly into the garbage can.

When you’re writing a series, you know your characters well. How many drafts are needed once you get a series established? What kinds of things are you refining at that level?

LIN:  The first book in a series is always the most difficult because you are discovering your characters’ voices, peculiarities, habits, backstory. Many drafts are necessary to deepen your understanding and portrayal of your characters. I find that several books into the series, the voices come very naturally and require less conscious effort. However, plot is always a sticky point for me, and that always requires revision and tweaking to keep the tension going and the scenes relevant. I also find that in series, you have to be a strict cutter, because when you know the characters so well, it’s easy to let them ramble on a bit, and those digressions—although interesting—can really stall the story.

THEO: Though I’ve only written two books about the same characters, writing one book is enough to get to know your characters well. Too well, in fact. In writing Sound Bender 2, I just plodded along with my boys (and girls), and then after the fact, we went back and established most of the major characters so our readers wouldn’t be quite so lost! Readers may read books in a series continually, or they may space out the books by years. I think most readers, even very good ones, are mostly confused most of the time. So we try to help them as much we can with character info early and often. Makes the reading experience a little less tense.

How early does your editor come into each new book?

HENRY and LIN: Our editors are always involved in the concept phase—both formulating the concept for the series and in a conversation about the plot line in general. Usually, we have to submit a title early on in the process, for marketing purposes, so the title often helps define the concept. Then we go away and write the book, and the editor comes back to us with notes after we submit the first draft. Often there is a second set of notes, usually much more specific in nature, and we make those adjustments. That pass allows us to do a line polish of our own, having had some time and distance from the manuscript. That’s when we go through and take out a weak joke, an unnecessary adjective, a flabby verb, an unnecessary line of dialogue.

THEO: The editors come in at the very earliest stages—and are usually the ones who remind you that you owe them another book, and for the love of coffee, you should probably get started on it. They usually want a brief outline or synopsis up front—just to know that you’ve got a sound map to follow, so they can sleep at night. Editors are great at this stage; they read so much and in such a particular way that they can see problems way down the road. Once they’ve helped you with your map, then they leave you alone for several months—ostensibly so you can write.

Henry, the Ghost Buddy series is a new one for you and Lin. Did the first manuscript fall into place quickly, or did it take a few rounds to settle into the new characters and voices?

HENRY: As I remember, because we are now happily on our third Ghost Buddy, it did take a little longer than usual to do the first book in the series. Billy Broccoli and The Hoove, our main characters, were pretty clear. It was the supporting characters that needed to become fully alive to us. We also worked really hard on the rules of having a ghost in the story—to set a clear and consistent set of rules and hold ourselves to them. This is not an easy task. (Watch Henry and Lin talk about writing the Ghost Buddy series here.)

Lin, your new supernatural series “Sound Bender” (with Theo) is for older readers and has an edgier, more adventurous tone than your books with Henry. How has working with a new collaborator on a new project for a new audience affected your approach to shaping a story?

LIN: Well, it’s important to note that my new collaborator is also my son, which complicates the interaction in both blissful and complex ways. We have to work hard not to make this a mother-son relationship, but an interaction between two colleagues of equal ability. Theo has a great sense of adventure and is always very close to what our key readers … tween boys … are interested in. I always defer to him in those areas. I am a bear about staying on story, keeping the tension high, making sure each scene serves a purpose in advancing the story, keeping things pacey. Theo, I think, is willing to tolerate a more meditative pace. We bump into each other a lot on that spectrum…how fast to move the story, how much digression to include, how much scientific and historical fact to highlight. The happy news is that I believe both Sound Bender books have benefitted from our collaboration and specifically from our having to work out this very issue. They are deeper than they would have been if I had written them alone, and quicker than they might have been had Theo written them alone. I think this is one instance when compromise resulted in a better all around book.

Do you share your manuscripts with kids to test them out?

HENRY: No, we don’t. If we laugh in the room, it goes in the book. If the rhythms we come up with in telling the story land easily on the ear, it goes in the book. If the theme moves us emotionally, it becomes the book.

THEO: I share them with my inner child, but no actual kids. I was a tough and discerning eleven-year-old—most of them are; they can spot lies and phoniness a mile away. My inner child will respond right away to anything fake with a devastating eye-roll and a sarcastic, “Yeah right, that’s so stupid.” He’s tough, and it hurts every time.

Lin, do you use critique partners when you write your “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?” series, which is not a collaboration?

LIN: I don’t use critique partners, but I have several first readers who are central to me. I always talk through the plot with Steve Mooser, my SCBWI partner of the last 40 years. He is invaluable when it comes to hearing a story and foretelling whether it will work. Plot is always the area where I need the most help. When it comes to actually writing the scenes, I’m pretty sure-footed with my particular comedic voice. However, I’m about to begin doing research on a new kind of novel for me, a multi-generational historical saga, and I’m hoping to use critique partners there. It’s a brand new tone for me, and I’m sure I’ll need smart feedback.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

LIN: My story problems are always in the Second Act. I usually know the First Act, establishing the problem. And I usually know the Third Act, solving the problem. Where I stumble is in the middle, trying to create complications that are relevant to the story and build tension. In the second Sound Bender, which Theo and I just finished, we really struggled with the middle. Our hero, Leo, has to find the other half of a mysterious Siamese twin mask from Borneo. He uses his sound bending powers to do so. The middle of the story involves a trip to Borneo, and a journey down the river into the jungle (an homage to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness). What was really tough was how to make all the adventures on the river build tension and not be just exciting episodic events. In the end, we had to cut that act by at least half, to get rid of those scenes that were temporarily exciting but did not really contribute to the building of tension. It was miserable work, getting through that Second Act. We got lost on that damn river so many times before we could paddle our way out.

THEO: There’re so few rules in writing that I’ll latch onto anything that seems wise or helpful. One aphorism I like (and have no clue to its origin) is: If the narrative seems slow, that means you’re not focusing on the right things. (paraphrased)

If a story isn’t working, it seems flat, lifeless. And the reason why it feels lifeless is almost always because the main character is so overwhelmed with story and narrative beats that he can’t be himself, and can’t respond like a living person.

When I’m staring at a lifeless scene, one thing I like to do is what I call an “emotional draft.” When revising, it’s easy to get so bogged down in the weeds of language, story development, the “way it should be” that it can feel suffocating—both for you and the character. So the “emotional draft” is a blank page draft, where I just focus solely on what the characters are actually feeling in the moment, while momentarily forgetting about all the other work on that scene I’ve already done. It’s a very safe and playful exercise, and a great way to add life into empty words.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

HENRY and LIN: We usually have a very concise and clear outline before we start writing. What amazes us each time we write a book is that the story itself has a mind of its own and when we’re trying to go right, it often goes to the left. We have learned to faithfully follow, even if the result is a drastic change from the original plan.

LIN’s additional note: I often find I have to cut a character completely. I love to build in supporting roles, and on many occasions, have fallen in love with a character who doesn’t really have a vital role to play. I let myself write that character in the first draft, and then have to examine whether or not they’re just taking up space, no matter how charming I think they might be. I have an imaginary room in my house where those characters live. They’re all banging on the door trying to get into the next book. Some of them make it.

THEO: Short of incinerating entire drafts while sobbing, we’ve cut whole characters, whole finished chapters, whole subplots, etc. In our latest book, Sound Bender 2, we took a 140-page section and crunched it down into twenty-five compact pages. Lin says there’s nothing wasted in writing, but I think she’s full of it.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

HENRY and LIN: We know it’s done when we literally have come to the end of the story. Then we send it to our editors and get their thoughts. We carefully go over every thought and decide which ones resonate intellectually and emotionally. In the nineteen novels we have written together, we have never really had a major disagreement with our publishers that required us to change anything about what the book is that we imagined it to be.

LIN’s additional note: I have never read a published book of mine where I didn’t wince from wanting to go back and change it. I think this supports my belief that a book isn’t really done, it’s due. And thank goodness for that, or we’d just go on revising and tinkering forever.

THEO: There is no final draft. There are no endings, only countless beginnings. Just try to do your best work in the time you have, then beg and plead for another extension.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

The Editor is giving away yet another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 8, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 9, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Robin LaFevers

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Revision Week/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues today with Robin LaFevers, the author of fourteen books for young readers, including the Theodosia series, the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series, and the much buzzed-about new His Fair Assassin series.

Please join Robin and The Editor for Day 3 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit”from The Editor.

Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry, so it’s not surprising that she grew up to be a hopeless romantic. She has also spent a large portion of her life being told she was making up things that weren’t there, which only proves she was destined to write fiction. Robin’s most recent book, Grave Mercy, is a YA romance about assassin nuns in medieval France and has received three starred reviews and is a 2012 Indie Next Spring Pick. Robin was writing the final words of Grave Mercy’s follow-up (Book Two in the His Fair Assassins series) when The Editor asked her to participate in Revision Week. Robin steadfastly refused to answer a single question until she’d typed “THE END” on the draft for her editor. How’s that for maintaining focus?! Thankfully, Robin made her deadline and is now free to share her hard-earned insights on the revision process.

*After Robin’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

You jokingly dubbed yourself the Queen of Multiple Drafts. How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made?

Oh gosh, that really depends on the book and how long it’s been percolating in my head! Since I tend to divide books into acts, my process usually involves working on act one for a number of drafts—four to five at the least, although sometimes it can be upward of seven. In those revisions, I really work on nailing down the character’s voice, the tone of the story, the world, and the major components of the character’s internal arc—what they think they want vs. what they need, the whys of all that, and then trying to understand and brainstorm what keeps them from achieving that. I can’t move on in the story until I get all that figured out. With the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist books, I did a lot of that in my head before I ever set pen to paper, so only needed a two or three drafts. With Grave Mercy, I worked all that out on the page in a daunting number of revisions.

When I do it that way, I find the rest of the book requires fewer revisions—maybe only three or four. And of course, once I reach The End and have the entire book complete, I have to go back and massage the first act so it all fits together, which is another revision or two.

Do you go through fewer drafts when you’re a few books into a series?  

Yes, thank goodness! And that is because so many of the elements are already established—the character’s voice, the essential personality, the players, the world. That and because those are written on contract with hard and fast deadlines.

Which draft gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?  

Which draft I show to my editor depends on whether it is part of a continuing series or not. I don’t like to write books on spec, so if it’s a new project, I will typically have as polished and perfect a version of the book as I can. Or as polished and perfect as I can make it at that point in time. A critical part of my process is letting the book lay fallow for a while between drafts. When I do that, I find my subconscious does a huge amount of the heavy lifting for me, which always makes things easier.

So, for new projects probably anywhere from the seventh or tenth draft gets shown to my editor. For continuing projects, probably the third or fourth draft.

Now, the upside to doing so many drafts myself is that I usually only have to do one revision for my editor, and usually a fairly light revision at that.

For my most current project, the second book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, I had to turn in a much earlier draft than I am used to and I have to say, it makes me hugely uncomfortable. Like showing up at a business meeting in my jammies. In fact, I was so twitchy about it that I sent along a copy of my revision notes—all the things I knew still needed work—to my editor, just to try and streamline the process and let her know I didn’t think all the manuscript’s bald spots were okay.

Do you use critique partners?  

I don’t use critique partners because it isn’t helpful to me to show my work while it’s in progress. I do use beta readers though (although that may be a matter of semantics) who read the entire manuscript and give me their thoughts. I find them to be enormously helpful. For me, beta readers are highly trusted readers (most often writers) who have similar reading tastes as I do and like/read in the genre that I’m writing. They are also, and perhaps most importantly, able to help me write the story I’m trying to write as opposed to giving suggestions on how to write it as if they were writing it—which of course would make it an entirely different book. That’s a really important distinction though, because oftentimes we can get too much feedback or feedback that is at crosspurposes to what we’re trying to accomplish. So I pick my first readers very carefully.

I usually hand off the entire manuscript to these readers after a few drafts but before the final draft—that way the manuscript is still malleable in my mind and hasn’t “set” yet. Sometimes, if I get it all polished up and think of it as “ready”, making big changes can be too hard!

Do you ever share your manuscripts with young readers to test them out?  

No, I haven’t really done that since my kids have grown up, but when they were little, I definitely used them for guinea pigs!

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?  

Oh, merde! I think I told you I have done countless drafts of Grave Mercy, mostly because there were so many story choices available, it took me forever to figure out which story I wanted to tell. Then once I did, I got to page 200 and realized that third person POV simply wasn’t working. So I had to change the entire book to first person, which is much, MUCH more than simply changing pronouns. There is an entirely different flow to language and narration when you change POV. The manuscript flowed much better, but I was still having problems. It wasn’t until page 350 (of a 420-page mss) that I realized the darn thing had to be in first person PRESENT tense. That was a giant scream heard round the world, let me tell you. And writing in first person present is like speaking an entirely different language, so I had to completely rewrite the whole damn thing. (View the Grave Mercy trailer here.)

Which taught me an important lesson: experiment with tenses and POVs in the early stages of a book—just don’t set your POV choice on default mode.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When it is sent to the printer.

Seriously. I could fiddle and tweak forever. In fact, I have been known to tweak and edit on a printed copy of the book before doing a reading. But there is a point where you aren’t necessarily making it better—just making it different. Or so I try to tell myself.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

Today The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 7, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 8, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.) Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Revision Week: Kathleen Krull

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Picture Books/Revision Week by

Dear Readers…

DearEditor.com’s Revision Week continues with award-winning author Kathleen Krull. In 2011 Kathleen was awarded the Children’s Book Guild of Washington D.C. Nonfiction Award, an honor presented annually to “an author or illustrator whose total body of work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children.”

Please join Kathleen and The Editor for Day 2 of Revision Week, and find out how to win today’s “Free Partial Edit” from The Editor.

Kathleen Krull has written some 60 books for young readers, most notably the award-winning series of “Lives of” books, now with new jackets and new titles forthcoming. The Editor had the honor of working with Kathleen on many of the “Lives of” books as well as other books at Harcourt Children’s Books.

*After Kathleen’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Partial Edit Giveaway.

When you write a new picture book manuscript, how many drafts does it typically take before you’ll show it to an editor?

From the days when every penny counted, I’m so cheap with paper that I don’t print out a draft after I make every little change, so it’s hard to say. I print at least 10 to 15 drafts, representing what seem like substantial changes, before I’m happy. When I get to the point of taking out commas and putting them back in again, I feel ready to send it off.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

A lot, as you know, Deborah, from sitting across the desk from me once upon a time. A good example is Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. True story: between what I thought was my final draft, and what emerged after the editorial process, only one sentence stood intact: “Grapes, when ripe, do not last long.” It’s not that I deliberately send in something unpolished, it’s that editors are indispensable. (Note from The Editor: Kathy gave me permission to take credit for coming up with the “Harvesting Hope” title. I credit Kathy’s other wonderful editor at Harcourt with the revision fun.) Watch the National Endowment for the Humanities book trailer for Harvesting Hope here.

You’ve started co-writing with your husband, author/illustrator Paul Brewer. How does that collaboration work?

It’s truly a collaboration. One of us will start with an idea (Fartiste, needless to say, was his), a paragraph, or a first page, and we’ll then pass drafts back and forth, endlessly tweaking. Paul specializes in research. With Lincoln Tells a Joke, he found all the jokes. Same thing with our upcoming funny book about the Beatles. My focus is the final fine-tuning of the words. He typically works at night and I work days, so I’ll hand things off to him at the end of the day and find it back on my desk the next morning.

Did you use Paul or other critique partners for the books you wrote solo in the past?

Paul is usually the only one I show manuscripts to, for the simple value of watching his face as he reads. I can tell when he gets hung up, confused, or amused, and I use those reactions as clues when I’m revising.

Do you ever read your picture book manuscripts to kids to test them out?

I’ve tried this, but haven’t found it that helpful. I lean toward the “too many cooks” theory, that my views and the editor’s (and sometimes Paul’s) are what matter. More input than that can be muddling.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

With my biography of Dr. Seuss (The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss), I found it flummoxing that his life, from all outward appearances, was pretty darn charmed. I like to write about obstacles overcome, battles fought and won, and with him the more I researched, the less conflict I found. After many many drafts, I was finally able to tease out the theme that fooling around with words and pictures was not considered appropriate for an adult—but he did it anyway.

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done to a story while revising?

With Fartiste, Paul and I tried every which way to tell the story of Joseph Pujol, a real French performer whose entire act was farting on stage. Nothing clicked until I hit upon telling the story in rhyme. Paul thought this was a terrible idea—among other reasons, most editors hate stories in rhyme. But then I came up with a few funny verses, and we were off and running. I’d like to use this remedy again, but it would have to be the right subject.

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When the editor and I have wrestled it into a story that seems to have written itself—that’s the goal anyway.

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

Today The Editor is giving away another FREE PARTIAL EDIT of your manuscript. Note that the winner of today’s giveaway IS eligible for Saturday’s grand prize Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway. Here are the rules, with a bonus entry available to DearEditor.com subscribers:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. The partial edit will cover the FIRST CHAPTER of your manuscript. In the case of a picture book entry, the edit will cover the entire manuscript—but the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 6, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using Randomizer.org and announced on March 7, 2012, in the DearEditor.com comments section and on the DearEditor.com Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.

TO ENTER:

One entry –  SEND EMAIL to DearEditor.com using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Partial Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to dear-editor@hotmail.com.)

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. DearEditor.com subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of DearEditor.com and then email your second entry.

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!

Guest Editor Melissa Wiley re: Facebook v. Google+ as Author Tools

in Guest Editors/Promotion/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

My New Year’s resolution is to get active in social media and start “building my platform.” I don’t think I have time to be active in both Facebook and Google+. A friend says Facebook is established, so choose that. (I do have an account there but haven’t really used it.) Another friend says Google+ is the future, so choose that. I’m stuck. Advice?

Thanks,
R.

 

Dear R.…

If you have to pick one platform, Facebook is probably your best bet for now. With over 800 million active users a month, Facebook is where you are most likely to connect with your audience. You’ll want to decide between maintaining a personal profile—where you can choose to make some posts visible to the public, and others visible to your Facebook friends only—or a fan page, or both. Either way, you can share updates, links, and photos, as well as engage in conversations with your readers. If you do go the Facebook route, you’ll want to do a bit of online research to bone up on the platform’s privacy policies. The privacy settings can seem complicated at first, but there are many how-to guides on the web to help you navigate. Two great sources of info are GeekMom (“Lay-Geek’s Guide to Facebook Privacy” by Patricia Vollmer) and Mashable (“Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings Every User Needs to Know“). (Disclaimer: I’m a contributor at GeekMom.)

Google+ is growing every day, and it’s an appealing platform with a lot of flexibility. At this point, however, Google+ users tend to be early adopters and tech-lovers; it’s a smaller audience and you may find it harder to connect with readers there. But a point in Google+’s favor is that Google has reconfigured its search algorithms to give priority ranking to G+ posts! Nonfiction writers especially may find that a solid Google+ presence helps topic-searching users find them more easily.

Best,
Melissa Wiley
Guest Editor

Melissa Wiley is the author of more than a dozen books for children and teens, including Little House in the Highlands and other novels about the ancestors of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her middle-grade novel, The Prairie Thief, will be published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in the fall. Melissa blogs about her family’s reading life at Here in the Bonny Glen ( melissawiley.com/blog ) and is a contributing writer and social media manager at GeekMom.com. You can find her on Facebook , Twitter and Google+ .

Guest Editor Gary Soto re: Heeding Your Creative Instinct

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I have a short story that my writing group thinks could be a whole novel. I worked hard to distill this character’s story down to its essentials . . . I can’t seem to get my head around expanding it meaningfully. I feel like I’m adding stuff for the sake of adding pages. I hear about great novels that started off as short stories. What’s their secret?

Thank you,
M.

Dear M.…

If you’re in a writers group, you may be expected to heed advice of others—that’s why you’re there, right? To listen, absorb, learn from others who are practicing this art of ours. However, I find that some will suggest revisions where revisions aren’t needed, new titles when the old titles will suffice, introduction of more tension (more screaming please!) when the story is adequately tense, etc. Now a colleague in the group—perhaps as he or she set her coffee cup down—has blurted, “Hey, this might be good as a novel, not a story?” Everyone chirps, “Great idea. You go, girl!”

I sense worry. I sense doubt. I side with you as we remember the maxim “When in doubt, remain in doubt.” In our art—fiction and short story writing—we live by hunches, what talent we are given, perhaps even the temperament that defines us—you, by nature, may color a smaller canvas. What’s wrong with that? This is you. You are not the Jackson Pollack of large canvases! You have a hunch that what you have done is a short story and will remain a short story. Are you being difficult? Are you losing an opportunity for a larger work? Probably not.

In short, if you try to lengthen the story into novel length, you’ll probably discover that it’s tough going—and, yes, those are tears of frustration falling on your keypad. My advice: recognize that the story is done. Now begin something else.

Stay strong,
Guest Editor Gary Soto

Gary Soto is the author of many much-loved middle grade and young adult novels, short story collections, poetry collections, and plays, including the acclaimed Baseball in April and Other Stories. He’s just published the new short story collection for young readers called Hey 13! and his first e-novel, When Dad Came Back. For more about Gary and his books, visit www.GarySoto.com.

Guest Editor Randy Morrison re: Legality of Using Real People in Fiction

in Contracts/Guest Editors/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

I was wondering what legal problems (if any) are associated with using real people as characters in fiction? I’m not talking Elvis, or someone who would obviously have an estate with a problem, more like a fantasy novel about people who have disappeared through the ages (like Louis Le Prince, or Dorothy Arnold.) What’s the rule? Is it easier to just avoid it altogether and name them something else?

Thanks,
Megan

Dear Megan…

Le Prince disappeared in 1890 at age 48; he is certainly long dead by now. That means neither he nor his descendants, nor his estate, has any privacy or reputation rights, and that anyone is free to create a work “based upon” or “inspired by” his life, even if it takes issue with Brian Selznick’s Invention of Hugo Cabret about who really developed the first motion picture system, Lumiere or Le Prince.  There is no legal remedy for “blackening the good reputation” of anyone who is dead.

No one owns history, and when history is cloudy or disputed, anyone can fill in the gaps as they see fit, including fictional details, as is frequently done with stories about Amelia Earhart, Robin Hood, the much married and divorced King Henry, and other “legendary persons.” Everyone has a free speech right to interpret history, or to tell or even revise it to promote their agenda.

When a writer uses a real, living person as a character in a literary work, then there are several potential issues. The expression rights of the First Amendment have to be weighed against the specific facts. Possible issues include: 1) defamation (the publication of false facts about a person, asserted as true, which injure reputation; google this: Palin lawsuit McGinnis); 2) privacy (public disclosure of private facts); 3) false light (telling the story in a manner that leaves a false or misleading impression); 4) misappropriation (“free riding” on other people’s work); 5) right of publicity (the right of famous persons to commercialize and exploit their name, likeness, image, reputation, or distinctive singing style; this is a property right that can be bought and sold (Presley, Three Stooges); 6) infliction of emotional distress, called “outrageous conduct” in some states. If the real person’s story has already been published, then there may be copyright issues. If the subject person is the founder or public image of a company (“Newman’s Own”, “Trump Tower”) then there could be trademark, product disparagement, unfair competition or other commercial issues.

The legal theories and standards of proof vary according to several factors, including: whether the portrayed person is a “public figure” (well known to the public, at least within their realm of fame); the degree to which the subject person has sought publicity or publicized their personal life (Kardashians, Charlie Sheen, Sarah Palin, Chaz Bono, confessional autobiographies, Facebook accounts); how broadly the story has been disseminated or published; the degree of care exercised to check the facts and avoid infringing on other people’s rights; whether a retraction or correction was requested or issued; and whether a malicious intent can be shown. For living persons, the safest course is to get their permission in advance, in writing.

“Is it easier to just avoid it all together and name them something else?” Yes, but it is wiser to do more than just change the name. To make real the legalese about “any relationship to any real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental”, also change several of the personal traits and life story.

-Guest Editor Randy Morrison

Randy Morrison was a rock and roll disc jockey and radio music programmer in the age of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Today he is a nationally recognized authority on the intersection of First Amendment and zoning law, and also assists authors, agents, and editors with copyright, trademark, and other aspects of literary law. As an author he writes reference books for attorneys and mid-grade fiction about space-traveling circuses, often while listening to symphonies by Mahler and Tchaikovsky. His email address is literarylaw@gmail.com; he can be reached by phone at 619.234.2864.

Disclaimer: this information is provided for general educational purposes only, and is not intended as legal advice on any particular situation. No attorney client relationship is formed by reading this information.

Guest Editor Theresa Stanton re: Author Blogsite v. Website

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor…

I read an interview where you refer to your website as a “blogsite.” How does a blogsite differ from a regular website? Should authors have a blogsite instead of a website?

Sincerely,

R.

Dear R….

The Editor asked me respond to your question because I’m her “web guru” and set up this site as well as her blog at deborahhalverson.com. You are correct in referencing this site as a “blogsite”, but before I answer your question as to what that is and how it differs from a “website”, we should first establish what a “blog” is.  (Don’t worry, it’s just a few sentences of semi-techie stuff.)

The term blog came from shortening the word “weblog”, which in essence is an online journal. The beauty of journals is that they are date-based, so sifting through archives is easy. The main difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is organized into dates or category archives whereas a website does not have to be. On top of the organizing aspect of a blog, the dynamic nature of allowing visitors to comment on journal entries makes blogs much more interactive than a standard website. Websites (which are usually written in html language) are by nature static, or non-changing. By contrast, you don’t need to know html to use a blog. The CMS, or content management system, that “drives” blogs uses something called php language scripting, which frees up bloggers from web programming and gives them a user-friendly interface in which to write and publish posts and pages. Sure, there are template programs out there for creating websites even when you don’t know html, but all those are really good for is creating static pages.

So we have a blog and a website. What is a “blogsite” then? Well, a blogsite is a blog made to function as a website with the added benefits of archiving and commenting. Instead of the visitor going from a website then to a blog to read the latest news from their favorite author, they just go to one all-inclusive blogsite that contains pages AND blog entries.

As a writer, would you benefit more from a blogsite than a website? Absolutely! I encouraged Deborah to add the blog aspect because I knew a) she’s a great writer and b) if there’s anyone who would find blog functions useful, it would be her. How much of your writing you put “out there” through your blogging is up to you. You don’t want to go and publish entire books on a blog, but “teasers” certainly entice readers to purchase your new novel. I can go on and on about the positive aspects of blogsites, but in terms of readership and “creating buzz” for your writing, being able to set up a subscription system and other plugins (i.e. social networking buttons) to drive the buzz are just some of the things you can easily add to your blog to make it function and work for you. Once you start marketing your book, a blogsite will help streamline the flow of potential fans, as well as streamline your thoughts and the organization of information on your site.

Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad are just a few sites that offer free blogs for those just starting out, but if you want to create a real brand for yourself, you can register a domain name like “deborahhalverson.com” or “blogsforphotogs.com” and have it hosted with a web hosting company so that the CMS can be installed and run independently on your hosted site. Running CMS this way gives you (and your web designer) full control over the source and design files. Many hosting companies offer “one-click” WordPress installations and there are literally thousands of free themes or skins out there that you can use for the look and layout of your blog with minimal or no coding experience necessary. For more specific design and branding needs, you can hire a web designer like myself to build a theme or customize an existing theme for you. Once it’s all set up, you have full control over your blog and are free to do what you do best, which is writing.

Happy blogging!

Theresa Stanton

Theresa Stanton is a web designer and photographer with a background in architecture. Her blogsite www.blogsforphotogs.com is geared toward building blogs for photographers but she has also built blogsites for a wide range of businesses. Her portraiture work can be found at her photography blogsite www.designfocusstudio.com.

Guest Editor Katie Davis re: To Podcast or To Video?

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor…

I’m thinking of including either podcasts or videos on my blog. Is one better for an author blog than the other?

Michael

Dear Michael…

The Editor asked me to answer your question because I create videos for my site on a regular basis and produce a podcast called Brain Burps About Books.

You ask which is better, videos or podcasts. But “better” could mean anything! Would one be better for your time input than the other? Better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? Better for your readers? And what kinds of video would be better? What kinds of podcasts? I’ll try to cover it all here and hope you didn’t mean just “better for my Aunt Sadie’s enjoyment!”

One thing before we begin: while podcasts can be audio or video, most people think of them as audio. For this discussion, I’ll be referring to audio podcasts.

Podcasts

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Depending on whether you’re interviewing someone or just sharing information, your level of experience, and how long your episodes will be, a podcast can take anywhere from 60 minutes to more than four hours to produce, starting with interviewee correspondence to writing show notes and the accompanying blog post to recording the thing, editing, tagging, uploading, and promoting it.

Cost: It varies greatly, but if you plan on creating a lot of episodes, you’ll need to pay for a server, as audio files are approximately 1.5mg per minute. I use Liberated Syndication and find them very helpful and supportive whenever I have a problem.

Benefits:

  1. Podcasting is a great way to help people by sharing your expertise, they’re terrific passive marketing, and they entertain.
  2. Podcasts are portable, which means people can listen to them while they do other things. (Listeners can subscribe to podcasts via iTunes or download an app that will load the podcast automatically into their mp3 players.)
  3. There are many outlets for podcasts, so you can attract a global audience very quickly.
  4. Podcasts are easier to record and edit than videos.
  5. You can tag podcasts for SEO, just like videos.
  6. Podcasts add regular content to your site, which you want because it affects your ranking.
  7. One of my personal fave perks because I interview a lot of authors and illustrators: I receive books for free!
  8. And the best part: it’s fun!

Negatives:

  1. The word “podcast” confuses many consumers. They’re unsure of what one is and when, where, and how they can hear it, so they run from them. I usually describe “podcast” simply as a “homemade radio show accessed via the internet.”
  2. The internet is a visual medium; podcasts don’t really take advantage of that as well as videos.
  3. It’s hard to listen to a lengthy show that has really terrible audio quality, so you need good audio equipment if you want people to subscribe. Though sites such as BlogTalkRadio seem to be quite popular (I assume because they’re free), I personally have a difficult time listening to them because of the tin-cans-connected-by-a-string sound.

Suggestion: You could do 15-minute jobbers and not include a blog along with it. Design podcasts to work for you, your readers, and your purposes.

Videos

The Black Hole Time Suck Info: Videos can take an enormous amount of time if you want to produce a quality product. Obviously, there are many low quality videos out there that have gone viral, so I may know absolutely nothing! Still, the virals have something in common: mass interest for one reason or another. Therefore, you will want to consider your subject matter and what you want to put out there (see suggestions, below).

Benefits:

  1. You don’t have to commit to creating them regularly the way you do with podcasts. Though if you start creating helpful weekly videos, your visitor numbers will start growing, as people will begin to expect them. A podcast is, by definition, a series. People don’t think of videos as a series so you can do one-off videos. (You can certainly provide a video series, such as my video F.A.Q.s which I recently started hosting on my FAQ page as well as my Youtube channel.)
  2. Most people, by this time, know how to watch a video on a computer.
  3. Again, the web is a visual medium, so video is a natural way to show things like your writing process, who you are, where you live, etc., which many fans love to see.
  4. Properly tagged, videos are great for SEO. I suggest reading this or listening to this podcast with Darcy Pattison, author of The Book Trailer Manual.
  5. The longer a visitor stays on your site, the better (search spiders love longer stays), so watching a mesmerizing video increases the chance he or she will stay.
  6. You will get a lot of new readers through Youtube (because you’ll post your videos on your personal Youtube channel which will lead back to your site).

Negatives:

  1. You need video equipment. Luckily, equipment is much more available these days, what with cell phone HD video capabilities, iSight, etc.
  2. A video podcast is less portable, so your audience must find the time to sit and watch it.
  3. Talking heads are boring. Set your Bore Alert on high!
  4. One can easily be tempted to make long videos, which will then fall into the I-Have-No-Time-To-Watch-This category and then production time is wasted.

Suggestions: There are many ways an author can include videos on his or her site: book trailers, animotos, interviews, Skype visits with kids or teachers, informational videos, funny videos parodying books…the list could go on for many virtual pages. The one thing I advise, no matter the subject, is that you make the video short. Personally, I think three minutes at the extreme outside is the way to go, although there are those who think a five-minute video, if it’s instructional, hits the sweet spot. Make sure you create a Youtube channel, which will bring in more people from a completely different venue.

I’ve given you two sides of the story because you asked as though there were two sides to this decision. Michael, my question to you is, why chose one over the other? There is a reason the phrase “content is king” is ubiquitous. The more you put on your site or blog, the better you will be serving your readers and fans, and the more people will be coming to see what you’re offering. I do both, and so can you! And by the way, everyone who sees your videos probably won’t also be listening to your podcasts and reading your blog, so you’ll be covering different groups, potentially.

Suggested Reading: Blog post: Are YouTube Videos and Podcasting Worth the Effort?

Good luck, and I hope this helped!

Katie Davis

Katie Davis is the author/illustrator of nine books for children and is the producer of “Brain Burps About Books,” the #1 kidlit podcast in the iTunes store under Children’s Publishing. She also appears monthly on the ABC affiliate show “Good Morning Connecticut,” recommending great books for kids. Visit Katie’s website to get more tips and to sign up for her monthly newsletter filled with great information and chances to win stuff.

Guest Editor Jeff Hirsch re: Dare I Dream “Dystopia” in This Market?

in Guest Editors/Publishing Biz by

Dear Editor…

My current novel is post-apocalyptic, and I was going to market it as dystopian. One of my critiquers said it’s not depressing and dark enough to be dystopian. Is that a necessary criteria for this genre?

Sincerely,

Carol

Hi Carol…

This is a great question. The short answer is, absolutely not. The slightly longer answer is that I think we’re at the beginning of the second wave of this dystopian trend and that’s a great time to start playing with the form and having fun with it. I personally would love to see a writer who figures out how to do a very funny dystopian book.  A tough trick maybe, but if someone could pull it off I think it would feel very fresh and could be a lot of fun.

Above all, write your dystopian book, not anyone else’s.

Good luck!

Guest Editor Jeff Hirsch

Jeff Hirsch is the author of the best-selling post-apocalyptic YA novel The Eleventh Plague. His second novel will be Magisterium. Read the grabber opening chapter of The Eleventh Plague on his website, then click this link by mid-Thursday for a chance to win a free Advance Reading Copy of it—complete with fab cover blurb by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.

Guest Editor Barrie Summy re: Red Herrings in MG Mysteries?

in Guest Editors/Plot/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

Do you think red herrings and foreshadowing are important in middle grade novels? I’m working on a spooky mystery and am wondering if I need to pay more attention to adding red herrings. It seems like a tough element to learn. Thanks for any input you can give me.

Sincerely,
Lynn

Dear Lynn…

Yes and yes. I say go for both red herrings and foreshadowing in middle-grade novels.

A few red herrings tossed into the mix add to the fun and complexity and give your mystery those delightful twists and turns. You definitely don’t want a straight road leading directly from the problem to the solution. Sure, by the end of the mystery, you want your readers to feel that even if they didn’t crack the case, they could’ve. And, of course, some readers will actually solve it. Red herrings ensure that not every reader solves it. 🙂

I’m a huge fan of foreshadowing because it enriches the book and makes it hang together better. Will your average middle-grade reader notice foreshadowing? Perhaps not. But it will still make your story that much better.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your writing, Lynn. Middle-grade mysteries are great! (Not that I’m biased…)

-Guest Editor Barrie Summy

Barrie Summy is the author of the popular young adult mystery series I So Don’t Do: I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky, and I So Don’t Do Makeup. The fourth mystery in the series, I So Don’t Do Famous, pubs May 10, 2011. In it, Sherry goes to Hollywood and figures out who’s breaking into celebrities’ homes. For more about Barrie and Sherry, go to www.barriesummy.com.

Guest Editor Darcy Pattison re: Virtual Book Launches

in Guest Editors/Promotion by

Dear Editor . . .

I’m looking for suggestions and ideas on how to pull off a successful virtual launch party for a self-published book.

Sincerely,
Michael

Dear Michael . . .

You’re all ready to launch your book by doing a variety of online activities: webpage, Facebook page, blog tour, email blast, book trailers, etc. What are the two most important things you should know?

1) Consistency. Be consistent in your visual image across all your efforts. Make sure you “build your brand” carefully by consistently using the same author photo, the same logo, the same cover image. Don’t confuse the message you’re sending by being too creative with the images. Certainly, photos from a brick-and-mortar signing are fun to look at, but don’t use these photos in your publicity. Readers should see the same image everywhere, so they start to associate a certain book/image with you. If you do want to show other photos, create an album on your Facebook page and link to it. Better yet, use those photos in an updated promotional book trailer.

2) Call to Action. You should be very clear about what you want people to DO as a result of your efforts. Here are some ideas: buy a book, write a review on Amazon, tell a friend about your book, download and read a sample chapter, sign up for your newsletter, or enter a contest for a book giveaway. Be consistent across all your efforts and ask viewers/readers to do one thing. Only one thing. Be sure to ASK for the action you want them to take; if you don’t ask, they won’t do it. And make sure it’s very easy for people to do, or they won’t do it. Track the results of efforts by tracking how many times that one action was taken. Did you get 25 Amazon reviews? Fantastic! That’s a successful virtual book launch!

Darcy Pattison, Guest Editor for the Day

Author and teacher Darcy Pattison (www.darcypattison.com) writes about how to improve your fiction, DIY book publicity and book trailers (www.booktrailermanual.com). Watch a trailer for The Book Trailer Manual
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rogq93aYvkQ.

Guest Editor Mary E. Pearson re: Help! I’ve Hit a Wall!

in Creative Process/Guest Editors/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I attended a week-long retreat a year ago. I hit a wall and have been lost in confusion about everything: my story and my ability to write. How can I get my confidence back? I seem paralyzed.

Sincerely,

Maureen

Dear Maureen…

I don’t know if misery loves company, but I do want to tell you that this is completely normal for every writer, and it seems to happen at some point with every book. I thought that once I was published that would give me the confidence to boldly move forward in my writing.  Unfortunately that doesn’t happen because every story presents its own unique challenges that can undermine your confidence. In other words, as I’m writing, I still frequently ask myself, What kind of mess have you gotten yourself into now?!  This story is hopeless! It will never make sense. I don’t even know what it’s about! Sound familiar?

I think the worst point is somewhere right around the middle where everything seems to be out of control.  When I get to that crazy spot where I feel like I can’t move forward, I will do all kinds of things to help me keep going, like:

  1. Print it out.
  2. Read and highlight key points or emerging themes.
  3. Force myself to write a one-liner (or several) that seem to describe the book.
  4. Force myself to write a short flap-jacket type synopsis so I can try to understand what the book is about.
  5. Look at emotional questions (inner plot) I have raised. Did I answer too soon and let the steam out of the story? Sometimes it’s simply the last chapter or two where I took a wrong turn and I need to rewrite in order to move forward.
  6. Remind myself it doesn’t have to be perfect in the first draft. Go ahead, Mary, write crap. That’s what revision is for.
  7. Share a partial with friends—every writer needs encouragement. (But be careful about sharing too much too soon. This can derail a lot of writers, especially if the vision for the story is fragile.)
  8. Picture myself a year from now with a finished book. I know the only way I will get there is writing a few words each day.
  9. Trick myself. I sit down to write and tell myself I only have to write ten words and then I can get up and do whatever I want guilt free. TEN. That’s all. But I have to do it every day. It’s amazing how quickly ten little words can grow into a whole page. And then the mind spins during downtime so that your story is always being written. But that daily jolt of writing keeps those ideas spinning.
  10. Reread one of my books about craft. These are like mini-conferences and are a good shot in the arm.
  11. Tell myself I’m just going to hurry and finish this mess so I can move on to something else. But I have to finish it because all my time invested up to that point would be a complete waste.
  12. Banish all the devils sitting on my shoulder whispering all the shoulds and shouldn’ts of writing.  I literally tell myself, “You will never please everyone, so when all is said and done, you damn well better please yourself.  Write the book that YOU want to write!” And I mean it.

I could go on and on with the many ways I’ve invented to help me beat doubt. The point is to keep going, Maureen. You are not alone. Writing is hard, uncertain work and stories have no clear pathways. Don’t beat yourself up when you hit one of those walls. Take a moment to catch your breath and find a way around it.  You can borrow one of my ways or invent your own (I am still inventing new ways) but I know you can do it.  Ten words. . . . It’s like digging a little hole under the wall and before you know it that wall is far behind you.

Best wishes,

Guest Editor for the Day Mary E. Pearson

Author of five award-winning teen novels, including the new The Miles Between

Newsflash: New Feature – Guest Editor for the Day!

in Guest Editors by

Dear-Editor.com gets a new feature…

Dear Readers…

I’m happy to be adding (finally!) a feature I’ve been scheming since the inception of Dear-Editor.com: Guest Editor for the Day. Starting Monday, I’ll occasionally hand over my editorial pen to a publishing colleague who will field a question that falls within his or her realm of expertise. In this way I hope to add to the depth of the knowledge bandied about Dear-Editor.com. The more voices we hear, the wiser we become.

First up: award-winning author Mary E. Pearson, who fields one of the most common (and most desperate) writing questions of all time.

Happy writing!

The Editor

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