Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's National Writing Month!

Starting Nov. 1st, it’s National Writing Month. This is when writers around the globe write furiously for one month with the goal to reach 50,000 words. It’s not an easy task and it’s not for everyone. But there is no doubt that NaNoWriMo encourages writing and bonding among writers.

If you are a writer, you can sign up for NaNoWriMo here. You can keep track of your daily word counts on their site, buddy up with other writers, join forums to get encouragement and help when you’re stuck. There are even threads on suggested music to listen to as you write.
If you’re a student or a teacher, check out NaNoWriMo for young writers here. There are tips on how to bring NaNo into the classroom and getting student’s work published here.

I’m going to be attempting NaNoWriMo myself. I’m a little terrified, but mostly excited to tackle a new project. I’ll be videoing my experiences throughout the month, including how I deal with each part of the process as I come to it.

Here’s my first video for you to check out!

Christina Farley's debut YA, GILDED, releases March 1, 2014 by Skyscape/ Amazon Children's Publishing. She is represented by Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC. She blogs and vlogs about writing and traveling, and is often found procrastinating on Twitter

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Summary and a few takeaways from SCBWI Canada East "The Art Of Story" Fall Conference in Montreal - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

With Laurent Linn, my art director from Simon & Schuster Books For
Young Readers, at Montreal children's bookstore, Babar-En-Villes.

Just came back from SCBWI Canada East's "The Art Of Story" convention in Montreal, where I was on the faculty (my first SCBWI faculty position!).

Giving my keynote! Photo: Urve Tamberg.
For my full convention report with lots of photos, read my 3-part blog post series: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3.

The lightning rod analogy I used in my keynote seems to be popular (yay), so I want to make sure that it gets properly attributed. As I mentioned in my keynote, my Torkidlit friend and YA author Maureen McGowan came up with it, not me (in an interview for my Inkygirl blog). And it's so true!

For those who weren't at my keynote, Maureen compares success in the publishing industry to being hit by lightning. While you can't control WHEN lightning will strike, you CAN make bigger and better lightning rods.

Penguin Random House editors Jill Santopolo & Bonnie Bader with
Caldecott-winning illustrator David Diaz.
As I mentioned in my reports, SCBWI regional conferences are a great opportunity for aspiring children's/YA book writers and illustrators who find the national conferences too intimidating. So often at the bigger conferences, faculty tend to get mobbed at the end of their sessions. :-)

At SCBWI Canada East's event, you were much more likely to find yourself in situations where you could chat with faculty.

Casual socializing Saturday night for attendees included Linda Pratt (of
Wernick & Pratt Agency), editors Jill Santolopolo and Bonnie Bader
(Penguin Random House) and art director Laurent Linn (Simon & Schuster BFYR).
Here are just a few takeaways from the convention:

- Both Jill Santopolo and Bonnie Bader mentioned the importance of a having a unique cast of supporting characters in novels for young people.

- Illustrators: Before approaching a possible agent, Linda Pratt advises that you check the portfolios of the agency's current clients to see if any of the art is similar to yours. If it is, then they're less likely to take you on as a client. (From Debbie: Writers can also benefit from this advice as well.)

- Know the rules before deciding to break them. - Laurent Linn.

- Embrace your process. - David Diaz.

Jill Santopolo, Linda Pratt, Bonnie Bader and Laurent Linn during Sunday's Q&A.
For those out there wondering why publishers usually keep picture book authors from interacting with the illustrators during the process, Laurent had some great insights.

He points out that authors often feel ownership over their stories, and some don't realize that creating a picture is a 50:50 collaboration with the illustrator. If authors had input during the illustration process, they'd be more likely to pressure the illustrator over details. And as a writer, how would YOU feel if the illustrator standing over your shoulder as you wrote your story? 

Anyway, it was a wonderful event and I strongly encourage you to check out the SCBWI Canada East website for more info about their members and upcoming events, as well as your own regional conference.

And if you're not already a member of SCBWI, why not? :-)

For my full SCBWI-Montreal conference report: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi writes and illustrates for young people. Her illustrations appear in I'M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black and published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. For more info about her upcoming books with Simon & Schuster BFYR, HarperCollins Children's and Random House Children's, see her Books page.

On Twitter: @inkyelbows.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Revising for an Editor or Agent: Part 2

Revising your story for an agent or editor can be a little different than revising for yourself. Today, writer and editor Kate Fall and YA author Christina Farley talk about the revision process and how they handle editorial suggestions. [For perspectives from other MiG writers, see Revising for an Agent or Editor Part 1].

Kate says:

When I'm revising for myself, I usually have a mental list of "things that bug me about my manuscript." They may be things that nobody has mentioned. They may be things a critique partner told me that resonated. But I am out for me. These are things that bother me, my pet peeves. For example, I don't like disappearing objects. In one manuscript, my main character has a bracelet her boyfriend gave her, and it's stolen by someone she knows. And for my beta readers, that was enough. That made sense. But I would wake up in the middle of the night wondering where that bracelet was, and eventually I changed the ending so that my main character gets her bracelet back.

When I'm revising for an agent request for revisions, I'm listening to their input. Agents often have input like, "I see this a lot. Is it important?" And you know, maybe it's not. The classic example is the first day of school beginning to a novel. It makes sense from a narrative standpoint. But agents see it so often, they know it's overused. It's not necessarily bad, it's just done to death. And that's the input I like from agents and editors. My critique partners can help me build a story, but industry professionals can tell me what parts of the story are too similar to the competition. And that can force me to think deeper, and get beyond my first ideas.

Kate Fall writes middle grade and young adult fiction and is an editor with Entangled Publishing.

Christina says:

My agent’s suggestions are always interesting because he sees my book as something to SELL rather than merely just a story. And this perspective is very important! My little story is getting ready to go out into the world. It has to be unique, perfect and enticing for an editor to want to buy it.

When I'm revising for my editor, I start seeing my book not just being MY book, but my READER’S book. There are moments I have to let go of a favorite line or favorite word because it just doesn’t make sense to the READERS, even if it makes sense to me.

Christina Farley is the author of the YA novel, GILDED, which will be published by Skyscape in Spring 2014.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on how revising for an agent or editor is different than revising for yourself! You can read what MiG Writers Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Andrea Mack and Carmella Van Vleet think about this in Revising for an Editor or Agent: Part 1.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Revising For an Editor or Agent: Part I

Revising your story for an agent or editor can be a little different than revising for yourself. Between the six of us MiG writers, we've had lots of experience with making big and small changes to strengthen our work and make it more saleable. Today's thoughts are from writer/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, MG author Carmella Van Vleet and children's writer Andrea Mack. And stay tuned for what editor Kate Fall and YA author Christina Farley have to say tomorrow [Revising for an Agent or Editor Part 2].

Debbie says:

When I'm revising for an editor (rather than for myself), I have a better overall picture of what needs to be changed. I'm also more confident that the changes are needed. My editor at Simon & Schuster BFYR always emphasizes that his suggestions for changes are always just that...suggestions. I believe there's a lot of trust in a good author-editor relationship.
I think I have a tendency to over-revise when revising for myself, plus I'm too close to the work to get an objective sense of the bigger picture. This is when having trusted writers critique my mss is so valuable…like the MiG Writers! :-) 
Debbie Ridpath Ohi illustrated I'M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster BFYR). Her illustrations next appear in NAKED! by the same author, coming out from Simon & Schuster next May.

Andrea says:

Having an agent or editor's suggestions to think about while I'm revising gives me a whole different perspective on my writing. I love seeing the "big picture" view that someone else has on my story, especially when they get the essence of what I'm trying to say (even if I don't have the words to express it myself).
Sometimes, when I'm sitting at my desk spending hours revising, I can get lost in the small details. Re-reading an editorial letter reminds me to take a step or two back and look at the overall goals for my characters.
Andrea Mack writes middle grade fiction, picture books and beginning readers.

Carmella says:

Whether I’m revising for my own satisfaction or for an editor, my revision process is typically the same. That’s because the goal is always the same - to tell the best story possible. 

First, I typically read through something looking for “big picture” things that need addressing. For instance, are the characters engaging? Are they goals clear and relatable? Is the plot moving at a decent pace? Is it believable? Am I achieving the emotional tone I want? I’ll take notes and then make a list. Sometimes I’ll address these things one at a time but since I tend to be linear writer, I usually address them as they come up and I move through the manuscript. 

Next, I work on finer details. Things like chapter length or dialogue. I look for places where I can combine chapters or scenes to tighten the pace. Or places to cut dialogue or description that’s not progressing the story. 
Finally, I work on those line edits - overused words, wrong words, confusing or awkward phrasing, spelling errors. 

The only difference in my approach for an editor is that I’m considering someone else’s suggestions. That kind of feedback is incredibly valuable and I always try to keep an open mind. But, ultimately, I listen to my gut. If something an editor (or agent or critique partner) says resonates with me, then I make the change. If not, then I don’t. To keep my writing on track, I write first thing in the morning. Well, okay, maybe not FIRST thing. I do like to check my emails and Facebook. But I find that if I turn on the TV or start a project or running errands, I never really get back to writing. I think my inner critic sleeps in late, too. So working before she's fully awake really helps the creative flow as well.

 Carmella Van Vleet writes MG fiction and "hands-on" non-fiction. Her debut MG novel, ELISA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER, will be released in Spring 2014 from Holiday House.

Share your thoughts and tips on revising for an editor vs. revising for yourself in the comments and check back tomorrow to see what author Christina Farley and editor Kate Fall have to say!