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Archive for the ‘Picture Book Critiques’ Category

Summer SparksThis week my guest post CAUSE AND EFFECT is being featured in the Summer Sparks challenge hosted by Tracey Cox. There is some great information, so I hope you will give it a look.

Also, here is the link to the top viewed post on my blog this year. USING CHARACTER-DRIVEN PICTURE BOOKS AS MENTOR TEXTS TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN WRITING, by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

I want to share that I have been taking an excellent course on chapter book writing. Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for  Middle Grade and Chapter Book Course is a 14 week experience that will help anyone turn their writing dream into a reality. Offering several worksheets per lesson and providing thorough information on each chapter book element, Emma methodically walks her students from the beginning of their book to the end. I highly recommend this course.

Finally, in case you missed it, I have started a picture book manuscript critique service.

Next week my ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series will feature guest blogger Vivian Kirkfield. She will offer her thoughts on “getting in the backdoor” with your manuscript.

Happy writing!

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sub six series 2

HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP

by Yvonne Mes

Through my travels in various children’s writing groups, on-line and in person, I have come across a few people who have said something like:

“I have just submitted my manuscript to (insert name of dream agent or publisher). Eurgh, I feel like throwing up.” Or they took it one step further and expressed the state of their nerves by regurgitating their lunch.

I am here to tell you submitting should not make you feel sick!

You may not be quite as emotional as some, or go to these bodily extremes after submitting a manuscript, however feelings of anxiety are quite common.

I admit to having experienced some strong but opposing emotions when submitting a story. I share a couple of my experiences below.

Ignorance is bliss

My first submission was a picture book story for a writers’ festival competition. I knew nothing about writing for children, but I had children, I loved reading, and I had an active imagination. Therefore, I was confident my story was a winner. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. I whistled merrily as I pressed that send button. I would win that contest. Someone would offer me a contract, and people would soon start calling me the new Mem Fox or Jane Yolen.

Fast forward a few months …

During the months of waiting for the results, I immersed myself in picture book writing. I researched online. I read books. I enrolled in one writing course and then another. By the time I found out I hadn’t won the contest, I was only a little devastated, because by then I had realized that the story I had submitted, well … sucked.

Too much knowledge is dangerous

The next time I submitted a story, to an agent no less, I had almost finished my writing courses. I had spent a lot of time on this story. I had joined several critique groups. Using their feedback, I revised and revised and polished my story so much that I could almost see my reflection in it.

But this time when I submitted, I had realized how hard it was to get traditionally published, how small the chances were and how long it could take. This time, I felt I had everything to lose. And I did feel rather queasy.

Yvonne's post queasy

Control

Now, I am going to be wildly assumptive and judgmental, or perhaps incredibly insightful and say that most of us writers are control freaks.

When you hit that send button or let that letter slip from your fingers into the great unknown and unpredictable via the mailbox, be it real or virtual, it is out of your control.

You had control when you coaxed it into being. You let others critique it, but still, you were able to decide what was worth taking into account, and you were in control of the revisions. But once it’s gone, you can’t change that sentence around anymore or find a stronger verb. And now that you have let it go, you are worried that perhaps it could have been better.

Yvonne's post calm panicEven if you are completely confident about the creative masterpiece that is your manuscript, you worry about the things beyond your control. What if the mail truck does a double flip en route to Mr. Dream Agent? What if the agent sloshes her coffee over your manuscript? What if a computer virus hacks her inbox? What if your agent has left to join another agency and your manuscript has been filed in the black hole of lost stories?  There are so many variables beyond your control. And it makes you sick. Sick to your stomach. Pass the barf bag.

After a suitable amount of waiting, anywhere from 2 minutes to 6 months, you hang on to every little shred of hope that your story has, in fact, NOT been rejected but perhaps misplaced temporarily or even better is taking longer while a contract is being drawn up. You anxiously wait, and wait, and wait.

Yvonne's post stop.jpg

Hang on, hold on. Stop! What you are doing? Do you really have time to obsess over these things? Let’s be practical.

Set a reminder in your diary at the date the agent or publisher had specified as their cut-off date. If you haven’t heard anything by then, ask them for a status update. If you don’t hear back from them within a few weeks, that’s it. You have been rejected. Move on.

What can you do?

Yvonne's post yoga ladyNow, I am the least Zen or Buddha-like person. I don’t believe in fate and karma, and I can never quite attain a sense of calm and complete relaxation, or at least not for very long. But I do believe in logic.

And my logic tells me that once my manuscript is gone, it is out of my control, and therefore not worth spending energy on.

Let it go.

Know that you have done all you can. You have done everything you can to make this manuscript the best. You did what you could to make yourself visible as an author. You did your homework, your research on your story AND on the agent or publishing house. You studied the craft of writing. You had the story critiqued several times. You have not written the stuffing out of it. Now it is time to …

… let it go.

Know there is more than one good story in you. Revel in the knowledge that even if every submission you ever send out gets rejected, you are already a successful writer. You wrote a story. You made it your best. And you are in the game!

Let it go.

So what if you discover you have made a grammatical error or misspelled Mr. Cszrukosy, your dream agent’s name? Well, it is out of your control now. Besides, if the rest of your query was professional, and your story is pretty awesome on top of that, well then, they will forgive you that mistake.

Go and work on something else. Spend some time with your family or friends or pets. Do something else enjoyable, like read a book! And then … start writing something else.

Let it go.

And if ‘Letting Go’ doesn’t work try the following:

Face your fears

What is the worst that could happen in the micro cosmos of this particular story? It could be rejected. Let’s be honest, statistically that is the most likely outcome. You know that it is going to happen, just not how, or when. Even established writers get more rejections than they do contracts.

Be practical, increase your chances by writing more stories and submitting more often, and if the story keeps getting rejected?  It still doesn’t mean the death of your story. If you receive feedback you can work with, you can submit it somewhere else. If you don’t receive feedback, seek it out. Maybe your story plot is fine but instead of a picture book, your idea will work better as a short story for a magazine or chapter book.

Yvonne's post Brethe In

Whatever you do, keep submitting. Press that ‘send’ button, shove that letter in the mailbox, breathe, smile and let it go.

Yvonne's bio imageBIO

Yvonne has been around children most of her life, if she isn’t working with them, she is raising them. Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers group  ww.brisbanewritelinks.weebly.com and is a supporter of Kidlit411.com. Her short story My Sister Ate My Science Project will be published in The School Magazine (Australia) this year. In addition to writing for children, she also likes to work on her illustrations.

Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, a Cert IV in Visual Arts and Crafts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

You can find out more about Yvonne on her website. www.yvonnemes.weebly.com.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

List of other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: ARTIST DATES. A group of writers tell how they replenish their creative energy.

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AAS Q&A 4HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT? 

Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer

www.kidlit411.com

That is a really good question and I think that it may be a little different for everyone you ask. For me, though, I feel that my manuscript is complete when it has gone through the following stages:

1.) I have written and rewritten my draft at least three times by myself.

2.) I have had the manuscript critiqued by the members of my group.

3.) Based on that feedback, I have revised the manuscript again.

4.) Then, I send the manuscript off to my freelance editor for critiquing and general feedback based on its strength and marketability.

5.) I revise again based on her feedback.

6.) After another pass to the freelance editor, I send it back again to my critique group.

7.) Usually by then the suggestions from the group are minor. Only then do I feel it is ready to be subbed around to agents and editors.

This procedure is lengthy, and it requires lots of revision hours and patience! It has worked for me so far though, I have received great feedback from agents, and a few have even requested additional manuscripts. I also recommend reading Ann Whitford Paul’s book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. I use that book to get me through the drafting process and initial revisions. If you’re a picture book author, that book is a MUST!

Thanks for having me visit your blog today, Alayne!

Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

This is one of the hardest question of all – for me, anyway. It is one that has taken me quite some time to reconcile. In fact, I still struggle with it at times. Feeling comfortable with the answer has required some self-imposed rules and “tough love.” I marvel when I look back at some of my early stories – stories that I loved. YUCK! Not only has my writing improved, but I can see that they simply weren’t ready. It is extremely difficult to be objective with your own work unless you are diligent. If you have a story that you have worked on over a long period of time, take a look back at an early draft – you’ll see what I mean.

So, here are a few simple, common sense guidelines that I have set for myself.

#1 – Write – follow all the rules for first drafts, revising, editing, etc.

#2 – Let it sit for at least a week, preferably longer – you’re too close to your story to see it clearly. You need distance to develop a fresh, objective eye.

#3 – Revise

#4 – Share – recruit new eyes

Share your work with other writers – ALWAYS. Relatives, friends, your kids? Sorry, they don’t count. Remember you should be true to your own work, but critiques almost always have some merit. If you get a critique that is tough to digest, read it over quickly – swear, cry, whatever you need to do – and then let it sit for a couple days. If you are anything like me, you will realize when you revisit it that there is wisdom there after all.

#5 – Revise, using the critique and your own best judgment. Be true to yourself while weighing the opinions of others.

#6 – When you can’t stand to look at it another minute – STOP – don’t submit –  let it sit, again.

#7 – Start all Over

Revise, print, read aloud 100 times, evaluate title, share, let it sit.

This step might be repeated many times over a period of weeks, months or even years – give it as long as it takes. If you just can’t stand to look at it anymore, let it rest for a while – a long while. Never send off a story just because you are sick of looking at it. Chances are, it’s not ready.

#8 – When you LOVE it again and feel confident – DO IT! Congratulate yourself and don’t look back.

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Most of what I would have shared has been shared by the other team members. One thing I would like to mention doesn’t exactly have to do with how to know when your manuscript is ready to submit. But it is about when you know “you” are ready to submit. If you only have one polished manuscript, it would be smart to wait to submit. It is common for agents and editors to request more work if they like the manuscript you have submitted. Therefore, it is wise to have at least three (preferably more) polished manuscripts before you begin submitting.

Since the team did such a great job of answering this question, I spent my time researching what other people have to say on the subject. Following are some links for more excellent tips regarding being ready to submit.

Is Your Manuscript Ready for Submission?

8 Essential Steps Before Submitting Your Manuscript, by Karen Cioffi

http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/2009/11/is-your-manuscript-ready-for-submission.html#.Uu0Ry_ldUjo

10 Tests to Prove Your Manuscript is Ready for Submission, by Ingrid Sundberg

http://ingridsnotes.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/10-tests-to-prove-your-manuscript-is-ready-for-submission/

Ready or Not, Here I Sub, by Tara Lazar

http://taralazar.com/2008/09/08/ready-or-not-here-i-sub/

Is Your Manuscript Ready to be Submitted to a Children’s Book Publisher? from Write4Kids

http://www.write4kids.com/blog/business-of-publishing/is-your-manuscript-ready-to-be-submitted-to-a-childrens-book-publisher/

Is Your Manuscript Ready to Submit, by Mary Keeley

http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/is-your-manuscript-ready-to-submit/

CLICK HERE TO READ PART ONE OF HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT?

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Before I get started with this post, I want to announce my new professional picture book manuscript critique service. For more information on what I offer click here.  January 12-18, 2014, Meg Miller will be presenting ReviMo – Revise More Picture Books Week. She has interviewed me for one of her ReviMo posts. One of her interview questions was, “What is your revision process.” I decided to post a list of some things I take into consideration when writing and revising picture books. The list is similar to what I look for when I critique other people’s work. I hope it is helpful.

Read about the new Sub Six Series: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS

THINGS I NATURALLY NOTICE WHEN POLISHING MY WORK

 Does it read smoothly or do I trip up a lot as I read?
 Does it make me feel emotion?
 Do I find myself smiling or chuckling?
 Do I feel anxious, excited or sad for the main character?
 Do I find myself cheering for the main character?
 Does it have a satisfying ending?

STORY COMPONENTS

BEGINNING PAGES

 Is the opening line or paragraph strong?
 Will it grab the reader’s attention immediately?
 Will it make readers want to learn more or continue reading?
 Does the setup and description go on forever? Or do the first couple of spreads reveal what the story is “really” about?
 Will the reader have a good sense of the main character and his desire or problem by the third spread?

CONFLICT

 Does the text move the main character and story forward through his attempts to get what he wants?
 As the main character moves forward, does he attempt and fail to achieve his goal?
 Do his attempts and failures increase the story tension and make me want to turn pages?
 Will readers feel like they are in the story, experiencing what the main character is experiencing?

STORY FOCUS

 Is there cause and effect throughout the story, connecting the dots from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene?
 Are there too many obstacles?
 Too few obstacles?
 Do the steps that the main character take make sense?

CLIMAX AND RESOLUTION

 Is there a strong story arc that builds to a turning point or climax?
 Does the main character experience a darkest moment that leads him to resolution?
 Does the resolution come just a page or two before the ending?
 Is the ending connected to the rest of the story and satisfying?
 Does it offer a twist?
 A nice tie in to the beginning?
 A moment of realization or satisfaction that the main character has grown, learned something, or reached his goal?

LINE BY LINE QUESTIONS

 Do all the story dots seem connected?
 Is time and place clear throughout?
 Is tense consistent?
 Is point of view consistent?
 Are there awkward, clumsy, or wordy sentences?
 Are there any missing or confusing transitions between scenes?
 Is there too much telling and not enough showing?
 Is there too much dialogue and not enough action?
 Are there places where the text is doing the illustrators job?
 Do all passages create visions or move the story forward in some way?

You might also like Perfecting Your Critique

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ANNOUNCING MY NEW PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE SERVICE. Click her to learn what I offer.

Thank you for your interest in my webinar “Perfecting Your Critique” and this additional information. If you haven’t seen the webinar yet, it may be viewed by clicking the link below. The password is nonficpic. When you are done watching, I hope you will read the blog all the way to the end. There are some excellent resources and great information.

PERFECTING YOUR CRITIQUE webinar video  Remember the password is nonficpic.

Clicking on the following will open my sample critique and Hannah Holt’s sample critique.

Bunky Bear Alayne’s crit pdf

Bunky Bear Doesn’t Like to Share Hannah Critique

Learn more about Hannah Holt

My critique partner, Anthony Pearson, is doing a series on his blog where he is sharing critiques he has received on one of his stories. Currently, he has two critiques up. I did a critique on the story a few weeks ago, and he should have mine added to the blog next week. So, if you want to see more example critiques from me and a few other writers click on the link below.

ANTHONY PEARSON SHARES CRITIQUES

Clicking on the following will open a list of questions that can be used as a guideline when writing critiques.

LIST OF QUESTIONS FOR CRITIQUES

Clicking on the following will open a questions and answers page. These are questions about critiques that people had asked but were not answered during the webinar.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS THAT DID NOT GET ANSWERED DURING THE WEBINAR

In the answers I mention Nancy Cofflelt’s books, here is a link Nancy Coffelt’s Amazon Page

Thanks to Russ Cox, Julie Falatko, Sabrina Marchal, and Jennifer Young for helping me answer the question about in-person versus online critique groups.

A BIG THANK YOU TO KRISTEN FULTON and WOW nonficpic for making this webinar available. Every year, starting June 21, Kristen challenges the members of WOW nonficpic to write a nonfiction picture book a day for the week, and there are prizes! All year long, the group has fun writing, networking, revising, learning, and winning. Now, Kristen has added extremely informative free webinars as one of the group benefits. Also, in February 2014, there will be a mini challenge that will be centered around doing research for nonficiton works. To join, click on the link below, and ask to join. It is a great group of writers.

Join WOW nonficpic

Learn more about WOW nonficpic

For additional information regarding critique groups click on the links below.

HOW TO CRITIQUE FICTION, by Victory Crayne

From the Positive Writer blog: WHY WRITERS ARE THE MOST BRUTAL CRITICS OF OTHER WRITERS, by Bryan Hutchinson

One last link JINGLE BELLS: TALES OF HOLIDAY SPIRIT FROM AROUND THE WORLD is now available at Amazon

Jingle Bells cover

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