I’m going to say now that this isn’t going to be a traditional review. I don’t plan on having any summaries or spoilers. Well, that’s not true. I do have one spoiler -- Half-Moon Investigations, as you might guess, is a mystery. And this may surprise you, but Half-Moon does end up solving his mystery in the end. I apologize if this ruins the book for you, but it had to be said. Of course, I have never read a mystery book where the mystery wasn’t solved in the end. Although I would be curious to see one, I doubt I would find it satisfying. Unsolved mysteries are somehow anti-climactic to me. It’s why I’ve never liked the TV show by that name.
But I digress. I really liked Half-Moon. This and Shakespeare’s Secret are the two best non-series kid mysteries I’ve read in quite a while. Both are true mysteries with clues and red herrings and everything. Their authors do not cheat to get their protagonists to solve the mystery. Unlike some other children’s supposed mysteries, the kids in Half-Moon actually solve their mystery themselves with only minimal adult intervention. They’re traditional, well-done mysteries. And that’s what I like about them. Really good children’s mysteries are hard to find. I’ve been dying to find a good children’s mystery to publish. Most children’s mysteries are sloppy with the characters relying more on chance than actual reasoning to solve the mystery. I appreciated how Colfer did not take the easy way out for his characters. He makes them work for every clue and every conclusion. When Half Moon solves his case, it’s all the more satisfying knowing he had to do it all himself.
And that concludes my not particularly detailed review. Read the book.
If you are in the Austin area (or are willing to come here) and would like to participate in our release party, let me know. Email me here or (if you're an SS author/illustrator) use my Blooming Tree email.
On a related note, I will now be able to do the often talked about but rarely seen editor visits. Similiar to an author visit, an editor visit encompasses visiting schools and explaining the book publishing process. I've never quite done one before. All the visits I've done in the past were small writing workshops. Also, now I have a book I can hawk, too. For some reason, kids have more interest in you if you have a book with your name on it. Weird. So different from adults. (That last sentence should have been read just dripping with sarcasm. If you didn't read it that way, try again.)
Since this non-profit works solely off donations and grants, it does not have the budget to license children's musicals like School House Rock. Instead, they have a script committee that writes the show each year. Despite never having written or edited a children's play before, I'll be joining this committee for next year. And that got me thinking. Plays are one of the forgotten branches of children's literature. Very little scholarship is done on it, and people almost never think of it when they are considering creative projects. My school where I'm getting my MA (or at least will get if my thesis meter ever moves again) has never offered any kind of class dealing with plays for children. They've offered several on children's films, but these aren't quite the same.
So, my questions is: Who are the great children's playwrights? Who are those people creating great shows for children's audiences? What kinds of plays are they writing? What age do they target? Sadly, I know so little on the subject, I can't name a single one. I look forward to being enlightened by you all. Use the comments link below to express your opinion.
What is the market standard for signing a contract once an editor has given a verbal acceptance of a manuscript? Does it take months after the acceptance or should it occur immediately?
It varies. If you have an agent and the publisher and agent haggle, then it can take months. Unless I have a personal relationship with an author, I will not work on a manuscript while it’s in the process of being acquired. Once I’ve offered for it, I don’t look at the work again until I have a signed contract. Now, how long should it take for the author to receive the contract? It should occur quickly, especially if you do not have an existing relationship with the publishing house. You are doing to much work revising to hope the contract will be something you can live with.
In lots of the reading I've done on writing, the author says to avoid adjectives and adverbs like the plague. I understand much of this is from a show don't tell perspective. Yet in much of the reading I do, I still see plenty of adjectives and adverbs. What are your thoughts on this and when is it OK for the author to use these? I guess what I'd like to see from you if possible are some examples when you feel it is OK to use adverbs.
It is completely impossible to write without using an adverb every now and then. (See? I did it right now.) On the whole though, I try to avoid adverbs (not so much adjectives) as much as possible. Adverbs are vague and most of the time are either unnecessary or a more specific description can be used. The exception to this would be dialogue. We use adverbs all the time when we speak, and to not use them in your dialogue could be awkward. I can’t give any specific examples because every adverb has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
My advice is to not worry about adverbs while writing your first draft. Fill that thing full of them if they come naturally to you. Then, when you go back to edit, look at all your adverbs carefully. Are they necessary? Is there another more specific way to say the same thing? If so, cut the adverbs. If not, leave them in. Adverbs alone will not sink a good story.
The novel will be serialized in weekly instalments for the next 38-40 weeks. Thereafter the entire novel will be available as a free PDF download.
I'm assuming he's got some kind of tracking or something to know if it's being read. In the spirit of word-of-mouth publicity, I'm letting all of you know about the little experiment. I'm curious to know about his results and what he learns. If you would like to see the experiment, click here. The next chapter should be debuting tomorrow.
I hope Lee will let us know how his experiment goes.
This advice is just as true for writers as it is to marathon runners and stockbrokers. You do not want to write yourself to exhaustion. And I don't mean just physical exhaustion. I mean to the point that you hate your characters so much that you want to kill them all off in book 4, not because it's germane to the story, but because it would just be so gosh-darn fun. It's when you've promised to write 7 reviews, 2 magazine short stories, and to get that novel rewrite to your editor all in the same week. It's when you sign a book deal for a 8 book series when you've only planned out the first 2 books. Overextending yourself can drive you insane and push your stress level to new, unfathomed heights. You know your limit. Listen to it. When you find yourself reaching it, pull back. If you find you're going to miss a deadline, give your editor or publisher lots of advance notice, and then just deal with it. Trust me. Your characters (and editor) will thank you later.
Well, I’ve never been shot at, but I have gotten flamed and yelled at in my career. As an editor, I often have the unpleasant task of delivering bad news. I’m the one that sends rejections. I’m the one that gets to tell an author all the things wrong with a manuscript. I’m the one that gets to tell authors when their books are delayed. It’s not fun. I don’t like doing it, and I don’t enjoy bearing the brunt of authors’ justified or unjustified ire. Most of the time I can’t personally control whatever has happened. I can’t even always control what we accept or reject at Blooming Tree. There are some books that we can’t take for various reasons, and other books that we have taken that I don’t personally have any real interest in. The only bad news I can control are the critiques I give manuscripts. And ironically, I don’t tend to get many complaints about those.
So, all that about messengers having been said, I have a message. I do not know when Summer Shorts will be released. As you all know, at this point it has missed it’s original release date by a few (massive understatement) days. Trust me. I’m as eager to learn as the rest of you. As soon as I have a date, I will let the whole world know, both here on the blog and by email.
Thank you for your time. I’ll now duck the flaming arrows I can feel aimed at my head.
But, I'm sure there are people out there that have had nightmare visits. Ever had a child come up to tell you that they love you but been so excited that instead of a hug they threw up on your shoes? That kind of thing. Share your inspiring stories so that all the future school visitors will be properly terrified. Use the comments link below.
On a more serious note, book festivals are an excellent time to network. Published authors need to be trying to get themselves affiliated as actaul speakers. These are great places to sell books. Unpublished authors need to be going to meet the published authors and to pick up publishers' catalogs. These can really help you see the types of books each publisher puts out. And finally, you never know what agent or editor you might happen to meet at one of these things. I got my first editing job through a person I met at the Texas Book Festival (held last weekend in October).
There are lots of thoughts on this question. It’s tricky, and people tend to be passionate about their opinion. On the one side, you have the camp that would like the authentic accent spelled phonetically every time the character speaks. An example would be the character Jim in Huck Finn. There is a fairly small group advocating this type because this it’s very hard to read. Some dyslexics find it almost impossible, and those of us (like me) who didn’t learn (although were taught) phonetics can’t read it at all.
The next group advocates not using the accent at all. This would be like in the question, where the author mentions the person has an accent, but then never really refers to it again. This method isn’t perfect either since you can lose some of your character’s flavor.
What I personally recommend is the middle ground. This is where you choose some words that are distinctive of your character’s culture, and these are the words you use to highlight your character’s accent. For example, a Spanish child might call her aunt “Tia.” The child might be American in all ways except that she was born in Madrid and moved here in ninth-grade, so she speaks Spanish at home and English with a mild Spanish accent. These little bits of Spanish might drop themselves into her everyday conversation. And this works even if your character’s accent is not derived from a foreign language. Say you wanted to have an older Southern woman. She could call everyone “Dahlin’” while the rest of her dialogue is still spelled correctly.
And finally, there is a lot you can do with word order and word choice. The British speak a comparatively more formal English when speaking Oxbridge style. You can convey a British accent without spelling color “colour.” And people who find English to be a second language often do not have their word order quite right. “I speak the English good, yes?” is a stereotypical sentence, but it illustrates my point.
To see a good example of how to handle an accent in this style, I would recommend looking at any of the Agatha Christie books that feature Hercule Poirot. His English is always spelled perfectly, but there is a distinct French accent to all his dialogue. He occasionally uses French, and at his “most foreign” as she puts it, he chooses to mis-word his sentences. I know this is not a children’s example, but since the character deliberately manipulates his accent in various novels – all without resulting in bizarre spellings, I felt this was the most instructive example.
To see the varying ways other authors have dealt with character accents in children’s literature, look at some of the following:
- Fleur and Viktor in Harry Potter 4
- The various faerie factions in Artemis Fowl all have their own ways of speaking.
- They have southern accents in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
First off, the right home is at an adult press. Memoirs, even ones concerning childhood, are inherently written in a tone and style appropriate for the adult market. Children’s book, even non-fiction tend to be more immediate and less reflective than the average memoir. And there are presses out there other than UPs and self-publishers that do memoirs. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with the adult market to know which they are. However, any of the various Literary Marketplaces type publications should be able to point you in the right direction. Finally, I don’t read much memoir so I can’t suggest any complete novel length work, but for a good smattering of memoir styles I recommend Modern American Memoirs by Cort Conley and Annie Dillard as a good anthology of memoir excerpts. Perhaps someone else could suggest some good memoirs. Use the comment link below.
Critique groups can be wonderful, informative gatherings, or they can be the spawns of the devil. What they are suppossed to be is a group of like-minded writers helping one another bring their manuscripts to fruition. They are really the first thing that should see a manuscript. It shouldn't be an editor or agent. It needs to be your writing buddies.
The problem, though, is finding a good critique group. It almost always takes a few tries before a good group -- where everyone feels comfortable -- emerges. And then you have to keep that group going. But when successful, critique groups are the greatest writing tools you can find.
Where can you find people to start a critique group? Well, I recommend the SCBWI as a good starting place. There are also some online groups and communities. You could always try there. Feel free to add suggestions of other good ways to find people for a critique group.
Now most of you whose blogs I follow closely – look at every day or so – are already syndicated on this site, so it’s no big deal to you. But, I’m new to blogging and hadn’t realized people did that. I mean bloglines are one thing, but this was something new and foreign to me. I think it’s cool. The site’s a huge aggregate of children’s literature related blogs. It’s neat to find all of them in one place.
That being said, nobody is allowed to start reading my blog over there instead of my actual page. I can’t track people reading my blog there, so I won’t know if anyone is actually looking. I would be very sad if loyal readership appeared to drop back into the single digits. I really like knowing there are at least 10 of you out there seeing my blog. It gives me hope for my slush pile. I have decided that I shall allow my readers to use the links on this site, but that is the extent of my generosity. Unless of course, you want to read all of my postings twice. Then, you may peruse my musings on that site at your leisure. They keep more posts up at time than blogger does.
Review Requests Update:
For those of you a bit floored by all the stuff you have to email me to get a free review copy of Blooming Tree Press’s books, I have finally got the form to work. You can now look at the catalog here and then fill out a form complete with blanks and radial buttons. It’s much easier.
There's just one little condition. If you request a book, you really do have to review it. You can give an honest review -- we're not asking for fluff. We just want to see you publicize the book in some way. We're not just giving free books out for fun, you know. Also, books will be shipping media mail. It saves us money, and hey! the books are free. Happy reading (and reviewing!)
Administratively, we're going to make a small change to the way the blog runs. As you may have noticed, there is a new link to the right. It is the new Questions Link! Yeah! If you have a question that is unrelated to any of the current posts, email it to me there. I'll then add it to the Questions of the Week (yes, questions, I'll probably never have just one again) list.
On a different note, I am working on today's post. But, it's requiring me to build a whole web-page from scratch, so I might not get it up until tomorrow. I also have to get permission to put it up. I might get denied. I'm betting that I won't. And for some of you, hopefully, it will be worth the wait. And if that isn't the worst kind of tease . . .
But what is the best book in general for reading aloud? I ask because I read to a group of 30 toddlers this morning. I'm in a small children's play, and we had gone to a local bookstore (in costume) to sing and interact and read to the children. I read some variation of The Little Engine that Could, and my partner read the Ferdinand bull story. I can't think of its actual title. The books were both poor choices. The kids got squirmy, even with interactive questions. My book was long and repetitive, and the kids did not enjoy the repetition. They flat out found the Ferdinand story boring. I was surprised because they are both classic picture books. I didn't select our books, but I wouldn't have thought we would have any difficulty reading them. And no, it was not our abilities. I have been onstage since the age of 3. I've done successful school visits. The books just weren't fun.
So what do you think the best read aloud books are? Use the comments link below to respond. Oh, and be sure to say what age the book should be read to. After all, a good read aloud to a 3 year old is not the same as one for a 13 year old.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Of course, this is a subjective thing and a personal preference on my part, but I cannot stand it when characters think. Now, that just sounds wrong, but you know what I mean. I am not knocking introspection, only the kind of character thinking as shown in the example above.
There are lots of reasons for avoiding this, but here’s the major one: Most third person stories are written from a very close point of view. They are almost first person stories of the main character. When this happens, you don’t ever need to say, “he thought,” because everything that isn’t another character’s dialogue is a direct observation or thought of the main character.
The other reason is that writing, I need to go to the bathroom, Joe thought., has the author telling not showing, using summary instead of scene. Both are no-nos.
Here is the exact same information (Joe has to pee) conveyed without Joe consciously thinking:
- The rest of the class raced ahead to the mummies, but Joe stayed behind, peering at the museum map. Where was the bathroom? The toes on his right foot began to twitch. He started having trouble standing still. He needed to find a bathroom, any bathroom, even a girl’s bathroom. Now.
In the book publishing world, a publishing house wants a query when they don’t want a full on manuscript. Queries take up less space, thus making the slush pile look less intimidating. Queries also allow editors to weed out topics that they are not interested in. Nearly every non-fiction book that has ever hit the market place, originated as a query. The author simply writes a letter to the house discussing the topic and the focus of the topic he/she plans to pursue. The author includes credentials so the editor will know this PhD in Biochemistry will probably get his/her book on DNA right. Then, with little fuss, the editors pick which non-fiction topics they are willing to pursue. They contact the authors for outlines. They offer contracts. The book gets written. It works the same for most non-fiction magazine articles.
Fiction queries are a bit different. Here the author is selling not just a topic, but a story idea, characters, and their own writing ability. All fiction queries begin with an enticing summary of the book similar to the jacket copy you find on published books. They then mention the author’s publishing credits, if any, and a polite request to send the rest of the book. And this is where all fiction queries cease to be similar. There are other optional things that you can add to a fiction query. Some people include a page long book summary, a chapter by chapter book summary, and/or the first 3 chapters of the novel. Most publishers in their guidelines will tell you how much of a query they want. If the guidelines just say to “query,” then I recommend sending the query letter, a one page book summary and the first 3 chapters (or 15 pages whatever is shorter.) Just be sure your sample pages are logical and don’t end in the middle of a sentence. These first fifteen pages are the most important part of the query. You may be able to write a brilliant letter, but if the first three chapters are boring or have stylistic problems, the editor will not ask to see more.
One small note: Never, ever query a picture book or an easy reader or any manuscript under 2000 words. There is no point. Just go ahead and send the whole thing in.
And some news from the ABC board. The departure of Nicole White from Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., meant an opening on the board of directors. Topher Bradfield from BookPeople in Austin, Tex., who recently spearheaded the Camp Half-Blood event for Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians books, has been appointed to fill that slot. (bold is mine)
So, yeah Topher! Congratulations on your like third mention in a month.
On a related note, all of you with even the least bit of interest in getting your kid's book published should have a subscription to Publisher's Weekly. It has all sorts of info with interesting book reviews, gossip of who is now working where, and the like. Of course, I am too cheap to actually pay for the magazine, but they have lots of free e-newsletters that you can subscibe to, including one devoted to the children's market. To get a free e-subscription, click here.
On a completely unrelated note, I have three, yes three questions that have been asked for Question of the Week. I have decided to answer 2 of them and leave one back in reserve just in case I don't get any next week. So, tomorrow will be double your pleasure, double your fun-filled factoids.
Now at first glance this does not appear to be a writing tip. I appear to be about to ruminate on the difficulties of letting my future father-in-law plan the rehearsal dinner phase of my wedding. But first glances are decieving.
Just as my future father-in-law does not know enough about my wedding party to make all the ultimate decisions about my rehearsal dinner, your agent or editor or critique buddy ultimately does not know enough about your manuscript to make the final decisions concerning its form. Agents, editors, and critique buddies are there to guide you and to make suggestions. They are there to make your manuscript better than you dreamed possible. But in the end, the manuscript is yours. You are the one who has to decide whether or not to make the changes. I'm not saying to lightly disregard your critiquer's input, especially if it's an editor or agent. We are paid professionals, who contrary to popular belief, know what we are doing. The suggestions made are not for our entertainment or to see how many hoops an author will jump. But if you just do not agree with the direction being offered, you don't have to take it. It's a closely guarded secret, but the truth is, you can say no. You had better follow that no with a nice long explanation of why you feel this way, but you can say no. Your work is yours, and you should never let anyone change that.
I shall not be posting anymore today since I will be taking my own most excellent advice. And if you are wondering what to get that certain editor who has everything, I reccommend brilliant Newberry award quality manuscripts for her to acquire. But, if that isn't readily available, cheesy ecards work to. (Just don't give my computer a virus. My whole life would come crumbling to pieces and I would be standing there in the pouring rain howling up at the sky like in that movie I can't think of the name of and that would just be, well, sad.)
Oh, and if you are wondering, in Septina speak, I am now 3x7+7.
Have a Happy Buried Editor's Birthday!
I'd like to start by saying that I like adult literature. There are plenty of great adult authors like Jasper Fforde or Agatha Christie. I can appreciate classics like Jane Austen or Chaucer. I'll read Mallory's Morte d'Arthur in the original Middle English. For fun. But whenever I go into a bookstore it's not the adult section I head for. It's the kids.
So that leads us back to the original question: Why do I prefer kid's books? For me it's simple. Kids books move. They flow. They stay on track and don't lose focus. That doesn't mean they can't have subplots or consist of complex narratives. Diana Wynne Jones writes some of the most complicated books in any type of fiction -- adult or child. Archer's Goon is a structuralist's dream while Fire & Hemlock is thematically masterful. The difference though is that children's books have tight writing. The author does not deviate onto a barely relevant tangent. Despite the trend toward longer books, children's authors are still limited to shorter word counts than adult authors. There is a greater incentive in a children's book to make every word matter.
And children's books can be a huge challenge. It's hard to make a 2000 word picture book have the same emotional impact on its reader as a much longer work like War and Peace. But the best picture books do impact their readers and cause emotional reactions. No one can truly read all of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day without feeling even the tiniest bit sorry for Alexander. Then there are Easy Readers, which are the hardest books for any age to write. If you ever feel the need to frustrate yourself beyond belief, take a first grade word list and try to write a compelling 800 word story with action and character growth. The people that can do this are true geniuses. And those of us editing them can be a bit of a miracle worker too, if I do say so myself.
Children's books are no longer the red-headed stepchildren of literature. Compelling academic research has been done on the genre bringing it into the mainstream tenure-tracked disciplines. And despite your personal views on Harry Potter, his books spent so much time at the top of the NYT Bestsellers list that the adult works couldn't even compete.
So, the next time an adult author or editor wants to know when I'm going to start working on "real" books, I won't feel slighted. I'll condescendingly ask, "When are you going to?"
As always, leave your thoughts and comments on kiddie lit in the comments section. Use the link below.
Write those ghost stories. Submit those ghost stories. I vant to see them all. Wa ha ha ha.
Use the comments link below to post.
On a serious note, I do think these ladies have come up with a pretty cool idea. This will allow anyone with an internet connection to participate. Distance isn't an issue and it allows them to get a huge variety of speakers. And best of all, it's FREE!
So, below is the PR thing they gave me. I'll give you more information about what I'll be speaking about and whether or not I'll have a critique session as I find out more information.
The Muse Online Writing Conference
Lea Schizas, Editor of The Muse on Writing, and Carolyn Howard-Johnson are sponsoring a virtual writers' conference on October 9th - 13th 2006 -- very possibly the first. This conference offers writers -- published or not -- who have not been to a conference, to mingle with some of the publishing world's personalities, to pose questions and learn from them, and to partake in many of the F~R~ E~E online workshops we will be hosting:
Bookmark the site: here.
and come back often to see the newest presenters and workshops. Shel Horowitz just accepted our invitation and we already have dozens of others. Carolyn will be presenting on both book promotion and the craft of writing, specifically "Writing Sparkling Dialogue in 10 Easy Steps."
[And of course, who would want to miss The Buried Editor? She'll be the toast of the talks.]
To check on the growing faculty and workshop session, go: here.
I’m going to have to start this answer by admitting some embarrassing things about myself. Twenty years ago, I was eight. I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and other old series books put out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, and that was about it. At ten I moved onto Agatha Christie and read some Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitter’s Club stuff but that was as close to the kid section as I got. Except for the classics and whatever we read in school, I was firmly entrenched in the adult section by the age of 12, and I never looked back. I did not rediscover children’s books until I was 20. So, in the 8 years I’ve been reading children’s books (and in the four years I’ve studied them) not all that much has changed. Kids still want books that interest them and that mirror their lives. Where we used to have protagonists playing in the corn fields, the characters now role play on computers. But the books themselves haven’t changed that much.
That doesn’t mean that children’s books haven’t evolved. For instance, the authorial commentary that CS Lewis delightfully inserts into his Narnia novels cannot be done in today’s books. Partly this is because those kinds of inserts are so darn tricky to achieve. Lemony Snicket does it well in his series, but the authorial comments in The Tale of Desperaux come off condescending towards the reader. In another example, lists are now taboo. Charlotte’s Web has lists of things all over the place especially in descriptions of scenery. That doesn’t happen these days. Lists are boring and are examples of telling not showing. Modern editors and readers don’t tolerate long lists. So, there have been some stylistic changes in children’s books.
But fundamentally, the requirements for a good children’s book have not undergone drastic changes. Good kids books have always had a hook at the beginning. This could be something as dramatic as the call to action experienced in The Lightning Thief or something more simple lime Marmee’s eminent arrival at the beginning of Little Women. As long as there is something of interest that sucks the reader in, a book has a hook. In the examples in the question, the hero is having a sword fight with his gorgon math teacher in Lightning Thief while the hero in The Hero and the Crown wonders who originally told her that her witch mother turned her face to the wall and died when the hero was born a girl. One hook may be more dramatic, but both inspire the curiosity of the reader to keep turning the page. Editors and agents are still looking for that hook because in the end they’re readers too. Just like the end consumer, editors and agents don’t want to keep reading a book if it isn’t catching their interests.
I know I’ve hinted at this before, but it bears repeating. Rejections are not personal. The editor or agent is uninterested in something you wrote, not in you personally. There are lots of reasons to reject a manuscript. They can be boring mundane things beyond both the author and editor’s control. Market conditions, number of places left on the list, budget constraints, even staff turnover can result in a dreaded rejection letter.
Other things are more within the editor but not the author’s control. The editor may recognize good writing and style, but the submission is in a genre the editor doesn’t publish or like. The editor may not like books written in second person. These are subjective reasons that an editor may use to reject a work, but again these are not personal slights and do not comment on the quality of the author’s writing.
And then there are things author’s do to earn rejection letters. They send manuscripts to a house that doesn’t publish their genre. For example they send a non-fiction autobiography to a fiction house. They send unpolished stories with stagnant characters, little or no action, or a PB manuscript with only enough text for a 5 page book. But even then, these rejections are not personal. Many times you might still get a note from the editor complementing your tone but highlighting your lack of plot. There’s no reason to give up hope or abandon the manuscript. It’s still fixable.
But the worst rejection is an impersonal form letter. By its very definition, this is not a personal slight against you or your work. It means that your work has suffered from one of the three conditions listed above. However, you know your manuscript is experiencing some sort of problem when you’ve sent it to appropriate houses and all it gets is a form letter. That is when it is time to take a more proactive approach. It’s time to get feedback. Join a critique group or register for a critique slot at a conference. If you become really desperate, hire a book doctor type or freelance editor that specializes in your book’s field. However, I think paying for professionals should be a last resort. Always try the free peer critique services first. And then, maybe those rejection letters will start being replaced with acquisition emails and phone calls.
Now, normally, this is a no-brainer. I try to read my slush in the order that it arrives in my hot little hand. Since it lives in piles, that means I read the bottom stuff first. This seems fair, and it keeps the older ones from languishing to long in the pile. It's when I deviate from this system that I start having slush take 4-6 months to get read.
So, what's the problem? I got all those slimy little picture book manuscripts oozing all over my desk. Now picture book manuscripts are more difficult to evalutate. If they have any merit or potential at all, I have to do mental dummies, evaluate language, determine markets, etc. For novels, I have to like it and evaluate the market. Period. Easy readers are actually the worst. Those I have to count number of syllables in the words, number of words in the sentences, figure our how many sentences per page, and the list goes on. Fortunately, I've only received 1 ER slush in my whole career. Let's keep it that way.
But I digress. Back to the picture books. They require me to do more work if I like them. But most the time I don't. And they're so much smaller and easier to carry than novel manuscripts. And so I'm tempted to put off my big novel slush for the picture book slush.
It's a quandry. Do I stick with being fair and lug those novel manuscripts to my rehearsal tonight, or do I just sneak a few of those pesky PBs? What to do.
I haven't gotten a chance to get around to any of my slush today. It piles over my head. Well, that's an exageration, but I got a large amount of slush last week, all of which appears to be picture books. I have reconciled myself to the picture books, but if you want to read me having a mental break down over them, go to my other blog. I kind of snapped. I've decided to use that site for all my negativity, and this site for positive and instructional musings. And what did I learn from all those picture books? That people don't read guidelines. Please, please, read a press or agen'ts submission guidelines before sending a manuscript. If a press (like Blooming Tree) specifically says not to send picture books, don't waste your postage sending picture books to them. By rights, I should just reject all of them out of hand, but I won't. I'll look through them. But I can guarantee my mood won't be real good. It's a dangerous condition.
So have a wonderful holiday. In a bit, I'm off to see the fireworks, and I don't mean the ones I experienced when I discovered how many picture book in my slush. I'm going to the big park and watching the pretty lights in the sky. See, I can take a break too.
I have expanded the Buried Editor's web presence. It wasn't enough for me to be found here in the blogger domain, no I must go further and farther abroad. I now have a MySpace account. I'm not sure exactly why I bothered getting one, but maybe once they start letting me post, I'll see the fruits of expanding my horizons.
I have also built the Buried Editor its own website found at www.madelinesmoot.com/buriededitor. Now I can be snarky and independent on yet another site. I don't plan to update this much, but it does have writing samples if your curious to read what I write. Also, my rates are there should you want my beautiful visage to shine at your groups next conference. My conference rate is a phenomenal sum: $0.00 plus you have to pay for my travel, room and board. I'm happy to give up my time, but I ain't going out-of-pocket. Of course, if you wish to pay me, I would never object . . .
I'm compiling a FAQ for that site, so if you've got a burning important issue, you should get that checked. But if you've got a writing or editing or general Buried Editor question, email it to me. You've got a week before I'm putting them up.
As I was packing the books, I came across some of my gradfather's old college textbooks from the 30s. They were fascinating. I didn't even realize I had them. One of them had an interesting essay on the modern life of a college freshman. I couldn't help but laugh as I read it. My freshman year (or first year as we were called) couldn't have been more dissimiliar.
The old books got me thinking. Do I have any writing gems like these hidden in my files? I have only been writing for 6 years, but already I have notebooks and notebooks of stories, story ideas and research squirreled away. I wonder what kind of good ideas (and not so good ideas) are hidden away in those files. I don't have time to search now, but I hope to go through them as soon as I move.
What about you? Do you have hidden gems? If so, what are they? Perhaps it's something as simple as a picture that always inspires a different story. If you're comfortable enough, share your gems with everyone by using the comments link below.
Go write. Write a short story. Work on your novel. Envision a picture book. Whatever. Just stop reading this and apply some of the things we discussed this week.
And remember, if you have any questions, comments, or just plain interesting things to share, let your friendly buried editor know.