Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writing Time Outs Really do WORK!

                                     "Writing Time Outs"
                            They Help You Polish Your Picture Book.
                          ( From my "Musings" column on the Purple Crayon )

What is a Writing Time Out?
No, it does not mean dumping your PB (picture book) manuscript on a chair in the corner for fifteen minutes! A writing Time Out means putting aside the PB manuscript you have slaved over: for at least a few weeks.  Let it marinate in a drawer, or in a folder on your hard drive marked,

                                                        "Time Out."

 Forget about it. Clear your brain of all traces of this PB
                                                       and begin writing something new.

Does Your Picture Book Need a Time Out?
It does, if your fellow critiquers offer conflicting advice. Or you tweak, change, and rework it so many times you lose focus. This is when a Time Out can be especially useful. Yes, doing nothing sometimes works wonders!

Or, when you feel there is something not quite right, but you can't put your finger on the problem. You need to view your PB with fresh eyes. So, give the pesky thing a Time Out. When you reread it, in a month or two, you will be amazed by what jumps out at you.

Your First Reread--Yikes, What Was I Thinking?

Problem areas abound. How come you couldn't see them before? You race to the computer, bring up the file, and begin to type. Your husband and kids ask about dinner. You offer a glassy stare while pounding the keys.

What You Found: and how to fix It:
The word nice appeared four times on the one page? There were way too many compound sentences. The main character's name was only mentioned once. And the mom seems more important than the kid character. Tighten! Tighten! Tighten! The Fix: Focus on crafting a great voice for that kid character. Cut back on what Mom says and does. But watch out: you don't want the word count (way less than 1,000) to balloon. Break out your trusty thesaurus. Use it to scrap those overused adjectives and weak verbs. Are four adverbs really necessary, or do most of them prop up weak verbs?

                                                   Now You're Cooking!

Your picture book is coming together with flair. You have cut unnecessary descriptions, worked in active and powerful verbs, and strengthened your main character. But wait! It is still too early to rush to the query letter stage. Another Time Out, plus clear headed nit-picking, will give your picture book exactly the right polish, and make it into an editor's must have PB.

The Second Re-read, and Minor Fixes:
Better! Much better. But still. . . The ending isn't quite perfect. And that one sentence near the end, where the loose ends get tied up, needs a more lyrical feel. Oh no! Are there enough illustration opportunities for a 32-page picture book -- approx.14 or 15? The Fixes: Solutions come easier now, because time away has sharpened your clarity and focus. Visions of a signed contract encourage you to keep tweaking, and make sure that your text offers a good number of illustration opportunities. Soon your picture book is as fine as you can make it.

Begin writing that query letter.

Why Do Time Outs Work ?

#1 Because they give your overloaded brain cells a rest.
#2 Putting the story out of your mind for a while allows a clear and focused re-read.
#3 Problems jump out at you when your brain reads words with clarity.

NOTE: A few days or a week won't give you the clarity you need. I have found that picture book Time Outs work best if given the minimum of a month's rest. Once your manuscript is buried in your bottom drawer or hard drive, do whatever is necessary to forget it. Take a class, get married, join a rock band, paint the house or get a divorce -- whatever works!

I use as many Time Outs as necessary. Keep doing them until your re-read finds nothing to tweak. This tactic works. Utilize Time Outs to help you shape a problem manuscript into a Picture Book That Sells!

                      BOOKS  for Kids - Manuscript Critiques



Friday, February 17, 2012

BOOK PROMOTING - Telling it Like it IS!!

Telling it Like it Is

 PLUS YOUR e-mail, and I will send you a FREE COPY
 of my kid's short, time travel adventure.  This PDF book 
has characters from my 3x latest books 
enjoying Down-under fun!

As well as listing my books, and the books of other terrific writers, I sometimes ramble on regarding what it takes for a writer to HOOK their reader.  Yet to hook readers, you first have to get known as a writer of books for kids.  And if you self publish, you must make sure that your quality of writing, layout, paper and art work, are UP there with the best.

There are some easy, cheap and effective ways to put your name out there where the reading public roams.  Don't wait until your book is published.  Get started months ahead of publication.  If you think writing that darned book, and finding  a publisher was hard, wait until you begin promoting your masterpiece. . .

USE A SIGNATURE on everything you send out:
Letters, e-mails, social networking posts, everything that you sign with your name.  Keep it short, sweet and simple - 2 lines, no more than three.   Name - up-coming title or business + blog or web address.  If you put your signature and links out there enough times, people will eventually register it, and actually click your link!  "Signature Advertising" is one of the easiest and most effective ways of creeping up on potential readers.  Yet so many of you never bother.

 Blogs are easier for the technically challenged.  For ideas, poke around the blogs of friends, other writers, and famous people.   Begin simple and work up to awesome!   Add something new about you, your coming book, or your pet goldfish every week.  Learn the benefits of RSS, widgets, and linking to Facebook and Twitter - at the very least.  Go slow, take your time, and you WILL GET the hang of it.

I know! I know!  This stuff  looks horribly convoluted and involved for anyone over the age of consent, but trust me, you CAN master it.  Repeat after me: "I WILL FRIEND 100 people by summer."  First JOIN.  Then browse every day for a week or two - one hour minimum.   When ready, take the plunge and tell millions online about your upcoming book.  When your blog is respectable, put a link to it on your Facebook and Twitter pages.  Add a cover photo as soon as you have a cover to show.  Covers sell books.  One great cover can seduce thousands.

Begin small.  Concentrate on one social network at a time.  Once you have one of them under your belt, the others will be a snap.  I firmly subscribe to the theory of  "Computer Logic." Once you've conquered the basics on one, the rest will fall in line and cower.  March on to the next challenge.

The one page + Bio Press Release contains just the facts, mam!  TV, Radio and Newspaper dudes are rushed for time, and swamped with amateur hour versions of Press Releases they never bother to read. To GRAB interest, yours has to be short, simple, plus a cover and specific HOOK that catches their attention.  Go online, ask writing friends and enemies where you can learn, and find advice and Press Release samples that help you do it right.  And don't forget to create a cool book trailer - a tease that gets readers interested in your book.  If you feel this is not your teckie bag, then try Blazing Trailers.  I personally recommend them.  They do a fabulous job for a reasonable fee.

+ Cold Calls:
Yeah, just like insurance salesmen of old, you have to make cold calls about you and your wonderful book to schools, churches, bookstores, and any place else you want to offer a book reading, + some interesting chat about the how-and-why of you as a writer.   In the beginning, I suggest making notes.  This cuts the ers and ums, and those long pauses between words.  A list of what you bring to their table, and your stated willingness to fit in with their needs, will make for smoother going.   Set a fee early on, but be prepared to negotiate.  Negotiation is the name of the promotional/sales game, mates.

And. . . Virtual Book Tours and Reviews.:
By this time you should be well known in the writing circles of your specific genre.  They either love or hare your book, and those interested have already bought your book.  So, when choosing a Book Tour Venue, make sure it takes you and your book into new and virgin territory.  Sticking with writers' blogs is simply preaching to the converted.  You want to storm the battlements of bloggers that offer a whole new range of readers - ones that aren't sick of hearing about you and your book.

A terrific book review from a reviewer of substance, seen in a magazine, or some online eZine of excellent repute, is a gold standard that will sell your book.  Not every book is accepted by these Gods and Goddesses of Review.  One sniff of self publish, or e-book,  and most turn up their noses and stride away.  The average writer has to scrounge for reviews among the contacts they have forged during pre-publication times.  Writers are an incestuous lot.  They help those who help them.  So on your way up the publication ladder, take time out to help or promote those below or above you on the climb.  When your book is published, you can then call in your markers without a hint of guilt, because you have earned them.  YEA!!

NEVER assume that the school, bookstore, or church bazaar you promised to entertain will follow through with what you both agreed upon. Check that every detail is in place, as previously agreed, in plenty of time to correct what they forgot - like the supply of books to sell, the table to display your books, the fliers to hand out or put in the store window, balloons to make you visible etc, etc, etc.

Take those fliers to the venue and put them in the window or on the church notice board yourself.  Send the teacher a nicely designed order form ( with your e-mail and blog link on it) so she can replicate it for her class to take home for their parents.  Make sure a day beforehand that the projector or screen is available. Check the time you are to be there, and the length of your presentation the day before - just in case. . .  Think if all these people as toddlers who need constant reminding and follow ups.

Well mates, I don't want to scare you too much, so I will quit now, before a stiff drink and aspirin are unnecessary. Just remember, writing for children is YOUR special gift, and you'll do what ever is necessary (short of immoral, illegal or fattening stuff), to see your books in their hands.

Your motto is:

Whatever the cost to your sanity!


Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques
BOOKS - a Gift for ALL Occasions!