Just dropping a note to invite you to visit www.suesantiago.com where I post frequently. Mostly it’s just me playing with words and the world of writing.
Phillip Larrea, a poet from California, is credited with creating the poetic form called Tricube. It is deceptively simple. Three stanzas. Three lines per stanza. Three syllable per line.
Time to play!
time to write
Towel* wrapped bod
wet foot prints.
Dash through house
kids not shocked
“it’s just mom.”
drip down too.
*Okay, towel is technically two syllables, but not when you say it the normal way, right?
You are best friends with the antagonist from the last book you read. What would the elevator pitch (25 words or so) be for this spinoff?
Inspired by the Thanksgiving holiday which you may be en route to celebrate, I offer the 25 books I’m thankful were written.
- The Bible
- Freedom Train by Dorothy Sterling
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
- This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Monster at the End of the Book by Jon Stone
- I am a Frog by Mo Willems
- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- The Cat Who … by Lilian Jackson Braun
- House Arrest and Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt
- I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
- Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst
- Marley and Me by John Grogan
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
- The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
- Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
- The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
- The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
That was hard. Really hard to stop at 25. I’d love to hear about the books you are thankful were written.
And the three that I’m truly grateful for are not published yet, but they have taught me oh so very much.
And when you come out of your turkey coma, your keyboard will be ready for you.
I have a confession to make.
I broke the cardinal rule of writing a rough draft.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had to do it.
I read my entire MS.
I know, I know.
Full steam ahead.
No looking back.
But I had to do it.
I haven’t written in a week.
Yes, I gasped too.
So, you see,
I had to read it.
I’d lost the flow,
was loosing my MC,
ran out of steam,
while my daughter was sick.
So, you see,
I had to read it.
And I’m glad I did.
It was pretty good,
I’m on the right track.
And I’ve found the fuel
to keep writing.
I’m going to get the taxes ready today! I’m going to get the taxes ready today!
But first, I have to declutter my work space.
And I should start a load of laundry.
And it snowed outside, so I really should shovel.
Oooh! There’s a Downton Abbey I haven’t seen yet.
Today’s a perfect day for chili. I should start on that and let it slow cook.
AAAND I have an idea for a new story. So I better write it down before I forget.
I’m going to get the taxes ready tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. Absolutely tomorrow, no doubt about it!
My brain is full and my head is spinning. I had been hitting it against a wall feeling like I had taken my MS as far as I could, knowing that it could still be better but not having an inkling how to do it. NOT ANY MORE!
About a week ago I attended the annual Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day hosted by the Illinois network of SCBWI. This was my third time participating and well worth the repeat attendance. I’ve taken this week to process, marinate, and sort through the keynote address, three break out sessions, two expert panels, and a dozen conversations.
Of course they have rules about blogging, so I won’t go into tremendous details, but I will share some pearls that I am adding to my treasure box. With that in mind, here are my
Top Ten Pearls from the Prairie
10. It pays to push yourself out of your happy little shell and meet new people. As a result I met some wonderful fellow writers, some of whom offered to read for me.
9. Editors and agents are approachable! Pull up those big girl pants and talk to them! When else will you have an opportunity like this? SO I did. I talked to three editors and one agent and got answers to specific questions that I had about writing in general and my story in particular. This will also give me personal sentiments to include in that darn query I will have to write to submit to them.
8. An online course you should know about: Rachel Orr, an agent at Prospect Agency, is teaching a course on middle grade novel writing that starts in January on mediabistro.com.
7. Keynote speaker, Author and Illustrator, Eliza Wheeler – (she also makes a soundtrack for her WIP, love it when I hear someone share something that I do too!) – Focus on what you like about your story, not what you don’t. It’s so easy to be critical isn’t it? But that kind of energy can drain the life and enjoyment out of a project.
I have found that when I watch my two and a half minute book trailer before working on my revision I get pumped up. The trailer encapsulates the essence that I want my book to have. After watching it I am in the right mindset and mood to attack my WIP. Same is true for reading passages or chapters that work. My confidence lifts. I can write and I can even write well.
6. Jordan Brown, Senior Editor Walden Pond Press & Balzer + Bray, said the ultimate rule of writing is . . . drum roll . . .
You can do whatever you want as long as it works!
Do you feel liberated now?
5. Noa Wheeler, editor Henry Holt Books for Young Readers gave me the assurance that editors are on your side. They love books and the people who write them. Why be intimidated? A common theme I heard throughout the day was about relationship and collaboration between writers and editors.
4. During the mix-n-mingle session I asked Rachel Orr about platform building and the usefulness of having a book trailer for a pre-published book. The gist of her answer, focus on writing well. Gotcha!
3. Attended a break out session on voice by Brett Duquette, editor at Sterling Children’s Books. Up until this point, voice has been a very abstract thing for me. It’s becoming more clear now. I am attacking my MS with highlighters. Does each character sound consistent throughout? How about my narrator? Who is my narrator? Does my characters’ mood influence how they see their world? This session was filled to the brim with applicable bits of knowledge, delivered with incredible humor. Best break out of the day award!
2. Got a critique on my first pages from Caroline Abbey, senior editor at Penguin Random House! It was NOT a last minute thing where she wrote a few thoughts on the airplane ride here. It WAS on letter head! But more importantly her fresh eyes on my stale words gave me new perspective on these opening pages. As helpful as it was to know the areas that I can improve, it was equally beneficial to know which parts are working. There’s nothing like seeing “Nice!” next to a sentence! Whoop! Whoop! I don’t have to only read others’ work to see good writing. I have it in my work too. Now I have to work at making all words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters equally strong.
1. I followed up with Caroline Abbey about some questions I had from her critique. (I wrote them down before I talked to her because I knew I’d forget! And I did, I was so glad I wrote them down!) I asked her about strategies for thinking of a title, how to pinpoint a tell, and questions to ask myself to figure out how to tighten my work.
She related to how I dreaded the thought of coming up a new title. I’ve been reading scripture and 19th century poetry about fire, playing in the thesaurus, and checking my ideas on Goodreads. Brainstorming with writing friends and my husband. This really is torture! I’ve been trying to zoom in on sentences that are vague or generic. Is it a tell? Do I need to show it or scrap it?
This week I’ve reduced by first 5 chapters by 10% and modified a whole bunch of sentences and scenes that weren’t pulling their weight. Not a bad start. So much more to do!
Holy Toledo! I did it!
It took me all day, but I did it!
I made a book trailer for my pre-published novel.
It is good, if I do say so myself!
Now. What to do with it????
To be continued
Every writer will face many obstacles in the pursuit of creating a manuscript, getting it published, and getting readers to be interested.
This will be a stream of consciousness and a bit of venting. So here it goes:
Limited time. Limited ideas. Too many ideas. Not liking what you have written. Liking what you have written so much that you are not open to critique. Having no one to critique you. Having people to critique you, but have little to offer. Mommy guilt. People who think that what you are doing is merely a hobby. Having a support group who is overly involved. Burn out. Not knowing your protagonist well. The art of writing. Not sounding like a fifth grader wrote it. Balancing dialogue, action, and description. Being funny. Being dramatic. Having time to read. Under-editing your work. Over-editing your work. Creating a protagonist the readers will care about and relate to. Creating an antagonist that your reader will despise. Creating great word pictures. Writing less, but saying more. Knowing when it is good enough. And knowing what to do next.
There are probably at least 142 more things to add to this list, but I have only been a writer-in-action for a short while, so I will play my green card.
As to solutions, all I have at this juncture is to never, never, never give up.
Oh ya, one more obstacle : tech problems!
Summer break is over. Kids are back in school and a new schedule is created. Now that my youngest is in preschool three mornings a week, I look forward to have “sacred writing time.” Yes, everything will be trying to bite away those precious minutes, but I must protect that time. Three mornings is not a significant amount of time, but when compared to no time that I had during summer, I’ll take it.
So now that my schedule is established. It’s time to set goals! Over the summer I chiseled away at my first rewrite of my MG (middle grade) novel and put it in the hands of my critique group. Now what?
- LOTS OF RESEARCH – though this won’t be the kind that fills the pages, it will add minor details that will hopefully make the story vivid.
- HONING MY PROCESS – what to do between the first rewrite and the second. What the second rewrite will look like. And beyond.
- HUNTING FOR AN AGENT! – I actually have my first three chapters sitting with an agent now. She said she would get back to me in one to three months. ONE TO THREE MONTHS! I know that’s pretty standard, but every time I get an an email I’m looking to see if it’s from her! Oh the torture, followed by the most likely end (REJECTION!). But here’s hoping!
- ATTENDING CONFERENCES AND what’s the word . . . oh ya, NETWORKING!
- GETTING A PLAN FOR MARKETING MY BOOK – yes, I am very hopeful!
- ALLOWING MYSELF TO STOP WRITING – at least this book. How will I ever think this story is good enough to stop editing it and start on my next project?
So these are my goals over this next school year. Consequently, these are likely topics of future posts as well. I will also continue writing book reviews and sharing some great quotes to think about and inspire from writers who have been there and done that.
Any particular topic you would like to see written about in the coming months?
Next time I will continue where I left off before the craziness of summer consumed me: writing books worthy of today’s youth audience.
Enjoy Playing with Words!