Tag Archives: Education

My Introspection

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Princess Adeles Dragon3I am in the final stages before I launch my new ebook on Amazon. It is a Young Adult Fantasy called Princess Adele’s Dragon. Based in Medieval times with Kings, Knights, Castles, Witches and a myriad of other things to make this a fun and intriguing book.
 
I’ve worked on this book since March of 2015. It’s hard to believe next month will be a year. Most hours of my day were spent thinking about some aspect of my book. How was Adele going to deal with the day, Prince Anthony or even the bad guys?
 
Book writing is fun for me. I like getting wrapped up in the stories. I do the same when I’m reading a book if I like it. Since I’m an eclectic reader and writer, I never know what world I’m going to be spending my time.
 
I’m learning new things every day which is a wonderful thing for me. It keeps my mind active. If I didn’t keep my mind active, I would be useless to myself. My learning has added to my guilt when I write. I see the passive voice in my sleep or that voice that says you can write that line better. So many rules but at the same time, nothing is written in stone. A lot of standards change with the wind or who’s writing.
 
When you write, the bottom line is “does it fit you, the author?” Everyone has an opinion and most of the time they are different. That in itself can be confusing, but if you hang on and keep trudging forward you will end up with work that is yours alone. Notwithstanding the help, you received from reading, researching a topic or any other avenue you use.
 
I must be needing to share my introspection today on the almost completion of my book. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing I only have a few little things left to do before my work can be published. The beautiful thing is that it has nothing to do with selling. It has to do with completing the task I set out to do, the best way I know how.
 

Five Steps to a Great Book Contract

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manuscriptSome writers have been fortunate enough to land book contracts, but unfortunately for the majority of writers that’s not the case. Ryan Van Cleave says, “reach beyond the obvious to achieve success.” Ryan is a Florida basted writing teacher and author of twenty books.

You have a terrific book manuscript that’s ready to submit.  Thats great! Or maybe your’re pas the halfway point on a new project and you want to start thinking about the next step.  Before you start stuffing envelopes or firing off email queries, take a moment to reflect on pre submission and pre contract realities.  Is there anything you can do now that might increase your odds for success?

Writing advice espouses the obvious: Take classes, write well and solicit quality feedback on your work.  Here are five actionable, less than obvious steps you can take right now to stand out from the crowd and earn a writer friendly book contract once you’re ready to put your work out into the literary world.

1. Change your attitude.  Literary agent Lisa Hagan says to strongly consider your “attitude regarding changes that need to be made to make the manuscript the best that it can be.”  It’s not about ego or sticking to the original plan.  It’s about producing a publication worthy book.  No one willingly chooses to work with an inflexible stickler.  Be open to suggestions, especially those from publishing experts.

2. Prepare your own pitch.  “The writing may be wonderful,” says Sourcebooks editorial director Todd Stocke, “but can I distill it down to something quickly and easily explained.  Ultimately, that’s the publisher’s job, to find ways that connect the author and the readers.  But sometimes those of us who do this for a living still can’t find the pitch.”  Clearly share your vision for the pitch.  The publisher is still welcome to come up with a different one for the back cover, catalog copy or PR materials, but sometimes you’ll bowl a publisher over with you well-reasoned, compelling pitch that leverages angles they hadn’t considered.

3.  Be proactive with your BISAC. With more than 3,000 BISAC(Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject codes available for a published book, it’s imperative that yours gets the right one(s).  When Random House changed the BISAC for a strong-selling title from “Fiction-General” to “Fiction-Suspense,” the sales increased by 55 percent.  Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what BISAC codes the publisher intends for your book.  Do some research so you have ideas ready in case they’re missing ways to increase visibility.  Having the wrong BISAC can make your book essentially invisible.

“Go to a bookstore,” Stocke advices. “Spend time in the stacks, really understand where your book might sit in that store.  What books will be around it?  What authors am I most like?  With what am I competing?” Or is your book better suited to readers finding it in other venues than a traditional bookstore?  Figuring all this out can help your future sales immensely.

4.  Chase down the co-op.  Most publishers have money set aside to spend on book promotions, front of store displays at Barnes & Noble that cost thousands of dollars a week but have huge results in terms of sales.  Make sure you ask any publisher offering a contract if co-op is available for your title.  If not, consider offering to match any co-op dollar for dollar, up to whatever amount you can afford.  Sometimes that’s enough for a publisher to commit those limited resources your way.

5. Run from red flags.  Is the publishing company undergoing big changes?  If so, be wary, warns Hagan.  In terms of book contracts, she prefers to have the “right of first refusal” clause deleted.  It’s not exactly a red flag, but “it saves time for future projects,” she explains.  ” I don’t like to be locked in.”

Stocke says one red flag is if publishers don’t have extensive experience publishing books similar to yours.  They also should have initial competitive/comparative research if thy’re offering you a contract. “What’s their plan for the format, the price, the size, the brick verses e-tail opportunities? How are they going to title, package and pitch it to get it in front of people?  What does success look like, and what does the opposite of that look like?” Anything but good, reasonable answers here are red flags for sure.

Far too many writers spend months on a manuscript but then fire off the final product like it’s a radioactive hot potato.  Take your time to create a clear, informed plan so when you do put that masterpiece into the hands of a literary agent or publisher, it’s with no regrets.  Listen to the experts and give yourself the best chance to earn a great book contract with writer-friendly terms.

How to Finally Finish Your Writings

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Writing Project

I found this article by Kellie McGann over a subject I’m very familiar with, not finishing a writing project.  I thought it was worth passing on to you.  Enjoy

On my computer I actually have a folder of “Unfinished Blog Posts.”

If you’re like me, finishing projects is always a struggle, especially books, which are the hardest projects to finish.

Recently I’ve buckled down to finish several major writing projects, including my first book, and I’ve learned a few things about how to finish your writing along the way.

Three Secrets to Finishing Your Writing

Here are three secrets I’ve discovered about how to finish a book, blog post, or any other writing project, and some hints to keep you going.

1. Choose Just One

At one point I had five different documents open on my computer, all possible blogs, all different topics.

This is the worst way to finish anything.

The first thing you need to do is pick one project: pick one chapter, one blog post, one book you’re trying to finish. Give it your full attention. If you’re able to keep saying no to every other project, you will have no choice but to finish.

2. Kill Your Darlings

Stephen King said:

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Your darlings are those perfect sentences, the string of words that flows so mellifluously and which you love.

About two-thirds through many of my blog posts or book chapters, I find myself asking, “Wait, what was my point?”

As writers, we tend to sidetrack, or tell other stories, or make points that are good but not always relevant.

Instead, keep your writing focused on your central message.

And if you have any “darlings” or sections that deviate from that central message, don’t delete them. Rather, move them to a separate document and title it, “My Darlings.” Save those darlings for a rainy day when you don’t know what to write about.

Tying up loose ends is essential to finishing strong, and killing your darlings is part of the process.

3. Finish with Questions

One of the best ways to end a writing piece is by asking questions.

Questions are perfect for summing up your point and making sure your readers understand.

It’s a fun, easy way to finish your piece and engage your readers.

Have you ever had trouble trying to finish a book writing project? What is something you use or do to help finish your writings?

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and finish something! Go to your drafts folder or scan through your documents until you find a piece you’ve been meaning to finish. (We all have them!)

Your Childs Education

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History2I have to tell you, right up front that this post is strictly a commentary on my part. I belong to a Historical Fiction group on LinkedIn and yesterday during a history discussion the direction of the conversation turned and my mouth hit the floor (so to speak). It seems that during my absence from the educational system for myself and my children the system has taken a giant leap backwards.History3

I was not aware that history is no longer taught in the schools as it once was. I could not get my mind wrapped around that thought. How could our future not be taught about the past of our country and of the world? And if they are taught it is skewed.
History
I am going to be posting the statements made by the people of the group. That way you can read and make up your own mind about how HISTORY should be in our educational system.

Carole Schutter
Owner, Carole Whang Schutter
I was talking to my neighbor and her daughter, a 14 year old honor roll student. She told me something shocking. They never discuss or learn about 9/11, they are not allowed to bring up the subject of terrorists or discuss terrorism, and they learn almost no history. I’m shocked. History was one of my favorite subjects. As I watched “Waters World” on Fox, something I’ve only done a few times, he went around asking a bunch of 20-something-year olds easy questions like, “Do you know who George Washington is? Who did we fight in the Revolution and the Civil War? (most people said France) Who bombed Pearl Harbor? (Most people said China, one even said Russia) He asked most of them if they went to college (yes for some)-the older people fared better. When my ex-husband dated 20 something year olds (he was in his 50’s) after our divorce and admitted he he was getting tired of dating girls who had no idea who the Kennedy’s were. As lovers of history, this is shocking to me. Is this what is happening? I have 30-something year old kids & no grandchildren & I made my sons read history books-which, btw, they liked. They weren’t taught as much history as I was taught but according to my neighbor’s daughter they are taught practically nothing. Just interested in knowing what’s going on in our schools.

Christine Gibbs commented on a discussion in Historical Fiction.

I was talking to my neighbor and her daughter, a 14 year old honor roll student. She told me something shocking. They never discuss or learn about 9/11, they are not allowed to bring up the subject of terrorists or discuss terrorism, and they learn almost no history. I’m shocked. History was one of my favorite subjects. As I watched “Waters World” on Fox, something I’ve only done a few times, he went around asking a bunch of 20-something-year olds easy questions like, “Do you know who George Washington is? Who did we fight in the Revolution and the Civil War? (most people said France) Who bombed Pearl Harbor? (Most people said China, one even said Russia) He asked most of them if they went to college (yes for some)-the older people fared better. When my ex-husband dated 20 something year olds (he was in his 50’s) after our divorce and admitted he he was getting tired of dating girls who had no idea who the Kennedy’s were. As lovers of history, this is shocking to me. Is this what is happening? I have 30-something year old kids & no grandchildren & I made my sons read history books-which, btw, they liked. They weren’t taught as much history as I was taught but according to my neighbor’s daughter they are taught practically nothing. Just interested in knowing what’s going on in our schools.

Lu Ann Worley
Book Review and Marketing

I know a wonderful History teacher who took an early retirement because there is no real history in the new history books…He refused to teach this farce of a history curriculum. These books were presented during the Clinton administration. Tax dollars were withheld from any school not agreeing to the new History & English books (In the English books the students only have to look up the answers to two out of seven questions at the end of a chapter. Basically, the students do not have to search for answers and learn to think for themselves- many students did not even look up the two questions…many didn’t even read the chapters!)
We are definitely in a “Dumb down America” that most parents are not even aware of because of the way it is presented to them. history4

ART HENDRICKSON
WRITER OF FICTION AND COMEDY

On the morning of 9/11, I was teaching in a Bakersfield, Ca school. When news of the first tower invasion was relayed to me by another teacher, I immediately switched on the TV and found a channel covering the event. What a great learning experience for my kids. The TV was on for about five minutes when the principal entered the room and demanded that the set be turned off and kept off and for us to get back on curriculum. Seriously? I was dumbfounded. How could she (later I found that it was a district ultimatum) deny observing history in the making. She did and I made formal protest as did some students in other classes. The district backtracked in the coming days and even blamed the teachers. It was their choice to watch or not watch or so they said. I wrote a editorial letter of response to the district whitewash and was promptly admonished…with no union backing. I retired the following year when even more restrictions were placed on the teaching of history in the Bakersfield Middle schools.

M.N. Stroh
Freelance Writer with Her View from Home

Sadly, these facts are all too common. History was barely taught in my school. My last high school class covering American history was a joke. The teacher didn’t even teach from the books. Lessons were totally on his lectures of HIS perception of history. The downgrading of history and education in general is one of the prime reasons that I homeschool my children.

Now that you have read a few of the statements made, how do you feel about it? I think a big disservice is being done to the children of this country and that is very sad. How can are children really understand what and why things have happened the way it has if they are not taught in our educational system.

Have School Officals Lost Thier Minds?

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Image by delgrosso via Flickr

Today I’m taking a short break from writing help.  I want to post about a topic that has blown my mind.  I was reading through a national magazine and found where a thirteen year old female student in Virginia was suspended for having controlled substances in her locker.  Right now your going “Good for them. That will protect the other students from the drugs.” Am I wrong?

This particular student had a bottle of doctor prescribed antibiotics in her locker.  They were prescribed for her acne.  The school officials determined she had hidden the controlled substance in her locker and place other students in danger and staff at risk.  I’m wondering at this point, where did their brains go?  Have they ever had one.

There was another Virginia student is in the process of  suspension because of holding a bag of oregano.  I guess the school board can’t tell the difference between herbs and POT.  Has everyone gone insane with this zero tolerance.  This student is an honors student with a very bright future ahead of him.

If I was a parent in the school system, I would be livid if this happened to my child.  No one uses any common sense anymore.  What about the trauma and heartache to everyone concerned?  I’m not an advocate of law suits but I would seriously think about getting the state’s attention.  Since they don’t appear to use their brains anymore, maybe the justice system can make them see the light.  I’m angry and I don’t even live in the state, it can happen anywhere.  What are your thoughts?

Who Is That Character?

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A conversation in Eternal Fantasy depicting th...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been told you must know your characters.  Your main characters desires should be known.  If you want your character to gather the sympathy from your readers then give the character a strong desire.  What is being strived for, a new job, romance, riches, knowledge.  If your character doesn’t have a need, do you think your readers will find excitement in your book. How do you say “boring?”

You have to make your character multidimensional, and not leave him flat.  What creates the most vivid picture, 3D or regular television?   It is a matter of contrast in your characters.  As humans we are very complicated and you have to show that complication in your characters also. That way your reader can really get interested in your character.

You may also be tempted to make your character all good or all bad.  Both sides should be shown in your character.  “Dan thought his head would blow off he’s neck at any time.  His night out at the bar  has messed him up one more time.  He has to get up, and get to the church, because he is teaching Sunday School today.”  This sentence showed a man who appears to have a problem with alcohol (bad side), and he teaches Sunday School (good side.)  It shows at least two side of Dan.

Your contrasts should be worked into your story, so they do not become road blocks for the reader.  You want your story to keep moving forward.  You can have your character step out from the usual character portrayed as long as the tendency has been shown before.  That way it is not a stopping point.

Gotham’s  “Writing Fiction” states,” your characters should have the ability to change and the reader should know it.  Change is particularly important for a story’s main character.  Just as the desire of a main character drives the story, the character’s change is often the story’s culmination.”

This doesn’t mean your main character has to change but the reader should always know change is possible.  Predictability is created if you do not give the character the potential to change.

I have covered a few ways to help you create a character that your reader can get to know.  The video today on creating characters.     That is my two-cents for today.

http://youtu.be/8VoZNlvSpdE PS this video gives lots of  good information but there is cafe noise in the background.