Tag Archives: amediting

The beauty of ideas

I attended another lovely workshop at the Hudson Library (@HudsonLibr) this week in their “Writing to Publish” series. This one was veteran children’s author Tricia Springstubb (@Springstubb), who had great stories to tell, and plenty of advice to dish out.

I’ll write up a full report on what I learned soon, but I wanted to share one gem of a quote that Ms. Springstubb gave early on in her presentation. The poetry of these words struck me, and now I will think of pebbles every time I have a new idea:

Ideas are pebbles to polish, kernels to pop, sparks to fan.
— Tricia Springstubb

She said that, of course, some pebbles aren’t worth polishing, but when you find one that is, it’s a beautiful transformation. So here’s to a handful of pebbles, with at least a few worth polishing!

Happy writing!

P.S. Thanks to Tricia Springstubb and the Hudson Library for this wonderful, inspiring event.

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Photo of hands with stones by Creative Vix on Stocksnap.io

Writing is…

Writing is a difficult journey.

Writing is an exciting adventure.

Writing is a slow process.

Writing is a sprint to the finish.

Writing is a personal effort.

Writing is a group activity.

Writing is taking a chance.

Writing is what you make of it.

©️2017 Jaelithe Russ

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Persistence is half the journey

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the ninth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 9: “It’s a process. It’s a journey. Celebrate every step of the way as you work to make your story the best it can be.”

The penultimate session of the day was a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Wills (@WillsWork4Books), Linda Sue Park (@lindasuepark), Jill Santopolo (@jillsantopolo), and Brett Duquette (@brettduquette). They had tons of great advice, so I’m just going to share a bunch of random points, in no particular order:

  • Don’t sell your soul. If someone says “I’d be willing to publish if you change your main character’s name… and also all of the key plot points,” then you’re not really telling your story any more, are you?
  • When you get a rejection, look for the gems – what did they like? What can you improve?
  • The story is more important than your feelings. Making the story the best it can be is what matters, and if you let your feelings get hurt during the process you’re missing the point.
  • Don’t look sideways, or worry about what anyone else is doing (i.e. if they’re ‘ahead’ of you in the writing or publishing process). It’s your story. It’s your journey.
  • Art is not a competition, and we all want more stories, not fewer. Everyone you approach throughout the process wants stories to be successful, so instead of killing your story, find ways to improve it.
But.. that journey has sooo many steps. How am I going to make it that far?

Long story short:

Don’t give up. Sometimes, it feels like no one likes your stuff. Or like your story will never improve. Or like everyone else is getting to the end faster than you. Or like it’s too hard of a journey and you just want to get off the train. But if you improve, even by increments, then the journey was worth it.

Result: I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – when the “I’m never going to be published” blues hit, I just need to pull up my big girl pants and take the steps I can to move forward.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, I’d love to be inspired by a story about a time when you thought your journey was over only to realize you had it in you to keep going.

Happy writing, editing, querying, publishing, and journeying!

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Photo of footprints in the snow by Bartosz Gorlewicz on Unsplash

And how does that make you feel?

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the seventh in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 7: “Most manuscripts are rejected because there’s no emotional connection with the main character.”

In my seventh session, Vicki Selvaggio (@vselvaggio1), Associate Agent for The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, discussed how to make our stories into cohesive journeys. She walked us through the parts of the story and the key considerations we need to make for each, and I came away with some ideas about how to add depth to my story and characters.

The biggest point that caught my attention, though, was her quote above about why manuscripts are rejected. I realized that, no matter how amazing my prose, no matter how fun my world, if an agent or publisher doesn’t connect emotionally with my main character, I’m sunk.

Does your main character make you want to hold on tight and go on an adventure? Or do they leave you feeling… meh?

Long story short:

Nobody’s perfect. If your main character seems that way, they’ll probably come off as flat. Make them more of a real person and it will be easier to connect, and probably easier to get published.

Result: I’m going to take a good, hard look at my character, and talk to my beta readers about why they did or didn’t connect with her emotionally. Then I’m going to take Vicki’s advice and add further depth.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, please tell me what type of character you connect with the most and why, or share an example of a character you couldn’t connect with.

Happy writing!

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Hands photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

All’s fair in love and publishing

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the sixth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 6: “I have to love something if I’m going to advocate for it.”

My sixth session of the conference was a plenary by Brett Duquette (@brettduquette), Senior Editor at Sterling Publishing, on the publishing process from acquisition to publication. He talked about his team structure, and how each piece fits into the puzzle of determining what books they’ll choose to publish, and how the process works. The biggest lesson wasn’t exactly a surprise, but was definitely something I hadn’t thought much about.

One of his points was that the publishing process takes time. The books he’s trying to acquire now won’t be published until 2018 or even 2019. Therefore, if an editor wants to take your book on, they will have to spend a lot of time and energy convincing others that your vision is worth pursuing. They’ll become your advocate from that end of the process.

Long story short:

You need a strong vision for your story, and you need the confidence to convince others of it. And you need the patience to walk people through it. And you need the thick skin to understand that not everyone is going to get it. And you need the conviction that if an editor doesn’t get it right away, they might not be the right fit.

Result: Each little piece of the process has helped me realize I need to build my own confidence in my story. If I don’t believe in me, I can’t expect other people to believe. Again, nothing I didn’t know, but it helps to hear it from the pros.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, please share something surprising, but not surprising, about your own writing/editing/publishing journey.

Happy writing!

The time might not be now

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the fifth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 5: “But do we need to know it now?”

For my fifth lesson, I opted to do a one-on-one critique with Linda Camacho (@LindaRandom) an agent with Prospect Agency.

We had a lovely 15-minute chat that went all over the board, and much of it was personal to my story. However, I’d like to share a tip she suggested (in regards to showing rather than telling, which seems to be a problem of mine) that really stuck with me and felt universally helpful.

When you’re looking at the amount you’re telling in terms of backstory, ask yourself these two questions:
1) Is this something we actually need to know to further the story? If no, delete. If yes…
2) Do we need to know it now?If no, delete. If yes, find a way to work into dialogue if possible, or pare it down to bare bones.

Of course you want to tell all of the nuances of your character that you spent hours and days and weeks building. But if the readers don’t need to know something, it’s okay to just hint at it, or leave it out altogether. If they do need to know it, are you giving it in an information dump? Does it even really make sense to be in that particular part of the story?

Long story short:

Don’t dump. Yes, you want to get your key points across, but resist the urge to drop backstory on your readers like a load of bricks. Parcel it out, in conversation as much as possible, and only give the most important tidbits. Save the reason your character will only wear white socks for a time when that fact actually helps forward the story.

Result: I’ve got some editing to do. Not news, but now I have one more tool to help me do it.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, let me know a favorite nuance you created for a character that you can’t find a way to work naturally into your story.

Happy editing!

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Writer, edit thyself

I just attended a workshop at the library on the subject of self-editing your novel with Jennifer Sawyer Fisher of JSF Editorial. She gave us a good deal of great information, and plenty of examples to help drive the points home.

In no particular order, here are a few of my takeaways:

  1. I might have to cut back on the subplots
  2. Trying to push through and edit a full-length novel all in one sitting would be as silly as trying to write the thing all in one sitting.
  3. Writing and editing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, I made this one up. But it’s still the basic gist of what she said.
  4. One day, when I write a murder mystery, the rule of thumb is a death in the first three chapters. Don’t need this now, but I’m just filing away the info for later.
  5. Hiring a good editor is worth every penny. Though Ms. Fisher didn’t specifically say this, I think it was implied. And probably very true.
  6. This I’ve heard before, but it bears repeating:  just because there are super-long books on the bookstore shelves doesn’t mean a first time author is going to get a super-long book published. Cut the fluff.
  7. When it comes to accepting or rejecting an editor’s, agent’s, or publisher’s suggestions for your book, go with your gut.
  8. Also not news, but worth repeating: action verbs, action verbs, action verbs.
  9. I need to stop using the same word so many times in a single sentence/paragraph (for example, I just edited a second word “session” out of my sentence below and replaced it with “workshop”).
  10. Full page paragraphs are a big no-no.

It was an inspiring session. Thanks to Ms. Fisher and everyone at the Hudson Library and Historical Society who made the workshop possible!

Happy editing!

Have you received a great piece of writing or editing advice lately? Please share in the comments.

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