Category Archives: Useful Articles

Strong, Clear, Concise Writing

Hello everyone!

It is easy to recognize bad writing and to identify why it is bad.  However, it is harder to explain why a piece of writing is good.

Below is an article and an infographic which helped me to identify weaknesses in my own writing.  I also included some of the strategies I applied to correct these shortcomings.

Active VerbsIn writing, it is always better to show than tell.  “Don’t Use Adverbs and Adjectives to Prettify Your Prose” by William Noble explains when and how to use adverbs and adjectives.

Laurie Wallmark directed me to 5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” by Jennifer Frost.  After reading the infographic, I found that I am guilty of regularly breaking rules three and four.

Rule #3 – “Do not use words whose meanings you are not sure of.”

When I’m writing, I will sometimes use a word that I am 90% sure means one thing.  Before I started blogging, I liked my chances of having used the correct word.  Now, I either look up the word before using it or change it’s color in the rough draft, so I will remember to confirm it’s meaning later.  I’m glad I started doing this.  Sometimes, the word means exactly what I thought it did and other times the meaning is vastly different.

Rule #4 – “Use concrete rather than vague language.”

thV903596HI tend to be sparse in my descriptions of cities and scenery during travel sequences.  For example, I might write “While walking through the forest, a tree branch whacked him in the face.”  What type of forest was he in: coniferous, deciduous, or rainforest?  Is it dark or is there lots of sunlight?  Was the tree branch leafy, flimsy, spiky, thick, dry, etc.?  (Remember Noble’s advice concerning adjectives.)  Since I am more drawn to witty dialogue and dynamic characters than descriptions, it can be difficult for me to recognize this lack of specificity.

After acknowledging this tendency, I began training myself to watch out for bland descriptions in my writing.  First, I reread portions of The Hunger Games, Eragon, The Maze Runner, and Divergent to get a sense for how some successful Dystopian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors described their worlds.  I also re-watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, paying special attention to the different looks of elven homes (Rivendell vs. Lothlórien), human cities (Edoras vs. Minas Tirith), and the changing landscapes.  My brother, who studied film, recommended that I look at photos of whatever biome my characters are traveling through.  I could then assign the locations in my world specific photos and consult them before writing the descriptions.  I am hoping that these exercises will help me to eliminate vague language from my writing.

My challenge to you is to read “5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” and then look at your own writing.  Which rules do you regularly break?  After identifying them, take the necessary steps to reform.  Your writing will be stronger if you do.

Happy writing!

Katie

How to Create a Successful Blog

Hello everyone!

While preparing for the 2017 NJ SCBWI Conference, I thought back to September 2015 when I became serious about getting published. I researched how to make a living as a children’s author (FYI – The answer is to publish a lot of books or get insanely lucky.). Then, I explored how to make myself appealing to agents and editors.

One term I kept seeing and hearing was “platform.” Somehow, I didn’t think they were referring to a wooden plane. Eventually, I figured out that a writer’s platform is his/her following – the people who will read the author’s newest book just because he/she wrote it. I concluded that I needed to grow an online presence.

In January 2016, I decided to create a writer’s Facebook page, website, and blog. My friends joined my Facebook page, but my blog was a graveyard. It was so disheartening to post weekly and not have anyone read my work. I wanted to delete my blog, but knew that was not a good marketing strategy. So, I stuck with it.

In early 2017, I discovered the magic of using tags and other bloggers started to find my posts. I also started using more photos to increase the visual appeal of my blog. After almost a year and a half of blogging, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it, and I still have room for improvement and adaptation. Isn’t that the majority of the writing process?

Below are some articles I wish I’d read before I created my blog. I hope you also find them helpful.

The Author’s Dilemma: To Blog or Not to Blog” by Claire E. White

How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause” by Darren Rowse

How to Use Tags on Your Blog or Website” by Michael Gray

Traffic 1Happy writing and may you get lots of blog traffic!

Katie

April is National Poetry Month

Hello everyone!

In honor of April being National Poetry Month, below are four links which poets ready to be published and writers wanting to try their hand at poetry may find helpful.

“Writing and Publishing FAQ” https://m.poets.org/poetsorg/text/writing-and-publishing-faq

“Poetry: Submissions & Letters to the Editor” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/submissions

“How to Write Poetry” http://www.creative-writing-now.com/how-to-write-poetry.html

“Types of Poetry” http://www.poeticterminology.net/

Happy writing!

Katie

Brutal Editing

Hello everyone!

So, you’ve written something and are ready to get it published. You have read and re-read your piece and are sure it’s worthy of being seen by readers, but is it?

Back in January, I entered WritersWeekly’s Winter 2017 24-Hour Short Story Contest. There were a lot of submission guidelines and a list of common themes to avoid; themes the judges had seen in so many submissions that they had become groan worthy. I read the submission guidelines and the list of common themes three times: before the prompt was posted, the day the prompt was released, and right before I submitted my short story. I was 100% certain that I had followed all of their instructions. I had worked hard and done research to make sure that my take on the prompt would be too original for anyone else to duplicate. It sounds vain, but I expected to win or at least get an honorable mention because the idea was so unlikely to be replicated. When the winners and honorable mentions were announced, my story was not listed. I was disappointed, but I have been to too many acting auditions to let it crush me. Competitions, like auditions, are subjective. You can do everything right and still not be chosen.

I read the list of common themes seen in the stories submitted for the Winter 2017 contest and was satisfied to see that my story did not contain any of those repeated themes. In that respect, my research paid off.

My thought was to post my short story on my blog so that others could see what I had done and get a feel for my writing style. I e-mailed my brother a copy of my short story and asked for his feedback. I know many people say you should never ask your family or friends to critique your writing; because, they will tell you it is wonderful to save your feelings, but my family is not like that. My family tells me what I did well, but they also tell me what confused them, where I have plot holes, or where they got bored. Then, they offer suggestions on how to make the weak parts stronger.

After he read my short story, my brother called me. When I asked if he thought it was ready for publication, he countered with, “What do you think of your story?” That made me stop and evaluate my story differently than I previously had. Up until my brother asked me that question, I had only focused on the originality of the idea, the accuracy of my research, and making sure that the ending wrapped things up nicely. When I started listing to my brother the things I was proud of, it suddenly struck me that the plot itself was not very compelling. The protagonist made a decision at the end of the story, but up until that point, she had passively let life happen to her. It is very boring to read about a passive rather than a proactive protagonist.

I was so focused on being different that I ignored perhaps the most crucial part of any story: the plot. My brother made some suggestions for how to rewrite the story so that the protagonist was taking a more active role in outside events or so that the conflict was all internal.

After our talk, I understood why my story had not been chosen. I also became more conscious of a tendency which I need to watch out for as a writer: I become so focused on details that I forget about the big picture.

When it comes to editing your own work, I have four pieces of advice:

  1. Unless you are participating in a 24-hour short story competition, put your writing away for a few days before you edit it. This break from your work will give you a fresh perspective on what you’ve written.
  2. Find someone to read over your work who you know will be honest with you. This person should be good at pointing out what you did well and at explaining why something needs to be improved.
  3.  Do not be defensive about your work. If you want to write something that is worthy of publication, you need to be willing to demolish and rebuild your story multiple times. Kick your ego to the curb and put your story’s interests before your own.
  4.  You can’t please everyone, so at least make sure you like what you wrote. Remember that writing is an art and, therefore, subjective. Have the wisdom to know when the feedback you receive reveals an issue with the plot, characters, or writing style and when the feedback is just the reader’s personal preference. I am part of a writing group and my rule is if half the group has the same question or issue, I need to make a change. If only one person has an issue, it is probably personal preference; I can use my own discretion and either reject the advice or make a change.

Good luck editing and happy writing!

Katie

Picture Books: The Underlying Structure

Hello everyone!

One of my goals as a writer is to get at least one picture book published.  However, the picture book market is very competitive.  Below are two blog posts and an article about how to structure a successful picture book.  I hope you find them to be as helpful as I did.

“Writers: The 20 Questions I Ask a Picture Book” by Rachel Hamby: https://rachelhamby.com/for-writers/ (Special thanks to Laurie Wallmark for leading me to this article.)

“Concept book, concept book. What do you see?” by Bonny Becker: https://booksaroundthetable.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/concept-book-concept-book-what-do-you-see/?wref=pil

“7 Ways to Structure Your Picture Book” by Brian A. Klems: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/7-ways-to-structure-your-picture-book (This article ties in with Bonny Becker’s article.  I think of the seven structures as seven writing challenges.)

Happy writing!

Katie

Marketing Children’s Picture Books

Hello everyone!

One of the most important things authors do is market their books.  Check out the articles below for ideas on how and where to market your children’s picture book(s).

“How To Market Children’s Books” by Jessica Schein: http://www.lulu.com/blog/2012/07/how-to-market-childrens-books/#sthash.IugZi6m3.dpbs

“Tips for Marketing Self-Published Children’s Books” by Alex Palmer: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/67610-not-child-s-play.html

“Getting the Word Out: Marketing Children’s Books” by Barbara Cohen: http://www.underdown.org/marketing.htm

Happy writing!

Katie

Trademark Trolls

***Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.  I recommend that you speak with a lawyer about any legal questions you have.

Hello everyone!troll-1

I recently found the following article about trademark trolls and thought you would also find it interesting.

“Has a Troll Falsely Accused You of Violating Their Trademark? Here’s What You Should Do” by Angela Hoy: http://writersweekly.com/angela-desk/has-a-troll-falsely-accused-you-of-violating-their-trademark-heres-what-you-should-do-by-angela-hoy

For those of you who would like to do some research on your own, I have included a few more links which I believe you will find helpful.

“Trademark vs. Copyright Protection”: https://www.legalzoom.com/trademarks-patents-copyrights/summary-compare-trademark-copyright.html

United States Copyright Office: https://www.copyright.gov/

U.S. Trademark Law (January 14, 2017): https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/tmlaw.pdf

United States Patent and Trademark Office (Especially look under the “Trademarks” tab at the top of the page.): https://www.uspto.gov/

Happy writing!

Katie