Category Archives: Useful Articles

How to Write a Synopsis

Hello everyone!

After months of perfecting the first book in my chapter book mystery series, I am finally ready to query it to agents and editors. The query letter is super important, so I took my time composing a good one. Once I finished that, I began looking for agents and editors who would be a natural match for my book. I thought I had finished the hardest part. I was wrong. Some agents’ and editors’ submission guidelines listed a synopsis as one of the things to include in the pitch package.

I had no idea how to write an outstanding book synopsis. So, I researched how to write one. Below are three articles which guided me in the creation of my own synopsis. I hope that you also find them helpful!

“6 Steps for Writing a Book Synopsis” by Marissa Meyer

“4 Ways to Write a Book Synopsis” by wikiHow and Megan Morgan, PhD

“Learn How to Write a Synopsis Like a Pro” by Courtney Carpenter

Happy writing!

Katie

Subplots: Natural Complicators

Hello everyone!

The Lost KingdomAs I’ve begun querying the first book in my chapter book mystery series, my mind has wandered back to the novel that I put on hold. While thinking through the plot, I realized I was too nice to my characters. They’re an intelligent lot, and I allowed many of their well-thought-out plans to succeed. But then, while reading The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby, I realized that all the characters, despite being geniuses, had the worst luck in the world. If it could go wrong, it did. ScoutsI then read Scouts by Shannon Greenland. The story was another fine example of Murphy’s law.

I decided to outline my novel so I could see where I needed to throw in some unfortunate events, misunderstandings, and disasters. That led to my thinking about the characters themselves and questioning whether or not their motivation was strong enough. And that made me wonder if the stakes were high enough. (This was a real-life example of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.) It all culminated in my pondering the purpose of subplots within a novel.

My dear friend Olivia Berrier, who is a fantastic storyteller, recently talked to me about how she edits through each subplot to make her story stronger. I decided that the issues with my novel might be due to an insufficient amount of subplots. So, I began researching what they are and how to create good ones. Here are some articles that I found very interesting and helpful. If you think your novel could use a little extra spice or more tension, maybe what you need is to add one or more subplots.

“Writing Subplots in a Novel and Other Subplot Ideas” by Mary Kole

“How to Skillfully Use Subplots in Your Novel” by Jane Friedman

“Subplot ideas: 5 tips for writing better subplots” by Now Novel

Happy writing!

Katie

Disclosure

This blog post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission if you decide to purchase using a link I share. There is no additional cost for you, and it helps me to keep creating awesome content.

Literary Scavenger Hunt

Hello everyone!

After being under a stay-at-home order for more than a month, many of us are eager to reengage with the rest of humanity and resume our normal comings and goings. Unfortunately, we still have to wait.

To give us something fun to do while complying with the stay-at-home order, I challenge you to a literary scavenger hunt.

Rules:

  1. Look in books to find something that satisfies each category.
  2. A different book must be used for each category.
  3. Once you’ve found all twelve categories, share what you found and the books they came from in the comments section.

Open Books

Categories:

  1. A weapon
  2. A difficult decision
  3. A beautiful setting
  4. A first kiss
  5. A mistake
  6. A betrayal
  7. A loss
  8. Best friends
  9. More than two siblings
  10. A single parent
  11. A grandparent
  12. A talking animal

Good luck! Happy reading!

Katie

COVID-19 Life Revisions

Hello everyone! I hope you are all staying healthy!

As writers, the concept of needing to revise something should not be a new one to us. We write something, and then we revise it again, and again, and again, and a few more times for good measure before we finally query or publish it.

Time for Change Sign with LED LightHowever, the idea of revising our lives due to COVID-19 has come as a shock to even those of us who are most experienced in making revisions. You’d think that the one activity that wouldn’t be affected by social distancing is writing. (Think about it. You usually do it by yourself at home or in a coffee shop.) But even writing hasn’t been safe from unplanned changes. Libraries are closed, writer’s groups have to find new ways to meet, and conferences are postponed or canceled.

At the beginning of 2020, I designed my entire yearly plan for writing around a conference in June that I was planning on attending. I devoted the first six months of the year to writing and the last six to querying. Now, that conference may or may not take place; the organizers are still waiting to see where we’re at with social distancing come June. On a more positive note, some alternative workshops and online activities for writers that didn’t exist when I created my 2020 writing goals have become available.

As a result of all the changes, I had to seriously consider whether or not my original writing plan for this year was still the best one to follow. To give myself some much needed clarity on what to do, I summarized my writing priority for the year in one sentence: My goal for 2020 is to get something published. With that goal in mind, and after a lot of thought, I gave myself permission to scrap my original writing plan and adjust it for our current, everchanging situation. I then started looking at the options available to me and chose the ones that would get me closer to my end goal of publication.

My Revised Writing Plan for 2020:

  1. Start querying the materials that are ready for agents and editors to read.
  2. Write a picture book and participate in the free online Peer-to-Peer Picture Book & Chapter Book Manuscript Critiques program offered through the Pennsylvania: East chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

Blue Card Surrounded with White FlowersDuring this time of constant change and uncertainty, give yourself permission to adjust your plans (this does not only apply to writing plans). Life looks different right now. It’s not comfortable, but if you search for the positives in the situation, you might be surprised by what you find.

Stay healthy, and happy writing!

Katie

God’s Goodness in the Middle of Trouble

Hello everyone!

Have you ever noticed how when you focus on something that upsets you, you become more upset? Now, have you noticed how changing your focus from what’s bothering you to something else can help you to calm down?

Right now, it’s easy to focus on COVID-19 and the uncertainty that it’s introduced into our lives. It’s easy to be afraid. And while what we focus on might not change our circumstances, it will change how we view them.

Ship AnchorWhen I was 18, my father was suddenly laid off. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go to college in the fall like we’d planned and that we might lose our house. I was scared and angry. One day, while looking at the courses I was hopefully going to be taking in the fall, I started crying. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself sitting on an old-fashioned ship’s anchor that was dangling in the air. I couldn’t see what the anchor was attached to, and above, below, and all around me was blackness. Objects that represented parts of my life were falling from somewhere overhead into the darkness below, but I was safe on the anchor. I felt like God told me that he was the only solid thing in my life. I was honest with him and told him that I hated that. I asked God my questions, but he didn’t answer any of them. He said, “You will never go hungry,” and with those words, my fear disappeared. God blessed my family, and both of my parents got new jobs. I was able to go to college as planned, and we kept our house. During that scary time, what God had promised me kept me from being afraid.

Last year, I was walking out of the hospital after visiting my grandfather, and I looked up to see storm clouds rolling in. I felt like God said to me, “We’re going into a storm, but we are coming out on the other side.” My grandfather went to the hospital multiple times in 2019, and I watched him get weaker between stays. It was hard, and I cried plenty. I told God to either heal my grandfather or take him home, because I needed the drawn-out death and uncertainty to stop. Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I clung to the promise God had given me outside of the hospital. He was with me in the storm, and it wouldn’t last forever. We were going to come out on the other side. My grandfather died two days before Christmas. Last year was hard, but God got me through it.

I want to encourage you that COVID-19 will pass. It isn’t going to stay forever. And while we wait for this storm to blow away, God is with us in the middle of it.

Journal and PenAre you scared? Tell God. Angry? Talk to God. He can handle your anger. Confused? Trust Him. He might not give you the answers, but he will get you through this. It says in Psalm 46:1 that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Journaling your feelings and/or prayers can really help with releasing the negative emotions and processing what’s going on.

Be blessed, write lots, and stay healthy!

Katie

Coronavirus: Three Ways to Handle Fear

Hello everyone!

Right now, it seems like you can’t turn on the news or open a web browser without seeing something about coronavirus. And it’s easy to feel afraid.

These are three things that help me when I feel afraid:

  1. Jesus: I ask for God’s help and perspective by praying and reading the Bible. Psalm 91 and Isaiah 41:10 are especially comforting when sickness or physical violence are the fears.
  2. Emotional Release: I find a way to get out my strong, negative emotions, so I can return to a calmer state. Sometimes I do this through dancing or running short distances, but usually I talk to someone I trust and/or journal about my feelings and the cause of those feelings. As Fred Rodgers says in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019), “Anything mentionable is manageable.”
  3. ParakeetsHappy Place: I practice self care by doing things I enjoy. Going on walks, watching a favorite TV show, playing games with my family, and laughing at my parakeets’ antics are a few of those activities.

My challenge to you during this time of unknown is to take what you’re feeling and find a positive release for it.

From a writing standpoint, it might look like one of these ideas:

  • Journaling
  • Finding the humor in the situation and writing jokes or anecdotes about what’s going on (Laughter is good medicine, but please be sensitive about who you share these with.)
  • Writing about events from a fictional standpoint so that you can process your emotions from a distance (I’ve used fictional characters to work through difficult situations and feelings.)
  • Researching what’s going on and writing an essay or informative posts about it

However you choose to express yourself, be honest. I also challenge you to try to be positive. Fear and panic are contagious, but so is hope.

No FearOne final thought: be wise and take preventative measures, like handwashing, but don’t be afraid. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4 NIV).

Happy writing and stay healthy!

Katie

P.S.

If you’re looking for information about coronavirus, including prevention and what to do if you get sick, check out the CDC and World Health Organization’s websites.

My 2020 Writing Goals

Hello everyone!

For me, the end of December/beginning of January means it is time to set new writing goals. I have learned that my productivity for the new year is dependent on my setting achievable goals and creating a plan for achieving those goals.

Yes-No ChecklistMy Rules for Goal Setting

  1. Set three-five writing-related goals for the year.
  2. Make the goals specific so that it’s easy to know when you have achieved them.
  3. Unless there is a deadline, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to accomplish each goal.

Open BooksMy Writing Goals for 2020

  1. Read 50 books.
  2. Blog consistently (every two weeks).
  3. Have the first three books of my chapter book mystery series, Big Bad Wolf Detective Agency, ready to show to agents and editors by the first week of June.
  4. In late June or early July, begin querying the Big Bad Wolf Detective Agency and short stories.

I hope you have a happy, productive year!

Happy goal setting!

Katie

New Year Reflections: The Evolution of a Blogger

Hello everyone!

I think it is good to look back at how far we’ve come. Some of what we see will be embarrassing or painful and some will be funny or heartwarming, but if the reflection is used appropriately (to see how much progress we’ve made and how we can still improve), it can be a very enlightening process.

Since this is my first blog post of 2020, I decided to look back at all of my first posts from 2016 through 2019. (I had to remind myself that looking back was a positive learning experience, not an opportunity to beat myself up for not researching how to blog before I started my blog.)

2016 Tablet Calendar

My first blog post ever (January 10, 2016): First Writing Prompt for 2016

What I learned between 2016 and 2017:

  • I can share articles that I find useful (I don’t always have to generate new content)
  • How to insert header photos and that header photos make my blog posts more visually appealing
  • How to link text

My first blog post for 2017 (January 1, 2017): Writer’s Voice

PhotosWhat I learned between 2017 and 2018:

  • Inserting pictures into my blog posts makes the posts more attractive
  • Breaking a post into sections makes it easier to read
  • How to use tags to increase visibility and readership
  • It is better to publish two quality posts a month than four mediocre posts

My first blog post for 2018 (January 7, 2018): True Confessions of an Amateur Blogger: What Not to Do

What I learned between 2018 and 2019:

  • I am on the right track as a blogger
  • I do not have the time to make conducting and editing video interviews a regular thing

My first blog post for 2019 (January 20, 2019): A New Spin on Things

What I learned between 2019 and 2020:

  • How to insert alternative text into photos
  • How to set up my blog posts so that they automatically share to my writer’s Facebook page
  • I need to plan out my blog posts the same way I plot out a story

I hope all of your reflections give you good insight, and that you are encouraged by your growth!

Happy writing and happy New Year!

Katie

True Confessions of an Advancing Writer

Hello everyone!

This year has been one of many ups and downs.  Some really great things have happened to me and my family, but we’ve also had some tragedies.  Overall, I’d say that 2019 has been a good year, but I am ready to welcome 2020.

Something that I learned in 2019 is that life can get crazy really quickly, and that it is important to have a backup plan for when that happens.

ProcrastinationWhen I started blogging back in 2016, I tried to pump out blog posts on a weekly basis, but I didn’t know anything about writing a blog, and the content I produced was terrible.  As I learned what makes a good blog post, I realized that putting out a quality post takes time and isn’t something I can commit to doing every week.  That was when I changed my posting schedule to one blog post every two weeks, which, for the most part, I was faithful in doing…until the 2019 craziness hit.

The MuseWhenever it was a blog post week, I would ask myself what was inspiring me or what I wanted to learn about, and then I’d spend several hours researching, writing, and editing.  That method worked until this year.  When the 2019 craziness hit and I got overwhelmed, I didn’t feel inspired to write and I didn’t have the energy to do research.  As a result, I missed several blog posts and was late with others.  I am not proud of my blogging frequency for 2019, so I asked myself, “What am I going to do so that I post consistently in 2020?”  The answer: Pre-planning.  (I know, I should have been pre-planning all along, but I have always been a procrastinator, and it wasn’t until 2018 that I finally decided to start pre-planning and outlining my books.  I hadn’t gotten around to applying that epiphany to my blog.)

I sat down and wrote out the months of the year.  Then, I looked up holidays, seasonal events, and writers’ birthdays.  Using that as inspiration, I came up with two or three themes that I wanted to cover for each month in 2020.  I look forward to returning to posting regularly and am proud that I found a way that will work for me to meet my blogging goals.

One theme that seems to repeat itself in my life is this: You will never get everything right, but if you learn from your mistakes, you can do better next time.

MistakeIf there is an area in your writing, or in any part of your life, that you are not satisfied with, I would encourage you to honestly evaluate that area to find out what you can do to improve it.  Then, make and implement a plan.  The first plan might fail.  That’s okay.  You’re moving in the right direction.  Keep re-evaluating and trying new things until you find what works for you.  You only fail when you stop trying.

Caveat: Unless a plan bombs so badly that you know there is no way it will ever work, give the plan four to eight weeks of a fair try before you discard it for a new one.  New habits take time to form, so give yourself the time you need.

Happy writing!

Katie