Wednesday, October 30, 2013



Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print

It seems like everyone hates editing. I like editing. When I’m editing I’m reading my novel, and I like my novel, so I enjoy reading over it again and crafting it into something better. Maybe I’m weird.

After I had already edited my novel to what I thought was near perfection, I read a book called “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King. This book helped me a lot. When I read the first few chapters I thought I’ve got this, but when I got to the chapters on dialog mechanics and resisting the urge to explain everything, I realized I had a lot of work to do. So I did another couple of rounds with those things in mind.

The book also suggests that you read everything aloud as part of the process. I did this too and I was amazed at the things I hadn’t noticed in all my silent readings, like words that were repeated three or four times in one paragraph, and sentences that didn’t have quite the right flow.

I feel like the whole process has been really good practice. Learning to edit makes your writing better.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Illustration Weekend Links

For the illustrators out there, or writers who want a peek at the illustrator world, here's three great (and short) videos:

Lynne Chapman describes the process of illustrating Bears on the Stairs in this five-minute video:

One of my favorite illustrators, Mark Buehner, shares a three-minute video about illustrating:

A 10-minute video by Kathleen Kemly about illustrating Molly by Golly:

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Plunge

Taking myself seriously as a writer has been the biggest hurdle in my progress. I toyed around with ideas I'd had for years, until I finally decided to write them down. Once I had them on paper, I realized I'd taken a step into the territory of a writer.  

I had to decide, do I keep going or cloister my stories in the safety of my hard drive? But there were ideas coming out in my writing that needed their own life, so I made another move, quite literally.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where Do I Start?

I used to have this idea that when an author wrote a book, he or she started on the first page, typed “Chapter One,” and wrote from the beginning to the end. Don’t they do it that way in movies? 

A few years ago I started to try to write a novel, but I couldn’t get it to go anywhere. The story wouldn’t take off. I knew what the book was going to be about, who it was going to be about and how it was going to end, but whenever I tried to write, it always turned into a journal entry instead. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekend Links

Brilliantly simple advice in less than five minutes by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline.

Maria Popova, from Brain Pickings, talks about Ray Bradbury's book, Zen in the Art of Writing. She mentions his use of lists as a method of inspiration. Here's a sample quote:
"I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds."

And to fill your artist's bucket, an unbelievable display of chalk art:

 Happy Weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kick the Critic to the Curb

Blech--oranges don’t taste so good after you've brushed your teeth.

On a more flavorful note, I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m ashamed to admit it’s taken me this long read her book, but it’s part of my assignment for the picture book class I’m taking.

Monday, October 14, 2013

10,000 Hours, Really?

In my reading lately I was reminded of Malcolm Gladwell's observation in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. The idea that all 10,000 hours don't need to be deliberate practice hours is intriguing. Elizabeth Hyde Smith in Make Art Make Money suggests that as we look back on our life in relation to what it is we are trying to master we can see many different ways we have been practicing all along. In my, case as an artist, when I look back I see many melted crayons: some in the car from leaving them behind by accident, some near the porch from sitting in the sun drawing too long, some specifically melted to get a certain effect on a project. I would explore my dad's art making tools wondering what each was for. I learned that Xacto blades are really sharp and when used with enthusiasm can sometimes cause trips to the hospital for stitches. Mom's are good to provide transportation in such a case.

The hours turning tissue boxes, brass fasteners and other bits of this and that into cars for Barbie dolls and friends; hours making up the stories that went with all the stuff that my friends and I made, using our imagination to see what we could make from the bits of this and that-- all of these hours are part of my 10,000. Look back, see the connections, how many of those hours do you already have? What can you do to get more of those hours in a similar way? How can you follow the passion you've had for such a long time? I think I'll look for my answers as I dream as I did as a child and play a bit more so my work can be more play.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekend Links

Jon Bard, from Children's Book Insider, talks about using non-fiction writing to break into the publishing scene. It's a short video and worth watching.

Tara Lazaar, at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), has a list of over 500 things kids like. It's a fantastic way (Thanks, Darshana for tuning me into it) to get your creative minds going:

And here's its opposite:

And just for fun, here's a version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar performed by the kids (and grownups) at Kay International Preschool in Bonn, Germany.

Don't worry, it's in English and it's so stinking cute! I wish I could speak German just so I could say, "Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt." It just sounds cool.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Place To Play

Making art is a little scary to me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s that I have so many choices, I get overwhelmed. It was much easier when I was in school and had professors giving me assignments. But I have discovered art journaling. There are lots of fantastic examples of art journals on Pinterest. I have a small journal with sturdy enough pages that I can use watercolor, gesso, acrylic paints, collage, stamps, anything I want. It isn’t a Big Project that will take lots of time, and if I mess it up it doesn’t matter. In fact, a lot of art journaling is beautifully messy, with layers of bright colors and different mediums. 

Someone told me that some tribes of Native Americans would intentionally put a “mistake” in every piece of art. I really like that concept. Art journals are supposed to be imperfect; that’s the whole idea. It’s so freeing to a perfectionist like me, and it’s a way of accessing parts of myself that writing alone can’t uncover. 

Creativity thrives on play. It’s a way to get back to the child in us. Children are so freely and fearlessly creative. “Art work” is too serious. Art should be play. It should be fun. And that kind of play could lead to some very good work.

You Can...

Still think you want to write for children? You can, and Tracey E. Dils has a book to get you on your way, You Can Write Children's Books Workbook

I ran across this writing book while looking for another one and popped it into my cart. I'm glad I did.

Here's a basic overview: 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Biggest Question?

Why? How? Who cares?
Last year my husband gave me a wonderful gift for our anniversary. He knew how much I like to read, even though it “takes me away” from our real life together, he gave me a Kindle. Wow, books and more books all the time. Answers to questions too. Sometimes an inkling of a clue to a big answer to a big question.

Online Writing and Illustrating Courses

Just a few links here. As mentioned in my previous post, I'm taking an online picture book writing class from Joyce Sweeney. She offers other online classes as well. You can check her information out at

Katherine shared a link with me earlier for an online 2-hour course by Ann Cannon sponsored through Folio Academy. The course is $30 and covers dos and don'ts for writing picture books. You can see a trailer for the course at
And finally, for you illustrators out there, Will Terry has a YouTube channel with illustration tips and tricks. Find his channel here:

Happy writing/illustrating. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Writing Practice

One of my ideas to get flow going in the writing process is to choose a book I really like in the genre I want to write in. Then I look closely at how the author writes dialog, describes scenery, shows emotion, makes time pass, etc. I choose my own story and copy the techniques of the writer I like. If I'm having to work at getting into the writing process, I can just copy parts of the story I like and experiment with changing a character's reaction, the time of year, or creating a different outcome to a problem. This type of writing practice gets me into the writing without worrying about creating something out of nothing - a problem I can easily have on a day I've been too busy with other time demands or when I'm feeling tired. Once the writing process gets underway, I can tackle my own projects.

Practicing writing in this way isn't much different than the practicing a musician does. Jazz artists spend hours transcribing well-known jazz players' solos to get ideas, rhythms, and immerse themselves in that particular style of playing. The end result is their own solos are richer and have the right sounds and patterns for the jazz idiom they're playing in. Composers spend hours listening to and practicing other musician's compositions. Why shouldn't a writer spend hours reading and practicing the writing techniques of other writers they admire?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Be a Child

I’m fortunate to be taking a 10-week picture book class from Joyce Sweeney. I’m only one lesson into it, but loving where this class is taking me. I asked Joyce if it was kosher to share some of her tips here and she very generously replied.

Here are some of the lessons I gleaned from week one:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting Back Into It

I know I’m supposed to write every day. That’s what famous authors say, and it’s a good idea because it keeps what I’m writing fresh in my mind, and then I get ideas while I’m cooking dinner or taking a shower. But it in my life, it just isn’t always possible. I spent the whole summer moving--finding a house, packing and unpacking. I’m still not finished unpacking. I have been so focused on this move that I worked on it from the time I got up until the time I went to bed. A few weeks ago I realized there was no way I could sit down and write or draw because I had forgotten how to sit down and relax. I had to have some time to unwind before I could get back into creating anything. And then…how do I get back into my writing? How do I start illustrating? It’s exciting and a little frightening at the same time.