Thirty-Thousand Words Later {Preserve Your Story Wrap-Up}

We started out October with “Preserve Your Story” at the top of the to-do list. Two months and some thirty-thousand words later, we’re looking back on what we’ve learned together, from the inspirational to the practical. Thank you for all who followed faithfully through the blog move and other challenges, and especially to those of you who shared your insights in the comments, proving once again that “writing doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.” Here are some of my favorite comments:

“Brilliant advice and so encouraging to know age and experience are my friend as a writer. I’m a late bloomer, confident in writing creative non-fiction, but I have the urge to try my hand at fiction. I don’t know where to begin, but your advice give me hope that even us late comers might give it a (successful?) go.” ~Kimberly

“I am loving this series so much that I actually wrote something yesterday.” ~Barbara, aka “Darcy’s mom” ;)

“Thanks for the encouragement. I just had the opportunity to speak at our first women’s retreat for our church. I’m beginning to embrace all of this as God’s calling on my life. To be honest, it’s a little scary to actually reach for the dream rather than just leave it out there untouched. Your blog is stirring the dream in my heart.” ~Tristi

“I always need to hear this, about starting somewhere, starting messy.” ~Tammy

“I am loving this series and feverishly taking notes as I attempt to apply the content to my own writing. (Yes, I am a closet writer!) ….My struggles, both past and present, ARE the foundation for much of my writing. While some are masked for privacy, they truly are what drove me to my knees and allowed the Lord to write His Story through me.” ~Barbara D.

“Sometimes it is easy to think that with all the good writers, why create? But you are right, there is no one exactly like each other. We need all the voices.” ~Amber

“I’m just realizing that this is the stuff that pours out when I write it and I shouldn’t bottle it up when I think it’s all too much, because there’s a reason it needs to come out and God uses it all.” ~Alia Joy

“I never realized this until you put words to it. My best blogging has truly come from those things that have brought me to tears or that really mean something to me. As I write my tears often flow and healing takes place or I am renewed.” ~Ali

As we close out the series, I hope you’ll take some time to go back through the posts that you missed, or re-read ones that were especially motivating for you. And please keep me posted on your efforts at preserving your story.

~Preserve Your Story: Table of Contents~

Reasons to Preserve Your Story:
1. Preserve Your Story Intro
2. Ink Spill: God’s Story Surfacing in the Midst of Chaos
3. Spotlights, Spider Silk and Self-Reflection
4. Words Between Generations
5. Astonishing Discovery: Writing to Know We’re Not Alone
6. Comforting, Never Comfortable: A Message to Share
7. Flowing Well: Writing to Keep from Going Stagnant

What to Preserve:
8. Write What Makes You Cry
9. Accidental Collage: Writing What’s Before Your Eyes
10. Fresh Language, Quotable Kids
11. Writing Butterflies and Brokenness
12. Seeing the World Right-Side-Up: Writing Answered Prayer
13. A Tale of Teaming Up: Writing Someone Else’s Story

Preparing Your Ingredients:
14. The Truth about Voice
15. Don’t Lose the Sweets: Keeping Track of Good Writing Material
16. The Mess Behind Picasso’s Genius: Drafting and Free-Writing
17. A Well-Punctuated Writing Life: Taking Time to Rest from our Words
18. A Creative Compost: Synergy in the Life of the Writer
19. Sidestep the Poet’s Pitfall: Discipline and Organization as Tools of the Writer
20. Create a Habitat and a Habit: A Place to Write
21. A Recipe for Revision: Refining Content
22. The Story Circle: Finding a Writer’s Group
23. A Feast of Grammar and Grace: The Editing Phase

Good Containers and Techniques for Preserving Your Story:
24. A Blog that Blossoms: Creating a Platform through Blogs and eBooks
25. The Right Container: Exploring Your Writing Type
26. The Dish on Articles
27. Drafting with the Pack: The Benefits of Writing for an Anthology
28. A Mini Readership: Children’s Publishing
29. Friends of the Fiction Writer
30. On Paper, Real Life: Writing a Good Non-Fiction Proposal
31. Sealed with a Book: An Overview of the Traditional Publishing Process

{Which post most inspired or motivated you? Which one best equipped you with information or tools to help you take the next step in your writing life? Share below…and if a particular post or the series as a whole resonated with you, would you think about sharing it with friends on social media to spread the word about Message in a Mason Jar?}

This is the wrap-up of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

 

A Mini Readership {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 28}

I found myself scratching my head at the end of the story. It had looked like a good one to my son when he picked it out at the school library. How could it not be with a title like Pancakes for Supper? The illustrations were rich and colorful. The main character was a spunky little girl intent on surviving alone in the forest after flying out of her family’s wagon. Except for a few overdone lines, the phrasing was fine. The core of the story centered around the little girl’s interaction with wild animals, how she convinced them not to eat her by offering her boots, mittens, coat and other pieces one by one.

But at the climax, the main character hid in a tree and watched the wolf, cougar, skunk, porcupine and bear in a mean chase around a nearby tree. For a reason that I still can’t figure out, the animals turned into a syrupy puddle at the base of the trunk, the first hint at pancakes since the title itself. And then the girl stumbled upon her parents and demanded pancakes for supper. I looked back through the book sure that I had missed some pages. When they were all accounted for, I thought to myself once again how much work it takes to write a good children’s book.

Many people think of the genre as a starting point for a writing career, but as children’s book author Michelle Medlock Adams says, “Good writing is tough no matter what genre we’re talking about; however, writing for children is one of the most difficult to master….You have to say a lot in so few words–make every word count!”

Children’s books, like any other stories, require a beginning (introducing the conflict and the problem solver…a child or animal in this genre), middle (exciting, engaging) and end (usually a happy one) that all make sense within the theme. When writing a story for children, authors must make every word count, carrying out the plot line in short form (and driven forward by the child problem solver, not by a parent or some unexplained happening) and in active language appropriate to the child’s age or reading level.

Pick up a few of your family’s favorite books. What keeps you and your child reading them time after time? One of our standbys, which I’ve mentioned before, is the book Duck in the Truck. Its simple storyline, funny cast of characters and clever use of rhyme (not forced) are so captivating that our son memorized pretty much the whole thing as a two year old. How does your children’s book idea and the writing of it stack up against the best books on your shelves at home and the ones at your local bookstore? And what about those that you wouldn’t recommend? Take some time to learn what NOT to do from them.

Are you forcing rhyme, making the assumption that children’s book are supposed to be written that way? Peggy Schaefer of Ideals Publications says: “While rhyming verse can be great fun for young readers, writing in rhyme and meter can be challenging– especially the meter. As an editor, I’d rather see well-written prose than poorly written rhyme and meter.”

Are you hammering your audience over the head with your message instead of focusing on good storytelling? Michelle Medlock Adams says: “Children (as well as children’s book editors) dislike preachy books. Good children’s books usually have a message woven through, but the story is what drives them.”

Are you cutting corners on storyline and character thinking kids pay more attention to the pictures anyway? Don’t forget about the parents who are doing the reading, at least for the board book and picture book age range. A bad batch of words could land you in the one and done category when the mediocre book doesn’t sell well.

Get to the point where you feel confident in your story idea and your telling of it. Share it with some unbiased readers, maybe even people you don’t know, and gauge their response. Take a look at the market for your type of book and tailor it to have the appropriate number of pages, word count and vocabulary level for your target age group. According to Peggy Schaefer of Ideals, board books for kids age 6 months to 4 years can have anywhere from 8 to 24 pages and under 200 words. Picture books for ages 4 to 7 will have 32 or 48 pages with a word count between 200 and 800 words. Early readers for ages 5 to 8 will have anywhere from 32 to 64 pages with 500 to 1500 words. Chapter books for ages 7 to 10 will have a page count of 80 and up and a word count starting at 5,000.

After all that, you’re pretty much ready to make a list of publishers to approach. You may want to start with the publishing houses that have already printed books in your category, as your story could be a likely fit for their list. You’d also do well to pick up some reference books such as Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market or Christian Writers’ Market Guide to get you started with appropriate agents and publishers for your work.

Along with a cover letter including a short overview of the book, some words about your background and experience, your research on how your book fills a void in the market and creative ideas for how you might spread the word on the book once it is published, you’ll want to submit the manuscript in its entirety for a board book or picture book proposal and a writing sample/excerpted chapters for an early reader or chapter book proposal. Any illustration ideas can be included on a separate page. Unless you are a professional artist experienced in the kind of illustration appropriate for your book, the publisher will be responsible for hiring an illustrator for the project.

While the children’s book market can be an extremely competitive one, you may just have the thing a publisher is looking for, maybe one of the favorites that my kids could end up putting to memory.

{What makes your favorites your favorites in the children’s book genre? Have you had any ideas that you could see developing into a children’s book of your own? While my husband’s agency generally does not represent children’s books, I would be happy to give you some feedback on your idea so that you can pursue publication on your own. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to chat.}

If you’re looking for some good books to check out, be sure and get your free copy of Anne Bogel’s Paper Gains: A Guide to Gifting Children Great Books here.

This is Day 28 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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