My Passion for Writing

April 22, 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but my excuse is I’ve been writing. And it’s been too cold, and I’ve had other projects on my agenda and I have been procrascinating, etc. Take your pick. All are true.

I’ve never seen a winter like this one. It’s like it didn’t want to leave. Snow one day, 65 degrees the next, then come the weekend, snow, sleet and ice. In April! On Easter Sunday three inches of snow covered the ground. It was gone the next day, but still cold.

Yesterday the temp reached 65. It was also the day I did an author presentation at the Tri-City Public Library in Buffalo, IL. I had no idea until the day before that I was to speak. I thought it was a booksigning, meet the author event. I quickly typed out a “lesson plan” on the process of publication, starting with the “sit your butt in the chair” and write to the marketing that comes after the book is published.

This is the day the weather should have been cold as the turnout was low. Everyone were working in their yards, and I can’t blame them after the long wait for a good day. My nephew and his wife and two children attended, and they made up half my audience. It didn’t matter. I was grateful for the chance to make a presentation. It was my first public speech.

The library staff appreciated my time and effort, and told me they enjoyed what I said and taught them. And I’ve been asked to come back and help with their youth program this summer.

This is the basics or outline I used when I spoke:

THE WRITING AND PUBLISHING PROCESS

by Debra Daugherty

WRITE (While writing, attend writing conferences, join a writers group, join SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, watch webinars on writing, start a social media presence – a blog, twitter, Facebook, etc. and read books in the genre you write.)

(PANTSER or PLOTTER?– Do you just sit and start writing or do you outline and know what goes in each chapter and how the story ends?)

REVISE, REVISE, REVISE

EDIT, CRITIQUE, REVISE, REPEAT

QUERY – Send letters and sample chapters to agents and/or publishers.
Basics of a one-page Query letter:

INTRO – List word count, age and genre (picture book, middle grade, YA), sub-genre (Humor? Mystery? Suspense? Romance? Etc.)

BRIEF SYNOPSIS or PITCH – Tell what the story’s about without giving the ending away. Entice the agent or publisher to want to read more.

AUTHOR’S BIO – Tell something about yourself and your writing experiences.

CLOSING – Thank the agent/publisher for their time. Offer to send more pages/chapters upon request.

NEXT STEP – OFFER OF REPRESENTATION from an agent who will then pitch your manuscripts to publishers or a CONTRACT OFFER from a publisher. – Take time to study the contract and voice any changes you want or concerns you have.

PRE-EDITS – Heavy revision per publisher’s guidelines – example: watch for ly words, (go easy on the adverbs), eliminate words like surely, very, so, etc.

CONTENT EDITS – spelling check

LINE EDITS – POV (point of view) changes, words added, tenses corrected, sentences changed or rearranged.

PROOFING EDITS – The format is changed, including spacing, titles, scene breaks.

GALLEYS – The final read through – last chance to find and fix errors.

COVER ART – Sent for your approval.

PUBLISHED! Your book is now available for purchase either at bookstores or online

MARKETING – Now you need to market yourself and your book with school visits, appearances, book signings and constant online presence.
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My great-nephew, DJ, and great-niece, Anna, were at my presentation yesterday. DJ is going to be the next writer in our family. He just turned eight, and when I visited him two weeks ago at his home, he showed me the book he is writing. He had several typing papers stapled together and had handwritten the start of his story about a dragon and a fairy. He even drew illustrations on his pages! Hopefully, DJ listened and took in some of what I said yesterday at the library about the steps to publication. And my nephew, Dylan told me he enjoyed my talk as he saw I was passionate about writing.

And truthfully, I have been writing and submitting. I’ve written a new picture book story about a ballerina sheep and just finished a 27,000 word middle grade novel about a boy and his bulldog who runs for mayor. The dog story took one month to write, although I only worked on it 15 days of that month. The story flowed from my fingers and was fun to write. I can envision it as a series, with more stories of the dog’s adventures.

And since January, I have been diligently submitting my work to agents and publishers. Query letters are sometime harder to write than the actual novel.

Thank heavens for my writers group. At the March meeting I shared the first 2 chapters of my dog story, and one comment from Juli changed my entire plot. I had been concentrating on the dog, and her comment was, “What does the boy want?”

Although I started writing as a pantser, by the tenth chapter I had worked out the outline and ending to my story. Even then I waivered and added chapters as I went along, as the characters seemed to dictate me to do. (I believe that sometimes my characters tell me what to write.) The final project gave me a happy feeling, and a hopeful one, too. This is the book children will enjoy and connect with.

Another note about my writers group. Thanks to SCBWI’s grant for programs, I was able to invite Alexandra LaFaye to do a presentation. This noted author gave each of us advice on the opening pages of our works-in-progress.

Even though I have procrastinated at times, I still feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal since this year has started.

So, it’s time for “Butt in chair” revisions.

Write for the joy of it, as I do.

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HALLOWEEN GIVEAWAY

To celebrate Halloween, the bewitching season, and because there is a witch in my story, I am giving away 3 copies of my e-book, THE DRAGON’S RING. Follow the Amazon link and then follow me on twitter for a chance to win. Contest runs from October 21 through November 1, 2017. Good luck, and Happy Halloween!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/79037a44a43987c2

 

 

Author Interviews Can Be Insightful

Today, my latest author interview is live at https://authorsinterviews.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/here-is-my-interview-with-debra-daugherty/comment-page-1/#comment-17842

 I’ve found that author interviews can be insightful, not necessarily to the reader, but to me. Let me explain:

I enjoyed being interviewed by Fiona Mcvie. She asked some tough questions. The one easy question, “What is my age?,” I messed up. I said I’m a young 61, but realize now that the interview is online, I’m actually 62. LOL.  If one has to be wrong about anything, being wrong about age is good, as long as it’s making you younger, not older.

(My take on this – I can and do make mistakes.)

Doing author interviews is fun and thought provoking. The questions can be simple, like “What is your favorite color?,” to tough,  “If you could meet any person, past or present, who would it be and why?”

 (I have to think a long while sometimes before answering.)

When pondering answers to some questions, I learn new things about myself. I never thought before about what my favorite music was, but thanks to Fiona’s question, I realize when it comes to music, I’m stuck in the 60’s, the years of my youth. I’d rather listen to a Beatles’ song than a Justin Biever’s. No offense, Justin. My young niece is still a fan.

 (I discover long hidden pieces of me, my likes and dislikes.)

Interviews renew my love of writing. I am reminded of when I started, who inspired me, what is my favorite genre,and what motivates me.

 (I rediscover why I write.)

I’m never sure how many people read author interviews. The jump in book sales don’t materialize. I do get likes and congrats from fellow writers when I post the links on twitter and my Facebook pages. I’ve discovered that writers are my biggest source of encouragement. We all share our disappointments and successes on line, and commiserate or rejoice together.

 (My biggest supporters are other writers.)

When answering interview questions, the writer in me takes over. My answers can run long, as if I’m writing pages for a book. I do my best to write flawlessly and with intelligence, calling on my writer’s voice to answer for me. And like with my writing, I am never satisfied.

 (I am never satisfied.)

When I read my interview once it’s posted, I think, “Why did I say that?” when I should have said ….something else.  There’s no do-over with an interview. Once it’s online, those words will always be “out there” to make you cringe and feel like you could have done better.

 (Again, I am never satisfied.)

There’s no need to worry. Tomorrow, the next interview will be live, and yours will fade away from everyone’s memory but your own. When doing an interview, have fun. “Enjoy the ride.” Bask in the “15 minutes of fame.” And strive to do better next time.

(There’s always tomorrow.)

Always Be Prepared

In June I attended the Writing Workshop of Chicago because several of the guest speakers were people whose writings and blogs I have enjoyed online. Also, the promise of agents, both speaking and accepting 10 minute pitches, made this an opportunity not to be missed.

One agent’s name stood out. I have queried her in the past, and have gotten encouraging responses. I decided to pitch my YA novel to her in person, and this would also be a great chance to thank her.

For days I practiced my pitch. I typed out what I wanted to say, then timed myself to fit my speech in the 10 minute time frame. I memorized the words, and while driving, watching TV, and in bed at night, I recited my pitch. I arrived in Chicago, feeling confident that I could do it, no problem.

My pitch time was set for the morning, about 30 minutes into the sessions. At least I didn’t have to worry and fret all day about what to say. I could get in there, say my speech and get it over with!

When it came my turn, I made an initial blunder. I called the agent by her first name, not Miss so and so. Granted, in her emails to me she had signed just her first name, but I didn’t plan on calling her by it upon our first meeting.

I sat down and everything I had memorized evaporated. I hesitated, then said, “I’ve never done this before. Where do I start?”

The agent couldn’t have been nicer. She told me to just tell her about my story, which I did. Along the way she asked questions and gave input, and before I knew it, my time was up.

I must not have done as badly as I thought, as she asked for 30 pages. I left her table feeling grateful and encouraged.

As a moderator for the SCBWI – IL Springfield Area, I tried something new at our last meeting. Knowing 3 of the members were attending a writers conference this weekend, I asked one to pitch her story in six minutes, all the time we had left before the meeting ended. Another member acted as the agent and listened to the pitch and asked questions.

I know I put this writer in a pressured situation, but she handled herself quite well. The “agent” had great questions, and based on this practice session, the writer realized how ill prepared she was to talk about her book. She is now working on her pitch, and she’s going to be ready, and confident, when she meets an agent or publisher at this conference.  If they say, “What do you write? Tell me about your book,” she is going to have a quick response.

Writers need to be like the Boy Scouts, always prepared. Yet, even the best prepared can stumble. It’s the finish that counts.

My Season to Bloom

April. Springtime. Warm weather. Rain. Flowers. This is the Season to Bloom, not just in nature, but in my writing. It’s time I shed the winter blahs and get busy writing, editing and querying. My goal this year is to connect with an agent. Having an agent would free time for me to write, and that is what I want to do. It seems like I spend most of my days researching literary agencies and their agents, and then querying the ones interested in the genre I write.

I enjoy twitter pitch days, and #Kidlit and #TKA20 were on the same day, April 5th. I had a fave from each, and I sent my query letter and pages, only to meet with disappointment from both agents this week. My writers group believe a rejection is good as it shows we are trying, we are putting ourselves out there. But they still aren’t easy to take. I find hope in the fact that so many great authors met with several rejections before offered a contract. The most famous that comes to mind is J.K. Rowling, but even Margaret Mitchell had trouble getting GONE WITH THE WIND published. I’m in good company.

I find help, suggestions and great writing tips and advice in other authors’ blogs and websites. I especially enjoy reading Janice Hardy’s articles on revising in Fiction University.  Sub It Club and Kidlit 411 are great sources for writing help and advice. And so is sharing with the writers in my critique group.

At first it was hard to listen to any negative comments about my writing, but I’ve learned to trust the members in my group. They do know what they are talking about, and when I take their advice, my writing improves. Because I know how hard it is to receive criticism, I have a hard time giving it. I just tell myself, if it was me, I’d want to know if there was a problem in my writing that I could fix. My input is only to help, not to be hurtful.

I remember a story I wrote about a grandmother who couldn’t hear. I thought it was funny, and my 5 year old nephew loved it and laughed every time I read it to him. I sent it out to several agents and publishers, with no luck. I then submitted it to Rate Your Story, a site where authors offer advice and criticism on the stories, including a rating from 1 to 10, with ten being the worse. I was shocked when I received a 9 rating, and told the grandmother in my story was mean. I never thought of her that way, but after some reflection, I realized that was how she sounded. I was embarrassed because I had sent this story out and probably alienated the agents who read it. They would probably never want to read another one of my manuscripts.

I had shared this story with my writers group, yet no one said the grandmother was mean. Maybe they thought so, but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It’s better my feelings be hurt in our small group than for me to foolishly submit it to agents and publishers as it was written. Someday I will re-examine this story and fix it, but even now I’m too embarrassed to read it.

I know that for my stories to bloom, I have to accept criticism and then revise. I guess criticism could be compared to the fertilizer applied to plants and flowers. It stinks, but in the end, it’s the reason the flowers and plants grow and blossom.

This is my season to bloom. I plan to work on my writing and accept criticism as a gift. And then, oh, how my garden of words will grow!

SPRING IS HERE!

March 20, 2017
Happy Spring to all! It’s finally here. The sun is shining, the temp is in the low 70’s and I’ve shed my jacket. My back door is open to let in the refreshing Spring air. My dogs are loving it, running in and out at will. It’s too beautiful a day to spend indoors, and after I finish this blog, I’m heading outside.
In my last posting I wrote about the exciting news I received from a publishing company. The publishers offered me a contract for my YA series. My search for an agent to help in this deal failed, although I did receive some lovely notes from some, and congratulatory wishes.
I turned down the offer. After reading the clauses in the contract, it didn’t feel right for me. I feared giving away too much of my rights as an author. An agent might have been able to negotiate changes to my benefit, but being unsure of what needed to be done, and also hesitant because this was a new publishing company just starting out, I decided it was not the right home for my novels. So I am back to submitting to agents and publishers.
I do wish this company loads of success, and may someday regret my decision, but I had to go with my gut feeling and intuition.
As the new Springfield Area SCBWI network representative, my first order of business was arranging a place for a guest speaker. Author Alice McGinty. to give her program on “psychological needs being met in children’s books to make emotional power in writing.” Pizza Ranch restaurant in Springfield, IL has agreed to let our writers group meet there for this program, even though our number is less than the usual number needed to have a private room. I promised twelve, but hope more will come. Spouses and guests are invited to this, and Juli is asking the downstate writers group to join us. I’d love to fill the room. Alice is kind enough to drive this distance to speak to us, I’d like to see a large crowd to benefit from her words.
March was the month to submit for SCBWI’s Work-in-Progress grant, and I have already sent mine in. I’ve also encouraged others to submit, too, and am especially pleased that some writers in my group have already.
Writing has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and this month has shown me plenty of both. I hope the next time I have good news, it will stick, and I’ll be able to say, “THE LONDON INCIDENT is under contract.” This book and its sequels have tremendous potential and I need the right agent and the right publisher to see it.
Keep writing, but don’t forget to take time out for yourself to enjoy the small wonders and beauty around you.

Exciting News

March 6, 2017
I have some exciting news!
Last week a publisher for a small press company requested the FULL, after reading the first five pages I sent with my query letter. This is a quote from her letter:

“Thank you for taking the time to submit THE LONDON INCIDENT for our consideration. I shared your submission with my partner Stephen Hall, and we both were interested immediately.

The only disappointment I had with  the 5 pages was that I wanted more right away!  The writing was tight and exciting.  I liked the concept quite a bit and am glad to hear you have plans for a series.  Are those finished, or are they still works in progress?  (It’s fine either way.  I’m just curious.)”

A few days later I received this news from the same publisher:

“Congratulations! I have read and reviewed THE LONDON INCIDENT and Stephen and I would love to offer you a contract for publication with Melody Press, our Middle Grade and Young Adult imprint!
The book was such a fun story!  It moved along at a great pace and I literally could not put it down.  I can’t wait to read the sequels!
If you are interested in signing a contract with 50/50 Press for publication of your book, please let us know when you will be available to speak with me over the phone.  This weekend will be busy for us, but I have some availability on Monday or Tuesday, if that would work for you.  Just to let you know, we are in the Eastern Time Zone, so keep that in mind when finding a time.  I’d like to discuss your manuscript and the next steps in our publication process.
We loved your book and we’re excited about the opportunity to work with you.”
Our phone conference is set for Wedneday, March 8, at 2:30 P.M. EST, 1:30 P.M. my time. I do know this is a print and ebook publishing house and 20% royalties to the author. Not knowing much about contracts, despite the fact I did one with MeeGenius and then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for picture book CALAMITY CAT, and with Astrae Press for THE DRAGON’S RING, I have been contacting agents. One has definitely promised to get back with me, and she would be a dream agent to work with. I am hoping she sees the potential I have to offer.
Besides the good news on my YA series, a publisher has also shown interest in my picture book, COLIN CAN’T CROW. After reading my query, she asked for the manuscript, and from the tone of her letter, I sensed she liked my story idea.
On a sad note, the leader of the Scribes,my writers group, Cynda Strong, is stepping down because of conflicting schedules. She asked me to take her place. I accepted only if two other ladies in my group were asked first, as they have been members of our group longer than I have. They declined, so the job is mine. Cynda is a touch act to follow, so I hope I do her proud. Tonight is our meeting, and the first time I’ll be in charge. We meet the first Monday of every month at the Chatham, IL Library. As the new SCBWI Network rep, I will be working with the Illinois Chapter. One of the members of this chapter is Alice McGinty, and tonight our group will be discussing having Alice as a guest speaker at our April meeting.
Since I have a new position with my writers group, my job as treasurer is being passed on to Pam Miller. I know she’s going to do an excellent job.
I am so proud of the ladies and gents in this small group. Many are already published. One has recently signed with an agent. Besides being excellent writers, a few are also fantastic illustrators. Some are gaining confidence and are now submitting to agents, publishers and entering writing contests. And all are supportive of each other, offering words of advice and encouragement, and sharing in the good news of each member. We’re a small group, but mighty and productive.
One member of my writers group paid me a compliment last week. She said I was the perfect replacement for Cynda, that I am already leading by example. I appreciate her kind words and hope I live up to them.