Posted by: nancyisanders | February 20, 2020

Choosing a Breakthrough Topic for a Picture Book Teachers Will Want


Right now a lot of children’s publishers are looking for picture book topics teachers, librarians, and homeschooling mamas will buy. That’s because this is a viable current market. They’re one of the strongest purchasing powers behind picture books, which are a really tough book to sell in today’s digital world.

Read More…

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 17, 2020

Choosing a Breakthrough Topic in Children’s Books


A couple of years ago, I embarked on a journey. It was a familiar journey in some ways…I’d taken it before when I wanted to choose a brand new breakthrough topic to write about. But it was unique in its own way because it led me to a unique breakthrough picture book idea.

Just exactly what am I talking about?

Yes, I wanted to choose an idea for a picture book. But there are ideas and then there are BREAKTHROUGH ideas. BREAKTHROUGH ideas are the sort that practically guarantee a publisher will want your manuscript. Even if the writing is a little rough around the edges or needs a stronger story arc.

BREAKTHROUGH ideas might not necessarily be an idea that I would have stumbled upon by myself.

BREAKTHROUGH ideas might not necessarily be on the top 10 list of topics I want to write about.

BREAKTHROUGH ideas might not necessarily be a topic I’ve already researched.

But a BREAKTHROUGH idea practically guarantees you a book contract after all your hard work.

WHY? Because a BREAKTHROUGH idea is specifically targeted to today’s current publishing market (but not necessarily a flash-in-the-pan trend).

WHY? Because a BREAKTHROUGH idea is usually something a number of editors are currently interested in.

WHY? Because a BREAKTHROUGH idea is usually a topic that will practically guarantee good sales numbers of a book because this topic is being bought by parents, teachers, and librarians (the current market who is purchasing children’s books).

So, I invite you to read my next series of posts where I share my journey with you on choosing a BREAKTHROUGH topic to write about in today’s current children’s book market.

Posted by: nancyisanders | February 1, 2020

How-to-Write Classes for Children’s Writers

1 Sanders Author Photo circle

As many of you know, I teach classes on how you can write for children.

I’m excited to announce a brand new class on writing funny stories for kids!

It’s called WRITING HUMOR FOR KIDS and is available now at the Serious Writer Academy where I’m one of the instructors.

I love writing funny stories for kids. I think my favorite funny series that I wrote (quite a while back for Concordia) was called the MARSHAL MATT series: MYSTERIES WITH A VALUE.

And I’m currently working on a funny story that’s a 4-book middle grade novel. In my class, WRITING HUMOR FOR KIDS, I teach you the nuts and bolts of how to do it. I let you know all the tricks of the trade that I use in my own writing so that you can use them too!

CLICK HERE to learn how you can buy the audio of that class (with handouts) as well as my other class, DEVELOPING 3-D CHARACTERS.

Oh, and if you want to take the class that my friend, Tina M. Cho took to learn how to write a middle grade novel, CLICK HERE to find out more info!

Happy writing!

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 30, 2020

Inspiration for Us All



I have a writer friend that I am so proud of! Tina M. Cho is really rocking these days and pumping out those children’s books!

On her blog, she shared some of the story behind the story of one of her most recent and exciting children’s book contracts she signed.

It’s an inspirational story every one of us needs to hear about. The hard work. The time. The frustration.

And ultimately, the reward.

CLICK HERE to read an amazing post by Tina about the remarkable journey she took to write her newest book.

Oh, and be sure to take a minute and congratulate her. In this hard and often lonely business, we writers need all the encouragement we can get!

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 29, 2020

Permission for Image Use-2


Before I move on to explaining how I kept my travel journal/research trip for my book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I wanted to mention something I remembered about getting permission to use photographs I took from historic sites on my trip.

Many permission forms will ask you for the PRINT RUN information for your book. You have to provide this before they will sign the permission form.

Since I already had signed a contract with my publisher to write the book and take photographs to include it in, I simply asked my editor for that information.

But if you don’t have a contract, the very least you can do is fill in general information that most books have for their print run. Then when you get your contract you can go back to that historic site or place and request a new form to find. Don’t ever do this blindly…always talk with your contact person about what to do if the print run information changes significantly from the info you write down…will it be extra (large) fees? Just be open and honest and don’t sign anything you’re not sure of. Just move on to some place else that is more reasonable to work with if a place starts throwing expensive cost quotes out to you.

On the permission form they’ll need your name and address and e-mail address. I created a brand new e-mail address that I only use for permission forms like this related to my book projects. The wonderful thing about this is that all my e-mails from my book project research and image permission forms are in one handy place without any other distracting e-mails mixed in.

Here is the PRINT RUN info most places request:

Working Title: Always include a “working title” because up until your book actually goes to print, the official title can always change!
Publisher: Just say unknown if you don’t yet have one
Initial print run: 5,000 is usually a realistic number. This is a typical number of books printed when a book first comes out. Talk with your contact person at the historic site about this number. Some places will really charge you a lot if the number is higher than this. Make sure they are reasonable, especially if you don’t know your publisher’s actual number.
Price: Just look up a typical cost of a similar book to yours on Amazon. Again, mention that it is unknown, but probably…$XX to give them a ballpark figure
Edition: Paper and e-book. These days always include both paper editions and e-book editions because publishers usually want to do both right off the bat.
Rights: World. If you can request world rights without a hassle, go for it as you don’t know what the publisher will want.
Language: English. From my experience, English is all you need, especially because every contract I’ve ever dealt with that I can remember always paid me when someone negotiated translation rights. So just asking for English should be fine.
Expected publication date: Just say unknown if you don’t yet know

When I’m getting ready to contact historic sites or other places I want to take pictures for my writing project, I just type all this info up in one handy place so I’m ready to go.

Oh, and just a note…this is by no means legal advice!!!! Before you sign anything always make sure you are absolutely certain about what you are signing.

Hope this helps!!!!

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 15, 2020

Permission for Image Use


Before I’m embarked on my Photo Research Tour to take photographs for my book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I had to do my homework.

When I signed the contract to write JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I knew I needed to acquire a number of images to include within the book. I had no intention of traveling to England at that time because you can pay companies for permission to publish their images in your book.

Plus there are a lot of images you can use for free that are in the public domain because they are copyright free and royalty free.

I started my search for images by seeing what was available for copyright free and royalty free. There were actually a number of these either of historic England or relating to the books Jane wrote.

Just a note about these free images. For each image I submit to a publisher for use in a published book, a permission form is required. So I saved the URL and printed out the copyright form from the sites where I got these images. Each image had its own copyright form and URL link in my final manuscript submission.

Then I started looking for companies in England that I could purchase permission to publish images in their collections.

I discovered 2 important factors.

#1 Many of the images I could get permission to use were NOT actually owned by the company, so I would still have to track down who actually owned the images AND get permission (and pay) them as well. BIG red flag.

#2 Many of the images I wanted to use were quite expensive to pay for permissions.

At this point, I decided to investigate historic sites such as churches that might have images of Jane or her life.

I just started searching online for historic sites like these, finding their contact information, and e-mailing them.

I found out that a significant number of these historic sites informed me that they owned images and artifacts of Jane’s and that I could take my own photographs of these items or images and publish them for free.

So now I was faced with a question…pay several thousand dollars to get permission to use a small amount of images (and still have to track down who owned them) or use that money to travel to England to take my own photographs and get tons of images to use. (Many that might never have been published in a book before!)

No brainer! I opted to travel to England for my third official photo research tour. It was the trip of a lifetime (and I have it all documented in my travel journal!)

But once again, each image I would eventually publish in my book had to have its own permission form.

Guess what? Most historic sites and image resources have their own permission form. No sweat! They just e-mail me the form, I signed it, and carried it with me on my trip. When I arrived at any given historic site, I had the form with me and the contact person’s name and the rest was easy peasy. Most of the contacts met me at the historic sites and what a delight that was to meet them and talk about my book project.

For places that didn’t have permission forms, my publisher provided me with ones for us to sign. We did it all over e-mail.

So if you want to include photographs in a potential book, first ask the historic site or image source if they already have a permission form you need to sign.

If they don’t have an official permission form, I send them an e-mail stating that they give me permission to use the image in my book. I print it out when they return the e-mail with their permission. Then, when you do sign a contract with a publisher, you’ll probably need to go back with the publisher’s official form and have them sign that.

That’s pretty much how permissions works for photographs and images.

(Oh, and for those sites and places that don’t let you take photographs or use them in your book, just thank them and move on. Keep looking! Hopefully you’ll find some.)

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 14, 2020

Writer’s Journal: Research Trip


Over my 30+ year career as a writer, I’ve gone on 3 significant research trips. I’ve always referred to them as a “Photo Research Tour” because my mission was to take photographs of my book’s topic to eventually publish in the printed book.

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The first book for which I embarked on a Photo Research Tour was AMERICA’S BLACK FOUNDERS. I traveled to Philadelphia, Mount Vernon, Monticello and more where I took lots of photographs at historic sites, museums, and churches to publish.

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My next book that I needed photographs for was FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOR KIDS. For this trip I walked in this great man’s footsteps as I visited Maryland to locate his birthplace, the plantation where he first worked, and various homes he lived in and places he worked after he escaped from slavery. Once again I got permission from a wide variety of historic sites, museums, and churches to take photographs to publish in my book.


It wasn’t until my most recent Photo Research Tour, however, that I had the idea to take along and create a writer’s journal during my trip. This time I headed to England to take photos for my newest title, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS. Creating this travel journal took the experience to an entirely new level!

In the upcoming series of posts here on my blog, I’ll share some of the joys I experienced and techniques I used creating this journal. I hope you’ll gain information and inspiration to learn how to create a writer’s journal on your next research trip, too!

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 7, 2020

A Four-Book Giveaway


As writers, I truly believe it’s important to build a sense of community. I think this involves helping each other boost our books. It’s a tough world out there in social media and landing contracts and getting the word out about our books. Every hand of help we can give to each other is an investment in many rich ways.

That’s one of the reasons I’m excited to share that I’m a member of the book-launch team for one of my online writing friends and fellow contributors to the Christian Children’s Authors blog. Glenys Nellist has a touching and sweet brand new book coming out for little ones, Little Mole Finds Hope, and I have the privilege of giving you a shout out about it!

Hurry on over to her blog! For a limited time, she’s giving away four copies of her brand new book! CLICK HERE to put your name in the hat.

But more importantly, join in on the fun to help give the shout out to one of your fellow children’s writers. Hopefully, one day we can do the same for you!!!!

Posted by: nancyisanders | January 3, 2020

Writer’s Journal: Journaling an Event


When you attend an event as an author, there are oodles of handouts you can add to your event journal.

When I attended the annual conference (AGM) for the Jane Austen Society of North America, I collected as many handouts as I could. Many of them I glued on the spot into my event journal. I used my handy little pair of scissors to make them fit. I figured that when I got home, I’d have time to ponder and reflect on the handouts.

I particularly wanted to share this handout that you see in the photo above. At the time when I glued this into my event journal, I just thought it was cool. Fun. A little paper to fold and play a game.

It wasn’t until later, when I was planning my teacher’s guide to go along with my book, Jane Austen for Kids, that I got the idea to create something similar to put in my teacher’s guide. (Coming soon!)

The moral of this story is…even if you don’t see a use for something while you’re at an event, add it to your journal. It can be the inspiration for a new idea when you’re looking for one.

So this wraps up my posts about keeping an event journal when you attend a writing-related event. I hope in the year ahead you’ll find lots of opportunities to create an event journal. Have fun!

Posted by: nancyisanders | December 4, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Journaling an Event


Keeping a journal at a research-related or writing event can be so rewarding in so many countless ways.

For example, when I walked into the workshop on making a Jane-Austen era turban, there was a stack of postcards.

I took two.

TIP: If it’s available, always take two of colorful 1-page double-sided handouts so you can glue the front up AND the back up and have both there to see. (If only one is available, tape it into your journal after you get home, don’t glue it, so you can flip it over to see the back.)

I glued them immediately into my journal–the front as a reference for the style.

The back as a reference for the presenter’s contact information.

The benefit?

I eventually added a craft to my book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, on how to make regency era turban. I used notes from the workshop to create my own series of how-to-instructions, and when I hit a glitch, I used the contact info on the postcard to call the presenter and ask her for help.

And as you can see, I also took hand-drawn illustrations as notes, too.

I’m definitely not an artist, but I’ve learned not to be shy about sketching little sketches when it helps.

Here’s another double-sided flyer I took two of so I could glue both sides in my journal.


Posted by: nancyisanders | December 2, 2019

Cyber Monday Sale Serious Writer Academy

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Yes! Serious Writer Academy, where I am one of the instructors, is continuing on with the holiday fun and having a Cyber Monday Sale!

Classes will be 40% off if you use the code CYBERMONDAY19.

So far, I have one class with the academy, an in-depth 75 minute video class you can download and watch at your own convenience. Plus it has oodles of handouts that are printable worksheets to help make your writing a success.

DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS WITH TOP SECRET DETECTIVE FILES is the inside scoop on how I develop characters whether I’m writing a picture book or a chapter book for a best-selling series…whether I’m writing fiction OR nonfiction.

Today you can get my class (plus others!) at Serious Writer Academy at this great discount.


Posted by: nancyisanders | November 29, 2019

Black Friday Sale Serious Writer Academy!

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Yes! Serious Writer Academy, where I am one of the instructors, is joining in on the holiday fun and having a Black Friday Sale!

Classes will be 60% off if you use the code BLACKFRIDAY19.

So far, I have one class with the academy, an in-depth 75 minute video class you can download and watch at your own convenience. Plus it has oodles of handouts that are printable worksheets to help make your writing a success.

DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS WITH TOP SECRET DETECTIVE FILES is the inside scoop on how I develop characters whether I’m writing a picture book or a chapter book for a best-selling series…whether I’m writing fiction OR nonfiction.

Today you can get my class (plus others!) at Serious Writer Academy.


Posted by: nancyisanders | November 27, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Journaling an Event

When I showed up at the annual conference for the Jane Austen Society of North America, I arrived with 3 essential tools:

My 100-page wide-rule blank composition book
A bottle of Scotch quick-drying tacky glue (available in sewing or craft stores)
A small pair of scissors (make sure sharp objects are allowed at your event!)

Before the conference, I had already created my Table of Contents over 4 of the earliest pages so that it would be ready to fill in throughout my days at the event. I had also numbered the lower right hand corner of each page of the blank notebook.

Here is the overview of my completed Table of Contents. I filled it in as my days unfolded at the conference, basically in chronological order according to the classes, workshops, and talks I attended.





As you can see by my Table of Contents, I took notes at the various talks and presentations I attended.

The BIGGEST MOST HUGE perk of this was that I made sure to jot down some direct quotes the presenters said. As a result, I was able to add a very significant quote I heard at the conference into my manuscript I was writing for JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS. (And then I contacted the person for approval to quote him.)

The result? My children’s book has a very significant fact about Jane Austen’s family that most other biographies don’t include! And it’s a direct quote from Richard Knight, the great-great-great-grandson of Jane’s brother.

It’s golden treasures like these that are just some of the amazing reasons to keep a writer’s journal when you attend a research or writing-related event.


Posted by: nancyisanders | November 24, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Journaling an Event

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I love creating a journal when I attend a writing-related event. I think it’s one of my favorite types of journals to create!

So when I was researching my book JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, I immediately signed up to attend the huge AGM (Annual General Meeting) of the Jane Austen Society of North America when I discovered it was being held practically in my back yard!

Huntington Beach, California–just an hour away and one of my favorite places in the world!

What a whirlwind of fun that was! And I have all of it documented in my event journal.

I think one of my favorite reasons to create event journals is because you get so many handouts crafted on high quality paper that make lovely additions to the journal. These journals really turn into works of art.

The front cover of my journal is cut out from the beautiful handout I received when I walked into the conference and signed in at the registration table. I glued it on after the conference was over.

The back cover was an antique reproduction of a picture of a young country girl published in 1788–a contemporary piece of Jane’s, of course!

And in between the covers I glued in all sorts of goodies from bookmarks, to delightful flyers, to my name tag.

In an upcoming post, I’ll share in details about some of the treasures I collected to take this research journal over the top.


Posted by: nancyisanders | October 24, 2019

Author Interview: Jean Matthew Hall

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Featured Book
God’s Blessings of Fall
by Jean Matthew Hall
Illustrated by Olya Badulina
Little Lamb Books, 2019

The whoosh of the wind, the crunch of the leaves, squirrels skittering about, the aroma of freshly baked pie: these are God’s blessings of fall!

Children will love getting up close to the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. See an owl swoop to her nest in the hollow tree. Watch a mouse roll an apple all the way home. A spider weaves a web, while bear prepares for a long winter’s nap.

With lyricism and whimsy, debut author Jean Matthew Hall celebrates the beauty of this magnificent season and the One who created it all.


Meet Author Jean Matthew Hall

Be sure to follow Jean at:
Website/Blog: Jean Matthew Hall
Facebook: Jean Matthew Hall Author
Twitter: @Jean_Hall
Pinterest: JeanMatthew_Hall

Jean Matthew Hall has spent most of her life singing songs, reading books, playing games, cutting, coloring and gluing with children of all ages. And, she loves it! Creating encouraging board books and picture books is her idea of fun, but her favorite times are spent with her eight grandchildren.

Jean’s picture book God’s Blessings of Fall debuted in September 2019. It is the first in her Bountiful Blessings series about the four seasons.

JOIN US as we celebrate Jean’s new book as part of her official BOOK BLOG TOUR!

Q: Can you share with us about the journey this book has taken so far?

A: Early on I submitted God’s Blessings of Fall to a few publishers, but the story was nowhere near ready. I submitted too soon—a mistake most new writers make. I eventually filed it away and left it for about five years. When I pulled it out again, I had grown a lot in my skills as a writer, I had several critique partners, and I could look at it with clear eyes.

A couple of years later I acquired an agent. He liked the story, sent it to three (I think) houses, and sold it to Little Lamb Books in 2016. She loved it but wanted the next three book manuscripts—right then!

I set aside a week to work on them, emailed my most trusted critique partners and got busy. The Spring, Summer and Winter manuscripts were kind of rough, but they were acceptable to editor Rachel Pellegrino.

Tweaks and changes later we have the finished book. It was great (and difficult) that we edited all four manuscripts at the same time. That way they all have the same tone and voice. I’m proud of how they have turned out.

And I love the way God’s Blessings of Fall shines. Thank you, Jesus, this part of the journey is completed. Now on to marketing.

Q: What are some of your favorite things?

A: Herbal tea over coffee

Color are red and blues

I watch very little TV

I’m not into POP culture

Foods – chocolate, NY style cheesecake, beef stew, fruit

Books – probably whatever I’m currently reading.

Genre – picture books of all types and historical fiction for us older


My car – LOVE my KIA Soul

Music – classic hymns, soft, easy contemporary Christian

Q: Describe your writing process.

A: I need quiet and solitude to write. I always write at my desk in my bedroom.

I pray (sometimes for weeks) before I get an idea. Then I type it out quickly and think on it for days usually. I keep popping in to tweak little things.

Next come my critique groups. They are inciteful and help me reign in my dreams of grandeur. Then I dummy and re-write and re-write and dummy and tweak.

I usually feel when I’ve made a manuscript the best I can at that time. Then I’ll work on the proposal. Don’t you just love proposals?

All the while I’m praying for God to put this manuscript where He can use it for His glory and other people’s good.

Q: What word of advice would you like to share with aspiring writers?

A: Don’t be in a hurry. There is no such thing in the publishing business. Everything takes months and years to happen. Everything.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 7, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Journaling an Event


During the 2 1/2 year journey it took me to research and write my newest book, Jane Austen for Kids, I kept different types of handwritten writer’s journals. In the photo above you can see most of them.

I created one journal as an overview of my project.

I filled up two journals with my research notes.

I made an event journal for an important event I attended.

I kept a travel journal, a daily diary of a research trip I took.

I also filled up 2 entire journals of scenes I wrote to include in my nonfiction book. I wrote the first draft of each scene by hand in these notebooks before typing it into the computer and polishing it to perfection.

Next up on my blog, I’m going to share with you how I created an event journal to document an important event I attended to help me with my research (as well as networking with fellow Janeites for future marketing connections).

Stay tuned for fun!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 3, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Additional Pages


Part of the fun of creating homemade writer’s journals for my research as I wrote JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS was to add additional pages into my notebooks.





Some pages I Xeroxed from books and taped across the top to flip up as I referred to the information.





Some pages I Xeroxed and glued right onto my pages of my writer’s journal.



Some pages I taped together along the left and taped them into my writer’s journal to open and read like a mini-book.



And some pages were things I had handwritten without my journal. (I might have been away from home when I suddenly got an idea or a concept such as this concept I had for the timeline I wanted to include in my book.) I just grabbed any piece of paper I could find, jotted down my idea, and when I got back home I glued this into my research notebook.

This also works well if you’re writing chronological notes and you want to plug an event in between two pages you’ve already filled in your journal. Just cut full pages to size and tape them in between the two pages they fit in, taping as close to the spine as possible. Number them 16b or 22b and make a note of this in your table of contents.


Posted by: nancyisanders | September 30, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Research and Tracking Notes


If you’ve been following along with my posts, you know that I opted to keep handwritten research notes in homemade journals during my two-and-a-half-year journey to write my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS.

One of the challenges in keeping a handwritten journal is tracking the research notes. And as one of my online writing friends, Annette, posted in a recent comment, she asked, “When you are taking notes from various sources, how do you keep track chronologically?”

There are a couple of ways I track my research, whether it’s chronological or topical.


One way I track my research is to be very careful in my table of contents. If you zoom in closely to the photo right above, on page 25 I added a note to (See also p. 66). This was because I ran out of room in this part of my journal, so I added another page later on to include more information on that topic.

Some research entries I had to continue in a separate research journal because this one filled up. Again, in my table of contents I made a note.

Alternately, I would make a note on the page when I turned to it in my journal. I would write: For more info on this topic, go to Journal #3, page 44 etc.

I also like to create and use outlines as I research a manuscript I’m writing. Since I was writing a birth to death plot for Jane Austen in my book, my outline was in chronological order.

I didn’t create an outline in my writer’s journals. My outline stayed on my computer so I could quickly and easily type in new details where they needed to go. I would print this out occasionally as I was working, to refer to it while I was reading my research books in a comfy chair.

So when I’m using multiple sources, such as I did when I wrote Jane Austen for Kids, here’s my general method for keeping track of chronological events.

I frequently read one chapter or section in my research book. Such as the chapter on Jane’s birth. I took notes in my journal and then picked up another research book and read the section about her birth, adding more notes or backing up notes I already write with the page number of that research book, too.

For example, I created a page in my writer’s journal for:

Jane is born.

On that page in my writer’s journal, I wrote down all the facts from that research book regarding Jane’s birth. My entry reads:

Jane is Born
Born December 16, 1775 MEM1, CH249, CW68, GT6, BCA21,
Born at Steventon Rectory CW68, GT6
Details of birth EJ9, DLFR27
Father baptized her the next day GT6, IC2, HW23
Mrs. Austen write to her relatives a letter to quote AL571

As you can see by my entries, I include with each note I write the secret code I assign to each different research book, along with the page number where that fact was found. I usually like to back up each fact/note with at least 2 sources and hopefully at least 3.

As you can see by the last entry I included, I only have one research source for that. It’s because that particular research book is a primary source (and it’s in the public domain), so I only have to have one source listed for a primary source that is in the public domain.

Do you have any more questions about this process I use? Let me know before I move on to more info about keeping a writer’s journal!

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 27, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Research Code


In the photo above of my research journal for Jane Austen for Kids, you can see some of my favorite research books, along with the secret code I created for each one.


In this photo above, you can see the notes I took about Jane’s character. Since my entire book would be about her life, I decided to just do a section here on her CHARACTER, her personality, and her faith.

Typically, what I did, was I sat down in a comfy chair. I held my research journal in my lap. I held my research book in my hands (some books were on my iPad Kindle).

As I read my research book, I’d just down a note.

For example, I discovered Jane had a “keen sense of humour.” So I wrote that down. Next to it, I also wrote down the secret code for the research book I was reading: MEM.

And next to that I wrote down the page number of that book: 88

As you can see, my entry looked like this:

MEM88 keen sense of humour

I didn’t have to write down the entire title of the book…the code keeps my notetaking much simpler and quicker.

And if I find more than one source that says the same thing, I can easily add that code and page number to back it up. I hardly need any extra space.

I can’t tell you how much using this method of research makes my life as a nonfiction writer so much easier in so many countless ways! I hope you try it and find it helpful too!

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 24, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Research Code

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Okay, I’m going to share a strategy that I use that changed my life as a nonfiction writer. If you use it, I hope it will change your life too!

I create a secret code for nearly every research book I use.

See that stack of research books I used during my 2-year journey to write Jane Austen for Kids?

I created a secret code for most of them!

Here’s how I did it:

First I gathered totebags of research books from a local university about Jane Austen.

I sat down over several sessions and typed up a bibliography of all those books. (I always like to do this very first thing during the writing journey so all those titles are handy to grab when adding footnotes on my manuscript or adding research notes in my journal)

Then I gave them each a code.

For library books I borrowed, I write this code on a sticky note and stick it inside the front cover.

For research books I bought (which I did for my favorite ones I liked from the library) I just write this secret code inside the front cover.

I type this code on my bibliography. (I make sure to delete the code when I copy and paste bibliography entries into my actual end-of-the-book bibliography.)


But as you can see here in my notebook, after my table of contents, I write my FAVORITE research books here in my writer’s journal, along with their secret codes.

I also included some of my favorite INTERNET resources with their secret code on this page, too

I also glued a sturdy piece of paper up at the top right so I could flip back here often.

What do I do with these secret codes you may ask?

I’ll tell you in my next post!!!!

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