Posted by: nancyisanders | November 18, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Lord of Eternity

As I was praying and worshipping this morning for all of America and for all of you, God’s scribes, this was the worship song filling up my prayer closet with hope. As you listen to this, may each of you be reminded, as I was this morning, that God is Lord of eternity. He is on His throne. He has called us by name to be his scribes for such as time as this.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 10, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: New Purpose

Here’s an Oldie But Goodie that I hope helps you find a new purpose for some of those dusty manuscripts in your files. Enjoy!

Let’s admit it. Getting published in today’s market is tough. I know. For every one of the books I’ve had published, I probably have three complete manuscripts still in my file cabinet that have earned me enough rejection letters to wallpaper my entire house. That’s a lot of unpublished manuscripts!

Some of them are 20 years old. But none of those manuscripts are forgotten. Oh no! I have fun finding new purposes for my old manuscripts.

I post some of my old manuscripts for children’s books in their entirety on my website.

Other manuscripts I post section by section on various blogs I have.

Some manuscripts I’ve even self-published with Print On Demand publishers.

Sure, I’m constantly writing new material for deadlines and book contracts that will be published. But I also have fun with my other favorite manuscripts that never yet found a home. One by one, I’m finding a home for each of them and it’s been a very rewarding experience.

How about you? Do you have favorite manuscripts you’ve written that have never yet been published? Go ahead…have some fun! Post them on a blog and you’ll get people reading them all around the world. Self-publish them with a print-on-demand publisher and you can give them as gifts to family and friends.

Pull out those old manuscripts and find a brand new purpose for them. You’ll be glad you did!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 7, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Prosper

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.
But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither,
and in all they do, they prosper.
-Psalm 1:1-3, NLT

The secret to prospering as a writer is not about measuring our success by the world’s standards. It’s all about measuring our success by God’s standards. Have you ever looked closely at a tree? It’s not a world traveler and nobody sees it except those who pass by. A tree stays right in one spot day after day and is considered prosperous if it bears the fruit it’s supposed to bear. A successful writer is one who sits down day after day at the computer, typing the words we’re called to write, delighting to do what God wants us to do, meditating on His Word as we write for His glory.

Dear God, my heart’s desire is to write the words You put on my heart. It truly doesn’t matter if I’m successful in the world’s eyes, as long as I know I’m prospering by bearing the fruit and completing the manuscripts you have called me to write. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 5, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Beginners’ Tips

Here’s an Oldie But Goodie for beginning writers:

 

If you never had an 8th grade English teacher who drilled grammar and punctuation rules into your brain until they became part of your DNA, don’t despair! It’s possible for you to return to the basics to learn these skills. Best of all, you’ll improve as a writer. Guaranteed!

Some writers who never learned grammar or punctuation rules and others who have had learning difficulties bring their manuscripts to critique groups with hopes of their friends finding and fixing all the errors. What these writers don’t realize however, is that it takes so much time to correct all these errors that their manuscript really doesn’t get the feedback it deserves. If you take the time to learn the basic grammar rules and punctuation rules, then spend the time self-editing your own manuscript to fix your errors BEFORE you take it to your critique group, it’s more beneficial to you in the long run. By the time you arrive at your critique group with the basic errors already fixed, everyone can focus on helping you revise and polish your manuscript so that it rises to the next level–one step closer to publication!

There are three great books for teachers that I recommend for beginners to use to learn the basic grammar and punctuation rules. They are part of a series called Writing Skills Made Fun by Karen Kellaher:

* Capitalization, Punctuation, and Spelling

* Parts of Speech

* Sentences and Paragraphs

Purchase these books online or at a store that sells teacher resource materials. Have fun doing the exercises for each lesson about grammar and punctuation. Then take the time on your very next manuscript to put your new-found skills to use–BEFORE you share your manuscript with your critique group. You’ll be one step closer to success!

Posted by: nancyisanders | October 3, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Editing

Here’s a humorous Oldie But Goodie about self-editing…enjoy!

Hi My name is Humphrey. I’m a cat. You may already know that. But what you may not know is that I’m also a writer. And today, now that you’re writing your alphabet book (or whatever manuscript you’re working on), I want to tell you about putting on your editor’s hat.

Do you like to edit your own manuscripts? You know—self edit? Come on…really?

I don’t.

I mean, it’s just not the cat’s meow.

But I know I should. I know I’m supposed to. I know it’s what a cat’s gotta do to learn how to be a successful writer. So I decided to break my habit of neglecting this part of my writing life.

The first thing I did was get myself an editor’s hat. You know—first you wear the writer’s hat and then you take that off and put on your editor’s hat? Right? Well, I didn’t have an editor’s hat. So I went out and got one. Like it? It even has a little mouse at the top and this twirly thing to twirl around. It’s purrfect for a cat like me. You should get one, too!

After I finish my first draft of my manuscript, I set aside some time to edit. And now I make sure it isn’t the drudgery it used to be. I make sure it’s fun!

I put on my silly editor’s beanie. It gets me in the mood to have fun, dude. Then I get out my special highlighter pens. I splurged and bought some wa-ay cool ones that I can use to make neon colors and decorate all over my manuscript. (They don’t even have a cap to lose, but click like a ballpoint pen.) Since I have neon yellow and neon pink and neon orange, now I’m HOPING to find mistakes in my manuscript just so I can mark ‘em on my page and turn the boring black and white little marks on the paper into bright, fun, colorful pictures.

I know my weaknesses, too. So I made a list of ‘em. Here are the first three, for starters:
1. Don’t always use punctuation correctly.
2. Weak verbs.
3. Poorly constructed paragraphs without a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I also printed out some self-editing checklists from how-to-write books, and articles I found on the Internet. These lists remind me to check for realistic dialog, show don’t tell, and lots of other important stuff.

I take my highlighters and have some fun! First I look at every single sentence I wrote in my first paragraph. I highlight the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence in pink. I highlight the punctuation in that sentence in yellow. Then I make sure to check that I used that punctuation correctly.

If I’m not sure about the punctuation rule, I look it up in my reference books. But hey—my reference books aren’t bo-o-oring like yours might be. Oh no! First I made specially decorated book covers for each one of ‘em so they’re bright and colorful, not scary-looking or over-the-top academic. Then I got my highlighters out and really decorated the pages I use the most to remind me what the rules are that I most often forget. Plus, I got sticky notes in all shapes and sizes to stick on the pages I look up over and over again. I want to save my energy for chasing mice, not for flipping through the pages looking up the same rule I’ve used a zillion times before. Like I said—I want this self-editing thing to be as fun as a cat can have it.

So hey—how about you? Are you having fun when you self-edit your manuscript? If not, do something about it. Make it fun, like I did. Now editing’s my favorite part of writing. Not! But really, it’s way more fun than it used to be. Especially when I put on my editor’s hat. And nibble on tunafish…but that’s another story.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 30, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: God’s Book

You saw me before I was born
and scheduled each day of my life
before I began to breathe.
Every day was recorded in your book!
-Psalm 139:16, TLB

What an amazing concept this is! In His great love for us, God has kept a memory book about us from even before we were born. How precious each day of our lives is to Him–may we as His scribes grasp this wonder and dedicate ourselves to His purposes. May we not waste another day away from His great call upon us to write.

Dear God, on this particular day of my life, may I spend time writing the words You planned for me to write from even before when I was born. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 28, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: The American Library Association

Here’s an Oldie But Goodie that gives you an idea about what it’s like to attend a national bookseller’s convention such as ALA.

ALA (American Library Association) is in town this year! The big event is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center just across the street from Disneyland. And while it may not have the rides that Disneyland offers, for a writer, ALA is a fairy-tale kind of place where yes, dreams do come true, and meeting publishers and editors face-to-face really can make it the happiest place on earth!

This year, members of my critique group of professional Christian writers (and illustrators!) planned a field trip to ALA. First, those who could make it met at Veronica’s house, the illustrator and budding writer in our group, then we carpooled over to the event.

Can you even imagine how much fun we had? At every publisher’s booth we stopped, we introduced ourselves as a local critique group on a field trip, and the excitement was contagious! Publishers showed us what their favorite new titles are, they described the dream manuscripts they are looking for, and they told us how to send our manuscripts their way. One marketing rep even shared that she is a wannabe writer, so we gave her tips on how to follow her dreams.

We got free books and free totebags and more free books and free gimmicks (I’m treasuring my “I’m a Fancy Nancy fan!” fan) and even more free books! Not to mention the autographed books of local author friends we unexpectedly ran into who were doing booksignings at various booths scattered throughout the floor. Lots of squeals of delight and hugs here…

By the end of our stay, we were lugging around heavy totebags filled with goodies, only to run into my hubby and youngest son who had just dropped in to take a peek around, too. Jeff graciously helped carry bags to the car for the other gals, then returned to join me as we headed to the Libraries Unlimited booth.

On display was one of our newest books we’ve written together: Readers’ Theatre for African American History. It was hot off the press–the first time we held it in our hands–and we are thrilled with how it turned out! We got to meet some of the folks at Libraries Unlimited, including our wonderful editor, Sharon Coatney. It was the perfect ending to a fairy-tale-kind-of day!

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 26, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Pep Talk 101

Here’s a pep talk that I hope encourages you today as a writer. I found it from several years ago on my blog, so I’m posting it today as an Oldie But Goodie:

As writers, it’s very easy to get discouraged. As writers of alphabet books or picture books in general, we have to come to terms with the fact that we’re trying to break into the toughest market in the industry. Why is it so tough? Two main reasons. The first is that the competition is fierce because everyone–from the postal worker to the grocery clerk to your very own grandmother wants to write a picture book. Why? Because of the second reason–these books are full color and beautifully illustrated which happens to make them the most expensive book of all for publishers to produce and the most pricey book of all for consumers to purchase.

So if you’re dedicated to writing picture books and alphabet books and fully illustrated books, here’s a survival tip to keep you going and keep you from quitting or dropping out of the race altogether:

Write for 2-3 no-pay or low-pay markets so that you’re getting published on a steady basis throughout the year. I mean, even when I landed my contract to write my alphabet book, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet, it took nearly 3 years to finally see the book in print. First I had to write it. Then they had to find an illustrator for it. Then E.B. Lewis had to paint the pictures. Then they had to print it. All this took a lot of time. If it was the only manuscript I was getting published in all that time, I would have gotten very discouraged as a writer.

But I didn’t! In between book contracts and all throughout my days, weeks, months, and years of writing, I also write for no-pay and low-pay markets on a steady basis. The perks far outweigh the cash. I develop friendships with the editors I work with. These editors supply tons of kudos and positive feedback! I get validated over and over and over again with a steady stream of publications. And these add up nicely on my list of published credits. I feel like a writer because I’m constantly working within the world of a writer.

Here are just a few of the no-pay and low-pay markets I have written for over the years:
church newsletters
puzzles for kids’ magazines
book reviews for magazines
online devotions
local school writing projects
parenting newsletters
writer’s newsletters

The list could go on and on. I’ve accumulated hundreds of credits with no-pay or low-pay markets over the years.

So for my pep talk today on my blog, I want to encourage you to do the same. While you’re working so hard to write a book manuscript, sit down every couple of days or so and just write a short article and send it in to a no-pay or low-pay market that you’re practically guaranteed to get accepted. Local community magazines, online freebie magazines, Sunday School take home papers, small unknown publishers… Start building relationships with these editors to guarantee a steady accumulation of published credits. Forget about the pay–the experience and the validation as a writer are worth much more than anyone can pay you right now. Start today and make it your goal to get published in these markets on a regular basis. It will help you keep on writing and working toward your goal of landing a book contract.

 

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 23, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: The Door

Then Jesus said to them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”

As writers, God opens doors for us or closes them. How comforting it is to be reassured that Jesus, Himself, IS the door for us as His scribes. Do you feel like you’re stuck in the sheep pen because of all the rejections you receive? Learn to hand over your manuscript that has just been rejected and work on the next manuscript He is calling you to write. He calls us to write and keep on writing whether or not the manuscripts are rejected. He is the door. He will take our manuscript where it is supposed to be on its journey through eternity. We’re just called to be His sheep…and as His scribes this calling means we continue to write no matter what the current market trends are or today’s publishing world does.

Dear God, Thank You for helping me keep my writing in perspective. Please encourage me to continue writing for Your glory even while I am inside the sheep pen. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 23, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Enjoy

My elect shall long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain.
-Isaiah 65:22-23

This is a mighty promise God declares to us as His scribes. We do not labor in vain! God promises that we shall find joy in the journey–so why not choose to enjoy our pathway today? Let’s determine to enjoy the work that is before us right now, regardless of any lack of affirmation we might feel. Come on, beloved scribe! Let’s do what we can to make our long enjoyment even longer and rejoice today in our labors.

Dear God, thank You for this great and mighty promise. What an anchor of hope this is to me to cling to! Thank You for encouraging me and reminding me that my labor is not in vain. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 21, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Submission

Here’s an Oldie But Goodie post from several years back that shows you an inside look about the submission process…maybe this can help you in your own journey!

Today I submitted a nonfiction picture book manuscript that had been hidden away in my cupboard for several years.

Why was it hidden away?

That’s my strategy. You see, I know that in the business of publishing, if you want to get serious about earning money and getting manuscripts published, you have to land the contract BEFORE you write the book.

But sometimes, I just want to write a book. I mean, I HAVE to write a book. The story is just burning inside me, ready to burst forth. It won’t wait for the time it takes to try to land a contract first.

So I write the book.

Then I have a strategy. I make a list of potential publishers who might be interested in the book. I try to study their websites to make sure it fits each of their lists. When I have about 10 -20 targeted publishers on my list, I send out as many submissions as I can for about $20. Yep. That’s it. That’s all I can afford since there’s no guarantee of a sale.

But for $20, I can usually contact all the publishers on my list. Some accept e-mail submissions. That’s free. Some accept queries. That’s only the price of one stamp. Others accept only snail mail manuscript submissions. Those are the ones I don’t target a lot unless they fit into my $20 budget.

After I send my new book out to as many publishers on my list that fit into my budget, then I move onto other projects, get back to the business of trying to land contracts BEFORE I write the book, and wait.

It usually takes 3-6 months to hear back. Or not hear back according to the new method of simply not responding if a publisher rejects the manuscript. After that, I figure I did my part in trying to land a publisher for my manuscript.

That’s when I tuck it away in a file folder in my cupboards I have in the garage.

But it’s not forgotten. No manuscript is forgotten. You see, I’m an optimist. I’ve heard of too many stories where a writer’s manuscript or artist’s painting was “discovered” years or even generations after it was created.

So this month when I read in my issue of Children’s Book Insider that a certain publisher was looking for a certain type of nonfiction manuscript that described MY manuscript, my heart skipped a beat. Bingo!

I went out to my cupboard, found the book manuscript that had been waiting, and prepared it for submission. I sent it on its merry way, and then got back to work on a children’s book deadline I’m currently writing under contract.

That’s how I maintain my writing career. I spend most of my time writing manuscripts that are under contract. I occasionally write manuscripts for myself that I just gotta write…and occasionally send them out to specifically targeted publishers. So far, I’ve landed over 75 books contracts before I wrote the book. I’ve landed zero book contracts for the manuscripts I wrote and THEN tried to find a publisher.

But hey–I’m an optimist! That’s why I sent out my nonfiction picture book submission today. But I’m also a realist. That’s why I got back to work on my book deadline after it was gone.

What’s your strategy?

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 19, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Pssst! Wanna Hear a Secret?

Hi. I’m Humphrey. I’m a cat. I’m also a writer. You didn’t know that, did you? Another thing you don’t know is how old I am. That’s because I’ve discovered some great secrets to use in my writing to never let an editor know my age. These secrets are better than anti-aging cream!

You may wonder why I want to keep my age a secret. It’s the editors. They’re young. They’re fresh faces! They don’t wanna get manuscripts from an old cat like me. Hey, at my age, I may be over-the-hill in cat years—but not my writing! My writing’s energetic. My stories are hip! My prose is purrfect! Here are three of the strategies I use to make sure I don’t give my age away.

1. I put one space between each sentence, not two. You see, the fastest way to let an editor know you’re reaching retirement is to put two spaces in between each sentence. An editor reads the first sentence of your manuscript, sees those two spaces after it, and a red light flashes in her brain. “Warning! Beware! Get ready to be bored! This writer’s too old to know what the new rules are. This writer’s too old to care. This writer’s too old to accept change!”

You see, if you’re like me, when I was in Feline High, I learned to type two spaces after each sentence. On the typewriter. (Okay, now the cat’s out of the bag. I was around when the invention of the electric typewriter was all the rage!) The problem is, with the age of computers, that’s not how it’s done any more. Now you’re only supposed to type one space after each sentence. That’s what the young whippersnappers learn to do.

So, I did it! I’m not gonna let some young, wet-behind-the-ears editor reject my manuscript just because she thinks I’m an old geezer. I trained myself to just hit one space between each sentence. It took about two weeks of concentrating—and that’s typing with paws! But I did it. Now it’s easy.

2. Another strategy I use to hide my age is that I choose names for the characters in my stories that are mod. I avoid the temptation to use my favorite names. Sure, I want to name them Lucy, after my favorite old poochie pal. But I don’t unless I’m writing a historical novel. I want to name them Pitterpat or Chuck or Sandman after my favorite aunt or uncle. But I don’t.

Instead, I look for current names. Now names. Names that sound like the cat’s meow. Names I might not necessarily like but are popular today. I borrowed my niece’s year book. She’s in first grade at Furry Fun Elementary. I photocopied a bunch of kitten names and keep ‘em handy. I bought a book of baby names. 35,000+ Baby Names by Bruce Lanksy is the best! It even tells what cultural background each name is from so I can include a multi-ethnic cast of characters in my stories. That’s another strategy that keeps my manuscripts up to date.

3. Another way I keep my age a secret is to take Mama and Papa cat out of the story. I don’t let them hover in the background like they did in MY favorite books that I liked to read when I was small enough to hide under the couch and climb to the top of the curtains. I let the kittens in my stories come up with their own ideas, make their own decisions, and solve their own problems. Sure, their parents are there when it counts. But they don’t do anything to directly influence the outcome of the plot. I leave that up to the kittens.

So there you have it: My super strategies to keep my age a secret. No editor’s gonna paws or reject my manuscript because it looks or sounds out of touch with this generation. No way!

For more of my “catchy” tips, CLICK HERE to visit the site of my buddies and me.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 16, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Rise Up!

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
-Song of Songs 2:10-12, NKJV

Much to our surprise, a pair of new birds arrived in our backyard one spring. We looked them up in our bird book, but the book didn’t have them. So we looked them up in a different bird book, and it said that Ringed Turtledoves from Asia have escaped from a pet store in Los Angeles and may be found nearby. We live in a suburb of LA!

It was such a joy to watch them! They built a nest and every day the male sat on the top of our chimney coo-cooing all day long while the female sat nearby in the nest.

The sound of the turtledove was heard all throughout our house as the beautiful and peaceful melody carried down our chimney like a microphone and was heard singing all throughout our house.

God is reminding us to rise up! The time of singing has come! The time to look ahead to a future as his scribe is here. He has new things planned for us, articles and stories and books He’s planned about since the beginning of creation.

Dear God, thank You for hope and newness of life. Please help me write with a new joy in my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 14, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Dialog

Here’s an Oldie But Goodie post on dialog!

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park

At one point in Jurrasic Park 1, the main characters are all sitting together and they’re asked their opinion on the idea of an amusement park for dinosaurs. Each one gives a very revealing answer about their characterization. We can see clearly that each main character has his or her own unique voice or way of talking.

Math guy: Everything is chaos.
Grandpa: I spared no expense!
Dinosaur Guy: You’re talking about creatures I’ve researched who aren’t capable scientifically of living with people.

I have been having a difficult time creating a unique voice for each of my characters for my middle grade novel. This is a second book under contract in a series and I remember I had the same difficulties when I was writing the first book. This book has an all-new cast of characters, however, so I’m not limited to the voices I created for the first book.

So I decided to try an experiment. In my mind, I sat all my main characters down together and asked them a question that was important to the plot in my book—just like what actually happened in the scene in Jurassic Park.

To my discovery, only one of my main characters had anything unique to say. The rest were just me talking through them. Bo-o-oring. I realized I needed to develop each of their voices and give each main character distinctive dialogue that reflects the 3-D characterizations I’m developing for them.

Try it yourself. Whether you’re writing a picture book, a chapter book, a middle grade novel, a young adult novel, or any manuscript that uses dialog to create a scene, ask all of your main characters the same question. Be sure the question is about something that is important in the story. Listen to how they answer. If each of them doesn’t respond in a unique, different way, work on developing their voices until they do!

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 12, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Plot

Here’s another Oldie But Goodie post I found several years ago that I wrote here on my blog. It is based on watching Jurassic Park, too.

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park

As I watched the three Jurassic Park movies, I also learned great tips about creating a plot and subplots for my middle grade novel.

Jurassic Park had three strong plots and a large number of subplots. The three main plots were:
1. Get approval for island: This plot was carried all the way through the movie, referred to often, and was important at the end.
2. Steal DNA. Again, this plot was carried all the way through the movie, referred to often, and was important at the end.
3. Get off the island.

Jurassic Park 2 (Lost World) did not really have a single plot that carried the entire way through the movie.
1. Get on the island and find girlfriend: Since he found her right away, it was the end of this plot.
2. Wealthy guy’s safari: This lasted until they got off the island. Then they were in the city and it was a different kind of plot.
3. Get off the island: This only lasted until they got off the island. Then a new plot started.

Jurassic Park 3 also did not really have a single important plot that carried the entire way through the movie.
1. Find kid: They found him in the middle of the movie. End of plot.
2. Get off the island: By the third movie, this was the same plot as the others so it got kind of old. It wasn’t important any more, it was predictable.

Here’s what I learned about plotting a middle grade novel by watching all three movies of Jurassic Park:
1. Create at least three main plots to develop, refer to often throughout the book, and still be important at the end.
2. Create numerous, character-driven subplots that are developed throughout the book and are resolved by the end.

 

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 9, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Finish

I suggest that you finish what you started a year ago, for you were the first to propose this idea, and you were the first to begin doing something about it. Now you should carry this project through to completion just as enthusiastically as you began it.
-2 Corinthians 8:10-11, NLT

What a great reminder this is for us as writers! Let’s pull out that manuscript we started, sit down and work on it with commitment, and finish the first draft from beginning to end. After all, what can God do with a manuscript we haven’t yet finished?

Dear Father, thank you for this challenge today. Please anoint me with enthusiasm and joy to do the work you have called me to do and write the manuscript you want me to write. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 6, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Middle Grade Musings

Here’s the final post I found in this Oldie But Goodie series on Middle Grade Novels that I posted several years ago:

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park
Part 6

Here’s an overview of what I learned about characterization from watching all three Jurassic Park movies:

Main Characters:
1. Make each main character 3-D by giving them each three distinct, over-the-top and unique personality traits. Either make them likeable or make the reader like to dislike them—don’t just give them random traits—make them appealing to the reader in some way.
2. Develop each of the main character’s characterization throughout the entire novel including the beginning, middle, and the end.
3. Have each main character change or not change by the end of the book in a dramatic way with purpose.
4. Use the unique characterization of each main character to either save the day or bring about ruin by either moving the plot forward or throwing obstacles in the way.
5. Create character-driven plots to add tension and emotion to the story and keep the reader hooked.

Minor Characters:
1. Create a cast of minor characters each with one distinct and unique personality trait.
2. Develop each of the minor characters throughout the entire novel including the beginning, the middle, and the end.
3. Use the minor characters to move the plot forward or throw obstacles in the way and add tension.

I am planning to use this list as a check-off list for the characters I’m developing in my middle grade historical novel. I really think this will take my book to a newer level of interest and excitement for the reader—I know it’s already working to hook me in as the author.

 

Posted by: nancyisanders | September 2, 2016

Faith Building Fridays: Listen

I listen carefully to what God,
the Lord, is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
-Psalm 85:8

Before a writer can write, we must listen. Every day. Mary discovered the treasure of listening. And Jesus said it would not be taken away from her. Let’s spend time listening carefully to God’s heart today. Then let’s sit down at our computers and write. The words that flow through us will be used to speak peace to the world.

Dear God, help me carve time out of my hectic day to come sit at your feet and listen to your words of peace. Please help me be like Mary, not busy, distracted, or worried about many things like Martha. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

_______________________________________________________________

Scribes: Devotions for Christian Writers is available at Amazon.

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 31, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: Middle Grade Musings

My Oldie But Goodie posts continue on Middle Grade Novels…

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park
Part 5

In Jurassic Park 3, the characterization was weak and this made the plot weak. Another problem surfaced, however. Some of the main characters in Jurassic Park 3 weren’t even likeable. I mean, in Jurassic Park 1, even the minor characters and bad guys were so over-the-top unique that we liked not liking them.

Main Characters:
Main scientist guy: He should have still been with his girlfriend. It totally erased the excitement and tension of this character by having his girlfriend now married with kids. This made him a loser. Instead, they should have been married to each other and she could have been unable to come so she stayed home and saved the day.

Dad: He was the most developed character in movie, but he was boring. Ordinary. A wimp. A loser. Nobody liked him or cared about him. The boyfriend who died in the beginning was way more interesting!

Kid: Robinson Crusoe type. He had the strongest characterization and came into the movie with a bang. But it lasted about five minutes. From then on, he was just an ordinary kid the rest of the movie and watched the adults solve the problems. He should have been the Robinson Crusoe guy the rest of the movie! He could have led them to hidden hideouts he’d created and done all sorts of things to get them to safety on the beach…but didn’t do a thing the rest of the movie.

Mom: The mom was the main character but did not have one single unique character trait. She could have been anybody’s mom, anywhere.

The main characters in this movie once again did not even have one unique characterization that was developed over the whole movie. The first movie gave each main character three unique traits and each minor character one unique trait and developed every person’s trait throughout the entire length of the movie to influence the plot. But not the second two movies. Their main characters were one dimensional and undeveloped. Their main characters had no unique traits and didn’t affect the plot in any way. The end result was that the plot lacked tension and was driven forward just by action. Therefore the last two movies lacked the thrill and excitement found in the first.

By doing such an in-depth study of the strengths and weaknesses in characterization in the Jurassic Park movies, I have learned invaluable lessons about developing characters in a middle grade novel! And another benefit of all this is that as I’m taking time to develop the characters in my own novel, I’m getting more excited about each one of them, too! The idea of writing the book is become more exciting, too, as I’m determining how to use characterization to drive the plot.

Posted by: nancyisanders | August 29, 2016

Oldie But Goodie: More Middle Grade Musings

OK. I discovered I’d written even more posts on Middle Grade Novels…Here’s another one.

Everything I Need to Know about Middle Grade Novels I Learned from Jurassic Park
Part 4

Previously, I explained how fantastic characterization was used and developed in Jurassic Park. Each character had unique qualities, a distinctive voice, and over-the-top personality. However, Jurassic Park 2 (Lost World) and Jurassic Park 3 did NOT have the same use and development of characterization. As a result, the second and third move seemed flat and boring compared to the first.

In Jurassic Park 2, they gave each main character just one unique characterization, so they were essentially only as important as the minor characters in the first movie. None of them had three unique traits as did the main characters in the first movie, so none of them appeared 3-D. Plus, in Jurassic Park 2, even the one unique characterization of each actor was just kind of mentioned to introduce them but was NOT developed over the rest of the movie or used to influence the plot.

Main Characters:
The math guy (Malcolm): He still believed in chaos. However, unlike the first movie where every sentence of his was either a wisecrack or a reference to chaos, in the second movie, he just said mostly ordinary statements in his dialog. He did not change by the end of the movie.

The wealthy guy: He was just kind of not nice. There was nothing over-the-top about him, though. He was just kind of an ordinary wealthy guy who wasn’t very nice. Compared to the over-the-top computer geek bad guy in the first movie, this bad guy was bo-o-ring. Too ordinary.

Hunter guy: He was a very typical big game hunter. But again, that was it. One dimensional and flat. Also, his character wasn’t really developed through the movie. He was just the typical big game hunter. By the end of the movie, he changed to be sad about capturing the T. Rex. But this was a weak change because it hadn’t been developed well. He just changed and it didn’t even affect the plot.

Minor Characters:
Photographer girlfriend: She was supposed to be a safari expert in beginning but then this was forgotten because she made silly mistakes all the rest of the movie a safari expert would never make. The rest of the movie she just talked and acted like an ordinary person.

Daughter: She was a gymnist. This was mentioned once at beginning, then forgotten, and then her gymnist skills saved the day. Since this wasn’t developed through the middle, it seemed fake to bring it back in at the end.

Other minor characters didn’t even really have unique characterizations, so we didn’t even care what happened to them. They didn’t add tension to the plot or help move the plot forward. So not only were the characters one dimensional and flat in Jurassic Park 2, the plot was therefore also weak.

Seeing these weaknesses and analyzing them has really made a difference as I’m working to develop my characters for my middle grade historical novel. So far, I’ve only written two chapters of my novel. Before I proceed any further, I’m working on giving the main characters each 3 distinctive characterizations that I plan to develop in the beginning, middle, and end of the book. I plan to use these characterizations to also affect the plot by moving it forward or throwing obstacles in the way. Plus, I plan on giving my minor characters each one distinctive quality and a distinctive voice so that my readers care about each one. I am also working to figure out how each of my minor characters will use their one unique quality to save the day or ruin everything. This will increase the tension and add dimension to the plot. I’m doing all this BEFORE I write the book so that I make sure to add these qualities in as I’m writing the story.

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