Saturday, November 22, 2008

Writing Groups

Five and a half years ago I joined a writers' group. I wasn't sure I really wanted to at the time, but I decided to give it a try. Up until that point, I'd never shared my works-in-progress. My adult daughter used to read and give feedback on the "finished" manuscript. But the earliest drafts of my stories are too fragile to survive criticism. I still believe this. I have to turn off my "inner editor" when I'm writing. Because the story is still evolving, too much scrutiny will cause it to shrivel and die. It will be many months before I feel I can share it. And this is where the writers' group comes in.

We meet monthly, except during the summer. We celebrate our successes and commiserate over our rejections. We share any calls for submission we've come across. We also pass around any good books we've read and these too get discussed. Anyone who wants to read from a work-in-progress is welcome to. Usually, at each meeting, one or two of us will. The criticism is always constructive; we're there to encourage each other.

I value the insight I've gained from these other writers and, for the most part, I incorporate the changes they suggest. Their support has become invaluable to me. I've found that sharing the roller coaster ride that is the writing life with a group of likewise-involved people is good for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Writing Tags

Trouble at Turtle Narrows went to the printer last week. Just before that happened the publisher asked for my suggestions for the tag--the one or two lines that appear on the back cover, meant to attract a reader's immediate interest.

I thought writing a one-page synopsis was hard. Try capturing the essence of a story in one line! Because I write children's novels the tag had to be catchy enough to grab the attention of a young reader. I came up with: Will Joel save his family's home? Will he prove his father's innocence? Two lines, but only 12 words.

My publisher also asks me to write the cover blurbs for my books. I appreciate that. It gives me, the person closest to the material, the opportunity to sell the story in a few pithy sentences. For Trouble at Turtle Narrows I was asked for a short blurb (about 75 words) and a very short one (35 words). As well as being used on the book's back cover, these could be used in the publisher's catalogue and as part of the pitch for the sales and marketing team. Now I'm working on some more "pithy sentences" to use in a press release.

Write on.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book Covers

Yesterday I received the rough drawing for the cover of my new book, Trouble at Turtle Narrows. The artist's first drawing is something I always look forward to, but with a bit of trepidation.

The covers of my children's novels have always shown the main characters (s) in a brief scene from the story. How can I expect an artist to draw these characters, who until now have existed only in my imagination? That's a lot to ask. I hope my characters will come alive for the child who reads the story. But have I managed to describe them well enough that the artist can see them too?

The cover illustration is the first thing a young reader sees when he picks up the book. He may not even look inside, if he's not attracted by the picture on the front. I've heard writers lament that the artist gave away the ending by choosing to portray a particular scene on the cover. Others have complained that the scene never even happened the way it was shown.

This particular cover has been through three different versions. The artist who was working on the first two rounds left the company (amicably) for a change in career. We were down to the wire; publication dates were looming.

The final artist filled in at the last minute and I think she's done a terrific job. I love her placement of the three characters, approve of their clothing, even their hair. With this drawing she's captured a moment of high anxiety for the kids in the story. This cover is everything I hoped it would be.

Till next time.