Writing

Fast Drafting

How many words do you write each day…500, 1000, 2000 or more? I love the thrill of watching a first draft come to life. The more I learn about the craft of writing, the harder it is to stare at a blank page and figure out what to write…the rules all scream so loud, they muffle my creative side. There’s plenty of time for editing, but if I can’t lock my internal editor away for a bit, I’ll never have a first draft to whip into shape. That’s why I love fast drafting so much. 

Here are some fast drafting tips:

  • Do as much pre-planning as you can before you start your novel—which can include plotting, characters sketches, schedules, maps, research, etc.
  • Leave notes for yourself every time you leave your computer—some exciting things that should happen soon, and an idea of where to start when you come back. You can even type the first sentence or two in the next chapter (although you might get sucked in and finish writing it before you leave).
  • Create a block of uninterrupted writing time. An hour is great, but if that doesn’t work for you, a half hour, twenty minutes, even ten minutes several times a day can help you reach your goal.

                  * Go to the bathroom, grab water or your favorite drink, then turn off                         the phone and put a do not disturb sign on your door if you can. Set                         a timer and write, write, write!

                  * Don’t go back and revise your novel—this is a fast draft and your job                       is to keep going. You can put notes to yourself inside the text, plus                           keep a notebook of things that pop up that you need to know, like                             new character traits, more in depth setting info, etc.

                * If you think of something you need to do that isn’t related to your                             novel, quickly jot it down so you won’t forget, then get back to your                           novel ASAP. It isn’t going to write itself.

               * See if anyone wants to do a Word War with you. My favorite kind is                          when you share your current word count, start at the same time, and                        write, write, write! At the end of that period, you check in with                                  everyone and share your word counts. This also can work if you all                            promise to time yourselves for a set amount during the day and then                        share the results. You can even have a day long Word War! Plus, you                        can offer a prize to the winner—it could be a critique of a certain                                number of pages, their name as a character in your book, or anything                      you all agree on.  

If you’d like some extra motivation to write your novel ASAP, it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Don’t worry, it’s not too late to prep for it. Years ago, I had just finished revising a middle grade manuscript and was brainstorming the synopsis when I suddenly had a spark of an idea for another novel. The ideas started flying faster and faster, so I rushed to my computer to jot them down. It was the 7th of November, and I had already missed a week of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t think it would be possible to complete the challenge, but I figured the extra motivation would help me write faster than I had in the past. After jotting down some plot ideas and character sketches, I started typing, typing, typing…and couldn’t believe that I had completed my first draft (and more than the 50,000 words to win the NaNoWriMo challenge). Wahoo! It was such an amazing feeling.

Teachers and children who love to write: there’s a fun and encouraging NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program that kids can do on their own or as part of a class project.

Even though many middle grade novels are less than 50,000 words, I use the incentive to help flesh out my story and overcome weaknesses. Yes, a lot of it gets cut…but it’s still an incredibly helpful part of my process. Here are some ways you can do it for your novel:

  • Think about the area you often lack in your drafts. I’m usually dialogue heavy, but scarce with setting. So during NaNoWriMo, I make sure I zoom in closer to anything my character sees, hears, smells, etc. A lot of it gets cut during revisions, but some gems pop up that I probably wouldn’t have without this added challenge to myself.
  • I allow backstory to flow into my fast draft, which helps me get to know my characters even better. I start an orphan file to put in everything I delete during revisions, but if I have lots of great back story, it deserves a file of its own, in case bits of it could be tweaked and worked back into my novel.
  • If you reach the end of your novel but are a bit short of 50,000 words, think about what you’ve written and what might be missing from your manuscript—then write any scenes that come to mind. Not happy with the ending? Then write an alternate ending. And beginnings are so hard to nail, especially in early drafts. You can add some brilliant new beginning fast drafts, too.

I’d love to know what does and doesn’t work for you when fast drafting a novel.  

Whatever methods you use to fast draft, don’t forget to have fun. Writing a new novel is exciting, and it’s incredible what gems you can create when you stifle your internal editor. Don’t strive for perfection or try to use all your amazing editing tools. That will only tongue-tie your mind. Let the words flow—then you can switch gears, dig in deep, and start editing. Happy writing!

Coming Soon– STEM Tuesday!!!

in NOVEMBER


Announcing  a brand new addition to  the Mixed Up Files Blog:

STEM Tuesday!!

 

 

What is STEM ?

STEM covers the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

STEM Tuesday is a brand new addition to the Mixed Up Files blog here to shine the light on books about this amazing and critical topic. With all that is going on in the news lately, it is more important than ever to introduce young readers to the FUN and exciting STEM books that are out there.

STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE young and old readers alike.

<a href="http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/school">School vector created by Freepik</a>

Image by Freepik.com

 

They encourage students to ask questions, have discussions, engage in problem-solving, and interact across boundaries of knowledge. They invite readers to notice the science all around them!

If you’ve always wondered where to find out about the great new middle grade  titles in STEM , look no further.  You have FOUND your spot!

JOIN US ON NOVEMBER 7TH AS WE KICK OFF

OUR FIRST EVER

STEM Tuesday! 

 

What is STEM Tuesday? 

EVERY MONTH  we will be highlighting middle grade books with a particular topic in STEM

EACH WEEK we will be delving into the ways these books can be used in the classroom, offering resources for how to make connections between these STEM books and other topics,  making real-life connections to these STEM books that will encourage discussions and provide valuable resources, and finally we will be offering an interview with a real-life STEM author plus a giveaway of their book!

We have an amazing team of middle grade STEM authors and enthusiasts to bring the excitement of this topic alive.

Let me introduce you to the weekly topics and the fabulous STEM Tuesday Team:

Week 1:  STEM Book List of the Month

This week will highlight a list of 8-10 titles of STEM middle grade books that fit our theme of the month. They will all have links and a bit of information to intrigue you into learning more about them.

This week’s team is:

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

 

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the 2017 Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She loves sharing her excitement about nonfiction with readers and fellow writers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

 

Week 2: STEM Tuesday In the Classroom

This week’s post will highlight a few of the books on week 1’s list and give teachers/librarians specific activities for using these books in the classroom. Designed for hands -on activities, discussions, engaging inquiry and MORE!

This week’s team is:

When Michelle Houts was eight years old, all she wanted was a chemistry set. She got it, and, sadly, she doesn’t remember doing a whole lot with it. What happened to her enthusiasm and confidence? Years later, writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers, she realized that girls identify as “science-y” (or not) at an early age. Her most recent books feature ground-breaking women and curious young scientists. Find out more about author and speaker Michelle Houts at www.michellehouts.com

 

 

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano has been paid to stay overnight at a science center and has enjoyed her share of after-hours staff parties at museums, where she and her husband once won a prize for a costume modelled after the Boston Museum of Science’s Van der Graaf generator exhibit. Carolyn’s work is all about creating vivid science and engineering learning experiences—interactive exhibits, innovative teacher professional development programs, national curricula, and fresh, accessible, and sometimes quirky science and STEM books for kids. She splits her career between STEM educational consulting and writing kids’ STEM and science books. Find her at http://carolyndecristofano.com and on her Facebook author page, AuthorCarolynD.

 

WEEK 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts & Resources

An out-of-the-box way to use these STEM books in the classroom, library, or at home. Could be an ELA-Science type connection AND/OR a Real-World connection, or even genres of STEM books, how to write, them… whatever. Like the scientists many of us are, this week may be unexpected, but will always be EXCITING!  

This week’s team:

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.wordpress.com. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. The weirder, the wackier, the better. An award-winning educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. She has a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in environmental education and has written a dozen nonfiction books including How Rude! Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners (Scholastic) and her upcoming Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill(Bloomsbury). Inquiry is her life. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

 

WEEK 4: STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

This week will highlight one middle-grade STEM book author. You will get a peek inside the mind of an actual STEM author and learn how and why they wrote their book. Be sure to comment this week because you will be entered to win an autographed copy of the book!

 

This week’s team:

Mary Kay Carson is the author of more than fifty books for kids and teachers about space, weather, nature, and other science and history topics. She has six titles in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s esteemed Scientists in the Field series, including Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard and Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt. Learn more at: www.marykaycarson.com.

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has an MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens. She loves to explore the intersection of art and science in her work. More information at www.amberjkeyser.com. Connect with Amber on Twitter @amberjkeyser.

 

And then there’s me, Jennifer Swanson, the creator & administrator of STEM Tuesdays:

Science Rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for children. A self-professed science geek, Jennifer started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge) which was named an NSTA Best STEM book of 2017 and an NSTA Outstanding Trade Book 2017Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and a Nerdy Book Club award. Her book, Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat, from 21st Century Books/ Lerner received a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can visit Jennifer at her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.

So join us back here on November 7th for the FIRST STEM TUESDAY ever!

Stop by and “Get your STEM on”!!

#STEMROCKS!

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door

When Your Publisher Closes Their Door you stand there and stare at it.

After the shock wears off, you reach for the handle. Only there’s one problem; it’s locked. Worse? You don’t have the key.

If you’re like me, you might collapse against that door in defeat. You may even cry for a bit.

But then…

But then you realize there’s got to be another way. You look around. There’s three other walls, each with a window. There’s also a ceiling and the floor you’re standing on, of course. You’re not Spiderman so scaling walls isn’t your thing. You’re not Rumpelstiltskin, so stomping your way through the floor isn’t an option (although, after that tantrum you threw, you’re pretty sure you’d be strong enough to do it if you didn’t fracture your bones first). You’re not without tools – you’re equipped with a pencil, a pad of paper and your trusted companion.

No, not your dog.

Your laptop.

Sunlight pours in through the windows and you begin to realize things aren’t as gloomy as you once thought.

You glance out each window.

One has a literary agent.

The other an editor.

The third window has a glare. You don’t know what’s behind it but you’re convinced it’s a monster.

You stand up, brush yourself off and go to the window with the agent. She smiles. You write something on your pad of paper and press it against the window. The agent holds up a note asking you to open the window. You can’t believe it! An open window! You have a nice conversation with this agent and you realize how much you like her. She’d be a great champion for your work. Unfortunately, she decides she’s not the best person to represent this project.

You’re crushed.

But, once she steps away, you see there are other agents. They also tell you to leave the window open. For your next project.

So you glance at the editor and head in her direction. Before you even reach her window, she puts up a note. Even from this distance you see what it says. It’s an offer. She wants to publish your book. You stop in your tracks. An offer!

The editor asks you to open the window. And so you do. She hands you the contract and you start to review it.  You glance back at the closed door behind you and your heart sinks. You’ve been down this path before. Your editor was great. REALLY great. But the expertise of a literary agent to help you with your contracts (amongst other things) would have been worth her weight in gold. You tell the editor how grateful you are and return to the agent. Unfortunately, she sticks with her decision. So you kindly reject the editor’s generous offer (but not without a huge knot in your stomach and sweaty palms because you question if you’re making a mistake). She tells you to keep the window open and so you do.

But for this book, you’re out of options. Sure, you could shelve it and bring it back out later but you have readers and they’re waiting for this final story in the series. And so you sit in the center of the room, too depressed to write. Heck, you’re too depressed to even talk to your friends.

You turn off social media.

You close the blinds.

You can’t deal with it anymore.

You’re shutting down.

In fact, you’re not even sure if you want to write anymore. The rejection is too hard. The obstacles too cumbersome.

And even as you write this, the pain is still real and raw and you start crying all over again.

But then something stirs in you. Maybe it’s hunger. It’s been a while since you’ve eaten anything. But you feel something else. Something that feels like determination. Either way, you get up. Your legs are wobbly but you gain your footing quickly. You decide you want to go to that window with the glare.

It could be something fantastic on the other side.

Or it could be a monster.

You could find success waiting for you.

Or you could get gobbled up.

Either way, you win.

You’ve still got your pen and paper. If it’s a monster, you can simply write your way out of the belly of the beast.

When you finally reach the window you see a familiar face. It’s one of your friends! She knocks on the glass and waves. You open the window. She urges you to join her. You’re intimidated and overwhelmed but you take her hand and climb out. She promises to show you the ropes – it’s a steep learning curve, but you can do it. And so you embrace your new journey of self-publishing. You do it right though. You hire editors, cover designers, formatters, and submit your book for review.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Because you write more books. And those windows are still open. The editors and agents are waiting. And you definitely want to work with them again.

The point is, even though things got rough, you didn’t give up. You explored your options. And you made the choice that was right for you. And only YOU get to decide how to measure your success.

And just so you know you’re not alone, you do some research and realize there are other children’s authors who succeeded in the face of failure:

Kate DiCamillo faced 473 rejections before finally obtaining a publishing contract.

The story of JK Rowling’s rejections is well known but even she continued to face rejection after the success of Harry Potter.

Madeleine L’engle, Rudyard Kipling, Anne Frank, and Beatrix Potter all faced rejection.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was a self-published serial before being acquired by Feiwel and Friends. It went on to win prestigious awards.

The Secret Zoo is another self-published middle-grade novel that was later acquired by a publisher. School Library Journal called it a “…fast paced mix of mystery and fantasy…”

 

Author Daniel Kenney is making a living wage with his self published endeavors in middle-grade books.

For the older crowd in children’s literature there’s even more success stories.

Authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles self-published their book. They met success in schools and quickly went on to sign with a traditional publisher.

Christopher Paolini self published Eragon before it was picked up by Knopf books.

Tiger’s Curse was self-published by Colleen Houck, who is now a NYTimes bestselling author.

Amanda Hocking is another successful self published author who sold over nine million copies of her books before signing with St. Martin’s Press.

And this recent article in PW featuring author Intasar Khanani’s book deal reveals the power of great writing, including that of self-published authors.

For the picture book crowd, there’s been success as well.

There’s Pete the Cat 

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

And let’s not forget about How to Talk to Girls .

So when that door closes in your face, remember success comes in many forms and only you can decide which window you want to climb through.

 

Amie Borst is the author of the Scarily Ever Laughter series; Cinderskella, Little Dead Riding Hood, and Snow Fright. She’s a champion of all authors, traditional, indie and everything in between. Because as they sing in High School Musical, We’re All in This Together.  You can find her on her website www.amieborst.com