Monthly Archives: January 2010

Revision Resources

As I prepare to revise “Sophie and the Medallion of Time”, I have gathered the following online resources to help me in the process. This variety of methods really runs the gamut. You may find one tedious that another writer swears by. But I have enjoyed seeing all the different revision methods, from published authors, agents, other aspiring writers, and how-to sites.

*The QueryTracker blog’s 11-part roadmap to jumpstart your editing, including setting goals, line-editing, beta-readers and more.

*More from the QueryTracker blog:  9 Steps to Plot (or Revise) Your Novel. This helped me make sure I had started my WIP in the right place.

*Suite101’s questions to help you see if your plot has enough conflict and tension before finer-tuning.

*eHow’s How to edit a novel manuscript in 7 steps.

*Author Alex Sokoloff, guest blogging on the Blood Red Pencil, gives her top ten things she knows about editing, including joining a critique group, reading the entire manuscript out loud, and borrowing the dramatic structure from films.

*Editorial consultant Holt gives her list of the mistakes writers don’t see, including using crutch words or phrases, and phony dialogue.

*Author Laurie Halse Anderson maps out each chapter and every scene to track the arc of all the major characters.

*Agent Sara Crowe discusses character development by making a character’s first impression work for you.

*Agent Nathan Bransford offers a long checklist to make sure your manuscript hits all the important points, such as “Is your voice consistent?” and “Is the pacing correct for your genre?”

*Shari Green’s Fix-it Fridays offered revision tips from authors such as Sara Zarr, D.L. Garfinkle, Kelly Parra and Maggie Stiefvater.

*Mystery writer Elizabeth S. Craig tells us things to look for after finishing a draft, like a consistent voice, pacing and linear plot.

*More help from Elizabeth S. Craig. This time Signs Something isn’t Working in your first draft, like too much or too little conflict, or an unlikable protagonist.


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Young Reader Update

I just had an interesting conversation with my son’s teacher.  He is no longer at the reading level equivalent to the middle of second grade.  He is now reading at a fourth grade level.  4th grade!

So, not only does he get to move up to the purple bins tomorrow (yeah, more Junie B.!), but he’ll blow through those purple bins in no time, because he is already ahead of that level.

My husband and I, both big readers, are so proud of him and his reading explosion.

Yesterday I helped in his classroom and one boy was talking about reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and another was talking about being up to the third Harry Potter.  I guess my little guy will be joining them as soon as he gets interested in Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. 

Hmm.  Not sure how I feel about that.  I am a fan of the Harry Potter series.  I enjoyed those books immensely.  But I’m a grown up.  And just because he can read them, doesn’t mean he should.

So there’s my answer.  He is only 6.  He has plenty of time to discover the books his dad and I and his older cousins have enjoyed these past few years.  And there will be more great books for him to enjoy when he’s 8 and 10 and 15.

As a writer, and a follower of this industry, I know he’ll never be without a book.  And as his mother, I’m sure he’ll never want to be without one.

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Love for Books

My new reader has finally moved on from Dr. Seuss and Ricky Ricotta.  He started the school year at a reading level equivalent to the average first grader five months into the year.  He is now reading at a level somewhere around the middle of second grade.  Okay, yes, I’m a proud parent.  After all, I’m a reader.  I love to read!  I could not survive without books to read.

His current level includes the Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and the Henry and Mudge books by Cynthia Rylant.  A friend of mine tried to interest him in Henry and Mudge in October and he refused to even look at the cover.  But once he got to choose his own books from the orange bins (which correspond to his current reading level), he started bringing home Henry and Mudge.  And, of course, he loves them!

At the same time, he has become interested in the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park.  They are in the next reading level (purple), but he brought one home from the library anyway.  I had heard the controversy, but hadn’t yet formed an opinion.  I had no idea my first-grade son would like a book narrated by a kindergarten girl (I mean, GIRL).

Well, I get why some parents, teachers and librarians have a problem with Junie B.  She does not narrate in grammatically correct sentences.  She hollers (I mean, HOLLERS) a lot.  She gets in a lot of trouble.  The kind of trouble I hoped my son would never even think of. 

But she sure has a way with words.  A way that keeps my six-year-old reading past his bedtime.  A way that gets him reading on car trips.  A way that keeps him coming back for more.

Reading makes my son happy, which makes me happy.  And as our new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Katherine Paterson, says, “Read for your life”.

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New year…

New year, new work, new goals.

I thought I would take this opportunity to update you, my adoring and avid public.

The Transparents – I am considering rewriting this for YA.  I have realized that there is too much internal dialogue and thought process, and not enough action, for MG.  I could still change my mind and make this work as MG, which would be lots of fun.

The Tzohar Legacy – I have editing notes to apply when I have time.

Kwizera Means Hope – I received some wonderful feedback from two editors late last year, which has led to much soul-searching.  I am in the process of rethinking the plot in preparation for rewriting the manuscript.  The story of Rwanda’s people rebuilding their lives after the genocide deserves to be told, and it is my responsibility to find the right way to do that.

Sophie and the Medallion of Time – I finished the first draft just before the start of the new year. It is sitting and steeping to allow me to get some distance from it before I revise.

I have several blog posts in the works, as well.  I have gathered some online resources for revising and synopsis-writing that I will share in the next few weeks.  I plan to update you on my older son’s journey to becoming a proficient reader.  I still have plenty to share about my time in Rwanda, and I will eventually share some of my experiences in France, in preparation to query Sophie.

Onward and upward.  Join me by following your dream in 2010 (and posting about your journey in the comments section).

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Kwizera Inspirations: Landmine

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.

We went out to the living room and watched Teddy run to the door.  How odd.  Teddy usually walked with a long, ambling stride.

He burst through the door.  “There’s been a land mine accident near a school in Kigogo!”

My heart stopped.  My sisters go to school in Kigogo.

“Oh my goodness,” Louise said, squeezing nearly white lips between her fingers.

“Two children were hurt,” he said.

I took a few steps back.  “No, no, no.”  Bile rose in my throat.

Such a landmine accident occurred in Byumba Prefecture in my second month there.  Some villagers found a landmine in a field, built a pyramid of stones around it as they had been taught, and informed their local chief.  The local chief reported the news to the next person up the chain, and so on, until the news reached the regional government in Byumba. 

In the meantime, two little boys found the pyramid of stones and played with its deadly contents.  The six-year-old needed surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen.  I visited him in our trauma hospital, his father at his bedside.  The look in the boy’s eyes haunts me to this day.

The eight-year-old had to have his leg amputated and I watched part of that surgery.  Our very able, very calm-under-pressure trauma doctor and co-Team Leader, Dr. Noli, performed the surgery surrounded by nurses and visitors from a foundation located on the Isle of Jersey.  They had donated a Land Rover to us and spent a few days visiting our program.  I got to play tour guide.

Side note:  The photo of me in the sidebar was taken at a Byumba orphanage by the English photographer who accompanied the head of the foundation.  Too bad it was taken with my camera and not his.

Dr. Noli is from Kisangani in what used to be called Zaire.  In fact, the war that caused the country’s name to change to Democratic Republic of the Congo occurred while Dr. Noli and I worked together in Rwanda.  He probably deserves a posting of his own, so you may read more about him later.

The driver who inspired the character of Teddy may have to get his own posting, too.  You will just have to keep checking this site for more.

The landmine incident horrified and angered me.  The Rwandans had done exactly what they were supposed to do, yet two little boys got hurt anyway.  I suppose it didn’t occur to anyone to guard the pyramid.  And why was the landmine there, in the middle of a field in a rural area of a developing country?  It was leftover from the war that preceded the genocide.

Yet another reason I have to get this manuscript right, so it can see the light of day, so it can inform and inspire America’s youth. 

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