Sunday, April 13, 2014
Welcome back, Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz. Penny is a writer with a remarkable publishing history. She has written hundreds of articles as well as books for children and adults. These include a beautiful picture book, BOO’S BAD DAY and an interesting young adult short story collection, A PAST AND A FUTURE. Plus, she is an editor. Today, I’m so happy to have Penny as a guest editor
In your role as an editor, what are some specific elements in a manuscript that makes you say Ah-ha! this story works and what make a great book?
First off, I’d like to point out a many publishing houses are specializing in specific genres. For example, Tor publishes a lot of fantasy, while others look for different genres. Writers need to look closely at guidelines and publishers’ catalogs before submitting material for consideration. A list of children’s publishers such as the one at http://www.everywritersresource.com/childrensbookpublishers.html indicates even among these publishers, there are requests for certain types of literature such as: picture books, middle grade, young adult, Christian, Caribbean, Native American, historical, or non-fiction.
In my role as editor, I’ve seen all kinds of submissions from ones making me want to see more from the author to those making me wonder why a writer thought the story was worth submitting. This seems particularly true of children’s authors. For some reason, writers think crafting a story for children is easy. Unfortunately, just because the story is shorter, it isn’t necessarily easier to write.
The first things I look for in a book are good grammar, correct spelling, and proper sentence structure. Then, I’m interested in character development and characters for whom I can cheer. If the main characters are too perfect or have no redeeming qualities, I’m not going to care about them.
I want to read a strong hook at the beginning of the book. The author should jump right into the action, rather than give a detailed description of the main character’s hometown. Then, I’m looking for a strong plot with obstacles for the characters to overcome. Even in a short picture book, there should be at least three challenges for the main character. These challenges should help the character grow before the conclusion of the story.
The story should move forward smoothly with transitions from chapter to chapter urging the reader to turn the page. The book should have a logical conclusion arrived at through a series of plausible events.
Throughout the story, I expect tight writing. An author who relies on weak adjectives or adverbs instead of strong nouns and verbs needs to work harder on her craft. Good dialogue is important, and the author should try not to use clever words to express the word “said.” Said after dialogue is skimmed over by the reader. With the character’s name attached: Jane said, the reader knows who said the words but isn’t interrupted, as he would be reading: Jane admonished. If the author wants to avoid using said all the time, the other option would be action tags: Jane shook her finger at Paul.
Obviously, before submitting, authors need to know their genre and what works or doesn’t. Someone writing an historical novel should be aware of what happens in the era in which the story is set. You can’t just guess at what is appropriate. Research is imperative for the story to ring true. The tiniest mistake can take a reader out of the story. Something as simple as having someone look at a book of Shakespeare when the story’s setting is 1492 will cause the reader to put the book down. An author writing fantasy needs to create a believable world and be sure the rules of magic are consistent and have consequences. A wizard can’t go around throwing spells without preparation or training. A middle grade novel shouldn’t have the parents solving the problems of the young protagonists.
I’m not sure if there is ever an “ah ha” moment for me. When assessing a book for acquisition, I have to put aside my personal tastes (which tend to lean toward fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal) and look for a well-written book submitted by an author who took the time to read through the publisher’s guidelines and look at other books in the publisher’s catalog.
Nancy, thank you for hosting me on your blog. You asked a couple of great questions, and I hope I’ve been able to aid some of your readers in their quest to become published authors. More about me and my work can be found at http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com and at my blog http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/
Penny, you’ve given us a ton of great information. Thanks, Penny, for visiting on my blog. I wish you much success with your books and your work as an editor.
Alison Davis Lyne is visiting this blog again with more illustrations tips for writers. I don't illustrate, but I write picture books with the illustrator in mind.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Creative Kids Magazine. We are looking for the very best material by students (ages 8–16). Material may include cartoons, songs, stories between 500 and 1200 words, puzzles, photographs, artwork, games, editorials, poetry, and plays, as well as any other creative work that can fit in the pages of the magazine.
All work must be original. Upon acceptance of a work, we will request that a legal guardian sign our standard contract granting copyright permission. The contract will be mailed with notification of acceptance.
Work may be submitted by the author, parent, or teacher. Each piece must be labeled with the child’s name, birthday, grade, school, and home address, and must include a cover letter.
Submission guidelines at http://www.ckmagazine.org/submissions/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Youth Imagination is interested in creative fiction stories by teens as well as by adult authors. Make the stories awesome, inspiring and engaging. Our goal is to publish the best writing for and by teens. We particularly love stories exploring the issues, such as bullying, drugs, romance, school, parental issues, teacher issues, etc., as well as about the grit and character of teens and young adults.
We accept most genres of fiction, including modern, urban or classical fantasy, as well as sci-fi, slipstream, literary, action-adventure or suspense.
Submission guidelines at http://www.youthimagination.org/index.php/publish/submissions
Posted by Nancy Kelly Allen at 9:05 AM