Nancy's Books

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Proofreading Tips, continued.


Proofreading is not easy, but proofreading your own work is the most difficult of all. Here are more tips to uncover those sneaky mistakes we make. 
Read it aloud. By vocalizing each word, the ear picks up mistakes the eyes don’t catch. You can hear the words that stumble and those that have a rhythm and cadence. 

Print it on paper. A printout of the text also makes mistake glare. The same mistakes are difficult to notice on the computer screen.

Change the font. If you are using Courier font, try a different one. The words will be located differently on the line because some fonts are larger than others. The new format makes mistakes easier to catch.

 

Email the manuscript to an electronic tablet, such as a Kindle or iPad. I’ve caught more errors by reading a manuscript on my iPad because the layout is different on the page.

Read the text from the end to the beginning. This is a clever trick, especially for picture books. The meaning of the sentence is lost, so the brain focuses on spelling and grammar.

Use Word’s "Find" search to locate words you commonly misspell or use incorrectly, such as “which” and “that.” This is also a way to find words that are overused.

Circle the verbs and adjectives. Can you substitute with a better word? Many times you can. 


Count the number of words in the sentences. Paragraphs need a variety of sentence lengths and structures.  

Try these techniques. They’ll help you see your manuscript with fresh eyes.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
"The Children's Corner" accepts submissions of previously unpublished poetry from students in grades K-12. Seeks writing that looks for fresh ways to recreate scenes and feelings. Honest emotion and original imagery are more important to a poem than rhyming and big topics—such as life, moralizing, and other abstractions. Parental signature must accompany submissions.
Submission guidelines at https://winningwriters.com/resources/the-louisville-review-the-childrens-corner
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: 
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: Great News!! The book sellers want to feature our Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents title for Mother's Day. They want us to publish it a little later than we first planned so we have extended the deadline for submission which gives you more time to submit your stories and poems to us. If you have already submitted your work to this title, no need to submit it again. We have it and it will be considered for this title.

The moment a grandchild is born, grandparents are born too. And what an amazing moment that is — to see your child hold his or her child. Your grandchild! Finally, your children get to experience all of the things you experienced — both the good and the bad — while raising them! Everyone has a great story about the unconditional love and that special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren.


Submission guidelines at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Proofreading Tips, part 1







Let’s face it, catching mistakes in our writing is not easy. Our brains often read our own writing as we intended it to be written, not the way we wrote it. Critiquing the writing of others is much easier because we don’t have a mental concept of the text. We’re reading it for the first time, so if there is an error, it pops. Margaret Atwood says it this way: You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

Before sending a manuscript out to editors or agents, proofreading is a must. But if we can’t “see” all the mistakes, what can a writer do?

Of course, a professional proofreader is one option, but probably not an affordable one for many. So checking our own work is a good place to start. Here are some techniques I’ve tried with success.

Place the manuscript aside for a few days, a week, or even better, a month. Don’t look at it. Start another manuscript, so your mind will focus on the latest work. After a length of time, refocus on the finished manuscript. By that time your writing palate will be cleansed and your mind will catch the mistakes more easily.

Keep an error list. If you sometimes confuse the use of “which” and “that,” make a note so you can double check the manuscript.

Take your time proofreading. It’s a slow process, so don’t rush it. Read slowly—each word, each sentence.

In my next blog, I’ll provide more proofreading tips.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Skipping Stones Magazine. Publishing poems, stories, articles and photos from both youth and adults for readers ages 8 to 16. A resource in multicultural and global education, ecological and cultural diversity.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Skipping Stones Magazine. Our readers, ages 7 to 17, hail from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We want to make their reading of Skipping Stones an active experience, relevant to issues confronting them locally and globally. Writing and artwork by adults should challenge readers to think, learn, cooperate and create.

We encourage adults to submit creative informational stories rather than pure fiction. We prefer submissions focusing on your own culture or experiences. No adult poetry, please.
Submission guidelines at https://www.skippingstones.org/wp/adult/

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com


































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Let’s face it, catching mistakes in our writing is not easy. Our brains often read our own writing as we intended it to be written, not the way we wrote it. Critiquing the writing of others is much easier because we don’t have a mental concept of the text. We’re reading it for the first time, so if there is an error, it pops. Margaret Atwood says it this way: You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

 

Before sending a manuscript out to editors or agents, proofreading is a must. But if we can’t “see” all the mistakes, what can a writer do?



Of course, a professional proofreader is one option, but probably not an affordable one for many. So checking our own work is a good place to start. Here are some techniques I’ve tried with success.



Place the manuscript aside for a few days, weeks, or even better, a month. Don’t look at it. Start another manuscript, so your mind will focus on the latest work. After a length of time, refocus on the finished manuscript. By that time your writing palate will be cleansed and your mind will catch the mistakes more easily.



Keep an error list. If you sometimes confuse the use of “which” and “that,” make a note so you can double check the manuscript.



Take your time proofreading. It’s a slow process, so don’t rush it. Read slowly—each word, each sentence.



In my next blog, I’ll provide more proofreading tips.



Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Skipping Stones Magazine. Publishing poems, stories, articles and photos from both youth and adults for readers ages 8 to 16. A resource in multicultural and global education, ecological and cultural diversity.


Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Skipping Stones Magazine. Our readers, ages 7 to 17, hail from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We want to make their reading of Skipping Stones an active experience, relevant to issues confronting them locally and globally. Writing and artwork by adults should challenge readers to think, learn, cooperate and create.

We encourage adults to submit creative informational stories rather than pure fiction. We prefer submissions focusing on your own culture or experiences. No adult poetry, please.

Submission guidelines at https://www.skippingstones.org/wp/adult/

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Revision and Proofreading Tips for Chapter, MG, and YA Manuscripts



You’ve finished writing your manuscript, down to the last word. Now is the time to begin anew with an eye toward what works in the story and what is junk filler. Revision means to “see again” and the purpose is to improve the writing, whether it’s small corrections or sweeping changes. Here are six tips to consider:
1.      What happens in Chapter One?
Does the story open with a dream or a character staring out the windows silently reminiscing? If so, no action is happening. We need to establish a setting and offer background information, but that can come later. Start with action. This is the point where we can grab the reader’s attention, so start with the Ferris wheel stopping with the character sitting on the top of the world and no idea how to get down, or the announcement of something the character never expected and did not want, or… you get the idea. There’s time later in the manuscript to weave in background information. 

How does the character react to sitting on top of the Ferris wheel? The reader will learn about the character through thoughts, words, and actions.  
2.      Info-dumping. Providing too much background story of the character and his/her world weighs down the story, slows the pacing, and the reader loses interest. Keep the story exciting. Write action scenes with background information added in bits and pieces, rather than large amounts at once. 
3.      Show, Don’t Tell. Sometimes it difficult to know if I’m showing or telling. Telling is fine if the scene needs the action to move quickly. But showing is used most often in storytelling. Watch for the “feel.” If you write how the character is feeling, the reader doesn’t experience the information through action or context clues.  
4.      Create distinctive voices for each character. If characters are not distinguishable, they don’t stand out. Their physical features, mannerisms, verbal speech patterns, and attitudes help readers know the characters’ individual traits and goals, giving a realistic lift to the story.  
5.      Chapter endings. Leave each chapter with something that makes the reader want to continue reading. Cliffhangers have an urgency that keeps us turning the pages. A question or introducing a new problem has the same effect. 
6.      If facts are woven into the storyline, check for accuracy. Use reputable sources, first-person accounts, and a variety of written sources. 
In my next blog, I’ll give tips on finding mistakes in a completed manuscript.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Root & Star 
·         is wise and wild, strange and sweet.
·         cultivates happy, healthy, peaceful, creative children.
  • is dedicated to creating an artful, quality, ad-free magazine that inspires the poetry of childhood.
  • takes children offline into the pleasure of pages they can touch, turn, share, and read in the grass.
Root & Star magazine strives to bring quality art and literature to children in the ephemeral magazine form. It hopes to inspire and be inspired by the whole child – the wise, the wild, the strange, and the sweet. It is a place for creative people to play and to share the complexities of their work and spirit with children.

Submission guidelines at https://rootandstar.com/pages/submit
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com




Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Critique Group Makes Writing Sweeter

I recently had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop to a fantastic class of women who are writing for children. The final segment involved matching the writers with critique partners, who write for the same age group. Although writing is a solitary endeavor, feedback from fellow writers is essential to a writer’s growth. 
The purpose of a critique is to offer a writer an opinion of what works and what can be improved upon—to raise the writing to a higher level. Suggestions are beneficial because the writer can see the story from different perspectives and incorporate new ideas into the plot. 

An effective by-product of critiquing is the act of reading and analyzing the work of fellow writers. Providing feedback to others helps a writer grow. The mental exercise kindles the brain. Everyone benefits—a win-win. 

For a critique to succeed, every member must benefit by improving individual manuscripts as well as their overall writing techniques. Some will see improvement faster than others, but all will grow as writers. 

Synergy is the cooperation of two or more writers to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. That’s the beauty of a critique group. When this newly formed group practiced critiquing, they offered ideas on improvement. Many of the writers receiving the suggestions had Ah-ha! moments brought about by the ideas of others. Input from other writers created a new alternative for the journey of the character. These ideas help writers see their work with a new perspective. Think of peanut butter and chocolate. Both ingredients are delish, but put them together, mmmmmmmmm—a remarkable combination results that’s an improvement over the individual flavors.

If you don’t have a critique group, form one. My critique groups are on-line. I’ve had one critique partner for years. We’ve helped each other grow as writers, cheered for the good times, commiserated during the down times, but through it all, we’ve garnered contracts by helping each other. My other critique group is new, but already, they’ve taken my words and added a sparkle and a sheen, and I hope I’ve touched their words with a glimmer and a glow. So, become the chocolate to someone’s peanut butter. Your literary life will be sweeter.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Balloons Literary Journal. Your submission should include a cover letter with your brief bio note (be concise, precise and unique!). If the author is a school child, we'd love to know his/her age too. Please also note the following submission instructions for the different categories:

Poetry: 3-5 pieces. Any style that you find appropriate (feel free to surprise us!). Submit them in a single WORD doc as attachment.
Fiction: 1 piece. No more than 2000 words. Proofread, Font 12, common Font Types. Submit it in a WORD doc as attachment.
Artwork: 3-5 pieces. We take the common file types like JPG and GIF (Good resolution please!).

You may of course send in more than one category of work. But please do not send in materials of the same category again before you receive our final decision of your initial submission.

Submission guidelines at http://www.authorspublish.com/balloons-lit-journal-blj-accepting-submissions/
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. 
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Does the character change/grow/learn something by the end of the last chapter? The main conflict gets resolved by the end of the book. In some books, characters may change the way s/he looks at the world. In others, a character may realize that s/he was doing the right thing all along. That realization is the result of the growth of character. Either way, the character should experience growth.

Sentence structure is as important as word choice. In revision, I reread the entire manuscript looking at nothing but sentence structure. My goal is to vary the structure to help create rhythmic prose. Long, short, and mid-size sentences keep the writing lively. Too many subject-verb sentences craft bland writing, and readers notice with a yawn. Another option is to vary sentence openings: Susie peeped out the window. As the rain pinged the glass, Susie peeked out the window.  

Check the dialog. I read each piece of dialog and question whether is sound appropriate for the character’s age and situation. As I read it aloud, I listen to the words and tone. My goal is to capture the voice of each character. By reading aloud, my brain hears mistakes that my eyes overlook if reading silently. It’s also easier to catch the flow and rhythm of the words. Try it. 

Grammar, punctuations, and manuscript format are my final checks. Professional looking manuscripts are more likely to get read than those with simple, overlooked mistakes.

Revision is our chance to make manuscripts shine. I wish you sparkle and glimmer in your literary output.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
DIG Magazine is a world history publication that targets children aged 9 to 14. They’re accepting queries for feature articles, supplemental nonfiction, and fiction. Writers can pitch anything from plays to biographies. 


Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.
Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chapter Book Revision, cont’d

Set the tone of the book. Is it serious or humorous? Sad or happy? The tone is the author’s attitude, or the narrator’s. The mood of the story is the emotion the reader feels. Both are important and need to be set early in the first chapter. Setting the tone early provides glimpses into what the reader can expect in the rest of the story. In my chapter book, THE RIDDLERS, mystery and a touch of humor set the tone.

Does the writing zing? Word choice is crucial to voice, and voice is crucial to writing that sparks imagination. Voice is the music of language that spurs on the story and captures the reader’s interest. Zing can be small tingles or mighty zaps. A variety of unexpected descriptions and snappy dialog create surprises for the reader. When reading a sentence, if the reader can predict the finish (hungry as a bear/white as snow) the writing is clichéd with no zap, not even a tingle.

Have I chosen the best word, not merely a good word? Which of the following offers more description: sat/plopped down. Both work, but “plopped down” provides more detail and gives the reader more insight. Choosing the best word doesn’t mean staying in constant contact with a thesaurus; instead, it means using the best word to evoke emotion. Readers want to step into the world writers create and experience the feelings/needs/desires of the characters. One technique to induce that sentiment/reaction is to use strong verbs and show the action. Betty was scared tells how the character felt. Betty’s hand trembled showed her emotion in action. The second example also provides a mental visual. The first does not. Visual images help a reader connect to the action and experience the character’s feelings.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
FUN FOR KIDZ. We are looking for lively writing that involves an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. The Ideal length of a FUN FOR KIDZ nonfiction piece is up to 300-325 words for a one-page magazine article or up to 600-650 words for a two-page magazine article. Articles that are accompanied by strong high-resolution photos are far more likely to be accepted than those requiring illustration.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Chapter Book Revision, continued

In my revision, I’ve reviewed the setting and made sure I let the reader know where the story is happening. The action takes place in a park, in present day, for the duration of three days. The setting provides the backdrop for the action, and that allows me to use sensory language to evoke vivid sights, aromas, and slimy tactile sensations, in this case—snot! Snot works for the chapter book age group.


The park setting is the backdrop for the conflict, too, from sneaky bullies inside buildings, to finding hidden cave treasures on a hillside,  to a deep diving escape in the swimming pool. Nights can be dark with only firelight to see. Sunny days can offer an environment for soundless steps on a mossy bank, perfect for sneaking up on wild goats. I’ve used setting to enhance the conflict and raise the tension. The thesaurus has come in handy in choosing descriptive words and phrases to create the mood of the story. In revising, I’ve tweaked the scenes to make the setting a part of the story narrative, rather than merely describing it, to keep the reader immersed in the fictional world.  

Conflict/problem builds reader interest. I introduced part of the conflict in the first chapter, hinted about another conflict in the second chapter, and fully introduced the other conflict in the third chapter. The goal of the main character is to attend a weather camp weekend at the park, but because he has a problem with a neighbor, he is grounded (the initial conflict). The conflict arises in the first chapter and gives the story direction.

 In my next blog, I’ll discuss more elements of revision.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

FrostFire Worlds is intended for younger readers, from ages 8-17 and up. Genre: Science fiction and fantasy short stories, poems, art, articles, reviews, and interviews. Preferred are adventure stories, space opera, and magic opera [like space opera, but fantasy]. Also preferred are stories that take place on other worlds. Stories must have the following: characters the reader cares about, plots and subplots, and settings that draw the reader into them.
Submission guidelines athttp://albanlake.com/guidelines-frostfire/ 

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

Leave a message or check out my blog at www.nancykellyallen.com