Nancy's Books

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Picture Books: Nonfiction Revision

Facts are the bones of nonfiction. Unlike fiction, characters and plot don’t take center stage. Since facts make up the skeleton, the body of the story comes to life through an attention-grabbing, sparkling, and fresh presentation. When the revised draft is finished and polished, test out the following tips to make the story zing.

Does the story reflect the age of the audience?

Is the language—word choice and sentence structure—appropriate for the audience? Are technical terms explained so the reader can understand?

Is the subject suitable for the audience?

Do the facts and narrative provide the reader with a real understanding of the subject?

Does the manuscript flow from easy concepts to more complex?

Are the text and illustrations/photos/charts/visuals integrated?

Have you double-and triple-checked the facts for accuracy?

Is the material arranged in a logical manner?

When possible, have an authority in the field check the manuscript for accuracy.

Good writing springs from rewriting. Whether we love or hate revision, it’s the path to publication.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
The First Line, P.O. Box 250382, Plano, TX 75025-0382.
P(972)824-0646. Email: Website: Robin LaBounty, Manuscript
Coordinator. "The purpose of The First Line is to jump start
the imagination-to help writers break through the block that
is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that
stem from a common first line; it also provides a forum for
discussing favorite first lines in literature. The First
Line is an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance
for readers to see how many different directions we can take
when we start from the same place." 95% freelance. Welcomes
new writers. Circ. [2000]. Quarterly. Pays on publication.
Publishes ms approx. 1 month after acceptance. Buys all
rights for 2 years only.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Picture Books: Nonfiction/Call for submissions

Many picture books focus on information. Nonfiction text should not sound like a textbook. Instead, mix and stir and serve the information in an exciting, fresh manner.

Ear appeal is vital to a picture book. These books are designed to be read aloud. Before mailing a manuscript to an editor, test drive the story by reading it aloud. Your ears will pick up on the parts that don’t flow easily. Reading silently isn’t as effective.

Aim for lyrical, rhythmic prose to add a cadence to the text and to give an overall tempo to the piece. Listeners will cling to every word when the story has a musical quality. Carefully consider each word to maximize the rhythm, descriptive details, and dialog.

Editors want books that delight the reader/listener so a satisfying ending is critical to a successful manuscript. The story may have a gentle, rip-roaring, or surprise ending. When I’m writing, I know the ending before I ever begin a story. The ending is the last impression a writer makes on a reader so make the ending memorable.

One of the best ways to learn how to write picture books is to read lots of them from a variety of authors. Notice the different styles. Read like a writer and write like a reader.

Good picture books should remain interesting over multiple readings. The depth and richness of the writing and emotions can make a child say, Read it again. Ah, sweet music to a writer’s ears.

Call for submissions for adult writers
Lightspeed Magazine . CURRENT NEEDS: "Original science fiction stories (not fantasy) of 7500 words or less. Preferred length is 5000
words or less." 1000-7500 words.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Picture Books: Historical Fiction, Part II/Contest

Accurate research makes the story richer and more believable. Filtering out the ideas that readers will find interesting is the key. I usually begin my research with the Internet and follow through with books and interviewing people who are knowledgeable about the subject. In writing historical fiction as well as all picture books, keep the illustrator in mind. Much of the setting, character description, and action can be depicted through the eyes and hands of the illustrator.

Begin with action to engage the reader quickly. Don’t let your opening become bogged down with backstory, which will slow the action. Kids like a fast-paced plot. Balance the historical facts with strong characters and plot. Since dialog cannot be manufactured, rely on sensory details to bring the narrative to life.

Like all genres of writing, historical fiction can be challenging. But the payoff can be a contract because kids love it and so do publishers, teachers, and parents.

Contest for adult writers:
Hay House Visions Fiction Writing Contest. "Hay House Visions, the new fiction publishing division of Hay House, is teaming with Balboa Press for the first-ever Hay House Vision Fiction Writing Contest. One Grand-Prize winner will receive a publishing contract with Hay House Visions and a $5,000 advance."
Deadline: June 1, 2012
Details at

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Picture Books: Historical Fiction/Call for Submissions

Writing historical fiction requires research plus storytelling. I always research far more information than I will actually use in the story because I want to select the tidbits that will peak the interests of the readers. Storytelling involves writing intriguing plots with interesting characters in a captivating voice. Even though the story is fiction, the historical facts must be accurate. When I wrote Trouble in Troublesome Creek, I researched how Confederate soldiers hid in caves and used the underground areas to stow their goods and to make ammunition. The research was critical to the plotline because similar events had to have happened or the story would have lost its authenticity and all credibility with the audience.

The book is about a group of kids who are having a fun day of play along Troublesome Creek. I used just enough history to make the story interesting without detracting from the narrative. Allow the historical facts to enrich the story while the personalities and actions of the characters take the lead.

From May through August I will suspend the posting of contests and calls for submissions for young writers.

Call for submissions for adult writers:
Word Hotel, the literary magazine, published by the BFA in Creative Writing at Spalding University, is accepting literature, illustrations, photographs and photographs of artwork for the summer/fall issue to be published in August. They welcome submissions in all genres and a multitude of styles, including experimental, and are looking particularly for writers who have not yet published a first book. Writers may submit up to three poems (any length), short fiction or creative nonfiction up to 2,500 words, and hybrid texts.
Deadline: May 31
Details at

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