Nancy's Books

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Are Restraints Holding You Hostage?


As a visiting author, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I love working with kids, love teaching the writing process to kids, and love their excitement when they share the writing. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th graders, primarily focused on informational and nonfiction pieces. Every day, they amaze me with their creativity and enthusiasm. I especially appreciate word choices and phrasing that distinguishes their personalities through writing. Voice. The concept of grasping the personal uniqueness of writing is not an easy task, yet I see it in these young writers. It makes me wonder why it can be so difficult for adult writers.  

Maybe it’s because the students are fearless in placing thoughts on paper. Adults have a contract hanging in the balance, so maybe we can’t capture the voice because somewhere in our minds someone told us that a particular word or phrasing was not acceptable with some editors. Maybe it’s because we try so hard to write a marketable piece that the manuscript becomes too commonplace to stand out. Maybe we’ve allowed our imaginations to hover, rather than soar.

Let’s shake off our restraints and write to please ourselves. The worst that can happen is no contract. Conversely, a new style of writing may evolve from our fingertips.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Skipping Stones. Writings (essays, stories, letters to the editor, riddles and proverbs, etc.) should be typed or neatly handwritten and limited to 1,000 words and poems to 30 lines. We encourage writings in all languages with an English translation, if possible. And, we love illustrations! Please send originals of your drawings, paintings, or photos to our post office box address below. Include your name, age, and address along with your submission. We welcome electronic submissions as well. We prefer Word.doc. or .docx.files or text.edit files. Art and photos can be sent as .jpeg or .tiff files. Please DO NOT send us zip.files.
Submissions guidelines at https://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm
Skipping Stones. 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. 
Submissions guidelines at

https://www.skippingstones.org/submissions.htm#adult

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Common Writing No-Nos (of which I am guilty)

Oh, those tricky grammar rules. So many. And then there are rules for writing. So many. Plus, factor in the tendency to misuse grammar and writing rules. Realizing my tendency to choose the incorrect word, I watch for my errors knowing that I will find many. So many. 

This writer tends to fall in love with a word and use it too often. Just is one word I just can’t drop…until I force it out during revision. Diverse language adds voice to writing, taking it from a hum to a song. Using the same word repeatedly doesn’t cut it with readers. 

Clichés sneak into our prose and are as boring as Uncle Ned’s tenth retelling of his visit to the E.R. Surprise the reader with sensory descriptions as you write the unexpected. Boring as an old shoe or as watching paint dry adds no excitement to the storytelling because it’s expected.   

I also have a tendency to write sentences of mid-size length. During revision, I actually count the number of words in sentences, for picture books. Vary sentence length. The variety adds rhythm to the text and engages the reader.

I do the same with paragraph lengths. Paragraphs offer breaks in the text, but if all are the same length, that pattern may become boring and expected.

Action verbs help push the plot along. My goal is to provide the reader with visual images of action by using such verbs as slither, hop, scurry. In the first draft, I’m so busy writing character and plot development, non-action verbs—was, have, are, and is—make too many appearances. 

Spell-check catches some mistakes, but in-depth revisions elevate questionable writing to a reader pleaser. 


Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Stone Soup. We publish stories on all subjects—horses, dance, sports, problems at school, problems at home, magical places—and in all genres—literary fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery—there is no limit to the subject matter of a Stone Soup story. What matters to us is not the subject. It is how interesting your story is to another reader. Does it have a strong beginning, middle, and end? If there is dialogue, is it realistic—is it the way people speak? If your story has talking animals, is there something about the way the animals think or move that feels true to that particular kind of animal?

We publish stories on all subjects—horses, dance, sports, problems at school, problems at home, magical places—and in all genres—literary fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery—there is no limit to the subject matter of a Stone Soup story. What matters to us is not the subject. It is how interesting your story is to another reader. Does it have a strong beginning, middle, and end? If there is dialogue, is it realistic—is it the way people speak? If your story has talking animals, is there something about the way the animals think or move that feels true to that particular kind of animal?
Submission guidelines at https://stonesoup.com/how-to-submit-writing-and-art-to-stone-soup/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: 
Fun For Kidz is a magazine created for boys and girls from 6 to 13 years, with children 8, 9, and 10 the specific target age. Issues are themed. Genres: Nonfiction and fiction. Length: 300-325 words for a one-page magazine article or up to 600-650 words for a two-page magazine article.
Submission guidelines at http://funforkidzmagazines.com/ffk_guidelines
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, November 11, 2018

Writing Right


Every manuscript I complete is a learning experience in which I grow as a writer. Practice makes perfect (or something like that). My literary growth is even greater during revisions. That’s the time in which I choose what should change, what works, and what does not. The revisions I dread are those that follow the directive of an editor, because those push me out of my comfort zone and pound an Ouch! to my ego. They make me THINK. And rethink. Write and rewrite.

Plan time in your day to play with words and string them together. Realistically, it probably isn’t possible to write every day, but write with the purpose of working on a manuscript a few times every week. Don’t just plan on writing, write. Form a routine in which you can fit writing into a schedule.

If you’re easily distracted, work on a computer that’s not connected to the Internet. The magnetic draw of email and surfing the Web will no longer entice.

Organize your notes and materials so you can manage the information efficiently.

If you outline, begin your first draft soon after finishing. If you don’t outline, begin your first draft as soon as possible. Now would be a good time.

Think about your characters and allow them to gel in your mind before writing, but don’t use that as a reason to postpone writing. Treat writing as a job. Set goals. Some writers set words-per-day goals, such as 500 words. Others set time frames. Maybe two hours every morning. Find a time and place that fits your lifestyle and make it a routine. Continue until you have a first draft completed.

At this point, begin revision.

Happy writing


New Moon Girls. Ideas, Articles, Inventions, Fiction, Gardens, Poetry, Music, Opinions, Apps, Global Villages, Recipes, Plays, Buildings, Puzzles, Projects, Jokes, Speeches, Games, Screenplays, Sports, Emotions, Equations, Painting, Art, Experiments, Costumes, Activism, Photos, Rockets, Crafts, Designs, Gadgets, Dances, Solutions, Hats and Everything Else You Imagine and Make.
Submission guidelines at https://newmoon.com/how-to-get-published/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
New Moon Girls. We show girls as powerful, active, interesting makers in charge of their lives – not as passive beings who are acted upon or watching others. We celebrate girls and all their accomplishments. We support girls to express their voices, opinions, problems, needs and dreams as they grow from girlhood to womanhood. We support girls in reaching out and being allies to each other, even when they disagree.
Submission guidelines at https://newmoon.com/adult-contributors-new-moon-girls/

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, October 28, 2018

Perseverance

Riding the Rejection Train is a tough route for any writer. Not only is the failure to get a contract disappointing, it also undermines our psyche. We question our talent. We question our choice of manuscript subjects. We question everything related to publishing. But perseverance trumps talent. I should know. I’ve been rejected so many times, I lost count years ago. 

According to Richard Bach, author of JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” Writing requires an investment of time, lots of time, and energy. Inspiration and a vivid imagination are good components, too. There’s no doubt, writing is work. It’s also fulfilling, and at times, joyful (when an editor calls and says the magical word: Yes).


When I began writing, I read picture books to my students daily, and the stories drew me in to worlds of strange and astonishing characters. Those stories enticed me to write about my own characters. Reading does that to me. When I read I am more compelled to write. Characters, one after another, staked a claim to my brain and refused to leave. Editors passed on all. I lost interest in writing until I picked up the next picture book, the next day. Reading it boosted my creative energy. I kept getting rejected, but sometimes an editor would ask to see something else I had written. My heart fluttered with hope. Finally, I hooked an editor and held my first book, ONCE UPON A DIME. Now, I’m striving to garner the 52nd contract.            

Every writer is different. Some become discouraged more easily than others, but all writers get rejections. The more we write, and the more we read, the better writers we become. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Magic Dragon, a quarterly publication, presents writing and art created by children in the elementary school grades in a magazine of quality four-color printing and graphic display. We believe that our objectives are special – to encourage the development of creativity in children and to provide a medium to share their creative efforts. Our conviction is that encouraging children in the elementary grades to be unafraid to express their creative ideas will increase their chances of becoming adults unafraid to apply a creative approach to all aspects of their lives and work.
Submission guidelines at http://www.magicdragonmagazine.com/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Genre: Short story or nonfiction up to 5,000 words. Prize: $1,000. Deadline: November 30, 2018.
Deadline: November 30, 2018
https://www.servicescape.com/short-story-award 
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, October 14, 2018

Writing Visually


Most of the books I’ve written are picture books. They look simplistic. Not! This type of writing uses two techniques to tell a story: words and pictures. The story moves and changes with every sentence, and every page needs action so the illustrator can assist in moving the story forward. 

Illustrations do more than capture images of the text. They also capture the mood and behavior of the character. The setting and plot are enhanced through the art and give the reader much more information that can be found in the storyline. Some picture books tell more of the story through text and some tell more through illustrations. The range of text-to-illustrations in picture books is wide and varied.

Writers paint with words and the better we paint the better the image. In writing TROUBLE IN TROUBLESOME CREEK, I wrote in the first draft “James ran.” The words would communicate the idea to the reader but not in an interesting way. In revision, the text evolved to “James sure can make the dust fly as he picks them up and puts them down.” Voice is the quality of the writer’s words. That quality is reflected in surprising the reader with your own unique way of describing the action. Clichés water down the quality of writing because the surprise element is missing.

I always consider how my words can support the illustrations and provide hints to the action in the background. This is called writing visually. When I receive the first galley, I’m always amazed to see how the text influenced the art and how the two work together. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Launchpad. A bimonthly magazine dedicated to publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and artwork written and created by children ages 6-12.
Submission guidelines at http://www.launchpadmag.com/write/
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers: 
Bumples is an INTERACTIVE online magazine for children three- 10 years of age. Bumples specializes in illustrated fiction about children and animals in mysteries, sports, poems and fantasies with serialized adventures in each issue.
Stories are uniquely supplemented with puzzles, question games, and activities, all of which makes Bumples storytelling all the more engaging. Interesting information on a topic is always fun to explore after enjoying a great reading experience. Consequently, Bumples adds factual postscripts to complement each story.
Submission guidelines at http://www.bumples.com/WritersGuidelines.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
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, September 30, 2018

Twirl and Swirl--Adding Rhythm to Prose


My goal in adding rhythm to prose is to dance words across the page. Another name for this is voice. I never reach my goal on the first draft, and often not by the tenth. Little by little, as I revise the manuscript, the words begin to swing and sway, rollick and roll. Picture book text relies on a rhythm, whether it’s prose or rhyme.

Think of rhythm in terms of music. Listening to the upbeat sound of the Rolling Stones makes me shimmy and shake. An Elton John ballad brings on the swing and sway. The beat. The cadence. The rhythm. They affect us in the same way as we read. Short phrases speed up the action as in this scene in BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS: Annie jostled inside the small, dark barrel, bobbing through the rapids, slamming into rocks. The barrel pitched and rolled—forward and back, left and right, up and down—in the rough, tough bucking-bronco ride. The sentences are long but the phrasing is short with emphasis is on the short phrase.       
Longer sentences, without short phrases, slow the action. I used this method as the beginning scene in HIRAM’S GIFT: Many winters ago Hiram walked to school from deep in a holler, snuggled tight between two mountains. A lemon pie moon dangled like a giant’s lantern and lit the path. 

When you read picture books, notice the rhythm of the words. When you find a passage that you particularly like, read it aloud. Does it swing and sway? Boogie and scoot? Tap and snap?

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Amazing Kids! Magazine. Our award-winning, kid-created monthly online magazine is dedicated to providing kids with a fun and educational experience, a place to share their creative works, through their writing, art, and photography. Our Amazing Kids! of the Month stories feature real life kids doing some pretty amazing things! Amazing Kids! believes by reading about other kids' accomplishments, or reading their creative works, it can help inspire more kids to explore their own amazing gifts and use them to make a difference in the world.

Submission guidelines at http://amazing-kids.org/

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

U.S. Kids Magazines (Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill), providing fun, entertaining reading material is our priority. We accept humorous, playful, and witty stories that kids would love to read—not stories that grownups think kids should read.

As part of the Children’s Better Health Institute, we are always in need of high-quality stories, articles, and activities with a broad health and fitness focus. Please keep in mind that we would rather show kids living a healthy lifestyle than dictate a healthy lifestyle to our readers. In other words, health topics should be incorporated into the story or article, not be the focus of it.

Submission guidelines at http://www.uskidsmags.com/writers-guidelines/

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

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