Nancy's Books

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
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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
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK. 
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