Thursday, May 8, 2014

Best of the writing blogs this week: May 8

image In which I read the blogs so you don’t have to.  But seriously, you SHOULD.  There is a ton of wisdom out there, floating around for free. 

Yes, you should still buy and read books on writing – there’s something to be said for information presented systematically in a consistent voice – but the right blog “nudge” at the right time can give you a push, an inspiration, and get you headed in the right direction.

Here are four nuggets I discovered this week that I think can help us all become better writers (and, in one case, self-publishers).

On paring down your writing to its essence:

image Looking at the buffet, she was so famished that she could swallow it all in one gulp, leaving nothing left, licking even the grease trap of the giant rotisserie oven clean.

Girl is hungry, we get it!… Here we have three images, one weak (leaving nothing left), one medium (swallow it all in one gulp) and one very strong and specific (the grease trap thing)….

Your aim isn’t to give a reader information as many times as possible, it’s to do it once, and ideally in a memorable way. Less is more. In fact, in writing, piling imagery onto one idea actually dilutes the effect instead of concentrating it.

(Mary Kole, author, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, from Three When One Will Do)

On the sometimes nitty-gritty business of self-publishing:

image You can’t just be a writer. No matter your genre, no matter how you publish, you must be willing to perform tasks that take you away from your focus on craft and producing what you think of as the “real work” of being a writer…

If you find you are unwilling to do these tasks, you dislike them or you aren’t good at them, you must be willing to change so you can succeed.

(Nina Amir, author, The Author Training Manual, from The Secret Sauce for Indie Publishers: Attitude)

On being in a hurry to get your book out there – and having it pay off:


…[O]ne big change I’ve made since I started writing that has helped speed things up a lot- I tried my best this time to keep things moving as fast as possible. In the past I would write the book and then wait several days to send it off for illustration, or get illustrations back and then take a few days off before starting to format it. This easily added a week or more to the process, without gaining me anything. By forcing myself to keep taking constant action, I was able to get the book out much faster than I previously had. While it may not seem like a lot, this level of productivity should be able to let me publish at least 3 or 4 more books a year, which helps overall sales significantly.

(Beau Blackwell, author, Christmas on the Farm: A Rhyming Picture Book About Christmas, from How I Made a Children’s Book in 10 Days: From Idea to Publication)

(I’d suggest taking this advice with a bit of caution.  Beau has experience and proven success, but for your first few books, going slowly and checking everything carefully is probably your best bet.)

On writing for a niche audience – and having it pay off in mainstream publishing:

image Although Jews buy lots of books, Jewish books are still a small segment of the children’s market, so when you set out to write a Jewish-themed book, you know from the start that your story will likely reach fewer readers.

Titling a Jewish book is a challenge, too.  If a children’s book were titled Yuandan (what Chinese New Year’s Day was traditionally called), I might not pick it up—I wish I wouldn’t, but I would probably unconsciously think, that book is for Chinese kids and their parents.

Thinking about this, I fought for the title New Year at the Pier, rather than The Best Part of Rosh Hashanah, because I didn’t want someone to walk by and think, “I’m not Jewish, so that book’s not for me,”—especially since New Year is more broadly about making amends, a topic for everyone.

[Interested in turning your everyday life into exoticism readers can relate to?  This post helps you put a spin on reality.]

In New Year, I learned to fact-check my story with religious Jews.  As a result, I changed the word “temple” to synagogue, changed the timing so that the main characters were not writing on Rosh Hashanah, and asked the illustrator, Stéphane Jorisch, to add more kippot on the central male characters. I’m convinced that it never would have won the Sydney Taylor Gold Medal Book Award without those changes.

(April Halprin Wayland, author of New Year at the Pier, from Seminar on Jewish Story | April Halprin Wayland, Children’s Book Author)

I know you’re not all Jewish, of course, but there are many of us who think our books are only suitable for a specific “niche”.  I like this last quote because it gives me something to think about in terms of getting my writing OUT of its niche and finding a broader audience.

Happy weekend, everybody!!!

[image credit:  Cortega9, via Wikimedia]


  1. I think of these tidbits, the first is the best advice. Too much imagery can be as fatal as not enough. Enjoyed the post.

    1. Yeah, that post gave me lots to think about, especially because I was in the middle of trimming a book down to the right length. Thanks for stopping by!


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