Raising a Reader – The gift we give our children.

As parents and teachers, we hope to give the children we love strong values, traditions, and a clear moral compass. Using our own lives as an example for them to follow is by far the strongest way to do that. However, I think there is a subtle, but powerful, gift we can give our children that we sometimes overlook: a love of reading.

child_readingIn books, children can find an un-judgmental peek into a confusing world. They can see hundreds of examples of other people, the choices they make and the good or bad that comes from those choices. They read stories about kids just like themselves…and very different from themselves. These stories help shape the people our children eventually become.

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What are Larry’s Queries?

LarryWhat are Larry’s queries? That’s a good question. It’s probably best if I tell you who Larry is first. Larry’s my cousin on my mother’s side. He wants to be a writer and he’s got some really good ideas too, but he struggles putting queries together. (Don’t we all).

So anyway, I thought it would be helpful to Larry (and anyone else reading this blog) if we went through his queries and tried to improve them.

When you see the queries you’ll understand what I mean when I say Larry struggles with this. Actually, he’s downright awful at it. Don’t worry about hurting his feelings though, believe me the man is like human Teflon. Just don’t say anything bad about Neil Armstrong. Don’t ask…it’s just a thing with Larry.

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Show don’t Tell – Post 4 of 4

showdontellHi there again. This is the final post in a four part series. If you’re looking for any of the other posts, they can be found below.

Post 1: What is “Show don’t Tell”
Post 2: How do we know if we are using “Show don’t Tell”
Post 3: When is it ok to “Tell” instead of “Show”
Post 4: Showing inner thoughts and other “Show don’t Tell” myths.
Extra : More articles on “Show don’t Tell”

In this post we’re going to look at our character’s inner thoughts. We’ll also talk about some other “show don’t tell” myths.

But let’s start with inner thoughts. A fair argument could be made that inner thoughts are a form of “telling.” After all, we are telling the reader what the character is thinking. However, if inner thoughts are done correctly they can be a powerful form of showing.

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Larry’s Queries – Episode 1 Part 4

In this episode we’ll talk about removing unnecessary details from the query, while at the same time keeping the specific pieces that make our query unique.

Larry: [strolls into my office with camera in hand.] Hi, JD. Ready to work on my query? [He snaps a photo of me.]

(in case you missed Round 1, click here.) Worked on the beginning
(in case you missed Round 2, click here.) Worked on the ending
(in case you missed Round 3, click here.) Worked on clarifying stakes

Me: Hi Larry. Please tell me the camera isn’t another one of your attempts to settle a bet with that Dr. Beraux guy down at the college?

Larry: Huh? Oh, you mean old Pete. No, it’s nothing like that. Although we have been having this argument about people intentionally taking pills that make themselves less intelligent.

Me: You’re talking about stupid pills? You think people take stupid pills. Why in the world would someone do something like that?

Larry: [smiles at me] I was hoping you would tell me.

Me: [I got nothing.]

Larry: See that look on your face right there….that’s exactly what I mean. [winks at me] Maybe you should cut back to half a pill in the mornings.

Me: [In case you didn’t know, Larry is a bit of an ego-maniac. Having a 163 IQ and no sense of empathy will do that to you.] Let’s just get this over with. Where were we with your query?

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#pg70pit 2017 One Slushies perspective on recurring issues.

Hi there #pg70pit people!

(Don’t know what #pg70pit is…click here for more info).

I’m one of the slushie readers in the Middle Grade category. There were some great pages entered for 2017 and I absolutely loved reading them. I submitted my vote for the best pages and I hope they all make it to the agent round – seriously, some good writing in those pages, and they deserve an agent.

However, as much as writers love to hear what worked, it’s just as important to know what didn’t. Even in the pages I voted for, there was room for improvement. I’ll run through a list of recurring issues that popped up in the entries, but first a word about editors. Now I’m not an editor, I don’t work for an editor, and I’m not endorsing any particular editorial service. However, I have most certainly benefitted from having a thorough editor eviscerate my work. A good editor is trained to see the issues I point out below and help you correct them.

Believe me, you can learn to see these things in your own writing, and then burn them out of that precious manuscript with a flame flower. But sometimes it takes an objective eye to get you pointed in the right direction – that’s where your friendly neighborhood editor comes in.

Ok, so on to the recurring issues I saw. Continue reading

#pg70pit for 2017: What are the slushie/judges looking for?

Hi there, contest fans!

So you’re thinking about entering the amazing #pg70pit contest on June 7th, run by theCaKwTtfWAAQDkjm incomparable Lara Willard.  Awesome.

You’ve got your manuscript ready to roll – you read the contest rules (like twice already) – you’ve been stalking following Lara on twitter – you’ve got a sparkly Page 70 ready to submit….and then it hits you: what are the contest judges looking for anyway?#pg70pit

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Show don’t Tell – Post 3 of 4

showdontellHi there again. This is the third post in a four part series. If you’re looking for any of the other posts, they can be found below.

Post 1: What is “Show don’t Tell”
Post 2: How do we know if we are using “Show don’t Tell”
Post 3: When is it ok to “Tell” instead of “Show”
Post 4: Showing inner thoughts and other “Show don’t Tell” myths.
Extra : More articles on “Show don’t Tell”

As we learned in the first post, we usually want to incorporate “showing” in our writing. However, we shouldn’t always use showing.

wait-whatYeah, it’s true. As coveted as “showing” is, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice. In fact, if we used it all the time, our books would be thousands of pages long. Showing involves using specific details and images to show the reader the scene. Those details and images require words…sometimes lots of words.

So in the interest of good pacing, there are many times you are better off just “telling” the reader and then moving on. A good example is character movements.

Let’s say our MC is done eating dinner and is taking his dishes back to the kitchen.

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#p2p16 Trends from March can help in the October contest.

Hi there!

I need to start by clarifying what this post relates to. Back in March of 2016 I did a maths-2-landingstatistical analysis of the p2p16/March contest.

The analysis tells us some interesting things about the upcoming p2p16/October contest.

(If you are reading this and it’s before October 22nd, then don’t worry, you haven’t missed p2p16)

Here is the link to my March analysis: #p2p16 – By the Numbers.  (btw: this was by far my most popular post of 2016) If you’re preparing for p2p16, the analysis can be very enlightening.

To give you a high level overview of the results, I can tell you two things:

1. What were the editors looking for in an entry when they made a request for more pages?

The short answer: An engaging Story and Voice.

2. What caused the editors to pass on an entry?

The short answer: A Story or Voice that didn’t connect.

I don’t think that’s too surprising. However what did surprise me is that nearly 25% of the time, when an editor tweeted they were passing – it was because the genre wasn’t what the editor asked for. **

ooopsThis means writers were submitting their entries to editors that had specifically said they don’t work with that genre. All of the editors have a profile on the #p2p16 site where they clearly spell out what they’re looking for.  I mean there’s even a MSWL Cheat Sheet if you aren’t sure.

We (writers) need to be reading the bio and the MSWL cheat sheet before we submit an entry to an editor. This contest is a great opportunity. Don’t miss out on it, because of something simple like this.

Hope you find the analysis useful. #p2p16 – By the Numbers

All the best,
JD Burns

**note: this doesn’t mean 25% of all entries were sent to editors that didn’t want that genre. It just means 25% of the time when an editor tweeted “I’ll pass” the reason they gave was because they specifically stated in their bio,  they didn’t work with that genre. .
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