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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#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 (coming soon)
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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Show don’t Tell – Extra (links for more information)

showdontellThis is an Extra post I added for my series on “Show don’t tell”.  It contains links to more information.

If you’re looking for any of my previous posts on “Show don’t tell”, 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 (coming soon)
Extra : More articles on “Show don’t Tell”

Links to other sources of information on “Show don’t tell.”

1. Jerz’s Literary Blog – Some excellent examples of telling .vs. showing

2. How to Tell When You’re Showing – Great article about how to know if you are using “show” or “tell”

3. Why “Show, Don’t Tell” Is the Great Lie of Writing Workshops – I really liked this article because it is a counter-argument to the need to “show” all the time.

4.Fiction University: Show .vs. Tell – A great list of additional articles on Show don’t tell.

If you have some favorite links on “Show don’t tell”, I’d love to hear about them!

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All the best,
JD Burns

Show don’t Tell – Post 2 of 4

showdontellHi there again. This is the second 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 (post coming soon)
Extra : More articles on “Show don’t Tell”

In this post, we’re going to talk about how to know if your writing is using “telling” or “showing.” As we learned in the first post, we usually want to incorporate “showing” in our writing.

So how do we know if we pulled it off? Sure we can read articles, books and posts that tell us all about “Show don’t tell” and we can look at dozens (or hundreds) of examples. But in the end, we need to be able to look at what we wrote and figure out if it’s “telling” or if it’s “showing.”

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Show don’t Tell – Post 1 of 4

showdontellI’m just going to jump right into this, because there’s really no easy way to start this topic. “Show don’t tell” is one of those things writers hear about all the time, and it’s a concept that causes no end of frustration for new writers and veterans alike. Don’t believe it? Just take a stroll around the internet and see how many different articles, books and advice blogs there are on the topic. (Yeah, I realize I’m adding to the dog pile here).

I’m going to tackle this in a series of posts. The complete list is 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 (post coming soon)
Extra : More articles on “Show don’t Tell”

In this first post we talk about “show don’t tell” means and why it’s important.

Tell: This means we are telling the reader a fact. For example: Jim was sad.

Show: This involves using specific images or details to show the reader the same fact. For example: Tears welled up in the corners of Jim’s eyes. He sank to his knees, rocking back and forth as the sobs shook him.

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