Categories: Other Topics

Scriva Scribblings: A Book in the Works and The Blog on Hiatus

by Amber Keyser
Published on: January 7, 2016
Comments: No Comments

IMG_6609
As 2016 begins, the Scrivas always take time to reflect upon the past year and set writing goals for the new one.

We have a retreat in a few weeks during which we’ll talk about what’s working and what’s not in our writing lives. We’ll think on the strengths we have as a group and as individuals, and of course, we’ll eat chocolate and stare at the mountains and even do some writing.

In the last year, we’ve been talking about our blog presence. Is it reaching the people that we want to reach? Is it filling a need for writers who don’t have a critique group or want to make the one they have function at higher and higher levels? Do we have more to say?

We started the Scriva blog in 2011 in response to the frequently asked question: Do you have room in your group? Since then, we have had a lot to say about critique and the writing process! As a group we have written 339 posts. That is pretty crazy!

 

But 2016 will bring something new! The Scrivas are going to take a break from blogging for awhile. We’ve decided to comb through our posts, pick the best and brightest, write some more content, jazz it up, and publish an e-book!

We are all really excited about this new project. If you have topics you want us to address or if you are interested in hiring a Scriva to critique your manuscript, send us a note through the contact page. We always love to hear from you!

Big hugs and huge thanks for joining us on the journey,

The Scrivas

How Will I Know? (if a critique group is a good fit)

by Sara Ryan
Published on: October 23, 2015
Categories: Other Topics
Tags:
Comments: 2 Comments

Hello folks, I’m Sara Ryan, the most recent addition to the Scrivas. Before I joined, I hadn’t been in a critique group for several years. I’d had some great previous group experiences, but I was hesitant. It’s a big commitment!

If you’re trying to figure out whether a group will work for you — particularly a group that’s been going on for a while — here are some suggestions.

1. Talk to a current member about how the group works. Get the basics: how often are the meetings, how many manuscripts are typically discussed, how far in advance do you turn in pages, how many pages, etc. See the Critique FAQs for other things to consider.

If the schedule and structure seem good, proceed to step 2.

2. Observe a meeting. Read the manuscripts in advance so you’ll be able to follow the discussion. Write up some thoughts if you want for your own reference, but don’t plan on giving critique.

What you want is to see to how the group functions.

Are the members both generous with praise and rigorous about identifying what isn’t working? (Watch out for mutual admiration societies: a group that gives nothing but praise is unlikely to advance the craft of its members.)

Does everyone seem to have similar taste? (The taste question is tricky: it’s helpful for a group to have some shared values about what makes for a strong story, but it’s also great when members bring very different ideas and perspectives to their reading.)

How do the writers being critiqued react? Do they appreciate the feedback, even if some of it’s negative?

How does the group treat you, the observer? Do they share in-jokes and shorthand and otherwise make you feel welcome?

If you and the group feel good after your observation, take it to the next level:

3. Participate in a meeting.You’re not an official member yet, but you’re going to both give and get critique.

How do other members take what you have to say about their writing? How do you feel about their critiques of yours? Of course you won’t agree with everything everyone says, that’s the nature of critique. But do the group’s comments help you see what’s working and what isn’t in your manuscript? (Sometimes it’s when you’re critiquing someone else’s manuscript that you see how to fix something in your own.)

Still feeling good? Seal the deal.

4. Join. (Celebratory Whitney Houston optional, but recommended.)

 

 

 

 

 

Need a Pick-Me-Up?

by Addie Boswell
Published on: September 25, 2015
Categories: Other Topics
Tags:No Tags
Comments: No Comments

Listen to the podcasts at “This Creative Lifethiscreativelife-e1338485590717“: author Sara Zarr’s interviews with other authors and assorted creative types. Here, writers talk about how long it took them to publish, how hard it is to write with kids in the house, what it felt like to get their books optioned, to make the best-seller lists, to miss deadlines, to quit day jobs, to start day jobs, to succeed, to fail, and to keep going. Even learn what favorite pens some authors use. I guarantee that you will feel uplifted, and reminded that we are all in it together. Thanks, Sara.

 

A New Life

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 22, 2015
Tags:No Tags
Comments: No Comments

Candlewick biography coverToday I want to share something that I didn’t know happened in the publishing world.

In September 2013, Candlewick Press released my picture book biography ELECTRICAL WIZARD: HOW NIKOLA TESLA LIT UP THE WORLD. The book has sold well, but to reach a broader audience they decided to  repackage and re-release the book in a new format.

The design has been changed to a smaller chapter book format, and the story has been broken into chapters and spread out to fifty-six pages. The book will publish as part of the Candlewick Biographies series for readers ages 8-12. While this is older than the original audience, the text has always skewed older and in the new format it looks just right.

We’ve been able to make an improvement, too. Early reviews complained about a lack of dates, so we added a timeline.

The new version has recently released simultaneously in hardcover and in paperback, the latter priced at a very affordable $4.99.

So with a bit of repackaging ELECTRICAL WIZARD gets a whole new life – ready to reach older readers and with the new low price, I hope a lot more readers!  I think it’s an example of a publisher doing something remarkable—and right – for a backlist book.

Thanks Candlewick!

P.S. The new version released September 8!

How to Deal with a Huge Pile of Comments

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: August 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

Have you ever felt buried under a pile of manuscripts comments? My two critique groups generously agreed to read my whole middle-grade novel April Fool. So I had 10 copies printed and mailed them off.

All 10 members read them, poured their hearts, souls and intellects into reading and commenting. And now I face this:

Pile of April Fool manuscripts

(Wow, it looks so much more intimidating on my desk…believe me, its a huge pile.)

When I met with the two groups, the members gave me oral comments and I took notes furiously. But I don’t want to miss anything they may have written in addition, so I have to go through this huge pile. Did I mention that it is huge.?Or at least feels huge…

So how do I take a pile of marked up manuscripts and turn it into a plan? I start by pulling the first manuscript off the pile. I begin to read the comments. In Word I start two files: One is a list of notes on comments that I know I want to address. These comments and suggestions resonate with me, and I have a hunch that by making these suggested changes the manuscript will not only be better but will also be closer to what I want the book to be. The second Word doc is a list of notes on suggestions that I think are interesting but that I’m not sure I want do.

The first list becomes my master TO DO list for revision. The second list I will consider again after I have finished those revisions. After working with the manuscript on the first set of notes, I usually have a better idea of whether these suggestions will take me in the direction I want to go.

There is one more step to this manuscript mountain climbing process. The height of the pile is partially my own fault. Instead of printing the manuscripts double-sided to save paper, I print single-sided. That way I can flip through a manuscript, taking out all the pages that have no comments or that have comments or edits that I don’t want to do. This leaves me with a much smaller pile of the pages that have important comments or line edits that I want to input. Ahh, a smaller mountain.

This reviewing and sorting and weeding process helps me both ponder comments at my own pace and sets me up with a clear list of revisions I know I want to make.

And when I’m done with all these revisions and I’m ready to print out my new improved manuscript, I’ll have lots of recycled paper to print it on 🙂

Happy revising.

Elizabeth Rusch

Present to Past Tense

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: July 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

Ah, the tense tango continues. You may remember in an earlier post how I rewrote my nonfiction picture book manuscript called THE MUSIC OF LIFE: BARTOLOMEO CRISTOFORI AND THE INVENTION OF THE PIANO from past tense to present tense. That rewrite breathed life into the manuscript. Writing about late Renaissance history as if it were unfolding made the story so much more lively.

tenseWell switcho-changeo, now I’m rewriting a middle grade novel from present tense into past. The novel, APRIL FOOL, about a serious kid with practical jokester parents, is something I’ve been working on for more than a decade. And for more than a decade people have been saying: “I’m not sure about the present tense. It feels awkward — a bit self-conscious.”  And for about a decade, I ignored these comments.

Then at a recent meeting of my other critique group, where we read pages out loud, the member seemed unanimous in their desire to see the chapter I read in past tense. So I rewrote a chapter. And lo and behold, once again, my critiquers were correct. The original tense I had chosen (and clung on to for dear life) was not the best tense for the story. The past tense actually added a measure of mystery to the story that keeps you reading.

So the last few days have seemed like one long grammar lesson as I have plowed through changing present tense to past. Will this exercise help me get the tense right the first time around? I don’t think so. But it does remind me, once again, that in writing not to get too tense about tense. Change it up and see what happens.

What You Get from the Analysis of First Pages

by Amber Keyser
Published on: July 10, 2015
Comments: No Comments

When I was first getting started in this business, I thought it was terribly unfair to get a conference critique or agent feedback on just a chapter or two. After all, how could they know what I’ve done with the rest of the story?

Now, I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that issues which occur early in the story are almost always carried throughout. That’s why it is possible to give feedback on a few chapters. If the author can carry the changes throughout, they are usually end up with a much much better product at the end.

Most of these large scale issues are things like narrative voice, consistent POV, realistic dialogue, and showing vs. telling. When the Scrivas do critiques (for each other or through our paid critique services), we point out issues and try to offer ways to strengthen the manuscript. Ideally, these suggestions are things that the writer can implement on their own in the rest of the manuscript.

After a few thorough revisions, we Scrivas turn our eyes and little red pens to line edits, parsing through each sentence for word choice and phrasing. This is the stage at which the writer has the opportunity to make every line sing.

And when the book sells, launches, finds readers… when the book itself soars… then we celebrate this amazing process that begins, as all true stories do, with a blank page and ends with the creation of a new world we can all inhabit.

It turns out that it is true: first pages are the key to everything!

A Lot to Read

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: June 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

There have been times in the history of the Viva Scrivas when only one or two people were submitting work to be read most months. We wrung our hands about what to do about it, how everyone should be able to get something out of the meeting even if they didn’t submit, how to keep the group vital while reading only one or two people’s work.

Pile of PapersThe pendulum has swung recently. Everyone is super productive and super eager to get feedback on mostly long work. In our last meeting, we had 60 pages of an alternate history YA, 92 pages (single spaced) of a YA with documentary film making teen, 100 pages of a YA coming of age novel, and the last hunk of a YA novel set in Brazil.

The next month we’ll be tackling a whole MG novel (150 pages) and two chunks (50-100 pages) of two of the YA novels.

That’s a fair amount of reading.

So how do we do it?

First of all, when things seem to be heating up, when it seems like a lot of people want to share big chunks, we sketch out a schedule for submissions. That way we know what is coming when and can set aside reading time. It also helps prevent meetings with nothing to read and others with too much to read.

Also, we have a guideline (sometimes followed, sometimes not) that if you are submitting a large chunk (50 pages or more) you must submit a month, rather than just a week, before. Also as a courtesy, we offer print outs for longer chunks, especially full novels.

How do I personally manage all that reading? For one thing, I really look forward to it. I am excited to read my fellow-writers work, whether its pages I’ve never seen or a revision where I can see a work getting better and better.

I also print out all the submissions as the come in and put them on a table in my livingroom with a pen nearby, so I can curl up on the couch with the pages in the evening, away from my desk.

I try to get everything read a few days before the meeting so I have some time to let my thoughts percolate. I will often add a few notes last notes a few days after reading something or at the meeting itself.

Mostly I welcome a lot of reading from the Viva Scrivas. It means the group and the individual writers are on a roll. It means I have lots of great reading ahead. And finally, it means that I will likely learn a lot as I read and as we gather to share our thoughts on all this wonderful work. As ScrivaAmber once said: We learn as much by reading and commenting as we do by getting comments on our work.

Elizabeth Rusch

 

Daily Rituals

by Addie Boswell
Published on: May 24, 2015
Categories: Other Topics
Tags:No Tags
Comments: No Comments

UnknownI happened across this gem of a book, Daily Rituals: short entries on how 161 artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives do their work. Reading each entry is like dipping into a bag of the most exquisite chocolate.

— Jane Austen wrote on little notebooks — in the main living space — that she could hide beneath the blotter when company came.

— Benjamin Franklin sat naked in the cold air each morning.

— George Balanchine liked to iron his clothes to start the day.

— Chopin raged, Cheever drank, Capote wrote lying down.

Read them alone or read them in one long gluttonous line. The thing that’s always the same? There isn’t one. Artists take lots of naps and long walks in the country. They hold to the strictest of schedules. They procrastinate. They sleep too late. They drink too much wine. They drink too much coffee. They isolate themselves. They doubt. Most importantly, friends, they are just like you an me.

The Problem with “Butt in the Chair”

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: May 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

I’ve heard at least dozen writers talking about overcoming writers’ block with one simple rule: Sit your butt in the chair.

I have two problems with this advice. First of all, I don’t really get writers’ block, I get writers’ inertia. Writers’ block is when you don’t know what to write…you don’t have any ideas or any direction. Writers’ Inertia is MUCH worse. You  have ideas, you know what you want to do, you know the direction you want to take…but you just can’t get started during a given writing day or session. Putting my butt in the chair does not solve my Writers’ Inertia.

 

 

That’s because when I get my butt in the chair with my computer on and ready to go in front of me, I can do SOOOO many things other than write or revise!  I can:

Check my email.

Check facebook.

Check twitter.

Post on facebook and twitter.

Research lodging, flights, car rentals, and things to do for upcoming schedule trips OR trips I would like to take some day…

Answer some emails.

Check to see if an article of clothing I want has gone off-season and on-sale yet.

Clear out my email.

Check the weather.

Check the hourly forecast.

Check the forecast in someplace I’m visiting in the future or hope to visit in the future.

And now, look!, I found another one! I can write a Scriva post!

Writing this post kind of counts as writing — and it serves another purpose, too. For me the only way to overcome writers’ block or writers’ inertia is to write.

Thanks for the warm up. I’m going back to what I SHOULD be doing, which is revising my novel. Chapter 11 is next.

Elizabeth Rusch

 

page 1 of 17

Welcome , July 20, 2017