The joy of editing, and an amazing competition

When I do author talks in schools, I always spend a chunk of time talking about editing. I know it’s a popular topic for the teachers as it’s something they can refer back to in subsequent lessons (“Remember how Lexi talked about the importance of editing your work?”). It’s also useful for them to be able to discuss it with the pupil who is absolutely adamant that their first draft is flawless, perfect in every way, how long I spend on the editing phase before publication.

I usually start by asking them to define editing. Most of the pupils leap straight to the grammar, spelling, and punctuation stage, which sets the scene for a discussion around developmental edits (looking at the big-picture), structural edits (looking at the structure of the story), line edits, copy edits (the bit the kids initially latch onto), and finally proof reading.

Some authors struggle with the editing phase, but personally I enjoy it. Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish is a concise guide to the structural editing phase and, whilst there is absolutely no substitute for a professional edit, it’s always good to do a thorough run through yourself to catch as many issues as you can.

Book cover image

The checklists are particularly handy. For example, the one on settings has a very comprehensive 18 separate points! For this reason I prefer a paperback rather than ebook so I can flick through quickly, cover it in post-it notes, and annotate heavily, but that’s partly because I’m an old-school hard-copy girl. I also love the way it covers a wide variety of genres so it has prompts regardless of whether you are writing historical fiction or sci-fi.

I’m actually reading two books on the writing process at the moment, and they couldn’t be more different. This one is blunt and to the point (lots of “you must” rules). The other is a lyrical, philosophical approach. If you’re serious about improving your writing craft, I would recommend you consume as many different approaches as possible as everyone has different issues, and different aspects will resonate with the issues you personally grapple with.

Competition

As part of todays blog blitz, I’m ridiculously excited to be hosting this competition to win an introductory editing service, The First Five PackageEntries close on Sunday night, so don’t hang around! Enter here …..

https://kingsumo.com/g/xcysrh/win-an-editing-package-worth-150

Here’s a description of the service: https://theartandscienceofwords.com/thefirstfivepackage/ It’s worth $150. I wish I could enter myself!! #win #editing 

Blurb

Editing Your Novel’s Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish

Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?

If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask?  Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books. 

In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place. 

Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:

– Characters and Character Arcs.
– Plot.
– Backstory.
– Point of View.
– A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
– Beginnings and Ends.
– Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
– Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers. 

Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.

Author bio

Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com. 

Author photo

Here’s to more fun in ’21

Christmas may be cancelled, but at least we’ve almost made it to the end of 2020. Congratulations! It’s been a particularly challenging year. I know each of us has had different experiences, and different stresses, whether we’re key workers, home educators, shielding ourselves or our loved ones, furloughed, seen our businesses closed for months on end… I can’t be the only person with a whole lot more grey hair now. Having only been to the hairdresser twice this year, if I hadn’t discovered my husband was actually quite handy with a bottle of hair dye, it would be a lot more obvious!

Anyway, here’s to a more fun filled 2021.

Book club news!

I’m very excited to announce that the book boxes have been rebranded so the KidsClub.family is now the BookDragon.club There were a few reasons for this. Partly, it ties to the name of one of my books, The Book Dragon Club, but more importantly, I hope it will be more obvious what it does – a lot of people thought the old name sounded like an activity centre or playgroup. If you haven’t had a look, do check it out.

If you join before the year end, then your first book box will be posted out at the start of January, and I can send an e-gift card (which might be very handy given the festive chaos we’ve all just had thrown at us).

Whatever else 2021 brings, let’s fill it with books!

I wasn’t sure what book to wrap up the year with, but Alex Johnson has solved my problem! He has an eclectic range of books out with several quirky treats (e.g. The Book of Book Lists). Anyway, he has a new one out published by the British Library which ticks the boxes for my book club and parent hats, and I love the cover.

I asked him to join me for a chat.

What I remember about reading as a child is as much the pleasurable experience of it as the actual books. So while I have fond recollections of Noggin the Nog, Mumfie, Tintin, and Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, what is just as strong is the emotional memory of reading in bed (especially – cliché klaxon – under the covers with a torch), in the garden, on holiday, and especially being read to by my parents.

The only real rule about encouraging your children to read – and now that we’re going back into lockdown there will be even more time for doing so – is that it should be enjoyable. However you plan to encourage them, the most important thing is that reading doesn’t become a chore or, even worse, some kind of punishment. “Get off that Xbox and read a good book” is unlikely to lead to success.

Children turn into readers when they find a book they like, and as soon as books make them feel happy, they’re hooked for life. This means encouraging them however they read. Are they rereading an old favourite for the billionth time? Smashing, rereading is not only a key part of understanding a book but it’s also comforting. Are they engrossed in a Dandy annual? Great, reading comics/graphic novels is great fun – my youngest boy spent a large amount of the first lockdown alternating between Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy and my 1980s Tiger & Scorcher annuals. One is not better than the other. 

Having said that, don’t keep encouraging them to read something you loved as a child if they’re not keen. Guide and suggest, but as far as possible, let them make the choice themselves. I (still) love Anthony Buckeridge’s series of books about the schoolboy Jennings (less magical than Harry Potter, less mischievous than William Brown). My three children swiftly decided against. That’s absolutely fine.

An important way to keep children reading is to encourage them to read all kinds of things. So whether it’s a novel or a poem, a history book or a science guide, a travelogue or a comic, diaries or jokes, a biography or a picture book, variety is the spice of reading life. Although library visits are down on last year for obvious reasons, think about using e-lending services which have seen a massive rise in use in 2020. As well as ‘traditional’ books, ebooks are well worth considering. There’s a lot to explore online too. For example, try Poetryline run by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education at clpe.org.uk/poetryline or search for the work of performance poets such as Kate Tempest and Caleb Femi.

And don’t forget that audiobooks are books too. People not only learn in different styles but they also enjoy stories in different ways. Traditional books don’t suit everybody and audiobooks should certainly not be seen as some kind of fraudulent replacement for a ‘worthy’ hardback in the hand. Storytelling, after all, is far older than reading a printed book.The biggest commercial player in the audiobook market is Audible, owned by Amazon, but do search out other options too such as Listening Books (www.listening-books.org.uk).

As I mentioned above, one of the nicest ways of encouraging your child to read is to do it together and read to them. This is important to do when times are normal, but now everybody is unsettled this is a particularly excellent way of comforting your child. You absolutely don’t have to be a professional actor to read out loud, but do put plenty of emotion into it (I’ve always rather enjoyed doing ‘voices’ even though they are often rather mixed up – my sons gleefully pointed out that the dwarves in The Hobbit appeared to change which part of the country they came from every other reading session) and don’t go too fast – everybody tends to read too quickly. Older children who have not been read to for a while might also now enjoy this again.

As well as reading, it’s good to discuss the books your child is reading. Chatting about books is a huge part of the reading experience and enjoyable for both you and your child. Ask questions which make them think about what they’re reading or encourage them to look for answers in another book, rather than simply lobbing information at them (but remember they’re not doing a school test on it so don’t turn it into an interrogation!). If you’re reading something together, don’t whizz through it as fast as possible, but pause regularly to discuss issues that it raises and connections to other books your child may have read. Think of yourself as a ‘reading mentor’ rather than a broadcaster.

Lastly, don’t let your child have all the fun. You should read too. Not only is it enjoyable, if your son or daughter sees you reading then they are much more likely to follow your lead.

Thanks Alex!

Parent/ teacher alert

You can get your book wall off to a nice start in January as Alex has offered to send a personalised postcard to anyone who shares a picture of them with their copy of his book on social media and tags me. [UK only – sorry]

Before I log off now until the new year, I want to wish you all a very happy holidays, stay safe, take care, and see you in 2021!

Doggy day care and day dreams

One thing I’ve noticed through lockdown is the number of my friends who have got dogs – I suspect partly because as a result of the increased working from home it’s a much more viable option for many than previously, and partly as the “daily walk” has become an integral part of most our lives.

I always enjoy “fly on the wall” books for the insights they give into other people’s lives. And since I have a dog, I was curious to read Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter although I’m not sure what I expected – it’s not like you’d get any scandalous stories from the dogs themselves during their stays, nor was I expecting any shocking revelations from the pet sitter (thank goodness – that would be far too upsetting and need a trigger warning). So this could have been a mundane recount of daily dog walks, and in a way it is, but it’s also strangely compelling and I kept picking it up at every opportunity! It’s such a lovely, warm memoir of a life filled to the brim with dogs that I defy any dog lover not to enjoy it. Oh, and I desperately want to own a slightly mad Pointer now!

I also just checked to see if there was an audio version of this as I’d love to hear it narrated by the author – sadly not (yet), but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

The Blurb

Hilarious and heart warming true stories of a Pet Sitter.

​Laura takes us on her journey describing the immense joy that the animals have brought into her life. But it’s not all fun and games. With sometimes as many as ten dogs around her home, things can get a tad hectic. Not to forget the every day challenges faced in keeping the pets happy and safe when out walking. Luckily she is not alone in her quest; her unusually dominant Golden Retriever ‘Brece’ is always by her side. Brece earns her keep by convincingly playing the part of the alpha female, ensuring harmony amongst the pack.

​At times, the responsibility that Laura faces becomes overwhelming. She may think she has everything covered but that hand of fate could quite easily swoop down, creating havoc for her and the dogs. Laura has endured many close calls and teetered on the precipice of disaster may a time. The longer she continues with her pet sitting enterprise, the more likely hood that total disaster will actually strike. Is she tempting fate?

​Laura Marchant is the Bridget Jones of the pet sitting world!

Author Bio

Laura Marchant was born in 1959 in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England. Both her parents were born in the same town, so not exactly a family of intrepid travellers! As a child Laura and her siblings were fortunate enough to own shares in the families pets. Unbeknown to Laura at the time, her love for the animals formed the blueprint for a large part of her life. In 2011 she finally found her vocation, and in the comfort of her own home, set up a pet boarding business. For the next 7 years she shared her abode with a pack of dogs. A lot of this time was spent watching over the animals and observing their behaviour

Classic junior sleuthing

I was in the mood for a mystery so couldn’t resist this classic ‘Secret Seven’ style read. There’s a good plot that I really enjoyed, including the corporate sabotage aspects and the demolition threat which were a great way to freshen up the trope, and add urgency. I confess I was puzzled by the appearance of a coal cellar with actual coal in it in today’s world (there are mobile phones so I’ve not got my time periods wrong) but other than a spot of confusion, it wasn’t an issue.


When I started I didn’t realise that it was part of a series, and I haven’t read the others so it definitely works as a standalone. I think if I’d read the first two, I might have a deeper understanding of the characters, but that certainly wasn’t an obstacle to plunging straight into book three!


Although aimed at ages 9-12, I’d actually place this as slightly younger, around 8-10. This does create an issue around the lack of parental supervision and questionable decisions that would be less concerning for older/ YA, and it would be worth having some discussions with any young readers. It’s always a challenge with kids books to give the characters enough freedom without setting a bad example – as Katherine Rundell says “there’s nothing so endangered in children’s fiction as a mother” before writing the mother out of the book!

Blurb

Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…

School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.

The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…

As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.

Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.

About the author

Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of  Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2017, and Lady in Red. She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.

What do a reindeer, a monkey, and a cow have in common?

I can honestly say that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write! Until I received a review copy of Billy and the Balloons by Elizabeth Dale.

I confess I was a little worried that the title and cover might give away too much, but there is just so much fun and magic in this book, that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Think Peter Pan meets The Snowman and you’re on the right lines.

The “up up and away” fold out page was a complete surprise. I’d actually love a poster of this page for my Christmas decorations.

I also have to sing the praises of illustrator Patrick Corrigan. Not only are the colours are absolutely divine – rich and warm – but the illustrations manage to find that perfect blend of nostalgic and fresh.

PS – pass the mince pies – unlike Santa, I’m not planning to climb down any chimneys!

Blurb

Fly up, up, and away with Billy! When the wind takes Billy and his colorful balloons on a ride in the sky, he ends up having the most magical Christmas ever.

A small boy + a big bunch of balloons = magic! Billy’s dad has a special touch with balloons, turning them into every imaginable shape and creature. But one Christmas Eve, the wind whips up and tiny Billy finds himself and his father’s balloons floating away through the clouds. Lots of friends, both human and animal, scurry to the rescue–but instead of bringing Billy down to earth, one by one they end up coming along for the ride. Will Billy succeed in landing safely . . . and help Santa and his tired reindeer deliver their presents too?

Author biography

Elizabeth Dale

I began writing magazine fiction and have sold thousands of stories all over the world, but when my daughters were born and I started reading to them, I was reminded just how wonderful children’s books are, and decided to try writing them myself. They are the most fun of all and I have had over eighty books published from picture books up to novels for up to age 12. 

Some of them deal with issues I have faced with my own children such as a pet dying – Scrumpy (Andersen) or an over-adventurous hamster – Hammy (Orchard), others cover issues common to many children, such as being scared of monsters – Nothing Can Frighten a Bear (Nosy Crow), being different – Delightfully Different Dilly (Quarto 2021) and being small – Billy and the Balloons (Salariya) and Off to Market! (Frances Lincoln -a runner-up in the Dundee Picture Book Award and based on my journey on an over-crowded minibus in Uganda filled with villagers, furniture and animals!  

I have also written a couple of interactive picture books where the reader has to be a hero and pull faces, shout, stamp and twist and turn the book to help save a child from impending disaster – Chase Those Witches!(Salariya) and Save The Day for Ada May (Willow Tree Books.) The latter has won two Awards and been short-listed for a third. Of course there is always room for books which are just pure fun, whether they’re rhyming – Mix Up Monday (Maverick) coming in 2021 or non-rhyming – When Betsy Came To Babysit (Tamarind, read on the Cbeebies Bedtime Hour). 

I have recently moved into writing Non-Fiction picture books – Trailblazer (Maverick) is the story of Lily Parr and her battle to play Woman’s Football in the early 20th Century.

As well as my picture books I have written a lot of Early Reader texts – fun stories that help young readers develop their reading skills – for Franklin Watts and Maverick Books as well as Junior Fiction for Egmont.

Illustrator biography

Patrick Corrigan worked as an art director at a design studio before becoming an illustrator of educational and picture books for children. He illustrated Save the Day for Ada May!, which won the picture book category in the 2019 Northern Lights Book Awards.