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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Threads: Blogs

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Sit down and start blogging your book. Write one post at a time or many posts at a time. Create a manuscript. Create a book. Write it with all your heart and soul and all the passion you can muster. Let your readers know who you are, and they will come to read your blog.” Nina Amir

Threads =Where and What.

Blogging your articles can open up several threads. One can link back to the feedback in the previous section as you broaden your readership. The questions and discussion that follow can open up ways to expend your topics and/or discover unexplored sub-topics to include.

Blogging helps you discern your writing goals and output, as well as the time required to complete an entire segment from idea to polish. And then what is required to blend all the pieces into a finished project.

It can also establish a bridge with other readers in your field that then threads to potential markets that we’ll look at next week. It helps to focus where your main audience is and what they are most interested in discovering or challenging. Either response can then build up more dialogue and conversation and readers.

Another benefit is helping to develop your personal ‘voice’. Often we hear that we need to find our voice as writers, or the industry is looking for new voices. But even quality writing books rarely explain how to discover our own. Especially when we are entering into a specified genre and know we need to stand out, or at least not imitate another. It takes time. Writing on a regular basis gives us the practice. By sharing with others we can find and develop our voice.

If you’re not sure of the overall benefits and commitments required by keeping a blog I recommend starting with How To Blog A Book, by Nina Amir. She covers all the basic how-to questions of blogging in general, both for fiction and non-fiction, and how to promote and profit from that outreach in your field.

Action Steps:
1.     Make a list of blogs that are in your particular topics or expertise.

2.     What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses in each?

3.     Do you see any holes that aren’t being addressed on a regular basis that you have material to share? Or your own interest in discovering?

4.     If there are any are highly academic articles can you trim a particular portion into smaller pieces that would interest your particular age category in a more sharing format with language that is more understandable?

Share: Which blogs do you read on a regular basis? What draws you to them?

                                                       Read deep, marcy

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Draft Self-Feedback Outline

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

After you’ve written your draft set it aside for a few days and then use this general outline before you begin your polish draft.

Read over rough draft quickly. Then summarize briefly your immediate honest comments towards the paper as a whole by answering the following questions:
  1. What part did you like best about this paper? Specify.

  1. What part do you think needs the most work? Be specific.

Now reread the rough draft.

Introductory paragraphs require the following ingredients:
            Statement of the Issue                                            Clear thesis statement
            A Thesis Worth Examining                                    Narrow Focus
            Attention Getter                                                        Clarity

Using these criteria for your critique, answer the following questions.

  1. What are the introductory paragraphs strengths? Be specific.

  1. What are its weaknesses? Be specific. If you have a constructive suggestion for improvement mention it.


  1. Does the essay have a clear introduction, body and conclusion? If not, say where you see a problem and why.

  1. Does the writer follow the established topic? If not, point out.


  1. Is there a topic sentence for each body paragraph, which clearly establishes the idea to be discussed? If not, say what’s missing.

  1. Does the information in each paragraph apply to the topic? Is there any information that strays?

  1. Are the body paragraphs developed with examples, illustrations, quotes, and specifics? Do you have any constructive suggestions?

  1. Does the essay include characteristics of its specific style? If not, what’s missing?


11. Are there enough transitions used between and within paragraphs to make each part of the essay flow together as one whole? Are there any gaps?

12. Does the concluding paragraph restate the thesis and leave the reader with a final thought on the subject?

       13 Do sentence fragments, run-ons, punctuation, verb tenses, or spelling errors get in the way of understanding the paper? Make concrete comments if apply.

Share: Were you surprised by any positive or negative discoveries?

                                                   Read deep, marcy

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Truth Feedback Précis

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Critical Reading

Another approach to gauge content and focus is to adapt the techniques of a précis, both for content reading and for your research. College students use précis summary/response in several classes, especially history, social studies, and the sciences. This form of structured reading helps to evaluate content from a neutral perspective. It can give you distance to edit your own work and insight to give feedback to others with neutrality. Critical reading does not equal criticism that rips the content to shreds. Think of it as a structured reading log.

Developing précis skills also helps to focus any research examples in your articles without taking up extra word space.

First Summarize

Begin like any other reading. Read thoroughly. Annotate ideas, questions, and essential thoughts. Look up unfamiliar words. Be sure to grasp the main theme of the selection.
The purpose is to give a brief, original summary of a long selection, i.e. a chapter or essay review. The aim is to give a condensed version of the original selection including the author’s pov without adding any commentary of your own. Regardless of your emotional reaction and opinion either as a topic or in presentation.

Cut to the primary information. For example your initial notes or summary might look like this.

Content material: “because it was generally believed that the truth would come to light, the committee paid no attention to the criticisms so unjustly hurled upon them.”

Your summary: “The committee ignored the criticisms.”

Next Detail Response

1. Look for the essential facts or dominating idea of the passage.
2. Begin your opening statement by expressing what the passage tends to say or show.
3. Enlarge on the essentials with as few sentences as possible. Avoid adjectives.
4. Summarize only what the author says; do not add your own opinions.
5. Try to use only your own words. If you must include the author’s then put as quotes.
6. Reread and ask yourself: would a person who has not read the original understand what was said based on your précis?

Also be careful not to leave too much out for the sake of clarity.

For example: “A young man, seeking to avenge the murder of his father by his uncle, kills his uncle, but he himself and others die in the process.” Do you recognize this famous play based on this summary? In what ways is it too obscure?

The response is written in a freewrite style but with more critical thinking. Go beyond a reaction level to the piece. As you ask the questions during the summary stage now think of what your opinion is to those answers. For example, “What are the implications of the author’s pov?” “Did the author effectively accomplish their purpose?” “Did you learn anything?”

Keep a précis to about a half-page. Examine your feedback. Does it meet the requirements of your purpose? What’s good or what’s missing?

Action Steps:

1.     Ask for précis feedback from a trusted reader or another writer.

2.     Then examine their summary and note if your intended objectives are recognized clearly.

3.     Write a few précis summaries for a few of your own research sources. Do they help clarify the examples you want to use to support your presentation?

Share: Did you find this style of reading helpful or too structured for you personally? Why?

Read deep, marcy

On Saturday I’ll repost the whole self-feedback outline as a general form to revise and refresh from whichever angle you consider to be the most efficient for your style.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Tension Development: Shapes

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“What difference does your choice of structure make?” Jack Hodgins

When and where can structure shapes add to the curiosity questions that continue to develop an ongoing tension to read more?

By now you have made your decisions regarding what style, what pattern, what outline, and what key points you want to share. Shape now overlaps with fictional techniques that can add another layer of atmosphere where appropriate. Shape choices are extremely helpful when including stories in your research and examples.

A horizontal shape leans well into any chronological story line—either autobiographical, or an historical event, or an accomplishment. Flashbacks can be a part of the examples as well.

A converging sequence follows several separate threads that at some point all converge at one place and time. The threads can be people or events or processes.

A vertical shape sinks a series of shafts into memory in some order other than chronological in order to come to an understanding of a total experience via several memories or opinions or experiments. An excellent example of all these threads can be seen in the movie Hidden Figures.

When approaching scientific material author Jane Yolen points out that metaphors and aphorisms help to bridge concepts we cannot see. Try writing a list of metaphors for your topic and see if they might add shape to your patterns or outlines that customize your field into fresh viewpoints.

The basic purpose is still your underlying foundation. Curiosity—Communication—Connection. What shape will best fit your purpose?

Action Steps: Read through Jack Hodgins’ comments below in italics and then answer the question that follows for your own project(s). The underlined words are my insert.

1.     The structure of a story—or a novel—controls the order in which the reader receives information, thus affecting how the reader reacts to events and people, depending upon what is told, what is withheld, and even how events are juxtaposed to create a relationship in the reader’s mind.

Does your topic lean towards a need for emotional involvement, or discovery, or revealing an injustice? How might the structure change if going from gentle to harsh or vice-versa?

2.     The structure suggests something of how you, the writer, see the world.

If, for example, you are writing a persuasive or argumentative essay what common ground can you start from in order to build a conversation of why this is important to you?

3.     The structure contributes indirectly to the story’s theme or total meaning.

Do you chose to circle around the important purpose and come to it slowly allowing the reader to make the connections or by a compare and contrast mode set the meaning in step-by-step stages?

4.     The structure controls the extent of reader involvement. ..Go along for the ride or…require the reader to remember and make connections.

Which shape best fits into your experience and discovery of what you want to share? Did you find it helpful so you will repeat the process for yourself or do you feel that the opposite shape is more authentic? Why

Share: Which choice was the most difficult for you to shape? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Tension Development Part Two

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“The point that opens a paper is a general statement. The evidence that supports the point is made up of specific details, reasons, examples, and facts.” (Author unknown)

Topic Sentences

The topic sentence for each main point needs to both link to the overall thesis and clearly state its particular purpose. Then build its support. The support may require several paragraphs as well, so those opening sentences need to become their own topic sentence that links back to the main point you are expanding. The same guidelines expand to chapters as well.

The basic question is still why. Why as a writer are you giving this point to your overall thesis?  Each topic point becomes your key points to build support for your main purpose. The topic sentences introduce the support information that follows and the examples that build up the body of content. If you are writing for a particular magazine they will often have a word count limit which will affect the length of your paragraph points. So it is important for both you and the reader to be able to clarify each point and purpose.

There are three common errors that often go with topic sentences.

1) Making an announcement: “My Ford Escort is the concern of this paragraph.”
2) Giving too broad a topic: “Many people have problems with their car.”
3) Or too narrow: “My car is a compact.”

An effective topic sentence is a clear statement: “I hate (or love) my Ford Escort.”  This is an opinion that now must be supported by specific reasons, examples, and details.

Note that in the examples above I’ve put each of my topic sentences in italics. Have I made the links to my premise and my examples of ways to build your article or essay clearly?

Body/Key Points

Each main point followed by paragraph support builds up the article’s body. The key points keep the subject on target. Use the guideline below to either draft your own paragraphs or assess them to see how strong your body is.


The concluding paragraph restates the primary thesis and leaves the reader with a final thought on the subject. Hopefully your essay has interested readers who now want to explore the topic more for themselves, and/or continue to read your material.

When each of the topic points supports each other, the subject tension is woven throughout its delivery.

Action Steps: Examine your rough draft.

1. Is there a topic sentence for each body paragraph, which clearly establishes the idea to be discussed? If not, say what’s missing.

2. Does the information in each paragraph apply to the topic? Is there any information that strays?

3. Are the body paragraphs developed with examples, illustrations, quotes, and specifics? Do you have any constructive suggestions?

4. Does the essay include characteristics of its specific style? If not, what’s missing?

5. Are there enough transitions used between and within paragraphs to make each part of the essay flow together as one whole? Are there any gaps?

Share: Did any new ideas come to you as you shaped up the paragraphs? Why?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Tension Development Opening

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Some first lines are so powerful that you absolutely have to keep on reading. ... At its best, it can be not only a propellant, but also a statement of what you might expect from the text to come. It can establish a character, a narrator or setting, convey a shocking piece of information.” Noah Lukeman  

Introductory paragraphs require the following ingredients in order to establish the key purpose and points. And to grab the reader’s interest.

            Statement of the Issue                                                Clear thesis statement
            A Thesis Worth Examining                                        Narrow Focus
            Attention Getter                                                            Clarity

Just as in fiction, the opening invitation is extended to enter into a shared conversation. The introductions are also a promise to the reader that their own curiosity and their own wonder will be satisfied. When we meet that promise, we build relationships with future readers. And we can build credibility in our particular field of interest.

What is your story/subject about? Where did it start? Is it an idea to explore, a character memoir, a significant place, or a feeling that sent you on a search?

The delivery voice, like a story, includes the writer’s voice, which must be the consistent voice of your work and worldview. It includes the
             —narrator’s personae/personality
             —attitude  towards the subject
             —world at large.

Invite your reader to care about your commitment and take the time to listen to your discoveries. As mentioned earlier in the outlines, your target audience will also determine your choice of style either for articles above or for different styles of essays such as narration, description, compare and contrast, persuasion, argument, or analysis. The delivery style, or approach, you intend needs to be defined as well in the introduction.

 Author Lee Wyndham considers the three most popular openings for this age group as statement, question and answer, and anecdotal.

Action Steps:

1. Does the beginning paragraph/chapter establish your voice and your tone?

2. Is your voice consistent throughout the opening?

3. Does your language style match your attitude? For example: Witty or sardonic. Formal or casual.

4. “They call me Ismael,” is the immediate focus in line one of the novel Moby-Dick. What do you want your immediate impression to be for your readers?

Share: Which style choice have you made for this particular essay/ article? Why?

Bonus Action Steps:

1. Write a set of opening lines based on the opening quote by Noah Lukeman above. Then write additional versions of each sentence based on the different categories that could apply to a potential series for you. They may or may not develop into a first chapter opening line for your articles but could become paragraph or example opening lines down the road.

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Outline Sample Choices Part Three

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

Outlines? Everyone Does (Excerpt From Write Your Novel Now Workshop)


As we’re developing our story, through brainstorming, synopsis, story questions, and plot points, the outline gives us a grid in which to see the overall effect. What umbrella will best cover this sequence?

If you are writing within a real historical timeline, you may need, or want to use, some particular events as external plot points. So you’ll need to know where you can place it alongside your character’s external or internal conflict.

As you come to each chapter, decide which outline will work best for this particular next step. Do the micro-steps in stages. Then when you’re done, you can lift out all the outlines and examine the overall macro view.

Another advantage is that the micro can be pulled out of a larger work and shared either as blogs or workshop sections. And the micro can be extended into full-length projects. We’ll talk more about blogs in a few weeks.

Your turn to make decisions.

1. So write an outline first and then write your chapter draft from it.

2. Or write your chapter draft and then outline it according to the style you’ve chosen.

3. For either, review: Where are the missing parts? Do you need research in that area? Make a separate work list for later or for your time filler schedule. And then move to the next chapter on your next writing time.

4. Another creative jumpstart is to find an outline that represents your focus and apply it to a novel that you admire. Fill it in first with the story itself, and then replace those lines with generic sentences just as you did with the story questions.

For example, if you needed a structure for introducing a legend, deconstruct a novel that does the same and mark where and how the “event” is covered. Or in your research if there’s an incident for a hero or heroine that is perfect for a sequence for your character then write up an outline for it and then watch for a place to adapt it to your character’s personality.


Don’t let outlining become a chore. Begin with the easiest and fill in as you go. Outlines make all the structure so much easier to plan and to edit, but they’re meant to be fun too.

Action Steps:
            1. Using the steps above outline your potential book.

Share: Which part was the most difficult? Why?

Read deep, marcy

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