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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Small Group Feedback Guideline

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults


Writing can be a very solitary pursuit. Which is in a way a rather odd characteristic considering that writers write to share with others.  It is a joy to connect with readers, especially those who share an interest in our topics. And it is a joy to have fellow writers to walk the journey together to support the bad days as well as the good. It is a gift to be able to talk with others in our field and learn from each other both personally and professionally.

So consider finding some co-writers to connect with, whether through small groups or conferences or one-to one with a trusted friend. Be willing to become accountable and support each other on a journey that can last years.

Look for a fit that is supportive to all who are involved whether from beginner to experienced. Be honest regarding each of your needs. And treat each other with respect. Sometimes it will take a while to find that kind of fit but don’t give up. Writing can be like climbing a ladder where we need a hand to pull us up and we in turn reach to the person next to us. Our strengths and weaknesses vary just as do our personalities and when we work together we all move forward.

I have a colleague that is a whiz at anything technical or marketing and she is the first one I go to when I get stuck because she knows how to explain the foreign concepts to me. She in turn knows that I love to brainstorm new possible projects, and sometimes go way out of the box just to juggle our misconceptions. So when she has a new project brewing we schedule a fun, crazy, brainstorm day.

So in case any time you are looking to build up a small group, whether in person, or by old-fashioned mail, by a skype mode, or an online chat-room, here are some beginning guidelines to consider.

Action Steps:
1.     Talk to some friends about forming a feedback-writing group.

2.     Decide if you want to share your projects once or twice a month.

3.     Will you get together in person or by skype type mode, or in an online chat forum such as Facebook?

4.     Consider how to work out a consistent schedule if you are in different time zones or continents.

Share: What did you decide?

                                  Have a wonderful new year filled with writing!

Read deep, marcy

Small Group Feedback

1. When exchanging manuscripts be sure to let your readers know what assistance you need. If this is an exploratory draft, then you just need general feedback. However, if you are submitting it to an agent then you need the red line polish with no mercy.

2. As the writer don’t try to argue your ‘errors’. Accept the comments graciously and recognize that either, the reader really didn’t understand, or you did not get your intent across.

3. If everyone is making different suggestions on the same segment, then that is a clue something needs fixing.

4. However, at the end of their comments, do ask if you need more clarity anywhere, or if no one mentioned an area that you were worried about asking if it worked.

1.    Do a quick read through.

2.    Read again and make comments on the manuscript. Ask questions. Point out confusion or difficulties. Where a different word choice could be made or a sentence is awkward, make a note.

3.    Perhaps suggest a different approach—for example “try this scene in dialogue.”

4.    At the end of the manuscript write a brief summary of your overview.

5.    Sign your name so that if author has follow-up questions they can ask you privately.

1.    Begin with positive comments. We need to know what’s working in order to build on strengths.

2.    Where there are weaknesses, give helpful feedback: not a value judgment such as “this is bad!” Say why it isn’t working in your opinion: example, “not sure where this is happening”, points out a setting or time difficulty.
      “Strive for honest opinions, tempered with kindness.” (Cecil Murphey)

3.    For fiction look at beginning, plot development, and conclusion. Does the structure work for this story? Setting? Language? Word choices? Age appropriate? Genre?

4.    If you know of a book to recommend where another author has successfully used a problem area, write it down. For example, a writer is having difficulty with flashbacks, time travel, or describing a horse. 

Non-Fiction Feedback
  1. Does the title peak your interest? Is in inventive and original?

  1. Does the introduction draw you in; make you want to know more? Are you sure what the opening main point/thesis is? Could you restate the thesis?

  1. Does the writer give enough concrete and specific examples to illustrate and prove his or her points? Which examples stand out in your mind?

  1. Were you always sure why information was being given to you? Were you confused at any point? Which part did you have the most trouble understanding?

  1. Is the conclusion satisfying? Did it seem to tie up the thesis without restating or summarizing the main points? Did it reach out to make personal or universal observations about the implications of the theme? Describe your feelings when you heard the conclusion. Use a simile if you can—“The conclusion is like…”

  1. Are the quotations cited and punctuated correctly within the text? Are they gracefully integrated?


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Overview Nonfiction: Talent: Market Interest

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“A blogged book allows you to test market your book.” Nina Amir

Target=Who—Where and When

In some ways marketing your work is a moving target, especially with all the ongoing changes in technology and outreach. There are many experts in this field to give detailed guidance through their blogs, podcasts, books, and workshops, so here I am just touching the surface with a few observations so that when you are ready to publish you will know what information to look for. And be able to recognize the legit support businesses. I’m primarily talking about books now.

By now you have established your audience, your subject, and your focus which all equal who your target market is. The next question to consider is where you want to aim and when. And the financial cost involved in the delivery. Beware of any organization that tells you it will cost you thousands to publish. Or any vanity presses.

First consideration—do you care whether you receive any pay? Or would you be just as pleased to write for non-profit organizations, and newsletters, and conferences and after-school programs.

Or are you willing to write pro-bono to develop a readership for when the time comes to offer for cost. And then continue to do both? Recognize that the costs involve time as well. For example having a traditional publisher will make a large difference in publicity, but you will still need to put in a large quantity of time. Whereas if you decide to be a self-publisher, you will be responsible for all of the marketing and publicity.

Traditional, Indie, print, e-book, online, free copies, each have individual pluses and minuses that need to be assessed regarding where are your strengths and where will you need assistance. Those choices will also impact where and when and how you market. Some niche topics are too small for the main publishers. If you have a contract with them for other work will you still be able to self-publish the niche. When would you need an agent? It’s not always easy to effectively navigate the creative side and the business side. Carefully consider what your main purpose and goals are and where you need assistance to achieve them.

Traditional publishing houses often have a built in time sequence process that as an author you need to meet those deadlines. There is some more freedom as an Indie publisher but once you begin the process you also have deadlines to juggle and not all of your own choice. Will the book cover be ready in time? Do you need a professional copyeditor? How much time are you prepared to adjust for the unexpected?

Knowing your primary reader will enable you to meet your goals and purpose.

Action Steps:
1.     Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses for both marketing and publicity.

2.     Choose one of each and read up some guidelines from a traditional publishing house, a well-established literary agency, and an Indie publisher such as CreateSpace to see what each of their agendas require.

3.     Look at the resource information through established organizations in your particular field, or through The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator.

4.     Set aside some study time on one detail to assess your level of  potential competence or necessary learning curve.

Share: Where do you feel most confident? Where do you need advice?

Read deep, marcy

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.

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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