Tricks and treats
Dear Gentle Reader –
We are approaching that time. Can you feel it? The icy wind nips at your exposed flesh. The sky darkens early and lies purple and bruised as it fades into dusk. Dread hangs heavy above the blank page as the clock ticks…and ticks…and ticks. The Keurig sputters in weary submission and the tea kettle howls its surrender.
Fear not! You are not alone. We Angel Editors are offering tricks and treats as you stretch and prep for the marathon ahead.
What is a Trick? A bit of craft or process that helps you with your writing.
What is a Treat? A recent favorite read that has warmed and heartened us.
Trick: For all the Type-A jerks like me who can spend an hour researching the way they washed dishes in medieval castles, write what you know and put the rest in brackets while writing a first draft so you can keep the momentum down and words flowing. Ex: “When she was finished [whatever process they used to wash dishes], she frowned. Being a woman in this day and age truly sucked.”
Treat: Katie Cotugno’s HOW TO LOVE. A lovely contemporary romance that was like wrapping myself in a cozy blanket and sipping hot cider every time I sat down to read it. Contemporary YA soul food
Trick: When I’ve “finished” a picture book manuscript I physically lay it out for pace and flow. How? I print out the manuscript and cut out each line. Then I take a three-ring binder that has been outfitted with the standard 32 pages. I tape the lines of text on the pages and see how it falls. Something about physically holding a “book” and seeing the turn of those pages makes a huge difference in how I finalize my edits.
Treat: I’m currently reading Stephen Fry’s MYTHOS and Loving It! I’m a huge Greek mythology geek from way back and Fry has come up with a delightful way to share the entire panoply, as clear and concise stories complete with dialogue, and I am transported. If you are unfamiliar with the mythos, here is a gentle and entertaining introduction. If you are familiar with the mythos, here is a reminder of why you were enchanted.
Trick: When revising, figuring out the steps you’ll need to accomplish your tasks and assign an amount of time for each thing. Add an hour or two to whatever you come up with because procrastination is real, and life gets in the way. Then examine your schedule to see realistically how long it will take you to accomplish everything. Work toward that goal.
Treat: ALL THE BAD APPLES by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. Timely in content and powerful in its prose. Loved it! So, so good.
Trick: Use the search & replace function in Microsoft Word or Pages or Scrivener to highlight verb forms of “to be” (is/are/was/were) in your manuscript. Now make a revision pass to specifically replace these weak/passive forms with more interesting verbs!
Treat: I devoured I, CLAUDIA by Mary McCoy. It is one of this year’s Printz Honor books. It has terrific “political intrigue” set in a prestigious prep school.
Trick: I have a plot graph on my wall and make sure that my draft hits all the milestones by putting plot points along the graph with Post-It notes. The visual approach helps me see where I need to build up, usually in the saggy middle.
Treat: I just finished Heather Shumaker’s MG ghost story, THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY. The three Griffin siblings visit their aunt in England, where she is the caretaker of the family castle, which comes complete with its ghosts. But those ghosts want to keep the youngest sibling for themselves. The two older siblings have to stop them. Shumaker manages to make this story creepy without being too scary for an MG audience. It strikes just the right tone of ghostly without being terrifying.
We hope these Tricks and Treats will lure you to reveal your ghosts and goblins on the page this November. We are excited to meet you on the other side of your manuscript!