Ashley Franklin

Tinkering around with a new revision strategy

I wrote a picture book story of Black Creole girl a while ago. The few editors that responded did like it, but they either a) weren’t in love with it enough to buy it OR b) wanted me to up the stakes.
One particular editor commented that as she read it, it made her want to get up and dance. This is actually my favorite piece of criticism so far. It stuck with me.
Last week, I decided to dust off the manuscript and try it again. I printed it out and took notes directly on it. I made a list of things that I wanted the new manuscript to do. I went through with my trusty pen and crossed out everything that I didn’t think would help  to reach my list of manuscript goals.
I have about four sentences left, and they’re still not fully exempt from the chopping block. I even changed the title! Was it hard to get rid of that much text? I’ll admit that I did pout for like two minutes. I got over it though.
I feel fortunate that I”m not one of those people who gets extremely attached to their writing. Did I love this manuscript enough to revisit it? Yes. I guess that does show some attachment. However, I’m not so attached to it that I’ll horde words just for the sake of keeping them, especially if they’re not beneficial.
I’m sorry! I haven’t touched upon the title of this post yet. I mentioned that the editor mentioned liking the sound of the manuscript. So, that’s one area of focus I’m really trying to bulk up. Remember the cartoon Madeline? I loved how it sounded as a kid, so I’ve started listening to old YouTube episodes of it as I do my revisions.
Will this land me an agent or result in a sale? I have no idea, but I”m having fun. Never stop having fun on your writing journey.

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I got a critique that hurt my feelings.

So, here’s what happened. I’d written something that I thought was great. Like…every time that I read over it, I expected some sort of holy light to shine down on it. Real talk. I am just that ridiculous.
So, I sent it over to my faves at Rate Your Story, and it came back with some straight to the point feedback, definitely no compliment sandwich in sight, and a score of 6. 6?! I friggin love this story, and 10 is the lowest score possible. How dare they give me a 6. Don’t they know I have a book coming out? I know what I’m doing!
Nope! I do not. And to be honest, I had to laugh at myself. The whole reason I was extremely eager to send the story in for feedback is because I’m trying out different genres. (Disclaimer: I’ve taken PB, CB,and MG courses, so I’m going into this totally blind.) But, as I’m sure you know, executing what you’ve learned when crafting your own story and really making it your own is completely different that reading some text from a class and being like “Oh yeah. I totally get that.”
So, I spent an hour or so being bitter, and then I printed out the feedback sheet. I printed out my story, and then I got excited. I underlined different parts of the feedback that I thought were spot-on and took notes about possible changes to make and where.
That’s the thing. Feedback should challenge you. At the end of the day, yes, I am the writer and the final decision is mine regarding what changes to make. However, a good writer will take the time to truly assess what will make the manuscript stronger.
I tell my students this all of the time. Feedback isn’t meant to hurt your feelings. It’s to help you grow. It either affirms things about your writing or challenges them.
Honestly, this set of feedback made me wish I knew who’d actually given it. I’d write them a note letting them know that their comments made me pout but then push harder. Thanks.
Oh, and do I recommend Rate Your Story for critiques? I do. I’m a fan. Honestly, I’m currently saving my coins to buy another year of membership. Besides, they did give me some solid feedback on the manuscript that I did end up selling (hoping we can soon get another dose of that magic potion brewing).
And with that, I’m off to do some revisions.

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Writer's Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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My writing. My baby. My fitted sheet?

I know lots of people who consider their writing to be their babies. I’ve had students say it. I have writing friends that say it. I understand that you give birth to an idea. You nurture it and watch it grow. Then, you send it out into the world, hoping that it can not only survive but thrive. It makes sense.
But, I’m not one of those people. I can’t be. If I did, my writing would probably never leave my computer screen. When you think about all he eyes that view your work even before it’s released to the public,it’s a scary thought. I am just now about to put my kids into daycare, and it’s causing all kinds of feelings on the inside. (Naturally, I’ll say more about that when it actually happens.)
I’m not saying that I don’t care deeply about my writing. I’m pretty sure that most writers do. (How else could you harness the energy to relentless write, revise, and repeat?) For me to fully invest in the writing process, I have to think of my writing as a fitted sheet. (I bet you didn’t see that coming.)
If I try to do it quickly, I cannot fold a fitted sheet to save my life. (Let’s be honest. I can barely do it slowly.) I have to really concentrate on it, and I always try multiple times in order to come up with something that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have someone else see. Shame? Yes! That keeps me far away from the “I can write this in one draft” mindset.
No, Ashley. No you cannot.
The fitted sheet mentality ensures that I get critiques and review my writing with a critical lens rather than a rose-colored one. Besides, you can’t have everyone in you linen closet with things all in disarray.
 
 

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Snowballs, Icebergs, and Reality Checks of Writing

To those of you currently battling snow of epic proportions, I apologize if the title alone made you roll your eyes. However, I promise that no other title was better suited. Compared to others, my writing journey is still in the beginning stages. Yes, I have had some wins along the way, but in regards to time, I haven’t been at this for multiple years.
Snowballs
When you see announcements of others striking multiple book deals, it is easy to loudly applaud them while internally wishing you could pelt them with an arsenal of snowballs. After all, you want to take them down, not actually hurt them. It’s hard to not be jealous. You want your name announced. You want your book on shelves. You want a spot on the illustrious bookshelf of the chosen few.
But, here’s something to keep in mind: While you were busy wallowing in your melting snowball arsenal, you missed all of the grunt work that someone else was doing.
Icebergs
Ah, the iceberg of success. If you’ve ever tried to reach any type of goal, this image should be burned into your brain. As writers who have not yet tasted the sweet fruit of success (and the type and taste of said fruit will vary from writer to writer), we must keep in mind that we are likely unaware of the setbacks, missteps, and failures that another writer has had to endure. We are likely too much in awe of acquisitions announcement to even think about this sometimes.
Reality Checks
As much as you want a rea l check, don’t discount the importance of a good ole reality check. For me, I had to ask myself if I was doing all that I could to improve my craft. Was I seeking enough critiques from quality critique partners? If I wasn’t happy with the critiques I was receiving, was I actively seeking to get better feedback elsewhere? Was I using my time wisely? Was I paying attention to what was selling? Was I using mentor texts?
See, there are plenty of things to do to make sure that you’re crafting the best manuscripts that you can. Besides, I don’t want to just be on a bookshelf. I want to leave a mark on the entire library. Back to work!
 

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My experience so far w/ Rate Your Story

So, remember when I got that Rate Your Story scholarship to use for this year? Honey, I’ve already been putting it to use. I’ve submitted 3 picture book manuscripts so far, and I’ve already received feedback on two of them.
I’m not going to lie to you in this blog, ever. I pouted when I saw my feedback. I thought these early drafts were pretty good. They’d been through a couple of critique partners who said they were pretty good. Let me just say that good critique partners are great, but a critique from a professional (particularly someone more seasoned that you are) is invaluable.
Truthfully, the feedback I got was more than just feedback. It was an honest critique. It eloquently told me what needed to be improved, offered concrete suggestions, and pretty much told me to try again. There wasn’t a bunch of added fluff to cushion my fragile writer’s ego. Nope! I understand the compliment sandwich, but critique partners can sometimes get too focused on the compliment part.
I’ve printed out my manuscripts, along with the feedback I received. I’m going to return to them in a couple of weeks with fresh eyes and new inspiration. I’ll let you know how it goes.
 
 

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My battle with rhyme

I have some pretty random writing goals. Yes, I primarily want to write picture books, but i have a pretty big writing goal that includes that. I want to get one of everything published. I want to publish a MG, NF, an article, etc. I’d even wanted to get an academic article, but they keep switching up APA on me, and I’m too lazy for that.
What does that have to do with anything? Writing a rhyming picture book is on my list of writing goals. I am proud to say that I’m getting better with it.No, really!
I went from an okay story with erratic rhyme. Then I had a pretty good story, but the rhyme seemed forced. Now I have a pretty good story, but the rhyme is leading the story too much.
That looks like progress to me.
So, what did I do to fix my most recent issue with rhyme? I first sent my manuscript to Rate Your Story. Their feedback is extremely helpful. Then, I read my manuscript one time and sat it aside. I wrote down (yes, by hand) what story elements I needed to tighten and brainstormed some solutions. After that, I wrote a new manuscript. I pretty much only kept two characters from the original. Now, I’ve sent this most recent manuscript to my critique partner. Where’d I get this particular critique partner? He’s actually one of my favorite partners I found through the KidLit411 Manuscript Swap group on Facebook.
Make those connections, my friends, and keep on tweaking those manuscripts.

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Good critiques matter!

 

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A critique’s purpose is to help. Don’t get caught up in your feelings.

 
If you’re a writer, and you’re on the fence about sharing your work, I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my students:

Get over yourself!

Why? A good critique can help you take your writing to the next level. Yes, many talk about the overall importance of critiques. Let’s be real. If getting high quality feedback wasn’t important, people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it. With so many writers wanting and willing to get their work read, you’d think paid critiques wouldn’t be so popular.

So, why are they? It could be for the simple fact that people expect detailed, thorough, comprehensive feedback when they do critiques. Paying for one increases your chances of that actually happening. Hey, I may jump on that bandwagon years down the line. I have years of teaching and tutoring experience. Still, I wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay me for a critique until I have some published books under my belt. (On that note, if you do pay for a critique, make sure it’s from someone who has a solid reputation and some credentials to stand on.)

Still keeping it real, some critiques you get during your writing journey are likely to be garbage. The comments may be super vague. That’s a totally appropriate reason to give your critiquer the virtual stank eye, but resist the urge. If you give an awesome critique of that person’s manuscript, you just may encourage him/her to up their game in the future. After all, we’re writers. Aren’t we supposed to grow in our craft?

 

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