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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When Distraction becomes Fruitful

I have focused goals for this year. It took me less than a week to get distracted. To be fair, I was only distracted for a few days. I saw a call for children’s TV pitches, and one of sought after themes just so happened to align with an idea I’d been fooling around with.
Do I know anything about pitching a children’s TV series? Nope! Did I let that stop me from seriously considering this? Nope! I won’t keep you in suspense. I decided against actively pursuing the opportunity.
The surprise? I got my idea out of my head and it actually started to take shape (and make sense)! I’ve always considered fresh looking at something with fresh eyes as meaning taking a break from it and returning or having someone else take a look at it. Today, my fresh eyes came in the form of envisioning my idea in a different medium. I actually visualized it. (I oddly stared at my TV while it was turned off, but what works; right?)
I can proudly say that I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing on this #MuseMonday.

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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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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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Saving a Manuscript

I know that some manuscripts just don’t work no matter how hard you try. For me, it’s one particular manuscript that I wrote just shy of a year ago. I’m on like version 10. I know some writers talk about doing upwards of 30 drafts. To me, that’s a bit much. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of revision. Heck, I teach English comp! I just think there are sometimes better ways to use your time.
I was totally focused on this manuscript for quite some time. I refused to work on any other ideas except for it. I feel like I stifled my own creativity due to my being stubborn and forcing the manuscript to work.
So, what’s different now? Two things:

  1. I’ve taken two writing courses since I last touched this manuscript.
  2. I made a notebook specifically for it.

The benefits of having taken two writing courses is obvious. I feel better equipped with the notebook that I made. It’s really simple. It’s a 1-inch, 3-ring binder. In it, I have the following:

  • All versions of the manuscript
  • Lined paper
  • Blank paper (for doodling when I’m stuck)
  • My list from the last PiBoIdMo Challenge (to see if those ideas inspire some newness)

Will this help me whip my manuscript into shape? I have no idea. But, you’re on this journey with me, and we’ll see what happens.
 

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