Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Fishing For Contracts

By Lisa Amstutz 

When I was a kid, I loved to go fishing with my grandparents. On a good day we’d bring home a mess of bluegill or catfish for breakfast the next morning.

Looking back, it seems that good anglers and good writers have a few things in common:
1. They learn from others. Like fishing, the craft of writing has a big learning curve. You likely won’t land a big contract the first time you toss your line out. Just as you might take tips from a more experienced angler, you can shorten your writing learning curve by seeking out more experienced authors, taking classes, attending conferences, and finding a good critique group.
2. They use the right bait. Successful anglers spend a lot of time choosing just the right bait or lure for their target fish species. Think of your submissions as your bait. Start by making them irresistible. And don’t send them out scattershot—take the time to research each agent or editor you are querying and make sure your submission is the right fit for them.
3. They keep their line in the water. If you pull out your line and there’s nothing on it, the best thing to do is to check your bait and toss it right back in. Writers need to do this too. If you get a rejection, don't let it stop you in your tracks. Consider any feedback carefully, and then send your story out again. It may take a lot of tries to hook an agent or editor, but it’ll never happen if you don’t keep your hook—that is, your book—out there.
4. They are patient. Like fishing, writing takes a lot of time and patience. But if you stick with it and keep improving your craft, you’re bound to find success eventually!
Happy fishing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Five Fun Ways to Keep Readers (and Editors) Flipping Your Pages

 By Linda Skeers

Fiction writers can keep readers on the edge of their seats and flipping pages by creating exciting and compelling page turns. They do this by making sure there’s drama and tension and suspense throughout the manuscript.

But how do nonfiction writers do that when they are dealing in facts and information? The same way – by borrowing a few fiction techniques!

1. Ask a question
Readers are curious little beings and if you pose a thoughtful question that intrigues them, they’ll keep reading to discover the answer. Tease and tantalize them into wanting to know more and they’ll be hooked! Don’t rehash what they probably already know about your topic – dig deep for a tidbit that will surprise and amaze them. And then keep doling them out!

2. And then what?
Think about page turns and use them wisely. Mention a problem or obstacle and make readers wonder IF it can be resolved. Raise the stakes. Hint at what could happen if the problem isn’t resolved.

3. Make it fun
Use descriptive and lyrical language whether you are talking about rocks or rabbits. Sprinkle in action verbs and sensory details – make each scene come alive for the reader. Try to create compelling scenes that draw a reader in and keep them interested. Great nonfiction should be as exciting and interesting as fast-paced fiction! Avoid passive language and bland verbs. Reading it aloud can help you “hear” where you can punch up the language.

4. Use the element of surprise!
Forget the nonfiction from your youth – it’s a bright new day! Steer clear of dry, textbook explanations and find a unique way to present your information and your readers will be hooked. What about a unique narrator? Or unusual format? Fun sidebars? Activities? Humor? Look at your topic sideways and upside down – find a new angle or perspective that hasn’t been done before. Be adventurous! Be daring!

5. Kindred spirits
Remember what it was about your topic that first caught YOUR attention. That passion (and sometimes obsession) will shine through your manuscript and will spark the same desire for knowledge and need to know more about your subject in your reader. Enthusiasm is catching!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

You've Got an Idea. Now What?

By Peggy Thomas

 Ideas are like radio waves. They are all around us, and you simply have to raise your antenna to tune in. That means being observant, reading widely, talking to people, and being open to the world around you. The more you practice being aware, the more ideas you’ll accumulate. Unfortunately, not every idea becomes a book (at least not my ideas).

Before you plunge head first into writing, ask yourself a few questions:
#1. Is the idea kid-friendly? You may love the idea of writing about the history of buttons or the 2008 economic crash, but what would a 4th grader think. Even if you suspect that a young reader’s eyes would glaze over, it doesn’t mean your idea is dead. Just figure out a way to make your story more relevant to a young audience. For example, you could focus on kids who lost their homes during the economic crash. Or compile the most bizarre and zany facts about buttons.
#2. Has anyone else written on this topic? Do a quick search on Amazon, or conduct a more thorough search on WorldCat.org, which contains the records from more than 10,000 libraries.

Don’t panic if another writer had the same idea. You can still write about buttons, especially if the competition is more than five years old. Librarians tend to refresh their nonfiction every few years to keep their collections current. However, you do not want to write the exact same book, so…
#3. Can I add something new to the conversation? Look for cutting-edge research. Approach the topic from a different angle. For example, rather than a book about all buttons, focus on one collector, one time period, or write from a button’s point of view. When I wrote about George Washington, I approached it from a farming viewpoint in George Washington Plants a Nation (Calkins Creek, 2014).
#4.  Can I find enough information? I’ve had to drop several projects simply because I could not find material. Look for primary sources like letters, diaries, period news articles, and people to interview. 
Then you will be able to write a well-researched book with a fresh slant that any kid will love.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

News from the Nonfiction Ninjas

 Hello Nonfiction Writers!

We are busy working on the 2023 Nonfiction Fest and this year we'll be dedicating it to the memory of our good friend, Pat Miller, who had the vision for this event. We Ninja, know that Pat wanted the Fest to carry on because she gave us specific instructions to do so!! And so we will!

We are making a few changes that will make it easier and hopefully more fun. One of those changes is that we are moving our Ninja Blog to this site. You will be seeing posts from the Ninjas leading up to and after the NF Fest. This way we hope to encourage your writing journey all year long. 

We will also be announcing a new event for Fall 2023. It's going to be an exciting challenge!! Stay tuned for details.

But first, we would like to invite everyone who has benefitted from Pat Miller's kindness and generosity to participate in a book donation in her honor. We would like to encourage you to donate a nonfiction book of your choice to a school or library in your community. Then post a comment on our blog or a picture on the NF Facebook site.

Pat was devoted to children's literacy and worked as a school librarian for many years. This would be a wonderful way to celebrate Pat and her work with both readers and writers.

I'm going first -  I'm donating a classroom set of my Top Secret Files Series to my local elementary school here in St. Charles, Missouri.

Now it's your turn! 
Help us celebrate Pat Miller and Nonfiction!