Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Good or Bad?

Countless people on social media are saying, "Good riddance!" to 2016. To them, it was a crappy year, and they can't wait to cross that magical threshold at midnight tonight and start fresh. 2016 was a year filled with celebrity deaths, an awful presidential election, and that terribly disappointing Independence Day sequel. Who wouldn't want to say goodbye to that?

Sure, 2016 may have brought with it a lot of not-so-great things, but does that alone make it a crappy year? Perhaps all those people who are judging the year based on what happened in the news are missing the point.

For me, 2016 was challenging. For my sister Elizabeth, it was more so. She was diagnosed with breast cancer right before Christmas 2015. I was with her when the doctor told her how advanced it was and how drastic the treatment would be. For the next several months, I went to her chemotherapy sessions, took notes at doctor appointments, sent out regular email updates to friends and loved ones, and helped her out when she was weak from treatments or recovering from surgery. I also organized a spaghetti dinner to help her with expenses.

It was a stressful time. But it was also a special time that deepened my relationship with my sister. We probably spent more time together in 2016 than we did in the five years before that. A lot of that time was spent laughing and talking about our kids, or Star Wars, or how to reorganize the crazy cluttered mess I call my storage room. Sure, there were tears and even a little anger, but Elizabeth always found her smile again. And she never lost faith. All this while keeping a job and raising four kids under the age of eight.

When it comes to challenges, cancer is a pretty big one. All the other challenges that 2016 brought with it are piddly in comparison. But was 2016 a crappy year? I say no.

What I have learned from 2016 is that a year isn't necessarily good or bad because of what it brings to you. Maybe it is more about what you bring to it.

So whatever 2017 brings your way, I hope you make it a great one.

Happy New Year!

Elizabeth and her four little ones.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Thursday, December 08, 2016

You've Written a Children's Book? Read This! (part 1)

So you've written a children's book. Congratulations! You have done what a lot of people only think or dream about. You had an idea, you pursued it, and now you have a completed manuscript. You are ready to be published!

Or maybe not.

Actually, probably not.

In truth, I would say definitely not.

Your manuscript may not be ready to be published, but it is probably ready to receive some feedback! And no, I don't mean that you should have your mom or your kids or your best friend read it (though that's certainly okay to do). I mean that you should seek objective feedback from industry professionals. Or, at the very least, other writers you trust to be completely, brutally, honestly constructive.

Once you've done that, you'll probably (definitely) need to revise. Some of this will be easy. Fixing typos and grammar, rewording lines to make them more clear--these kinds of things are simple and expected. But what if someone tells you your story doesn't work? What if the whole thing made them bored out of their minds or left them wondering what the heck was going on? Worse, what if you get CONFLICTING feedback? (the horror!)

Calm down. This is all part of growing as a writer. Chances are if someone's feedback resonates with you, it is correct. On the other hand, if it doesn't, it may mean that you aren't being objective. Or it could mean that the person giving you feedback doesn't know what the heck they're talking about. If this happens, sleep on it. Seek more feedback. Try to be objective. Give yourself and your story a little space for a few days or weeks. Then, tackle your revision and polish that manuscript.

Now you're ready to publish your book!


Probably not.

You'll want to repeat that feedback/revision process a few times. Or a few hundred. However long it takes. It may be that you end up with a completely different story by the time you're truly done. It might make you crazy. It might make you curse yourself for ever pursuing this nightmare dream in the first place! But keep going until you've done everything you possibly can to get your manuscript just right.

Only you know what that is. And only you will really know when you're ready for the next step!

What is the next step? Read about that in Part 2!