Finding The Magic

I’ve been rewriting and editing, and then rewriting and editing some more. I’ve had my picture book (PB) reviewed by three people and it’s been incredibly helpful. Elsie Goes To Work is so close, but I feel it’s still missing something. I think I’m leaving some magic out.

I wanted to keep you guys posted, but I don’t have much to report. I’m just looking for that fairy dust to sprinkle on my PB.

So, you know if you have any to spare (fairy dust that is), please help a writer out.

-Rachel

Why I Won’t Illustrate My Picture Books

In my last post I shared a new project that I will be working on. I decided to take a break from novel-writing and write a few picture books that have been churning in the back of my brain.

I’ve since written two picture book manuscripts. A few people have asked if I will be illustrating the books myself.

That’s a solid nope!

Here’s why:

cat-drawing

Yep, that was illustrated by yours truly. If I didn’t write “Meow!” you would probably be confused as to whether this is a mouse, bear, rabbit, possibly a bat, or a cat.

Have a lovely day folks, and rest easy knowing that the future generation will not be subjected to my crazy illustrations.

-Rachel McKee

A New Project

I’m at a point in my novel where I am stuck. That means my writing is stuck. I hate that.

So I decided to dig up a children’s book that I wrote last May. The story is (loosely) based off of my experience working at a flower nursery. I posted the story last week to get some feedback. It’s been removed and revised many times since I posted it.

The writing for this story came easily. I was able to draw on my own experience and reflect. Now I want to write an entire series based off of Elsie’s (my MC) adventures. These stories will be written from my childhood memories. I’m very excited about this project. I’m also learning that it’s good to keep writing, even if you have to put one project aside.

Drawing from my own experience while writing these picture books has been easier than writing my novel (Not that any writing is easy.) Creating fictional characters and a fictional story is hard, sometimes I feel like I’m reaching into a black hole to find what works.

I must stop and quote two authors:

“Write what you know.” -Mark Twain

“You speak of Lord Byron and me – There is this great difference between us.
He describes what he sees – I describe what I imagine – Mine is the hardest task.”
-John Keats in a letter to his brother George, September 1819

In my case, both of these quotes are true. There are certain plot points, emotions, and scenes that I have been struggling with because I have no reference. I’m not giving up on my novel, but I need to follow this new motivation.

I’m pitching the first book in the series, Elsie Goes To Work next Thursday at a Twitter pitch event. If you have a picture book you would like to pitch, the hashtag is #PBBooks and it’s happening on the 2/23/2017.

Wish me luck, hopefully an agent or editor will “like” my pitch.

-Rachel McKee

Writing Discussions: Beyond This Blog

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time talking about my writing projects outside of my blog.

When friends and family ask about my writing endeavors I clam up, and then to compensate, I ramble for 20 minutes about my novel or this blog. I make a mess of explaining my projects.

People are always nice and they nod their heads, looking somewhat confused. Even with my husband, the one person I am the most comfortable with, I fumble to convey what my projects mean. Luckily he reads my blog so he knows I can form a coherent thought, but when I say my ideas out loud they sound flat and pointless.

I avoid discussing my writing with people, which makes it a lonely craft. (Reason 1,2234 I am grateful for this blog.)

Do you struggle with explaining your art or big projects?

-Rachel McKee

Photo by Miles McKee Photography

Favorite First Sentences

The first sentence is (arguably) the most important sentence in a book. Here are some of my favorites. I scoured my bookshelves and found the most intense, descriptive, catchy sentences I could find.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London. 1903.

“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.”

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. 1924

“Except for the Marabar Caveand they are twenty miles offthe city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.”

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton. 1994.

“I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or else an unfortunate accident.”

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange. 1982.

“Where there is a woman there is magic.”

Charlotte’s Web. 1952.

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet A. Jacobs. 1857.

“I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away.”

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. 2006.

“All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.”

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. 2000.

“My name is Indiana Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”

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———-

It’s a lot of pressure to follow-up after those incredible intro sentences, but I thought it would be fun to share the first sentence from the YA novel I am writing.

Not By Blood by Rachel McKee

“When the ferry that carried Brian Colt smacked into the arrival dock, his past collided with the future.”

Do you have a first sentence from a manuscript that you would like to share? How about a favorite first sentence that sticks out in your mind? Please comment below.

-Rachel McKee

Guest Post Questionnaire – M. Miles

A few weeks ago, three of my favorite bloggers agreed to form a writing panel for today’s post. I asked them to respond to five quotes about a writer’s identity, and in their responses, they produced some smashing quotes of their own.

via Writers Respond to Famous Quotes — M. Miles

I had so much fun participating in M. Miles’ questionnaire. I’m honored that I was asked to join the discussion.

Perhaps you are familiar with the other guest bloggers: Paul from WindBlownWords and Kristin Twardowski. If not, check them out today.

Have a great weekend!

-Rachel McKee

Selective Editing

I thought I would give everyone an update on my novel-writing progress.

Just a recap, here is my (work-in-progress) synopses for Not By Blood:

Brian Colt is seventeen years old and alone. After losing his family in an automobile accident he is forced to leave Alaska and is sent to live with his uncle in Washington State. What’s super awkward is that Brian has never met this side of his family because there was a major fallout that no one ever talks about it. What’s even more awkward is when Brian meets his cousin Rebecca Colt (step-cousin, thank God) he is reluctantly attracted to her. Brian plans to go back to Alaska and take over his family’s logging operation as soon as he turns eighteen, but first he must survive senior year and live with an unforeseen, violent opponent.

Rebecca Colt dreams of becoming a marine biologist. She knows that the odds are stacked against her and nobody believes she will amount to anything. Her nickname at school is “Hot Garbage” because her family is trash. The trailer she lives in is less sanitary than some of the dumpsters in town. Her step-father tells her exactly what he thinks of her with his fists, and her mother is lost in her pill addiction. Rebecca’s one-saving-grace is her best friend.. That is until her cousin… (eh hem) …step cousin comes to town…

I’ve almost completed my first edit, and to tell you the truth, it was overwhelming. There are so many things that I want to change. I realized that I needed to break the editing down into toddler-sized chunks. This first edit I simply looked at the story aspect of my manuscript. I asked myself: Do you like the story? Does the timeline work? Is it believable? Do you want to keep reading?

I’m happy to report that I do indeed still love the story. I’m going to go in and cut some scenes and add a few more for clarity, but overall I’m happy with it.

This is the plan-of-focus for future edits:

Second Edit-Character development.

Third Edit-Scene building.

Fourth Edit-Add more poetic language/descriptive detail.

Fifth Edit-Remove clichés.

Sixth Edit-Grammar.

Seventh Edit-Formatting.

I’d love to hear other writer’s editing process. If you would like to share, please comment below.

-Rachel McKee

Post-Holiday Post

Happy Monday.

Is everyone recovered from their post-holiday hangover? I’m still getting there.

If you hadn’t noticed, I was M.I.A last month. Here are a few things I did over the month of December:

  • Started working on a Guest Post Questionnaire for the lovely blog M.Miles. I’m looking forward to reading her post and I will make sure to link to it so that you can read it.
  • I read A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas. (Book review coming soon.)
  • I’m currently reading a novel called A Journal For Damned Lovers by S.K. Nicholas. I’ve been following his blog for a year now. He is a fantastic writer. His blog is also called A Journal For Damned Lovers.
  • I’ve had more people volunteer to beta read my book.
  • I missed you all.

Here is what I did not do last month:

  • Look at my own novel.

But yesterday I picked up where I left off in November and started editing and rewriting.

Did I mention I missed you?

-Rachel

New Year, New Focus

I went to a psychic once in Las Vegas. (Bare with me.) I was there with a group of friends for a bachelorette party, this was about five years ago. On a whim, we decided to visit Old Town and as we were walking we spotted a little shack in the middle of the sidewalk. We stepped inside the tiny trailer and huddled around a woman and her table. The trailer was clean and tidy. No unnecessary frills, thrills, skulls, or crystal balls. Each girl took a turn and to my surprise, instead of predicting the future she dug into our pasts and advised us on the current predicaments in our lives.

My hands were sweaty when it was my turn. She asked me whether I wanted my palm read or if I wanted the tarot cards. I chose the cards. She gave me a lot of sage advice, but the one aspect of our session that stood out to me was when she looked me in the eyes and said, “You have a lot of chaotic but powerful energy bouncing around inside of you, but you have no idea how to control it. You could achieve amazing things if you can find a way to wrangle and focus that energy.”

Obligatory disclaimer: I realize that her observation can apply to just about any creative soul, but hey, it’s a good reminder right?

So what does this have to do with 2017? My mission, my goal, my pledge to myself is to take that energy and focus it on my book(s). I haven’t been taking myself seriously as a writer. I have had multiple offers from people to beta-read my current novel and I haven’t allowed anyone to see it yet. Every time I think it’s ready to be handed off, my heart starts racing and I remember ten different things that MUST be changed before anyone else can read it. I get overwhelmed with my ideas and it all becomes too much. So I sit on my couch and binge-watch Gilmore Girls and waste time. I’m not focusing my energy. I let it get out of control and to cope, I ignore it. I ignore everything creative in my life because it’s too much work to harness that chaotic energy.

2017 has a lot in store for me, I can feel it in my core. I’m excited to learn, grow, share, love, and focus.

Thank you for following.

Happy New Year.

-Rachel

Do you have any resolutions or thoughts about the new year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

 

Five Famous Writers Who Were (Harshly) Rejected

Here is a list of five famous authors who felt the harsh smack of the “Rejected” stamp.

As I’m getting closer to my spring/summer deadline, I keep praying for thicker skin for when those rejection emails come pouring in. I have a lot of fellow writers who follow my blog, but I think everyone could use a little reminder that all great people have faced rejection at some point.

James Baldwin: Author of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time.

rejection-letter

Source: Click Hole

J.K. Rowling: Author of the Harry Potter Series.

Rowling was rejected from 12 publishing houses before she landed at Bloomsbury In June 1997.

J K Rowling

Source: Wikipedia

Louisa May Alcott: Author of Little Women, Little Men

Alcott was rejected by publisher James T. Fields who said, ““Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

Image result for louisa may alcott

Source: Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

Sylvia Plath: Author of The Bell Jar

A harsh comment on the rejection letter Plath received in regards to The Bell Jar:

“I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashnaess. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”

Image result for the bell jar

Source: FlavorWire  Image found here:We Love It

Charles Dickens: Author of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol

Dickens didn’t tell his friends that he was mailing off his manuscript to publishers because he was afraid that they would make fun of him. Here is part of the rejection letter he received from one publisher for A Christmas Carol:

“Our primary issue is its preposterous main premise. We will grant that readers may indeed be willing to accept the idea of four omnipotent ghosts returning to Earth to do good for the betterment of mankind. However, it stretches the boundaries of credibility to their very limits to expect anyone to believe a CEO would repent his ways via voluntary monetary penance. Pay his secretary’s mortgage? Double his salary? Are you certain, Mr. Dickens, that you did not intend to submit this manuscript to our humor publishing subsidiary?”

Ouch.

Image result for charles dickens a christmas carol

Sources: Writer’s Digest and USA Today.

-Rachel McKee