6th Draft

6th Draft

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The dreaded red pen has come out and the manuscript for The Puzzle Quests: Sketchy Dinosaurs has been printed. Not published, but printed and placed in a binder. There comes a point when I have to physically hold my work in progress and mark it up.

A few steps happen on the 6th edit. I’m looking at specifics, plot sequence, and clarity. For Sketchy Dinosaurs, this includes more interaction between Mark and Luke, including their comic that I have mentioned in the first two books. When writing a series, it’s important to make sure I bring the sub-plots to an end.

I’m looking at the themes I implemented. This may take a couple drafts. For this version, I’m focused on Mark’s love of food and his need to put ketchup on absolutely everything! Humor is a consistent theme in this book. How many times does Mark pass off his T-Rex as a lizard. Do I describe his dinosaur/lizard in enough detail so that the reader can picture it? I even tally the number of times I mention a theme just to make sure it’s developed enough.

Parts of the plot are still missing, like how will Mark rescue two more missing dinosaurs? I feel it needs more suspense on Mark’s part, which will help him grow. How is my main character growing and does he grow enough so that the reader will notice the change?

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Mackenzie and Rebecca have been two of my beta readers since Shimmer’s Eggs!

At this point, I also bring in the beta readers. These are students ranging from 4-7 grade who have either read the previous books or are new to the series. They read the manuscript, make their own suggestions directly on the pages, and answer some of the questions I had above. They make my book the best it can be, and their feedback is essential.

In addition, involving children in the process creates strong readers and writers. Maybe they will be inspired to write their own stories. We get together and have a discussion and the ideas that come out of these sessions are impressive. Learning to respect one another’s views and suggestions is a powerful life lesson. This is one of my favorite parts of editing.

So for anyone who is writing their own book, know that the process can be long and arduous, but these steps are vital to a fabulous story. Have someone outside of your circle of friends and family read it so you get an unbiased opinion. I don’t have to worry about that with my beta readers–they are honest to the core!

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Where Did That Come From!?

Where Did That Come From!?

Having a character or a plot twist thrust itself into your story is possibly the best part of being a writer. I love when I’m right in the middle of the scene about dragons and a baby T-Rex who has escaped from home and then bam! a WWII fighter plane shoots across the sky.¬†hellcat

Sometimes it takes me a minute to wonder what is going on? Then I ask the question–why? Why is there a fighter plane in the midst of Dragonia? The dinosaurs may be thinking that their world is once again coming to an end, but perhaps it’s that insufferable evil Lord Tam who has managed to bring a fighter plane through a portal. And if he did, how did he learn how to fly one? Which side was he on in the war? Just how old is Tam?

In his character description, he’s early to mid 30’s, so what’s the deal? That’s when imagination overdrive kicks in. Perhaps Tam and his equally evil twin, Tim, are able to time hop across time and dimensions. So not only can he travel back to current time, but he has lived in multiple previous times. Hence his ability to handle a pirate ship, fly a plane, and zip across the sky on a dragon!

It has a bit of the movie Timeline feel to it, when the archeologists manage to go back in time and send messages to the future. They learn the skills of their medieval world, but have modern technology that keeps them alive.

It’s not to say that the final draft will have this scene or the plane in it, but that’s the point. The first through almost final drafts are meant to play and see the possibilities of what could happen. If we don’t submerge ourselves in the what if’s, then the story may miss an exciting swerve.

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In addition to dinosaurs and fighter planes, I have a feeling the Quetzalcoatlus may show up. If you read book one of The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs, you might remember how this prehistoric bird is Luke’s favorite. Sometimes the reasons are logical.

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Other times it’s because the character is just too cute! In Book Two of The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis, Quinn and Mckenzie’s dog, Cinnamon, comes into the story. I just happened to pick that name, but then I googled cinnamon colored Great Danes and this cutie showed up!

Now Cinnamon is full grown, so this is what he’ll look like:

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Glorious isn’t he? Right now, baby T-Rex has just met Cinnamon. So far they are getting along, but we shall see what each chapter brings.

Exploring, imagining, testing, and taking chances. That’s what writing is all about. Sometimes you have to dive bomb toward the possibilities!

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Riding the Writing Express

Riding the Writing Express

This fall has been a whirlwind of writing, teaching, and spreading words of hope around the area. It began with the publishing of my second middle grade book, The Puzzle Quests: Saving Atlantis, which led to many opportunities to share my book .

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Along the way, I had the pleasure to work with 3-5th graders in my Writing Stories to Save Atlantis program at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. Each week I read excerpts from the book, and the children’s imagination continued the story as they created characters to help Rose on her quests.

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Concentrated excitement as they write their stories!
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Artwork and Writing go hand in hand and improves creativity.
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Very proud writers and future authors!

I love how everyone can put writing into practice. It just takes imagination, willpower, and an idea. My next elementary writing session at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library starts in January. Check out all my upcoming workshops at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

Along my writing/book tour I had the pleasure to teach my Writer’s Journal program at multiple schools including Karigon Elementary, Berlin Middle School, Blue Creek Elementary, and Waterford next week. Bringing creativity into school gives the students an opportunity to think out of the box.

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Blue Creek Elementary is ready!
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Working on setting to build the story.

In a two-day program, we are able to develop characters, establish their fears, wishes, and place them in a setting. Doing this first makes it easy to create a plot and well thought out story. If you’d like me to come into your school to share The Writer’s Journal, please review my information at the BOCES Arts in Ed site.

My monthly journaling workshops at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library have grown to 20+ participants each month. By sharing different journal techniques, there is something for everyone.

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Journaling for Adults–December 2018
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Sarah’s Holiday Delight!

Finally my Book Release Beach Party was held on December 2 at The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. All five of my book release events have been at this library. Their support and sense of community are outstanding. Children arrived with their beach towels, sunglasses, and flip flips. They settled on the floor with their paper and pencils to collaborate on a scene from Saving Atlantis.

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Collaboration at its best!

Very often we don’t try something new, because we are afraid to fail. I love giving children and adults the tools and space to create their own stories. It’s empowering and teaches us that anything is possible.

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Some of my beta readers who evaluated my manuscript before it was published.
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Ali was determined to make it to my book event. What a smile!

Through writing, teaching, and sharing my books, I know that anything is possible. No matter where you are, there is hope. You just have to keep your eyes open and expect it.

This writing express I have found myself on has been exhilarating, empowering, and all encompassing. It provides a space to share my passion and fulfill my mission of helping others.

Thank you to everyone who has come along on this ride. There will be many more stops along the way!

If you haven’t made it to my book events and still would like a copy, please visit my website at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com

A portion of all book sales is donated to Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation, which supports our local children with cancer.

Independently Publishing Saving Atlantis

Independently Publishing Saving Atlantis

After 230 hours of writing and editing Saving Atlantis, the second book in The Puzzle Quests series is finished and has gone to production.

These hours didn’t include the multiple meetings with my illustrator, Danielle LeBlanc, 30 beta readers (most were ages 8-12, plus some adults), Karen Knowles, my developmental editor, my fabulous proofreaders, Meradith from Troy Book Makers, and encouraging gatherings with family and friends, especially my husband.

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Rose reaching for a coin to save Atlantis–Illustration by D.M. LeBlanc

Some may call what I do self-publishing, but it takes more than me to publish a book. Yes, I write the words, but it’s like an architect who creates the design and needs the builders to bring it to life. I independently publish my books through my company–Highland Mountain Publishing.

Now graphic designer, Meradith Kill, at Troy Book Makers will take the beautiful water color illustration from Danielle (more to come in another blog on her process) and create the cover and interior layout.

Then I will review a proof of the actual book to check for any mistakes and make sure I’m happy with the results. From there it gets printed and bound. The whole process from when the manuscript goes to the printer and the copies are into my hands can take 6-10 weeks.

Writing a book is filled with thrills, adventure, wonder, unexpected joys, doubts, tears, laughter, and finally relief. It takes a village to write a book, and I am fortunate to have a beautiful office this summer to write.

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If you think I can relax and watch my flowers grow, think again! Now is book promotion time: contacting bookstores for signings, developing a marketing plan, setting up pre-sales, and arranging school writing workshops in the fall. Even this I don’t do alone. Nate DeSalvatore is my summer intern. He is going to college to be a graphic designer. Look for his new website design and updates soon on how you can get my latest book!

Join my mailing list to get my list of events.

Save the dates (more to come):

September 28–Opening Show at The Arts Center of the Capital Region

September 29–Albany Book Festival Signing and children’s writing workshop

December 2–Book Launch at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library

Independently Yours!

Janine

 

Learn Writing from Reading

Learn Writing from Reading

The best way to improve your writing, besides writing, is by reading what you want to write. Even better is listening to books. When I listen to an audiobook, I can hear an author’s repetition, flow, style, and voice. This is especially helpful when writing a series. What storyline do you complete in the first book and continue into the other? How does the author focus on the protagonist and include secondary characters? What is the teaser at the end of the book that will guarantee a reader won’t be satisfied until they read the next book?

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My buddy Conge, who is a fabulous writer and one of my beta readers, suggested I read Gregor the Overlander in our last writing workshop. I had read The Hunger Games, which was the series Suzanne Collins became well-known for, but Gregor was written for ages 8-12 just my book, The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs.

Whenever I begin a new story or continue a series, I start with the characters. I immediately loved Gregor and his connection to his baby sister, Boots. Even at age 11, he was a protector and head of the family. Collins quickly throws them into a quest, similar to Luke and Peter with finding Shimmer’s eggs. I won’t spoil the book, but it’s a fun travel through time or a black hole would be more descriptive.

There are many storylines in this first book, but for Gregor to follow through on his quest, he has to be pushed beyond what he is willing to live with. He has to get back what he has been wanting for more than two years–his father. Collins describes how hard life is without Gregor’s father. Gregor is laden with responsibility, and his mother is struggling to keep food on the table. It’s a sad situation, and Gregor has the chance to change that.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a quest to find Shimmer’s eggs in order for Luke to be healthy again or Gregor having to fulfill a prophecy to get his father back. When what a character wants more than anything is jeopardized or who they love is thrown into danger, a plot is formed. It’s something we can all relate to. Who wouldn’t go above and beyond to save a family member if they had the chance? The characters become relatable and that is why we stay with the book.

I also loved Boots. Hearing her call, “Hey you!” was adorable. She stated the obvious and kept Gregor grounded. “Fly you high,” was how everyone wished each other luck, and they were lines that stayed with me. They made the book real, even though it was set in a fantasy genre.

As far as setting up book two, Gregor may think he’s finished, but we know he isn’t when this little thing called the Prophecy of Bane is mentioned before he returns home. He figures he’s never seeing any of them again, but we already know different.

I just started book two. New characters have been introduced, which is extremely helpful for me as many new characters have come into play in Saving Atlantis. Some revisiting of the previous storyline is necessary, but finding that balance will be key to keeping the story flowing.

I’m lucky to have great readers who can recommend books for me to enjoy and learn from. Give Gregor the Overlander a try, especially if you liked The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs! If anyone has other middle grade books to suggest, let me know!

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