Happy 2015!

My Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions


1. Write a little bit every day

I tend to go on massive writing binges, which is fun, but can leave me brain feeling like swiss cheese. This year I want to try writing little and often and see if I can be one of those organized people I’ve always admired.


2. Read more widely

I have a tower of books I’ve bought and been given that look amazing, but I have a bad habit of comfort-reading a few favorite standbys. Time to make a dent in that stack.


3. Stop thinking I’ll remember a good idea I have in the middle of the night and start keeping a pen and paper on my bedside table!

On the first day of Christmas my editor gave to me…

Happy December everyone! It is getting cold where I live and I’m drinking lots of cups of tea to keep warm while I write. I also just like tea. In my last post, I mentioned I was in the middle of revising Alice Jones and the Invisible Scientist for Chicken House. I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about how much editing goes into a book once you sign a contract with a publisher.

disclaimer- this is all based on my experience working with Chicken House. Things may vary with other publishers, but I think the general idea is universal.

1. Major Revisions/Developmental Edit

The first thing that happens when a publisher is interested in your book (after you dance around your living room like a muppet and scare your cat) is a discussion about the changes they would like you to make. It sounds a little strange, doesn’t it?

Publisher- We love your book!

Writer- (squee!)

Publisher- But we want you to make some changes…

Writer-(say what?)

The thing is, writing is not something you can do all by yourself, which sounds weird. But having other people read your writing and give you feedback is so important if you want to get better. I write a draft, get help from my writing group. Write another draft, get help from my agent. So getting help from an editor is just the next step up the ladder.

This rewrite is for large issues, things that you can’t just fix by adding a new paragraph on page 11. Maybe your bad guy isn’t bad enough. Maybe your secondary character needs to play a stronger role. Maybe you need to add more description (or cut a whole bunch out).*

In my case, Chicken House asked me to come in for a meeting to talk about the changes they would like (this happened both times, the first time I was ridiculously nervous, the second time was a lot more fun). I actually really enjoy this process. Those editors are smart and have a lot of great ideas and a very good understanding of their target audience. I know some writers worry about having someone else ‘change’ their work, but in my experience, all the editor will do is point out where they see a problem. It’s up to you, the writer, to come up with how to fix it.

*yes, these are all things I have had to do for my own books (plus a few more too)

2. Line Edits

Once your big changes get approved, it’s time to look at the book scene-by-scene, sentence-by-sentence. Your editor will do a close reading, making comments on scenes that need more action or emotion, sentences that read a bit funky and anything else that catches his or her eye. These are changes that can be fixed by adding a paragraph on page 11, problems on a writing level instead of a structural level.

I imagine this used to be a lot harder when everything had to be handwritten and sent back and forth by post. Now that there is email and track-changes, it goes pretty quickly.

3. Copy Editing/Proof Reading/Fact Checking

Bad grammar beware, the copy editor is coming to get you. This stage is usually pretty straightforward. Sometimes writers use incorrect grammar on purpose, and generally if you can make your case you can keep your ‘mistakes.’

During this stage you also get something called a Style Sheet. The Style Sheet is a master list of how specific words in your book will be spelled, the names of places, companies and organizations and any non-standard usage that needs to be used throughout the book. You can see a copy of my Style Sheet from Dreamer Ballerina here.*

You may also go through some fact checking in this round. Chicken House sent Dreamer Ballerina to a reader in New York to make sure I hadn’t dropped any clangers when I was writing the city. (I had, the worst was sticking Casey’s friend Andrea in a 20 storey walk-up, apparently 6 was much more realistic.) They also double checked the names of the dance schools in the book and the dates I used. I’m not sure Alice Jones and the Invisible Scientist will get the same level of fact checking since it isn’t historical fiction, but we shall see.

*this version of the Style Sheet came before I argued that even though Dumpster is a trademark, it’s entered into general usage and shouldn’t be capitalized (they let me win on that one).

4. Page Proofs/Galleys

And this is the most exciting stage of all. Once all of the editing is done, the rewrites, the line edits, the copy edits and fact checking, your publisher will send you your page proofs. These are basically an unbound copy of what your book will look like in print. This is your last chance to catch any typos or misspellings before it goes to print. You go over it with a fine tooth comb and hope that you don’t find anything.

So that is editing with a publisher in a very big nutshell. I’m sure there are a ton of things I’ve left out (or just don’t know about because I only see things from the author’s perspective). It’s a lot of work, but it can be a lot of fun too. And when you get fun emails about bits and bobs like cover designs (so exciting) thrown into the mix, it’s just fabulous!

Exciting News!

I’ve always loved mysteries, and now I’ve written one!

Mystery and math are a perfect fit for gifted schoolgirl detective Alice Jones. But when Alice gets caught up in the case of a missing inventor, things get a lot more complicated than just solving her classmates’ mini-mysteries for a mars bar. And when it turns out the scientist was building an invisibility suit, Alice learns she isn’t the only one on the case.

With a mysterious silver Mercedes on her tail, Alice follows the clues, from state-of-the-art labs to dingy apartments, searching for the answer to one very important question: How do you find someone who can turn invisible?

I’ve signed a two book deal (2!) with Chicken House for Alice Jones and the Invisible Scientist and the next Alice Jones adventure. I’ll be posting here about the editing process as we get the first manuscript ready for publication AND about the writing process as I work on the sequel. There may even be some sneak peaks.

When the weather gets cold, and the days get short…

…is there anything better than curling up with a good book?

One of the perks of being a writer is that when I go to a meeting with my publisher they let me go into the Big Magic Room of Books. It’s basically a library of the titles they’ve published in the last year or so. And they let me take them home, as many as I like. Well, no, as many as I can carry. I’d need a forklift to take as many as I like.

Here’s a picture of my latest haul:

Book Bounty from Chicken House

The only problem I have now is, where to start?

(p.s. Yes, I was at a meeting with Chicken House. Watch this space for an exciting announcement about my new book!)

Starting things is always difficult…

Writing a first sentence fills me with a special kind of dread. So, here are a few great first sentences other people wrote instead:

“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.” Matilda, Roald Dahl

“All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

“’Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.” Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

“Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done.” Island of the Aunts, Eva Ibbotson

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis