Guest Post Alert! Kami Kinard is a children's author published via Scholastic Press. We met at one of my recent presentations, and you'll soon see why I asked her to post here. Enjoy! ~HOPE
Three Big Steps Toward Publication
By Kami Kinard
When I heard C. Hope Clark speak at ARTworks in Beaufort SC, we’d each just debuted first novels. I was struck by how similar our publication stories were. Both involved hard work, a lot of time, and intentional craft-honing! I mentioned this to Hope, and she asked if I’d share part of my publication journey here. Thanks, Hope!
If your destination is publication, you probably already know that you’re in for a fairly long journey. You’ve heard that you have to research your market, go to conferences, and join a critique group. I agree these are important steps. But there is really only one secret to finding an agent and getting published: your work has to be better than almost everybody else’s.
I can hear you groaning from here! Don’t worry. In my experience, the writers who keep working to improve their craft, eventually sell their books. Improve is the key word here. So the question every writer should ask is, “How do I improve?” Here are three of the routes for improvement I took on the road to publication.
1) Go to craft-based workshops. Conferences are great for networking, but networking won’t do you any good unless you have a quality product to sell. Workshops led by writers and editors known for quality work are geared toward helping improve the quality of your writing. I even got the idea for my book, THE BOY PROJECT, while attending such a workshop. You never know how the energy of being around other writers will inspire you!
2) When you go to conferences, pay for editor critiques. Sure, there will be times when you feel like you are throwing money away, but if you glean just one bit of information that improves your writing, you’ll rarely be disappointed. I paid for two editor critiques of THE BOY PROJECT before it sold. In the first, the editor told me my manuscript was too short and had too many exclamation points. She was right on both counts. In the second, I received even more valuable advice. This editor said my manuscript would be perfect for “stuff” like charts and graphs. So I added those in. The next time the manuscript went out into the world, it sold.
3) Pay attention to cadence. In her novel, LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, Hope nailed the rhythm of the detective story. Suspense stories have to be fast paced, so the writing needs to clip along. A tween contemporary novel, like THE BOY PROJECT, uses the cadence of tween speech. This means one word sentences, half sentences, and few long, contemplative paragraphs.
I accidentally discovered a great way to familiarize myself with the cadence of any given genre while working on an article for Ladybug magazine. First, I typed out a few previously published articles to get a sense of the rhythms involved. Then it occurred to me to use Microsoft Word’s Readability Statistics function to analyze the texts. These statistics include the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word. When I compared the statistics of the published articles to those from my article, a shocking difference appeared: my sentences were twice as long as those in the published pieces. What a red flag! I altered the length of the sentences and sold the article. This same exercise works with any genre. Compare a few paragraphs of your writing to others in the same genre and make sure you’ve set a comparable pace.
Happy trails as you travel toward publication! If you keep working to improve your writing, I know you’ll reach your destination!
Kami Kinard is the author of The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister (Scholastic, January 2012). Her poetry, stories, articles, and essays have appeared in periodicals for children and adults. She lives with her family in Beaufort, SC.
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