Thursday 28 February 2013

Are you ready for ChaBooCha? It starts tomorrow! #ChaBooCha

Tomorrow is the start date for the 2013 Chapter Book Challenge? Are you ready to begin? Do you know what story you are going to write about? Have you worked out a schedule for when you are going to write or are you, like me, just going to take your time when you find it and write the story that comes to mind as you write?

There are a lot of new members to the challenge this year. Last year, the first year of ChaBooCha, we only had 23 members signed up. This year there are 76 members signed up and there is still time for more people to enter. (There's no official cut-off date for the sign-up, but, if you sign up after March 22nd, you will not be iuncluded in the Kindle prize drawing.)

For those of you wondering about the Chapter Book Challenge Facebook group, the group is for members of the challenge to interact and support each other throughout the challenge and, for those who want to be a part of it, after the challenge as well. There is nothing more helpful to a writer than to have a supportive group of other writers all trying to write for a similar audience.

There is also a Chapter Book Challenge Facebook page which is different from the Facebook group in that is is not as interactive. I post helpful links to the page and keep everyone updated to the goings-on of the challenge through the Facebook page. I also share links to agents and publishers looking for early readers, HiLo books, chapter books, middle grade and YA books, as often as I come across them.

We have several published authors and agents within the industry who will be guest posting during the challenge, and their posts are all intended to teach you something about the craft of writing for our target audience and writing something that has a chance of getting published. For the full list of authors who will be guest posting during the challenge, see this post. This list is subject to change if I manage to get more agents, authors and publishers to add to it.

I have created some web badges that you can add to your blogs and websites. You will find them here. There are three different sizes. You can also buy merchandise with the badge on them in the shop. Any profit from the purchase of items from the gift shop goes towards paying for prizes and other expenses associated with the challenge. There are also other writing-related designs on merchandise elsewhere in the same store.

The Chapter Book Challenge is an informal challenge, and it is self-directed. At the end of the challenge, you let me know if you have completed the challenge, and I trust that you will be honest. The challenge itself is to write the first draft of an early reader, HiLo book, chapter book, middle grade book or even a YA book, and to write the book from start to finish, during the month of March, from March 1st through March 31st.
The reason I say that this challenge is informal is because it is self-directed and I have no way of knowing if you are telling the truth or not about having completed the challenge. However, you are the one who benefits by completing the challenge.

The other reason that this is an informal challenge is because some people join the challenge knowing from the start that they are not going to officially win the challenge; they just use the challenge to help them finish a book that they have already started, to write more of a book than they would write without the challenge to push them forward with it, to complete the edits of a book they wrote previously and any number of related reasons. And all of it is OKAY. Just because you are not joining with the goal of "winning," doesn't mean you can't join.

The way to get entries for the prizes is simple. First, you have to be officially signed-up to the challenge. (If you signed up last year, you do not need to sign up again.)

There will be prizes during the challenge. The big prize is the Kindle Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display. Being signed up to the challenge automatically gets you an entry to win it. The winner will be chosen on March 31st by a random number generator. For the other prizes, during many of the blog posts, a prize will be offered. Anyone who is officially signed up to the challenge, and also comments on the blog post which mentions the prize, will be entered to win the prize (or prizes). Of course, this will be explained again during those blog posts. Many of the prizes are books that have to do with the craft of writing. Because I know that many ChaBooCha menbers will already have some of these books, alternate prizes will be offered as a choice to the winner.

If anyone isn't clear on any of the rules of the challenge, feel free to e-mail me through the "contact me" link on the right side of this blog. 

With the exception of the occasional prize offered by one of the guest authors, all of the prizes during the challenge are bought by me. If anyone would like to donate to the challenge, there is a "donate" button to the right side of the blog, but don't feel as though there is any expectation of donations. I buy prizes for the challenge because I think it enhances the experience and encourages participation, and because I love making this challenge as rewarding for its members as possible.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Chapter Book Challenge 2013 Badges! #ChaBooCha

I know I'm cutting it close to the start of the challenge, but I have finally created a badge that I think (hope) you'll love for ChaBooCha 2013. It's not a tradtional style logo. I wanted this year's to be something special, something that showed a bit of the magic that we all hope to bring to children with the stories we write.

Credits (how it was made): I used some photo-manipulation with a photo I took and using a stock photo from and some of the work my husband has already done for his Fairy Magic Photos. But then I realized that having a bunch of magical fairies might be too girly for some of the made-for-boys ChaBooCha books, so I had to add some dragons. I found my dragons in the stock account of a talented DeviantArt artist named Demitri Levit who has an art account on DevaintArt under the username DElevit. I also needed to use a stone slab for the book to sit on and found one in a DeviantArt stock account by Luna-8.

I really hope you like the badges. The badge changes every year. I am posting it here in a few different sizes so you can choose the one that best works with your blog or website. You can find merchandise featuring this badge in the shop soon. At the time of this post, there is nothing in it yet, but I will be adding merchandise soon so check back in a few days to see what's available. (Profits from all purchases of Chapter Book Challenge merchandise goes towards funding the challenge, things like purchasing prizes and such.)

Please let me know what you think of the ChaBooCha badge. I hope you like it! (Click on the first link to see it in its full size.)



Sunday 24 February 2013

How To Outline Your Novel Before You Write #ChaBooCha

I believe that creating an outline for your story is a very efficient way to plan your novel. But I have a confession to make; I have never created an outline for any of my stories. Of course, this might explain why they sometimes meander into territory that they weren't meant to, and it might also explain why a magical stone is found in the first few chapters of one of my stories and given great significance at the time of it being found, but is never mentioned again later in the novel. If I had created an outline, I might have mentioned it later in the outline and been able to REMEMBER what, exactly, I had been trying to write.

That's the key ingredient that an outline brings to your writing endeavors: organization. And while it's keeping you organized, it is keeping you writing within your plot construct and it keeps your writing consistent within the story. My last novel actually stuck really well to the plot structure and I somehow managed to keep all the little details consistently portrayed throughout the story, even using some foreshadowing at the beginning of the book and remembering to play the foreshadowed event out later in the book. But when I write by the seat of my pants, or "pantsing it" as so many of my writer-friends call it, such consistency is not typical.

You might be wondering how I am going to teach you how to write an outline when I have never done one before. I'm wondering the same thing, but just bear with me a bit longer. I am hoping that all of my meandering thoughts on this will bear informational fruit as I go along.

Originally, I thought it would be useful to ask around the Chapter Book Challenge members, including several published authors, and find out how they outline their novels. I thought I would make one big post showing all of the different examples given by everyone. Sounds like a good plan, right? Um, no. You see, it turns out, to my surprise, that very few of the Chapter Book Challenge members, including the multi-published authors, actually outline their novels before writing them. And the few who do, don't really outline; they just write a quick synopsis and try to follow it loosely. One of them writes a loose outline by listing chapters and what happens in each one. But basically, my brilliant idea of asking around for examples wasn't so brilliant.

I will admit to writing an outline for one of my books so far. It wasn't for any of my novels though; it was for my non-fiction book, "Skinny Dreaming." I basically just outlined this book by writing subjects for each chapter. It's a healthy living and fitness book, so each chapter was given a topic relating to either health or fitness or inspirational stories or healthy recipes and so on. None of that is really helpful when trying to work out how to write an outline for a fiction novel though.

If I were to outline last year's middle grade novel (the one I write for the ChaBooCha), it would go something like this:

Title: The Magic Necklace
Synopsis: 12 year old Sandra finds a magic necklace in her attic that gives her the power to read minds. Due to this new power, she finds out about a dangerous plot to rob the bank her mother works for and, while trying to stop the robbery from happening, she learns that her powers are not limited to just the necklace and that there is more to the men robbing the bank than meets the eye.
 Chapter One: Sandra finds the necklace and learns of its power
      1. She tests out her new mind-reading powers on her family.
Chapter Two: Sandra goes to school, wearing the necklace..
      1. She finds out the thoughts of her friends and also of the girl who hates her.
              1a. She's able to foil the hateful girls attempts to embarrass her.
Chapter Three: Dream sequence where Sandra learns about her grandma's connection to the necklace
Chapter Four: Sandra finds out about the planned robbery.
      1. She tries to warn the security guard at the gate bit isn't believed
      2. She notices that she is being followed by one of the robbers
Chapter Five: Sandra plans a way to stop the robbery from happening
      1. Sandra puts her plan into action
      2. The robber that got away
Chapter Six:  Dream sequence where Sandra finds out from her grandma that her powers are not limited to the necklace
Chapter Seven: Sandra gets kidnapped by one of the robbers.
      1. She finds out that the robber has powers too.
Chapter Eight: Sandra makes her escape.
      1. She gets lost in the forest while running from the cabin.
Chapter Nine: Sandra has a vision and a new power wakes up inside of her.
      1. She meets her animal guide in person.
Chapter Ten: Sandra fights back.
      1. She finds a ride to safety.
Chapter Eleven: Sandra is safe. The bank is safe. Her family is safe.
      1. But what about these new powers and the feeling that someone else is after her?

I know that it isn't a very good outline and that there are some much better outlines out there. Keep in mind that I am writing this as a brief showing of what the outline might look like, so I haven't spent a lot of time on the content of the outline. Then again, in an outline, you don't actually need to spend time on the content. An outline is just a way to keep you reminded of what you are writing and the sequence it is intended to be written in. You don't even need to have complete sentences.

This outline is for a middle grade book. If I didn't want to write it in chapters, I would write it out in a brief summary of plot points, like so:

The Magic Necklace
1. Finding the necklace, the magic
2. School conflict
   a. reading her friends' minds
   b. her school nemesis
3. Dreams
   a. learning about the necklace
   b. learning about her powers
4. Finding out about the robbers
   a. making a plan
   b. taking action
5. The kidnapping
   a. learning there are others with powers
   b. escape
6. Fighting back
   a. getting home
   b. questions for the next book

In this summary of plot points, there are three main themes: the magic necklace and her own growing powers, school and all of its joys and conflicts, the bad guys: foiling them and escaping them. Because it is the beginning of a series, there is also the overarching theme of her growing powers and the separate organization (she learns of through the one robber) of people with powers who use them with evil intent.

If this had been a chapter book, there would not have been any subplots. There would be one overarching plot point, due to this being a series book, and one separate conflict point for her to deal with in this first book, such as the robbery and foiling the robbery.

One of the books I am thinking about writing for ChaBooCha 2013 is about a young girl in a fantasy world that is very different from our own. She gets kicked out of her tribe because they think she is a witch and she has to survive on her own in the wilderness. She finds a cave and travels through the tunnels within the mountain until she comes across a dragon. The dragon flies away, leaving behind an egg. That's as far as I have gone with that particular story idea though, so it is going to be difficult to write an outline for it when I'm not even sure about the plot. The same thing goes for the story about the girl who learns she can change into a cat, any kind of cat she chooses. I have lots of ideas, but I usually just start writing the stories and seeing where they take me as I write. There is a kind of magic in writing my stories this way. It's as if I am letting the stories write themselves and I am just the conduit.

What about you? Do you outline your novels before writing them? If so, how do you do your outline? And do you think it helps? If you don't outline, why not?

By the way, during the challenge, one of the books being given away as a prize is "Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success" by K. M. Weiland. Make sure you check back and comment during all of the posts during March so you can be entered for all of the different prizes throughout the month!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Line-up of authors, agents and publishers guest posting for 2013's ChaBooCha

I am so excited to announce some of the awesome authors, agents and publishers who will be guest posting this March for the Chapter Book Challenge!

Keep in mind that I am still working hard to find more knowledgeable people to help out, so this list may grow as the date of the challenge nears. (I will edit this post and include new guest post authors, agents and publishers as they become scheduled, so check back from time to time.)

Here's the line-up so far (not necessarily in this order), with a very brief mention of the things you may know them for:

Angela Ackerman - "The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression," also teaches in writing workshops, webinars and at conferences
Her author page

Kimberly Kinrade - author with 10 published novels, including The Three Lost Kids series, along with several YA and adult novels
Her author page

Adam Wallace - Australian author with more than 20 published chapter books, including "Better Out Than In" and the How to Draw series, also a Chapter Book Challenge member
Adam Wallace Books

Lisa Cherry - "How To Stop Staring At A Blank Page and Start Writing: The Writer's Guide To Starting Your First Writing Project" and "Soul Journey: The Greatest Secrets to Living the Life You Want," also runs writing workshops
Her author page

Carole Blake - "From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published", also a literary agent with the Blake-Friedmann agency
Her author page

Rebecca Cornish Talley - author of 5 published books, including the picture book "Gabby's Secret," and several YA and adult novels, also a member of ChaBooCha
Her author page

K.M. Weiland - "Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success," and several novels, has a successful blog on writing and runs writing workshops (her guest post will be a re-post from her blog)
Her author page

Karen Pokra Toz - author of several chapter books, including the Nate Rocks series and "Milllicent Marie Is Not My Name," winner of several awards including First Place for Children's Chapter Books and the Grand Prize Overall in the 2012 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, as well as placing first for a Global E-Book Award for Pre-Teen Literature
Her author page

Barbara Mack - prolific self-published author of YA, historical romance, cookbooks, and horror, also a Chapter Book Challenge member
Her author page as Barbara Mack
Her author page under the pen name Barbara Rose

Lee Wardlaw award-winning author of close to 30 books for children, tweens and teens, which have
sold more than a million copies world-wide.  Her latest chapter book is 101 Ways to Bug Your Friends and Enemies (Penguin, ages 10-14), winner of the Forward National Literature Award for Humor, one of the contributors at Project Mayhem.
Her author page

Margo Gibbs and Emma Gibbs - mother and daughter author team of "Mirabella the Mermaid Detective", raised over $6,000 while crowdfunding their first book, authors of books in other genres
Their (now closed) crowdfunding page

Jo Michaels
- author of eight fiction novels including books in "The Abigale Chronicles" and the "Mystic" series. Also wrote, "The Indie Author's guide to: Building a Great Book."
Her author page

Melissa Gijsbers - pre-published author of children's books and short stories, prolific blogger, winner of the 2012 Princess Parade Flash Fiction Challenge, and dedicated ChaBooCha member
Her writing blog

Kelly McDonald - pre-published author of children's books ad short stories, artist and illustrator, award winning artist with CYA writers and illustrators competition 2011, first place in CYA conference 2012
Commended award for "The Hollow" in June 2012 and dedicated ChaBooCha member
Her art page

There is still more to come so stay tuned! Subscribe to this blog if you want to get all the latest Chapter Book Challenge information as it becomes available.