Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let Your Story Sit Awhile

Don't be in too big a hurry to get your manuscript into the mail.

One of the arguments for letting a manuscript mellow, before sending it off the the publisher, is how often things come to mind that need to be rewritten.

Today, I'm going back over my novel to see if there are other incidents of authorial intrusion (as I call it), places where I tell how a character is feeling, rather than show it by his words or actions. Even though I know the rules, I am still guilty of this sometimes.

There is one scene in the story where Charlie's family has taken in a boarder, a pretty young schoolteacher. I wrote, "Charlie found it uncomfortable having an attractive young woman in the house." Yikes! I can do better than that.

How can I illustrate his discomfort though something he says or does? I decide to show him attacking his regular farm chores with great vigour whenever the teacher's around.

So, another read-through. Luckily, I enjoy the revision process. There is no hurry. Something else may surface as I play the scenes in my head. I have to wonder, though: does one ever get it right the first time?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More about School Visits

One of the secrets to a successful presentation is being well prepared. But forget the cue cards, and just be yourself. I've learned that by arranging the material on my display table in a certain order, I always know what comes next, and I've been able to get rid of my notes. All I need is a small card, tucked out of sight somewhere, with one-word prompts, in case I every find myself tongue-tied.

I'm also learning to talk more slowly. It not only gives me time to collect my thoughts (and smile!), it gives the kids time to absorb what they've just heard.

I usually begin by telling them a bit about myself, who I am and why I'm here. It never hurts to re-introduce yourself, either. I like to keep everything light and informal.

I have no schtick: I'm not a song-&-dance man, nor do I wear costumes or funny hats. I long ago decided that the best choice for me is just to be warm and friendly and to be able to laugh at myself.

I leave plenty of time for questions and answers. I get the usual "how old are you?"question (often disguised as "how old were you when your book was published in 1989?") out of the way early. And I've never been shy about about answering "how much money do you make?" The reaction is usually worth it.

The only thing I ask for when setting up the area where I'll be presenting is a display table with enough room that I can move around it. I don't like to stand in one place. This way too, the teacher will avoid having the children crowd right up against my feet.

Till next time.