Hello, writers! Happy 2021! I’m writing this blog post from the same house I’ve quarantined in for the majority of 2020, in the same home-office, in the same chair . . . yet something feels different.
Despite it being below freezing, I’ve got the windows cracked open. The air drifting in is cold. But it’s also crisp, cathartic, and new. It’s full of possibilities.
That’s what a new year promises . . . possibility. A blank page to be filled with anything.
Personally, I’m hoping to flesh out a new middle grade idea that I’ve collected bits and pieces for in 2020. Through the darkest days of the year (and there were many, unfortunately), I found myself needing to write. I had so much to let out, and my notebook was the safest place to release these raw and honest feelings.
In these dark moments, I wrote and wrote and wrote. Not much made sense. Not much tied together. But I wrote and wrote my way back to joy, however fleeting it was.
And I captured the joy of each day. I wrote down those moments, too, to remind myself to focus on the light. To let the light guide me.
And it did.
One of these cathartic writings morphed into a picture book manuscript that will be published by Dial/Penguin in 2023 (stay tuned for more soon!).
So when I look back to 2020, despite the many tragedies of the year, and in some ways, because of some of them, there was much joy, some magic, and so much love. That’s what I’m hoping to capture in this next middle grade project, now that I’m in the proper headspace to start writing it . . . joy, and magic, and love.
As I begin to draft this new novel, I’ve pulled out a checklist that I made for myself, something I’ve named CHAPTER 1 & 2 CHECK. It’s a checklist I’ve made after studying many of my favorite middle grade novels, including THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo and HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. When I “study” a novel, I re-read the book as a writer…looking for those literary devices that make the writing wonderful.
To do this, I’ll type out the first chapter or two of the book (or the scene I’m studying). Then, I’ll make notes on my typed version of the text (because I can’t bear to mark up the beautiful book!). Finally, I’ll re-read the notes I marked, write out the revelations I made, and turn it into a checklist question to use when I revise my own writing.
A revelation I had after studying the first paragraph in THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo was that “we get a sense of who the main character is, we’re intrigued, and it’s hooking us!” all within the first few sentences.
And a note I wrote down after studying chapter one of HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly was that “by paragraph one, we know who, where, a sense of why, and we’re intrigued to know the details.”
If you haven’t studied books in the genre you’re writing, I’d highly recommend it. I do this frequently and with a wide range of books within the genres I write in--
picture books, chapter books, and middle grade.
It’s the best way I’ve learned what works. And reading and studying widely, and taking notes on my notes, allows me enough space from the mentor text to then apply what I need specifically for my own writing.
So, without further ado, here’s my CHAPTER 1 & 2 Checklist. I hope it’s helpful to you! (If you're looking for my picture book revision checklist, it's here!)
Of course, nothing will be more powerful than studying mentor books yourself, and making your own checklist. But here’s mine to supplement yours:
CHAPTER 1 & 2 CHECKLIST:
By Katrina Moore
I have an “Every Chapter Checklist” that I’ve compiled as well. I’ll share that in a later post (make sure you’re subscribed to the blog so you don’t miss it!).
As we begin this new year, I wish you endless possibility and a notebook full of magic. A blank page to be filled with anything.
What will you fill yours with?
Happy Writing & Revising!
Katrina Moore writes in New Jersey. She holds a M.A. in Teaching and has been an elementary teacher for eleven years. Her mission is to create books that children will hug for ages. She is the author of the picture books, ONE HUG, illustrated by Julia Woolf (HarperCollins/Tegen Books, Dec. 2019), GRANDPA GRUMPS, illustrated by Xindi Yan (Little Bee Books, April 2020), and the forthcoming SOMETIMES LOVE, a powerful and poetic exploration of love---from giving, to growing, to sometimes letting go, illustrated by Joy Hwang Ruiz (Penguin/Dial, Summer 2022). Her humorous chapter books series, TEENY HOUDINI, illustrated by Zoe Si, star the magical, mischievous, mayhem-maker Bessie Lee. Books 1 and 2 will publish Winter 2022 (HarperCollins/Tegen Books).
When she is not writing or teaching, she is cooking without a recipe, painting outside the lines, or snuggling up with her two kids, husband, pups, and of course, a cozy book. Connect with her on twitter @kmoorebooks or at www.katrinamoorebooks.com.
It's the end of the year (and the end of a decade). For me, this is a time of reflection. It's actually something I do at the end/beginning of each month, and then, again, at the end of the year as a whole.
Throughout the year, I have ongoing lists in my journal. I title a page for each, and then add to it throughout the year.
This year, my page titles included:
Of course, there's the rest of my journal for musings, learnings, sketches, early drafts, revision notes, outlines, etc.
After reviewing each of my lists at the end of the year, and going through my journals, I make a new list for the new year: GOALS. (I'll come back to goals in a later post!)
I was proud to fill (and overflow) each of these pages this year. In fact, my major highlights page was bursting this year.
Some Major Highlights This Year:
-Trusting my gut & seeking new representation. Knowing what I need and want in a professional agent-author relationship.
-Taking it seriously & staying grounded (and true to myself) when receiving multiple offers of representation. Taking my time to be thoughtful and ask potential agents and myself the hard questions.
-Signing with the perfect-for-me agent & agency! Later, meeting my agent (on the east coast) and celebrating hopefully-soon-to-be-announced news, meeting Writers House agents on the west coast in person, and touring the west coast office!
-All the moments along ONE HUG's journey to becoming a real book in the world, on the shelves for readers. What a long journey it's been! This year I got to celebrate this book in it's various stages!
-Connecting with others as an author! Presenting at my first SCBWI conference, and attending and signing books at my first nErDCamp!
-Of course, connections made are the best, biggest highlights of the year. I chatted about this during a twitter #PBCHAT with my New In Nineteen Debut Group. Also, this group of creators debuted AMAZING books this year. Check them out if you haven't already!
-And last, but certainly NOT least, ONE HUG debuted in the last month of this year, and I've been overflowing with joy and gratitude!
-So honored to have guest posted and been interviewed all over online! I share more on my writing journey, how ONE HUG came to be, what I hope it will do for readers, and some other fun traditions and tidbits! Check some of ONE HUG's online appearances here:
Whew! What a year it's been! I've filled four notebooks, sold books in a new genre, and began writing in another genre!
While the major milestones are definitely worth celebrating, it's also worthwhile (and important) to celebrate each moment that brings you to that milestone. Every moment that pushes you forward, and up, and along on your journey.
It's been a year of new beginnings, branching out, and what's been most challenging, but also most important to my overall health and well-being, a year of balancing. As a mother to two young children and two high-energy dogs, a teacher, and a wife, I'm most proud that I've been able to balance it all and find the time to nurture my passion---my writing. I've grown in craft and curiosity. And I'm excited for what's to come in the new year (I'll write up a goals post to share in the New Year).
For now, I'm wrapping up the year by spending New Year's Eve with my family. We're playing, partying, and not planning much of anything else!
What are you most proud of this year?
How are you wrapping up 2019?
Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!