Author Archives: nancysanders

Welcome to Wordsmiths!

We’re so happy you’ve stopped by to visit our site! Welcome, fellow writers and wordsmiths!

Wordsmiths is a group of women who have a heart for the Lord, a passion for writing, and a commitment to encourage each other as well as fellow writers.

Wordsmiths no longer meets, but we want to welcome you to explore our site that we created while we did. Browse through our numerous posts on writing! Search for key words or terms about a topic on writing that interests you! Stay here and visit for awhile to be inspired and encouraged and challenged to grow as a writer who is called by God.

To get to know us better, please visit our page Meet Our Members.

To gather practical tips as well as inspiration on writing, read our page Blog Highlights.

We pray you are blessed as you explore our site.

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Adopt a Classroom

I recommend that every writer adopt a classroom.

How?
Most people I know live fairly close to an school. Go to a local school where children are the same age you write for. Volunteer to help in one of the classrooms. Work in your comfort zone. If you love to work with kids, volunteer for tasks such as working with slower learners or accelerated students. If that’s not your cup of tea, volunteer to help photocopy teacher handouts or prepare craft materials for class projects.

Why?
Each time you walk into that school, you’ll automatically see the stuff that’s hanging on the walls. You’ll learn the cutting edge information about how teachers work and how schools are being run. You’ll interact with students, even if it’s just saying “Hi” as you pass them in the hall. And if you’re really brave, you can work with the teacher and share samples of your writing on a regular basis, gathering student feedback.

Adopting a classroom is also beneficial if you’re writing for the educational market. It gives you lots of material to use, plus beefs up your resume with school experience even if you’re not an educator. And if you’re not writing for the educational market, you can tell your publishers in the trade market how your book might fit into school curriculum, which is a big plus for potential sales.

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

C is for Critique Group

Cheers for a job well done!
Really fun fellowship and friends
Ideas and inspiration
Timely market tips
Important feedback and constructive criticism
Questions asked. Answers provided.
Understanding ears and sympathetic hearts
Encouragement, enthusiasm, and energy!

Guidance and grace
Restoration, refreshment, and renewal
Opportunity for testing the waters
Uplifting prayers for God’s purposes
Polished to perfection and ready for publication!

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

Put on Your Editor’s Hat

Do you like to edit your own manuscripts? You know—self edit? Come on…really?

I don’t.

I mean, it’s just not the cat’s meow.

But I know I should. I know I’m supposed to. I know it’s what a cat’s gotta do to learn how to be a successful writer. So I decided to break my habit of neglecting this part of my writing life.

The first thing I did was get myself an editor’s hat. You know—first you wear the writer’s hat and then you take that off and put on your editor’s hat? Right? Well, I didn’t have an editor’s hat. So I went out and got one. Like it? It even has a little mouse at the top and this twirly thing to twirl around. It’s purrfect for a cat like me. You should get one, too!

After I finish my first draft of my manuscript, I set aside some time to edit. And now I make sure it isn’t the drudgery it used to be. I make sure it’s fun!

I put on my silly editor’s beanie. It gets me in the mood to have fun, dude. Then I get out my special highlighter pens. I splurged and bought some wa-ay cool ones that I can use to make neon colors and decorate all over my manuscript. (They don’t even have a cap to lose, but click like a ballpoint pen.) Since I have neon yellow and neon pink and neon orange, now I’m HOPING to find mistakes in my manuscript just so I can mark ‘em on my page and turn the boring black and white little marks on the paper into bright, fun, colorful pictures.

I know my weaknesses, too. So I made a list of ‘em. Here are the first three, for starters:
1. Don’t always use punctuation correctly.
2. Weak verbs.
3. Poorly constructed paragraphs without a clear beginning, middle, and end.

I also printed out some self-editing checklists from how-to-write books, and articles I found on the Internet. These lists remind me to check for realistic dialog, show don’t tell, and lots of other important stuff.

I take my highlighters and have some fun! First I look at every single sentence I wrote in my first paragraph. I highlight the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence in pink. I highlight the punctuation in that sentence in yellow. Then I make sure to check that I used that punctuation correctly.

If I’m not sure about the punctuation rule, I look it up in my reference books. But hey—my reference books aren’t bo-o-oring like yours might be. Oh no! First I made specially decorated book covers for each one of ‘em so they’re bright and colorful, not scary-looking or over-the-top academic. Then I got my highlighters out and really decorated the pages I use the most to remind me what the rules are that I most often forget. Plus, I got sticky notes in all shapes and sizes to stick on the pages I look up over and over again. I want to save my energy for chasing mice, not for flipping through the pages looking up the same rule I’ve used a zillion times before. Like I said—I want this self-editing thing to be as fun as a cat can have it.

So hey—how about you? Are you having fun when you self-edit your manuscript? If not, do something about it. Make it fun, like I did. Now editing’s my favorite part of writing. Not! But really, it’s way more fun than it used to be. Especially when I put on my editor’s hat. And nibble on tunafish…but that’s another story.

-contributed by Humphrey, Nancy’s writing buddy

Music Unlocks Ideas

When I embark on a new writing project, I like to select a couple of specific CDs to listen to as I’m working over the next few weeks or months. I have found that music stirs my writer’s soul in ways I might not have experienced if I surrounded myself totally with silence.

For instance, when I’m brainstorming ideas for a picture book, I like to play sweet little children’s CDs from my childhood or from recent finds. I’ve discovered this instantly transports me into the innocent world of imagination and playfulness that children live in.

When I’m doing a market analysis on a new idea for a nonfiction book on African American history, and looking up books on Amazon that my own book idea would compete with, I pop Marian Anderson’s CD of Spirituals into my player. My writer’s soul soars and a potentially difficult part of my writing day is inspirational and motivation instead.

When I’m creating a timeline for my historical middle grade novel about the American Revolution, I listen to rousing renditions of patriotic songs and I feel like I’m there in the midst of it all!

Usually, when I sit down to my writing sessions, the music is turned off. But I have discovered that because I listen to music that relates to the theme of my current writing project while I’m doing important writing related tasks, my writer’s soul is much more creative and imaginative than it was before.

Try it! Add key selections of themed music to your writer’s workspace and see what happens!

-contributed by Nancy Sanders

Fun, Fun, Fun!

When I worked with my co-author, Susan Titus Osborn, to write our Parables in Action series of first chapter books, it took time for us to develop our cast of characters. We brainstormed a unique and enchanting character trait for each that would easily identify them from book to book in the series. Here is a list of the quirky and fun characters that we created:

Parables in Action series
Cast of Characters
Suzie:
This is the main character whose voice tells each story. She always prays when the situation gets sticky. Each story and each character is seen through her eyes.

Bubbles: This is Suzie’s best friend. Bubbles’ real name is Nan. She is a child actress on TV and appears in a different costume in each book because she is always practicing for her next new TV role.

Mario: Suzie’s friend, Mario likes to collect things. He’s very resourceful and comes up with all sorts of ways to raise money and fix problems.

Woof: Mario’s dog is named Woof. Woof is always running into a scene and barking, “WOOF!” at a key moment of the scene.

The Spy: He’s always writing spy notes in his spy notebook. The Spy’s real name is Larry. He always talks in secret code. For instance, “Iggle, iggle, snoogle, snoogle” means “yes.” When he says, “Ark, ark! Bam, bam!” he’s really saying, “Wow!”

Mr. Zinger: This is the classroom teacher of all the kids in this series. He has a beard, wears a baseball cap, plays the guitar, and sings with the kids. Mr. Zinger’s character traits are based on my husband, Jeff, who teaches fourth grade and plays guitar while singing with his students!

As you can see, characters in kids’ books can be over-the-top funtastic!

So go ahead—have loads and loads of fun! Create a super duper scrump-dilly-icious cast of characters for your own stories and you’ll have just as fun inventing them as kids will reading about them.

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

Imaginary Characters

This month we’ll be discussing strategies you can use to develop great characters in your stories. I love to write stories for the beginning readers and chapter books market, so I thought it would be fun to give a tip on creating imaginary characters for this genre.

(Beginning readers are books like THE CAT IN THE HAT that help kids learn to read all on their own.)

As Dr. Seuss has shown, even nonsense characters spark a child’s imagination and can be created to star in your story. If you have ideas for imaginary characters in the beginning readers and chapter books market, follow the example Dr. Seuss gave us and name these imaginary characters with words or mix-matched combinations of words that use vocabulary geared for this reading level.

For instance, the Grinch, the people living in Whoville, and the Who that Horton hears all have names that can be read successfully by little ones who are trying to read on their own. If you’re writing for the beginning reader market, stay away from naming your imaginary characters with difficult invented names such as Aeridophila or Cleopatricia. Those names are great for older readers, but not as easy to encounter on a page for children who are just beginning to read.

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders