Clearly Tell a Story in Your Book — and Don’t Muddle It during Editing

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StoryIn this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

My students are getting beta reader feedback on their books. Some beta readers have given detailed comments, while others have given broad, overall critiques. It can be tempting to overreact to these comments and make major changes to the book. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember the story you intend to tell in the book and to preserve, and possibly improve, the story as you edit the book.

One of my students’ beta readers gave excellent advice—choose the story you are telling and make the book consistently tell that story. When he reviewed her book, he saw a few different stories contending with one another. He recommended that she pick one of those stories, then focus on it throughout the book. As he told her, every book tells a story, even a non-fiction book. The more clear and compelling the story, the more readers are hooked. But muddling or mixing several stories in a book confuses readers.

I recently read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. Pixar has been a groundbreaking company that produced the first 3D computer animated movie, Toy Story, and went on to produce a succession of other hugely successful movies—in fact, they have never had a flop in their twenty years of movie making. Catmull explains his management philosophy that led to his company’s success. His first principle is that “Story is King.” By this, he explains, the company ensures that the storyline of a movie is strong and not compromised by the technology, marketing, or any other consideration. By focusing on the story first and foremost, they have succeeded in making a string of hit movies. I think an author has to have a similar focus.

This may seem obvious, but in today’s book publishing environment, it would be easy to get distracted by various considerations to make a hit book, while losing focus on the story. In fact, I just heard about a new author who is holding a contest that encourages readers to comment on her book on social media and promises to use the most prolific commenter as a character in her next book. This may work out well, but it could also lead to a compromise in the story to incorporate this new character. Therefore, as my students and I go through the final stages of beta reader feedback and edits, then copy editing, we will stay focused on the story being told in each book.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog athttps://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

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Project Schedule to Publish a Book – What’s Worked and What Hasn’t

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Schedule page imageIn this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

Mentoring a group of high school students is always challenging, but also rewarding. In setting up this project last spring, I gave the students a Project Schedule to meet with the understanding that we could change milestones as we progressed. With about two thirds of the time gone by, I can tell what worked and what did not work out as planned. If you plan to do a similar project, this assessment could be helpful to you.

What worked as planned? The basic approach we have followed and the time given for each stage of the project have been about right. Also, having the students draft their books over the summer was definitely the best way to do this, as they have very little time for the project during the school year. I think the only other way that they could find the time to write during the school year would be if the project was part of a class. We are doing the project outside of class as an extracurricular activity, and the students are already overloaded with other activities. Finding time to do anything extra is a huge challenge.

What has not worked as planned? The biggest challenge I am seeing with the students is to find the time to finalize their draft books after the beta reader feedback and to prepare their books for copy editing. These tasks require hours of careful line by line analysis of the text. I had hoped for them to do this over the winter break, but the students were too busy. I tried to hold an after school meeting, but it was unproductive. What I need to do is to dedicate a day off from school, say on a Saturday, and do a detailed self edit of our texts to incorporate the beta reader feedback and prepare the texts for copy editing. In order to meet our goal of publishing the books this April, we must get the copy editing done no later than March. Given that my students are all about to take their mid-year exams, we cannot begin this process until the end of January, leaving February and March to finish. I think we will make the deadline, and I had planned extra time in the schedule. When I do this project again, however, I will plan a weekend retreat for this final editing process.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog athttps://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Project Mid-Point…So How Are These Student Authors Doing?

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cal1In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

My students and I started this project in early June 2014, and we plan to publish our books in April 2015. That means we are at the mid-point of the project right now. We just had a monthly meeting to go over our progress. So where are the student authors, compared to our planned schedule? They are on track, though we took a couple weeks more for the first stage of editing and revising. They are coordinating with beta readers right now, and they are marketing their book ideas, primarily by blogging.

As a teacher, I am trying to balance my learning objectives and schedule with their creative ideas and personal timetables. While a project like this could take years, I decided to plan it so we could complete it in one school year. Nevertheless, the students have each gone a separate direction with their ideas, so matching up their schedules has been all the more difficult. Some have progressed in their writing ahead of the rest, while others have progressed more in marketing. On top of all this, they are busy with other activities.

Our next big milestone will be to complete the beta reader process and prepare the manuscripts for a copy editor. The students plan to do fund raisers to pay for the copy editing fees. We will probably get this done during December or January. After that, our books will be ready to publish, so we can work full-time on marketing before, during and after our publication release date in April 2015.

So are we on track? Yes. Are we exactly on the schedule I planned out last spring? No. Is every student on the same schedule? No. Do I expect them all to publish by April 2015? Yes. Would I recommend this project to other teachers? Yes – it is one of the most interesting experiences I have every had!

Next week, my post will go over what makes a good author blog.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.