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Try, Try Again: Using Old Skills in New Ways

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If at first you don't succeed...

When I read Crystal’s post, “You’re Never Told Old,” I decided I had to write about my recent creative pursuits. I’ve already posted about the graphic novel class that I took with Melanie Faith. It was so inspirational! 

I’m not just talking about writing comics or graphic novels. Right now, I’m working on a pitch for a 3rd grade nonfiction series. Unlike some publishers, this one wants a complete manuscript along with ideas for the rest of the series. I knew I had to make my series unique so I’m pitching a new-to-them topic and each chapter will have a graphic sidebar. 

“No worries,” I tell myself. “You’re good at graphics.” I put myself through college illustrating archaeological reports. You need a historic prairie map or a plan view of a foundation? I’m your girl. Funerary medallions, projectile points, and pot sherds – I can do it. 

Eagerly I sat down at my desk, ready to make some decisions. Should I plan out all 8 graphic sidebars and then do them? Or maybe I should brainstorm ideas and create the sidebar for one chapter at a time? I decided to do one chapter at a time when I got stuck on what to do for chapter two. 

My first attempt for chapter one was pathetic. Really. Any editor who saw it would cringe and be tempted to close the manuscript. Absolutely nothing about my first attempt looked professional. 

No worries. It would look better as a collage. By the time I printed out what I needed, mocked it up, photographed it, and printed it to see how it would look, it was weak and washed out. But I’ve done graphics. I should have remembered how badly grayscale images degrade when you copy them. 

Honestly, it was tempting to just give up. I did have to send this pitiful version to my critique group because I didn’t have time to ink up a new version. But that’s what I’m going to have to do. Ink and paper or my drawing tablet and stylus. 

I’m willing to try new things out in my writing. After all, working on the computer, it is easy to make changes. And I’ve got enough experience to tell fairly quickly if something is or is not going to work. 

But I had forgotten what the learning curve looks like when you try new things. These aren’t like the graphics I drew in college. No one is handing me a stone tool or a map and asking for an easily reproducible depiction. I have to decide what to depict and then I have to decide how to do it. I’m not going to give up because some information is much easier to share graphically. I can blow my word count describing a map or I can give them the map. 

Not everything will be as straight forward as drawing a map. But who knows? If I do this often enough, maybe I’ll be able to tell fairly quickly what will and won’t work. Hopefully I’ll come to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed drawing maps. 

Until then I just have to keep reminding myself that every new skill takes time to master. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on June 5, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins June 5, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins June 5, 2022). 

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