What a difference a page makes!

I’m actually being completely honest.

If you’ve never worked with a traditional publisher, the editorial process is something like this: you get an editorial letter from your editor telling you what’s great about your book and what needs improvement. You hit your manuscript and shoot it back to your editor. The initial global edits can be pretty extensive (I once deleted half of the book during this stage) or minor (I once changed two scenes). Depending on how many changes you make to the initial edits, you and your editor bounce your manuscript back and forth as a Word document a few times. As the changes get increasingly smaller, your editor will probably stops sending long formal letters and start adding small, trackable comments in the margins of your Word doc.

Then, when you’ve nailed the manuscript, it gets put through InDesign. Afterward, you get sent first (and sometimes second) pass pages for final copyedits. At this point, the book’s formatted. It looks like it’s going to when it’s bound and shelved in libraries and bookstores…

And it will feel completely different. I guarantee it.

I know with my own manuscripts, during the writing and (global) editorial process, I’d always been looking at a computer screen or computer paper…and no book is that size. Not one. They’re all smaller. Sometimes, a lot smaller (most of my traditionally pubbed books are 5X8). So after going through InDesign, my books’ paragraphs got longer. A lot longer. Pages featured fewer paragraphs. Chapters sometimes felt reeeeaaaally long.

In short, there was a different rhythm.

Now, after I feel I’m through with the big changes, I plug my own manuscripts into InDesign, using a common trim size for the genre. This gives me a better sense of what the final flow will feel like. I can identify and cut down long sentences and wordy phrases. I can further whittle down paragraphs and chapters. I can really see where the fat is that needs to be trimmed.

Reformatting a manuscript in this manner is also a great way to identify typos or copyedit, too. You go over your own manuscript so many times, you practically  memorize it. Reformatting makes it look different so the mistakes are easier to recognize.

Of course, you don’t have to use InDesign. You might compile into an .epub or .mobi to read on your e-reader, or you could simply adjust the margins in Word. But a smaller, more realistic trim size can do a world of good when you hit the final stages of revision.


superhero cover2

Having been involved in the craft of storytelling since my own elementary days, and having visited classes as a professional author to discuss writing techniques, I’ve developed what I believe to be the perfect guide to creating innovative characters and dynamic action that will both tweak the imaginations of advanced writers AND jumpstart or encourage the most reluctant young writer. Now available in a lower-cost e-book format (simply use your own notebook to answer the prompts listed in the e-version).

INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO: A BRAINSTORMING JOURNAL uses creating a new “superhero” as an enticement for young writers. This is more than just a fun exercise, though, as it introduces writers to the recognized elements of solid storytelling: conflict, character motivation, backstory, foreshadowing, etc.

The workbook also introduces young authors to the importance of crafting solid characters who grow and change throughout their stories. The journal also provides insight into how “heroes” and “arch-enemies” can even find common ground.


While journals and workbooks are often geared toward individual use, INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO would also make a great ongoing classroom project. After reading each prompt aloud, teachers could instruct their students to brainstorm either on their own or collectively (in small groups or as a class). Individual brainstorming allows students to rely on their own creativity, of course, but less creatively-inclined students might benefit from group brainstorming—after the group brainstorming is complete, each student can then write his or her own stories. It’s much easier to write a story once you have a roadmap (it would be a fantastic confidence-builder), and it would also be a fascinating exercise for the students to see how each one of them takes the same basic characters and / or storyline and turns it into something different from the other young writers in their class!


INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO is available as an e-book here: and as a print book here:

I would also love to hear how this workbook benefits your class or young writers’ group. You can contact me at any time at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Happy writing!



I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you’re writing for young readers, your old stuff is just a goldmine. And by “old stuff,” I mean anything that allows you to connect with who you were as a teen or fifth grader or college freshman, etc.

When I wrote my first YA, A BLUE SO DARK, I dug through all the old spiral-bound notebooks I filled with poetry throughout high school. Not only did it help me get back into the right teen voice, a few of those poems actually worked their way into the finished book (tweaked a bit to fit the events of the novel).

Last year, I bumped into this gem–it appears to be an old school project (I’m thinking I was about 8 when I did this, since that’s when I learned cursive) in which I invented a superhero. My creation?



Check out that impressive glitter work–and that’s real yarn hair! Pretty super, if I do say so myself.

When Susan is not being super, she is mild-mannered Susan Crawford:


I’m not sure what Susan Crawford does, exactly. Maybe librarian? I probably would have liked a librarian.

Here I am brainstorming Super Susan’s abilities:


And here’s my short piece on Super Susan:


Susan’s true superpower? According to that last paragraph, it’s kindness.

I got such a kick out of this, and I wanted to give other young writers an opportunity to invent a superhero of his or her own. The end result? A brainstorming journal:

superhero cover2

In this journal, young writers will not only create a new superhero, they’ll also learn the basics of crafting strong characters, building solid conflict, and finding an emotionally satisfying story conclusion.

The journal also asks writers to consider how their characters change. Taking a page from the Super Susan book, the journal encourages writers to give their heroes a chance to show kindness to their enemy. By showing kindness, writers can see how those heroes and enemies can actually find common ground, maybe even join forces.

I hope your young writers come up with something amazing. Well–actually, I don’t hope. I know they will. Snag your own copy here.


I’ve released my first writing how-to book for kids!


superhero cover2

Create a brand-new superhero with never-before-seen powers and the perfect arch-enemy. Learn to tell an exciting story!

Psst: And it’s fun, too!
Award-winning author Holly Schindler turns her attention to helping young writers learn the craft of storytelling. Yes, this activity book is a guide for creating a new superhero, but it also uses brainstorming prompts to take young authors through the process of constructing a story with solid characters, plenty of pulse-pounding conflict, and a satisfying ending. Great for individual or classroom use. Suggested grades: 3-8.


Okay, okay, it’s my first writing how-to book for anybody, regardless of age. But this is specifically geared toward young writers. I’d suggest it for grades 3-8, but since every child develops at their own rate, of course it could also work for someone slightly older or younger, as well.

What does this writing journal offer?

Help creating a brand-new superhero with never-before-seen powers and the perfect arch-enemy.
A step-by-step guide that teaches kids to tell an exciting story.
Most importantly, it’s fun, too!

Yes, this activity book will guide users through creating a new superhero, but it’s so much more! This journal uses brainstorming prompts to take young authors through the process of constructing a story with solid characters, plenty of pulse-pounding conflict, and a satisfying ending.

Really, by using the hook of creating a new “superhero,” I’m introducing kids to the concept of “pre-writing,” or planning out a story before writing it. This journal gives them a starting point for how to become a “plotter” rather than a “pantser.” (A plotter outlines a story first, and a pantser literally flies by the seat of their pants, or wings every single book they write.) The farther along I get, the more I think the worst thing a writer could ever be is a lifelong pantser. There’s no way I could meet every single deadline writing that way. Professional writers need to master the art of outlining, brainstorming, and pre-writing in order to organize their thoughts BEFORE writing the first draft. Otherwise, they’re quickly overwhelmed. Projects gets delayed or even sidelined completely.

How does it work?

The journal contains both informative text and numbered brainstorming prompts. These prompts take young authors first through the process of creating a solid hero and worthy opponent (arch-enemy). Once the young authors understand their characters, they can then begin to craft the conflict and story resolution, as well.

Sneak peek:

As you can see from these sample pages, the journal introduces young writers to concepts like “foreshadowing” and “backstory,” and provides thoughts on how to “flesh out” characters and find an ending in which not only good prevails but characters change and grow as well.

What will young authors create?

Anything they want! Students can take all the ideas they generate here to then write a short story or book, illustrate a comic, even devise a script for a movie or play that can be acted out. The journal includes several blank pages in the back to get started with their projects, but after all this brainstorming, they might find they need far more paper to finish…maybe even a whole spiral-bound notebook!

Great for both individuals and classrooms!

Available at Amazon:

Best wishes in writing!



I’ve become a complete plotting method junkie. I’m always on the lookout for new technique books. A few of my faves:



Cron’s WIRED FOR STORY was one of the first plotting books I read, and I loved it. I still go back to this one every once in a while. An interesting look not just at a method of structuring story but at the purpose of storytelling as well.


I love Hayes’s ROMANCING THE BEAT. Like Cron, Hayes delves into the purpose of storytelling. This time, it’s the purpose of romance novels. A must-have for anyone writing a romance, of course, but I’d argue it’s also a great book to consult for non-love stories as well (particularly if you’ve got dueling or multiple narrators).


Truby’s ANATOMY OF STORY  is one you’re going to want to read with a notebook and a pen. Actually, I’d suggest moving through this one when you already have a book in mind that you specifically want to draft. You can outline it while reading, putting Truby’s practices to work immediately.


Bell’s WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE is worth a read because the premise is so interesting. Bell claims that each book contains a turning point in the middle, and that it’s possible to start with the turning point and work your way both to the beginning and climax of the story.

Part of the reason I find Bell’s theory so interesting is that, as writers, we all discuss “character arcs” until we’re blue in the face…Think about the shape of an arc. What does it have in the middle?

Yup. A turning point.


Nothing can freshen up your own storytelling quite like bringing in a new drafting technique, courtesy of a new plotting book. I’d love to hear your own favorites. Hit me with them in the comments below.


Well, it’s the easiest way I’ve ever found, anyway. I type each chapter to look as I’d like it to as I write the manuscript. Then, when I compile, I basically uncheck everything that’s pre-checked by the program, telling it to simply format according to the way each chapter already appears.

Clear as mud? Here it is step-by-step:

  1. Make sure your chapters are all typed up the way you’d like them to look. Simpler’s generally better for e-books. (Here, I’ve simply bolded the chapter number, and made the first line of the chapter flush left.) Also, I arrange all my chapters in the binder as far left as they’ll go.


2. Open the compile dialogue box, and make sure to click all the chapters you want to include under “Contents.”

2 (Contents)

3.  Under “Separators,” choose “Page Break” for each option.


4. Under “Formatting,” Uncheck all the “Title” options and check “Text.”

4 new2

5. Unclick “Override text and notes formatting.”


6. Unclick everything under “Options.”

6 new

7. Click “Level 1+,” then set “Page Padding” down to 0 lines and under “Section Layout,” delete all the Chapter information.


8. Repeat Step #7 for all Levels.

8 repeat for all levels

9. Unclick everything under “Transformations.”

9 new

10. In the “Compile” dialogue, add your cover.

10 add your cover

11.  Also in the Compile dialogue, fill out the Meta Data.

10 fill out your metadata

Make sure you’ve chosen the right type of file to compile into (.mobi, .epub), then click “Compile” at the bottom of the dialogue box.







Piggybacking on last week’s post on retyping revisions, I wanted to share another technique I’ve found to be particularly powerful during the revision process: the letter of authorial intent.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to get started with a revision. And while it’s true that consulting beta readers or critique groups can offer authors some great guidance, it’s also unfortunately true that conflicting advice (or advice you don’t 100% agree with) can leave you feeling more confused or lost than ever…in the darkest of times, you can even wonder if your project’s hit a dead-end.

At this point, I’d recommend writing what I’ve come to refer to as a letter of authorial intent.


It is in no way a query. A query is short and it’s jacket copy. It tries to entice someone else to read your book. This is a letter to yourself. In it, you’re literally describing what you intended, as the author, for this book to be. The important thing to remember is that this letter has nothing to do with the book you actually wrote. Not at this point. This letter is describing the book you dreamed of. The book you intended to write. Reconnect with your just-inspired self. What got you excited in the first place? What was the initial spark?

Spiral out from there. Let yourself go. Don’t worry if your thoughts hop around. Just get them down at this point. This is a total brain-dump, a stream-of-consciousness freewrite. What themes did you want to include? What about the characters? Who did you imagine they would be?

Get every last thing you wanted this book to be down on paper. Write it in longhand, type it, dictate it. Whatever it takes to let all the ideas flow naturally.


Now that you’ve got it all down, organize it. Remember, this is a letter for you, so there really are no hard-and-fast rules. It’s all about what works best for you—and for this project! I do shuffle all my thoughts by topic (Character, Theme, etc.) Really, this step is more of a logical reordering than it’s technically a revision. You don’t care how the letter is phrased; you’re actually creating a kind of checklist.

Once I’ve gotten my own letter of authorial intent organized, I usually:


And the pitch is based solely on the letter, not the manuscript. If the book you described in your own letter actually existed, how would you pitch it in one sentence?


This is the fun part (at least, I think it’s fun). Put your authorial letter of intent (and that one-sentence pitch) next to your manuscript. Does the manuscript live up to the pitch? Does the manuscript accomplish what you originally set out to do? Do not go easy on yourself! Identify the areas where you feel you didn’t hit the mark. Why? What separates the current WIP’s main character from the character you originally imagined? Are the themes and messages present in this WIP? Are they present but perhaps not in the way or to the extent you planned? Why?

By comparing your original goals to the current manuscript, you can begin to identify holes or weaknesses. From there, you can begin to brainstorm ideas on how to fix those weaknesses.


I’ve found that by reconnecting with what originally inspired me, I often find myself reinfected with that original excitement and the high of the initial spark of inspiration. The kind of excitement that can help a writer power through a tough revision…