Oh Susanna – How Much Drama In A MS? And Time For Summer Fun!

Holy swiss cheese, Batman!  You would not believe this weekend!

I could spin the whole story out, but that would be too long to post 🙂  Suffice to say, my brother fell off his bike in a race and shattered his femur, and Jemma is SERIOUSLY in the doghouse – she has taken BAD DOG to an unprecedented level!

My brother, thankfully, should be okay after some recovery time.  He’s very fit and a very mind-over-matter type of guy.  He’ll probably be back at work in 3 days 🙂  Jem will be forgiven eventually because she didn’t do permanent damage – though not for lack of trying.  You won’t believe it after Friday’s Perfect Picture Book, but she actually caught a fawn.  I’ve had dogs my whole adult life and that’s never happened before.  I’ve never seen anything so little! – I thought it was a cat! – I didn’t know fawns started out so incredibly small!   I made her drop it.  You probably heard me shrieking at her in California, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Europe!  And she didn’t hurt it – just scared it – she’s not that much bigger.  But really.  I was completely traumatized by the whole experience and if you think Jemma is going anywhere off a leash for a Very Long Time you are sorely mistaken!

So here I am, rattled and scattered, trying to write a coherent post.  If I don’t pull it off, you’ll know why! 🙂


Today’s Oh Susanna question relates back somewhat to this post (please scroll down past Cori) where I showed the before and after versions of Freight Train Trip.  I mentioned that the editor had commented that the original version wasn’t dramatic enough, and Stacy wondered whether there was any kind of test for drama in a manuscript.

That is an interesting question.

First of all, how much drama is necessary in a manuscript is subjective.  Some editors, (and some readers) like more, and some like less.  In this day and age it seems that the general rule of thumb is that more is better, and yet there are still, sometimes, beautiful, quieter books published too.

How much drama is also dictated by age.  If you’re writing board books, there may be enough drama in searching for baby’s belly button.  For a YA novel the fate of the world as we know it might be at stake.

In addition, how you achieve drama is specific to the story.  In some manuscripts there is dramatic tension brought on by the situation, as in Freight Train where the two trains are approaching each other on the same track and there’s going to be trouble if the switchman doesn’t look up from his newspaper.  In other manuscripts, the drama comes from the emotional stakes for the main character, as in Not Yet, Rose where Rose isn’t sure if she wants a brother, a sister, or no baby at all because, although she doesn’t quite know how, she senses that her whole world is about to change.

I wish I could say that there was some kind of simple test for drama, but if there is, I don’t know it 🙂  The closest I can come might be this:  something has to happen – something real, something important, preferably something that a young reader can relate to either on an excitement/adventure/adrenaline level as in the Freight Train example, or on an emotional “I know exactly how that feels!” level.  I guess even better if you can manage both 🙂  This actually comes down more to your story problem or conflict.  If you’ve got a good one, you’ll have drama.

I hope some of the very talented writers in our readership will chime in with their knowledge and advice on this subject!

Now, on to those announcements I mentioned Friday.  I know you’ve been squirming in your seats with anticipation 🙂

Here’s the deal.

I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I still have mixed feelings, and if enough of you express extreme unhappiness I’ll try to rethink it, but I think I’m going to put Perfect Picture Books on hiatus from June 22 – August 31.  I know summer is a time when lots of people have more time to read, but I’m hoping everyone can make use of the 700+ Picture Books that are already posted, and read and prepare a whole new bunch for the fall.

I have an EXTREMELY busy summer coming up (can you say college visiting? :)) and Perfect Picture Books is a huge time commitment.  I already know there will be a lot of Fridays when I won’t be at my computer.  And I seriously can’t bear the idea of coming back from somewhere and having 60 books to add to the list while simultaneously trying to vacuum up the dog hair that has collected in my absence 🙂  Taking a break will hopefully give me time to catch up with the ones that still have to go up (I had a glitch last week where a lot that were uploaded didn’t save/disappeared and I have to redo them all) and also hopefully give me and the lovely Darshana time to streamline it a bit so it’s easier to search and easier to update in the future.  You may feel free to share you thoughts… I can take it 🙂

However, I certainly don’t want to leave us with nothing!  So I have another hair-brained scheme in mind (and you know what happened last time… Phyllis went all over the world :))

Are you ready?

Instead of PPBFs, for the 8 weeks from July 5 – August 24 we will have Summer Short & Sweets!!!  (Badge forthcoming from Loni after finals are over! :))

Summer Short & Sweets will post each Friday (in place of PPBF) with a fun writing prompt/challenge that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  You will post your response here.  Other people’s responses may inspire you and jumpstart your creativity!  For each Short & Sweet prompt that you do, you will receive a point.  Your points will add up, and at the end, there will be prizes available depending on how many points you’ve accumulated!  We will culminate our summer of fun with a Summer or Back To School Writing Contest on August 31, and you may well be able to use some of the ideas you’ve generated during the series.  For those of you in 12×12, Summer Shorts may help you stay on track! 🙂

I think it will be a fun way to keep the creativity flowing as we chase our kids around playgrounds, keep them out of poison ivy, slather them with sunscreen, take them camping, keep them out of trouble in the pool or ocean, tour the US on college visits, or go to work… whatever we happen to be doing 🙂  I really really hope you guys will think it’s fun too!  (You’d probably better let me know in the comments in case I’m barking up the wrong tree!)  But the fun part is, we’ll all be doing it together, and everything will be VERY SHORT – seriously, 5 minutes.  Maybe less if you think faster than I do.  Which would not be hard at this point.  Since I have yet to attain my usual level of perkiness this morning after not enough sleep.  How many times did I use the word “fun” in the last 2 paragraphs?

I think it’s time for more coffee!

Happy Monday Everyone 🙂  And please chime in with your thoughts about drama, PPBF, and Summer Shorts! 🙂

64 thoughts on “Oh Susanna – How Much Drama In A MS? And Time For Summer Fun!

  1. Donna L Martin says:

    Hi Susanna,

    I'm sorry to hear about your brother but it's nice to know he's on the road to recovery! Maybe your dog is anticipating your road hopping comin up and wanted to leave you something to remember her by?

    I like your new idea as it will give you a chance to step away from the PPBF for the summer but not leave us hanging…;0)

    As far as drama in WIPs, that is the very thing I'm working on in each of my stories I will post on Fridays…I hope that my readers will let me know if the “drama level” is enough…lol…

    Enjoy your travels!

    Donna L Martin

  2. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    My brother is practicing walking already – he's going to be back on that bike in no time (nut job! :)) And my dogs are living the leashed life for a few weeks until the baby animals are a little older and better able to take care of themselves. Jemma normally won't tangle with anything bigger than a squirrel, but this fawn was tiny! and I'm not taking any more chances! I hope you'll join in with SS&S and I look forward to your Friday postings 🙂

  3. Laura Anne Miller says:

    Susanna, Summer shorts sounds awesome (as long as I don't have to WEAR them) 😉 Certainly understand the busy summer. I've been babysitting grandkids and the schedule I had finally established, flew right out the window, but was at least replaced by giggles and grins and some story ideas! Will be watching.

  4. Laura Anne Miller says:

    Meant to say, will pray for your brother, too. I shattered my kneecap some years ago – I understand the frustrations that go along.

  5. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    You are sweet, Laura, thanks so much! 🙂

    Laura Anne Miller (unregistered) wrote, in response to Laura Anne Miller (unregistered):

    Meant to say, will pray for your brother, too. I shattered my kneecap some years ago – I understand the frustrations that go along.

    Link to comment

  6. Robyn Campbell says:

    Oh man! I am praying for your brother. Jemma sounds like my kinda gal! And who can blame her??

    Summer Shorts and Sweets sounds great, but I will miss Perfect Picture Book Friday. I know it will be back though. Maybe by then I can join back in. (My sister's hubby had emergency surgery over the weekend.) He's still not out of the woods. *deep sigh* Our family. *deeper sigh*

    (((HUGS))) and lotsa loves.

  7. Stacysjensen says:

    The benefit of stopping late is reading all the comments too. Thanks for the answer. I too love the comparison of the belly button board book and the fate of the world in a YA. Oh Susanna is always helpful thank you. I'll miss PPBF, but sounds like the summer short & sweets will be fun. I may take a Friday hiatus though. 🙂 I'll happily read along. I hope your brother has improved (ouch). College visits sound fun. Enzo and I still have A LOT of books from the list to read. Summer reading fun!

  8. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Thanks, Stacy, I'm glad if it was helpful. And I love summer 🙂 This one is going to be unusually busy, but I just love having everyone home 🙂 I'm going to miss PPBF too, but it's only for 9 weeks, and if I didn't pause it, I would get so behind I'd never catch up. As for the Summer Short and Sweets, you don't have to comment on Fridays if you're busy having fun – that's just the day I'll post. You can always go back and comment 🙂

  9. Loni Edwards says:

    So sorry about your brother, but glad he is on the mend. And OMG! I would've been freaking out so bad if my dog caught a fawn! Ok, my dog is a Shih Tzu, so the chances of him even catching a rabbit are very low, but you know what I mean 🙂 I'm glad it got away. What a week!

    I'm very excited to be doing the artwork for Summer Short & Sweets! I will be sad about PPBF, but totally understand. I know what having a busy schedule is like! Summer Short & Sweets will be a lot of fun to participate in. My question is, will there be cupcakes and cookies? 🙂

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Thanks, Loni. My brother is home, so that's great news 🙂 And thank goodness Jemma couldn't quite figure out what to do with that little guy and he got away! She's on a roll this week – she got in the garbage… and then she rolled in something stinky… so she's at the top of the naughty list! Cupcakes and cookies!!! YES!! What a fabulous and perfect idea! I was thinking lemonade and iced tea, but I'm sure we'll be needing a little something to nosh on 🙂

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