Monthly Archives: October 2019

Vacation Research and Golden Pens

By Susan Wroble

About a year ago, I opened up an email and fell in love.

The email was actually a link to articles from Live Science, and the story I fell in love with was Laura Geggel’s about a new dinosaur. The article quoted Cristiano dal Sasso of the Natural History Museum in Milan. “It is a miracle that it survived such a long chain of events: drifting away to the sea, then floating, sinking, being scavenged by marine animals, reworked by sea bottom currents, buried, uplifted within a mountain chain, and eventually blown up by human explosives.”

With a background in engineering, I love processes. I love mapping out the big picture, figuring out what comes next. And the process that transformed the dinosaur now known as Saltriovenator zanellaiinto a fossil was incredible. I couldn’t get enough.

I downloaded all the articles on Saltriovenator. I poured through the 78-page scientific paper, marking it up with different colored highlighters. I asked volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s Prehistoric Journey to help with the parts I didn’t understand. I started working on a draft of a nonfiction picture book about this miracle fossil. And I told my husband that if we could swing a vacation this year, because what I wanted most of all was to find out more about this dinosaur.

And last month that dream came true! From the guidebooks, I hear that Milan is full of amazing art, incredible fashion and is the gateway to the stunning Italian lake district. I am sure that is correct — but we missed those parts.

Instead, paleontologist del Sasso led me to his office and slid open a drawer — and I was able to hold one of Saltriovenator’s 200-million-year-old bones. The next day, he escorted us to a talk in the town of Guissano, north of Milan. There, we met with Angelo Zanelli, the amateur fossil hunter who, back in 1996, discovered that same dinosaur bone while searching for ammonites, then notified just the right people of his find.

I know that my manuscript has many more rounds of revision in front of it, but I was surprised and honored this weekend. At the annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (RMC-SCBWI), I was nominated for their Golden Pen award for my story “How to become a Miracle Fossil.”

And I have a new goal — I’m planning research vacations more often!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Steady Progress

I love Scrivener – I think it’s an absolute game changer when you’re working on a novel. It allows you to plot things out, move sections easily around, see how many words you have in a given chapter – I could go on and on. And I’m sure I will in another post.

But one of my favorite things it does is allow me to track how much I’m writing each day. Word will tell me how many words are in my document, but Scrivener will tell me how many words I’ve typed that day at a glance. See the picture at the top of this blog post.

And that really helps a goal-oriented person such as myself. It also helps if you are doing a NaNoWriMo style challenge – it makes it crystal clear if you’re staying on target and helps you fill in your stats as you go.

For my current work in progress, I’ve been trying to be more aggressive, striving to hit a thousand words each time I write, and trying to write every day. I start each day knowing this is my goal, but one of the things that keeps me going is this little box.

It’s the way you run for the lamppost. When you’re running, and you need to inspire yourself to go farther, and you think to yourself, “I just need to get to the lamppost.” And you set that target for yourself into the distance, something challenging to keep you going, yet that you know you can achieve.

I try not to obsess as I work, and happily toggle the box off and on as I go.  ([ctrl-comma], for PC users who like keyboard shortcuts, as I do.) I do get a happy little boost as I toggle it back on – okay, two hundred more words down! And then I toggle it off again and get back to work.

Sometimes it’s the desire to hit the thousand-word mark that keeps my laptop open. Sometimes it’s looking at the length of my overall novel, and seeing that if I just write another sixty-seven words, I can make it to another milestone round number. But all of these things push me to get more on the page. And the more I get on the page, the further along I am, the closer I am to getting out of drafting and into the revision stage.

Setting a goal, and seeing my visual progress toward it, inspires me to keep going, keep writing, keep typing, keep trying. And anything that keeps me moving forward is a winner in my book.

What inspires you to get one more word on the page?

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