My Newsletter ~ March 28, 2024

First published through as an email, March 28, 2024

By Word of Beth ~ March 28, 2024

Greetings, friends!

Somehow, this month took a long time to march through the days, and yet it seems now to have been over in a flash. It’s newsletter time again, and I hope you’ll find something that intrigues you, or catches your interest, or speaks to you in some way.

The contents list is short and sweet:

Writing – Persevering

Editing – Being your own critique partner, plus the Flubs2Fixes game.

Reading – One stellar (and funny) picture book.

Resources – A serious link and a fun, yet educational one.

Just for fun – Wait and see!


Image by Suzy Hazelwood, from

I’ve had a line of poetry popping into my head all month. I finally decided the universe was trying to tell me something with these words, and realized they could be applied to writing.

It’s the first line of a poem written in 1849 by Arthur Hugh Clough:

Say not the struggle naught availeth…

What did I find that could speak to writers 175 (!) years later? 

Say not the struggle naught availeth…

That’s certainly not the way we would say anything in 2024, even if we were writing a poem. To me, the words translated into current speech would say something like

Don’t tell yourself your work isn’t worth anything. 

Don’t give up. Persevere.

This is a message I, as a writer, need to hear over and over again.

I suspect I’m not the only one who sometimes wonders when yet another rejection comes in, if I really have what it takes, or if I should just call it quits. But I’ve been writing for so many years, that the thought of NOT writing is not acceptable to me. So I persevere. And I keep working on my craft, with my wonderful critique partner whom I’ve been exchanging pages with since July 2023. And when I finish the manuscripts I’m working on, I’ll get back in those query trenches and start sending out the queries again – this time better prepared, with stronger manuscripts and a mindset that tells me “say not the struggle naught availeth;” that tells me “what you’re doing is what you’re supposed to be doing, and don’t undervalue it. Don’t give up. Persevere.”

I am so thankful for my critique partner, and my accountability buddy (see the blogpost I linked in February), and so many friends in the writing world who encourage me.

We are each other’s Arthur Hugh Clough – here to encourage each other, to cheer each other on, to lift each other up, to say “your struggle availeth much” and as the poem itself concludes,

In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright.”

We’re also here to encourage each other to not beat ourselves up when the going gets tough, to not chastise ourselves when we have trouble getting that butt into the chair and those hands on the keyboard. We’re also here to say, “it’s okay to rest for a while, to take a break, to come back stronger. It’s okay.”

Persevering is good in its season. So is rest. We need to learn how to discern when the time is right for each, and to give ourselves permission to do whichever is right at the time – and if rest is what we need, rest is what we’ll do. In the meantime, we’ll persevere.

Here’s a blog post I wrote a number of years ago on this same topic. It seems it’s a theme I return to over and over again:  🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾   and another, about keeping hopes alive: 🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾

And here’s a link to the full poem, Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth:  🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾 



Last month, in the Writing section of the newsletter, I talked about story structure, and how I had created a document in Scrivener to help me put the manuscript that needed a major overhaul into the Save the Cat! story structure. If you missed that process, you can click on these paw prints  🐾 🐾   🐾 🐾  to go to February’s newsletter. We’ll wait for you to come back.

I’m ready for the next step, and it is an editing step, rather than a writing step. I’ve restructured my manuscript, and am in the process of transferring it from Scrivener into a Word document (a process that takes a little finessing in terms of formatting). It’s not yet ready for my regular critique partner’s eyes, so I will become my own critique partner – my own editor.

To do this, I open Track Changes, and start reading through the manuscript as if it were someone else’s manuscript. Nothing is precious, everything is up for critique. I make comments as I go along.

I watch for things such as

  • Plot holes and general story structure
  • Scene structure – is there some sort of conflict in every scene? What might be added?
  • Are there some passages of pretty writing that don’t really add to the story? Note them. They may end up being deleted and saved in a deleted from X-manuscript document (you never know when they might come in handy.)
  • Is there too much backstory? Or not enough? Does the reader get dropped into the middle of a scene at the beginning and not really know where they are, who the main character is, and why they should care about that character?
  • Are there other places where the reader will think “where are we? How did we get here?” Be sure to ground the reader in what’s going on. It doesn’t take many words, but it can make a great difference to the reader’s interest versus confusion level.
  • Do all the characters pull their weight? Are there some who could be combined? Are there some who are fighting with the main character for top billing? Is the current main character the right main character?
  • Is there a good balance of dialogue, description and action? Are action beats needed to break up long passages of dialogue? Does the dialogue ring true for the age and personality of the speaker?
  • On the other hand, are there long pages of description that could use some breaks for dialogue or action?
  • Watch for continuity – if Jane has blue eyes on page 1, but brown eyes on page 104, choose one and make sure the manuscript is consistent.
  • Does the character have agency – does the character take responsibility for their actions, and act on their own, rather than having someone take over and run the show, or swoop in to save the day? That’s only allowed in superhero movies. The main character having agency is especially important in kid’s books, because kids often don’t have as much agency as they’d like in real life, so reading about it fills a gap, and helps them see how a kid can still achieve a lot while still being subject to the strictures of childhood, or tweenhood or teenagerhood. I’m not saying they should suddenly have superpowers, but they should stand on their own two feet and make the plot elements move because of their actions (for better or worse.)
  • Does the main character have an initial goal, want, or need that they will pursue throughout the story?
  • Is there an antagonist who will be strong enough to be a real challenge for the main character as the plot builds?
  • Are there sufficient obstacles in the main character’s path – obstacles that will hinder them from achieving their goal and cause them to grow inwardly as they face and overcome that obstacle? Do the obstacles increase in intensity?
  • Does the writing dig beneath the surface of the meaning of things, the emotion of things, the possibilities of things?
  • Is there an “all is lost” moment, when the main character thinks they can’t possibly succeed? Does the writing make the reader feel the depths of that along with the character?
  • Is there a final struggle of some sort between the main character and the antagonist or antagonistic forces?
  • Is there a satisfying ending? Is the writing strong?
  • By the end of the story, has the main character learned and grown inwardly?
  • Also, do some copy editing along the way – note spelling errors and grammar errors. Don’t get too intensely into this, because at this point the manuscript could change greatly, but note things. If there’s a word choice you’re unsure of, flag it so you remember to give it careful consideration.
  • Relax and know that each comment you give yourself, each action or bit of dialogue you ponder is making you a stronger writer while it makes your manuscript stronger.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will get you started in critiquing your manuscript as your own critique partner. And when you present your manuscript to your regular critique partner, you’ll have a much more solid manuscript for them to bring their insights to.

And remember, I’m always available to help you along the way with a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or YA manuscript. Just check out the info about my editing at this link,  🐾 🐾   🐾 🐾  and see if we can work together.


Photo by Katrina Bolovtsova, from

Not a lot of reading happened this month. It’s been a month filled with other things, and that’s okay (see what I said about not beating oneself up about things not yet done in the writing post.)

I *did* attend a wonderful 12×12 BookChat in March that featured Shruthi Rao and her absolutely delightful picture book, KADOOBOO: A Silly South Indian Folktale, written by Shruthi Rao and illustrated by Darshika Varma. It makes me wish I had a little kid to read it to, because imagining kids’ reactions to all the funny things that happen in the book is something wonderful to contemplate. Find it at your library or bookstore, and treat yourself to some KADOOBOO!


Photo by Pixabay, from
  • Agent Kate McKean continues the perseverance theme in her Tuesday, March 26, 2024 newsletter. Check out what she says about Strength and Fortitude here:  🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾  

  • I think the Strength and Fortitude Kate writes about must be related to the marble lions that guard the entrance to the 42nd Street New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude. Here’s a wonderful kids’ page about them, which interested this “older kid” as well. From the New York Public Library website:  🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾  

Just for fun 

Last month, I shared videos of some of my current favorite kittens at the Tinykittens Feral Cat Rescue in B.C.

This month, I decided it was only fair to give equal time to dogs, so here’s one of my favorite dog families who post on Facebook. (It’s accessible even if you’re not on Facebook.)

Don’t worry, I won’t be going through all the animals in the world for the Just for Fun section! Come back next month and see what’s in store!

But now, here’s a video (or two) of Charlie the Golden:

“When your dog’s favorite toy is a stuffed duck”: 🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾  

“Dog eats different foods”: (I love Charlie’s food reviews)  🐾  🐾    🐾  🐾  

That’s it for this month, friends, but there’ll be another newsletter coming your way on the last Thursday of April, the 25th. 


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By Word of Beth Newsletter is published the last Thursday of every month.

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