I usually try to post every week, but I admit that I slipped up last week. It’s the first time in a long time. Life just got in the way. Between preparing for my dad’s 84th birthday party and working on my “Making Picture Book Magic” course (I was way behind), I simply forgot. I am happy to announce that the party was fabulous, and I did manage to catch up with the course.
I really enjoyed the “Making Picture Book Magic” course. It was very eye opening. For one thing, I realized that I am writing my characters as myself, and not as they should be. So now that I am aware of this, I can take steps to correct this. Or at least I can try.
I will certainly use the information Susanna Leonard Hill gave in the course to write my future picture books. It is the first time that I have enjoyed making a picture book dummy, and so it is a new tool that I can add to my revision box.
Notice the layers: a dummy will go through several revisions.
Now that I am done, what is next? I managed to connect with a critique group through 12×12, and I have already started working with them. I am so happy that I have been able to do this. Their input has been invaluable. So I will continue to work with them.
In March I will change gears a bit as I will be writing a chapter book during the Chapter Book Challenge. In-between there is a petite ReViMo on March 12-13.
In April there is RhyPiBoMo. And then in May I have signed up for Kristen McCall Fulton’s non fiction picture book course. I am really looking forward to that. I participated last month in Mini Wow and already have my idea for the course.
So what are you up to these days?
After having heard so many recommendations about it, I am finally taking Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” course.
We started out by working on our characters. In the past, I have always just written a story as it came to me. If I added in anything about the character, then it came afterwards.
But my characters didn’t really shine. It was the story that I mainly focussed on. These days with character driven picture books being all the rage, character building is definitely something worth exploring.
I find the process of writing a story a lot different if you develop the character first. The story could go so many different ways. In fact, for the character I am working on, I wrote out three different scenarios. It was not only a lot of fun, but also a good exercise.
Susanna recommends we make up a bunch of lists that we can draw on. For example, write down a list of quirks a character may have. One quirk I remember a roommate having is that she could not stand the smell of bananas once they turned brown. So I thought, hmmm, maybe I could use this in a story, perhaps with an elephant?
We are about halfway through it and I already recommend Susanna Leonard Hill’s course.
What writing courses do you recommend?
I sat in on an awesome WOW Nonficpic webinar last month. Marcie Flinchum Atkins talked all about using mentor texts.
I have written about using mentor texts before. But Marcie went more in depth and talked about how to design your own personalized writing course through mentor texts.
Start by listing your strengths and weaknesses. Now what are your weaknesses? Plot? Characters? One weakness that I want to work on is the fact that my language does not sing. So I could pick up a book like “Moonshot” by Brian Floca and study the author’s word choice including his sensory words and vivid verbs.
The whole process is outlined in more detail in the notes that Marcie has posted on her website. She also talks about the plot clock, another excellent tool for writers to use.
By the way, there is a mini WOW Nonficpic coming later in February.
It’s almost time for the 2014 chapter book challenge. Are you ready? The fun starts on March 1, which is one month from today. Then there’s a whole month for you to get your chapter book completed. On the way there will be plenty of insightful guest posts and lots of great prizes. Swing on over to the website if you want to catch up on previous years’ posts.
I have already selected the story I am going to work on. This is a story that I started to write during last year’s NaPiBoWriWee. I realized that it was far too long and detailed to be a picture book, so I thought that it would be perfect for this year’s chapter book challenge.
But what if you don’t have a manuscript in mind? There are certain tools out there that can help. One tool that was recommended to me is called “The Observation Deck” by Naomi Epel. It’s a book that comes with a set of cards. The book contains secrets from various writers that literary escort Epel accumulated over a number of years.
So you can go through the book/deck in chronological order and work through a story from conception to finish. But what if you already have a manuscript? The beauty of this book/deck combination is that you can use it in many ways. Just use the chapter’s prompt to tweak a manuscript.
I prefer to pull a card at random and then read the related chapter. For example, I have pulled “eliminate words”. The accompanying exercise had me writing a story of only 100 words. Gasp, you say, I could never do that. Well it gets better, because then you are asked to eliminate 20 of those words and write the story from another character’s viewpoint. And so on. It teaches you how to make your story tight. A challenge? Sure. Fun? Absolutely.
“The Observation Deck” was recommended to me by Eileen Robinson, the teacher of my first children’s writing course. You may have heard of her before. What you may not know is that she is accepting submissions for boy-centred middle grade novels at Move Books. The chapter book challenge may just get you started on a future submission to Move Books.
During this year’s challenge you will also have a chance to win a copy of “The Observation Deck”. Stay tuned for more information. I hope to see you there.
Note: The winner was Ashley Willoughby. Congratulations! To see the results and plus read a fabulous post about “writing fabulously and redefining failure”, click here.