The internet is full of craft advice for writers. Some of it is even good advice. All of it purports to make your writing better, more readable, more relatable, more salable.
I’m not talking about grammar advice, like how to punctuate dialogue. That’s a mechanical skill. It’s mostly objective, at least within its specific context (i.e. writing in English, because other languages treat dialogue much differently).
This is about the subjective stuff. It’s about choices authors make to meet audience expectations or subvert them. It’s about the “rules” that supposedly separate good writing from bad.
Mostly, it’s about style and the ever-elusive attribute known as “voice.” I’ve written here about character voice, but this is not about staying in character. This is about your personal, unique authorial voice and how craft advice can file that away until it loses what made it yours.
I’ve been practicing creating picture books. I’m an artist, but I haven’t done illustrations before. My first effort went live just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s called “A Pot of Gold” and it’s for the earliest readers.
Most early readers are created in-house, so publishers and agents aren’t interested in them. Kids love them, though, and there aren’t many St. Patrick’s Day books, so I decided to do the illustrations and post it to Kindle.
I learned so much in the process. I am now a master of the pen tool in Photoshop. I’ve also learned how to use Perspective Warp and Object Select.
I found out what the formats mean on Kindle and discovered free Google Fonts.
If you’ve finished a project and you are about to query an agent or editor, here’s a great article linked from Harold Underdown’s blog. If you don’t know about him and you write for children, keep his site handy. It’s a terrific resource.
Before you send, a checklist:
Did you research your recipient?
Did you spell their name right?
Are you sending a manuscript they said they didn’t want?
Did you include your social media information? (If you have it.)
Did you include your contact information?
Is your letter brief and to the point?
Does the tone of your letter catch the spirit of your story?
Did you include the character and the stakes? (If you don’t know what stakes are, look it up.)
Did you include only relevant biographical information?
I just finished an amazing course in picture book writing from the Picture Book Academy. It was both informative and inspirational.
Every artist and writer needs an inspiration boost sometimes. Here’s a list of resources to keep handy. I’ve used most of them at one time or another and am looking forward to checking out others I haven’t tried.
If your favorite book, podcast, or video isn’t listed, please share it in the comments!
I love the Children’s Book Academy. I just finished a month-long workshop on writing picture books and learned so much. Some manuscripts I need to revise one more time are humorous and that is important, because everyone loves funny stories (especially me,) but the best humorous tales offer a deeper layer, like the finish on a fine wine.
Click on this link to read what it means to create a picture book with both humor and heart.
I just found this beautiful blog by author/illustrator Kelsey Lecky. She gave a wonderful presentation for SCBWI Carolinas in January. Watch for her wonderful books and if you see her featured at a conference, especially online, attend if you can.
I don’t know about you, but I’m currently looking for an agent. Here’s a podcast panel with five agented writers talking about how they connected with those all-important partners in the publishing business.
This fantastic blog post provides insight into a journey of great interest to writers of middle grade and young adult fiction–the path to individuation, and even better, that path as it relates to women and girls.
The post refers to many classic and recent books for writers for further investigation. I’m bookmarking this one, and you might like to as well. Click on the link below to check it out.
Think of your favorite story people. Their names are as familiar as those of your best friends. In real life most of us don’t bother to adjust our names to our personalities, so sometimes they don’t quite fit.
As writers, though, we can take advantage of subconscious biases to help readers love or hate story people.
Here’s an interesting article from the Pikes Peak Writers newsletter about character names. I love this organization and have attended many of their excellent conventions. The one this year is virtual and signup will begin soon.
Click on the link below for the articleWhat’s in a Name?
or visit one of my other recent posts for writers.
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