How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Common Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur Author... and How to Avoid Them

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Books About Inventions

This week's READ-4-LUCK pick (my weekly feature acting as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lesson) is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1999. Her woodblock prints make it very unique.
William Bentley discovers a way to photograph snowflakes.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Year: 1998
Word Count: 979
Book Level: 4.4

RATINGS
CHILDREN: 
 SNOW! Need I say more? Children like it when Bentley gets his camera. They like seeing how he gets to do what he loves to do. 

PARENTS: 
 Purely fascinating. Definitely one to check out again.

TEACHERS:  Teachers can use this to introduce a unit about weather, jobs, or inventions.

WRITERS:  
I enjoyed the perseverance. YOUR TURN: If you have a story about perseverance, study this one. Another great companion study: My Brother Loved Snowflakes: The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man by Mary Bahr, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen (Boyds Mills Press, 2002).   I haven't read this one yet, but I'd like to.

Monday, September 26, 2011

SCBWI Carolinas

So I went to the SCBWI Carolinas conference this past weekend. It was awesome! Very inspiring, informative, and lots of fun. My first one ever, though I have been to three other writer's conferences that weren't SCBWI. I rubbed elbows with agents, editors, and authors. And lots and lots of fellow writers. Here are a few points I took away:
  1. Dude, write what you want.
  2. Write what you know...to be TRUE.
  3. Connect with your readers through character and emotion.
  4. Voice is attitude, character, and emotion.
  5. 90% of all submissions are discarded within the first three pages.
Writers never quit. We might "quit a manuscript" temporarily. Or even stop writing for ten years, but if you are a writer, you WILL return! 

I am proud to say, "I AM A WRITER!" Are you?

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NOW Accepting FALL Submissions

The Lucky Clover Picture Book Writing Contest is now accepting FALL submissions. Enter in October, November, and December. The Summer deadline is this Friday, September 30th. The winner for the summer contest will be announced on the 4th Saturday of next month, October 22. Thanks to all those who entered. The winner will receive a free critique! Good luck, everyone and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Repetition in Nonfiction

This week's READ-4-LUCK pick (the feature that acts as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lesson) is The Wolves Are Back by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor.
This picture book tells the story of how, over a century, wolves were persecuted in the United States and nearly became extinct. Gradually reintroduced, they are thriving again in the West, much to the benefit of the ecosystem.
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Year: 2008
Word Count: 785
Book Level: 3.6

RATINGS
CHILDREN: 
 The wolves are lots of fun to look at. Raises lots of questions about why they left and why they're back. The book does a great job answering the questions, but I think the children would have to read or hear the book several times (or be older) for the knowledge to really sink in and be meaningful. 

PARENTS: 
 If you love nature, then you'll love sharing this with your children. Great for discussions about wildlife and animals living in their natural habitat.

TEACHERS:  Teachers can use this to teach about animals, biodiversity, animal behaviors, and ecosystems. A great help for a unit on Yellowstone National Park, or national parks in general.

WRITERS: 
 I enjoyed the repeating phrase, "The wolves were back." If you have a nonfiction ms, you might want to try incorporating a bit of repetition in it. YOUR TURN: If you have a story that isn't working for you, and it doesn't have any repetition, try to think of a repeating phrase. It may not help, but it could. And you'll never know until you try. 



Keep on keepin' on...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Template for Studying Picture Books (not a book dummy)

Here's something similar to a book dummy, but less paper, less hassle, and much simpler. But you have to be able to write small. I have created a template for studying picture books. Not only is it useful for studying already published picture books, it is also useful for planning them when you write, at least in some stage along your path. Here's what it looks like:


In the few recent studies I've done, I've noticed that the story set-up usually takes 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 spreads. I like to deal in spreads b/c that's universal. The pagination can differ so much among books due to the different ways publishers print the title page, copyright page, etc. That's what the blue X's are for. Most books will either begin with a 1/2 spread OR end in a 1/2 spread. SOME do both. Just begin the book you're studying on the appropriate square. If it doesn't begin with a 1/2 spread, but begins with a full spread, just put N/A on the 1/2 spread spot.

The introduction to the story problem usually begins on spread 2 or 3, sometimes as late as spread 5. As you summarize what's happened on each spread, you will notice patterns. This is helpful when you go to plan your own books, even though the illustrators and editors will have control over how the actual spreads will appear. But if you know you can make it work, then you'll know they can too, even if it's different.

If you'd like a copy, simply right click on the image, save as, and then you can print it. Enjoy!

Keep on keepin' on...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pass the Paper: Earthquakes Travel Through Time

It's the third Saturday of the month, and that means it's time to Pass the Paper!


I base this on the activity sometimes done in school or at camp.  One person begins a story (either on paper, or aloud) and the next person adds to it.  Participants continue to go around the room until everyone has had a turn.  If the story doesn't feel finished, go a bit further until it gets an ending, even if it IS goofy.  But, then that's the fun of it. Just click on a link to get to a story. Then add a comment to add to the story. It's that simple!



Pass the paper with me today! Whoever ends the story (and it makes sense) will win a first-250-words critique. Lets see if we can give Fred a happy ending today.

BEGIN HERE:  Fred rode his bicycle up and down the street each afternoon after school.  One day, he stumbled upon a...


CLICK HERE TO ADD TO THE STORY Make sure you read all the comments first so you know what the story is so far.


Help me keep it keepin' on... 'er get it to the end zone, I mean.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boys in the Library: On Writing and Growing Up

This week's READ-4-LUCK pick (the feature that acts as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lesson) is The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed.
Melvin discovers that the public library is the place where he can find just about anything, including three librarians who help in his quest for knowledge.
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Year: 2007
Word Count: 1053
Book Level: 4.0

RATINGS
CHILDREN: 
  Children DO love books, and knowledge. Even more once they learn to read, and even more when they learn to LOVE to read. This book can be very inspirational. They also love the insect section. Cute ending.

PARENTS: 
 Anything to promote books and learning and reading to your children, right? I really enjoyed reading this book. It was one of the first books we chose from our stack or 20+ library books. This one is worth actually BUYING. The illustrations are adorable. As a parent, I need to learn to read just a bit slower, and soak in all the illustrations.

TEACHERS:  Teachers and librarians totally need to read this one to all their students. It can be inspirational to give students a dream to work toward, too. Electrician, entomologist, doctor, football player, whatever. Just go to college, and do what you want to do.

WRITERS: 
 I'm anxious to do a book study on this one. Lots of action in under 1100 words. I know, these days that's an unthinkable word count, but still so totally worth studying. Lots of threes. YOUR TURN: Try incorporating rules of threes in some of your mss. Take a closer look at one and see if you have any at all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Being a Productive Writer

Writers always face distractions. My worst enemy and best friend is the Internet. When I'm researching, connecting with other writers, blogging, checking e-mails, buying books, I love, love, love the Internet. But when I'm trying to actually WRITE, I hear a little voice in my head tempting me to go here and go there. And I usually do. Bad, bad, bad for the muse. Internet = ZERO writing productivity. Until...

...I discovered LazyMeter, a web tool to help focus your energy. I am a huge list maker. This tool is a way to have an online list. I open it, add my (writing only) to-do's and leave it in the background. Then I attack it with a vengeance. One thing or twenty-one things. It's awesome. It really does help me to focus what I'm doing. I think more about writing when I use it.

Another tactic I've tried in the past and can be helpful for longer writing sessions (say maybe a chapter in a novel) is to use the twitter hashtag #amwriting when you begin and end a writing session. It helps you be more accountable. And you can chat with your buddies about how productive you were when you're all finished.

So go be productive. Sign up for LazyMeter today! (It's free!)


What have you tried to help boost your writing productivity? (besides chocolate...)

Keep on keepin' on...