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, May 30, 2012

Read-4-Luck (PPBF): Little Red Monkey

If you missed the most recent Story Elements post, which focuses on the top ten elements of picture book writing, you can still read Monday's post about Story Element #3: Plot

READ-4-LUCK acts as a book recommendation, book review, teaching tip, and writing lesson for children, parents, teachers, and writers. This fun weekly feature began back in October 2010 with four books. It has since evolved into one book each week. In November 2011, I joined up with Susanna Leonard Hill and her Perfect Picture Book Fridays (PPBF).  

 = Not bad. Might read twice.
 = Fun read first few times. Would get from library again.
 = Very enjoyable. Wouldn't mind owning a copy.
 = Awesome! Multiple readings are never tiresome. May just have to buy it.


This week's Read-4-Luck pick is Little Red Monkey by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. 
A story of a monkey who has lost his way. Does he belong in a circus, a zoo, or the wild? Follow his fast-paced humorous adventures to see where the dancing monkey ends up. Opening page says: "This is the story of Little Red Monkey, who was born in the jungle, captured when he was very young, and later performed in the circus."


Publisher: Dutton
Year: 1997
Word Count: 366
Book Level: 2.7?
Age: 4-8
Topic: monkeys, zoo, circus, jungles, dancing 
Theme: finding yourself, belonging

First Lines:
Little Red Monkey was feelin' kinda funky. 
He liked to dance in his underpants.
He liked to dance on a zebra's back
with his cape really flyin' all shiny and black

RATINGS

CHILDREN: 
The best part? You guessed it! "He liked to dance in his underpants!" That gets laughs out loud every time! I bet they would enjoy dancing in their underpants, with YOU!

PARENTS: 
I actually found myself choosing this book over and over again from our library stack (gasp! before I chose the others that haven't been read yet - it's that fun!) before the children had a chance to choose a different book. They never did oppose.

TEACHERS: 
Use in an animal unit. Mentions tigers, camels, zebras, lions, dogs, cats, mammals, and of course monkeys! Could integrate with a language arts lesson on fiction vs. nonfiction, plot, beginnings and endings, or characters and settings. Best suited for K-2.

WRITERS: 
Oh, the rhyme, the rhythm, the time, the smith him! Okay, so I have a little forced rhyme there. Seriously, this book is excellent for all you rhymers! The reading is fast-paced and high energy. Definitely a read aloud. I read it four times already and it seems like I caught something new in the story that I missed in the previous reading. For kicks, choose a farm animal and write a story using the same meter here. Not for publication, mind you, but I guarantee you'll put your skills to the test and come out stronger for rising to the challenge.

Which farm animal would you choose? I think I'd choose a pig because it seems like a fun one. 

Be sure to visit other "perfect picture books" at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Keep on keepin' on...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Story Element #3: Plot

I just finished submitting my application to East Carolina University. I hope to attend this August, all online of course. Should I get accepted (I'm crossing my fingers), I'll be taking the Graduate Certificate program for Website Development. It won't be long (okay, maybe a year or two) until I'm designing your website! Hee-hee...
So today's story element is PLOT, and from the last two Monday's we have learned that plot, character, and conflict all go hand in hand. Did you know that the basic plot structure can be mapped out as a graph? (You'll find several more below.) Picture books often follow the three-act structure of the big screen. (More on that in a few months.)

Definition: n. A secret scheme or plan, usually illegal. n. The story that is told in a novel, play, book, movie, etc. According to about.com, plot is 
Plot concerns the organization of the main events of a work of fiction. Plot differs from story in that plot is concerned with how events are related, how they are structured, and how they [bring about] change in the major characters. Most plots will trace some process of change in which characters are caught up in a conflict that is eventually resolved.
Notice how "character" and "conflict" are both found in the definition of "plot". The plot is the action, the series of events in the story that help move the characters forward to resolve their conflict(s). When conflict enters a character's world, the plot is catapulted. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Free Picture Book to Add to Your Collection


Just a reminder that the Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest - Spring 2012 session is still open for submissions. If you have a PB ms for which you'd like a critique, then submit it by June 30th to see if you will be the lucky winner. All the details are on my Contest Tab.


Hello everyone! It's time for another giveaway, and just in time for summer! The prize is a picture book about dolphins, imaginary friends, and fairies who want revenge. If you would like to own your very own copy of Zaira and the Dolphins by Mar Pavon, then here's how to enter:

  • Just follow me and my blog through Google Friend Connect (GFC) and leave a comment below with your name and e-mail.
Click to read more to see WHAT BOOK IT IS.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Read-4-Luck (PPBF): Witches Handbook

If you missed Monday's post about the writing craft, I hope you'll take a minute to check it out. My new feature, Story Elements, focuses on the top ten elements of picture book writing. Monday's post talks about Story Element #2: Conflict

READ-4-LUCK acts as a book recommendation, book review, teaching tip, and writing lesson for children, parents, teachers, and writers. This fun weekly feature began back in October 2010 with four books. It has since evolved into one book each week. In November 2011, I joined up with Susanna Leonard Hill and her Perfect Picture Book Fridays (PPBF).  

 = Not bad. Might read twice.
 = Fun read first few times. Would get from library again.
 = Very enjoyable. Wouldn't mind owning a copy.
 = Awesome! Never tiresome for children, parents, teachers, or writers. May just have to buy it.


This week's Read-4-Luck pick is Witches Handbook written and illustrated by Monica Carretero. (Original title in Spanish: Manual de Brujas).
This handbook tells the story of a brother and sister and their Aunt Amarga. They wonder if Amarga is the last witch in the world. She proceeds to pull out a Witches Handbook and together they explore the secrets, geography, history, and nature of witches throughout the world.
 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Story Element #2: CONFLICT!

Welcome to the CONFLICT page of Story Elements. Here, you'll find all the picture books I've ever shared online about the learning of the craft of conflict. Enjoy!
  1. The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra
  2. Cook-A-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummell

Monday, May 21, 2012

Story Element #2: Conflict - The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra

I must apologize for being a day late with my newest feature. Sheesh! Anyway, I had a wonderful weekend racing around at my son's 8th birthday party. They rode bicycles and had a blast. Pizza for lunch and four cakes later, I can't believe he's EIGHT! Okay, there was technically only one birthday cake, but the first three were experiments. Did you know that Crisco and a light dusting of flour work wonders to get a cake to freely fall out of a nonstick pan? The "bad" cakes were gone by Sunday night... (Pigs!)


And for today's topic: CONFLICT. I read a great quote recently about conflict: "The heart of storytelling is conflict. Without conflict, a story is not a story." 

Definition: n. To be incompatible. A fight or war. Sharp disagreement, as of interests or ideas. Emotional disturbance due to conflicting impulses, ideas, etc. I know that you're not supposed to use the word in the definition of that word, but the dictionary DID!

The first three story elements on my Top Ten list are:
  1. Character
  2. Conflict
  3. Plot
They all kind of go hand in hand. You can't have a story without any of them. Another quote, which I now can't find, goes something like this: Character creates plot and plot creates character. You know, the age-old question as to whether a book is more character-driven or plot-driven. Really a story needs to be both. I think sometimes when we hear that a book is more plot-driven, it means the characters weren't as fleshed out as the readers would have liked. When a character encounters conflict, the plot unfolds. Conflict creates plot by giving our story a purpose, a reason to be told. Conflict creates rising action, a very important part of plot. Conflict is the action the character takes. The sequence of several conflicting events becomes the plot by way of the character choosing to take action. A good story seamlessly weaves all three together. But, alas, today's focus is CONFLICT.

Conflict must be clear. We must know who or what is up against our main characters. We must understand what is at stake. Through the writing of our first drafts, we can journey through the conflict to find out where our character will end up. We must know the conflict. We don't have to know the ending, though many will argue. Or maybe we know the ending, but we have no idea how we'll get there. Enter CONFLICT. Deal with it. Help your character battle it. Through conflict, our stories will also have action and suspense. 
  • Action = happenings
  • Suspense = uncertainty

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Read-4-Luck (PPBF): Zaira and the Dolphins

If you missed Monday's post about the writing craft, I hope you'll take a minute to check it out. My new feature, Story Elements, focuses on the top ten elements of picture book writing. Monday's post talks about Story Element #1: Character. 


READ-4-LUCK acts as a book recommendation, book review, teaching tip, and writing lesson for children, parents, teachers, and writers. This fun weekly feature began back in October 2010 with four books. It has since evolved into one book each week. In November 2011, I joined up with Susanna Leonard Hill and her Perfect Picture Book Fridays (PPBF).  

 = Not bad. Might read twice.
 = Fun read first few times. Would get from library again.
 = Very enjoyable. Wouldn't mind owning a copy.
 = Awesome! Never tiresome for children, parents, teachers, or writers. May just have to buy it.


This week's Read-4-Luck pick is Zaira and the Dolphins by Mar Pavon and illustrated by Cha Coco. 
"Zaira is a little girl with an imagination so big that she can see dolphins in the town square fountain. One day, she is shocked to find the fountain empty. The children who play in the square and make fun of Zaira for telling make-believe stories are shocked too—when a real fairy arrives to help her. This story, full of magic and fun, embraces the amazing imagination that breathes life into children’s games, and treasures the joy of imaginary friends."
 

Publisher: Cuento de Luz
Year: 2011 (originally printed in Spanish)
Word Count: 500-750?
Book Level: 3.1-4.2?
Age: 4-8
Topic: dolphins, imagination, bath time 
Theme: friendship

First Lines:
Just like she did every day, Zaira went to the fountain in the square to see the dolphins. She went with Spooky, her best friend. 
"Look! The dolphins are playing! They're balancing balls on their noses!" gasped Zaira, absolutely thrilled.

RATINGS

CHILDREN: 
Girls especially love the dolphins and water play. Imaginary friends are fun too.

PARENTS: 
The fairy, Takethat, is quite funny. Could be a fun book for bath time.

TEACHERS: 
Good opening to a lesson on character development.

WRITERS: 
Lots of good examples of dialogue.

Be sure to visit other "perfect picture books" at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


Keep on keepin' on...