Writing for picture books is so different to writing other kinds of fiction. The stories need to be both shorter (750 to 1000 words) and more direct. The sentences are short. Each scene needs to stand alone, but also requires a hook to get the page to turn. Usually that’s some kind of question.
Dialog moves the story along, with more show and less tell in every scene.
Determining what drawings to create takes a different kind of effort too. Will it be a scene, with the place as character? Will it be one of the characters who is speaking in the scene? As I’m doing my own illustrations, quite a bit of time was occupied with drawing, watercolor, creating a style for the kids books. I wanted something that was organic, dreamlike, playful, yet not too serious. Not cartoon-like, but naturalistic. Yet I wanted the color of dreams and magic to play in the illustrations. The animals needed to be ‘in the environment’ with gestural color and movement. All parts of the challenge.
At first, I thought of hiring an illustrator, however, am glad my sweetie talked me out of that idea. Getting back into sketching has been its own reward.
However, the challenge of structuring a few short sentences per page, with a maximum of 32 pages in the book has been a learning curve. More about that as I work through the steps to get it into print. Meantime, the kindle version is done. Onto the ePub and print versions next.
A chum of mine at work asked how I manage to get so much written. I write specs, emails, documentation and how-to guides at work; I write novels, short stories, game outlines, nonfiction at home. Each of these pursuits has a different focus, however, there are some things in common.
Everything has a particular audience
In each case, there is a specific goal for the writing
Every kind of writing, for me, has a subject
There is always a beginning, a middle and an end
The writing is less about me than about the topic
Identify common writing patterns
Identifying common elements in a particular type of writing helps me to write more quickly. Until I know the audience, I can do research, but it is not time to start the email, the document or the story. When I have worked out who I am writing to, then it is easier to work out what needs to be said.
The pattern for documenting a meeting decision
When I am documenting a decision from a meeting, all I need to do is
state the problem we identified in the meeting
outline the various positions on the topic (pros and cons)
make sure there is an image or sketch to illustrate the cases,
summarize the decision and follow up actions.
Simple, right? Knowing those steps, I make a quick set of headings and start putting bullet points under each area.
Let’s look at another kind of writing and figure out the patterns that apply – blog posts for example, as that’s what I’m doing here.
Pattern for writing a blog post
Which blog am I writing it for – that tells me the audience
(based on the theme of the blog)
The goal is to write an article that people will enjoy, one that shares actionable or thought-provoking information about some aspect of the theme
The subject should be descriptive and have key words
The subheadings should also have key words to help people find the article, without being ‘click bait’ or too catchy
I work out what I want to discuss and say that in the first paragraph
The meat of the article should discuss the main elements to consider
I ought to recap at the end and summarize – or not, depending
I’m working out the patterns for each of the types of writing I do, and will be putting it all together in a short guide.
What are some of the patterns you’ve noticed in your own writing?
Too much fun. For the past month I’ve been editing, formatting and proofing Raven’s omnibus edition Strong Mystery. The goal was to get it done in time for him to read from it at Gearcon, a Steampunk convention in Portland. He’s a guest author there. I wanted him to have physical copies to sell at the bookshop, along with his other series novel, Wind Dancer.
I’ve been coming home from work, having dinner and then sitting down again with InDesign. Later, once I’d printed it out, there seemed to be a couple weeks of redlining (marking the print out with a red pen) and fixing before it was ready to send to print. Happily, the copies arrived this week.
This week I’ve been transferring all the corrections to the Word files so I can publish to kindle. Just a few pages left and it will likely be up online tomorrow. In reading the three stories together, I realize once more what a terrific writer he is. The plots are tight, the murder mysteries play out well, and the magic system is believable. I can’t wait until he writes the next one.