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Wednesday, April 23, 2014


NAME: a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.

EXAMPLE:  "What is your name?" Brian asked the young lady.
"My name is Elizabeth, but you can call me Beth."

QUOTE:  I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names.  Zsa Zsa Gabor 

If we don't want everyone to call our characters Darling, we need to come up with a great name.

There are many ways. You can simply pick your favorite name or you can go through phone books, high school yearbooks or baby name books.

Those are easy ways to do it.

If you write scifi, you could use mythological names or combine two names. 

Click here for a unique word mixer site. You provide the words and they mix them up for you.

Be sure and pick appropriate names for the time period. Pick age appropriate names.

Mix your favorite names together. Make your name easy to pronounce. You don't want people stumbling over your names while reading your book. Use same initials. Watch out what the initials of your character's name spell out - I think you know what I mean. 

Avoid overused names. 

Use Biblical or family names. Here is a different idea - go to cemeteries and look at names on tombstones.

Click here for a great site for finding the meaning of names. 

Click here for lists of the top five names for the past 100 years.

Here is an idea. Look at old military records. 
Rosters from wars can be found online and in libraries.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

Posted by

     Janet Smart
                on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rhyming Picture Books

I am participating in RhyPiBoMo.

This month we are learning about and celebrating rhyming picture books.

Good rhymes are harder than you think to write.
You have to think about rhythm, stresses, beats, rhyme schemes, alliteration, repetition, syllables, consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia and even feet!

And you thought writing in rhyme was easy.

Here are some rhyming lines from picture books I thought I would share with you:

Thank you for play dates, for swings and for slides.
Thank you for hopscotch and piggyback rides.

How do I love you,  little one? Let me count the ways . . .
One in sunshine; two in snow; three on rainy days.

Another inky evening's here
the air is cool and calm and clear.
We've feasted, fluttered, swooped, and soared,
and yet . . . we're still a little bored.

If I could, I'd sing a song
to make the stars wink all night long.

Jack heard a noise that rocked the floor.
He heard a noise that shook the door.
Jack heard . . . a snore.

Back yard picnics
big black ants.
In our baskets
Up our pants.

Can you guess which picture books they were taken from?

Take a guess - but you'll never guess the last one. I snuck that one in on you - it is from one of my manuscripts :o)

Can you make a rhyme using this picture as a word prompt?

Here is my painful attempt:
(I write from experience)

I am green
my eyes bug out
If you touch me,
you will shout!

Happy writing!

Or should I say - Happy Rhyming!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


RHYME: A repetition of similar sounding words occurring at the end of lines in poems or songs.

EXAMPLE: There are many types of rhyme,  but the most common occurs in the final syllable of a verse or line

QUOTE:  Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. Dr. Seuss

I am participating in RhyPiBoMo this month.
It's all about writing picture books in rhyme.
Writing in rhyme is more than having your last words rhyme - much more.

Many publishers say 'not interested in rhyme submissions.' They say this because they get so many submissions of 'bad rhyme.' But children, and adults, love reading picture books in rhyme.

To write a good rhyming picture book, you must also think of the other ingredients. Your book must first have a good STORY. Just because it rhymes, doesn't mean it is a good story. It has to have a beginning, middle and end. Then add the RHYTHM and RHYME.

Avoid sentence structure where the words are arranged to accommodate the rhyme. That is lazy rhyming.
Avoid using overly simple rhyming words. Add spice and variety. Challenge yourself and use unique word pairings.
Avoid using near rhymes.
Avoid cliches.

Do read lots of rhyming picture books.
Do practice and try to write rhyme every day.
Do learn about meter! This is very important.
Click here to learn about meter. Go to the bottom of the page and read about RHYTHM, the icing on the cake.

I am reading rhyming picture books this month. What are some of your favorites? Do you have any suggestions that I can add to my pile of rhyming books?

Let your mind go. 
A good story and rhyme can burst forth overnight.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, March 31, 2014

MMGM - Ice Dogs

Ice Dogs
by Terry Lynn Johnson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Ice Dogs

I became acquainted with Terry Lynn a few years ago when she had her first book published with 4RV Publishing.

I recently won her book! I quickly read it and loved it. She really writes what she knows. She lives in Canada and has had a lot of experience with Alaskan huskies, hiking, snowshoeing and snow!

This book is full of action. It is about fourteen-year-old dog sledder Victoria Secord. She is a champion musher, independent, self-reliant and (thankfully) an expert in surviving the unforgiving Alaskan bush.

She wants to go to another dog yard and get more dogs. Her mother says, "Jeremy Cook's dogs aren't any better than the ones you already have. A dog's a dog, Vicky. And we've already got too many."

She defies her mother's orders and sets out across the snow covered wilderness to Cook's place. All the time she is getting ready she hears her deceased father's advice and packs the bag with lots of items - just in case.

An injured "city boy" and a snowstorm catch her and her dog team by surprise. She must find a way to save them all as the temperatures drop and their food runs out. They spend cold nights in the wilderness. The suspense runs throughout the story. You wonder where they will find their next food, you wonder if they can survive the cold, you wonder if the dogs are going to survive with injuries and little food.

Her love for her dogs - her heroes - grows stronger and stronger. The harsh winter elements take their toll on her, the city boy and her dogs. This suspenseful story, filled with adventure, will keep you turning the pages.

You can go here and read an excerpt of her book.

For more reviews of MG books, go to Shannon Messenger's site.

Posted byJanet Smart  on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


The point in time or space at which something starts.

Beginnings are hard, but finishing is harder.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

They say the beginning of a book has to hook the reader. It has to want them to keep reading.
I agree. If it takes too long for a book to grab my interest, I stop reading. Not always, but most of the time. What about you?

I just competed in a competition on Writing for Children and Teens blog about beginnings. You send in your first 125 words, then your next 250 words until you get the red light. I stepped up to the 5th round before I got eliminated.

I just finished reading a couple of books. Here are their beginnings:

What The Mood Said by Gayle Rosengren
Esther planted her feet on the curb. Her older sister Violet tugged at her arm and said, "Come on! We're going to be late for the matinee."
But Esther wouldn't budge - not until a streetcar had clattered past and the street was empty in both directions.
"Ma said to be extra careful today," she reminded Violet as she finally stepped off the curb and crossed the street. "She saw a ring around the moon last night. That means something bad is going to happen."

Ice Dogs by Terri Lynn Johnson
All eight of my dogs are stretched in front of me in pairs along the gangline. They claw the ground in frustration as the loudspeaker blares.
"Here's team number five. Our hometown girl, fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord!"
A male voice booms out my racing stats while my lead dog, Bean, whips his crooked rat tail. He tries to lunge forward, and then catches my eye and screams with a pitch that shoots up my spinal cord and electrifies my teeth.

Can you tell by their beginnings what the books are going to be about? Did their beginning draw you in and make you want to read more?

Some books go against the rules and are still popular. What are the rules?

The Blood Red Pencil blogged one time about The Top 25 Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected. Go here to see this post.

#9 states The opening contained the phrases, "My name is..." and/or "My age is..."

Of course, there are exceptions. One of my favorite books (Because of Winn-Dixie) starts this way: My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.

What are some of your favorite book beginnings? Does a book have to grab you in order to keep you reading?

I am sure this favorite spot of mine had a small beginning a long, long time ago. But look at it now! Our writing can do the same. From its beginning, our story can grow into something grand.
Just remember - you have to finish it.

Posted byJanet Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Bush.