Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting It Right

Did a song ever get in your head and you just couldn't get rid of it?

Or, since we are writers, did you ever get a story in your mind and you couldn't get rid of it.

That's what's happened to me lately. A while back I joined in the 7 picture books in 7 days challenge. The first story I wrote was my favorite one and I pulled it up from the computer yesterday and started to work on it.

I loved the story. It's a funny tale about someone leaving the barn door open and all the animals getting out. The boy and his mom have a time getting them back in before a storm hits.

Well I wasn't happy with the second half of the story. So I worked and worked on it. When I went to bed last night I still had that story on my mind and I couldn't turn off my brain and go to sleep. I kept thinking about the last part and how I was going to get it right.

We have our monthly writers meeting tomorrow night and I thought to myself, I'll read it there and ask for suggestions.

Well, that didn't help. I still couldn't get the story out of my mind, no matter how hard I tried.

I guess it was meant to be, when I got up before the crack of dawn to get my husband off to work, the new second half of the story came to me.

I got my handy dandy tablet, which was by the bed, and jotted down notes before I forgot what came to me in the middle of the night.

It worked! After hubby left for work, I stayed up for about a half hour and pecked on the computer the new second half of the story. I ran it off on paper and read and scribbled changes to it on the way to Sunday School.

I'm pretty happy with it, but I'm still bringing it to our meeting for some expert critiques! The group I belong to is very good at editing.

Did you ever get a story in your mind and couldn't sleep until you got it right?

I find when inspiration hits, it's best not to fight it. Take advantage of it and who knows, it might end up being your best story yet.

Then get some well deserved sleep.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just Checking In

I haven't been writing much lately. We've been very busy at the house.
My son and I took three days and cleaned our outside storage building.
It was such a mess! Birds try to build huge nests inside, but we manage to stop them before they lay any eggs. You would think they were eagles with all the mess they make.
That's what started our cleaning spree, taking out remnants of a nest. My son does wood working in the building and he hadn't cleaned it up since making my other son and his bride a cedar chest for their wedding present.

We are getting carpet in our bedroom today. We spent hours and hours last night moving everything out of the room. In addition to the heavy, solid wood furniture, the clutter was the hardest thing to remove. We slept on our mattress in the floor last night.

I have been working on one of my picture books.
I finally figured out how to write it the way publishers want picture books to be. I really cleaned it up and took out the descriptions that I loved. It's the one about scarecrows and I described each one to a tee. Well, you're not supposed to do that, you're supposed to leave that up to the illustrator.
It finally sunk into my hard head and I figured out a way to re write it. I left out the descriptions and started it with action! It is so much better now and I have submitted it to a publisher.
But, I sent it a few months ago to a writing contest before I made the changes. Wish I could resend it, but alas, it's too late for that.

I love the story and I'm glad I finally figured out how to word it right.

It's one of the hardest things for writers to do.
Get rid of those words we love.
But, it's one of the best things we can do for a story.
Cut and slash words if they are not needed!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Your Inspirations?

"I keep little notepads all over the place to write down ideas as soon as they strike, but the ones that fill up the quickest are always the ones at my nightstand." Emily Logan Decens

"A notepad by the bedside accounts for half the earnings of my livelihood. If it weren't for bedtime, half my novels would still be stuck at dock." Ever Garrison

Like the quotes above I try to keep a notepad on my nightstand.
Many times I've gone to bed and a thought or idea came to me.
Many times I've thought "Oh, I'll remember that when I wake up and write it down."
But the thought, upon awakening had dissolved and disappeared into the woodwork.

I suggest if an idea comes to you, and you don't have that notepad by your side, get up and go get one and write it down. It may be just the thought that opens the dam, the thought that ends writer's block or the thought that makes that page you've been working on sparkle and shine.

I tell you this from experience. Keep a notepad by your bed, in the car, in your purse. Keep a piece of paper in your pocket when you go for a walk. That idea you scribble down may just be the beginning of your next book or story.

My favorite book I've written came from a writer's prompt.

The prompt was to open the book you are currently reading and use the first sentence of the book and start writing a story.
I wasn't currently reading a book, but I looked around me and on the floor near my desk was Christy by Catherine Marshall. The story starts with this sentence . . . Only my father saw me to the Asheville station that Sunday morning in 1912.

I cheated a little, I changed the sentence slightly and wrote. . . Only my parents watched me get married that Saturday afternoon in 1908. It was the beginning of my book Lucy of Tuppers Hollow. The story is loosely based on my grandparents who married in 1908. It is a very descriptive story about the life of a young married couple at the turn of the century in rural Appalachia. I've labeled it as a MG, but I think YA would be a more suitable category, since the main character, Lucy, is 17.

I am so glad I wrote this story, even if it doesn't ever get published. It is, in my imagination, what life may have been like for my grandparents. It is filled with everyday chores, superstitions, and the simplicity and hardships of that era.

Where do you get your ideas and inspirations to write? Do you keep a note pad by your nightstand? Have you been inspired by a favorite book to write a story? Have you ever used writer's prompts?

What do you do to get the creative juices flowing? Your comments could help someone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Children's Book Week!

Today is the first day of Children's Book Week!

More information can be found here.

Today is the day to start revising and editing one of those books you wrote in the 7 picture books in 7 days challenge last week.

I did write 7 picture books, but they need A LOT of work done on them.
It's not easy writing a GOOD picture book.

If you didn't participate in the challenge, maybe pick this week to start on a new children's book or submit an already finished children's book.

Writing the story is the first task, it can't be published if you don't send it in. Make sure the story is ready and research the publishing companies. Send your story out to the one that best suits your story. . . and follow all the guidelines they set forth for submissions!

Good Luck!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day

What Is a Mother?

Katherine Nelson Davis

A mother is someone to shelter and guide us,
To love us, whatever we do,
With a warm understanding and infinite patience,
And wonderful gentleness, too.

How often a mother means swift reassurance
In soothing our small, childish fears,
How tenderly mothers watch over their children
And treasure them all through the years!

The heart of a mother is full of forgiveness
For any mistake, big or small,
And generous always in helping her family
Whose needs she has placed above all.

A mother can utter a word of compassion
And make all our cares fall away,
She can brighten a home with the sound of her laughter
And make life delightful and gay.

A mother possesses incredible wisdom
And wonderful insight and skill -
In each human heart is that one special corner
Which only a mother can fill!

Happy Mother's Day!

Alabama football coach Bear Bryant used to remind his players. "Be sure to call your mom." Then he added wistfully, "I wish I could call mine."

My story that is going to be published in the Christmas Traditions book in September is about my mother's old santa hat, which she wore on Christmas. It was tattered and worn and I now have it and wear it on Christmas. She gave of herself all her life, she loved Christmas and she loved her children and her grandchildren, and I miss her very much.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm Getting a Little Behind

I've been trying to write 7 picture books in 7 days.
I started out with a bang. Three books in three days!
Monday was a dry well, but last night I finished another one.
So, I have written four.

In desperation, I asked for help over on my other blog.
I needed suggestions for book ideas.

My sister commented "it can't be that hard to think of subjects for children's books"

That is the misconception most people have about writing for children ---"How hard can it be?"

Children's books have been around for years. Every conceivable topic has been written about. The writer needs to come up with a unique twist to a topic. Writing it in a way that makes it seem fresh and different, even though the subject has probably been written about 100 times already by other authors.

Publishers, especially now a days, are looking for something that will sell. They are looking for something a parent will pay good hard earned money for. They are looking for a book a child will want read to them over and over again.

Sometimes, I think too hard. My brain feels like mush right now. My imagination seems to have gone with the wind (Hey, I think I just got an idea for a story). I may not write 7 stories in 7 days, but I'm trying.

I took a somewhat easier route last night and wrote a concept book.
It was an A B C Book. But in doing so, I still needed to make it a little different than the ones already out there. I already titled it, but I did get an idea this morning from one of my blogger's suggestions for a story, and incorporated it into the title.

Even when your imagination takes hold and soars, you still have to convey what you want to say in the least amount of well chosen words as you can. Unlike novels where you can embellish and write and describe to your heart's content, a publisher wants picture books to be under 1000 words, even under 500 words! So you have to choose your words wisely and kick out any unnecessary ones, no matter how attached you are to them.

"How hard can it be to write a picture book?"

"Very Hard," if you want it to shine and stand out among the thousands of others being submitted every year.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Picture Book Writing Tips

Well, one down and only six to go.

I've drafted my first picture book in the challenge. Now to my housework.

I'm far from an expert, but I like to browse the internet, read articles and books and find out all I can about the craft of writing.

Here are a few tips on writing picture books to help us all in the challenge:

Don't Focus on how your main character looks. Leave that to the illustrator, unless it is integral to the story.

Leave the illustrator space to create the pictures. ( This is hard for me. I want to put in all the colorful and fun descriptions. We need to leave that up to the illustrator. Don't write anything that doesn't need to be written).

Pick your character's name well.

Use the following to help your story:

Onomatopoeia (sound words)


Rhyme (But, if you use rhyme,it has to be perfect!)


Examples of sound words:

Baa Baa, Bam, Bang, Beep, Boing, Boom, Bubble, Buzz, Burp, Babble
Cheep, Crash, Click, Clatter, Cluck, Chirp, Crackle, Clang, Crunch, Cuckoo
Ding, Dong
Fizz, Flutter
Gurgle, Gobble, Gargle, grr
Hiss, Honk
Moo, Meow
Oink, Ouch!
Plunk, patter, poof! plop, pop! pow, plunk, purr,
Ratatattat, rattle, rumble, ribbit
Screech, sizzle, sniff, snort, splatter, splash, squish, snap, swoosh, sputter, splat
Thump, tick-tock, tweet, twitter, tinkle
Whack, whizz, woof, wham! whir,
Yelp, yowl
Zoom, zing

Run the list off and add more words of your own.

I have a fabric covered bulletin board where I slip tips and story ideas, calls for submissions, and such behind the criss crossed ribbons. It sits by my computer for easy reference.

While writing your stories, you can post writing tips, examples of sound words, etc. on the board to help your creative juices flow.