Monday, August 20, 2012

Fat Writers and Skinny Writers

Don't let the title fool you.

This is not about the physical attributes of a writer.  It is about the physical attributes of your manuscript.

Fat writers are writers who pour their heart onto the page and end up with page after page after page and when editing have to cut all the fluff that people usually skip when reading a book.

Skinny writers are writers who pour their heart onto the page and end up with what would seem like a glorified outline to those fat writers out there. When they edit, they add flesh to their manuscript.

I'm one of those skinny writers. This trait comes in handy when I'm writing Picture Books, but is not such a good trait when trying to write longer manuscripts.

But even when writing Picture Books you have to make sure every word is perfect. Every noun, verb and adjective is just the right one. The one that will jump out at the reader and make them love your story.

I am getting better with my longer manuscripts.

When writing and re-writing your words, some things you need to do are:

Make a character sheet. List all your characters - write down what they look like and what type of person they are. This is very helpful and will keep them from having black stubble on their face on one page and blonde hair on another.

Add Description. When I go back and reread, I find skinny places where  I need more description. Not in picture books, mind you, but Middle Grades. Make that scarey place in the woods where kids are told not to go, really scarey. Tell about the tall trees, boulders big as Volkswagens, dark shadows moving across the ground and strange howling in the tree tops. And even add a tall tale passed down through the generations that makes it a place where you don't want to visit.

Write about the minor characters. Give them quirky traits and names to add a little interest and humor to the story. I found that in my latest WIP I had not mentioned anything about the teachers. I think they deserved at least a mention, so I gave them interesting names and a description or two to add some interest. Kids like to read about a quirky or interesting teacher.

Give your main characters certain quirks or habits. This can add to the story in more places than one. These traits can be scattered throughout your story, adding words (calories) to your manuscript and making it more interesting, too.

But, don't add words just for the sake of adding words. Add words to make it more interesting and a better story.

My current Middle Grade WIP is almost finished. I have fattened it up and it is over 20,000 words. I have met my goal and made it more interesting in the process.

This picture book writer is learning.

How do you add 'fat' to your manuscript?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Like a Child

To be a children's writer you need to think and write like a child.

A member of my critique group that meets every week tells me, "I like how you write. You think like a child."

I said, "Thank you."

I took it as a compliment. In order to write successfully for children, you need to write and think like a child. Sometimes that is hard to do, especially if all your children have grown up.
You need to watch, listen and learn when around the younger set. Visit playgrounds, volunteer at schools, hang out with nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

I don't have any grandchildren yet, so I guess I can hang out with other people's grandchildren.

I have a book that is great! It is titled, Kids Say the Darndest Things! by Art Linkletter.

There are a lot of ideas inside the covers of this book. In fact, when I picked it up a while ago I came across a fantastic statement made by a kid. I instantly had a new picture book idea.

Want some ideas? Here are a few precious quips taken from the book.

How would you change your parents?
"I'd make them both my size. I don't like big people!"

"If I could have a wish, I wish I had a giant chicken so big it could hatch the world."

Is your mother with you today?
"Yes, she's the lady in the front row there with the run in her stocking."

In a barber shop the other day a six year old came in alone, climbed up on a vacant barber chair and piped: "Give me a haircut like my Dad's - with a hole on top."

Kids! They do say the dardnest things!

Children use a part of their mind that produces poets, inventors, painters, musicians, writers and day dreamers. They surprise you with their wisdom and remarks. They are full of imagination and curiosity and are sometimes wise beyond their years.

As writers for children, we need to use that part of our mind. . . and go forth and create!

Posted by Janet F. Smart at Creative Writing in the Blackberry  Patch