Video #1: So, you’ve told me you want to write a picture book…

One of the things I’ve been hoping to do this year (and I’m talking 5779, not 2019) is make some videos about writing. I finally took the plunge after receiving a number of phone calls, PMs, and other queries about what it takes to write a picture book.

In this 9 minute (or so) video, you’ll hear:

7 & 1/2 minutes answering the following very basic questions:
1) Should you write a picture book at all? What kind of person does well writing araizy cover picture book?
2) What is the very first step you should take?
3) Should I self-publish or traditionally publish?
4) Does it matter if you are “naturally gifted” at writing?

And then you’ll receive about a minute & 1/2 of resources for learning to write a picture book which will all cost you less than hiring me. (Even if you’ll need to hire a coach or editor later, you will save yourself a bundle by doing what is recommended in the second half of the video FIRST.)

If you’ve got questions, post them in the comments. I’ll either answer them there, refer you to a better resource, or make another video in reply.

 

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Step-by-Step Guide to Setting up a Writing Critique Group or a Manuscript Swap

A little birdie told me what to write about this week.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But recently, quite a few people have either asked me how to advance their writing skills (answer: join a critique group) or how to arrange a critique group or what they should do if they cannot attend a critique group. And while I’ve discussed critique groups on the blog before, I think it’s worth a new blog post dedicated to this topic, because I’ve been helping run critique groups for nearly five (or is it six?) years now, and I’ve learned a lot.

Why Join a Critique Group?

You only will grow as a writer if you write regularly. But motivating yourself to write regularly, with no deadlines, is challenging. Getting useful feedback can also be challenging. For instance, you might have a close friend or relative read it, but will they be objective? And you could take a class, but that might involve spending money. (Note: I think it can be worthwhile to take writing classes – but I don’t have much spare change and won’t assume you have it either.) You can remedy all these problems with a single solution: the critique group.

How to create a critique group:

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Let it out: 5 Steps to Writing when Emotional

Yesterday, which started with the announcement that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens had been recovered and ended for me with a shiva call, kept me in such a state of horror and confusion, I didn’t get much writing done. After several failed attempts at work, I finally gave up and decided to develop a community action project I’d dreamed up instead.

While everyone else was asleep…

Late at night, I awoke, exhausted but still reeling from the emotional turmoil of my day. So many words seemed to bubble out of me, I couldn’t get back to sleep. Eventually, I got out of bed and wrote the first draft of an essay about the special lady whose shiva I’d attended earlier in the day. When I was done, I felt emptied out, much calmer and more ready to sleep.

But is it good writing?

While writing material at the moment I am wrapped up in heartache, delirious joy, or nervousness can help me work through my feelings, I find that the outcome usually isn’t my best writing, or even my most passionate writing to read. Word choice suffers, and is often redundant. Logic wavers. Sometimes the resulting text is downright incoherent. You might even call it Writing Under the Influence…of Emotions. It can be that circuitous, drawling, and dribbling.

I’ve developed a process that works for me in these moments.

5 Steps to Writing when Emotional

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Analysis: My first writing workshop for adults

Along with writing and editing, I’ve coached writers one-on-one off-and-on for the last couple years. I’ve presented writing workshops and made author visits to groups even longer than that, but those groups always consisted of school children. Yesterday, for the first time, I combined the two and taught a writing workshop for fledgling writers aged 15 and up. Actual grown-ups attended!

The Crash Course

Since my greatest area of expertise is writing for tots, tweens, and teens, I decided to offer a three-hour crash course in writing for those groups. My husband agreed to whisk away the kids who weren’t in school (some Jewish day school kids attend on Sunday mornings), and I prepared materials and advertised.

Overtime

I thought three hours would be enough, I really did. Continue reading

This story does not stop here!

For the last week, I’ve been struggling with a major rewrite of a short story. Basically, the character was not so likeable, her journey was boring, and the ending was very, very lame.

The problems with my Lame-O story:

This was already the third or fourth draft of the story. I’d originally written it for a particular venue, who rejected it. Later, it was accepted for a different one, conditional on me completing a satisfactory rewrite.

The main structural changes the editors asked for were the removal of one subplot (and the scenes both where it was introduced and where it was resolved) and a new ending.

I cut out the subplot. No problem. I wasn’t entirely attached to it.

But still not done!

Now my story had a new problem Continue reading

Helpful tools to plot your story

man and woman in library

“Excuse me, sir. Do you happen to remember that story where that guy dies and one of his sons thinks the other did the crime, but it turns out to be the mother instead?”

I was reading a post by Noelle Sterne on Writer’s Digest today where she describes “How to Prevent Predictable Plots.” She cites Georges Polti, who listed 36 classic plots which are constantly used and reused in literature and drama. (Sterne suggests that it’s inevitable you’ll use one of these basic plots, but that you can set yourself apart and introduce unpredictability through the details.)

Intrigued, I went to a description of these “dramatic situations.” Continue reading