2009 was the first full year of my life I spent predominantly writing. My family had to learn to be more self-sufficient (especially the 15-year-old male who kept saying, “Whatcha gonna fix for me to eat?” and walked away disappointed when I said, “You can do it yourself.”)
It was also a year of personal growth unlike any other I’ve had. Even as a new mom or new teacher (many years ago), I felt I learned more about life this year as I observed others and wrote about them or created new characters using those observations.
Things I learned about Writing for Children and in General in 2009:
This is a biggie. I attended a Picture Book Writing Conference because it was close to home (none are EVER held in North Florida) and came away with enough knowledge to write four really nice picture books which are being considered by a publisher as we speak. YAY! I’d never considered writing picture books because I think so grandly, but it was an interesting challenge to refocus my thinking. I might even do some more.
I also took a very blah Middle Grades novel and rewrote it from stem to stern for a YA audience with romance and new twists and turns. I played around with a MG version as well, but have decided to move on to the second book in the series instead.
So what did I learn?
KISS-keep it simple stupid. I started with a huge premise that was overwhelming and even I couldn’t keep track of it. After losing a lot of that (destined for future books in the series) the actual story became clear and writable.
Know your Characters . The first characters I designed were flat and dull; one dimensional and too goody-goody. So I threw them out, renamed them even, and gave them flaws and quirks and attitudes. That’s when the love triangle appeared and really worked! See my posts about designing characters. How to Create a Compelling Character Part I & II (https://rebeccaryalsrussell.wordpress.com)
Outline the basic book before writing. This provides several aspects that you won’t have to go back and try to insert later.
Arc-Every story needs an arc, a curve, a bell curve from start to finish. Without a basic outline you can’t see where it is or even if there’s one present. A story without an arc is flat and uninteresting. Each chapter should have one as well.
Inciting Incident-What happened to cause a story to begin?
Plot Points-There should be three definitive times when your main character and/or plot change direction or learn something.
Climaxes-Yes, I said plural. That’s because the climax should be broken into three parts. If you don’t outline, this could come too early or too late in the story. It shouldn’t occur before 50 pages from the end of the story, according to several blogs I read over the course of the year.
Climax A– Lighting the fuse
Climax B– Watch it burn
Climax C– Kaboom!
Denouement– Wrap up.
While editing is critical, you can over-edit as well. I’m bad for that. Every time I look at my MS I want to change things around, add something or remove something. After a while it’s not the same MS I sent off. There comes a point when you have to say, “Good enough” and move on to the next book. BUT, you also MUST edit. No one writes the perfect MS first, third or even the fifth time. It takes time to write a good book.
There is so much more I learned but can’t list it all here. Start your own list for 2010 and you’ll have a finished blog for January 2011. That’s what I’m going to do.
Things I learned about Blogging in 2009:
- Do it often. Every week to ten days you should post something. (Although I don’t find the time to do this myself.)
- Choose an audience and keep your posts relative.
- Keep a file of Blogging Ideas from the news, other blogs, your own thoughts…
- Shorter posts are easier to read. Break long posts into Parts.
- Keep blog pages organized and clutter-free.
- Keep pictures to a minimum as it takes them too long to load and some might lose interest.
- Proofread posts before posting. Editors, publishers, etc, will see them.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help stimulate you to write or begin a blog or look into improving your writing by reading others’ blogs, etc. It’s how I’ve learned. There’s a wealth of good info out there waiting to be found. I might even do a blog on that…