The Obvious Superiority of Picture Books and Picture Book Writing

I'm writing a chapter book. I may have said this before, because I've started them before. I even wrote one way back when I started writing. It's "in the drawer" now. It's hilarious, but it's not very good. And I wrote it before I'd even read very many of them, so I didn't really understand the genre.

But I decided this summer, when I had an idea that I knew was good, to spend some time studying chapter books and I think I understand them better now. Not as well as I understand picture books, but getting there. And I made a few false starts this fall- I think I totally re-wrote Chapter One like four times. But yesterday (the fifth time- ha!), I finally wrote a Chapter One that I think will work. It'll get revised and re-tweaked and maybe even re-written again at some point, but I think I'm on the right path.

However, today I discovered why I *LOVE* writing picture books (yes, I discovered it while writing a chapter book- I already know how crazy I am, you don't have to point it out). Yesterday, I felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment seeing that not-bad Chapter One all done and saved on my computer. I loved that. But today? I have to write Chapter TWO! Nobody warned me about this. No more sense of accomplishment, a new blank page... this is crazy. Who does this??


Not just a writer, but a GOOD writer...

Anyone can be a writer. Think of an idea, sit down and write it. Very simple. And totally fun- try it!

The struggle, of course, is in becoming a GOOD writer. I've been studying a few books that are the "whole package" for me, that I consider to be good from every angle: plot, character, setting, voice. And execution.

I think in picture books, the execution is the important part. How many picture books out there deal with going to school? Learning that a mother's love is forever? Making friends? The depressing answer, of course, is TONS.

They're published every season, and not all of them should be, but a good one can still stand out. The basic plot can be a retread. The characters can be ones we've come across before- that is where the idea of stereotypes comes in, right? Same goes for setting- how many picture books are set at home or in school? Voice, maybe, comes into play more in novels than picture books, but it also might go hand-in-hand with what I'm calling execution in picture books- I'd have to think more about that one.

But putting all those components together in your own special, unique way, the right way for the parts you're working with, the execution of the book, is for me what makes it or breaks it.

I wrote a PB a long time ago that was just flat- never could figure out what exactly was wrong with it, but I didn't like it and filed it away. Trust me- it was bad! I never even showed it to anyone. The other day, I read a new, rather popular PB that was my exact same idea- and basically same character, same plot, same setting.... But the execution was different. She spun it from a different angle- mine had been a story, hers is more of a concept book. And it totally works. Not flat. She figured out how to execute my story- ha! Wish I had.

The struggle, of course, is in becoming a GOOD writer.


SCBWI-Florida...Thank you!

Do you want to write books for children? Please go join SCBWI.

Do you want to write better books for children? Stay in SCBWI.

Do you want to give back to a community, help people in kind, and make the world of children's books a better place? Yeah, SCBWI.

I just got back from a lovely SCBWI writing conference in Florida. Did I know anyone down there before I went? No. Have I ever been there before? No. But because we are all members of this wonderful national group called SCBWI, those people made me feel welcome, feel like I belonged, and feel like a part of something bigger, a good something bigger.

I met some terrific, friendly writers (hi Erin and Amanda and David and Lynn and Mindy and all you other people whose names I can't remember even though I do remember your smiling faces), and helpful, friendly editors (who, while helpful and lovely, I doubt are reading this blog so I will refrain from shouting at them :)

I came back re-energized and hopeful and just plain happy to be a children's writer. Yes, I think that's worth my price of admission to SCBWI. (Okay, we also went to DisneyWorld so that may have something to do with the happiness too, but that's for another post-ha!)


Good News! But Not Yet...

I have news of the worst possible kind- good news that I can't share with anyone yet!

I'd rather even have bad news that I CAN share. I'm like an 8-year-old with a secret.

It is such good news. Seriously. It makes me indescribably happy.

It's not news about a sale (yeah, I know- I kinda wish it were- ha! But that's okay, that too will come, right??), it's about a book that has already sold. I think I can say that much without getting a ruler across my knuckles.

First, you have no news, for like, years. And then when you have it, you have to keep it a secret! Geesh. This business is not for the weak-kneed. Stay tuned....



I don't usually share what I'm working on (my WIP) with anyone before it's done, and then it's usually a second-or third-time through rough draft. But lately, I've been trying new things, testing the writing-method waters, so to speak- just a tiny tiny bit. And I am deeply suspicious that some, if not all, of my children will end up being writers, so I try to share process and information with them- but not usually my actual work until it's done.

But the WIP I'm working on, which is not the thing I'm supposed to be working on for my editor (which makes me work on it even more and avoid the thing I don't know how to write for my editor- ha! I'm such a child, really....) is about twins, so I let my son, the one who's half of my twins and my most-likely future writer, read what I've got so far- which is barely a finished rough draft.

Yes, the anxiety.

However, his reaction?

"Hey, wait a minute- that's the stuff we do! How did you know? You've been spying on me and Lily, haven't you?!"

I think I'm on the right track- ha!


I love writing in rhyme- don't I???

You know how you can look at a stanza, and know that it is exactly WHAT you want to say, and it's a perfectly capable stanza, but you also know down deep that it isn't HOW you want to say it?

And then you use your thesaurus, and your rhyming dictionary, and your OTHER rhyming dictionary, and then spend ten minutes finding your EXTRA other rhyming dictionary (because you're SURE that one has just what you need if you could only find it), trying to find other words to say the same thing the stanza already says.... but different?

And you move words around, and switch-up the lines, and try this, then try that, then try this again, but with that small change, and then you try all of the same changes again, because none of it is really working but you don't know what else to do?

And then you try to work that thought, that THING the stanza is trying to say into neighboring stanzas, because maybe this thought doesn't merit its OWN stanza and maybe that's why it's being so difficult?

And then you throw your hands up in the air (or curse at your computer- you pick) and you go do other things to clear your mind (iPhone Trism is really good for this, not that this lengthy question is autobiographical or anything and I know about iPhone Trism from experience- because I don't, trust me), and then you call yourself a coward for avoiding that stupid stanza (because that's what you're REALLY doing if you just want to admit it) and you sit back down and stare at it for forty-three minutes, and nothing comes to you but the realization that you have probably thought all of the thoughts there are to think about this idea, and this stanza, and there aren't any other ways to word it or say it or think it?

But THEN, just as you are giving up hope, all of the right words in just the right order appear out of nowhere, in your head, and you write them down, and read them back, and they are just right?

Yeah, I love it when that happens.